Movie Review: SPIRIT STALKERS

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spirit stalkers
Big Biting Pig Productions
2012
NR

“Expectant attention is not a mistake the Spirit Stalkers make.”

  • The Spirit Stalkers reality show, once a big hit, faces cancellation without a rating boost, which leads the investigative team to Gloria Talman, whose house is rampant with unexplained ghostly activity.

During my extended period of health-related exile in the year of our Lord 2019, I did watch a bunch of free-for-streaming movies on Amazon, and yet somehow managed to hold on to some semblance of sanity.

One of these movies that wound up in my watching que was 2012’s Spirit Stalkers, a direct-to-video horror flick that, on the surface, looked like another one of those found footage / mocumentary style movies about a group of ghost hunters who happen to stumble upon a real haunting. Since these kind of movies are almost literally a dime a dozen, I steeled myself for what I hoped would at least be a so-bad-it’s-good kind of movies. So, imagine my surprise when Spirit Stalkers wound up doing something slightly different than what was expected.

The Spirit Stalkers in question is a reality television show about a team of ghost hunters lead by a guy who is more concerned with uncovering the truth behind the aledged “hauntings” than relying on the sensationalism tactics. Of course, this is not good for ratings, and the producers and other cast members try to introduce more ratings-grabbing tactics–ghost hunting gadgets, suggesting there are real ghosts, trying out new catch phrases and younger cast members–he’s finally told to either find a real haunting, or get canceled. Fortunately for him, there appears to be an actual, honest-to-goodness haunting going on in the house of a single mother, where she and her teenage daughter seem to be experiencing weird things. So the Spirit Stalkers are on the case! But, will this wind up to be another fake haunting easily explained by science, or is there something more sinister going on? The answer is yes.

I’ll start off by saying that I’ve seen far worse independent horror flicks than Spirit Stalkers. It has its flaws, and make no mistake, I will be addressing them. But at least this was made with some skill, rather than a camcorder and delusions of adequacy. Here, there’s some decent editing, along with some very well executed framing and cinematography, lending to some good atmosphere. And at least part of the storyline has an intriguing kernel of an idea that I wish they would have explored more.

For me, the parts of the movie that worked the best were the television show angle itself. What they should have done was make that the main focus, leaving the bits with the lady and her daughter at the house introduced later on. Instead, the flashing back and forth constantly between the two interrupted the flow of the narrative something bad. Making things even more convoluted is the tendency to feature memory flashbacks that don’t really contribute to the story and makes one more confused than anything.

Also working against the movie is the subpar acting, which isn’t as bad as I’ve come across elsewhere, but is still cringe-inducing at times. But, like I said, I do like what they did with the ending. It wasn’t jaw-dropping or game-changing, but I respect the direction they took.

Overall: If I actually used a numerical system for rating these things, I would go with a 2 out of 5. It’s surprisingly much more watchable than your usual stable of haunting movies, but nothing that results in a must-see. Good for a time waster.

Movie Review: RETURN TO HORROR HOTEL

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return to horror hotel
Indie Rights
2019
NR

  • Anthology of twisted tales spanning horror/sci-fi/suspense. Giant attacking bed bugs, a magical charm turns girls into beauty queens, a WWII sailor who hasn’t aged, and the terrorizing severed hand of dead magician Harry Houdini.

So, here we are again, taking a second dip into the collected shorts gleaned from the Horror Hotel web series, Return To Horror Hotel. Look, I understand that I’m obligated to watch the sequel to one of the more painful horror anthologies I’ve had the displeasure of watching; if you know me, you understand that I have something of an almost irresistible urge to watch the sequel to any movie I’ve seen, regardless of how awful and/or painful it might have been. It’s the same thing with books and television shows. I may need to seek professional help.

