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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

My Best Friend’s Exorcism, or: Owl Be Seeing You

The world can continue to be a terrifying place all month and for once it won’t bother me. October is Horror Month, the best month of all on the Blog Collab. It’s the only time of year when scary things happening in the world can be chalked up to Earth itself getting into the festive Halloween spirit.

This year, we kick things off in the only way possible: with ’80s-inspired demon possession.

The Film:

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Director:

Damon Thomas

The Premise:

When her best friend’s behavior changes significantly, teenager Abby must come up with creative solutions to expel demons.

The Ramble:

1980s teenagers Abby and Gretchen are facing the worst possible fate of high school bffs: Gretchen is moving to a completely different state. Their love as bffs is so real that they don’t care who calls them queer or how much their parents disapprove of their friendship.

Two teenage girls sit on a bed, eating ice cream.

Rich girl Gretchen is scornful of boys, while Abby has a crush on a teacher and feels horribly sensitive about her acne. Rounding out the girl gang are boyfriend-obsessed Margaret and Glee, who is secretly in love with Margaret.

When the group heads to a fancy lake house Margaret’s parents own, it’s a bit worrying that a house across the lake is the site of an urban legend about a ritual sacrifice gone awry. This doesn’t stop the crew from busting out a Ouija board and getting some creepy responses.

Two teenage girls look nervous as they stand in a dark room, peering into the darkness.

Though Margaret and her boyfriend are revealed to be the pranksters behind some spooky events at the house, Gretchen and Abby end up properly creeped out as they explore the ritual site. When Abby runs terrified from the house, she doesn’t stop to notice that Gretchen has fallen behind. Luckily, all is well when Gretchen emerges from the house unscathed. …Or does she?

Over the next few days, Gretchen looks worse and worse, and she behaves almost like a zombie. Suffering from flashbacks, vomiting, and extreme reactions to an inspirational fitness show at school, there seems to be something horribly affecting Gretchen. When she suddenly looks beautiful and healthy again, Gretchen begins acting hostile even to her closest friends.

Three teenage girls look expectantly at another teen girl, whose eyes look glazed over as she stares down at the floor.

After publicly humiliating Abby and almost murdering her other friends in very sinister ways, it becomes clear that Gretchen is not herself…literally. What’s a bestie to do but learn everything there is to know about performing the rite of exorcism?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is not even close to the worst film on the blog, but it’s a bit disappointing nonetheless. The target audience very much feels like teenagers, so the tone is a bit lighter and less sinister than I might expect (desperately want) from a film about demonic possession.

Gretchen does some pretty disturbing things to her friends, but things don’t necessarily get as dark as they could to raise the stakes and create more suspense. I actually think some of the things that happen in Mean Girls are more twisted than this, and none of those characters were possessed…right? (Note to self: idea for sequel???) Most of the horror elements aren’t particularly creepy, and the owls that follow Gretchen around are pretty cute, tbh.

A major problem for a film that revolves around best friends: I’m not overly invested in the relationship between our bffs, to be honest. The film didn’t do enough to set up their friendship or convince me that these are the closest bffs ever to roam the earth. It also really undermines the friendship for me that Abby is so quick to ditch her bff even when, by her own admission, Gretchen is acting extremely out of character.

I will say this was reasonably entertaining and held my attention. It’s just a shame this had more of a Baby-Sitters Club feel when I wanted Hellraiser.

Would my blog wife stick with this one even if it vomited on her or trip it while she makes an escape? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Glorious, or: Inglorious Bathrooms

After a sadly disrupted Shark Month, we’ve decided to do whatever we’d like on the Collab this month. Which is probably B horror, but we may surprise you yet. This week’s film could very well be a French documentary about climate change just to show you how little you know us.

It could be…but it’s B horror. About a man stuck in a bathroom with a sort of demon or god. Who speaks to him through a gloryhole.

Garbage forever.

The Film:

Glorious

Director:

Rebekah McKendry

The Premise:

Following a bad breakup, a very hungover man is locked in a bathroom with a god-like creature who has…demands.

