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.

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 OKAY I GET THAT WIFE BEATER IS A SEXIST AN OUTDATED TERM BUT I’M 34 AND I DON’T KNOW A BETTER TERM FOR IT.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!

31 Nights of Horror IX, Night 17: Rocky Horror Picture Show

31 Nights of Horror IX, Night 17: Rocky Horror Picture Show

Three sentence review:

Tonight my fiance and I went to a Halloween block party at my future in-laws house, and it was super fun. We drank a lot of tequila, then went home and went to our cellar to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show. I highly recommend drinking a lot of tequila and then watching Rocky Horror Picture Show in a cellar with your fiance.

31 Nights of Horror IX, Night 13: Beetlejuice at The Pitts BBQ!

More than three sentence review:

Get your killer BBQ and chicken sandwiches at The Pitts BBQ in the south side of Richmond, VA. This little gem has my dream backyard patio: an expansive privacy fence surrounds a huge yard of retro and hodgepodge patio furniture and is decked out with kitschy signs, string lights galore and lots and lots of Horror props. The covered patio at the front of the yard even has Mike Myers and Pennywise to greet you! The Pitts hosts Tuesday movie nights and my fiancé and I went to enjoy some food, beer and the movie. The Pitts is known for BBQ, but they also have a fried chicken sandwich appropriately called The Hellraiser. There are three levels of the Hellraiser sandwich. Level one is about 40,000 on the Scoville scale so no big deal. I tried level two – 1,000,000 on the scale this time – and it was DELICIOUS TORTURE. My eyes watered, my nose ran and my tastebuds delighted. Much like Hellraiser, it was a mix of pleasure and pain. Whew. Not sure I could handle level three and get the free T-shirt but if you can do the Carolina reaper pepper go for it!! Beetlejuice the movie was iconic as always. Interesting to remember he’s only in the film for about 20 minutes. The characters and monsters are the absolute best. We had a blast!

Fred Durst Made a Movie

It’s called The Fanatic and it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime. John Travolta is the lead! My middle school crush, Devon Sawa, also stars in it.

I’m not gonna lie, I hate Scientology. It’s bullshit and it tears families apart. That being said, I am kind of here for John Travolta’s hyperbolic performance in this movie as a Misery level fan boy named MOOSE who stalks his favorite horror actor (I probably would’ve stalked Devon Sawa too in his Now and Then days.) I couldn’t look away from Travolta in this movie. He was so grimy but really interesting to look at, like an episode of Dr. Pimple Popper. Especially those bangs. OH, the bangs! THE BANGS. WHYYYY???

There’s a completely unnecessary narrator, a clumsy cast of supporting characters, and it’s a film directed by Fred fucking Durst. A weird twist makes for a sloppy ending. There are some questionable but also sort of fun illustrations that break up the acts of the film. WHY DID TRAVOLTA DO THIS?

I did love a very meta moment about Limp Bizkit. You know what though? All things considered, it wasn’t that awful. But, like, in a “Three Dollar Bill, Y’all$” wasn’t that awful kind of way. In that, it actually is awful. You know what? He tried. I’m not mad about that. I can live with that. I guess.

Will Fred Durst make another movie? Is this the beginning of an era where *~NuMeTaL~* rockers from the late 90s become serious artists? God help us if Scott Stapp puts out a dark comedy.

Unfriended: Dark Web and My Fear of the Internet

“I need a horror movie that’s really going to scare me”.

“I haven’t been scared by anything in years, I’m immune”.

“Nothing scares me anymore”.

These statements sum up how many horror fans feel after becoming desensitized from the thousands of genre films consumed. I would like to challenge that notion by asking, “What scares you”?

Fear is subjective. You might be deathly afraid of clowns while I am terrified of roaches. To experience fear is to question what makes you afraid. Like, I can watch a woman being sawed in half without blinking an eye but have to cover my whole face if I have to watch an awkward first date. Secondhand embarrassment is real, y’all.

One thing that really does scare me is the dark web. That someone or a small group of people can infiltrate and screw up your entire existence within minutes. The forums filled with angry, lonely, and unstable people looking for any encouragement to do something horrible. They all scare me.

I was not afraid while I watched Unfriended: Dark Web. It’s a horror film aimed towards high school students. The sequel follows a pretty formulaic plot but uses an interesting POV that kept me interested. It was OKAY.

But there’s potential and opportunity in horror to delve into the dark side of the internet. Films like Fear.com, Friend Request, #Horror, and even 1995’s The Net have tried to capture the horrors of the web. But I feel like there hasn’t been a really solid, truly scary take on the unknowns of the internet.

It really could be a JAWS moment. We fear water because of what lurks beneath, and we can’t see it. The same thing goes for the internet. It’s what’s happening in the shadowy corners that should really disturb us.

Menstruation: A Period Piece

Guttural growls from the inside.

An inhuman presence emerges,

scraping fingernails against the wall as it escapes.

Thickening.

Shedding.

Bubbling.

The host knows it’s there, and revolts.

Swollen.

Irritated.

Angry.

The lining moves closer,

ready to spill blood of the innocent.

The host is powerless.

Pain.

Sadness.

Blood.

The massacre begins and ends.

The violent cycle starts again.

Waiting.

Hiding.

Growing.

A 30 year curse.

The Possession is Underrated

Unfortunately I didn’t grow up Jewish, so I had never heard of a Dybbuk much less the Dybbuk box. The mythology (or at least Wikipedia) states that a Dybbuk is a malicious, possessing spirit of a dead person. A writer named Kevin Mannis gained national attention in 2001 when he sold a “Dybbuk Box” on eBay. You can go down that rabbit hole yourself with a quick google search. I’m not here to discuss Dybbuks or the real box, but I AM here to remind you of an underrated possession movie based on it: 2012’s The Possession.

