It’s taking a while to get through SHOCKtober writeups, ain’t it?
Here’s the rest of the Guillermo del Toro series.

Pickman’s Model (Keith Thomas)

Handsome Christian-Bale-ish lead guy Ben Barnes (of a Dorian Gray movie) is intrigued when older Crispin Glover joins his art class, drawing unspeakable horrors in cemeteries and saying stuff like “suffering is living.” Years later, Ben is still hanging around drawing rooms boring people about the values of modern art, visits the insistent Crispin’s studio, discovers the guy didn’t have a wild imagination but was realistically drawing the beasties emerging from the well-to-hell in his basement.

Keith Thomas? Hardly a master of horror, he made this year’s Firestarter remake (Filipe review: “very uninspired product… cheap and ugly looking.”) Here he makes every actor look foolish, and overdoes the sound design, though the subtle motion in the drawings was neat.

The Viewing (Panos Cosmatos)

I knew who directed this one as soon as the Oneohtrix music kicked in. Four TV talk-show guests are invited to rich Peter Weller’s new age bunker: music producer Eric Andre, alien astrophysicist Charlyne Yi, novelist Steve Agee, and ESP expert Michael Therriault (of a recent Chucky movie). Sofia Boutella is there somehow, and a henchman from Books of Blood. They enjoy their host’s special whiskey, magic joint, cocaine and fairy dust, and sinister alien meteorite… then some of them melt or explode, and the rest fight for their lives to escape. Fuckin’ cool.

Dreams in the Witch-House (Catherine Hardwicke)

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I’m tagging these posts “Masters of Horror,” because really, what’s the difference between the two series? This is a special crossover episode, since we saw Stuart Gordon’s version of the same Lovecraft story in 2006. That was the end of practical effects creativity, and though the 2006 rat-person wasn’t brilliant work, it’s miles better than the lazy bullshit computer-rat in this version.

But I get ahead of myself – first Rupert Weasley grows up caring about ghosts after seeing his sister die, works at a brokedown spiritualist society, checks into a house where a woman who claimed dimensional travel once lived. There he has sleep paralysis and is visited by a cool witch and the aforementioned bullshit rat. Second episode this week about otherworldly paintings, as Rupert is warned the witch will kill him by sunrise, and this proves to be true, but I think he manages to resurrect his sister in exchange. Some good cursing, at least.

I was not hoping to be reminded of The Blazing World:

The Murmuring (Jennifer Kent)

As someone who rarely goes a day without singing “Murmuration Song” to my birds, a story about a bird-watching couple would be right up my alley. The pair (Essie “Babadook” Davis and Andrew “Walking Dead” Lincoln) are haunted by the ghost of their past (their kid died) and also by literal mother/son ghosts, with increasingly intense visits (not Jennifer Kent with a parental trauma movie). They’ve brought portable recording equipment to an island (reminiscent of Fire of Love) to study sandpipers when Essie starts sidetracking into ghost drama. It’s my first shocktober in our new old house, and all the stories seem determined to tell us that old houses are full of harmful vibes.

A new horror anthology, with a bunch of directors and actors I like. For those of us who still miss Masters of Horror and won’t watch American Horror Story.

Lot 36 (Guillermo Navarro)

Aaaand it’s not starting out too great. Series producer Guillermo Del Toro wrote this for his longtime cinematographer to direct. Tim Blake Nelson is a bitter, racist veteran, in debt to some dangerous dudes, buying abandoned storage units in hopes of turning a profit off the junk inside. He finds some rare German books in a dead nazi’s unit, and cult expert Sebastian Roché offers to buy them for 10k, or 300k if Tim can find the missing book. They return to the unit together, find the hidden passage behind the false wall, and CG Cthulhu eats Sebastian Roché.

Tim finding the book in less than mint condition:

Graveyard Rats (Vincenzo Natali)

Hmmm, another gross guy in debt trying to make quick cash off the dead… two episodes, and the series is already in a rut. Much more silly dialogue in this one, as David Hewlett (of Natali’s Cube and Splice) robs graves (and other grave robbers). Afraid of rats and confined spaces, of course he becomes buried alive in a rat tunnel, and wouldn’t you know it, he finds another Cthulhu down there. He smooshes the giant blind mama rat, evades a zombie chanting “mine mine mine” like a Nemo seagull or a Jon Spencer song, does not make it out, and gets the Creepshow roach ending.

The Autopsy (David Prior)

More dead bodies, another tentacle creature, and going from a rat cave to a mine. This one is much more complex and original, with elegant camerawork tying the night sky to underground rock to a spiderweb. Sheriff Glynn Turman investigates a bombing that killed some miners, and the stolen identity of late miner Luke Roberts (Batman’s dad in the latest reboot) while Dr. F. Murray Abraham digs through the bodies. One body comes alive, knocks out Dr. Abraham and self-autopsies while meticulously explaining his evil plan (“we have inhabited men for millennia” – it’s a Hidden situation). Given the extra time to plan, and seeing as how he’s dying from cancer anyway, Abraham sabotages his own body to trap the alien when it takes over.

