The Advent Calendar (2021)

So when you hear, “This is a movie about a haunted advent calendar,” well you’d probably think that it’s pretty silly.

But Patrick Ridremont’s Le calendrier is way better than I expected.

Eva (Eugénie Derouand) once danced, but since her wheelchair accident, she’s fallen into a pit of despair. After the gift of a wooden antique calendar, she begins to get a surprise each day that changes her life. Some of them lead to death for those around her, but now that she can walk again, will all of the sacrifices be worth it?

There’s a great atmosphere in this movie, even if it doesn’t know how to end things. It also has a heroine who realizes that to get what she wants, she has to become someone that she is not. There are rules with this advent calendar and most of them can kill you.

It’s a pleasant surprise that this Shudder holiday exclusive is so good. I’m used to modern films not looking like anyone cares about color, lighting and composition. This not only looks great, it plays great and minor issues with the close, it just plain works. The art direction of the advent calendar is quite good as well.

After this, I’ll never have one that looks like that in my home.

Amityville Vampire (2021)

Look, I’ve seen enough Amityville movies now that it takes a lot to surprise me. But the fact that this was directed and co-written by Tim Vigil knocked me out.

Tim Vigil may not be a huge name to you, but those that loved black and white outlaw comics know and revere his name. Starting with the comic book Grips — imagine Wolverine being allowed to murder people — and getting to beyond out there books like EO and Faust — which became the Brian Yuzna film in the 2000 movie Faust: Love of the Damned — Vigil’s incredible art made him the kind of creator worth following from book to book.

The cleanest Faust image I could find

Even some of my fellow comic book mutants had no idea this movie was coming. I had to hunt down the truth — was this the Tim Vigil? And yep, right in the middle of his Instagram, which repeatedly gets shut down because Tim loves posting images that upset pretty much anyone decent, there was the art for this movie.

Much like Danzig’s Verotika, this is the movie that you’d expect Tim Vigil to make.

If you love his stuff, you’ll be excited. If you hate it, well, stay far away.

The first nice thing you can say about this film is that the Amityville House actually shows up in the movie as a cleaning crew comes to do their work at 112 Ocean Avenue. Sure, this footage is a different aspect ratio than the rest of the film and the cleaning crew scenes were directed by someone else and they try to explain why the evil gets in the woods. It’s pretty much like how Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror is a werewolf movie but has a Frankenstein title because Sam Sherman already had 400 theaters lined up for the Al Adamson film Dracula vs. Frankenstein and had promised those grindhouses and drive-ins a Frank-centric double feature.

This leads to two people in the woods making out, but when his girlfriend won’t put out, Kurt sends her to the doom of being attacked by the titular vampire, who is played by the astoundingly named Jin N. Tonic, who was also in not only Dracula in a Women’s Prison but Frankenstein in a Women’s Prison. Somewhere, probably in Hell, Bruno Mattei is pleased.

Meanwhile, radio DJ and former rock star Johnny (Anthony Dearce) and Fran (Miranda Melhado) are on the way to those very same woods. He keeps telling her stories of how it’s haunted, making this kind of an anthology, which works better than it should. Except that the place they’re going is Red Moon Lake and not Amityville, but come on, we knew that was coming.

So there’s a story about Lilith — the vampire from the opening — inviting a woman to Thanksgiving and another where a man begs Lilith to do what God can’t and save his dying wife. Why he would tell her these stories happened in the place they’re going to is beyond me, but don’t look for life lessons in Amityville ripoff movies.

Meanwhile, Kurt now has a bunch of friends that are looking for women to assault. Yes, this is a movie filled with women showing up only to show off their breasts, long conversations that go nowhere, women being punched in the face and then laughing about it, a sexual assault filmed like the Austin Powers joke gag that really is reprehensible, a seeming encouragement of suicide, horrible looking blood, a decent looking vampire, a breast signing in a parking lot that doesn’t match the tone of the rest of the movie, some of the most over the top line reads and reaction shots you’ve ever seen in a movie and all the quality you expect from a direct to streaming poorly lit, filmed and soundtracked effort by a first-time director.

