Eve’s Bayou

Another gem from the Horror Noire list and this one is delicious, I tell you. Written and directed by the wonderful Kasi Lemmons – best known in my heart as Helen’s BFF in the best film ever made – it follows the trials and tribulations of the Batiste family as they deal with the infidelities of their patriarch, Louis.

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Atlantics

You may recognise this week’s film from my Horror Noire post last month. Jill picked it and I for one am delighted. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I read the synopsis and now it’s here… well, read on and I’ll let you know exactly what I think. Read More

Horror noire: ‘to watch’ list

It’s no secret that horror is my jam, so it will be no surprise to anybody that I’m about to use the Blog Collab as an excuse to watch a load of films I’ve had on my to watch list for ages – all in the name of education, obviously.

I’ve spent the morning putting together a list of films I’d like Jill and I to explore over the rest of the year, mixed in with non-horror titles. There are just so many interesting films by Black filmmakers to pick from – we’re spoilt for choice, truly.

It would be remiss of me not to mention my favourite film of all time – which is absolutely and obviously included on the list. Jill and I have reviewed it before as part of one of our Halloween seasons but maybe it’s time we did a rewatch to coincide with the remake – or maybe even a side by side comparison. Interesting…

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Technically not by a Black director, however it is often sited as one of the original horror movies to tackle the subject of race and has been an obvious influence on the Black horror genre. Even Jordan Peele has credited it as the reason Get Out exists. Plus, come on, who doesn’t love Romero?

Blacula (1972)

This looks so fun and I was lucky enough to watch the original trailer in 35mm before a viewing of The Lost Boys at the Duke of York’s in Brighton. It’s been on my radar for a while because of that and I’m excited for it. The aesthetic is stunning and I’m really down for the Blaxpolitation/B-movie vibe.

Atlantics (2019)

This movie sounds absolutely banging and director Mati Diop is the first Black female director to have had a film in competition at the Cannes film festival – which is actually shocking. It didn’t win but has been bought by Netflix so I very much hope to catch it soon.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)

The definitive guide to Black Horror and just brilliant. Comprising interviews with everyone from The Craft’s Rachel True to Candyman himself, Tony Todd (who follows me on Twitter, no biggie) – this is a must for any horror fan.

I have seen it before and I’m up for watching it again.

Bones (2001)

Jimmy Bones is shot to death in his neighbourhood but returns as a ghost to wreak havoc and get bloody revenge – and who isn’t all the way in based on that synopsis alone? Throw Snoop Dogg and Pam Grier into the mix and it’s honestly a no brainer. This is definitely my next Blog Collab pick – BRING IT ON.

Candyman (2020)

I could not be more excited about this re-imagining of Bernard Rose‘s absolute masterpiece. Honestly, I know 2020 has been rough on everybody but the most disappointing part has been the postponed release date for Candyman 2020*. But it’s coming soon and I am fully expecting it to be the best film I see this year – no pressure.

The trailers have blown my mind – including the heart-achingly beautiful animated version (which you can check out here). Nia DaCosta directed, Jordan Peele screenplay? Where do I sign?

What are you watching? Do you have any recommendations for me?

*I am kidding. I promise.

Weekend Watch: Joe Begos double bill

Over the last two weekends I’ve entered a new and intriguing land of horror and beauty in the form of two movies by director Joe Begos.

He has a very distinct visual style which leans on the supernatural and I for one am here for it. I thought I’d share my findings for any horror fans reading because I enjoyed both films and think they’re both worth a look. Probably not if you’re averse to violence and gore though because these are positively SATURATED.

*Minor spoilers*

Bliss (2019)

A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.

Painter Dezzy (Dora Madison) has an upcoming gallery show which is a bit shit considering she’s struggling to create anything worth exhibiting. Seriously behind on rent, rowing with her boyfriend Clive (Jeremy Gardner) and being a flake all over town, she’s dropped by her agent one fateful afternoon. In a rage she goes to visit a pal who sells her a new super-hallucinogen called Bliss.