The Ramble:

Following demonic dreams while falling asleep at the wheel, Wes is in pretty rough shape. With all of his possessions seemingly stuffed into his car, eventually the pain is too much to bear. Leaving embarrassing messages for his ex repeatedly, Wes ultimately stops for a roadside bonfire to purge himself of all of his memories. And why not make regrettable decisions worse by drinking to the point of throwing up?

A man sits next to a glory hole that has been decorated with a very phallic painting of an alien.

Stumbling into a rather gross public bathroom the next morning, Wes has a conversation with a stranger that seems rather uneventful…until it isn’t (it’s destined to take an odd turn when the voice is J.K. Simmons). The voice is one stall over and appears to emanate from a gloryhole, initially asking harmless questions that take an increasingly bizarre tone. Ultimately, the voice reveals itself to be Ghatanothoa, a god-like creature.

Shortly after, Wes discovers he is locked in the bathroom and has no chance of escaping without doing Ghatanothoa’s bidding. Hoping to get a glimpse of the creature, Wes leans over the side of the stall, only to discover this is strictly forbidden. Ghatanothoa has the power to create all sorts of nightmare scenarios for Wes, including one involving a pleasant drive with his ex turning sinister.

A woman screams in rage.

As Wes learns more about Ghatanothoa’s life(?) and motives, he’s more and more concerned about the god’s insistence that all of this is fated. Whenever Wes disobeys the god, there are horrible consequences. Finally yielding to the god’s will, Ghatanothoa reveals that Wes must satisfy his physical form. Say what now?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s some kind of message about memory and loss here, but it gets mixed up in the jumble. I will give the film some credit for the excellent use of J.K. Simmons, though it does lean way too much on his performance to make the film bearable…and that’s a tall order.

Ghatanothoa has some memorable dialogue, but Wes is unfortunately written as the most mediocre white man ever to exist, so his replies are less than thrilling. His character leans into juvenile humor all the damn time, and it gets old. Admittedly I wasn’t paying the most attention, but it just seems like Wes is having a meltdown because someone broke up with him and said no to him for the first time ever. It’s pretty difficult to like his character.

Beyond this, the decision to set this film primarily in one location is smart from a budgeting perspective, but not overly exciting visually. There are so many bathroom jokes. So many.

I will admit that I endlessly appreciate the absurdity of living in a world where J.K. Simmons, as a god-like being, delivers the line “I have returned to the ether.”

Would my blog wife rain blood down on this one or return to the ether instead? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Blood in the Water, or: Texas Chain-law Massacre

It seems to be our misfortune this Shark Month to have very few shark appearances in films ostensibly about sharks. Instead what we get is a series of shady characters with questionable motives. Is it so much to ask–is it really? To reflect the anarchy of our world in a bunch of senselessly violent CGI shark attacks?

Apparently so. If you’re looking for bloody shark murder content, this week’s film ain’t it–despite promising gore in the title.

The Film:

Blood in the Water

Director:

Dominic Nutter

The Premise:

Waking up chained next to a shark-infested pool, a group of strangers must rely on each other to escape death…or not.

The Ramble:

After waking up chained by the ankle next to a pool, a man pleads for his life to an unseen voice over a speaker. The man is Henry, a lawyer with sketchy dealings, and those seem finally about to catch up with him. Escalating things extremely quickly with an escape attempt involving jumping into the pool and cutting his own foot off…turns out to be unwise. An unknown creature in the pool attacks and kills Henry. And, of course, that creature is a shark.

A woman sits on a couch in an apartment, looking upset.

Unfortunately for a group of seemingly unconnected strangers, Henry is not the last victim of the voice/pool shark. Troubled young woman Hannah is abducted, finding herself chained by the ankle along with 5 others. It’s not long before the group realizes they are all linked by Henry, who had been secretly recording many of his clients.

A man lies next to a pool, grimacing. His leg is chained to something beneath the water.

Of course, Henry is not the only connection the strangers share, and the voice is fixated on getting all of the victims to confess their sins before time us up and the shark is unleashed. Uncaged? In a fairly uninspired Agatha Christie knock-off plot, all of the victims’ crimes are related. To be honest, though, the only mystery that held my attention at all was how every single character managed to be so boring, whether engaging in illegal activities or dying by pool shark.

