31 Nights of Horror X, Night 4: The Conspiracy

31 Nights of Horror X, Night 4: The Conspiracy

Three sentence review:

What if the dude shouting doomsday nonsense into a megaphone was actually right? This solid entry into the found footage arena is about two documentarians who follow a committed conspiracy theorist to the brink of madness. It’s a relatively recent film, but I’m still going to call this one ahead of its time because nine years later people are somehow even more bonkers about conspiracy theories.


31 Nights of Horror X, Night 3: Seance

31 Nights of Horror X, Night 3: Seance

Three sentence review:

Simon Barrett’s Seance is about a new girl at a cliquey boarding school who, with the help of her frenemies, tries to figure out why her classmates keep dying (by invoking spirits with a DIY lipstick planchette!) I got a little bored at times but I think this movie would be a winner at any high school slumber party (follow it up with The Craft!) Great performances and excellent production quality make up for some of the thinner plot points.

31 Nights of Horror X, Night 2: Bingo Hell

31 Nights of Horror X, Night 2: Bingo Hell

Three sentence review:

I am obsessed with Gigi Saul Guerrero and I am so happy that she has a feature on Amazon Prime right now called Bingo Hell. Adriana Barazza plays “Lupita”, a feisty old who teams up with her BFF Dolores to fight gentrification and the evils that come with it. Though a bit all over the place and at times randomly melodramatic, I think this movie is meant to be wacky and I think that more movies should feature the stories and bad assery of jilted senior citizens.

31 Nights of Horror X, Night 1: Motel Hell

Welcome back, October. It’s great to see you. Tonight is very special because I am celebrating the TENTH year of my 31 Nights of Horror marathon! As always, you’ll get a fresh, fun-sized review every night this month. So grab your favorite soda or adult beverage and cozy up with me in the Nerdcropolis graveyard. We all deserve to escape into Horrorland more than ever this year, so let’s get to it.

Kicking off year 10: Motel Hell

Three sentence review:

If you’re sick of wondering what’s for dinner, look no further than Farmer Vincent’s renowned smoked meats at Motel Hell – just don’t ask how the sausage is made. Watching this low-budget, fan favorite from 1980 feels like your parents went to a party and left you on the recliner with a TV dinner and an afghan blanket. I love kicking off the month with a goofy B-movie, and you can’t go wrong with a lunatic farmer wearing a severed pigs head who buries his victims up to their necks in the dirt until they’re good and ripe.

The Wrong Turn Hierarchy: How Many Wrong Turns Make a Right?

It’s 2003. I’m sixteen years old and a junior in high school. My friends and I are standing outside in the parking lot of West Tower Cinemas and we want to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre – the remake, of course, with Jessica Biel. We’re under 18, so we can’t get into the R-rated showing. Alas! A bystander – no, a HORROR MENTOR – agreed to pretend to be one of our parents so that we could all get into the movie.

Jessica Biel in Chainsaw 2003 was a formative sexual experience for me. I’m heterosexual, which is admittedly boring, but I knew that Biel’s character, Erin, was ooooooooozing sex in her white wife beater and flared jeans. OKAY I GET THAT WIFE BEATER IS A SEXIST AN OUTDATED TERM BUT I’M 34 AND I DON’T KNOW A BETTER TERM FOR IT. I recognized that all the boyz thought she was a mega hottie. Thus, the early 2000s era of hotties wearing wife beaters in horror began: Elisha Cuthbert in House of Wax, Sophia Bush in The Hitcher, Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine. But one cannot discuss hotties in horror wearing wife beaters without mentioning the Bring it On siren herself, Eliza Dushku in the original Wrong Turn.

