A Christmas Horror Story (2015) … Krampus, Ghosts, & Zombie Elves!!

 

Back in the 1980s it was easy to make a Christmas horror film. Slap a Santa suit on a deranged killer and the script practically wrote itself. Now that the Christmas demon, Krampus, has become ingrained in North American minds, most modern-day Xmas horror flicks will have some kind of mention of this evil bastard. Furthermore, being that the anthology has made quite the comeback over the last few years, it only seems natural to bring this format to the holiday-horror arena. Add these ingredients together and voila! A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is born.

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Taking inspiration from 2007s TRICK R’ TREAT, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY follows a similar format with four different stories that are loosely connected. I also liked that the four stories aren’t told from beginning to end in one shot. The stories are woven together which adds more suspense and tension to them. The framework of the anthology is a radio DJ, Dangerous Dan (William Shatner), whose radio program is hosting a live broadcast with Santa from the local mall. As the night goes on, not only does Dangerous Dan become more and more drunk, but more and more bizarre stories emerge in the small town. Eventually there even seems to be a massacre at the mall itself. The wraparound story didn’t at first seem to offer too much to the overall film–it honestly felt like nothing more than homage to Adrienne Barbeau’s role in the 1980 film, THE FOG–but by the end of the movie the wraparound ended up being the most compelling and interesting story of the bunch.

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The first story, my favorite of the anthology, is about Santa (George Buza) fighting off a horde of elves who have been stricken with a virus that turns them into zombies. This story has the most action and gore in it, and it is fun as hell to watch Santa using various Christmas-themed items to hold back and kill off the zombified elves. Again, this story is chopped up into smaller segments and is shown over the duration of the anthology. This was a great idea because we get a bunch of cliffhangers that make us anticipate and eagerly await the next segment.

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In the second story, a group of friends–Dylan (Shannon Kook), Caprice (Amy Forsyth), Molly (Zoé De Grand Maison), and Ben (Alex Ozerov)–investigate an old, closed down covent that use to house unwed mothers. This is your standard ghost-possession story and didn’t really have much of an impact on me. The acting was strong and the story was good, but let’s face it, a ghost story is a ghost story!! Thankfully the ending of this segment got dark (more on this below).

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The next story has a great setup and payoff. In it, a family heads out into the woods, unaware they are on someone’s private property, to cut down a Christmas tree. As they are leaving the woods, their young son, Will (Orion John), disappears for a few minutes. The father, Scott (Adrian Holmes) finds him and they all head home. Almost immediately Scott and his wife Kim (Oluniké Adeliyi), who have a very strained relationship, notice that their son is acting odd. He suddenly has a voracious appetite and a vicious little mean streak. The reveal for this story is definitely the most unexpected in the entire anthology.

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In the last story, a miserable, selfish family goes to visit an older relative and accidentally attracts the attention of Krampus, the Christmas Devil. They are stalked in the woods by the creature and their only chance of survival is to put aside their petty issues and come together as a family. Good luck with this bunch!!

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Like I mention above, the acting is terrific in all the stories. No actor stood out as being amateurish or just plain bad. Buza, who plays Santa in the zombie story, stands out in his performance of the jolly one. Buza takes the typical character of Santa and believably transforms it into an action hero to rival Bruce Campbell’s Ash from the EVIL DEAD franchise. But the real power of this story comes in at the end of the film when we see how the Santa-fighting-zombies story fits into the wraparound story. Very clever!! All the stories get very dark as well. This is definitely not a film you want to watch with younger children. A few of the stories seem lighthearted in the beginning but all delve into some really dark territory by the end.

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A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY will remind you more of TRICK R’ TREAT than any other recent anthology film, and I had a lot of fun with this one. With great acting, fantastic special f/x, and talented directs, A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a must-watch film this Christmas season (you’ll also like it if your Jewish or Muslim as well. Just sayin). Don’t miss this one!!

My Summary:

Directors: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, & Brett Sullivan

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars for the overall anthology

Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls for the overall anthology

Zombie Mayhem: 4 out of 5 brains for the first story

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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Krampus: The Reckoning (2015) … Voodoo Dolls & Fire!!

Krampus. This dark companion of old Saint Nick seems to be getting more popular with every passing Christmas. And why not? There’s a lot of fertile material to be mined from Krampus. Santa rewards the good kids with presents while Krampus punishes the bad children by beating their asses with tree limbs and whips. Of course there is the new film by TRICK R’ TREAT director, Michael Dougherty, titled simply KRAMPUS (review to come), and there is also the 2013 indie horror film, KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL, written and directed by Jason Hull. This 2013 film was a ton of fun and gave us  great history of what Krampus is and why he does what he does.