The film’s opening scene has excellent special effects as an old woman becomes the first victim of the box’s violence. As she lay recovering at home, fully bandaged from the spirit’s attack, a young girl takes the box away from a yard sale. Strangeness ensues and the little girl, Emily, becomes seriously creepy and obsessed with the box. The scene where Emily becomes actually possessed by the Dybbuk is one of my favorites. The sound of the Dybbuk spirit whispering to her in a dark parking lot is unsettling and the depiction of the moths being swallowed under the lamp post is one of the more literal portrayals of a possession on film.

The effects are great throughout the movie. At one point Emily menacingly looks at her mom’s new boyfriend and reveals that she’s holding a tooth. As the boyfriend (a dentist) inspects the tooth, Emily’s eye roll around in her head and what appears to be an outline of a human hand attempts to climb out of her cheek.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Emily’s dad well, and I appreciate that he finds out about the Dybbuk and immediately attempts an exorcism. No skepticism, just solutions oriented. That’s what we want in a dad! I love that he travels to Borough Park in Brooklyn and meets with MATIYASHU (hahaha) to learn more about the Dybbuk. I’ve seen plenty of Christian based possession movies and I for one am thrilled to have a lens from a different religion. I’m an Atheist, but I really enjoy religious folklore, especially about evil spirits. Let’s get a Jehovah’s Witness horror story or something for god’s sake.

Back to the film. Matiyashu comes back with Jeffrey Dean Morgon to do an exorcism. Meanwhile Emily’s mom, Kyra Sedgewick, is seriously in denial about her baby girl being swallowed up by a Jewish demon. Kyra always bring a convincing performance to any project she’s in. Why don’t we appreciate her more? Why is Kevin Bacon always seemingly having money issues? Where did I put my Tremors box set? Okay. A hallmark of a good possession story is that there’s always this weird, unhuman voice that comes from the demon. The Dybbuk is no exception. It has a raspy, dark voice but DOES speak English.

Whew boy, then we have this scene where Emily takes out Brett, her mom’s new boyfriend. Her demon powers allow her to remove all of Brett’s teeth and causes him to jet out of town. I would, too. I did not sign up for your kid’s drama nor to lose all my damn teeth. But it’s creeeeeeeepy! That scene is in the top 15 creepiest kid scenes for sure. We then learn the demon’s name: ABYZOU: Taker of Children. How convenient that it found Emily at a yard sale.

Then we have the quintessential MRI scene, which gifts us with a FREAKY FACE inside of her. The recommended treatment is – a nap. Until Matiyashu comes in to save the day and do an exorcism. I know it seemed like I was giving him crap earlier but he actually does a pretty decent job as an actor. The actual exorcism scene is really well done. The CGI isn’t TOO distracting (there’s no unnecessary black smoke that follows her or anything stupid like that). And there’s a supremely unnerving scene in the morgue that I remember being affected by when I saw it in a theater. Not as scary the second time around, but still quite eerie. Grainy red lighting is always spooky.

I like this movie. Not sure if it’s just because I’m into the actual concept of a Dybbuk or if it’s actually a solid flick, but I enjoyed rewatching it today. If you’re looking for a good possession double feature weekend, I’d put this one on and follow it up with The Last Exorcism. Shalom!

Horror Harvest Week Two: BLOOD RAGE

AKA Nightmare at Shadow Woods aka Slasher?! As if Thanksgiving in Jacksonville, FL wasn’t scary enough! This little dish from 1983 (or was it ’87?) features all of the awkward family Thanksgiving hits: co-dependency, slut shaming, good twin vs. evil twin, popped collars, machetes (a real missed opportunity to exclusively use a carving knife), gluttonous consumption of leftovers on a linoleum floor, alcoholism, and of course, cranberry sauce. BUT IT’S NOT CRANBERRY SAUCE, ARTIE. It’s a GORE-NUCOPIA of 80s gravy. Serve with crackers, gas station wine, and Virginia Slims.

Image result for blood rage movie
Image result for blood rage movie

31 Nights of Horror VIII, Night 31: Evil Dead 2 and Night of the Demons at Triple Crossing Brewery – Fulton

Well, folks, another Halloween season has come and gone. At least, the official Halloween season because we all know that Halloween lives all year long for us horror nerds. Brett and I typically spend Halloween night at my parents house because they do an amazing trick-or-treat station that gives out hot dog, chili, candy and beer. This year we decided to stay home and see if we got any trick-or-treaters on our street. To my delight we had quite a few candy seekers at our front porch! I’m so happy we stuck around our ‘hood this year and gave out all of the candy we purchased. I dressed up like Elvira because, obviously.

After the last piece of candy was claimed we headed to Triple Crossing Brewery in the Fulton neighborhood of Richmond. Every Thursday in October they hosted a horror movie night and Halloween was no exception. On Halloween night they played two of my all time favorite horror movies: Evil Dead II and Night of the Demons. The movie nights were sponsored by a local haunted house/horror production company called Red Vein. I absolutely loved their simple but very effective pumpkin decor and plan to steal that idea for my own display next year. October 2019 was a whirlwind filled with amazing movies, frightful events, and all things spooky. Does this mean the horror stops? Hell no! But that does it for 31 Nights of Horror VIII: Katie Takes Manhattan. See you next year for year nine!