Yesterday (2019) or: We Wish Hollywood Would Make a Bioflick about Russ Ballard Instead of Freddy Mercury and Elton John

In the “alternate universe” of the musical-fantasy, Yesterday, a failed singer/songwriter gets a bump on the head and wakes up in a world where the Fab Four never existed; he subsequently becomes an overnight sensation with the greatest hit-making album in the world — based on the Lennon-McCartney catalog (Who?).

In this writer’s ‘Yesterday’: R.D Francis becomes an overnight sensation with the greatest hit-making album in the history of recorded music — based on the songwriting catalog of Russ Ballard. . . .

Sadly, the screenplay based on my Russ Ballard-fantasy was rejected by all the major Hollywood studios. Even the dinky indie studios rejected me; the ones that pay struggling actors and screenwriters with an “IMDB credit” and “copy of the DVD.” (Even the studios who offer you a producer’s credit and an acting role . . . if you pony up several thousand dollars to make the movie.)

My fellow aspiring actors and struggling screenwriters know about those “deals”: the DVD never arrives and you have to send the self-professed auteur a self-address-stamped-envelope to receive your “pay” — and they misspell your name on the IMDB page. So goes our trip down the boulevard of broken dreams.


“Who?” smirked the high-seated, cigar-chopping movie executive to the sniveling screenwriter cowering in a low-slung chair before the golden throne of fate.

“Russ Ballard, ah-em. He wrote songs for Kiss — .”

“Russ Ballard? Never heard of him.”

“Well, uh . . . what about Billy Steinberg, he wrote songs for Pat Benatar and Heart— .”

“Mr. Weinstein, you’re 4 PM massage is here,” crackled the receptionist’s voice over the intercom.

(Sorry, Mr. Weinstein. Just a little creative license-joke? Okay?)

“That’s not funny, kid. You’re finished,” scowled Mr. Weinstein.

And . . . creative license revoked. Goodbye, screenwriting career.


So, since you will never see my biographical movie or hear my album, ‘Yesterday,’ it’s back to keyboard-jockeying once again. Yes, my fair-weathered readers, it is time for another ethereal journey into the phantasmic wormhole with another rock star you never knew or forgot (at least in the U.S., anyway). No, not me — it’s Russ Ballard.

“Hey, wait a minute, R.D. I thought Russ Ballard never existed and you wrote all those hit songs.”

Oh, yeah . . . I did . . .

The record breaking, most successful hit-producing album in the world . . . with every song a hit, your’s truly, R.D Francis, wrote it!

My album!

. . . And it was a whirlwind.

Jimmy Fallon, James Corden, The View, Live with Kelly and Ryan. The girls! The parties! A world tour as a headliner my first time out on the road! I’m best friends with Danny “Hey, Baby Doll” Collins, who looks exactly like Al Pacino (from the opposite end of the wormhole, you know, where Al Pacino is “Al Pacino,” and he’s an actor).

I became the only artist to have four hits simultaneously in the U.S. Top Ten. I charted more singles from a debut album and charted more #1 hits in multiple countries than any other artist — even the Beatles!

I charted on Adult Contemporary radio with “You Can Do Magic.” I ruled the metal charts with “Riding with the Angels.” When my drummer, Ian McLatchen-McManus Davis Mitchell III, on loan from Spinal Tap, went up in flames, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters sat behind the kit to finish the tour. Dave told the Rolling Stone that I was “more prolific than Kurt Cobain.” When AC/DC was in a jam, I filled in for Brain Johnson and helped Angus and the boys finish their world tour.


In this brave new rock world: Weezer doesn’t exist. Rivers Cuomo and Patrick Wilson have an alt-rock band, Sixty Wrong Sausages. Sure, they had a very cool “SWS” logo, but their hit, “Freddie Garrity,” was stupid, as was its video that parodied TV’s Leave It to Beaver.

In this continuum variant-mishap: Van Halen doesn’t exist. The producer of Van Halen’s landmark debut, Ted Templeman, was successful in having David Lee Roth fired from the band and replaced by ex-Montrose lead vocalist Sammy Hagar.

