Sunday, April 30, 2017


You all may have noticed that there are some things missing from the site as of late.

Specifically, the Tropefest posts.

Well, there's a reason for that.

Those posts have been compiled and published in my very first book!

Tropefest!: Attack of the Killer Cliches is now available on Amazon!

This has been such a labor of love.  I hope you all enjoy it!  More Tropefest posts are coming.  I promise!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Make Like a Banana...

M. Night Shyamalan is back with Split.  And I watched it.

Oh, for fuck's sake...

I really should have known better.  I really should have.  But, noooooo.  The promise of James McAvoy and Betty Buckley lured me into Shamalamadingdong's creeper van with the promise of great acting and a decent storyline.

Great acting I got.  The storyline?  Not so much.

So, our story is about three young women who get kidnapped by a man who has developed 23 distinct personalities due to childhood abuse, collectively known as "The Horde" because there's, apparently, nothing more frightening than a World of Warcraft reference.  We get McAvoy cycling through a few key personalities in an effort to bring forth "The Beast", which is the new 24th personality.  This one is a cannibal.


Childhood Abuse Powers!  ACTIVATE!
Luckily for us, one of the girls is ALSO an abuse survivor and gets her mad on to try and help the others.  His shrink is also on the job, not quite knowing if he's behind the highly publicized kidnapping or not but pretty damn sure since one or more of the personalities are fighting back and bringing him to see her daily to try and mitigate the damage.  And I literally mean damage because the shrink has a hypothesis about the personalities having their own physiologies alongside their personalities, such as only ONE of the Horde having diabetes.

Verrrry innnderesding.  But schtupid!

None of this is really helpful.  It's too new so I won't give it away.

I tried, kids.  I tried.  This looked so good and it almost was.  The tension needed to be amped up and the ending... just blah.  Like a stale waffle with no syrup.  The acting was fantastic.  Everyone did an amazing job with their roles.  Everything else was just too understated.  The action needed to be more action-y, the scares needed to be more scary, the drama needed to be more drama-like.  It was just a flat line of beige all the way through.

I mean, give this a watch if you want but I just did not care for it.  Frankly, Shablamgela's career should have been over after Avatar.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Chromosomal Conundrums

So, I've been waiting for XX to come out for a while now and YAY!!  It's here!

Because, you all know how much I dig an anthology.

And you ALSO know how much I dig feminist roles in horror and this gives us a whole lot of them at once because each segment, and the wraparound, gives us an intensely feminine viewpoint while not shying away from terror.

The Wraparound follows a creepy dollhouse looking for a heart for its little girl.  Its journeys tell us some of what we're about to watch but, really, this is a film on its own and Sofia Carillo should be DEEPLY applauded for her work.  It was chilling and beautiful.

Segment One: The Box.

Inappropriate happiness for the win!

Never in my life has a fucking MacGuffin been so maddening.  This is worse than the briefcase in Pulp Fiction and the trunk in Repo Man.  This tale of a child told a secret... an INFECTIOUS secret... while his family, particularly his mother (Natalie Brown of the US version of Being Human), struggle to know and understand why it's affecting them so deeply.  The mother who is seemingly detached and judged not worthy of the knowledge but would give her life to make sure that her family is taken care of.  This one is haunting.  I like it a lot.  Jovanka Vuckovic is going places.

Segment Two:  The Birthday Party

I LOVE this segment!  I think it's fuckin' brilliant.  A well-to-do mother (Melanie Lynskey, best known as Rose from Two and a Half Men), preparing for her daughter's birthday party finds her husband dead in his office.  She spends the remainder of the short trying to find a way to hide the body amidst a boozy assistant who was likely fucking the husband, anyway, nosy neighbors and a rapping panda.  It occurs to me that medical marijuana could probably be a more stable form of currency than actual money.   Anyway, this is just a little horror.  A lot comedy, but a little horror.  I think it's fucking adorable and says a lot about what a woman will do to keep her family happy.  Annie Clark (better known as musician St. Vincent) did a great job for her debut.  I look forward to seeing more from her.

