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


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!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman, or: I Yacht the Sheriff

While I’m glad we crossed off some Oscar-nominated films during April, the month felt a lot like homework. And critical favor is so fleeting…is anyone going to be watching Licorice Pizza 10 years from now?

Of course, films that veer into tacky and trashy territory are much more our speed, so this May is dedicated to movies that under no circumstances would ever be award winners. Is there any category more fitting than horror based on serial killer true crime?

The Film:

Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman


Daniel Farrands

The Premise:

Facing execution, serial killer Aileen Wuornos recounts her early days, including an ill-fated marriage to a much older man.

The Ramble:

First interviewing the subject of your documentary the day before their execution feels like poor planning, but we’re apparently meant to believe this is something a good filmmaker would do. The fictional filmmaker of this fictional documentary (but confusingly based on a real documentary?) is determined to be the one to get compelling footage of Aileen Wuornos making never-before-seen confessions, though she has very little incentive to do so beyond enjoying the sound of her own voice.

For whatever reason, Aileen opts to do a deep dive on her brief early marriage to a much older man and the aftermath, years before the serial murders she committed. Though she hasn’t yet murdered, Aileen demonstrates violent tendencies from a young age, fairly regularly fighting, assaulting, and/or robbing johns as well as other men she encounters. In Aileen’s recounting, these men were by and large attempted rapists who had it coming.

A young woman clinks shot glasses with a man at a bar.

It’s after punching a man who accuses her of being a lesbian that Aileen has a fateful meeting with Jennifer, and the two seem to be mutually attracted to each other. When Jennifer invites Aileen home to the family mansion, she doesn’t realize she’s about to introduce her father, Lewis, to his future wife. Aileen charms Lewis so completely that they’re married soon after.

Jennifer is shocked by the turn of events, vowing to dig up dirt on Aileen and remove her from the family forever. Considering that Aileen ends up being arrested for assault on the night of her wedding, probably not an overly difficult task.

A young woman smiles at a significantly older man as they exchange vows in front of a priest.

As Jennifer keeps an eye on Aileen, she realizes that her new stepmother has problems with rage and impulsivity, along with a massive chip on her shoulder as she grew up poor. When Lewis’s friend and financial advisor manages to uncover information about Aileen’s prior troubles with the law, it seems she has no choice but to leave town.

But more than one character may find that underestimating Aileen is the last thing they’ll ever do…alive.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I will forgive anything but a boring film, and I found this one surprisingly dull, to be honest. This was supposed to have a theatrical release, but that was cancelled…and it’s not a shock as this one has an extremely made-for-TV feel. The plot is highly formulaic, the acting bad, and the dialogue horrible. I do appreciate the schlocky title, but that’s about it.

There’s a very good reason most discussions of Aileen’s annulled marriage to a much older man aren’t the focus of most media about her life: this is probably the most uninteresting thing about her. In anyone else’s life, the transparent gold-digging might make for a juicy story, but I’m guessing most of those cases don’t involve serial murders.

Because there are quite a few nods to Old Hollywood noir, I was really hoping for some soapy plot twists. Maybe Aileen and Jennifer would give in to a forbidden romance, scheme to murder Lewis, or have an unsettling Sunset Boulevard-style dynamic. None of these things happen, and Jennifer comes across as totally brainless and so dull. Aileen is somehow kind of boring to watch as well.

From my perspective, what it comes down to is the flawed concept that playing with what’s true and what isn’t will make for an interesting film. Aileen is cast as an unreliable narrator, reflecting the contradictory stories she told in reality. However, the film doesn’t push this concept far enough, sticking with fact in a way that confines the events that depart from reality. It’s not inventive enough to be stranger or more sensational than what actually happened.

Would my blog wife invite this one out for a jaunt on a yacht or decide to take out the trash? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Silent Night, Deadly Night, or: Axe Santa a Question

One of the best months on the blog, and we’re off with a bang—or, rather, quite a few swings of the axe and several stabs.  Once again, the month of December is brought to you by Christmas horror and the occasional made-for-tv Hallmark cheese tray.

The Film:

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The Premise:

Witnessing the murder of your parents may result in your transformation into Batman…or a serial killer who dresses as Santa.

The Ramble:

Christmas Eve, 1971.  And so our troubles begin.  It’s certainly going to be a memorable Christmas for Billy, who is off with his family to visit his grandfather.  The catch is dear old granddad is in a psychiatric ward, and seems to have been in a vegetative state for many years.  Conveniently, he becomes lucid for just long enough to traumatize Billy about the nature of Santa Claus as a vindictive old asshole who punishes bad children.  Upsetting, but not insurmountable, yeah?

Give it 5 minutes.

a couple with two young children walk down a hospital corridor
Enjoy this moment while it lasts, Billy.

After leaving the psychiatric care facility, Billy’s parents notice a man dressed as Santa whose car has broken down on the road.  In the spirit of Christmas, the family pulls over to help Santa, which turns out to be a serious mistake.  This Santa is an armed robber who proceeds to murder the entire family.  Billy and his younger brother, Jimmy, manage to survive albeit with deep psychological damage.

Things are going to get better from here on out for Billy, you might think.  Though raised in an orphanage by nuns, one of the sisters recognizes his trauma and tries to help him.  She realizes Christmas is a major trigger for Billy, who suffers from PTSD after witnessing the murder of his parents.

a nun talks to a young boy with a mullet
We need to talk about mullets.