The infamous “VH” wings-logo doesn’t exist: Van Hagar’s logo is a “VH” inside a white circle — emulating an old-style Formula 1 racing car — emblazoned on the side of Sammy’s red Trans Am. I ended up marrying one of the models covered in soap suds washing that red Trans AM on the album’s rear cover — Sir Denis Eaton-Hogg’s niece, Icelandic superstar model Erika von Bjőrn.

David Lee Roth sold a lot of albums with his next band: Diamond Dave. Erika and I vacation with Dave and his wife every year. Our best friends: David Coverdale and Tawny Kitaen. The oft told tale about my old band, Wyatt, Brian Adams, and the Moose in the hotel room, is true. When that grasshopper got stuck up my nose, Nikki Sixx, who wisely stuck to snorting ants, rushed me to the hospital.

Oh, and SWS had a pair of alt-radio hits with their quirky covers of Wyatt’s big hit, “Hold Your Head Up,” and “Hash Pipe” from our final album.

However . . . before my hit solo album, ‘Yesterday,’ I was in this little ‘ol band, Wyatt, that did a couple of albums. You bought Leather Assassins and Red, White ‘n Screwed, right? You might remember our big FM radio hit, “Hold Your Head Up,” and our tours with Van Hagar (Who?), AC/DC, and Whitesnake (yep, we hung out with Tawny Kitaen*). And that embarrassing onstage melee we had with Guns N’ Roses; regardless of what the press says, Axl didn’t start it — I did. I kicked his punk ass back to the Sunset.


Then, it all came to a screeching halt.

Jimmy Fallon ambushed me during my third appearance on The Tonight Show. He brought out these two chaps from England who claimed they were responsible for all the songs from Wyatt, and ‘Yesterday,’ my solo album. Some guys named Russ Ballard and Rod Argent. . . .

. . . Well, back to the wormhole and through that space-time continuum rip to my crappy, boring life. You play a good game, Mr. Ballard. Until we meet again. You can have your life back . . . for now. See you at the next vortex, Chewie.

The Reality of the Real Russ Ballard

Born on October 31, 1947, in Waltham Cross, England, Ballard joined his first professional band, Buster Meikle & the Day Breakers, in 1961 with his older brother, Roy, and drummer Bob Henrit. Together, Ballard and Henrit joined Adam Faith’s backing band, the Roulettes. The band appeared a record-breaking nine times between 1964 and 1965 on the legendary U.K. television series, Ready, Steady, Go!

I hear voices . . . oh, my brains are like scrambled eggs . . .

After the world famous, hit making Zombies took a pick axe to the brain for the last time in the late ’60s (“She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” “Time of the Season”), keyboardist Rod Argent formed his namesake band, a harder-rocking affair, Argent; he drafted Russ and Bob from the Roulettes into the group, along with his cousin, bassist Jim Rodford (ex-Mike Cotton Sound). Argent, Ballard, and Rodford shared lead vocals.

During the Russ Ballard years, Argent produced five popular, U.S. progressive FM radio favorites with their 1970 debut, Ring of Hands (1971), All Together Now (1972), In Deep (1973), and Nexus (1974). While “Liar” and “God Gave Rock ’n’ Roll to You” became progressive FM album cuts, Argent scored only one U.S. Top 40 and Classic Rock radio staple (now criminally absent from the airwaves), “Hold Your Head Up,” written by Rod and sung by Ballard, which made it to the Top Five in 1972.

While Russ Ballard recorded as a solo artist with his old band’s label, Epic, Jim Rodford (bass) and Roger Henrit (drums), along with Ballard’s replacement, John Verity (guitar/bass), rose again on Columbia Records with Phoenix; they issued two albums: Phoenix (1976) and In Full View (1979).

Phoenix in a live promotional video from 1976 with “Easy.” Sound and feels a little bit like early ’70s Rush, right?

Verity and Henrit were then drafted as the rhythm section for the European-respected, British pop-rock outfit Charlie on their 1981 RCA Records release, Good Morning America. Henrit remained with the band for their follow up, Here Comes Trouble (1982) and their U.S. radio and MTV breakthrough, Charlie, which featured their U.S. Top 200 hit, “It’s Inevitable.” Verity also became a sought-out producer; he worked on the debut album for the pioneering New Wave of British Heavy Metal band, Saxon. (Yeees! SAXON! SAXON!)