The Rating:

1/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a rather incoherent mess, all told, and I’m not feeling particularly forgiving. I got bored, so the only thing I can do is be overly critical about unimportant plot details. A few questions that will doubtless keep you up at night:

  • What is the setting for this film? The accents are a confusing range of American, British, and somewhere in between? They somehow all sound fake.
  • People call Henry a lawyer (American), but…
  • the Brooklyn(?!) cop pulls over a guy whose steering wheel is on the right side of the car (defo not legal in the US). Pretty sure, anyway. I can’t be bothered to rewind and confirm.
  • Is the pool full of salt water? That feels difficult to maintain long-term, though admittedly this is a rather short-term murder plot.
  • I expected some kind of explanation for the choice to go to so much trouble to murder people by shark. I remain dissatisfied.
  • Above all, why so little shark action?!?!?

Would my blog wife fess up to her sketchy criminal past or sacrifice this one to the sharks? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Loved Ones, or: A Night to Remember

I’ll be sad when Feminist Rage month is over…however, as I’ve reflected rather regularly, it’s effectively Feminist Rage month every month. It could be considered a sign of progress when we have just as many knife-wielding women murderers as men. If so, I suppose this week’s film has a radically progressive feminist message? …Sort of?

The Film:

The Loved Ones

Director:

Sean Byrne

The Premise:

After turning down classmate Lola’s invitation to prom, Australian teen Brent experiences the extent of her twisted scheming.

The Ramble:

Poor Brent starts off his time as an officially licensed driver in just about the worst way possible. Joking around with his dad, Brent takes his eyes off the road for a second, realizing at the last minute there’s a figure standing directly in the car’s way. Swerving to avoid committing manslaughter, Brent crashes the car into a tree. While he survives, Brent’s father unfortunately does not, and the teen is in for a difficult physical and emotional recovery.

Months later, Brent is troubled but surviving thanks to the support of his serious girlfriend Holly. Looking forward to the prom, Brent will attend with Holly, while his bff Jamie has asked rather intense Goth Mia to be his date.

A teenage boy with long shaggy hair smiles at a teenage girl, his girlfriend.

Things seem innocuous enough until awkward creep Lola asks Brent to the dance. Dissatisfied with his quite compassionate rejection, Lola is up to schemes significantly darker than expected. After going for a walk alone before prom, Brent goes missing, though his dog turns up dying of brutal injuries.

As it turns out, Lola and her father share a relationship bordering on incestuous and enjoy an interest in agonizing torture. Having been abducted by Daddy (legitimately the only name we ever hear for Lola’s father), Brent wakes up to find himself tied to a chair in a fake prom setup. While Lola poses him for pictures, it becomes clear the father/daughter duo have carried off similar crimes before. Lola seems pleased only when causing suffering, making the night one to remember for Brent, though not in the blandly pleasant prom theme kind of way.

A teenage girl in a pink prom dress and a paper crown stands next to a boy wearing a paper crown, whose chest is bleeding from a heart and initials engraved into his skin.

Meanwhile, Holly, along with Brent’s mother, become more and more frantic as the police find evidence of foul play. Jamie, on the other hand, doesn’t particularly notice as Mia’s plans for the evening include getting high and hooking up.

When Lola demonstrates the existence of a terrifying-sounding creature locked in the cellar, Brent desperately focuses his energy on getting the fuck out of Dodge. Will he manage to escape before he discovers what exactly is lurking in the cellar?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I liked this one more than expected, especially considering how frequently we veered into torture porn territory. It did help at least from a male-gazey perspective that Brent was the victim rather than a group of busty blond co-eds. I will say there are many extremely gruesome moments made all the worse by being perpetrated with everyday household objects. The scenes where a fork and salt are used as implements of torture are particularly burned into my brain.

We waited quite a while for the more inventive elements of the film to take the spotlight (I mean, besides the torture), and those are the strongest pieces. It’s a genuine surprise to learn what’s lurking in the cellar and the extent of Lola and her father’s murder operation. Admittedly there are some plot holes to overlook, but the frequently silly & over the top approach makes it work most of the time.