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Now there is KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING–a pretty dramatic title if you ask me. This is a rather disjointed, confused film that seems to not know what it wants to do with the legend of Krampus, and ends up giving us a final product that resembles something more along the lines of a revenge flick. The story revolves around a little girl, Zoe (Amelia Haberman), who lives with some uncaring and downright mean foster parents. One night Zoe produces a small voodoo-looking Krampus doll and before you can say “chestnuts roasting,” the creature appears and kills the negligent foster parents. Now Zoe is in the hospital and Rachael (Monica Engesser) a child psychologist who works with the police on various cases, is brought in to evaluate Zoe and to see if she can tell them any details about what happened to her foster parents. 

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Zoe is an odd little girl who doesn’t try to get long with the other kids in the hospital, and she also seems confrontational with a few of the hospital staff. Detective O’Connor (James Ray) works with Rachael to try and get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths. But when one of the male nurses from the hospital dies in a similar manner as the foster parents, all the signs point to Zoe somehow being involved. The plot is unraveled–very slowly–until we get an ending that will have you scratching your head. 

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KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING has a lot of problems, but the acting wasn’t one of them. Director Robert Conway, who also wrote the film, put together a strong cast of actors who do a good job with the material. Haberman (Zoe) is a great young actress who puts in a convincing performance and plays her role well. She comes across innocent and as a victim when needed, but she is also able to convey her darker side as the film progresses. The actors who play Rachael and the detective also give strong performances as they slowly come to realize that Zoe is not the child they thought she was. Unfortunately, the main problem here is with the story. There’s a good story buried within the script, but there just wasn’t enough of a plot to fill the ninety-minute run time. The film drags in many places and as you watch it you’ll find yourself repeating, “They could have lost this scene in order to tighten up the film” over and over again. What story we have would have been perfect for a thirty-five to forty-five minute short film. 

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The other problem I had here–which turns out to be a huge problem–was the entire Krampus aspect. The film opens on Christmas Eve with a grandmother telling her grandchild about the legend of Krampus, but after the opening credits the Christmas setting is abandoned. We get voodoo dolls, revenge plots, and even hints of ghosts. As far as staying true to the actual legend of Krampus, KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING fails. In this film, Krampus becomes nothing more than a tool of revenge for a disturbed little girl who can summon the demon by making little voodoo dolls of the people she wants dead. I have a strong suspicion that writer-director Conway wrote a revenge-ghost story and the producers asked him if he was able to rework the story to include Krampus into it. Krampus is definitely a square peg that was trying to be pounded into a circular hole–it just didn’t fit. And Krampus’ preferred method of death? Fire. Again, nothing like the legend.

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Krampus is no doubt a hot subject this Christmas season, but KRAMPUS: THE RECKONING is far from being a Christmas horror film. This is a revenge-ghost story that sneaks in the Christmas devil in order to try and sell more tickets. Add to this the dreadfully slow pace and you’ve got yourself a tedious film to try and get through. Definitely pass on this one and instead check out Jason Hull’s KRAMPUS: THE CHRISTMAS DEVIL or Michael Dougherty’s KRAMPUS.

My Summary:

Director: Robert Conway (& writer)

Plot: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

Krampus poster

Thankskilling (2009)

The scene opens in the 1600’s.  A topless pilgrim girl (Wanda Lust) is running away and screaming from an unseen assailant.  We see the POV shot from the killer … we see the topless girl running away … killer … naked chick … killer … naked chick, until the inevitable happens and the chick falls to the ground (screaming, of course).  We see an axe being lifted and suddenly thrust into the screaming, naked chick over and over again.  Blood sprays, the girl screams, and in the aftermath we see the killer’s face.  No it’s not some jilted Pilgrim; no, it’s not some psycho masked killer; no, it’s not some deformed creature.  When the camera pans over to the assailant its … a turkey.  Wait, what?  That’s right people … the killer is a turkey and he (it is indeed a male turkey) can use weapons and can even talk.  In fact, right before killing the topless Pilgrim the turkey looks at her and says, “Nice tits bitch” and then drives the axe home.  Welcome to the world of THANKSKILLING!!