Anyway, in Return To Horror Hotel, we’re once again reminded of the definition of “misnomer” as we visit the seedy motel in the middle of nowhere with four shorts: “Sleep Tight”, where a couple of young kids check in with the World’s Worst Aunt and have to spend the night staying safe from giant bed bugs that were mutated by the blood of a steroid using body builder. “Guillotine” has a beauty pageant contestant with a personality that would make Cardi B look like Mother Teresa trade her car for a pendant made from a piece of wood from the guillotine used on Marie Antoinette that supposedly makes the wearer irresistibly beautiful. “No Time For Love” finds a young woman delivering a book to a reclusive World War II Naval vet who seems to have not aged a day since taking up residence in the motel. And finally, “Houdini’s Hand” ends things with a couple of petty thieves who have stolen the titular hand, said to give whoever possesses the mummified hand the ability to get into any locked location, and of course they soon discover they got more than they bargained for, especially when the original owner demands that they return the item.

I have to admit that, unlike the first Horror Hotel movie, there is actually a bright spot hidden within here: “No Time For Love”, which actually plays things relatively straight, resulting in an actual thought-provoking and effective Twilight Zone-style short. Mind you, the premise seems to have been borrowed from the 1992 movie Forever Young, but still–a seed of potential, this one. Give it the ol’ spit-n-polish in the production and acting, and we have something memorable.

As far as the other three go, however, Return To Horror Hotel is more of the same kind of bad acting, bad scripting, bad production and ultra campiness that made watching the first Horror Hotel so painful. “Sleep Tight” was far too busy for its own good, and when the child actors are the least annoying things in your short, that really says something about the acting quality. Also, how come we never got more of that motel manager? I want more of him, please. Him and his ever-present bucket of chicken. Here’s your unofficial mascot/host of the series, guys. Anyway, “Guillotine” was just annoying, and apart from a few unintentional chuckles I got from “Houdini’s Hand”, that one was rather forgettable.

Overall: Return To Horror Hotel is another disappointing check-in. You can find much better horror anthology flicks out there. Pass this one up.

Movie Review: BOOK OF MONSTERS

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book of monsters
Dread Central Presents
2018
NR

“If I was a monster hunter, I’d have kept a shotgun above the fireplace.”

  • Sophie’s 18th birthday becomes a bloodbath when monsters descend upon her house and start to devour the party guests. Sophie and her friends must rally together to send their party crashers back to hell.

In this current era of “socially conscience” cerebral horror and a bunch of Millennial horrors, it’s sometimes refreshing just to sit back and take in a fun, mindless monster flick, heavy on the camp and loaded with practical effect goodness. Book Of Monsters is one such movie.

Released as a VOD flick that’s available on the Prime streamin’ I utilize for my cheesy horror fix, Book Of Monsters takes the basic outline for Night Of The Demons, only set it in an 18th birthday party at the house where the birthday girl in question’s mum was a demon slayer (killed off in a flashback prelude at the start of the movie). Also, this film is British, so that’s why I said “mum”.

This movie is what you would call a throwback to the direct-to-video gems you would find at the video stores in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s. It’s a horror flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also doesn’t devolve into a wacky comedy either. The effects are 100% practical, with some rather neat gore effects as well as monster getups. There is a scene involving garden gnomes that encapsulates the overall gist of the entire movie–mindless, campy, over-the-top and glorious. That said, there are some pacing issues, but nothing so bad as to completely lose my attention.

Overall, Book Of Monsters seemed like a good way to kill off 90 minutes while bedridden with health issues, and turned out to be far more fun than it should have been. Worth a look-see.

Book Review: POOR THINGS

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poor thingsDaniel Barnett
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
2016

I turned the dial to 153.5, to 153.6, 153.7, and on each station there were more. More. More. More. Hell wasn’t a place. Hell was a state of mind, and it was broadcasting over Ash’s radio.

  • Summer crashes to an end on a winding road. Just like that, football superstar Joel Harper finds himself rolling his wheelchair into a new school in a strange town. Soon he’s making friends of misfits, taking lessons in Iron Maiden, and trying to keep away from a ruthless bully with a penchant for switchblades. Little is he aware, something ancient and wounded has awoken deep beneath the tiny mountain community, and when it surfaces, all of Honaw will know its pain.