I do wish Brent’s mother and Holly had more to do throughout the film besides look despondent. And I don’t totally get the point of Jamie’s B plot. It’s actually a bit irritating the way Mia is meant to be all cool and attractive but ends up getting slut-shamed by the writing for comedic effect. I think she has about three lines of dialogue as well, which is another approach that could stand some unpacking.

Though entertaining, I’m not sure this one quite falls into the category of feminist rage so much as pure rage. But I’m okay with that.

Would my blog wife make sure this one stays a while with a knife to the foot or not even bother to waste the chloroform? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Prevenge, or: Gestating Rage

If your biggest complaint about the Blog Collab is that we don’t feature nearly enough slashers about pregnant women on murdering sprees, I’ve got some good news for you. This week’s pick really leans into our month of feminist rage in a literal gory horror kind of way.

The Film:

Prevenge

Director:

Alice Lowe

The Premise:

Following the death of her partner, a pregnant woman follows the voice of her fetus to seek revenge.

The Ramble:

Standing alone somberly at the edge of a dramatic cliff, a pregnant Ruth doesn’t seem overly thrilled with the upcoming birth of her child. If your fetus were commanding you to kill, you’d perhaps feel a bit conflicted as well.

A woman in a glittery shirt sits next to a man at a bar.

Following the recent death of her partner along the cliff face, Ruth is out for revenge, driven largely by instructions from the voice of her child. Though her partner’s death seems to have been an accident, Ruth holds considers those rock climbing with him to share guilt. Feigning interest in a small animal shop to buy a lizard for her son, Ruth manages her first kill with surprising efficiency.

The advice of Ruth’s midwife that the baby will tell her what to do is quite literal as Ruth plans to continue her series of murders. From seducing a sleazy DJ at a ’70s-themed bar to tracking down a cold-hearted lawyer, Ruth’s most elusive victim is the one she holds most accountable: the leader of the rock climbing excursion that ended in her partner’s death. (It will be difficult for a What We Do in the Shadows fan to ignore that the rock climbing instructor is played by Kayvan Novak, aka Nandor.)

A pregnant woman holds out her arm on a table in front of a nurse.

As Ruth’s kill count increases, she becomes more conflicted. She fears her child will be taken away even as she confesses she’d trade the baby for her partner’s life if she could. With Ruth wavering, the fetal voice directs increasingly angry verbal abuse to its mother.

Appropriately, Ruth discovers an opportunity to rid the world of Nandor climbing instructor Tom because she never relents. Of course, just as Ruth is about to cross off that name on the murder list, she begins to go into labor. Will she manage to complete her last act of vengeance?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The very dark humor appeals (of course). Cliches about innocent children and the beautiful miracle of childbirth are challenged here as Ruth’s fetus says some rather mean, violent things to her. The humor does give way to reflections on grief that explain, though don’t justify, Ruth’s actions.

Almost all of the men are so creepy and gross that it’s difficult not to root for Ruth initially. However, her inner conflict does increase as she begins to grapple with some less clear-cut murders. I think a bit more structure would have helped the film here as it’s not always easy to understand how and why Ruth begins to feel conflicted beyond vague implications about the way she processes her grief.

Though it’s a narrative strategy of the film to slowly fill in details of the death of Ruth’s partner, some additional development there would have helped drive the story forward. It’s not entirely satisfying that the death is admittedly gruesome but accidental. On top of this, the murders get repetitive, particularly as there’s little emotional connection or even recognition by the victims.

These are fairly nitpicky points as the concept is great, and Alice Lowe’s triple threat of writing, directing, and starring here is so impressive.

Would my blog wife buy this one a drink (or six) or make it the victim of an elaborate revenge plot? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Revealer, or: Taco Tuesday

Based on recent history in particular, it’s kind of difficult not to root for an apocalyptic event. At this point, I think the simple, straightforward evil of demonic forces would be preferable to all of the underhanded, moralistic schemes tanking our world. Throw in some ’80s hair and now fashionably oversized glasses, and of course you’ve got the makings of a feminist rage feature on the Blog Collab.

The Film:

Revealer

Director:

Luke Boyce

The Premise:

Faced with the apocalypse, a stripper and an evangelical protestor must work together to escape demonic forces.