Fast forward to the present day.  We see a group of friends getting ready to go on Thanksgiving break from college.  There’s Johnny ‘The Jock’ (Lance Predmore); Billy ‘The Hick’ (Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson); Darren ‘The Nerd’ (Ryan Francis); Ali (Natasha Cordova), the slutty girl; and Kristen ‘The Good Girl’ (Lindsey Anderson), whose dad is a sheriff.  Writer-director Jordan Downey (along with four other writers) cover every slasher film archetype as they set out to make a completely ridiculous, over-the-top, and gory homage to the slasher film.  And ya know what?  It kinda works!!  Sure the budget is tiny (estimated at a meager $3,500), but Downey doesn’t let it show when it comes to the special f/x.  Everything is played for laughs here and the blending of the gore and humor works for me.  I mean come on; if you’re gonna make a slasher-gore flick about Thanksgiving, ya gotta have a killer turkey … ya just gotta!!

Our antagonist!!

The back story is as silly as any:  A Pilgrim related to Billy (‘The Hick’) pissed off an Indian Shaman around Thanksgiving time back in the day.  For his revenge, the Shaman curses a turkey to come back every 505 years and kill the white man.  That’s right; we have a killer, immortal, cursed turkey who holds one helluva grudge!!  But what sets the homicidal foul off is when a dog pisses on the turkey’s grave.  Now the grotesque gobbler is on the loose and looking to get back at the white man.  Enter our college kids on their way home for the holiday.  All the typical trappings are here:  The car breaks down, they camp in the woods, they party and drink beer, and Ali is looking to hook up with Johnny.  We even get a little inner-friend tension because Billy is looking to score with the easy Ali who’s “legs are harder to close that the JonBenét Ramsey case”!!  Oh yes; we’re deep into exploitation territory here people!!

She just “got stuffed”!!

This is of course an extremely silly, slapstick-ish horror-comedy blend that isn’t meant to be taken serious … not for a second.  As soon as you hear the killer turkey’s voice you’re gonna laugh out loud.  The voice is like a combination of a radio D.J. and a drunken frat boy.  It’s really hilarious.  And with the fowl-mouthed turkey (ah-hem) spouting off such lines like, “Gobble gobble motherfucker” and “Shut up; I do the talking faggot,” well you know this is going for the low-brow laughs.

Once the twenty-somethings get to their homes (they all conveniently live in the same town), that’s when the real drumstick destruction begins.  We get such classic (and classy) scenes like the turkey killing Kristen’s dad and wearing his face as a mask (and no one seems to notice) and the killer corn-eater bursting through the chest of another character.  But the best kill is when Ali is getting banged from behind and the turkey kills her lover and then starts doing her himself.  Then after the clucker climaxes, he yells at Ali, “You just got stuffed!!”  I’m sorry, but this shit is funny!!  But what makes it really work is the actors involved.  They all do a really nice job in their roles and they all have a firm grasp on who and what their characters are.  They know they’re in a silly, juvenile-humored slasher flick and they all play their characters perfectly.

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Darren ‘The Nerd’ of course finds an obscure book with a really complicated formula that can get rid of the turkey once and for all.  The problem is they’re gonna need a mind like Stephen Hawking to break the formula.  But along the way we get plenty of gory moments and really, really, REALLY silly humor.  This is the kind of film where my wife looks at me, as I’m laughing hysterically, and does a quick re-evaluation of our marriage!!

Some of you will appreciate the sheer zaniness and over-the-top gore and humor.  Some of you will hate THANKSKILLING for it’s ridiculous storyline, childish humor, and overall silliness.  All I can say is, “It’s Thanksgiving … gobble gobble motherfucker”!!  So overeat this Thanksgiving and instead of turning on the same boring football games treat yourself to an exploitive, Troma-esque slasher-gore flick!!  Oh by the way, as the film ends, we get the following scrawled across the screen:

“ To be continued … IN SPACE”

Bring it on!!

Turkey head lock!!

My Summary:

Director:  Jordan Downey (& the main writer)

Plot:  3 out of 5 stars

Gore:  6.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem:  0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Ready For a New Holiday Horror Tale? I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday is Coming!!

