The Old Ways (2020)

Talk about going pretty far for a story. Cristina Lopez, a Mexican-American reporter, has come back to her hometown near Veracruz — do I needlessly need to remind horror movie characters to never go home again — to write about witchcraft when she became the story itself as the bruja believes that Cristina is possessed. Well, you know, when your mother was possessed and that demon left you all scratched up too, you kind of become a suspect.

That demon could also be her heroin addiction. Just maybe.

Or maybe it is the demon Postehki, who makes her throw up hair and black ooze.

Or maybe it’s both?

Regardless, Cristina must live up to the title — the old ways — to become the bruja of her village and successfully repel the demon — and others like it — once and for all.

I really liked how this film blended Mexican folk horror with the traditional possession film moments. Director Christopher Alender and writer Marcos Gabriel worked together on Memorial Day way back in 1999 before returning to their horror roots. With the success of this film, I can say that some people can go home again.

There’s an amazing moment when teeth and snakes get pulled out of Cristina. It only gets wilder from there.

You can watch this on Netflix.

SALEM HORROR FEST: You Missed a Spot (2020)

You have to admire the kind of audacity that it takes to make a near-perfect slasher pastiche and then set it in a world where every single person is a clown except for the mime hero.

It shouldn’t work but it does. It wonderfully and absolutely does.

Liam Wals has only made four short films, but you can see that this movie would stand alone as a full-length movie. It just works on every level, from the exciting energy of a slasher to the comedic play at the genre’s conventions to, well, the fact that yes, everyone is a clown. And the closing battle — in which the mime uses his pantomine skills to battle the killer — must be experienced.

Here’s how I know a short works: when I feel like I needed more at the close. I want so much more of the world of this picture and I want more films by Wals and the writer of this short, Micah Fusco.

By all rights, this should be a silly Troma or Full Moon affair. And yet it transcends.

You Missed a Spot is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more on the official site for the movie.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: Seeds (2020)

Seeds is the second feature by filmmaker Skip Shea. An avid fan of folk horror films, Shea decided to follow up his first feature Trinity with a story about a pagan cult that is about to go to war with the Catholic Church. It’s also a very personal story Macha and Andrew both process the death of their daughter in very different ways. She’s lost and adrift, seeing images of her daughter, while he is driven to make a statement by writing a book about New England cults. And when one of them informs him that his uncle has passed on and left him a legacy, the opportunity to live his dream is closer than ever.

The cult’s religion is based around the metaphysical properties of the apple, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge from Genesis and the symbol of man committing original sin while gaining knowledge. As Macha discovers that she has a gift for seeing more than most people, her husband is being ensnared by the machinations of this secret church.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church, worried about the growing power of this secret cult, has sent a priest into its midst to learn all it can.

Shot on location in the Blackstone Valley, Seeds also uses the same locations that were used in another American folk horror film, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. It’s shot in black and white, which works for the darkness of the story, and features Suspiria actress Barbara Magnolfi.

Seeds is unafraid to take things slow, to build tension and to have conversations that feel improvised and fresh along the way. This movie is why independent horror exists; this isn’t a quick cash-in horror to get on the shelves of WalMart and content on Amazon Prime. This is a work of art and a labor of love.

Seeds is now playing Salem Horror Fest as part of the Showcase of Massachusetts Filmmakers series. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October. You can learn more at the Facebook page and official site for the movie.

SALEM HORROR FEST 2021: I Want You Dead! (2020)

While the logline for this movie says, “After a moment of total teenage angst, a young punk finds himself at odds with a psychedelic monster of his own creation,” the truth is that this film is a film within a film inside, well, maybe another film.

While the script started as Cop Killer, which followed Officer Pete Chambers as the film’s lead, it changed to be about Dood, a young punk who takes way too many dummy gummies, which has perhaps permanent psychotic effects, sending him into a tailspin of cops on his tail, romantic entanglements and even a monstrous creature that looks like a Boglin crossed with a Frank Henenlotter creature along with plenty of goo and teeth.

Rocko Zevenbergen wrote, directed, edited, produced and probably drove everyone back and forth to the set. This is his vision and with how dark things get, it feels like the act of creation may have taken its toll on him at some point. The film keeps breaking from the main narrative and revealing the pains of the creation of the movie inside the movie.

Just a warning to those with sensitive ears, this movie plays with some drone and whirring tones that may unsettle you. They totally fit the film, but the audio tone of this is incredibly abrasive in parts.

While not a perfect film — what movie is? — this is a great experimental narrative and really deserves to get a bigger audience to see it. Zevenbergen is definitely talented and I’m excited to see what he does next.

I Need You to Die! is now playing Salem Horror Fest. When we have streaming info, we’ll share it in this post. For now, you can follow that link to buy a festival badge and check out several other films during October.