The Ramble:

Since their school days, Angie and Sally’s lives have diverged quite drastically in 1980s Chicago. Stripper Angie is outwardly tough, working in a peep show booth to scrape together enough money to live on. Meanwhile, Sally has made it her mission to save the souls of sinners…largely by yelling at them. Less than effective perhaps.

A woman wearing large glasses and a blazer stands outside with a clipboard, collecting signatures.

As Angie rebuffs Sally’s judgment on her way to work, she focuses on making money despite a less than charming personality. While Angie works, she is oblivious to the apocalyptic storm happening outside. Literally.

A woman wearing a skull shirt rests her head on her hands, leaning back against a chair.

While Sally ironically seeks refuge in the peep show joint, demonic forces are unleashed all around, including on the peep show owner Ray. Initially, Sally seems fine with staying put until she gets raptured. However, Angie, stuck in the peep show booth, leans on her sense of Christian charity to help her escape the booth. Because of Prohibition-era bootlegger tunnels underground, there may be a way out for this unlikely duo.

In a dark basement, a young woman wearing a skull shirt stands next to a blood-splattered young woman wearing large glasses.

As one might expect, Angie and Sally begin to change their views on each other as they become better acquainted (and battle demons together). Unfortunately, the apocalyptic end times mean demons around every corner, including the demon king himself. And who knows if there will still be a world outside if the two can even survive the tunnels.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Despite being very light on plot and quite low budget, this film is more fun than expected. The neon ’80s colors and retro costumes are effective. Because the film is very low budget, these touches aren’t quite enough to bring the ’80s to life, and there are times when it’s easy to forget what the time setting is meant to be. Similarly, the Prohibition tunnels used by gangsters are about the only reminder we get that our location is Chicago.

Even with a bunch of cliches, I enjoyed the dynamic between our two leading ladies quite a lot. Surprise surprise, ultra-religious Sally is hiding a shameful secret that drives her to conceal her sinful thoughts. And it’s a bit of a stretch that these two diametrically opposed characters just need to spend time together to realize how much they have in common. It’s a sweet message, but given the world we’re living in, it feels even more unlikely than actual demons decimating the planet.

Would my blog wife join forces with this one or trip it while fleeing from demons? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Death Drop Gorgeous, or: Divine Providence

“I will not stop using my blog until justice is served!”

Who said it: me or a character from this week’s film? Sadly, I can’t claim credit, though I stand by the spirit of these words. Things I will also not stop doing until justice is served: annoying cats, eating raw cookie dough, looking for my sunglasses when they’re on top of my head.

The Film:

Death Drop Gorgeous

Directors:

Brandon Perras, Michael J. Ahern, & Christopher Dalpe

The Premise:

As drag queens fight for the spotlight at the local drag club, a serial killer targets and murders those associated with the establishment.

The Ramble:

Things are off to an ominous start when a drug deal goes wrong in Providence, RI, leaving our first victim dead at the hands of a mysterious figure whose face is never seen (of course). The victim meets a rather gruesome end as he inhales drugs deliberately laced with a toxic substance, and ultimately receives a death blow from a screwdriver.

It’s highly suspect that former bartender Dwayne returns, looking for a job at drag bar The Outhouse, despite being visibly repulsed by drag queens. Dwayne has been burned after going into business with his ex, who left him high and dry. Luckily, sketchy bar owner Tony Two Fingers could use the help and hires Dwayne on the spot.

Two men sit next to each other on a sofa.

Celebrating with roommate Brian, Dwayne is persuaded to go enjoy a night out to see one of the famous local drag queens, though drag is decidedly not his scene. When a man at the club is murdered in a gruesome way (think sausage grinder) and discovered drained of blood…it’s highly suspicious.

As rather incompetent detectives with romantic undertones investigate, Two Fingers slides some cash their way to keep the bar out of the headlines. Hmmmmmm.

A drag queen wearing a long blonde wig gasps in horror at her blood face, pierced by shards of glass from a mirror.

Meanwhile, queens new and old are determined to get the coveted Saturday night spot on stage, resorting to some pretty catty behavior as they undercut each other. Best of these are washed-up Gloria Hole, whose routine is now rather out of touch, and Tragedi, an unnervingly quiet and intense custodian. As Gloria competes with the younger queens, barbs are exchanged, including (memorably), “Every perfectly bleached asshole expires!”