Nothing makes me happier this time of year than getting news that a new holiday horror flick is on its way. Nothing gives me a warmer feeling inside than a holiday horror flick, and this one sounds fantastic!! Unfortunately, this one won’t be out until Summer 2016, but at least we can get a Christmas in July!! The film is titled I’M DREAMING OF A WHITE DOOMSDAY, and in it we see one of my favorite horror writers, Brian Keene, teaming up with a very talented indie filmmaker, Mike Lombardo, to give us what I’m sure will be a dark and twisted tale set during the holidays. Check out the press release:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19th, 2015 

From Grandmaster Award winning author Brian Keene comes a disturbing post- apocalyptic Christmas Horror Story

Writer/director Mike Lombardo aligns with author Brian Keene to bring a bleak horror story about a family trying to survive in the post-apocalypse during the most wonderful time of year. 

Lancaster, PA – Brian Keene, bestselling author of such notable novels as “The Rising”, “Ghoul”, and “Castaways”, has teamed up as executive producer with frequent collaborator, writer/director Mike Lombardo (The Stall, Long Pig) of Reel Splatter Productions on the post-apocalyptic Christmas horror story I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday. 

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Having just wrapped filming in Pennsylvania, White Doomsday tells the tale of Kelly and her son Riley, weathering the end times in a bomb shelter amidst the ruin that once was the world. With supplies and hope steadily declining, Kelly makes a horrifying decision that will cause her to discover just how far she would go for her child, and what lurks outside. 

“What started as a short film we were shooting on the weekends just sort of took on a life of it’s own and kept growing until we realized we had a feature on our hands.” says Lombardo. “I’m usually known for doing the more comedic end of horror, so I think fans of Reel Splatter are going to be surprised at how bleak, disturbing, and nihilistic this one is. It goes to some pretty dark places.” 

Starring Damian Maffei (Joe R. Lansdale’s Christmas with the Dead, Closed for the Season}, I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday will be ready to make it’s way in the summer of 2016. 

To learn more about the film visit http://reelsplatter.com/  and  http://www.briankeene.com/

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More info as this one becomes available, but with the teaming up of Keene and Lombardo, I’m really looking forward to checking this one out.

Stay Bloody!!!

All Hallows’ Eve 2 (2015)

I just finished posting my review of TALES OF HALLOWEEN, and no sooner did it post than I’m writing a review for yet another Halloween anthology film, ALL HALLOW’S EVE 2. This is an anthology made up of eight short films by eight different filmmakers, each about a particular aspect of Halloween. There is a superfluous wraparound story that has no payoff (we’ll get to that), but the individual stories here are pretty interesting.

That was one pissed off pumpkin!!
That was one pissed off pumpkin!!

Ignoring the opening wraparound story for the time being, the anthology has a damn strong opening with the two short films, “Jack Attack” and “The Last Halloween.” “Jack Attack” (written and directed by Bryan Norton and Antonio Padovan) is the story of a pumpkin who doesn’t much like being turned into a Jack-o-Lantern, so it exacts some gory revenge on its attackers. “Jack Attack” is an effective short that I actually had the privilege of seeing a couple years ago. At a tight eight-minute runtime, there is no filler here. Elizabeth (Helen Rogers) is babysitting Jack (Tyler Rossell). It is Halloween and Liz curves a pumpkin and roasts the seeds for them to enjoy–except the pumpkin is pissed. What begins as a sentimental, sweet short ends in a gross display of gore and revenge. I love “Jack Attack.”

"Alexia" watched too much RINGU!!
“Alexia” watched too much RINGU!!

“The Last Halloween” is a great follow up to the first story and really kept the ball rolling. In this story (directed by Marc Roussel, written by Roussel and Mark Thibodeau–which is based on Thibodeau’s comic book), we join a few “kids” as they go out trick or treating on Halloween night. Immediately the viewer realizes that something isn’t right as the landscape looks like a war zone. Soon it becomes apparent that the trick or treaters are more interested in doling out tricks than getting treats. This is another short and sweet story that moves quickly and has some great makeup effects. This is one neighborhood you want to stary away from!! This is also the one short in this anthology that I really wanted to see as a feature length film.

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Just like in TALES OF HALLOWEEN, there were no stories that I out and out didn’t like. All the entry’s were fun and well made. I was a little disappointed with the short, “Descent” (written and directed by Jay Holben and Christopher Probst). The story was lifted right from an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show. In it, Vanessa (Renee Intlekofer) witnesses a murder. When after a case of bad luck she is stranded in an elevator with the man who committed the murder, she decides to go on the offensive. But there’s just one problem. You’re going to have to see what happens (no spoilers here). But the “twist”–if you want to call it that–was lifted straight from an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But on the positive side, the acting and cinematography were fantastic. I was just disappointed by the originality.