Wrong Turn also came out in 2003 and it didn’t make quite the splash as TCM did that year. Sort of like the 98 Degrees in a world of Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. I remember watching it with my cousin, who had a huge crush on Eliza Dushku. I liked it a lot – I think growing up in Virginia I could definitely connect to the Appalachian hillbilly trope in horror. I didn’t think about it much, though. It was an entertaining scary movie that I honestly didn’t revisit for several years, maybe even a decade or more. Honestly, I think Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes would be my go-to recommendation for inbred cannibal horror of the early 2000s. It doesn’t mean Wrong Turn was bad – it’s not – but it was just never top of mind.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered a few years ago that there were MULTIPLE sequels in the Wrong Turn franchise. I had seen part 2 with Henry Rollins, which I loved. That film should be placed into a 2007 time capsule. I had no idea there was a third movie, much less FOUR MORE. I felt almost a sense of pride in the first one – way to go, Wrong Turn! You inspired a whole franchise. I did not watch any of the sequels past part 2 at that time, though.

Flash forward to 2020 – I’m walking around WalMart in a masked up pandemic haze. Walking around grocery stores or a big box store was literally the only thing to do. I noticed there was a Wrong Turn box set for cheap – like $20 or something. Since we had nothing but time in 2020, I spent the money. My Wrong Turn Odyssey began – and what a journey it has been. SO MANY WRONG TURNS. I got really lost, y’all. All of that work prepared me for the 2021 reboot and I’m so glad I invested the time.

Okay, so now that I’ve written a ton of upfront filler about the meal, let’s jump to the recipe: a definitive ranking of all seven Wrong Turn films. I did the work for you. I sat through them all. There were highs and lots of lows. Like, a lot. Still, I have come to genuinely respect this franchise and particularly Declan O’Brien who I suppose kept the franchise going and might be responsible for the reboot – or at least contributed to the momentum for it. Let’s hope Declan O’Brien isn’t an actual creep… I should probably google that. ONWARD TO THE LIST!

#7: Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead

To be FAAIIIIRRRRRR, the third installment had a tall order. The first Wrong Turn was solid, and the sequel was even more fun. Left for Dead is Declan O’Brien’s first entry into the franchise as director. To be blunt, this one sucks. I had a really hard time sitting through this one. I actually had to start the film over three times and force myself to sit and pay attention. It was a really tough watch. The plot is creative – sort of. The story focuses on a group of tough-guy prisoners and guards. I’d like to think that maybe the goal was for the cannibals to face some true baddies. The prisoners are comically stereotypical – there’s a neo-nazi serial killer, a thief, and a former marine. It’s like Declan O’Brien got drunk and was like, what would it be like if these hillbilies had to face some seriously tough bros? Unfortunately the convoluted plot makes zero sense and is difficult to sit through. This is the first film where Three Fingers is really established as a central character. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THOUGH WHY DID THEY CHOOSE TO MAKE HIM ACT LIKE AN IMPISH BANSHEE. It’s so, so silly. Poor Three Fingers is portrayed this way for movies 3, 4 and 5. This one came out in 2009, and is HEAVILY influenced by SAW. The subsequent sequels are, too. Torture porn was huge in the early aughts, y’all.

#6: Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort

CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES, IT’S WRONG TURN LAST RESORT. Coming in at second-to-last place is the most recent sequel to come out before the 2021 reboot. The only redeeming quality about this movie is that the acting is so bad that it’s bonkers. I *LIKE* the premise – a 20-something man named Danny inherits a GIGANTIC hotel/estate. It looks like the Biltmore. It starts out feeling a little like 2001 Maniacs in that there’s a weird congregation of the Daughters of the Revolution or Confederacy or whatever white supremacy war. Saw Tooth and One Eye join their brother, Three Fingers, as the hotel’s dirty little secret. Well, that and the fact that all of the employees are both related and banging each other. The incest jokes are a little more than tired at this point and I’m grateful that the 2021 reboot took a different path. Family is the central theme in this sequel, though. It is revealed that Danny is related to the cannibalistic staff of the hotel, as well as Three Fingers, One Eye and Saw Tooth. While tripping, he drinks the blood of his murdered friend at a weird hillbilly ceremony and decides that HEY OKAY COOL I CAN ALSO BE A CANNIBAL NO PROBLEM. It’s… an effort. I could tell this one was influenced a little bit by Hostel.