Charlie’s lone U.S. hit single and beloved 1982 MTV-era hit, “It’s Inevitable.”

Saxon’s self-titled debut with their European hits “Stallions of the Highway” and “Backs to the Wall,” produced by John Verity.

Verity and Henrit worked together again in the Kinks during Ray Davies’s well-deserved “American” career resurgence with the hits “A Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy,” “Low Budget,” “(I Wish I Could Fly Like (Superman)”, “Paranoia,” “Around the Dial,” and “Come Dancing.” (Hit remakes of the Kinks ’60s hits “You Really Got Me,” “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” and “All Day and All the Night,” by Van Halen, the Pretenders, and New Wave of British Heavy Metalers, Praying Mantis (know your Iron Maiden sidebars), respectively, sparked Ray Davies’s resurrection.)

However, unlike Davies, Russ Ballard was unable to forge a front-and-center career as a solo artist on U.S. shores; instead, his songs created a rapid succession of U.S. — and worldwide — Top Ten and Top Forty chart hits for other artists:

“Cookoo” — Bay City Rollers
“Free Me” — Roger Daltry
“God Gave Rock ’n’ Roll to You” — Kiss
“I Surrender” — Rainbow
“I Know There’s Something Going On” — Frieda (Fältskog; of Abba)
“Liar” — Three Dog Night
“New York Groove” — Ace Frehley of Kiss
“On the Rebound” — Uriah Heep
“Riding with the Angels” — Samson (w/Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden)
“Since You’ve Been Gone” — Rainbow & Head East
“Some Kinda Hurricane” — Peter Criss of Kiss
“So You Win Again” — Hot Chocolate
“Voices” — Russ Ballard
“When I’m With You” — Sheriff
“Winning” — Santana
“You Can Do Magic” — America

Thanks to MTV’s support on the video frontier, U.S. radio stations were encouraged to chart Ballard as a solo artist with “Voices” from his eponymous 1984 effort and the title cut from the The Fire Still Burns, which became his best known U.S. solo hits (Russ is known for a lot more throughout Europe and Asia).

In addition to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins and Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” on episodes of the hit U.S. television series Miami Vice, “Voices” was also featured in an episode: “Calderone’s Return: Part 2 — Calderone’s Demise,” which aired on October 26, 1984.

The London-based soft-rock outfit America, whose radio chart career with a succession of early-to-mid ’70s gold and platinum U.S. Top Ten hits (“Horse with No Name,” “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” “Tin Man,” “Lonely People,” and “Sister Golden Hair Surprise”) had tanked by the late ‘70s, experienced a career resurgence in the early ’80s with Russ Ballard’s “You Can Do Magic,” which put the band back into the Top Ten around the world.

This “Russ Ballard” playlist (over on my personal You Tube page) features the solo versions of his most popular tunes, along with a few artists who covered his material — when versions by Russ cannot be located. Some of the songs appear on the following albums:

Catalog

1976 — Winning (Epic)
Features “Winning,” “Since You’ve Been Gone,” and “Cuckoo.”

1978 — At the Third Stoke

1980 — Barnet Dogs
Features on the “On the Rebound” and “Ride with the Angels.”

1981 — Into the Fire

1984 — Russ Ballard (EMI)
Features “Voices.”

1985 — The Fire Still Burns
Features “The Fire Still Burns.”

For Russ Ballard’s complete catalog, visit with him on
Discogs.

Russ Ballard’s most recent worldwide hit came courtesy of the 1998 rock ’n’ roll dramedy, Still Crazy. The soundtrack and film spotlights his song, “What Might Have Been,” sung by British actor Jimmy Nail, the “bassist” for the movie’s faux-British rock band, Strange Fruit. Russ wrote the lyrics, while his collaborator on the song, Chris Difford of Squeeze, wrote the music.

The bottom line: Russ Ballard is one hell of a songwriter and vocalist. In this writer’s reality, Russ’s albums shelve-proud alongside the multi-platinum, hit-driven catalogs of Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen, and the not so hit-driven ’70s catalogs of Moon Martin and Warren Zevon — and some guy named Michael Bolotin (read about him on Medium).