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The other two that I enjoyed the most are “Mr. Tricker’s Treat” (directed by Mike Kochansky and written by Kochansky and Mark Byers), where a girl (Carrie Seim) finds out the hard way what makes Mr. Tricker’s (Michael Serrato) Halloween decorations look so life-like, and “Alexia” (directed and written by Andreas Borghi), one of the stories not connected to the Halloween theme. In “Alexia,” a guy’s girlfriend who killed herself still haunts him through the computer and social media. “Alexia” is downright scary and is a very effective ghost story with elements of RINGU in it. “Alexia” was breathtaking to look at and we get some fantastic and unique camera angles and colors.

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Think of ALL HALLOW’S EVE 2 as the poorer cousin of TALES OF HALLOWEEN. I still haven’t discussed the wraparound story because it really isn’t worth it. It felt tagged on, like they forgot they needed one and quickly threw something together. But the eight short films here will entertain you and will put a smile on your face this Halloween season. Check this one out.

My Summary:

Directors: Jesse Baget, Elias Benavidez, Andrés Borghi, Jay Holben, Mike Kochansky, James Kondelik, Jon Kondelik, Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan, Ryan Patch, and Marc Roussel

Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars for the entire anthology

Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls for the entire anthology

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains for the entire anthology

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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Tales of Halloween (2015)

When it comes to making horror movies about the holidays, I think the anthology format is the way to go. This way there can be multiple views and multiple takes on the same holiday. TALES OF HALLOWEEN does this exact approach and for the most part is wildly successful with it. TALES OF HALLOWEEN is a welcomed addition to the Halloween movie canon.

She will not be getting the "Wife of the Year" award
She will not be getting the “Wife of the Year” award

TALES OF HALLOWEEN was created by filmmaker-actress, Axelle Carolyn and in total has eleven talented directors making ten fun short films about All Hallow’s Eve (John Skipp and Andrew Kasch co-directed their short film together). This anthology has been hailed as the best anthology since 2007s TRICK R’ TREAT. Whereas I wouldn’t go so far to say TALES OF HALLOWEEN is as good as its 2007 counterpart, there is a lot to like in this anthology, and I overall had a lot of fun with it.

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The first bit of fun comes almost immediately as we hear the sultry, sexy voice of Adrienne Barbeau, who plays a DJ on the nightshift who introduces each short story. What is especially juicy here is that Barbeau is paying homage to her role from John Carpenter’s 1980 film, THE FOG–where she also played a DJ. Her role is limited to mostly voiceover work, but it was enough to set off my horror geekgasm. The stories she introduces run the gamut of horror. We get everything from devils and demons to aliens, masked killers, ghosts, ghouls, and psychotic children. The best thing, though, is that the short films here are all directed by some of the genre’s most talented filmmakers. Neil Marshall, LuckyMcKee, and Darren Lynn Bousman headline a very talented bringing together of filmmakers. Adam Gierasch’s “Trick,” written by Greg Commons, is easily the best story in the anthology. In it, two couples are sitting around the house on Halloween night drinking some wine, smoking a little weed, and just relaxing. The doorbell rings and one of the husbands answers the door only to be greet by a psychotic little kid who … well, you’re just going to have to see for yourself. What makes “Trick” so damn good is that what starts off as a group of crazy kids tormenting four adults becomes something completely different about three-quarters of the way through. It is gory, disturbing, creepy, and very effective.

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Unfortunately the tone of “Trick” was rare in this anthology. Many of the other stories went for a more lighthearted approach and avoided any real scares. That’s why “Trick” stands out. This isn’t to say the other stories aren’t well done. Just the opposite. All the stories in TALES OF HALLOWEEN are very well made and well-acted, but they unfortunately opt for a more horror-comedy approach (the first story, “Sweet Tooth”–written and directed by Dave Parker–also takes a more serious approach and is another of the anthology’s standouts). But some of the more comical stories like “The Night Billy Raised Hell” (directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by Clint Sears), “This Means War” (directed and written by John Skipp & Andrew Kasch), “Friday the 31st” (directed by Mike Mendez and written by Mendez and Dave Parker), and “The Ransom of Rusty Rex” (directed and written by Ryan Schifrin) all go for a more humorous and campy approach and don’t have many scares to them.