A drag queen wearing a neon pink wig and a brightly colored patchwork outfit poses onstage, grinning broadly.

As the blood drained bodies pile up, the murders become impossible for the detectives to ignore, and a serious investigation is under way. Unfortunately, absolutely no one is particularly helpful or observant when questioned. Can the killer be caught before there are no more drag queens around in Providence?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Wow, this one grew on me. The beginning doesn’t bode well as it’s apparent from the start that this is an extremely low budget feature. Additionally, characters like Two Fingers (insufferable) and Dwayne (boring) get a hell of a lot more screen time than merited. A lot of the dialogue is horrible, and some of the jokes don’t quite land. I also do NOT understand the accents here, which sound like cringey attempts at Boston. Admittedly I don’t know what a Providence accent actually sounds like.

However, the queens are memorably drawn, particularly Gloria and Tragedi. The petty digs between queens add a lot of fun to the proceedings, with Gloria’s lines especially standing out. Without being too spoiler-y, I frequently feel as jaded as Gloria and can’t entirely fault her for some of her choices. The script does do a reasonable job of setting up the mystery of the killer’s identity, as there are a number of red herrings. Even if I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, I was still interested in where things were heading.

Also I am completely obsessed with Tragedi, aka the fabulously named Complete Destruction.

Would my blog wife perfectly style this one’s two tone wig or trip it on the way to the stage? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Blue My Mind, or: Wish I Were a Fish

If there’s anything better than a film about the horrors of puberty, it’s one that involves a terrifying transformation. Better yet when that transformation is of the mermaid variety. I don’t think there’s been a premise for a film more perfectly aligned to the Collab’s mission than this week’s title…except for perhaps every other mermaid horror we’ve featured.

The Film:

Blue My Mind

Director:

Lisa Brühlmann

The Premise:

As she grows up, teen Mia notices changes to her body a little less connected to puberty, a little more connected to merpeople.

The Ramble:

Following a move, Swiss teenager Mia is forced to attend a new school midway through the year. Drawn to the group of students who seem to be having the most fun, Mia decides to work her way into the popular, rebellious crowd led by queen bee Gianna. A challenge as she’s not particularly cool or memorable in…anyone’s eyes, really.

Two teen girls observe as one holds up a phone to take pictures.

At home, Mia exhibits increasingly volatile behavior, pushing her mother away literally and figuratively, and snacking on the fish in the family aquarium. When she earns a spot with the cool kids at last, Mia is introduced to a group of teens giggling about sex, winkingly setting up an online dating profile for her, and involving her with their autoerotic asphyxiation games.

Immediately after getting her period for the first time, Mia notices some extra strange symptoms, beginning with the newly formed webbing between her toes. Visiting the doctor’s office the next day, Mia learns that the webbing is a genetic birth defect, though it’s a recent development for her. When she returns home and snacks on more of the pet fish, Mia’s lie that she flushed the fish earns her the dismay of her parents.

A teen girl sits on a bed looking forlorn, a T-Rex pillow next to her.

While Mia begins to suspect she’s adopted and that something is horribly wrong with her, she becomes increasingly interested in hooking up with men. Though she scores a date with a much older man thanks to that dating profile her new friends created, Mia eventually pursues one of the popular crowd around her own age. Meanwhile, she seems to be mutually attracted to Gianna.

Feeling less and less in control as her body sprouts scales and becomes unrecognizable, Mia seems headed for a major, irreversible change.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a bit of an arthouse Mean Girls body horror with queer undertones–an excellent combination. We appreciate a mermaid horror always; Jordan Peele, please do your magic and make this the substantial horror subgenre it’s destined to be.

I appreciate that Mia isn’t always particularly likeable, and her angst makes her do quite a few mean-spirited and irresponsible things. She’s a teenager going through a terrifying time and largely being gaslit by the adults in her life; it makes sense that she’d act out.

It’s also quite powerful that it’s Mia’s connection to her newfound best friend Gianna that saves her (spoiler/not really a spoiler). Having someone to care about her and help her is necessary for Mia’s survival when it comes down to it. That being said, I would have liked for the film to be a bit more openly queer, as the Mia/Gianna relationship teases this but borders on queerbaiting.

