Surprise! We did a podcast!

Hey Hallowfest Fans and Readers (and members of our family who read this out of love), guess what we did! Oh, that was a very specific and correct guess–YES, we did a podcast!

It’s Women in Horror Month all February, a movement to celebrate ladies who scare us, thrill us, and entertain us from both in front of and behind the camera, so we decided to sit down and chat women who make us scream.

But Women in Horror Month isn’t just about loving those talented people who give us some joy, but also about giving blood! Don’t know where you can go to give blood locally, and you live in Canada? Why not visit Blood.ca and find out? Can’t give blood? Well, tell those you know who can to go out and do it!

Now, without further ado, here’s our podcast! Enjoy!

Little Shop of Horrors; or Breaking Botany

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to this year’s last edition of Monster Monday, where the films feature creatures! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they brush up on their botany and manslaughter definitions.

Today’s film offering: Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Lilly: Have you ever wondered what happens when you bet a director he can’t make a film in two days? Wonder no longer, because the answer is Little Shop of Horrors. Written in almost the same amount of time, the film is the story of a flower shop on ‘skid row’ that is looking like it might go bankrupt until one of the workers, the inept Seymour, manages to grow a mysterious plant with a dubious appetite. Throw in some gags to do with a man who eats flowers, a masochistic dental patient, and yiddish peppered throughout the script, and you get this fun romp that runs merrily into the disturbing ending at a happy clip, the run time just short of an hour and fifteen minutes.

Andy: It also has, like, three sets. The whole thing sometimes feels like someone filmed a stage play. Also, this is the second week in a row we’ve dealt with demonic foliage. Although the Venus Fly Trap crossbreed … thing in this is a million times less creepy than a triffid.

Lilly: To be clear, a deep exploration of poverty driving men to acts of madness this is not. This is straight up a tale of a schmuck who tried to make things right and just went far wrong instead. It has characters like ‘Siddie Shiva’ (a woman who is a return customer due to the fact that she has a million funerals to go to, which is funny since it is a play on the phrase ‘sitting shiva’, a mourning period in Jewish tradition), a hypochondriac mother who only cooks things that are meant to cure you (such as a soup that is just cod liver oil), and a psychotic dentist who will take whatever teeth he damn well pleases, hurting or not. It’s almost as if the writer was given a basic idea (deadly plant) and a bunch of characters to work into it, and boom. Done. Story. And it works! It really works!

Andy: Sure! It’s not great art (then again very, very little Roger Corman puts out can be described that way)–

Lilly: Excuse you, he did The Terror.

Andy: …but it does manage to combine two genres to great effect – creepy sci-fi-ish horror and screwball comedy. And while the mishmash of genres is often jarring (I mean, it’s hard to feel sorry for a guy who’s feeding bodies to a plant) it gels together and rattles along nicely.

Lilly: Even the things that could be problematic–stereotypes, anyone?–are turned on their head. You’ve got the lady lead, a ditzy woman named Audrey, who cannot seem to get her words right (she calls a caesar salad a ‘cesarean salad’, for example) yet she knows loads about flowers and is the go-to employee of the shop. Then you have Mushnick, the shop owner, a Russian Jewish immigrant who just loves a deal–yet he was apparently based partially off the director’s own grandfather, so can we call it stereotyping?

For the length it is and the age it is, Little Shop of Horrors fits in some good creepy moments and some good groaners.

Andy: A short review for a short film!

Lilly: So go, watch,and enjoy! It’s not like it will take long!

Thank you so much for reading our reviews this month, it’s been our pleasure writing them! Hallowfest Octobfilm will return next year, but stay tuned, as some new things will be coming out of Hallowfest sooner than you think! Happy Halloween!

Halloween III: Season of the Witch; or Happy Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last edition of Sequel Sunday this Hallowfest, where we see if films can make it through the tricky world of sequels. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pop on their Silver Shamrock masks and settle down in front of the television, reading for a special surprise to be revealed on Halloween.

Today’s film offering: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Andy: Time to settle in for another Horror History lesson!

The original Halloween, coming out in 1978 was always intended to be the first in a series of movies – but they were going to all be standalone stories with different plots and characters – all set around Halloween. And so, in 1982, Season of the Witch came out, completely unrelated to Michael Myers or Laurie or Haddonfield.

There was a tiny problem though, and that problem was called Halloween II.

Trouble is, the first movie had been so mind blowingly successful, and creative executives so pathologically averse to risk, that it was inevitable that the white-faced boiler-suited asylum escapee would be back – and as a result, the Halloween franchise is now indelibly linked to Mr. Myers et al. Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers banged the final nail into that coffin, and as a result Season of the Witch is one of the weirdest curios around – a member of a franchise which, well, isn’t.

So what is it about? Well, the story (penned by Nigel Kneale who also penned Quatermass be still my beating heart) concerns a slightly shady company in the business of selling children Halloween masks, and a grand conspiracy to do with ancient witchcraft…

Lilly: Where’s Michael Myer’s, again?

No, but seriously, why did this film have to find itself in the Halloween franchise? A tale with genuinely spooky elements and creepy conspiracies and scary stuff, Season of the Witch could have been a contender, yet it got the short end of the stick as to which franchise it was randomly plopped into. I mean, if it had been thrown into the Sleepaway Camp franchise, who knows how popular it could have been! Who knows!