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The most intense of the bunch was Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong”–which he directed and wrote. If you are familiar with McKee’s other films, then this comes as no surprise. In this story a woman is an emotional wreck about not being able to have kids. One Halloween night she lashes out at her husband in a most disturbing way. Next Halloween, the wife decides she is going to be more involved with the neighborhood children, and she ends up coming off a little strong (to put in mildly). I really enjoyed this story for the psychological elements in it. The thought and idea of children can bring out the best, and worst, in a woman, and this short explores that.

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Of course not all the stories are home runs. I mentioned the story, “Sweet Tooth” above. Whereas this one was visually stunning and fun, it was extremely predictable and offered nothing different. “The Weak and the Wicked” (directed by Paul Solet and written by Molly Millions) just didn’t do it for me. Even though the story fell flat, the lead actress, Grace Phipps, did a fantastic job as a sociopath who loves to torment those around her. Her performance was chilling, calculating, and down-right creepy. She had the standout performance in the entire anthology.

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Like with any anthology, you’re not going to love or even like every story in it. But TALES OF HALLOWEEN offers one of the strongest anthology films I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the comedic elements outshine the horror elements in a lot of the stories, but there’s so much fun here that this will sure to become a yearly, Halloween viewing ritual. Definitely check out TALES OF HALLOWEEN.

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My Summary:

Directors: Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, and Paul Solet

Plot: 4 out of 5 for the entire anthology

Gore: 6.5 out of 10 for the entire anthology

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains for the entire anthology

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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Tales of Halloween Hits Theaters This Weekend

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Just in time for the Halloween season, TALES OF HALLOWEEN will be hitting theaters this weekend, October 16, 2015. This just isn’t your standard, run-of-the-mill horror anthology. TALES OF HALLOWEEN has some of the genres biggest talents directing the segments. The directors include Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Andrew Kasch, Adam Gierasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, and Paul Solet. If there’s a name here you don’t recognize, then you need to fill in some serious gaps in your horror education. The cast includes Barry Bostwick, Lin Shaye, Adrienne Barbeau, Cerina Vincent, Lisa Marie, John Landis, James Duval, John Savage, Joe Dante, Adam Green, Stuart Gordon, Tiffany Shepis, Mick Garris, Dana Gould, Nick Principe, and Barbara Crampton. That’s one helluva a cast!! Check out the brief plot crunch:

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Ten stories are woven together by their shared theme of Halloween night in an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorize unsuspecting residents.

If you can’t wait until this weekend, you can head over to the official TALES OF HALLOWEEN website to pre-order and rent it. For now, dig on the trailer:

And now you can check out a clip to the segment, “The Ransom of Rusty Rex:”

Stay Bloody!!!

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Tales of Halloween poster

Hellions (2015)

“Blood for Baby”!!!

Beauty, Power and GraceWhat’s better than a Halloween-themed horror film being released during the Halloween season? Having said horror film being made by one of my favorite indie filmmakers, Bruce McDonald. In the horror world, McDonald is most well known for the 2008 film PONTYPOOL, written by Tony Burgess and considered by many to be an “unfilmable film.” Well, McDonald showed the world that with enough talent and vision that anything can be accomplished, and how he is back with HELLIONS, about a high school girl being terrorized on Halloween night by a pack of vicious trick or treaters. Everything I’ve come to expect from McDonald is here, and though the film stumbles in the fourth act, I still found this film to be hugely entertaining.

HELLIONS stars Dora (Chloe Rose), a high school girl who lives in a very sleepy town and who looks as though she is going through all the usual rebellions of a girl her age. Sure actress Rose looks too old to be playing a high schooler, but she brings so much charm and depth to the character that I was willing to overlook the casting choice. As the film opens, we see Dora hanging out with her boyfriend Jace (Luke Bilyk). They are talking about the Halloween party they are planning to attend later that night. It is Halloween and from the looks of it, the town they live in produces a lot of pumpkins. One character even notes that if it wasn’t for Halloween, no one would even know their town existed.

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Later that day, Dora gets some troubling and distressing news from the doctor, and she tries to figure out how she is going to break the news to Jace and her mother Kate (Rachel Wilson). Just when Dora gets the courage to tell her mother what is going on, Kate tells her she really needs to take Remi (Peter DaCunha)–Dora’s little brother–trick or treating. Dora is all alone in the house, which is in an isolated location, and waits patiently for Jace to come pick her up for the Halloween party. Instead, a spooky kid in a pumpkin costume knocks on the door and Dora shares an intense, creepy moment with him. Then a little while longer, two spooky kids show up at the house. Then three. Then more. This isn’t going to be a good night for Dora as the kids terrorize her and let her know they want something from her and won’t leave until they get it.