Additionally, I wish Mia had the opportunity to have a little more fun with her mermaid status or at least bite some people in the style of some other mermaid horror we’ve enjoyed. Alas, a perpetual dream as most films don’t have nearly enough scenes of mermaids ripping out the throats of sketchy dudes.

Would my blog wife admire this one’s scales or become seasick at the sight of its webbed toes? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Vicious Fun, or: A Critic Walks into a Bar…

I suppose it’s no longer accurate to say horror is an unloved, critically disparaged genre. However, for every Get Out there are 10 Ghost Sharks (or more), and much as we appreciate a certified fresh film, the schlocky shark films have our hearts. This week’s film wraps up a month dedicated to films that aren’t exactly award winners…and, inevitably, largely fall into the horror camp.

The Film:

Vicious Fun

Director:

Cody Calahan

The Premise:

When he discovers his roommate’s boyfriend is part of a serial killer support group, film critic Joel has the unwanted opportunity to apply all he knows about horror movies.

The Ramble:

Poor sad ’80s nerd Joel is a horror film critic pining for his roommate Sarah. While Joel has plenty of ideas about how to improve the horror genre (like a franchise about a taxi driver serial killer), he has no clue how to express his feelings. When Joel has a bad feeling about Sarah’s new boyfriend Bob, he takes the obvious step of drinking with him under false pretenses to figure out his deal.

At a red-lit bar, two men sit next to each other, drinking hard liquor.

If the ’80s sleazebag jacket isn’t a dead giveaway for the nature of Bob’s character, his creepy fake ‘stache is certainly a major hint. Joel gets too drunk to fully grasp the ways that Bob’s uncomfortable descriptions of women suggest not only sexual encounters but murder.

A group of 5 people stand in a hallway, looking down at a young man lying on the ground.

After the bar clears out, Joel drunkenly stumbles across what seems to be a support group meeting in the basement. He quickly realizes the support group is far from ordinary when the participants begin to describe their gruesome murders, ranging from creepy clown to sorority house killer and state-sanctioned assassin. Joel’s many hours analyzing horror are transformed into practical skill when it’s his turn to detail his particular approaches to getting away with murder, drawing on his taxi cab killer pitch for inspiration.

A woman dressed in black writes in a notebook as a young man talks to her, looking distressed.

Unfortunately, when Bob arrives late to the meeting, he’s quick to point out the holes in Joel’s story, effectively blowing his cover. It’s then that the only woman serial killer of the group, Carrie, claims she should be the one to take care of this problem. Barricading herself and Joel in the bar’s kitchen, Carrie shocks him with the revelation that she doesn’t intend to kill him; rather, she’s infiltrated the group to out take out all of the serial killers in attendance.

As Carrie faces the difficult odds of four against one, will Joel find a way to at least do something that would count as useful?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is fine. The ’80s horror ambience is great, the performances are committed, but some rather cliché approaches to the writing make me suspect I will forget this one before too long.

The script pulls from all of the worst parts of ’80s film-making in my opinion: annoyingly self-involved protagonist lacking any interesting personality traits, totally flat characterization (particularly when it comes to women), and largely predictable plot twists.

Joel is honestly so annoying, and while he does learn a lesson that stops him behaving as if Sarah owes him any kind of romantic feelings whatsoever, the film approaches this in a pretty clunky way. There’s also a rather nonsensical “twist” where Joel decides to become Carrie’s sidekick in the serial killer assassination business despite having no relevant skills. The mediocre white man fails up yet again?

Carrie herself is a badass, though she has no interiority whatsoever. And it feels very much reinforcing gender roles to have her as the only serial killer of the group who isn’t really a serial killer. It’s not even that fun to watch the actual serial killers get taken out as they’re surprisingly boring as well and none are particularly inventive when it comes to murder. I wish the elements of the film had been as creative and fun as the premise, but it ultimately doesn’t live up to its title.

Would my blog wife team up with this one or slash its guts immediately? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hellbender, or: A Worm Welcome

Sometimes we watch horror films that aren’t about witches…and I question this decision. Given the history of nonsense persecution for witchcraft, it’s deeply satisfying to imagine the mischief witches would get up to if they really did have dark magic. And, honestly, it just looks cool to see people get turned into dust onscreen every now and then.

