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It Came From Shudder: Our Recommendations for June

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Hey folks! I had a week off from work and I spent my time playing the Evil Dead video game, recording episodes for my podcast (Autopsy of a Horror Movie), and watching movies on Shudder. It was a good, horror-filled week off! For this month’s “It Came From Shudder” article, I’ll share some recommendations from my time off and a short review for each. Let me know if you end up checking out any of these!

Popcorn (1991)

I was intrigued with the title of this 90s slasher shot in Jamaica. With a title like Popcorn, I was expecting campy horror, cheesy effects, and tons of movie references. I was kind of right! The plot centers around a high school film club hosting an all-night-horror-thon to raise money. The catch? The horror-thon will occur in a soon-to-be closed-down cinema with a dark past involving a director who murdered his family in front of critics. The film club puts on a William Castle-esque production with nods to his classic gimmicks, such as the flying skeleton in House on Haunted Hill (1959) and zapping chairs from The Tingler (1959). All of this leads to a theater environment similarly seen in Scream 2. There are some good gags, a messy plot, crafty kills, bad acting, and a twist to boot. I’d recommend it to anyone who prioritizes camp over continuity.

See for Me (2022)

I bought into this movie early on when I received my screener for it. See for Me is the story of a skier, Sophie Scott (Skyler Davenport), who lost her vision after a skiing accident. She is an angry and stubborn person who makes money by house/pet sitting for wealthy clients. The movie plunges us deep into the home-invasion subgenre as three men break into the house she is sitting for. Through the help of FaceTime with an army vet, Sophie is talked through how to handle the situation and fight off the burglars. I have seen some reviews calling this movie slow, but I enjoyed the pacing. It’s very slick, which makes for an easy watch with a cup of coffee. I found the premise to be unique, and super cool to discover that Davenport is legally blind herself. Sophie is a morally gray character, and I enjoyed following a horror protagonist that was not a goodie-two-shoes. I recommend it for those looking for a twist on the subgenre.

The Last Matinee (2020)

I am a sucker for movies set in a theater; how fun is it to see characters doing what you’re doing? The best way I can describe The Last Matinee is to imagine if I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) made a baby with The Phantom of the Megaplex (2000), then forced the baby to watch Giallo films. Tada! You have this Spanish slasher filled with bodily fluids, camp, funny characters, surprisingly good direction, and gross body horror. It also successfully presents the different groups of people that would be at a theater late at night. You have the awkward couple on a date, teens with nothing better to do, an older man who enjoys cinema, and a murderer with a jar and bag. This movie has everything! Watch it on a Friday night for a good time.

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

This is one of my favorite hidden gems on Shudder. A period horror piece starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence…sign me the fuck up! Peter Cushing plays a very successful surgeon and medical school professor. He needs a constant import of cadavers to perform his experiments on to advance his studies. The issue with grave robbing is that the bodies aren’t fresh enough. Donald Pleasence’s character can offer a solution by providing extremely fresh cadavers for the right price. This movie asks us what boundaries we are willing to break to help humanity? And are we even trying to help humankind anymore, or are we more concerned with being the best? Peter Cushing gives a phenomenal performance and is deliciously evil. I recommend this to anyone interested in seeing Cushing deliver some highbrow insults. (TW: brief scene of sexual assault).

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The Shed (2019)

I will admit…I think vampires are boring. I am more of a wolfman guy myself. That being said, The Shed offers a fun spin on the typical vampire story. A newly turned vampire is seeking shelter from the rising sun. They find a shed adjacent to a farm and seek refuge there. However, they become trapped in the shed as our high school protagonist, Stan, tries to figure out what to do with them. It’s a coming-of-age story as Stan and his friend, Dommer, see this as an opportunity to stand up to bullies and abusive parents. The movie itself has good production value and presents an interesting plot. Its downfall is the subpar acting and poor dialogue. It’s worth a shot but doesn’t need to be a priority viewing.

What I’ll Be Watching Next:

I love a good horror documentary, and Shudder recently released a documentary on found footage movies called The Found Footage Phenomena (2021). I’m stoked to see what list of movies they have curated and how the subgenre has changed over time.

The last thing I’ll mention is Revealer (2022). An 80s apocalyptic flick with a stripper and preacher stuck together trying to survive. I got my screener for it, and it looks like it’ll be a fun, bloody, visually poppy ride. Check out the trailer here, and you will see what I mean.

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Brucker Nourse is the host of Autopsy of a Horror Movie podcast. While his background is in laboratory research on neurodegenerative diseases, he prefers spending his time researching campy horror flicks and reading Carol Clover’s essay on gender in horror. Scooby-Doo is what got him interested in mysteries as a kid, and Scream is what got him obsessed with the horror genre as an adult. Find him on social media and tell him what’s your favorite horror trope.

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Don’t Scream: Revisiting Wan & Whannell’s ‘Dead Silence’ (2007)

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“As a preliminary exercise let the learner place himself before a mirror… and endeavor, while in the act of speaking, to maintain a fixity of countenance, a rigidity of the muscles and nerves of the face and lips, so that no visible movement may be noticed in them… let him begin by enunciating the vowels fully forward in the mouth, saying, with distinctiveness and regularity, each sound by itself – ah-a-e-i-o-u.”