#5: Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

This sequel existed. It happened. It was there. Declan O’Brien brings us to the beginning of the hillbilly cannibal saga and we learn that our inbred villains escaped from a sanitorium. Fast forward, a group of NINE college students take a WRONG TURN on their snowmobiles and take refuge in the ol’ sanitorium. A good ol’ fashioned Appalachian ass whoopin’ ensues. I can’t in good faith recommend Wrong Turn 3, 4, or 6 unless you absolutely must complete the Wrong Turn road trip. Which I understand.

#4: Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines

Honestly there are some redeeming qualities with Bloodlines. The first being that Doug Bradley plays the psycho, murderous patriarch of the inbred Hillicker brothers. There is some decent gore in this one and it at least held my attention. I also appreciated that the film is set around a Halloween music festival in the mountains which just seems like a lot of fun.

#3: Wrong Turn

The OG that started it all! As I mentioned above, this one was outshined in my memory bank by the Texas Chainsaw reboot. But re-watching it was a lot of fun and a nice reminder as to why so many sequels were spawned. The murderous inbred hillbilly formula can’t be beat! Go see Joe Bob Brigg’s “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” to learn more. I appreciate the grittiness of the original Wrong Turn. I like to believe that the style of Wrong Turn and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake influenced Alexandre Aja’s stellar remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Mad respect to the original Wrong Turn, I just had much more fun watching the sequel and the reboot.

#2: Wrong Turn 2

What a 2007 time capsule. Freaking KIMBERLY CALDWELL makes a cameo as herself. That is some height of American Idol fame right there. The plot of the sequel is too much fun. It pokes fun at the reality tv craze and in some ways this makes the movie ahead of its time. Henry Rollins plays the host of the mock reality tv show and the contestants soon learn that the woods have far more sinister obstacles than whatever Rollins is throwing at them. Oh my gosh- is this what inspired Tropic Thunder? Totally kidding. BUT Wrong Turn 2 is a definite must watch and a solid sequel. The guy who plays the director of the reality show portrayed in the film even wears a Battle Royale shirt – so you know the filmmakers are true horror fans.

#1: Wrong Turn 2021

The Wrong Turn reboot remains my favorite horror film of 2021 as of the time this post is published. I LOVED it. It has a perfect balance of paying homage to the original franchise while going in a completely different direction, which the films really needed to revive and re-energize the franchise. This film is somber, tragic, scary and poignant for 2021. Some of the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but when has that ever impacted our love of a horror film? The gore is great, the writing and acting is solid, and the set design keeps you afraid of Appalachia. As a Virginian myself, I was thrilled to see that this entry was set in the Virginia side of the Appalachian Trail. Definitely watch it. It’s REALLY good and I can’t wait to watch it again!

Ten Favorite Horror Movies from 2020

Not all was lost in the 2020 shit show, as we continue to live in a golden era of horror. Here are my Top 10 from 2020, and a bonus round of films I still haven’t seen that may alter the list.

#10 The Cleansing Hour

The possession trope goes full YouTube in this updated take on exorcism stories. I enjoyed the modernization here: a fake preacher with a gazillion followers performs fake exorcisms live on whatever streaming channel he’s using. This is clearly the natural step for mega churches, right? Actually, this probably EXISTS. I didn’t even look into this. Everything exists on the internet, right? No way there isn’t some Justin Bieber pastor out there selling merch and exorcising the demons on TikTok. Excuse me while I investigate. *Two minutes later* Um, no, I will not be subscribing to Christianity Today to read an article about Jesus TikTok. But I did find this: https://www.inbeat.co/top-influencers/tiktok/gospel/ … Not the millions of followers I suspected but I only did less than 3 minutes of research. OKAY back to The Cleansing Hour. Like The Last Exorcism before it, the Cleansing Hour’s pastor learns that the exorcism that he’s doing during the film is actually real, and hell breaks loose. That in itself was enjoyable enough, barring the very formulaic exorcism plot devices. What I *REALLY* enjoyed was the film’s finale. They should DEFINITELY do a sequel exploring that concept. I’ll save the spoilers – for now.

