I bailed on this after a couple scenes at Sundance, but only because I had work in the morning, not because I didn’t want to watch the rest. Still bugged by the new guy (Joel Fry of Paddington 2) being allowed into the lab unmasked before passing his array of pandemic-virus tests. He’s assigned a guide (folk-horror vet Ellora Torchia of Midsommar) and heads into the woods to do something or other, despite being bad at the outdoors, and hopefully run into his boss Dr. Wendell. There’s talk of underground network “like a brain” between trees, and later we’ll get a nice spore-releasing montage (the earth breathing) and ritual mushroom water – after A Field in England, it’s Wheatley’s second piece of mushroom art.

First they find Wendell’s ex Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen), who kidnaps them, then Wendell herself (Hayley Squires of Colin Burstead), who blasts the movie’s Clint Mansell score through tree-mounted speakers with accompanying strobe lights, and each tries to convince the newcomers that their ex is the crazy one. There’s a powerful ancient stone with a hole through it, and arguments over everyone’s intentions. Dr. Wendell claims both of the men were drawn towards her experiment when they contracted ringworm (a fungal infection: more mushrooms). When they finally enter the spore cloud, the movie goes psychedelic. Good pandemic movie – besides the plague in the cities, it is kinda about people going nuts in isolation.

Who’s crazy – mum?

Or dad?


And that’s it for SHOCKtober 2021. Final ranking:

1. Mad God
2. The Empty Man
3. Detention
4. The Devil’s Candy
5. Malignant
6. Office Killer
7. Final Destination
8. Parents

“You know what this is, Mike?”
“I think it’s a pen.”
“It’s an opportunity!”

Besides inventing Wolf of Wall Street, this movie has good cartoony Hudsucker cinematography and plays an impressive balancing act. Michael’s parents Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt are aggressively ordinary, but he’s suspicious of all their behavior and conversations and the food they prepare. They might be murderous cannibals or Michael might be at an age where he’s becoming more interested and confused by the adult world, and 15 minutes before the end we find out it’s both.

Happy family at dinner:

Michael through the looking glass:

Dad works at Toxico making chemicals to destroy plants. Michael gets caught in the freezer with the neighbor girl. The school psychologist (Sandy Dennis of 976-EVIL) takes an interest, comes over to help and becomes dinner. Balaban isn’t content with simple setups, keeps adding inventive visuals (there’s an insane shot traveling though the vents when Sandy’s in the basement). The kid is my age, and never appeared in another movie. Felipe writes “As a send off of Reagan era 50s fetishism this isn’t quite as good as The Stepfather,” I’ll have to watch that one next year.

Dennis discusses adult behavior:

Michael haunted by sausages:

I saw James Wan’s Saw and a few sequels, then slept on his sequel-spawning follow-ups for whatever reason, maybe the same sense of “anything popular can’t be good” that made me skip the Final Destination series. This one is inventive and completely loopy – and seems to invite sequels, though our hero is gonna get hella locked up after slaughtering an entire police station.

A research hospital in 1993 has a patient who drinks electricity and broadcasts its thoughts over radio. Then present-day Maddie has an abusive husband who conks her head against the wall and is later killed by unseen forces – the same forces that start hunting down the scientists from the opening scene, and tie up some random tour guide in an attic, all of which Maddie sees happening in a psychic daze. Maddie’s sister (of God Bless America) investigates dark family secrets while detective Shaw (of A Bread Factory) tries to help and detective Sasstalk (of She Hate Me) doesn’t help at all.

L-R: Shaw, Sasstalk, Sister, Maddie:

If you hadn’t used the movie title to piece it all together (I hadn’t), Maddie’s half-absorbed conjoined twin was awakened by the head injury and is taking over her body to do murders (and that’s their mom in the attic). I guess the twin’s radio-control mind-power gives it incredible fighting skills in her body (this is an upgrade to Upgrade).

The names in this movie’s cast are more upsetting than the horror creature. Maddie’s real name is Annabelle, and starred in Annabelle (but not as Annabelle) while Maddie’s sister’s real name is Maddie, and the dead husband played Mike Love in Love & Mercy.

Maybe not horror, but there’s plenty of killing. Never heard of this until it showed up on Criterion – the only feature by a famous New York photographer and starring Carol Kane as an office worker who goes over the edge among layoffs and cutbacks, sleazy coworkers and computerization. Sending all employees to work from home with new apple laptops, this horror is familiar to me. Everything is cool here, from the opening titles (projected onto stairways and such) to the toy piano music (by John Lurie’s brother Evan). Widely disrespected movie – at least it played Locarno in competition with The Mirror and Winter Sleepers.

The office is a magazine publisher, run by large-haired asthmatic Barbara “Hannah Arendt” Sukowa, who will be killed when Kane loads a butane cartridge into her inhaler. Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn and Jeanne’s bf Michael Imperioli are the bitchy in-crowd, mocking the homebody Kane, whose editing work is grudgingly respected. First killing is the accidental electrocution of computer guy David Thornton (of High Art, another magazine-office movie the following year), then Kane brings his body home to liven up the basement a little, and decides he needs companions. Soon she’s proceeded from righteous vendettas to random murders – an office boy gets a food processor blade to the neck, a couple of girl scouts unwisely accept an invitation into the house. Imperioli is the would-be hero who discovers Kane’s madness, but he gets slashed, and she burns the place down and escapes, on to the next office – perhaps yours.

Maybe the only movie that I tried to watch the last ten minutes of, then decided not to spoil because it looked good. I still put off watching it for a few years, only remembering “metal/horror.” Everyone I follow on letterboxd has seen this but only Kenji liked it – and Kenji is right, it’s good.