FANTASTIC FEST: Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (2020)

Dastan’s wife is very high maintenance. And very pregnant. So when his friends leave on a fishing trip, he decides to go along, seeing it was one last getaway before becoming a dad. Which would be all well and good, except he and his friends see a mob hit. And then the mob sees them. And then the backwoods maniac sees them all.

Kazakh director Yernar Nurgaliyev takes the expected — think The Hangover — adds in what should be a backwoods slasher like The Hills Have Eyes or Just Before Dawn and then makes it work. In lesser hands, this would be sub-Troma material. Here, things get out of control in the best of ways.

I’ve never seen a slasher where one of the people in danger has to keep holding in their farts so that they don’t alert the killer. That’s something really wonderful. There’s a lot to laugh at and be grossed out by in Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It. Hopefully, Dastan survives and something is left of him to go back to that toxic marriage.

And yes, this movie came from the land of Borat.

Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is playing Fantastic Fest. When it starts streaming, we will update this post.

FANTASTIC FEST: Name Above Title (2020)

Known in Portugal as Um Fio de Baba Escarlate (A Scarlet Little Thread), this 59-minute film has no spoken dialogue and tells the story of a serial killer whose latest kill is interrupted when a woman throws herself off a balcony and lands next to him. As he embraces her, she whispers something to him and he gives her a last kiss before she dies.

That act causes his life to be forever changed, as a crowd complete with smartphones has gathered and view that last kiss as an act of kindness delivered to a lost and dying woman. But what were those last words she said to him? And when several push their way to the truth, how will it change the life of our killer?

Make no mistake, this movie borrows the feel and look of the giallo — if not the need for a procedural investigation — to tell the story of the murderer. Yet it has artistic aims — the same actress, Joana Ribeiro, plays all of the victims — and could pretty much be telling us that serial killers are the new saints. The director, Carlos Conceição, said of his film: “In a contemporary sense, the serial killer is just a convention. My interest is not in his murderous impulses but in the fact that society turned him into a kind of superhero.”

In his only second full-length film (he made Serpentarius in 2019), Conceição is making a major statement here. By removing the voice from the film, he’s asking you to determine what you have heard the killer say. That said, the end symbolism may be a little too easy, but by the time you’ve gone on this ride — what movie makes a post-coital killer catching his breath next to his garotte-killed lover look this gorgeous — you may not mind. Consider it an hour-long music video for you to explore.

Name Above Title is playing Fantastic Fest this week. When it starts streaming, we’ll update this article.

Death Drop Gorgeous (2020)

Written and directed by Christopher Dalpe, Brandon Perras (who also played Tony Two Fingers, as well as doing the cinematography and editing) and Michael J. Ahern (who was Detective O’Hara), Death Drop Gorgeous presents a slasher world that we haven’t seen, well, nearly ever in the form: a campy, gay-positive glitter, makeup neon and booze-soaked — not to mention incredibly hilarious — murder saga.

Dwayne (Wayne Gonsalves) has just had a bad breakup, which brings him back home to Rhode Island and a place on the couch in the apartment of his friend Brian (Christopher Dalpe). As he pieces his life back together, he keeps moving somewhat backward, even getting his old bartending gig back, working at The Aut Haus alongside Tragedi (Complete Destruction), Janet Fitness (Matthew Pidge) and, perhaps most importantly, Gloria Hole (Michael McAdam), an aging drag queen who doesn’t draw in the young customers.

Unbeknownst to our hero, several club patrons and employees have already been killed and drained of their blood by a social hookup app using serial killer named The Vampire, with owner Tony Two Fingers paying off the cops to stay open. But when Brian goes missing — last seen getting into a cab driven by Linnea Quigley alongside Gloria — Dwayne starts keeping his eyes open.

I’ve never seen a movie where a man is killed with a meat grinder at a glory hole, directly followed by a scene with someone eating sausages, so this is quite obviously groundbreaking stuff. It’s even more amazing when you consider that most of the cast were non-actors and the movie was filmed almost exclusively in Providence on weekends over the course of a year and a half.

The film wouldn’t work if it was all comedy, so the slasher/giallo parts all work just as well if not better. That’s a testament to the work on screen.

I’ve always believed that determining that if a movie is a giallo or a slasher means answering a few questions: Do we care more about who the killer is than the killings themselves? Is there good music? And is there plenty of fashion? The answer to all of those questions is yes and I find it happily wonderful that the best two giallo-esque movies of the past decade — and the ones not slavishly bound to the conventions of the genre so much that they become pastiche — would be this film and Knife + Heart, two LGBTQ-positive films in a genre best known for gorgeous and fashionable women being killed in, well, gorgeous and fashionable ways.