Our film this month doesn’t necessarily fit well into the non-award-winning theme, but it did have decidedly mixed audience reactions upon release. Plus…witches.

The Film:

Hellbender

Directors:

John Adams, Zelda Adams, & Toby Poser

The Premise:

A mother and daughter who live alone in the woods have a family secret (spoiler: it’s witchcraft).

The Ramble:

Back in the day, a woman is solemnly hanged by a group of women and children in the woods. She seems to die initially, but it’s not long before her feet are twitching again, and she’s immune to even multiple gunshots to the head. When she flies into the air in a flaming burst, it seems like a worrying sign. More on that later.

A woman plays electric guitar while her daughter on drums adjusts a microphone.

In the present, a punk band mother/daughter duo live in alone in the woods. Izzy, who has an autoimmune disorder, is never allowed in town or around other people. This includes a random hiker walking through the woods who asks Izzy a question…unknowingly related to her own mother’s witchcraft! When her mother (unnamed in the film) discovers this scene, it doesn’t bode well for the hiker, who discovers how fatal the woman’s magic can be. Rather than relishing her power to destroy, Izzy’s mother seems deeply troubled.

As there isn’t much else to do, Izzy frequently wanders around the woods. Eventually, she stumbles across a young woman her own age, Amber. Happy to have a new friend, Izzy begins to break the rules, hanging around other people, using a neighbor’s pool without permission, and abandoning her strict vegetarian diet. It’s after eating a worm that Izzy suddenly falls into a trance-like state, choking Amber and wigging her the fuck out.

A group of teenagers sit outside on a deck, with one teen pouring alcohol into cups.

Noticing a marked change in her daughter, Izzy’s mom reveals that there is no autoimmune disorder but a very different family trait passed down across generations: witchcraft! The band’s name, Hellbender, also describes the family’s dark magic, some combination of witch, demon, and apex predator. Women in this lineage have self-reproduced for generations, drawing power from the fear of whatever creatures they kill. Izzy’s mother has been working for years to temper the destructive witchy tendencies within. As it turns out, Izzy has not been kept from society because she is ill, but because she may be a danger to others.

A teen girl sits on a rocky  ledge, looking out at a wild, hilly landscape.

Izzy essentially begins witch training, demonstrating perhaps a little over-eagerness to consume animals and test the limits of her power. After time passes and people begin to ask questions about that hiker from earlier and his disappearance. When Izzy and her mother find an increasing number of picked clean deer skeletons in the woods, it feels like a red flag, but her mother simply comments that there’s no moral judgment; whatever happened is in the creature’s nature.

After facing rejection when attempting to make amends with Amber, will Izzy choose to embrace the darkness?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This isn’t a high budget film–in fact, it’s more or less a family’s passion project as John Adams (Hiker), Lulu Adams (Amber), Zelda Adams (Izzy), & Toby Poser (Mother) are all related. The filmmakers really do their best to make use of limited resources, allowing the creatively shot landscapes to work effectively in creating atmosphere. There are a number of what I presume are drone shots that are stunning, along with scenes where the camera is peeking out from behind trees, waterfalls, foxgloves. I adore how this film looks.

Additionally, the effects aren’t big budget either, but they work well and were genuinely striking and/or creepy quite often.

I appreciated our rather dark ending, though I think a few things being left too vague did prevent me from giving this a full 4 stars. I don’t really understand why Izzy’s mother wasn’t honest with her from the beginning and train her from an early age to manage her witch powers? Some of this would ruin the metaphorical coming of age story here I suppose. However, given that the two lived apart from society anyway, why should Izzy not have known from birth about her powers? I don’t think we got enough of an understanding of Izzy’s mother’s mind to get how & why she made this decision, leaving a pretty large plot hole in my opinion.

Despite this, I was never bored and really enjoyed watching Izzy’s…growth? I’ll be looking forward to the family’s next feature, particularly if there are more witches.

Would my blog wife drink tequila shots with this one or pick it clean like a deer carcass? Find out in her review!