#9 Underwater

You can read all about my love for Underwater here. It was delightful. The surprise hit that January of 2020 needed, and the nice, normal creature feature we could enjoy before the world went to hell in March. I MISSED SEEING THIS ONE IN THEATERS AND I SORELY WISH THAT I HAD. What I will add, though, is that 2020 was the year I actually started reading HP Lovecraft stories. I mean, I get them. I pop-culture very well, and I knew the premises and Cliff’s Notes version. This was the year I read the full short story of Cthulhu. I also read Reanimator, the Colour of Space, and several other Lovecraft works. Holy shit was he a racist (I knew this, but didn’t know).

#8 The Mortuary Collection

Ayyyy! Clancy Brown in a great horror anthology! You love to see it. Really a surprise horror hit of 2020. Great production value, great variety of stories, and an EXCELLENT umbrella arc about a peculiar mortician named Montgomery and his seemingly innocent new staff member. I really loved how this one progressed, twisted, and wrapped up. Fantastical and tons of fun. I loved all of the short stories, but was cheering by the end of the second one. Check it out on Shudder.

#7 The Babysitter: Killer Queen

How hilarious and good was this sequel? It exceeded every expectation I had going into it. The characters in this series are campy and entertaining and the sequel really amps up all of their quirks and buffoonery. I absolutely lived for Bella Thorne’s self-aware entrance in the movie and how she basically played a caricature of herself. So good. The plot isn’t thick but I didn’t need it to be. I wanted to laugh, have a lot of fun with the characters and feel like everything was wrapped up by the end. I was not disappointed.

#6 The Platform

The complete opposite of a fun movie, but an important one. The Platform illuminates the dark sides of capitalism, caste systems, survival, and working together to beat a common enemy. It starts out sort of like a Black Mirror episode but quickly goes south. By the end, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would wrap up. But I really appreciated the brutality and depiction of what humans will do to survive. The hallucinatory scenes were excellent as well, and wondering who would be introduced next kept me invested. A great horror entry from Netflix. Keep your subtitles bitching to yourself, please and thank you.

#5: Host

Not much for me to add to all of the praise for 2020’s biggest horror hit. Timely, well executed and packed with scares. The Zoom horror movie we didn’t know we needed, and could have NEVER predicted five years ago. Whew.

#4 Anything for Jackson

What an awesome entry into the ritual/dark arts horror realm. This one was punchy and did not go into any direction I expected. The supernatural characters were legitimately terrifying, especially one dental related monstrosity. Great main character development had me rooting for the anti-heroes at times, or at least sympathizing with them, while still wanting their prisoner to get the justice she deserved. I still feel adrenaline fatigue after completing the Walsh’s journey. Woo, what a rush. A must watch on Shudder.

#3 Deep Blue Sea 3

Yeah, we are going there. Put your life vests on. Look, I’m not saying this one is winning any awards. I’m just saying I’ll watch a thousand movies about genetically enhanced sharks and this one happened to be not awful. The cinematography looked great to this viewer and it was nice to have some closure from the horrible relationship we had with Deep Blue Sea 2, which sucked. This one wasn’t as awful! I love a mindless popcorn horror and this it it, folks. Get drunk with friends and have fun supporting aquatic creature feature horror. My only complaint is that there needed to be more sharks.

#2: The Invisible Man

Remember horror in 2020 from pre-Covid times? Underwater was a surprise hit and The Invisible Man renewed our hope for stellar Universal monster reboots. This is a superb horror film with enough legs to appeal to broad audiences and one that will definitely give leeway to more blockbuster type horror films (hellllooooo Dr. Strange!) I also really appreciate the fact that domestic violence is the true terror in this film. That shit is real life scary and too relatable for so many women (and men, too). The special effects were fantastic. It was just a damn good thriller.