That night she gets off her tits and enjoys a ménage a trois with her friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and her boyfriend. On returning to her apartment (which is one of those annoyingly attractive loft spaces), she finds herself starting a new piece which has huge potential.

Bliss proves to be rather seductive and she enjoys it again, though in the morning she has little recollection of what she’s been up to. The painting is coming along nicely but not everything is peachy as she recalls a disturbing incident with Courtney in the bathroom of a club.

And now she’s craving… something. Something like blood. What did Courtney and her man do to Dezzy and why is she suddenly insatiable for claret? Well you can imagine that this won’t end well but it might just climax in pure raw art and sometimes that’s all that really matters, right?

Dezzy is not a character you warm to and honestly almost everyone is The Worst – except *maybe* Clive, who at least seems to care about her. The neon aesthetic of this baby is really appealing and the twist which might not really be a twist wasn’t what I was expecting at all – but I dug it.

In some respects this reminds me of another spooky painting horror, The Devil’s Candy (2015) which looks and feels very different but channels the same sort of dark energy.

3.5/5

VFW (2019)

A group of war veterans must defend their local VFW post and an innocent teen against a deranged drug dealer and his relentless army of punk mutants.

An Old Boys’ Club find themselves dragged into a post-apocalyptic turf war when a vengeful teenager called Lizard (Sierra McCormick) steals a load of drugs from the local gang. Who may or may not be mutants.

These men are the Veterans of Foreign War and they don’t mess around. Formed of Fred, Walter, Abe and Lou (Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Fred Williamson and Martin Kove, respectively) – these pensioners are still NAILS which will bode well when they’re forced to fight to the death.

When Lizard rocks up to their post it quickly kicks off and the waters are muddied (and bloodied) further when one of them kills the mutant leader Boz’s (Travis Hammer) little brother. The mutant gang have already murdered Lizard’s sister (in a realllllly disturbing opening scene), hence her stealing the drugs – which I believe is called Hype.

The VFW aren’t 100% on the same page about their loyalties to Lizard, a couple of whom suggest throwing her out in the street and calling it a night – but Fred isn’t going to allow it to go down like that.

This film is so gloriously gory, there are heads and faces exploding left and right. It might leave a nasty taste in your mouth if you aren’t a fan of the Grindhouse flavouring or hyper violence but luckily I am very much here for it.

VFW has shades of John Carpenter woven through it – and the plot isn’t completely unlike his masterpiece Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) – set in one location, a group under attack from outside forces. The synthy score doesn’t hurt to uphold that comparison either. Meanwhile, I was reminded a few times of Carpenter-esque The Warriors (1979) which I also love. And, that neon dreamscape is all at once super retro and modern AF.

I’m also a sucker for the group who are portrayed by actors from a bunch of movies than mean a lot to Glynn and I, including Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey‘s Death (Sadler) and The Karate Kid‘s Sensai (Kove).

Bloody good fun.

3.5/5

What are you watching?

Unsane

Shark Month was a lot of fun and I’m extremely reluctant to leave it behind because well, sharks always make sense and during this period, why not enjoy some certainty? But we can come back to all the glorious sharky goodness we haven’t already explored at another time. May is a new month and I’m thinking of labeling it Mental May.

We’ve done this before and it’s worth reiterating that we’re not using the term ‘mental’ in a derogatory way. We’ll just be exploring films about hysterical women and mental is a word so often thrown around in relation to them. We begin with a Steven Soderbergh number that explores one of my greatest fears – being imprisoned/institutionalised against my will.

Unsane (2018)

A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear–but is it real or a product of her delusion?

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Claire FoyJoshua LeonardJuno Temple

*Spoilers*

Sawyer Valentini (Foy) is a young woman new to the city. Having recently taken on a rewarding but demanding banking job, she’s 450 miles from her mother and somewhat isolated. You know why? Because of a man. A rotten stinking stalker called David Strine (Leonard).