Richard Curtis previously wrote another great, rock ’n’ roll film, The Boat That Rocked, aka Pirate Radio in the U.S. (2019), a comedy about Britain’s late ’60s pirate radio scene. When Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis are on the marquee, you don’t overthink the movie, you hold onto your popcorn bucket and go for the ride.

So, save me the aisle seat . . . and don’t sue me, Mr. Curtis, for having some fun with this “review” of your film to honor one of my all time favorites in Russ Ballard.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.


  • Poster Image Left: Yesterday poster courtesy of Etalon Films/Working Title Films/Universal Studios, via IMDB.com. Image Right: Graphic by R.D Francis. Russ Ballard’s Voices courtesy of Discogs. Typeface: “Anton” and “Dustismo” courtesy of Picfont.com.

  • Sidewalk Star courtesy of redkit.net image generator.
  • Wyatt Album Image Left: Graphic by R.D Francis. Peter Fonda/Easy Rider screen cap by R.D Francis. Chopper: unknown, from the R.D Francis image archives (Google Images can’t located it). “Flying W logos” designed by and courtesy of Weezer drummer, Patrick Wilson. Image Right: Record graphic By R.D Francis. Yellow 45-rpm Image: R.D Francis.
  • Wormhole: Capped from Giphy.com/Matthew Butler.
  • Russ Ballard Banner: Montage by R.D Francis. Images courtesy of Discogs.
  • The Brain Meme: Night of the Living Dead screen cap by R.D Francis. Meme generator by imgflip.com.
Be sure to join us for our three part “The Beatles: Influence on Film” series as we look at 33 films dealing with the legacy of the Beatles.
* Take a moment to reminisce with the late Tawny Kitaen’s films with our “Exploring: Tawny Kitaen” featurette.

When I’m a Moth (2019)

“A parable on the ambiguity of political narratives. Possibly an “un-biopic” of Hillary Rodham set in 1969 Alaska. Possibly a collective dream about a young woman with only the most abstract connection to the politician. Possibly both.”

How can you not be fascinated after reading that?

In 1969, Hillary Clinton was just Hilary Rodham and she spent the summer after graduating from Wellesley by working her way across Alaska, washing dishes in Mount McKinley National Park and sliming salmon in a fish processing cannery in Valdez, which fired her after a few days of work and then shut down overnight when she complained about the unhealthy workplace. Then, she went to Yale Law School and this past adventure was forgotten as she entered the world of history.

Addison Timlin plays Hilary and the film is careful to never say whether or not she is the future First Lady and Secretary of State. Instead, she’s just a young girl just learning to make her way in the world of men, even discovering how her speech works like a short sword against the males that she attempts to connect with.

Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak, who co-directed with Colter writing the script, also workd together on another challenging film, The Wall of Mexico. Just like that film, this one subverts the story that you expect and pushes you to confront your preconceived notions.

As the moth moves in the stages of its life, from egg to larvae, coccoon to taking flight, the path remains fixed and rigid. No matter what happens between Hilary and her temportary friends Ryohei and Mitsuru, men who live within the wreck of a ship left behind by the last tragedy that struck the town of Valdez, her life seems as if it already has been decided. Is the summer amongst the common peopleher last gasp at trying to change all that? Or her just realizing that she should know who the little people are before she begins to command them?

No matter how you feel about Hilary Clinton, I recommend that you watch this. There hasn’t been a film like it in some time.

You can get this movie on all digital platforms from Dark Star Pictures.

Necropolis: Legion (2019)

Necropolis is one of my favorite late 80s direct to video movies probably ever. How else can I do anything but become obsessed by a movie in which an evil witch — who looks like Tianna Collins or Lois Ayres — eats human brains to give the proper nutrition to her demon babies through her six breasts?

There’s no way that this movie can live up to that one, trust me.

Instead, this film seeks to be a reimagining of that tale. Satanic vampire sorceress Eva (Ali Chappell channeling Cinzia Monreale instead of acting as a punk rock devil woman) frightens the villagers of the past so much with her sex magick that they murder her inside her lair. A hundred or so years later, occult writer Lisa (Augie Duke) movies into that home and soon becomes the body with which Eva will return to our world.