Dora is NOT having a very good night!!
Dora is NOT having a very good night!!

The set up and execution of the early scenes of the “kids” laying seige to Dora’s home are excellent. We get the style and substance that I’ve come to expect from McDonald. The kids are extremely creepy and very effective. McDonald also colors his scenes with some very distinct color schemes. At times, the film has a pinkish-red hue, while other times there is a bluish hue and a yellow hue that covers the screen. These colors aren’t just McDonald’s attempt at being “stylish,” but represent the mood of the scenes they are coloring. Towards the end of the film when things are looking bleak for Dora, the film takes on a darkish blue-gray hue and really helps set the mood for what is about to happen.

If this ain't a mood-setter, I don't know what is!!
If this ain’t a mood-setter, I don’t know what is!!

Most of the film is Dora, alone in her home, defending and fighting off the little Hellions. Much of the success of this film rests squarely on the shoulders of actress Chloe Rose (Dora). She is strong, focused, a survivor, and Rose plays the role perfectly. Once you see her performance, you’ll forgive the fact she looks way to old to be playing a high school girl. But I’d rather have a great actress who looks a little older than the character she is playing rather than a younger actress who couldn’t pull off the role. Rose exhibits just the right amount of vulnerability so she doesn’t become a Rambo-esque character, but she also isn’t someone who will ball up into the foetal position and break down into hysterics. Rose did a fantastic job in her role as Dora.

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At different times, two other characters come to Dora’s help–or should I say “help.” Dr. Henry (Rossif Sutherland) ends up stopping by Dora’s home and becomes involved in the horrors that are happening. He provides some insight into what he thinks might be going on. Later in the film, the town’s sheriff, Corman (Mr. Liquid Metal himself, Robert Patrick) comes to Dora’s rescue… sort of. He provides much of the explanation as to what is happening and does his best to protect Dora. 

Someone's feeling a little peckish!!
Someone’s feeling a little peckish!!

During the fourth act, HELLIONS takes a detour into some surreal and trippy territory. While these scenes are stylish and beautiful to look at, they unfortunately derail the narrative that was established in the film up to this point. These scenes end up becoming more of a distraction from the main story. This is a shame that the film loses its focus for a little bit because up until this point, McDonald had given us a great story and ‘seige on a house’ plot. The stalk n’ slash scenes are really well done, and the way the mystery unfolds as to why this is happening to Dora was very well done.

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If you can get past the surreal interlude, then I think you’re going to enjoy HELLIONS. McDonald is one of those rare filmmakers that delivers on both style and substance and doesn’t sacrifice one for the other. HELLIONS is a really fun Halloween time horror film that is perfect to watch all alone with the lights out. Check this one out.

My Summary:

Director: Bruce McDonald

Plot: 3.5 stars out of 5

Gore: 4.5 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Scott Shoyer

Stay Bloody!!!

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10 Upcoming Horror Movies to Look Out For

Overall, 2015 wasn’t the greatest year for horror releases. We had the standard big studio releases that focused on “themes of the month” (cookie cutter ghost stories and the such) and we had some rather disappointing indie horror releases with the occasional good one thrown in. Hey, it is a numbers game. Watch as many horror films as I do and you’re bound to see some decent ones. Well, it is October and lucky for all us that the last part of 2015 is looking like it is going to be filled with fun, solid horror offerings. Over the last month we’ve been treated to the Elijah Wood starrer, COOTIES, Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO and M. Night Shyamalan’s THE VISIT (review to come). But the rest of 205 looks just as promising. Let’s check out what’s coming our way:

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY

This film was released on October 2, 2015 and I have it all queued up and ready to watch. This is an anthology-like movie that has interwoven stories loosely connected. Some of the stories include a family that brings home a very odd Christmas tree, a student’s documentary project that takes a frightening turn, a Christmas spirit that wreaks havoc, and Santa himself facing off against evil.

THE FINAL GIRLS

I’ve watched the trailer for this on at least a dozen times and every time I watch it it gets better and better. This one is about a girl grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, who then finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the two women must fight off the film’s maniacal, masked killer. Think THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO meets FRIDAY THE 13TH!! THE FINAL GIRLS is slated for an October 9, 2015 release.