Oh, fuck...
Segment Three: Don't Fall

Four friends go camping in the desert and awaken an ancient, petroglyphic evil.  That's, ahhhh... that's it, really.  To be honest, this is my least favorite of the three.  It's a straight-up monster flick and while it's well done, for what it is, and gives us normal people (and normal LGBT people who are NOT shown to be oversexed perverts), it's just a monster flick.  Decent effects, mostly practical, so that gets a nod but there's nothing overtly feminist about it.  It feels super-short, there's less explanation as to what's going on than in The Box and no mystery to back it up, really, and there's no statement to be made other than: "Look!  Women can make monster movies, too!"  It's OK.  It's just not... good...

This is NOT the time for pilates, Gretchen!
Segment 4: Her Only Living Son

A mother of a young man on the eve of his 18th birthday has to come to grips with who her son is and what he is meant to be.  I have mixed feelings about this one because I feel like it shot for the moon but hit the neighbor's dog.  So, while it did accomplish something (the acting was wonderful, the story itself had merit and it was a somewhat refreshing retelling of a story that's as old as at LEAST The Bible, if not Rosemary's Baby), I don't think it did enough.  I feel like it could have gone deeper and darker.  I think the problem here was the time limit and that they had to fit the whole story in and make it have pathos whereas if you try and shoehorn all of the changes this kid was going through in a montage sequence, you get a parody real quick.  It's good, but it could be better.

Boy, you are just ASKING for salmonella.
All in all, this is very deserving of a watch.  I can't even snark at it, so, take that as you will.

And call your mother.  She worries.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Hills Need Glasses

This is a "reprint" of an article I wrote for Ultimate Gore-a-Thon a while ago.  Sit back.  Relax.  Feel the snark.  BE the snark.  Let the snark wash over and through you as we dive into Alexandre Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes...

So, we fans know the story.  A family is on a road trip.  They show us a fairly standard amount of dysfunctionality which is to be expected when you're trapped in a gigantic moving trailer for days on end.  I consider myself lucky that my dad never got a Winnebago.  I have 4 siblings.  If we had a camper, at least one of them would have be dead by now. 

They're bickering their way through the desert and they stop for gas.  Shady gas station dude tells them to take a shortcut.  Why do they always take the shortcut?  The shortcut leads to the painful stabby death, people!  NEVER take the shortcut.  If you have to WALK a hundred miles out of your way, and there's a shortcut, you better start hoofin' it.  Shortcuts bad. 

Look at you, Buffalo Bill.  All sassy and shit.  Tryin' to take a shortcut.  Dumbass.

Yeah, so, in the course of the ill-advised shortcut, they hit a strip of tire spikes which just about kill the family as the Winnebago comes to a screeching halt.  Uh-oh.  Family be boned.

Dad leaves to get a tow truck.  They're not THAT far from the gas station, I guess.  Everybody else just gets comfortable and waits.  One of the dogs gets loose and the son has to chase it.  When he finds the dog's gnawed carcass (because that's the BEST kind of carcass), he tries to run back but slips and falls because in every horror movie, ever, somebody has to fall and leave themselves vulnerable to the stabbiness.  Oddly, though, there is no stabbing.  Just Ruby, one of the mutants that live in the hills (heretofore referenced as “hill mutants”... because what the fuck else are you going to call them?), looking at him bemusedly while her brother has a Scooby-Snack.  Yes, I meant he was eating the dog.

Never trust the innocent looking hill mutants.

In the meantime, Dad gets to the gas station.  Shady dude is having a conniption and Dad gets, rightfully, freaked out.  Shady dude ends up killing himself and Dad gets captured by the hill mutants.  A little later, one daughter is almost raped, Bob is tied to a tree and set on fire, then daughter DOES get raped, Mom gets shot, other daughter gets... nursed?  Really?  Dang.  There's some fetish-y shit right there. 

Anyway, after the nursing, she gets all self-defense-y and stabs one of the mutants with a screwdriver and gets shot and her baby gets kidnapped.

I could go on, but, really?  The fans have seen this already.  Unless you are one of those people that is going to completely toss a remake out on its ear BECAUSE it's a remake, in which case, I don't feel bad for you.  This is a lesson in taking any film and judging it on its merits and this film is kind of amazeballs.