Director Chris Alexander was the third editor-in-chief of Fangoria and the co-founder/editor of Delirium. You may have seen his other films, Queen of Blood or Female Werewolf. Working from a script by Brockton McKinney, who has worked on several other Full Moon efforts like Blade the Iron Cross and Weedjies: Halloweed Night, he puts together a decent enough film, but the love in my heart for the original is so strong. That said, the psychedelic visuals are strong in this and they didn’t skimp on the blood, the gore and the breasts with fangs in them, because isn’t that what Necropolis is known for? Even better, Lynn Lowry is always a welcome sight.

I want more of this story*, however, and here’s hoping that the end of this film isn’t the last that we see of Eva or Lisa. I’m usually one for less is more, but at sixty-one minutes, I found myself wanting more.

Necropolis: Legion isn’t going to replace the first movie and that’s fine. It’s still awesome to see someone else’s vision, much less knowing that someone other than me has seen the original movie.

*There’s also a comic book — available from Full Moon — that tells the origin of Eva.

You can watch this on Tubi.

 

My Father’s Brothers (2019)

June 29, 1966: A platoon of American soldiers is outnumbered ten to one in the jungles of Vietnam. This will be the darkest moment of their lives, if they survive.

Now: Those that walked away explain how life would never be the same again.

My Father’s Brothers is a journey to understand what filmmaker Shawn Kelley’s father and seven survivors went through then and keep going through now.

Whether they volunteered or were drafted, each of them has had to deal with the cards life dealt in their own way. Some of them have even returned to Vietnam in the hopes of somehow coming to terms with their past.

Shawn’s father was one of the ones that volunteered. As he made it to the rank of captain, he routinely led his company of 140 men on patrols through the jungles of Vietnam. On that fateful June 29th, he recieved orders to spread out too far and stumbled upon a better supplied and manned outpost of Vietcong forces.

While this battle usn’t well known, it is an integral part of these men’s lives. As they went their separate ways after the war, they discovered that they would come together to find ways to make the past make more sense, if that is ever possible.

Kelly explained how the origin of the movie was very simple. In fact, it started on a long car ride. “My 83-year-old dad rarely talked about his time in Vietnam. Since I had a few hours with him alone in the car, I decided to ask a lot of questions. And I found out there was a lot about my dad’s past I didn’t know.”

The film also highlights Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. Charles B. Morris, a paratrooper that went above and beyond the call of duty to protect his platoon on that day.

I really enjoyed this film because it presents a moment in history that would be lost if not for that car ride and the drive for Kelley to make this film, one that highlights not only his father, but the men who found themselves in the midst of a situation that would define every moment of the rest of their lives.

My Father’s Brothers is available on demand and on DVD from Passion River.

The Seer and the Unseen (2019)

“A magic realist documentary about invisible elves, financial collapse and the surprising power of belief, told through the story of an Icelandic woman.”

Seer

Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir is a person who speaks on behalf of nature under the threat of great change. And she speaks to the past as well, a place that — well, we’ll leave that up to you, dear viewer — may be still filled with elves and invisible forces that are able to still influence our modern world.

It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. You just need to watch this.

Ragga, as she is called, is a seer who communicates directly with a parallel realm of elves called the huldufólk that at least half of her native Iceland believes in. That means that businesses, individuals and even the government ask her to see where they should build and develop property. However, not everyone believes or listens to Ragga, so when a new highway begins construction across an untouched lava field near Reykjavik — and threatens an elven church within the rocks — Ragga fights to protect the homes of those who only she can see.

Director/producer Sara Dosa said, “When I first learned about Ragga, I not only thought that she was a delightful, strong and wise person who’d make for an inspiring protagonist for a film, but also that her story provided an unexpected conduit to exploring the belief in invisible forces: be they invisible elves or the ‘invisible hand of the free market,’ to call upon Adam Smith’s original phrase. By juxtaposing these systems of belief, I wanted to make a film about what humans choose to see: the spirits of the land who beckon protection for the environment or the valuations of an economic logic capable of producing gross inequality, environmental destruction and that bankrupted Iceland (among many others). My hope is that the film can show the power of these unseen forces and reveal not just what is worth seeing but what is worth saving.”