Australian creatives James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell, famous for their collaboration on several horror films including Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010), and proven admirers of creepy dolls, are undisputed champions of Millenium horror. Their use of dark imagery, startling jump scares, gloomy atmospheres, and imaginative villains dominated 2000s popular culture. While Whannell has proven he is a master storyteller, Wan has solidified himself as a premiere horror director. Yet, despite their talent, their films are not immune to critique, especially their sophomore feature Dead Silence (2007), which had box office trouble and unfortunate reviews.

“Next close the mouth, and rest the upper teeth on the inner part of the lower lip. Be certain that the expression is perfectly easy and natural. Then practice the vowel sounds without disturbing the expression. It will soon be discovered that several different tones can be produced on the same vowel. Begin by forcing the sound against the extreme front part of the roof of the mouth.”

Dead Silence follows Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) on the hunt for his wife’s murderer after a mysterious ventriloquist dummy named Billy appears on their doorstep in a box with no return address. While Jamie goes to retrieve takeout, his wife Lisa (Laura Regan), following a deafening silence, is brutally thrown from their bedroom, and her tongue is ripped out. Jamie arrives home and hears Lisa’s voice coming from the bedroom. He finds her sitting up under the covers, her tongueless mouth agape. Unfortunately, Jamie becomes Detective Lipton’s (Donnie Wahlberg) main suspect in her murder. However, Jamie senses something malevolent took his wife from him.

“Then force the sound against the back part of the roof of the mouth–the palate–still keeping the countenance easy and natural.”

Jamie ventures back to his and Lisa’s hometown of Ravens Fair. Nearly abandoned, Ravens Fair has since been deteriorating from its former glory, having once had a marvelous theater that was celebrated by the town. Also found deteriorating is Jamie’s estranged father Edward (Bob Gunton), now on his fourth wife, the charming Ella Ashen (Amber Valletta). Jamie is adamant that the doll, Billy, has something to do with Lisa’s death. With the help of local mortician Henry Walker (Michael Fairman), Jamie is introduced to the gruesome history of Mary Shaw, the town ventriloquist, and her many children, including Billy.

“Next, practice to stop, or shut off the sound by the upper part of the windpipe. In order to ascertain the exact spot here indicated, perform the act of swallowing and you will find a subdued ‘cluck’ made in the throat at the precise spot where you can develop the power of speaking inwardly.”

Mary Shaw was an expert ventriloquist in 1930s-1940s Raven’s Fair. Wan and Whannell use the once-deemed evil entertaining act as fodder for the film, which only adds to the sinister lore of Shaw. Dating back to Ancient Greece, the act of ventriloquy was performed by engastrimyths (breaking down to ‘in,’ ‘stomach,’ and ‘speech’). According to ventriloquist Valentine Vox, engastrimyths were linked to necromancy, “the ancient art of allowing a dead person’s spirit to enter the necromancer and speak to the living.” In the 16th century, the act of throwing one’s voice or speaking without moving the lips disturbed many, including “disgruntled God-fearers” who “believed mysterious voices emanated from any number of holes in the ventriloquist’s body—from the vagina to the nostrils.” Some centuries later, ventriloquism became more benign. However, its link to spirits and the dead continue to haunt the art’s legacy. All but one child in Mary Shaw’s audience at the Guignol Theater on Moss Lake in 1941 believed her act. Young Michael Ashen interrupted Mary’s show, “I can see your lips moving!” Soon after the brief confrontation between Michael, Mary, and Billy, Michael disappears. The town blames Mary. An angry mob descends upon Mary’s home and cuts out her tongue.

“Let the above be considered the first and most important lesson to be carefully and diligently practiced. Above all, be careful to avoid straining the throat. The power of contraction and expansion must be developed gradually.”

While intriguing and disturbing, this backstory left some audience members and film reviewers unfulfilled. The film barely earned back its budget of $20 million and was given poor ratings by reviewers (Tomatometer: 20%, with an audience score of 51%; Letterboxed score: 2.7/5.0; IMDb score: 6.1/10). When released, Fangoria’s Michael Gingold wrote, “Unfortunately, the story isn’t fresh enough and its people aren’t compelling enough to keep the spookery from seeming old hat… Before Mary’s spirit comes after a victim, all noises drop off the soundtrack… Perhaps that’s what the title Dead Silence is meant to refer to—but too often, unfortunately, it also reflects the likely audience reaction to this film.”

Despite a bumpy start, audiences have returned to Dead Silence over the past decade and have paid their respects to Wan and Whannell’s story, the balance of jump scares and deafening silence, the artistry of Billy and his siblings, and the overwhelming gloomy atmosphere without levity. Additional credit for the bleak atmosphere goes to composer Charlie Clouser. He has worked with Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie, and has produced scores for several Saw movies as well as the theme for American Horror Story since 2011.