The Outside (Ana Lily Amirpour)

Stacey works at a bank where she doesn’t fit in, shoots and taxidermies ducks in her spare time, is married to cop Martin Starr (blinded in Infinity Baby). She gets addicted to a pricey lotion (with TV spokesman Dan Stevens) that turns everyone else beautiful but only gives her a bad rash, so she uses more and more of it, until she meets her The Stuff doppelganger and they re-enact the end of Annihilation, then she kills her husband and goes to work. Excellent performance by Kate Micucci (Garfunkel and Oates) trapped in a grueling, overlong episode.

“They told us there was a threat to America, but the weapons of mass destruction weren’t there.” I survived an endless difficult work day, and learned that Donald Rumsfeld had died, so this felt like the right movie to watch (though The Limits of Control was considered).

Thea Gill is a “constitutional scholar” (right-wing talking head) and Jon Tenney is a campaign reelection consultant whose boss is a conniving Robert Picardo (in his tenth Dante movie). When dead soldiers begin returning from the grave, seeking only to vote against the current administration, these three try to spin the news to their advantage, angering the soldier zombies. Our spin-artists’ buried family secrets rise along with the zombies, leading to panic and death for all. It’s all wickedly well written and blunt as hell, a quality I was attuned to having just discovered an intriguing letterboxd list called “Garish, Unpleasant &/or Heavy-Handed Movies: A Worthy 21st Century Approach.”

I started watching Masters of Horror shortly before starting the movie blog, so in my season one round-up, three episodes are mentioned but got no writeup. Well it turns out MoH blu-rays are cheap, so now I own those three episodes, and am gonna rewatch the two good ones – Mick Garris’s Chocolate is doomed to be the odd man out.

Imprint was the episode I remembered the least. I wanted Miike’s English-language debut to be better than it was, and now that I can enable subtitles I didn’t miss any part of the story, but it seems like he and writer Shimako Iwai were trying to impress by throwing in every shocking thing they could come up with: pregnant prostitute murder, sibling incest, parental rape, aborted babies tossed casually into the river, a syphilitic dwarf (actor familiar from Zebraman 2), birth defects, Audition-reminiscent needle torture, madness, hanging and strangling and… this:

But there’s great color and some arresting images – more than any other MoH episode, I’d guess.

And the actors all acquit themselves well enough with the English dialogue, even native speaker Billy Drago (Papa Jupiter in The Hills Have Eyes Remake). Drago has made his fortune and returned to Prostitute Island to rescue his lovely Komomo (Michié of R100) but is told that she’s dead by a facially-deformed woman (Mystery Train star Yûki Kudô), who proceeds to tell him why, changing the story multiple times making herself more and more guilty of Komomo’s torture (at the hands of an evil needle woman played by the author Iwai) for supposedly stealing a ring from the house madam (Toshie Negishi of Over Your Dead Body and Audition), until Drago has heard enough stories, murders the woman and goes to jail.

The vibe I’m getting so far from Fear Itself is “lazy.” This was pretty bad, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of bad I should hold against John Landis – he just turned in the same lazy work as everyone else on this doomed TV series. If I’m gonna blame someone for this mess, it’s writer Victor Salva, the controversial convicted pedophile behind Powder and Jeepers Creepers (I didn’t know he wrote it, so this is coincidental timing to the current Polanski brouhaha). The other three episodes (almost forgot I watched Family Man last year) at least had some aspirations to horror, and they made sense, while this one’s more plot-hole than plot.


The idea is that it’s the wedding day of Maggie Lawson and James Roday (costars of a show I’ve never heard of called Psych), everyone’s telling her it’s too soon to marry this guy (we never find out how soon), then she gets an anonymous note delivered via the hard-of-hearing priest (played by The Cigarette Smoking Man) that says:

“Person?” Strangely phrased, think I. She runs around acting panicked, has a pointless scene with new hubby’s red-herring uncle Marshall Bell (of Starship Troopers, Nightmare on Elm Street 2), while we tolerate sluggish pacing and tons of church imagery. In the end we learn that SHE is a serial killer and the warning, written by her mysterious brother, was intended for the husband… the kind of twist ending which, rather than making all the puzzle pieces fit together, invalidates the whole rest of the movie, like some stupid anti-Sixth Sense. Well, at least we got to see how the Cigarette Smoking Man has been doing since X-Files ended (he doesn’t smoke anymore; it’s not allowed on network television).


“Why are you so bad?”


A brutal anti-police-brutality story. Eric Roberts (The Prophecy II) stars as a burnout drunk ex-cop P.I. with a history of brutality (and accidental firearm fratricide), set up by the sister of a suspect he once killed to go on a stakeout in a haunted house. She’s hoping he’ll go mad and kill himself, but incredibly he figures out the plot and goes after her in a rage. She’s saved by Roberts’ partner Larry Gilliard Jr.


Got your Session 9 haunted-house business and your Sounds Like hearing-things-that-aren’t-there, so one could make a case for Brad Anderson auteurism, but one would have to be more interested.