In her director’s statement, Dosa really sets the tone for this film: “We can’t see God, for instance, but so many of us believe God exists, and that belief has profound consequences on how many live their lives. The same is true of the forces animating markets, which are regularly taken as fact and the products ofnatural laws,’ rather than understood as comprising a system of beliefs. Rather than state this in sentiment in academic language, our protagonist, Ragga Jónsdóttir, instead is the spirited conduit for this exploration. And, by juxtaposing these systems of belief, my desire ultimately was to make a film about what humans choose to see: the spirits of the land who beckon protection for the environment or determinations of economic value capable of bankrupting a nation. My hope is that the film shows these invisible forces that shape our world and transform our natural landscapes, revealing not only what is worth seeing but what is worth saving.”

To Ragga, the invisible hand that guides the world of money seems just as foreign as you or I may see the world of magic. Sosa is uniquely able to tell the story of this juxtaposition, as she graduated from the London School of Economics’ joint Master’s program in Cultural Anthropology and International Development Economics. 

We often see foreign countries as a strange place that we’re afraid of exploring. Or we make fun of their unique customs. But perhaps by looking to these places, we can learn something new that can help the parts of the world that we inhabit. That’s one of the many reasons why this film is worth more than just a look.

The Seer and the Unseen is being handled by Utopia in North America and they will release the film on AppleTV and Altavod.

Utopia Media also brought the British rock document on Suzi Quatro, Suzi Q, to the world stage. Utopia’s other award-winning documents are Martha: A Picture Story, concerned with Martha Cooper, a New York-based, trailblazing female graffiti artist and street photographer, WITCH – We Intend to Cause Havoc, about the ’70s, Zambian progressiv-rock band of the title, and For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close, regarding the influential comedy writer.

Utopia is headed by Robert Schwartzman — of the band, Rooney, and a writer and director in his own right — who made his feature film directing debut with the really fine comedy, The Argument, released last September. You can learn more about the launch of Utopia Media with this February 19, 2019, article at Deadline.com.

10/31 Part 2 (2019)

The last film that we review after watching around thirty or more horror anthologies in a week, 10/31 Part 2 starts with a series of fun trailers, including “Treaters” by Zane Hershberger, the cinematographer of The Barn; “Truck Squatch” by John Hale; “The Candy Taker” by Robert Lanphere, Cryptids and the hilarious “The October Kids” by Brett DeJager of BoneJangles.

Malvolia the Queen of Screams presents several stories from different directors in this film, such as “A Samhain Liturgy,” a babysitter tale with a twist that grows progressively darker — and better — as the story continues. It’s directed by Tory van Buskirk, who also contributed the “Sister Mary” story.

Stephen Wolfe’s “Dead Lift” is up next, the tale of why you don’t pick up strange passengers, even if you’re a rideshare driver. Wolfe also directed Doll Factory, which we covered a few years back.

I kind of wish Max Groah’s (Bong of the Living Dead) segment “Apache Hatchet Massacre 2” and Drew Maverick’s (Pool Party Massacre) “Overkill” had been cut down to trailers, as there are fun moments, but they would work better just getting the good parts out there. They’re also both slasher pastiches right in a row and would probably work better if another story was between them.

They’re already planning a third film in this series and I’ll definitely watch it. None of the segments are as good as the first or the trailers, but it’s still a very competent film and producer/composer Rocky Gray put together a great project and soundtrack.

10/31 Part 2 is available on demand from Terror Films. You can learn more at the official site and the official Facebook page.

Mass Hysteria (2019)

Directors Arielle Cimino and Jeff Ryan, working from a script by Jonathan T. Coleman and Christopher O’Connell, have put together an interesting story: Paige [Geena Santiago, who was in the movie YouthMin from the same creative team) is an actress playing one last role in her hometown of Salem. It’s in a local historical play about the Salem Witch Trials and the only audience is made up of drunk tourists.

During one of the re-enactments, a man dies and the crowd believes that Paige has cursed them. Holy man Samuel Hall (Matt Perusse) gets the crowd enraged and ready to enact their own modern witch trial as our heroine goes on the run.