Reconsider Dead Silence. Mary Shaw belongs in the same category as Bloody Mary and Candyman. The specters of both Mary and Billy earned their place amongst other spooky horror titans that warn you of their seemingly unavoidable evil.

Beware the stare of Mary Shaw
She had no children, only dolls
And if you see her in your dreams
Be sure to never, ever scream…
Or she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.

Sources:

Fangoria Movie Review: ‘Dead Silence’ By Michael Gingold” March 16, 2019 

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“Inside the World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism.” Smithsonian Magazine May 2, 2019, Jennifer Nalewicki

“The Demonic Origins of Ventriloquism.” Atlas Obscura March 28, 2016, Andy Wright

“How to Begin and Practice Ventriloquism, with Entertaining Dialogues for Rehearsal.” Essay by Antonio Blitz. In The Boys’ Own Book of Indoor Sports and Choice Parlor Games. New York, NY: Hurst & Co., Publishers, 122 Nassau St., 1878

 

 

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‘Scream 6’ Trailer: Does Ghostface have a MetroCard?

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In Scream (2022) Dewey said, “This one just feels different,” and that’s exactly how I feel after watching the Scream 6 trailer.

A New Scream Movie Set In A Whole New Backdrop

Setting a horror movie (or any movie for that matter) in NYC isn’t exactly a brand new idea—but somehow, it feels that way in a Scream movie. This trailer has it all: bodegas, dusty elevators, chase scenes, a Freddy Krueger Halloween costume, a Ghostface museum, and Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby freaking Reed. The amount of times I said, “Oh my God,” while watching this trailer—well, it was a lot.

The highlights of the trailer are the bodega attack scene, the Ghostface shrine scene, Courteney Cox’s Gale Weathers getting her first-ever Ghostface call. The bodega scene and Gale’s phone call feel like they could be the openings, especially since they changed up the formula with the last one having Jenna Ortega’s Tara Carpenter be the opening kill but surviving to kill her attacker at the end of the movie. The Ghostface shrine scene looks incredibly epic—fans online are already dissecting all the Easter eggs (do we even call those Easter eggs?) shown in that scene. We see Stu’s red robe from the first film, Tatum’s outfit she dies in, Mrs. Loomis’s white blazer, the plaid shirt Jill Roberts dies in from Scream 4, Billy’s bloodied white Tshirt, a mask from the play in Scream 2, guns, knives, and more. It’s going to be a scene that has us Scream stans drooling in theaters. As to who is the owner of said shrine—well, as of now, that’s the unknown part.

The bodega scene also feels both intense and brutal. We see Tara and Melissa Barrera’s Sam running in for help, followed by Ghostface who tears through the customers and owner to get to the sisters. This feels unlike anything the franchise has done before. Usually, if Ghostface is doing a public murder, it’s like Jada Pinkett’s iconic opening death scene from Scream 2—in plain sight, but no one but the two intended victims are killed. There’s something about a kill happening so publicly that’s terrifying.

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Say a Prayer for Mother

We also get gay icon Gale’s first-ever Ghostface call—and a chase scene to go along with it. We know Gale gives good chase scene, the one in Scream 2 being one of the best of the franchise, so I’m quite excited for her to get her own extended scene. But, as with every new Scream movie, I’m now incredibly worried for Mother ™. Killing Gale feels both like a no-go of the franchise but also like the most shocking thing they could do? But, please don’t kill Gale—or I’ll become The Joker/one of those toxic fans (jk…but maybe not).

Kirby Makes Her Return to the Scream Franchise

Also, Kirby is used sparingly in the trailer—I expected Gale to be featured less and Kirby more heavily. But boy, is it so nice to see her back. The fandom can sometimes be torn on Scream 4, but the character Kirby Reed tends to be universally beloved. The idea of her and Jasmin Savoy-Brown’s Mindy being on screen together has me hyped. Could Kirby die? Could Kirby be the killer? I don’t know, but the one thing I am sure of is that she will be a delight to see again.

Mason Gooding’s Chad is also there looking as hot as always—and probably most likely to be the one to bite it. I will mourn the loss of him and his beautiful chest if he is the one to die. We also barely focus on the newer newbies in the trailer, as I imagine, not unlike in Scream 2; all of these new characters will die. But maybe they won’t! The most fun thing about these new additions to the franchise is that they don’t fully follow the rules. I mean, Ghostface has a shotgun at one point—anything could happen! Maybe Samara Weaving’s character becomes our new Final Girl!

We Miss Sidney Prescott

I am sad the reason Neve Campbell isn’t coming back as Sidney Prescott is due to not being paid her worth and not just for the fact that our girl Sidney deserves a break. But I do think Sidney Prescott deserves a break. I am curious though, as to how they’ll tie it back to her as it usually ties back to Sidney but, again, maybe this one won’t! The most fun thing about this newest movie is it feels even less likely that they’re following the previous rules of the franchise, which automatically makes this one feel fresh.

If Sex and the City can spend years saying New York City is a main character, then so can one Scream movie. So, let’s rejoice that in the year 2023 we’re still getting new Scream movies and make sure to light some prayer candles for my favorite final girl, Gale Weathers.

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