I’ve been checking out more authors that I haven’t heard of in the past few years, mainly due to the acquisition of the Kindle and download a bunch of free-to-under $5 novels and novellas off of Amazon. One of those was this particular book of horror, titled Poor Things, by someone named Daniel Barnett. I’ve never heard of him before, I was unfamiliar with his work (redundancy is redundant), but the main thing was, this book was listed as FREE. Also, it was only 290 pages…285 if you stop counting after the story actually ends and the end credits begin. That’s about the perfect length when checking out a new author for myself. Finally got around to reading it, so let’s see how things go.

The story of Poor Things opens with a family of four getting into a terrible deadly accident while driving to visit an aunt in a small obscure town tucked away in the hills, narrated by the only survivor of the crash, a high school aged boy named Joel. He’s left paralyzed from the waist down, and put in the care of his spinster aunt. While readjusting to his new life, he befriends a couple of the local misfits from his school, and learns the ways of the Music of Awesome (that being \,,/METAL\,,/), while also (literally) running into the school bully, among other wackiness that comes standard with these kind of novels. Anyway, the day after an ill-fated talent show, the local mine the town’s built around blows up, which levels the town and leaves the entire place covered with a thick fog made of blood. Which is the most metal thing that could happen, really. Que the Slayer. As it turns out, there was some kind of ancient unspeakable elderic horror down in those mines, and is causing all the dead bodies to come back to unlife, unable to die and forever doomed to feel the pain of death. This includes the animals as well as the humans, here. So now Joel and his small band of freaks (their words) find themselves dodging capture by the obligatory gov’ment quarantine, while trying to either find a way of escape from the town, or eliminating the Unspeakable Evil Entity in the mine once and for all. Try to guess how things end. Go ahead. Guess.

I have to admit that, as I first began reading Poor Things, I found myself a bit annoyed at some of the inner monologue from the main protagonist, Joel. Especially towards his brother and mother. Of course, things went smoother as I warmed up to the style of writing, and found myself soon engrossed at the goings on. The style of the story reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk’s style, in that’s more of a first-person, Unreliable Narrator type, only with significantly less nihilism and self-loathing. The book works well as both a straight supernatural horror featuring Unknown Chaotic Neutral Entities and a bunch of gore and zombies, as well as exploring some existential pain from our protagonists to flesh things out. And everything works so well…until I got to the end, where the ending left me scratching my head and very audibly going “WHAT?!?”, disturbing the cubicle dwellers at work, where I was reading this at the time I finished. I understand what the author was going for, but…really? I wasn’t very satisfied with it.

And no, I’m not going to spoil what happens at the end. You’re going to have to read it for yourself. And since this is FREE (all-caps intended) on the Amazon Kindle reader, you can do so easily. Unless you’re one of those Luddite types who scoff at reading books that aren’t made of paper and ink, in which case, go ahead and pick up the physical copy if you want.

What I’m getting at here, is that Poor Things was better than I expected. It’s not one of those paint-by-the-numbers horror books that are a dime a dozen. It’s worth checking out.

Movies+Beer: IT CHAPTER 2

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it chapter 2
James is joined by long-time heterosexual lifemate Brian in watching the anticipated second chapter in the recent movie adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. How does it hold up to the first chapter? Does it blow away the miniseries from 1990? Will the Husker fans be cheering too loudly? Tune in and find out…
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Movies+Beer: AMERICAN POLTERGEIST

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american poltergeis

James is joined once again by Kari via Skype to discuss the 2015 direct-to-video stinker American Poltergeist! Come, listen as we marvel at how bad this movie is, and how close we came to a sequel…
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Movies+Beer: MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL

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movie poster

Uncle NecRo finally figured out how to use Skype (kinda), and enlisted the help of longtime friend Kari on her first time on the podcast, to watch a movie so terrible I couldn’t just do justice with a mere write-up: MANDY THE HAUNTED DOLL! Listen along as we go through this waste of a Haunted Doll movie, if you dare!

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