Look, it’s D’Angelo from The Wire! That’s the second Masters of Horror episode in a row to feature a Wire alumnus – and not just any old minor Wire actor, but a main character of a season. Looking forward to seeing Avon, Bubbles… hey, maybe Herc and Carver can do an episode together.


“Nothing worse than a horror movie geek.”

My three-year quest to see every Jacques Rivette film is slowly ongoing, my five-or-six-year quest to see every Luis Bunuel film proceeds at one title per year, but I thought it was best to push those cinematic luminaries aside and watch everything by Stuart Gordon, creator of classic 80’s horrors Re-Animator and From Beyond. Why is that? Because during SHOCKtober it’s nice to have someone you can rely on. While I admit there was nothing special about Daughter of Darkness, his Masters of Horror episodes have always been good, and this one, from the quickly-cancelled and rumored-to-be-crappy season 3 (aka Fear Itself) was excellent.


Starts out promising, setting a creepy horror mood off the bat, with a shadowy, rattle-shaking voodoo prisoner Dwayne (horror regular Stephen Hart) loaded into a police station jail cell for the night, the station lights flickering so badly that I’m thinking the episode’s budget didn’t include lighting and sets.


Our protagonist, eager rookie Bannerman (Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss) is a horror fan, turned on by proximity to Dwayne, wants to hear more about his crimes. I figured it’d go in a more Silence of the Lambs direction here, but there’s no time for quiet spooky conversations about fava beans – Dwayne “escapes” by possessing the bodies of the other cops, saving her for last. Interesting horror tactic – we don’t see any killings, just find bodies left behind, like the ending of Halloween, hidden all over the place. Bannerman is trapped in the locked station with a cannibal psycho killer and is definitely going to be eaten, so she eats rat poison, so when he catches up and takes a bite out of her neck, it kills them both.

It’s not like Gordon to have such a shocking, depressing ending, but it works. Anyway he didn’t write the episode – the guys behind WTF story The Washingtonians did. Nicely done, extremely tense little flick (maybe a tad underlit) with a great supporting cast. Witness:

Stephen Lee, star of Dolls over 20 years ago and still kinda looking the same

Russell Hornsby, whom I loved as the boyfriend in Stuck

Nick Sobotka, star of The Wire season 2.

Don’t know why I saved this one for last… guess being based on a Clive Barker story made it seem like a safe bet. Might be my least-favorite episode in the series, though. I mean, “dance of the dead” was awful, but it had its apocalyptic rain scene to recommend it, and Robert Englund I guess. This one’s got mediocre actors speaking awful period dialogue in service of an awful script, and McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Wild Things) doesn’t seem to be trying too hard, treating this as the low-budget TV episode it is, instead of aiming for something better like nearly every other director did. At least he got Jon Polito.

Dude pesters old woman necromancer to raise his beloved wife from the dead, she tells him the horrible story of Ernst Haeckel, a science student who once pestered necromancer Jon Polito. Ernst spends the night at an old man’s house. The man discloses that he keeps his young, beautiful wife by paying off Polito to reanimate her dead lover some nights so she can have a graveyard orgy. Ernst fouls everything up, the old man dies, Polito gets the high hat, and back in the “present day” the old woman reveals herself to be that young woman and she’s learned the necromancy art herself and has undead sex with Haeckel, yuck!

A slog to get through, mostly because of the dialogue… if Clive is smart he’ll want nothing to do with this one. Ohhhh, I see that George Romero was supposed to direct, but dropped out due to scheduling problems. Probably either his upcoming Stephen King movie or his upcoming zombie mockumentary. Between those two and this MoH episode, it’s hard to say which is the worst idea for Romero.

The high hat, the fake mustache:

The nudity:

Another angle on that:

The gang’s all here:

So the final Masters Of Horror Season One evaluation:

Cigarette Burns (Carpenter)
Homecoming (Dante)

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Coscarelli)
Dreams in the Witch-House (Gordon)
Deer Woman (Landis)
Fair-Haired Child (Malone)
Sick Girl (McKee)
Pick Me Up (Cohen)
Imprint (Miike)

Jenifer (Argento)
Chocolate (Garris)

Dance of the Dead (Hooper)
Haeckel’s Tale (McNaughton)

A nice ratio, better than most X-Files seasons. On to season 2!

Starting with the twist-ending back-story… Lesbian entomologist Ida (see, it’s already unique) can’t find a date because her bugs scare people, cute girl sits in her office lobby stalking her for years, cute girl is daughter of Ida’s ex-prof super bug guy who ships scary bug from brazil or someplace to infect brain of Ida and lay eggs in her so daughter won’t date her, but they start dating first, then bug gets daughter, and finally bug gets ’em both, kills Ida’s male friend, and they are happy and pregnant with 1000’s of bugs together. Sort of like that episode of Creepshow except instead of an unappealing dude there’s two girls kissing… a marked improvement.

Effects are silly, plastic bugs and full-body bug-suits, but all well used. Ida is May from the movie May, has a cool voice, and stalker girlfriend is softcore porn star Misty Mundae. Fun flick, not bad at all.