Sawyer, we find out about a third of the way through the film, worked in a hospice and cared for David’s father, who eventually passed away. Not before David had convinced himself that she was the love of his life though. Following a relentless stream of unsolicited conversations and messages, Sawyer files a restraining order against him and is forced to move away. Still reeling from the trauma of this experience, and finding herself triggered by her interactions with men – she books an appointment with a counselor at the Highland Creek Behaviourial Center to address her issues.

During the initial consultation with her counselor, the topic of suicide comes up. In a generally flippant way, Sawyer brushes it off but unwittingly signs a document that says she’s willingly checked herself into the facility for the next 24 hours. When she’s taken into a room, strip searched and then given medication to sedate her, it quickly becomes apparent that something is deeply amiss.

Obviously reluctant to be locked up where she doesn’t belong, Sawyer is disruptive and aggressive, screaming at fellow patients and assaulting the staff. This buys her seven more days (and no chance of chilling on Sunday). Luckily, she befriends Nate (Jay Pharoah) who becomes an ally and shows her around the joint. He confides in Sawyer that the center is running a scam to milk ‘patients’ of their insurance money AKA. checking them in when they shouldn’t be there and kicking them out when they payments stop. Ooooh.

Later Sawyer realises that David is in the building and now working the night shift, under the alias of George Shaw. Though do you think anybody believes a shrieking female about anything? When she reacts violently again, she is restrained and drugged – and spends most of her time in a similar state.

Nate comes through with a hidden phone which Sawyer uses to call her mum Angela (Carrie‘s Amy Irving). Mum thankfully rushes straight to the facility (from all that way away) and Sawyer tells her all about the stalking, and that David is in the area. Good old ma vows to get her out used all the legal power she can muster. Meanwhile, Nate is kidnapped, beaten and eventually drugged by you guessed it – David.

When his body is discovered the facility cover it up as a suicide but David rather flagrantly sends pictures of a battered Nate to Sawyer on his phone. She gets crazy again but – DESPITE THE FACT SHE HAS PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF FOUL PLAY – the fucking orderlies still ignore her and slap her arse in solitary. Shit son.

It all comes to a head when David fakes papers to show that Sawyer has left the building even though she’s still in the basement. When he goes to visit her she goads him, telling him she can’t be with a virgin and that he should sleep with someone else first. She suggests he grabs another woman from the center and he chooses Violet (Juno Temple), with whom Sawyer has previously had violent run-ins.

Using a shiv that Violet has about her person to stab David in the throat, Sawyer gets away but not for long – and the ending, well the ending is up to you.

Thoughts

This is a pretty solid psychological thriller that begs the question: is Sawyer bonkers or is she really being stalked? About halfway through the film we get the answer to this and I wish there had been more ambiguousness, really. It’s a very unsettling scenario though and not one I hope to ever find myself in.

Sawyer, as our final girl, isn’t particularly likeable and I always find that refreshing. She’s clearly been traumatised by her experiences and these have made her cagey and brittle – but I get the impression she’s a bit of a bitch anyway. She also shows little remorse when Violet is killed which bothered me. However, I was with her all the way, rooting for the very best outcome for her and a bloody horrible demise for pathetically creepy David the Virgin. Claire Foy is very good.

I hate that Mum gets killed. I also think there are a couple of holes in the plot like, I get that David is a stalker who murdered and assumed the identity of George Shaw but one doesn’t simply wander into a medical job and instantly gain access the woman they’re stalking.

One thing about this film that is quite special: it’s filmed entirely on an iPhone 7. Oh and also that, eerily enough, is based on a true scandal.

My Rating

3.5/5

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Surprisingly, this doesn’t appear on the list – however I think it does pass the test. If nothing else there’s a conversation between Sawyer and another woman near the end that revolves around work and not men. So there is that.