In short, it’s exactly the kind of movie I look for. What a glorious mess and man, I hope Tim Vigil makes tons of movies. It’s not good, but it’s not good in the violently bad way that says to me that his films are only going to get weirder, wilder and less concerned with petty concerns like continuity, color balancing, story and realistic effects and more worried with creating the kind of boundary-pushing magic that the Satanic mass orgy scenes in Faust delivered.

I mean, Tim Vigil tried to sell a 15-year-old me an art print of it and when I told him, “Well, I still live at home with my parents because I’m in high school,” he called me a pussy and I thanked him for it.

Dear Tim Vigil,

I now have my own home.

Make more movies.

I will buy them all.

Thanks,

Sam (former pussy)

Double Walker (2021)

Directed by Colin West, who was also the cinematographer and co-writer along with producer and star Sylvie Mix, Double Walker presents a unique take on the ghost mythos in that it has A Wonderful Life edited throughout and gives us a world where when young girls die, their ghosts eventually age into young women that hunt and kill predatory men with a spoon and then drink their blood and also try to solve their own murders.

The tagline says it all: She was given two choices: live one more day as a human, or live forever as a ghost. She chose the latter.

There’s a moment in this movie that totally took me aback, as the Ohio-shot snow footage began to play backward. It’s a disquieting and strange moment in the midst of a film that’s split between bloody revenge and longing for a return to life. And it’s perfect. It knocked me out and made me love everything that followed.

This movie is now playing in select movie theaters and is available on streaming movie platforms. You can learn more at the official site.

The Amityville Moon (2021)

To the tune of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen:

Man walking through the Walmart store

Has so many DVDs, needs so many more

Looking at covers to see what catches the eye

What number Amityville is this, seventy-five?

Is that a werewolf I spy on the case?

What’s next Amityville in Space?

My wife sleeps as I watch all this mess

No taste, no standards, no limits, no rest

 

(Chorus)

Well, the internet highway is alive tonight

But nobody’s kidding this movie’s any good

I’m sitting down here in front of my TV

Watching the multiple ghosts of Ron DeFeo

 

Now Sam said, “Wherever there’s a cop comes from Amityville

Wherever a hungry Amityville shark appears

Where there’s a monkey that’s possessed and a 1/2 star review in the air

Look for me, I’ll be there

Wherever a family fights a possessed clock

Or an evil lamp or is in 3D

Wherever a demon is trying to get free

Look in their eyes and you’ll see me

You’ll see me!

So this movie — surprise! — has nothing to do with Amityville. It does have something to do with a halfway house and a werewolf and how did Lions Gate, a somewhat major studio, sully their hands with this?

Thomas J. Churchill also made The Amityville Harvest, which I’m sure I’ll be watching soon enough, and just finished Amityville Uprising, in which “a chemical blast at a military base sets off a supernatural disaster in this tense action-horror thriller.” Oh no. Oh no…

This also has Cody Renee Cameron in it, whose IMDB describes her as “a cool cocktail comprised of raw acting talent & badass stunt work, sprinkled with sexy, then shaken and poured into a chilled glass.” She should have written this movie, or maybe her publicist because that’s better than anything I just sat through.

Tuesday Knight from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is also on hand and she just made a movie called Amityville Bigfoot and seriously, they’re just making movies for me now to make me have crossover between my many Letterboxd lists. “The newest entry to the Amityville franchise follows a new story with Bigfoot and a new terror in the very special house” says IMDB. And who directed it? Shawn C. Phillips, who is also making Amityville Karen and Amityville Shark House because we needed two shark movies set in Amityville.

There’s also an Amityville Thanksgiving coming.