Unfortunately, Mother Superior is less than sympathetic and decides to take a page from the how-to guide for raising a child who has experienced trauma in the way most likely to yield a disturbed, troubled adult destined to become a serial killer.  She hits Billy with a belt after he joins the other children for playtime outside without permission, ties him to the bed when he has horrible nightmares, and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap at Christmas.

In spite of this, Billy grows up to be a relatively mild-mannered, polite young man as evidenced by a very ‘80s inspired montage.  He gets a job working in a toy store, which he enjoys but can only end in terrible tragedy once December rolls around.  Noticing a change in Billy, his supervisor sensitively yells at him about being triggered by Christmas and pushes him to do better.  Oh, sir.  You’re not going to live for much longer, are you?

Inevitably, Billy is forced to play the role of Santa for children who visit the store, and is approximately as comfortable with this role as I would be, i.e.  not at all.  Already close to the breaking point, Billy completely loses it when his supervisor kisses and then assaults Billy’s coworker crush.  No one at the store has a particularly great time at the Christmas party.

a girl sits on the lap of a toy store Santa while a group of adults look on
Pictured above:  A terrifying monster destined to haunt your dreams…and a serial killer Santa.

After ruining the staff Christmas party, Billy decides to spread holiday cheer elsewhere in increasingly gruesome ways.  To his credit, he does leave the family cat alone.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his final confrontation is with Mother Superior.  Who will make it to the New Year’s party in time to become the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop murderer?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

First off, there are a lot of gaping plot holes that are incredibly distracting.  Like, after finding a kid wandering through the woods near a murder scene, no one thought counseling might be a good idea???  And did no one think it would be helpful for the nuns to know about Billy’s incredibly disturbing childhood trauma?

Beyond the plot holes, there is way too much time spent on Billy’s horrific childhood for this to be a satisfying slasher.  At the end, I was just sad after seeing Billy’s continuous victimization throughout his life.  It’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for him when we know a great deal about the trauma he suffered at the hands of the murderer and the sadistic Mother Superior.

Overall, it’s like a less successful version of Psycho with way more boobs.

Would Christa sit on this one’s lap or string it up with some Christmas lights?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Nurse, or: No Cure for Bad Acting

Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab continues! Check out Christa’s review on her blog!

The Film:


Where to Watch:


The Premise:

A nurse who targets cheaters for murder becomes obsessed with a new young nurse at the hospital.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film tells the story of Abby Russell, nurse by day, serial killer by night. She picks up cheating scumbags and kills them.

All of Abby’s plans are temporarily put on hold when she becomes obsessed with the nurse she’s training, Danni. Danni is totally oblivious to Abby’s scheming, as she’s young, naïve, and dating Corbin Bleu (who, to be honest, is looking really pretty). Their relationship is a little rocky as he wants Danni to move in, but she is reluctant to take the next step.

Even though Danni is officially a nurse now, she is unprepared when her first critically injured patients come in after being involved in a car accident. The shadiest asshole doctor yells at her to “get in the game,” which I’m 99% sure is a reference to High School Musical.

A man in a beanie talks to two people standing in a graveyard, one of whom is a character played by High School Musical actor Corbin Bleu.
What are you talking about? I haven’t seen all of the High School Musical movies, and it’s ridiculous to imply otherwise.

After her freeze-up, Danni vents to Abby in the locker room. Danni also discovers her stepfather, a psychiatrist, is having an affair. Abby invites Danni out for drinks, which basically turns into an evening of debauchery. Danni hooks up with both Abby and a stranger they meet at the club after Abby drugs her. Abby is sure to get photo documentation that she can use later as blackmail. At this point, I’ve already lost count of the number of times Abby has gotten naked.

A naked woman smiles at a woman who has been drugged.
Exhibit A.

The next morning, Danni just wants to forget everything that happened, but Abby is not about to let that happen. Later, she picks up the stepfather and kills him. When Danni comes to her apartment that night, Abby slips up a bit, and Danni realizes Abby’s role in her stepfather’s death.

Meanwhile, the hospital hires an incredibly perky HR director, Rachel, who gives smiley face stickers to everyone. Rachel comments that Abby looks just like her neighbor Sarah, who was institutionalized at age 8. As it turns out, Abby’s sad story is that, as a child, she and her mother walked in on her father’s affair with a nurse. When her father attacked her mother, Sarah/Abby killed him. Abby decides now is an opportune time for her to invite Rachel out for drinks. This is not going to end well for you, Rachel.

Abby makes Danni believe that she’s killed Rachel, so Danni just looks insane when she calls the police. According to Abby, Danni is the one obsessed with her and may have been involved in the death of her stepfather.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’m going to wrap this up because (a) I have a cold or terrible allergies or both and (b) I found this movie pretty tedious.

Suffice it to say there are a LOT of murders towards the end of this movie and even more shots of Paz de la Huerta wearing little to no clothing.

A woman with an unconscious man on a table in a lab wears nothing except for a bra and throws her head back in laughter.
Exhibit X, Y, or Z. I’ve lost count.

The Critique:

I was frequently distracted by the terrible acting in this movie, basically on all fronts. I felt like Paz de la Huerta was pretty much doing an impression of Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy. Memorable lines she deadpanned: “Call me whatever the fuck you want” and “Are you a no-good cheating son of a bitch?”

The plot was also not original at all, and was more about Paz de la Huerta getting naked than development of interesting plot/characters. Abby’s motivations seemed weak at best, and fuck you, men, if you say she was insane or unbalanced. I’m just really tired of women being dismissed as crazy in worlds both fictional and real.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I wanted this movie to be much more empowering than it was, but it just felt like an 11-year-old boy’s fantasy.

See what Christa thought here!