What does my favourite think of this one? Would she follow it to the ends of the earth or leave it to rot in solitary? Find out here.

Shark Lake

Shark Month rages on with this more ‘local’ offering which makes next to no sense but does star one of the greatest action heroes of all time. One on whom I think I might still have a crush (look Masters of the Universe came at an important time in my life and was revisited often).

Shark Lake (2015)

A classic american thriller where the lines between man and beast blur and are questioned.

Directed by: Jerry Dugan
Starring: Dolph LundgrenSara Malakul LaneMichael Aaron Milligan

*Spoilers*

Clint Gray (Lundgren) isn’t a bad guy per se, he’s just done some questionable things. This is what plucky cop Meredith (Lane) tells their young daughter Carly when she asks if her dad is the baddie he’s being made out to be by the locals. Gray is estranged from his ex and has been out of Carly’s life for long enough that his sudden reappearance raises red flags.

You know what else raises red flags? People being gobbled up in the lake. Luckily the local fuzz are on it and are convinced the first attack has been carried out by a hungry bear. On capturing and exterminating an innocent local black, they congratulate themselves thoroughly on a job well done but a visiting oceanographer called Peter has another theory. When diving the lake (which looks suspiciously like the bottom of a swimming pool), he finds the victim’s missing arm and concludes this can only have been removed by a shark.

WHAT?! A shark in the bottom of a lake? Say it isn’t so.

But of course he’s right and, teaming up with Meredith, manages to finally convince those in charge that they should clear the lake of visitors. Unfortunately, there’s a Summer regatta planned and the mayor isn’t happy to lose out on the tourism… kidding. The dramatic attack of two bikini-clad para-gliders backs them up nicely and they’re able to clear the area without too much faff.

Meanwhile, Gray is some sort of ex-con with a wrap sheet as bulky as his pecs. As a former animal dealer, he’s got form when it comes to the exotic and Meredith is convinced her ex is responsible for the shark in the lake. In that she’s convinced he put it in there on purpose.

Since this is a film about sharks in a lake it won’t shock you to note that this isn’t just a hilarious slur against him on her part, he is actually guilty as charged – but has returned to sort out his mess. Like the responsible adult he truly is.

Meredith is also fucked off to learn that her boss has brought in reality show shark hunter Garreth Ross (Miles Doleac) to take care of business. The ridiculous stereotype of a British dandy royally bodges the job but I must admit that his segments are the most enjoyable.

As he searches the lake for his prey, he hopes to make some TV gold and I guess in a way he really does. His demise also illustrates the fact there’s more than one shark in the water and they seem to have a plan…

Will Gray the exotic animal whisperer find and destroy said sharks in time to rescue his estranged lady friend and child? Indeed, will he make the contact he wishes to with his long lost daughter?

Remember that the dude isn’t all bad…

Thoughts

I mean, this is better than some shark movies I’ve seen. Jill, remember Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015)? (Sadly not reviewed for the blog).

Dolph isn’t terrible as at least he has a presence and the main character is a woman I don’t dislike, mostly because of her use of the term ‘ass clown’.

The shark action is fun but I would have liked even more. Shark movies by now have no excuse not to fill their run time with flying limbs and it baffles me when they squander the opportunity for maximum gore.

Peter’s scene in which he knocks out a shark with a crow bar is quite funny and you have to admire the spunk.

Otherwise, SL is largely forgettable. Still, there’s a reason I never go into the water, even ponds and lakes and it’s because you just never know who’s put a shark in there.

My Rating

2.5/5

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

Like last week, this one doesn’t appear on the list. Don’t quote me as I wasn’t paying much attention but I think there might be one conversation between mother and daughter that isn’t about a dude?

Then again maybe I’m just being hopeful, there aren’t that many female characters to choose from.

What does my queen of everything think of Shark Lake? Would she dredge it soon as look at it or swim with the fishies? Find out here.