I loved how this movie takes the, well, mass hysteria that we’ve been living under the past several years and puts it into the context of a horror movie. Everything here — well, maybe not the curse — feels like it could happen. One example is when Paige tries to stop the growing unrest with a Facebook post that makes things get exponentially worse.

Best of all, it’s a quick and quirky sixty-six minutes. It doesn’t have a big budget yet the cast tries hard and the story — which is the important part when you think about it — is well-told.

You can watch Mass Hysteria on Shudder.

 

The Mortuary Collection (2019)

As bad as most modern horror anthologies are, The Mortuary Collection makes a real case for the future of these movies, even if it borrows some of its narrative device from Tales from the Hood.

Ryan Spindell made The Babysitter Murders — I mean, if you’re going to take a title, take it from one that makes horror fans recognize that you get it — which is part of this story. The framing is all about Sam (Caitlin Custer) who has come to Raven’s End Mortuary to ask for a job from its owner, Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown).

He takes her through the coffins inside, telling her how each of the bodies got there. The first story is simple — a thief discovers a monster — and nearly made me stop watching this, as I worried that this would follow the example of other modern portmanteau films with stories that abruptly end and have no real narrative steam.

I’m happy that I stayed with this movie.

In “Unprotected,” a college man tries to take advantage of the woke nature of his classmates. When he finally scores his next conquest, Sandra, and takes off his condom, which leads to her making him pregnant. This is a quick and simple story, yet well-structured and filled with some disquieting imagery.

“Till Death” has a husband trying to get rid of his catatonic wife with increasingly gory and unsuccessful efforts. Ironically, the movie then has Sam demand that the stories become less about simple comeuppance. Montgomery takes Sam to the mortuary subbasement and prepares to cremate a child-size coffin. Sam then tells him she’s not here for a job. She’s here for the dead child and has a story to tell.

This is where “The Babysitter Murders” fits into the story, revealing that Sam is a killer of children. She attempts to use the bones of the kids to kill the mortician, but her victims tear her apart. He sews her together and uses embalming fluid as her blood, making her the new owner of the funeral home as he steps into the sun and turns into dust.

With films like this and Ghost Stories, the future of this subgenre of horror feels like it has a chance.

Queen of the Beach (2019)

While on vacation in Goa, India, Canadian filmmaker Chris McDonell turns his camera on Shilpa Poojar, a 9-year-old girl hustling tourists to buy clothes and jewelry from her seaside shop.

The girl is a migrant worker from the unique Banjara tribe and the primary breadwinner for her family. Somehow, Chris feels a connection to her and comes back three times over the next seven years to tell her story. He feels like if he can help her get to school, he can change her life. But can it happen that way? Will her family allow her to discover her dreams? Once you become addicted to the hustle, can you give it up?

I’m not sure how I feel about this movie, to be perfectly honest. I want to believe that the director was truly altruistic, but then I wonder why he decided to turn this story into a movie instead of it just being a private analog moment.

That said, your mileage may vary and you may have less cynicism in your heart than I do. From the looks of the official Facebook page, Shilpa is leading a happy life and directly attributes that to McDonell, so perhaps things can be positive in this world.

 

SHARK WEAK: Bad CGI Sharks (2019)

When Bruce the Shark is chasing swimmers, he does not stop to download pornography. CGI Sharks will do this and really take down the speed of your internet. This is a fact that this movie has taught me and now I must pass on to you.

Jason and Matthew are brothers who have been apart for years before reuniting to discuss the shark movie they wrote as children. However, one of the sharks that they created for the film has escaped the computer world and is killing everyone in its path.

This was directed by MaJaMa, who I assume is the combination of three of the film’s actors and writers, Matthew Ellsworth, Jason Ellsworth and Matteo Molinari. Maybe I’ve seen too many direct to streaming shark movies lately, but this hits every cliche of the form — is a shark movie with a CGI apex predator a genre unto itself? — that I just accepted the fact that sharks float through the air because I’ve seen more than one movie where that’s exactly what happens.

If you’ve seen just as many bad shark movies as me, good news. This one is actually pretty fun.

You can watch this on Tubi.