Aja knows his shit.  Even his cheesy-ass remake of Pirahna was hilarious and that's because he meant it to be.  He's a fan who made it big and, as such, is a force to reckon with.  He gave us a polished version of Wes Craven's original vision and, while I'll always love Michael Berryman and his creepiness, there's a whole lot more to these hill people than meets the eye. 

As we all know, cannibal clans are relatively well-received in horror pop culture and they have been for centuries.  They've been used in films from the original The Hills Have Eyes, to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Chernobyl Diaries.  In this vision, they represent that asshole-ish kind of Tea-Party, anti-gubmint, “ain't nobody can take my land” sort of American that has become a farce and is basically the reason that every other country in the world hates us.  I swear, if Canadians weren't drowning themselves in poutine and maple syrup and being all polite and shit, we'd have a problem.

And that's what some of us would love to do to Sarah Palin.

The transformation of the Son-in-Law from hippie to warrior to protect his family is indicative of the rest of us trying to save the country from Tea Party extremism.  'Cause those guys just suck.

That's what it looks like to me, anyway.  But, then again, I could be talking out my ass.  All this symbolism could be me trying to attribute art to b-grade schlock but your mileage may vary.  I'm what you like to call an “insufferable know-it-all”.   It comes in handy when you spend a good portion of your day giving your opinion to people. 

Some people want to call this “torture porn” and to those people I would like to say this.


You have obviously never seen a torture porn flick if you think this is torture porn.  This is a monster movie all the way.  Just because the monsters are supposedly human doesn't make them any less monstrous.

In any case, I enjoy how the action's been ramped up.  I like how the monsters are engines of violence mimicking the violence that created them.  I like how Ruby is the black sheep, actually kind of caring for and protecting these new people and not wanting them to get hurt.  I like how this ends up being the team-building exercise from Hell and I like how Aja presents it to me.

Wes Craven chose well. 

So that's my two cents.  I welcome yours.  Mostly because I'm broke.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017



And rarin' ta go.  Sorry about the sabbatical.  I just needed a break.

ANYHOO!  On to today's almost so-bad-it's-good treat, Pitchfork.

Glenn Douglas Packard gets it.  He really does, but this one needs some fuggin' work.

First off, the problem is that he DOES get it.  He knows all about the slasher tropes and how to play them.  We get it.  If you have sex, you die.  It's totally a thing.  Considering, though, that your story starts with "gay boy goes home to deal with his family after coming out", you might want to steer more toward the sex-positive thing.  Ooooh, and the pitchfork for a hand.  That's... interesting...

Yeah, her.  She's gonna drive you nuts.
Next, kiddo, we need to talk about your pacing.  There are WAAAAAAAYYY too many points in this flick that need to be pared down.  There's the 10 minute "walking the dog" vignette at the beginning.  The 7 minute choreographed dance number.  No, seriously.  There's the 10 minute psuedo-rape scene with the girl above that just made me want to kill her myself and save us the time.  It's too much.  Edit.  You pay your editors to edit.  Let them do their job.

This (-->) motherfucker gets a lot of unnecessary screen-time.
Finally, how the hell did our main character live next door to the killer and know the killer when he actually lived in East Bumblefuck and NOT know that he was being physically and sexually abused to the point where he was basically a trained dog?  That's a huge fucking plot hole.  And how did the precocious little sister know that he could be ordered around like said trained dog?  I get that you said that she was "the animal whisperer" but dude's not a horse, he's a warped motherfucker with a pitchfork instead of a hand.  Come on, Now.

And who, apparently, needed a Freddy vs Jason fight pose.

Add to this the "coming out tropes" (with extra "be a man" added), the "I'ma be besties with the girl that fucked my boyfriend because she proved to me that he was a player by just saying so," and FOR FUCK'S SAKE THE MUSICAL NUMBER IN THE GODDAMN BARN, and you've got what could have been a disaster.

Thing is: it isn't.  It's actually not a bad piece.  It has faults but it's not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.  It's strange and very amateur-hour but for a first effort, it could have been way worse.

I say give it a shot if you're bored. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

British Parents are Weird

So, after the long and complicated bit of mental juggling required to tell myself that Lauren Cohan's breakout piece The Boy wouldn't suck the chrome off of a trailer hitch, I sat down to watch it.