UPDATE: There are some inaccuracies in this review because I’ll admit, I wasn’t really paying attention. Meredith isn’t Carly’s mother or Clint’s ex. Also, there’s an explanation as to how the sharks got in the lake which I also missed. Kind of important.

My bad. Go read Jillian’s review for a better handle on the story.

Weekend Watch: Black Christmas

I missed this reboot/remake/re-imagining/rehash of the mighty Black Christmas (1974) at the end of last year. I wasn’t too mad about it given the terrible reviews it received and the IMDB rating of just 3.2 (which by IMDB standards is really fucking low) – but I found it streaming at the low price of £3.49 on Google Movies and I thought I’d treat myself.

And… I don’t really understand the bad wrap it’s had. Oh but wait, no actually, I totally get it – I’m guessing most of the reviews were written by men. Let’s discuss it shall we?

Black Christmas (2019)

A group of female students are stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy.

Directed by: Sophia Takal
Starring: Imogen PootsAleyse ShannonLily DonoghueBrittany O’Grady

*Spoilers*

In comparison to the original, of course this movie barely stands up. In comparison to the 2006 remake it’s the bloody Godfather. For what it is though, I thought it had some decent performances, a few solid scares and enough about it to be an enjoyable way to spend 92 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

We start with the stalking and eventual slaughter of a sorority girl on her way home for the holidays. As she walks through the night, she starts to receive increasingly hateful DMs from what seems to be the founder of the college himself. Is the man walking worryingly close behind her responsible? While she prepares herself to fight (keys between knuckles, all too familiar, am I right girls?), he disappears – but is the threat really in her mind or about to take her down forever?

We all know why we’re here so won’t be surprised when it doesn’t end well. It seems the threat is all around actually as a couple of girls go systematically missing from campus. For the moment their disappearances remain undetected, given the fact Christmas break is upon the university and most people have returned home for the holidays – or are about to.

Still around are Riley (Poots) and her sorority sisters; Kris, Marty and Jesse (Shannon, Donoghue and O’Grady, respectively) who all share a house. Riley is no stranger to trauma, having been sexually assaulted by frat boy Brian earlier in the year and having to deal with the abuse that’s followed. It’s no surprise to learn that her accusation has fallen on deaf ears and she’s reticent to continue with legal action.

However, Riley gains strength from her sisterhood, who aren’t about to keep their mouths shut about anything. Kris in particular is verbal about inequality and injustice – and is currently in the process of trying to get Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes) fired from his post for being a misogynist pig. Much to his delight.

During a musical performance in front of the frat house (including Brian, who’s back for Christmas), the girls poke satirical fun at campus date rape which seemingly pisses off the boys – especially when a direct conversation between the women afterwards makes it onto the inevitable video footage, which in turn goes viral. Threats start to come in and more girls go missing – including fellow sister Helena (Madeleine Adams) who’s failed to turn up at her mom’s house. It seems the frat hazing has taken an even darker tone and the girls are left to fight for their lives.

The feminist messaging is very heavy-handed I’ll give it that but this is a slasher directed by a woman saying things that still need to be said. I’m pissed off that this is probably why it got all the flack. I’ve read reviews that say the characters aren’t very well-rounded but given the timescale in which we have to get to know them, I feel like a fair amount of attention has been given to their personalities.

There’s a supernatural element to the story that is obviously ludicrous but it’s having fun and it wouldn’t be as fun if there wasn’t a truthful element to it. I’d have liked more gore but I enjoyed myself and was rooting for the sisters who are less concerned with bitching amongst themselves than with lifting each other up – and fighting tooth and nail for their right to survive.

3.5/5

What are you watching?

The Last Shark

This week’s shark pick borrows extremely heavily from a very famous – the most famous – shark movie of all time and I’m actually almost impressed by the audacity. Ripping something off idea for idea is the highest form of flattery, no?

The Last Shark (1981)

James Franciscus tries to save hundreds of swimmers in a coastal resort after a Great White Shark starts terrorizing the area.