You know it’s bad when Common Sense Media — in their review of is this movie proper for your family or not — includes this discussion question: “Families can talk about sequels that aren’t really sequels, like The Amityville Moon. Why do you think Hollywood makes so-called “sequels” that have little, if anything, to do with the previous movies in the series?”

I wish my parents had talked to me about Amityville sequels but it’s too late. It’s just too late. I’m up at 4 in the morning watching movies like this when I should be sleeping. But you need me, don’t you, dear reader? If anything, I’m protecting you from 112 Ocean Avenue.

Autumn Road (2021)

Riley Cusick, who has directed a number of shorts and appeared as an actor in Chelsea Stardust’s Satanic Panic and Joe Begos’ VFW, makes his feature directorial debut with this film while also playing the roles of twins Charlie and Vincent.

A decade after her sister goes missing on Halloween, Laura returns home to make peace with the past, but comes back into the world of the twins who now run a roadside attraction. She has nowhere else to go and can’t connect to her family, so she keeps falling deeper into their world of madness.

Yet as she grows closer to one twin, the other goes further down his own twisted path, as these three are all haunted and all on a journey that seemingly has only one dark close. I really enjoyed this film as it’s just as much a slasher as it is a very human story.

I was also happy to see Friday the 13th Part VII star Lar Par Lincoln show up.

Autumn Road is most definitely worth your time. I thought it would just be a vanity project for Cusick, but now I’m excited to see anything and everything he does in the future.

You can watch it on on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Comcast, Dish and Shaw.

Clerk (2021)

Clerk is an extensive all access documentary examining the life and career of indie filmmaking icon Kevin Smith. If there’s someone that had any connection with him and his films, they show up in this film to discuss his films and what it was like to work with him.

Directed and written by Malcolm Ingram (with Sean Stanley) — who also made Phantom of Winnipeg, a movie about how Phantom of the Paradise became a local sensation in that Manitoba town — this movie shows everything from where Smith grew up to how he met the friends that would be in nearly all of his movies to how he went from indie filmmaker to being part of Hollywood to his spoken word, comic book and podcast careers. It even touches on his romantic relationships and how his life has changed since his heart attack.

If you’re a fan of Smith, you already know all of these stories, but perhaps those fans will love to see his whole story again and celebrate him. He certainly seems happy with life, kind to his fans and devoted to making the films he wants to make, even when films like Red State and Tusk push his usual Jersey hangout films into different directions.

At one point in my life, Mallrats was the most important movie to ever speak to me. That feels like a long time ago, but I can’t deny that so many of the ways that I look at film and life come from the movies of Smith, even if our sensibilities went in opposite ways when it seemed that he would continually just make the same Jay and Silent Bob films again and again.

My lack of fandom doesn’t keep me from thinking that this is a fine film that has plenty of access to its subjects. Sure, it doesn’t dwell long on his failures — there’s always a reason — and also doesn’t get into some of the wilder stories like working on the Superman film or Cop Out, a movie that Smith claims he experienced total darkness while working with Bruce Willis. I guess the multitude of spoken word shows — and DVD releases — can tell those stories.

You can watch Clerk where you find streaming movies.

Bigfoot, UFOs and Jesus (2021)

I mean, with the words Jesus right in the name, can I be mad at myself for suddenly realizing in the midst of this movie that I was watching another Christian film? Look, they can’t all be Laura Gemser-starring voodoo snake women movies, can they?

Hannah Howard — now a famous country singer — once saw something not of this earth. Was it…Bigfoot, UFOs and Jesus?

She’s tried to forget about it until she does what everyone in every movie I watch seems to do. She comes back home.

That means that everyone wants to unlock her secrets, from her hippy mom (former SNL star Victoria Jackson, whose appearance instantly made me say, “Oh, this is a Christian movie”) or her former minister (Donnie Most) or her bigfoot hunter brother (Josh “Ponceman” Perry).