#1 The Dark and the Wicked

Every couple years or so I’m reminded that movies can still scare me. The last time this happened was in 2018 when I watched Terrified and had an actual nightmare. Before that, it was The Autopsy of Jane Doe. This year, it was The Dark and the Wicked. This movie is BLEAK. And let me commend Bryan Bertino for being a MASTER at effectively using sound, setting and lighting to create a supremely nerve wracking scene. The performances are great, the scenes progressively scary, and an ending that left me feeling just generally unsettled. I liked that the characters in this story were very logical and pragmatic about religion and demonic forces (or skeptical depending on your perspective). Minor spoiler but I very much enjoyed that the mother was not religious. That small detail increased the horror of what was happening in the farmhouse. I really recommend this if you’re someone who, like me, enjoys the feeling of nervous anticipation about how a scene will play out. Bertino’s skillfully built tension and sense of dread will get ya!

That’s it for 2020!! The movies I haven’t watched yet that could change this list:

Hunter, Hunter

The Wolf of Snow Hollow


The Relic

His House

31 Nights of Horror IX, Late Wrap-Up

Hi everyone! Whew, 2020 amirite? I actually got married on Halloween! It was so perfect. Unfortunately I was one of those Corona Brides that had to postpone their wedding (twice). So when we had to postpone it for the second time, we were like “Screw it, let’s get married on Halloween!” It was perfect and I will definitely write a post all about it. But! It definitely caused me to fall behind on my 31 Nights of Horror posts. That, plus election anxiety and just existential dread in general from this year. Then I got the ol’ Rona and it knocked me out for a bit. Losing your sense of smell is – bizarre.

So here are the final few movies I watched!

Night 25: Tremors: Shrieker Island! I honestly hope they make 50 Tremors movies I will watch them all. S s s spoiler alert; with that ending, I don’t know if they will or can!! 

Night 26: Maleficent! This night was for my scaredy-friends who do not like horror. It was my first time watching Maleficent, and I was planning to be her for Halloween so I needed to watch it. Man, ol’ Mal was just love scorned! Typical dudes ruining everything. Take my wings? I take your baby!

Night 27: 30 Days of Night: I just learned that the makers of this film created an entirely new language for this movie. It makes sense of course, but my dumb American brain assumed it was something that already existed haha. Anyway I stand by loving this movie. I don’t always love vampire flicks but I love this one. The vampires don’t follow any conventional vampire rules and just bust through windows. I love love love Mark Boone Junior. And Ben Foster is supremely creepy. So what that the ending is weird. It’s a great action horror flick.

Night 28: MANIAC COP (1987). Bruce Campbell. Nuff said.

Night 29: The Mortuary Collection. Wow this was a fun anthology!! I have not seen a really solid anthology film in years. Highly recommended. Clancy Brown, y’all.

Night 30: The Purge: Season Two: As I said before I am a huge fan of the Purge universe bc of its infinite story line potential. Season two was a fun, interconnected tale of what happens when it’s not Purge night and the events leading up to it. Characters were fun to follow along with on their Purge journey and like in season one, I loved the intros to each episode which feature kooky Purge realities like what the day after the Purge cleaning crew does and the audition for the famous Purge announcement. Love that. Look, it’s not Hannibal or Breaking Bad or whatever but it’s enjoyable for what it is. I look forward to season 3!

Night 31: As always, Trick ‘r Treat. Sam had a great night. We did too.

31 Nights of Horror IX, Night 24: The Barn

Three sentence review:

I’ve been meaning to watch 2015’s The Barn for a couple years now thanks to the recommendation of one of my horror buddy’s from the From the Mouths of Madness horror podcast here in Richmond. It was such a fun love letter to 80s shlock, with everything you could ever want: low budget practical effects, great ghoulish characters, cheesy one-liners, and Halloween rules you cannot break. I loved it and really appreciated Ari Lehman’s cameo as DR. ROCK!

31 Nights of Horror IX, Night 23: Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideaway

Three sentence review:

The Last Drive-In is the gift that keeps on giving to horror fans, and even though a lot of folks were hoping for Season of the Witch, I had a lot of fun watching HAUNT and HACK-O-LANTERN! I had seen Haunt before, but I have never even heard of Hack-o-Lantern and it was cuckoo bananas and amazing. I loved the throwback to Monstervision with the creepy skits during Joe Bob segments, and Darcy is awesome.