I've got to tell you, I was wrong.  I was only wrong by a little but I was wrong.

Basic premise:  American woman named Greta straight up becomes an ex-pat to escape her abusive ex and lands a very lucrative job babysitting a doll.  Yes, you heard me right, a damn doll.  A very proper young doll whose parents love him dearly and there are rules that have to be followed very precisely or the whole damn day is just wasted.  Because very proper young dolls don't like to have their routines interrupted.  And then things just get all freaky-deaky up in here.

I suppose you should be warned right now that the statute of limitations for spoilers HAS passed.

That's right, bitch.  Follow the fuckin' rules!
So, the movie starts out as just strange.  Like there's almost no lead-up at all.  She drives to the house, immediately trespasses and gets found by the handsome local grocer who, for some reason, has a goddamn key (we'll talk about that more in a bit) and THEN gets introduced to the family which, of course, means meeting the boy, Brahms.  The rules are explained to the young woman and the family leaves the next morning on holiday which hadn't been possible for the last year or so because they kept losing nannies.  You know something is going to go horribly wrong when A) you bought the ticket to a horror movie and B) the lady of the house hugs you tight, as if you were her own daughter, less than 12 hours after meeting you and whispers "I'm so very sorry" in your ear as she steps out to the fucking chauffered Bentley.


Now, I think I need to step in here and say that I'm really tired of this whole meaningful name tropiness crap.  A toddler should not have to have a degree in Classical Music to be able to understand their own name OR to say or spell the names of others.  Personally, the kid's name alone is just begging for trouble.  You know what name is good for not raising a haunted doll?  Steve.  Name the boy Steve.  Or Paul.  Or Joe.  Brahms is some straight-up "I need my home life to be fucked up" bullshit.

ANYWAY!  Back to things and such.

So, yeah.  The new girl.  Alone in the house.  Weird shit happens.  She has bad dreams.  We get exposition about her ex and her clothing ends up missing or strewn about because Brahms is unhappy that she blew off the rules to, y'know, live in a gorgeous, if somewhat run-down, mansion with a wine cellar the size of Paris Hilton's colon and a fucking doll.  Then she gets trapped in the attic.

This guy...
Yeah, the grocer...  who has a key... and with whom she is most definitely not going on a date because she just got out of "a thing"... finds the house locked and the woman who does not have a car and can't really go anywhere is not answering the door (but IS legit trying to bust up the attic window and screaming bloody murder out of what is, for all intents and purposes, an open window) so he leaves. 

He.  Leaves.

There wasn't even a "Hey, what happened" thing, there was just a "I know you were here but I was locked in the attic, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!"  where she figures out that the doll is haunted and goes to show him.

Do I look even remotely amused right now?  I'm not your science experiment, Greta.
I blame bad editing.

So, she decides that, yes, the rules need to be followed, no, she can't go out on a date with the handsome Limey, and Brahms will officially be the surrogate for the baby she lost due to the abusive ex.

And then shit gets fucked right the fuck up because guess who shows up?

Not the handsome Limey.
If you said "The Ex" you have won.  You've won nothing because in any horror situation where the woman has been abused, if he hasn't shown up by the third act to cause trouble, the director is doing shit wrong.

Anyhoo, this is where the picture went off the rails and took us from "somewhat funny and delightfully spooky haunting" to full-on "The People Under the Stairs" craziness.  I don't have a problem that the doll wasn't actually haunted.  I have a problem with the transition from "supernatural" to "insane burn victim living in the walls a la Hugo fucking Simpson".  It could have been done well.  It was not.  It was kludgy and wrecked any sense of timing the movie had.  It feels like the director wanted to divorce any kind of "Hammer Films" vibe from the movie altogether.

No, sir.  I did not like it. 

I mean, it's not completely horrible and straight-up gaslighting a young woman into caring for a doll like a child aside, had they left the film as a "woman going slowly mad" piece, I would have been OK with it.  It would have been slow and beautiful but that's OK sometimes.  Instead, we got "super-strong Billy Lenz" and his parents giving him permission via suicide note to do whatever he wanted with poor Greta.  And, they left this shit open for a damn sequel.

No.  That is not OK.