To make things even stranger, the lights that she saw back then have come back to Devil’s Crossroads, which means that she’s about to learn just what happened.

Ah man, this movie was also called Lost Heart and if I’d known that, I wouldn’t have sat through it. It’s a streaming film with a message and I’m not cutting it down for having a message. If you’ve read the tons of religious films we’ve covered here, we do love a good parable, particularly if it involves Franco Nero and bad CGI. There’s an idea in here that needed to be explored and it could have been a better movie — can you believe in Jesus and aliens and sasquatch?

Because I need to know that answer.

The Dove review of this movie would like to warn you that a woman in this movie has a tattoo.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

So go with me on this.

After a prison bus crashed into a truck filled with nuclear waste, a big chunk of Japan was written off and is a lawless wasteland, with one town – Samurai Town — being ruled by The Governor (Bill Moseley) who has a harem of so-called granddaughters as his slaves. All around his small town is what they call the Ghostland, a place where the radiated scum of the Earth live and die and kill. When Bernice (Sofia Boutella, Gazelle from Kingsmen: The Secret Service and Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond), one of the granddaughters, goes missing The Governor makes it Hero’s (Nicholas Cage, again the California Kinski of weird roles in stranger movies) job to rescue her.

Through movie fate, Hero’s old partner was Psycho (Nick Cassavetes), a man who will fill anyone in his way and was the cause of the accident which destroyed most of Japan. And then one of his balls explodes.

Yes, Prisoners of the Ghostland isn’t your normal movie. It’s directed by Sion Sono, who also made Suicide ClubTokyo TribeWhy Don’t You Play In Hell?Tag and so many more wild movies over the past few years.

Sono has called Wild at Heart his favorite Nicolas Cage movie and one of his inspirations while saying that Cage was “The easiest person I ever worked with, brought me back from the dead.”  That’s because the film was delayed a year after the director had a heart attack.

As for Cage, he’s referred to this as the wildest movie he’s ever made. My jury is out on that one, but this movie looks, feels and acts as odd as its star and trust me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. A gang of mutants against angry women and Cage with a sword, one arm and one testicle? I know what side I’m on.

Prisoners of the Ghostland will stream exclusively on Shudder starting November 19.

Captains of Za’atari (2021)

Mahmoud and Fawzi have been living in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan for five years, during which they’re dealt with an uncertain future, which they put out of their minds by playing soccer in the hopes of someday being good enough to have the sport become their future. Yet when one of them gets the opportunity fo freedom, what happens to the other?

Aspire Academy, one of the world’s leading sports academies, picks Mahmoud while Fawzi is left behind due to a technicality. But thanks to the coaches, he’s able to finally join the team and together, the friends will play in the most important game of their life while the refugee camp watches on television and even get to speak. Yet will they ever escape the camp?

Director Ali El Arabi and cinematographer Mahmoud Bashir have crafted a film full of joy in the face of hopelessness, of temporary escape in the midst of hopelessness. This is a gorgeous film, one that even people who don’t play soccer can watch and understand the way playing feels to these two young men.

Captains of Za’atari is available in select theaters and on digital platforms from Utopia.

Amityville Scarecrow (2021)

Is Amityville Cornfield a better title? I don’t know. Nor can I comprehend how one family can have so many unmatching accents, but if I have learned anything, it’s don’t watch sixty Joe D’Amato movies in a week followed by three Amityville movies because you start to see the world as a very weird place. Don’t follow my path.

Tina and Mary are sisters who can’t agree on what to do with the land their mother gave them when she died, land that could never grow corn and was probably haunted and will surely end everyone’s lives. Then again, Tina did steal Mary’s husband, so you can understand why they are fighting.

There’s a scarecrow that gets possessed by the spirit of a child-touching handyman so…you know, I guess there’s an Elm Street in Amityville. That said, the scarecrow looks pretty scary in a few scenes, which is more than you can usually expect from these films.

You can watch this on Tubi.