That’s not to say that this movie is all Bava lighting and dubbed dialogue. It’s a movie onto itself, filled with high energy, hilarious dialogue and a creative team whose lack of experience surprised me, because unlike the majority of direct to streaming films that come to us, this feels like the kind of movie that I’d rush to the theater — well, you know, in any other timeline — to see.

That said, Death Drop Gorgeous will be released in select theatres and is also available on demand from Dark Star Pictures. If you want to know more, check out the official Facebook page.

Occupation: Rainfall (2020)

The sequel to 2018’s Occupation, this movie takes placed two years after an intergalactic invasion of earth. A ragtag group of survivors in Australia are trapped in a desperate ground war despite the help of several aliens sympathetic to their cause and engaging in a pitched battle to keep our planet from being the new home of our alien invaders.

While this doesn’t have the budget of a summer blockbuster, the effects certainly feel like they belong there. I had a blast watching all of the spaceship battles in this. As for the story surrounding it, well…imagine my surprise when Ken Jeong, of all people, showed up as an American agent that has become fast friends with an alien pothead named Steve.

That said, there’s a dependable cast, including the man who was Jango Fett, Temuera Morrison, as well as Lawrence Makoare from the Lord of the Rings movies (he was the Uruk-hai leader Lurtz, the Witch-king of Angmar and the Orc leaders Gothmog and Bolg) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter film series) as the aforementioned pothead from another planet.

You can learn more at the official site. Occupation: Rainfall is now available on DVD and blu ray from Lionsgate.

Jumbo (2020)

Jeanne is a withdrawn and shy woman who works in an amusement park, yet has not yet come to terms with being an adult. Has she been in love before? Does she have plans of leaving the home of her mother? And why is she so fascinated by lights and carousels?

However, she soon falls in love with a newcomer to her place of work. Spoilers on, but in case you didn’t guess, she falls in love with Jumbo, the new ride at the park.

Remember when that dude wanted to sleep with Airwolf? Yeah, that’s a real thing. Objectophilia is when you go beyond simply enjoying objects and begin to have deep attachments to them. The kind of attachment that makes you want to make love to them. I mean, if you clean a ride and it begins to make sounds and blink, obviously it is returning your affections.

This is one of those movies that asks that you make this narrative leap with the film. Can you accept the love between human and object? If so, then you’ll be rewarded by what follows. And if not, well, maybe a more traditional love story is something you should watch.

Jumbo attempts to explain why Jeanne feels the way she does. But can any of us really explain love? Why does the heart want what the heart wants, even if it’s to lick the oil of our lover off the floor and communicate in beeps and lights? Maybe those noises and colors are a closer tie than most of our inter-human coupling have anyways.

So yeah, when Jeanne’s mom Margarette wants her to find a really nice guy, maybe she didn’t consider that a Tilt-A-Whirl would be that man. Guess who’s coming to dinner? Hope you like food on a stick, I guess.

This is writer/director Zoé Wittock’s first full-length feature. I feel that this has enough ideas to work as a short, but you can’t fault that she went for it. Here’s hoping for more bright lights and beeps in her future.

You can stream Jumbo on the Arrow Player, which offers a 30 day free trial. Subscriptions are available for $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly. ARROW is available in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland on the following apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc) and on all web browsers at https://www.arrow-player.com.

The Spanish Princess part 2 (2020)

Based on the Philippa Gregory novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse and the sequel to the miniseries The White Queen and The White PrincessThe Spanish Princess is about Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope, Game of ThronesThe Nun), a teenaged Spanish princess — so yes, the title is telling the truth — who will soon become Queen of England after marrying King Henry VIII.

Now, after the first part of the series, during which Catherine travelled to England to meet her husband by proxy, the heir to Henry VII, Arthur the Prince of Wales. As she and her lady in waiting struggled to fit in, she learned that Henry the Duke of York — Arthur’s arrogant brother — has been the one whose letters have romanced her. And when Arthur dies, she keeps the peace by marrying that brother, which brings us to the second part of the story.

The two royals have only gained in popularity and have the most glamorous court, but as Catherine prepares to give birth to an heir, Henry is going to war with France. And as the season progresses from 1511 to 1525, Harry’s eventual madness becomes a danger to our heroine*.

This series takes that history and dynamically brings it to modern life. It doesn’t shy away from the violence of the era, either. There’s an incredibly violent jousting accident in the first episode that may shock many.

Regardless, if you want someone in your life to care more about history, this would be a good show to get them watching.

*Henry VIII had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn and with only a daughter, had no true heir apparent. He sought to annul the marriage, but Pope Clement VII refused the request, which led to Henry proclaiming himself the head of the Church of England and cutting ties with the Catholic Church. Catherine refused to accept this as well as her demotion from queen to princess of Wales and desite being banished, she was still loved by the people.

The Spanish Princess Part 2 is noe available on DVD from Lionsgate.