Greta's gonna have some mental scarring and probably never be OK with any kind of relationship again.  It's probably better that way.  I can give you the names of a few awesome cat shelters, Greta!  You know... for your crazy cat lady starter kit.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Spores, Molds and Fungi Redux

YAY!  It's "Horror-Adjacent" time, here at CCRB, and you're just in time for me to get all kinds of nerdy.

Y'see, I know that I never did a post on the original Ghostbusters (and I should have) but there's a very good reason I'm reviewing this one and I'll get to it in a bit.

First and foremost, I'm going to say GO AND SEE THIS MOVIE! Because it is just fucking delightful and I heart it much and greatly.  The comedic timing is almost always on point and, yeah, there are some lame cheap shots, but it kept me laughing throughout the whole thing.

Now, the plot?  This is where things get tricky because this is NOT, let me repeat, NOT like the first movie other than the fact that it's an origin story.  The three scientists find proof of the supernatural and band together to research it and, along the way, fight it because there's some malevolent-ass shit out there and a literal conspiracy to unleash it.  That's really all I'm going to tell you about that except to say that this isn't your parent's Ghostbusters.

OK, so maybe this guys is a little bit.
I have to say that I am NOT a Paul Feig fan but he took this source material and ran with it.  He gave us four very new and different and, frankly, FANTASTIC female leads and a story that was as much a loving homage to the original as it was a whole new entity of its own.  These ladies have definitely earned their comedy chops and I can't think of anyone better to play these parts.  I was INTENSELY happy to see my beloved childhood memory treated so respectfully and that it was just as goofy as the first.  I was also pleased to have a movie out that promoted STEM in general, and to girls specifically (even though I do not believe in the paranormal, there's no reason not to study it and make sure that it's not real).

This, right here, is an iconic callback.  We LIKE them in our reboots.
Remember that "good reason" I talked about up there at the top?  Let's talk about why this movie was so controversial for a minute.

People ragged on this from the start when they learned that it was going to star women instead of being a clean remake with men in the roles we all know and love from before.  There's not reason why we shouldn't have that clean reboot but the sheer amount of vitriol surrounding these actresses and how they were "going to ruin our childhood" was disgusting.  There were actual plans on Reddit (granted, set up by trolls which got SERIOUSLY out of hand and, no, I will not link it because the behavior of these sexist pricks is horrific) to tank this movie ONLY because it starred women instead of men.

They forgot this guy.  Who knew Hemsworth could be hilarious?
As I've said before, I will always judge a remake or reboot on its merits.  There are some remakes I don't want to be made because I think there are some things that don't need to be remade but I don't have a problem with them, in general, and seeing the new perspective is sometimes refreshing.  In this case?  I was iffy, I'll admit, but I also wanted the franchise to continue and it had been too long since the concept had been touched so I was OK.  This remake got some HATE.  And we're not just talking about jerks saying "OMG, this will totally suck," I'm talking legit death threats and shit, again, because the stars were women.  

That is some fucked up shit, yo.

If you feel the need to dog on a movie because it stars strong female characters, you need to get the fuck up off my doorstep because I do not play.  It's attitudes like this that made sure that Black Widow and Gammorah got shut out of the merchandising for Marvel's Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy and we didn't see any Rey merch for Star Wars: The Force Awakens until the movie came out (which the studio blamed on "spoilers" which we all know is a crock of shit).  You know what, dickbags?  Girls are allowed to have action heroes, too.

Holzmann is my new lesbian, autism-spectrum, femme-hero.
And, there were also some questions about race.

Leslie Jones' Patty is perfection, even though she's been hailed as the most racist of the new characters but there's really only one instance where race is even called into question.  Yes, she's a bit stereotypical but so is a damn Medea flick so why don't we just let her have her cultural mannerisms since her character is legitimately attempting to better herself by joining with the scientists in an effort to learn about the apparitions that are haunting her subway on her own damn time and outside of the authority of her bosses rather than just being "sassy, black woman".  Personally, I was afraid this would be a problem but it really wasn't.  The trailer lied to us.

This is the face of a trailer whose pants are on fire.
The trailers lied to us about so many things.  None of the trailers were what I'd call good trailers.  Ignore the fucking trailers.  Go watch this and laugh your ASS off.  I did.  Stay through the credits.