Dude, who the fuck is James Franciscus?! LOL (JK, he’s the actor playing main hero Peter Benton) and that synopsis says a lot about the standard of this flick.

While preparing for a huge regatta coming up over the weekend, a hopeful windsurfer practices his admittedly impressive moves on the water. Alas, something is rotten in Denmark and he disappears after his board has a huge chunk taken out of it. His friends, who’ve been watching on the shore, quickly notice he’s disappeared and run to tell one of the girls’ dads, horror author Peter Benton.

Benton teams up with professional shark hunter Ron Hammer (Vic Morrow) and they agree this is obviously the work of a great white – but do you think ambitious mayor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair) wants to believe that shit? Course not with the career enhancing regatta on the horizon – so he installs a couple of flimsy shark nets and calls it a day.

Well, we all know why we’re here so it would be naive to think this would prove to be effective in any way and the promise of nubile teenage flesh splish sploshing in the water is too much for our toothy friend to resist. There are casualties, including the mayor’s loyal aide and he can no longer ignore the signs. Peter and Hammer head into the ocean with the plan to feed sharky some dynamite but he’s not having it. He chases them into a cave and they’re forced to use the explosives to escape his hungry jaws.

Meanwhile, Peter’s plucky daughter Jenny (Stefania Girolami Goodwin) and her buddies – which includes the mayor’s son – go out on the water with a shot gun to catch the fish themselves. Obviously this ends in disaster. Jenny loses a leg and Peter is understandably enraged.

Mayor Wells actually shows some conscience at this point, choosing to go out in a chopper with a piece of steak on the end of rope (really). In a pattern of dubious ideas I would say that this is up there as the absolute worst of them and the fall out is impressive. Mayor Wells pays the price for his previous inaction (a polite notice to Trump and Boris Johnson in relation to current global affairs) – and doesn’t make it back to land.

All this leads us to the nail biting climax, as the shark pulls part of the boardwalk out to sea and systematically works his way through the remaining cast members.

Thoughts

There are times I felt a little stressed out but The Last Shark doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It doesn’t have even a quarter of the suspense of the film it’s worked so hard to steal from. I liked the ending though – Peter Benton fights to the death to save his family – and there’s a subplot about a couple of network news reporters desperate to get something more juicy for their slot that I enjoyed.

What strikes me the most is the lack of gore. Sure there are a couple of torn up torsos but there’s no bloody red water to be seen anywhere. I guess I’m disappointed by that. The shark itself is pretty clunky – he’s certainly no Bruce – and a lot of the shark action has been spliced together by real life shark footage. This works in some places but there are times it looks like they may have used the wrong type of shark which is careless. The shark’s ultimate demise is gloriously camp but this is very forgettable.

My Rating

2/5

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?

I’m not sure, it doesn’t appear on the list. And I couldn’t be bothered to work it out myself.

Let’s say – no?

Ps. This is an Italian film and is dubbed which I didn’t actually notice until I read up about it afterwards. This might illustrate how much attention I was paying. The lore goes that it never got a cinema release because one Stephen Spielberg had is banned for its similarity to a couple of his films. I can’t think why.

What does my wife think about this one? Would she lure it out of the ocean with a hunk of manky meat or leave it in the shallows? Find out here.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

It’s accidental Shark Month here on the collab, which delights me because God knows, at least you know where you are with a shark movie.

This week we’re exploring the first film in the Mega Shark franchise. You might remember we’ve previously reviewed number three in the series, the one with Mecha Shark – and let me tell you, it wasn’t even that bad. I’m not saying I’m going in with high hopes or anything but I am expecting fun. Please let this be fun.

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47 Meters Down: Uncaged

Fuck knows what day it is let alone month, or what theme we should be working towards. I think Jill and I have just about landed on things that take our minds off all the shit that’s happening in the world – and what’s better than silly but pretty people being gobbled up by sharks?

Exactly. Nothing at all.

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