Crazy Raymond plays loud guitar to drown out the voice of the devil, kills his parents, then Jesse/Astrid/Zoey buy the house and play some loud guitar but not enough, as artist Jesse becomes possessed and starts painting intricate scenes of his daughter on fire. The implication is that the devil will cause him to kill his wife and daughter, but Raymond is still the threat, returning to murder everyone, and Jesse’s visions can maybe help. Set/filmed in Texas, and pretty metal, more metal than most horror movies. The girl was in Maps to the Stars, the mom in The Thirteenth Floor. Some of the music by Sunn O))).

Shout out to Melvins:


Advantage Satan (2007, Sean Byrne)

An early demon/metal/horror short by Byrne, bit of silliness, drunk couple fooling around on a tennis court gets trapped and killed by unseen forces.

Great movie with a dream cast, my first time watching it in HD. Absolutely loopy cannibal western horror comedy with no bad scenes and about ten great ones, it’s unbelievable that this went through three directors and didn’t turn out incoherent.

MVP Jeffrey Jones. I’ve seen the drunk with the big mustache and the blonde soldier in five other movies each, and the curly-haired religious guy in seven others, still don’t recognize ’em.

A good haunted house movie, much scarier than the 1970’s one, with some good demons and a new twist: the couple can’t move out of the extremely ghost-filled house because they’re Sudanese refugees who barely survived a treacherous boat ride that killed their daughter, and have been placed here by the government, their only chance to stay in Britain. He’s Sope Dirisu of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, and she’s Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country and the Wyatt Russell episode of Black Mirror. Ghosts in the house, crows in the walls and thugs outside, nowhere to hide. When he’s scraping off all the wallpaper and pulling out the wiring, and she’s trapped in the maze of their housing complex, I start wondering if they died at sea and England is hell, but they’ve got other secrets: their “daughter” was a girl they kidnapped to get preferential treatment while escaping. But instead of hell-vengeance, the wife kills the witch and they patch up the walls to please the housing people, and try to live in relative harmony with their racist neighbors and house full of spirits.

Wife, husband…

and daughter:

I came in expecting Baby Driver Wright, not Hot Fuzz Wright, so wasn’t disappointed. BDW has minor plot issues that become exasperatingly major in the last half hour, but at least three absolutely dazzling scenes per movie – instead of musical car chases, here it’s Thomasin “Leave No Trace” McKenzie dreaming Anya Taylor-Joy’s nightlife fifty years earlier, the two actresses swapping places in reflective surfaces.

At least I liked it better than rogerebert.com did:

Amid colorful, surreal kaleidoscopic reflections, a gaggle of morbid apparitions appear to attack Ellie. These ghosts elicit few frights due to their indistinguishability, and how often Wright deploys them. The ever-shrinking boundaries between Ellie and Sandy might be intriguing if the two were more connected beyond having the same address in different decades.

Just saw Anya’s charismatic pimp Matt Smith as a social worker in His House. Diana “Emma Peel” Rigg is Thomasin’s landlord, aka Anya herself all grown up and murderous. Other swingin’ 60’s actors: Rita Tushingham (The Knack) as Thomasin’s mom and Terence Stamp as a guy who hangs around whom she suspects of being the Old Pimp but is really just a doomed ex-cop. Michael Ajao (Attack the Block) is Thomasin’s over-the-top helpful love interest.

Opens with a crackpot on a TV talk show discussing the events of the previous film, not a good sign. Also not good that Devon has been killed offscreen in the interval. But I got the one thing I asked for: more Coroner Tony Todd, and now he’s even got a character name (Mr. Bludworth). Trying to avoid looking up how many more sequels he’ll be in. David R. Ellis had previously made Homeward Bound II, how’d he get this gig?

Cop and Kim:

Ellis acquits himself capably right from the start of the action – I knew this was the movie with the log truck, but thought that’d be a single-car accident, not this awesome super-fatal setpiece. Rewind to Kim (AJ Cook, a Virgin Suicides sister) seeing it happen and blocking the entrance ramp, saving herself and a bunch of strangers (not her friends, who still get killed a minute later, haha). The action remains good, but script is clunky, and each survivor is allowed one character trait: Pregnant Lady, Mom & Kid, Firebird Guy, Businesswoman (“my career is at a peak,” she will later tell us), and so on. Before they all die a la the first movie, Kim and Cop and Ali Larter (who checked herself into an asylum between movies to hide from death) are gonna have to solve the same ol’ mysteries.

Ali’s asylum wall:

It’s too late for Firebird Guy (David Paetkau of the second Alien vs. Predator) who gets the funniest death scene of the movie, everything in his kitchen trying to kill him all at once as he carelessly cooks fish sticks, until he escapes and gets his head smashed by the fire escape. Every survivor hears of his death that night on the TV evening news (everyone in 2003 watched the news). They repeat the trick with Kid (James Kirk, Iceman’s brother in an X-Men sequel), who survives a chain of dentist office catastrophes only to leave unharmed and be smooshed by falling construction equipment. I’m detecting references to Poltergeist (Kim’s room at night) and Hellraiser (“get them off me” in asylum).

Ali and Businesswoman after the elevator incident:

It’s decided that if Pregnant Lady (Justina Machado of a Purge sequel) gives birth then New Life will derail Death’s Plan, so Cop and Kim scheme to rescue her from Kim’s flashforward deathdreams. Meanwhile, Mom (Lynda Boyd of The V Word) gets beheaded by a elevator, Ali Larter and Verbose Black Guy (TC Carson of a Rob Lowe prison murder mystery) get fried in an explosion. They are so, so quick to proclaim that they’ve cheated death, should really know better. Half the movie was mega-death setpieces with spinning camera, so I’m happy and am gonna have to keep watching these.