KNOCK KNOCK

Eli Roth really wants to dominate the Halloween season and offers up another tasty genre film that has been getting great buzz. In THE GREEN INFERNO we get Roth’s love letter to the classic Italian-cannibal flicks of the 1970s and 1980s, but with KNOCK KNOCK, Roth turns the typical psycho male killer formula on its ear. In the film, Keanu Reeves plays plays a loving and happily married man who lets two younger girls into his home who then proceed to seduce him, hold him hostage, and subject him to all kinds of horrors. This one is also slated to drop on  October 9, 2015.

CRIMSON PEAK

Perhaps the most anticipated horror film of 2015 is Guillermo del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK. This is del Toro’s return to the gothic ghost story that originally made him a household name. In the film, an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) moves in with her mysterious new husband (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister (Jessica Chastain), against the wishes of a close friend (Charlie Hunnam). As she tries to cope with a recent family tragedy, she slowly realizes the house is not just a structure, but a living, breathing being. This is another captivating trailer that I’ve watched over and over again. CRIMSON PEAK is set for an October 16, 2015 release.

THE DIABOLICAL

Here’s a ghost story coming our way, but don’t be too quick to brush this one off as just another INSIDIOUS clone. In THE DIABOLICAL, a single mother (Ali Larter) faces a strange, violent, paranormal presence in her home, and when paranormal experts refuse to help, she takes matters into her own hands. This one sounds like it will offer us something a little different. Look for this one in theaters on October 16, 2015.

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

Granted, this one sounds more like an action flick than a straight up horror movie, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER also sounds like it may be fun. Directed by Breck Eisner and starring Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, and Michael Caine, the plot revolves around a man (Diesel) who is cursed with immortality after killing an all-powerful Queen Witch. Centuries later when the witch and her minions seem to be coming back, Diesel must hunt her down and slay her again. Look for THE LAST WITCH HUNTER on October 23, 2015.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION

Here’s our seasonal release of the next entry into a franchise that should’ve died out a long time ago!! In what is being promised as the last in the series (I’m not buying it), a family discovers a bizarre video camera in the garage that helps them see supernatural forces manifested in physical form. As they get to the bottom of the mystery that started years and years ago, they witness more terror than they can imagine. This one is also getting a October 23, 2015 release date.

SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

This is another one I’m really looking forward to!! In it, a group of boy scouts find themselves scrambling to get their wits about them when the zombie apocalypse hits. They need to rely on their boy scout training to save the day. David Koechner–who is always fantastic–stars as a scout leader, and Cloris Leachman herself also stars. Look for this in theaters on October 30, 2015.

KRAMPUS

Just in time for Christmas is KRAMPUS, an ancient, evil monster that’s notorious for terrorizing children during the holiday season. A young boy accidentally summons Krampus on Christmas Eve and his family must band together to fight it off and to survive the holiday season. KRAMPUS is written and directed by TRICK ‘R TREAT maker, Michael Dougherty, so expectations are high. Look for KRAMPUS in theaters on December 4, 2015.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

This is a retelling of the classic Mary Shelley story told from Igor’s (Daniel Radcliffe) perspective. We see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein (James McAvoy), and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man – and the legend – we know today. This one won’t be out until November 25, 2015.

I think we’ve got some definite winners in this crop of upcoming horror films. Which ones are you most interested in seeing?

Stay Bloody!!!

Official Trailer for Krampus Drops

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We’re quickly approaching the middle of September which means Halloween–which is already being celebrated in my home–is right around the corner. But the end of Halloween doesn’t mean the horrors have to stop, and filmmaker Michael Dougherty intends to keep the horrors going all the way through until the New Year. Set for a December 4, 2015 theatrical release, KRAMPUS looks to be just what the doctor ordered to get some scares into the Christmas season. KRAMPUS is written by Todd CaseyMichael Dougherty, and Zach Shields, is directed by Dougherty, and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania Lavie Owen, and Krista Stadler. Check out the plot synopsis:

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Legendary Pictures’ Krampus, a darkly festive tale of a yuletide ghoul, reveals an irreverently twisted side to the holiday. The horror-comedy tells the story of young Max (Emjay Anthony), who turns his back on Christmas as his dysfunctional family comes together and comically clashes over the holidays.

When they accidentally unleash the wrath of Krampus—an ancient entity from European folklore—all hell breaks loose and beloved holiday icons take on a monstrous life of their own. Now, the fractured family is forced to unite if they hope to survive.

Krampus and his mischievous underlings are being created by the combined efforts of Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, both renowned for their epic work on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and King Kong, among many others.

Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’re looking forward to adding a new holiday horror to your seasonal viewing list.

Stay Bloody!!!