As a person who is generally creeped out by children in masks, this film takes that fear and just rubs your (non masked) face in it, and does so with a jingle that will stay in your mind forever. I mean, just forever. When I think of the word ‘Halloween’, I think of two songs: ’This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the stupid Silver Shamrock commercial jingle. I mean. Effective advertising, but still. Wait. Was this film actually about how advertising can infect your very soul? Wait. Ooooh. Oh, you got me, Halloween III. I see you.

Andy: Ooo deep themes about advertising’s effects on the population. Me like.

Lilly: All joking aside, I enjoyed this film. Not as much as Halloween (a sigh of relief can be heard throughout the land, I know) of course, but it’s not a slasher film, so do you compare them beyond my personal preference? It’s a film about black magic, so maybe you’d be better off comparing it to other films of that ilk, if you must, but if you just look at it as a horror film, straight up, it’s not that bad. It’s got some decent acting, it’s got some spooky plot points, and hey, it scared me.

Andy: Yeah, it’s sort of like a really, really well made TV movie – like those Stephen King adaptations that get churned out every few years, but better. It’s never going to make any top ten lists, for instance, and it’s not the first movie from 1982 I’d recommend (The Thing, obviously), but it has a charm all of its own. Definitely one to file under the ‘cult classic’ category.

Lilly: So, why not give this black sheep of the Halloween family a try? Go, watch, and enjoy!

Prom Night; or I Had The Time of My Life Until I Was Axed in the Face

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to this year’s final edition of Slasher Saturday, where the only answer to pre-martial sex is a good stabbing! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they don their prom duds and get ready for the best night of the lives–no matter how shortened-by-axe-murderer they may be.

Today’s film offering: Prom Night

Lilly: Our story starts with several kids playing a game of ‘Murderer’ being stumbled upon by three other children, one of which wants to join in. She goes into the building (an abandoned convent, which of course children love to play in) and her attempts to join in lead to a tragic accident (not to mention a tragic scene where her whole family, siblings included, show up to see her body being taken away–I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, get a SITTER, people).

Andy: Of course, there’s not any explanation as to why she’s being excluded; only that these kids don’t like her because they are angry, hateful jerks. As to why she’d want to play with these kids isn’t really touched upon either – they’re just a little bit too young to be the ‘popular’ kids, something I associate more with teenagers. And of course these kids immediately swear never to tell anyone about the tragedy because they’ll go to JAIL.

Lilly: Fast forward to six years later, and it’s prom night! Because nothing says revenge like getting it on prom night–or so Carrie taught us. The children have grown up and it’s time they paid for what they did, damn it! Throw in a few red herrings, like a man who was charged with the little girl’s murder getting loose and a creepy groundskeeper at the school they all attend, and you got yourself Prom Night.

As long time fans of Jamie Lee Curtis, we felt we might be robbing ourselves, having not seen this classic from 1980. Well, we weren’t. Surprise! A cheesy slasher I don’t like! Well. It was funny at times–at one point, a guy named ‘Slick’ punches the killer clear out of  the back of a van which I found hysterical–and Jamie Lee was fantastic in her dance scene, but…okay, well, a slasher having a dance scene I’m usually for (The Final Girls is a great example of this), but even Jamie Lee boogie-oogie-ooging couldn’t save this from being not all that great.

Andy: Yeah, this one commits the cardinal sin of horror movies anywhere; it’s really, really boring. There’s no sense of suspense or build up, the setup is long, long, looong, and there’s nothing I can really point at and say “Yes. This is a reason you should see this.”

Lilly: Some upsides? The children were scary enough to warrant the little girl’s accident while running from them–I wanted to run from them and I wasn’t in the spooky abandoned building. Then there was Leslie Nielsen, who was a great principal/grieving parent for as little as we saw him for his top billing. That man was a national treasure. And there were some brief glimpses at actual weighty moments, like when Nick, one of the kids who chased the girl (and JLC’s little sister) to her death, tries to admit his guilt to JLC because he cares about her, but doesn’t because, well. That’s a relationship deal breaker for most people.

Andy: Yes, but even then it’s not all that much, because even in the really drawn out snoozefest first half, the film still somehow fails to give us much sense of who these people are or what they’re like. They’re not even developed enough to be stereotypes – even the girl chiefly responsible for the death at the beginning only comes across as vaguely bitchy rather than the High School Villainess that appears everywhere else in movies. There’s not enough here to be angry about. It’s all just so boring.

Lilly: Some downsides? Well. A lot of it. Gratuitous breasts and bums, weird characterisation (why did Wendy hate that old lady she lived with so much, she seemed lovely!), a confusing ending, and why did the murderer start with a shard of glass and suddenly upgrade to an ax? Stay on message, murderer!

Andy: Not to mention the problematic elements of showing the tits of someone we last saw as a ten year old. You can probably skip this one.

Lilly: As long time fans of JLC, we’re saying don’t bother going, watching, and trying to enjoy this one–it’s just a collection of moments that have been bettered in other films, in other franchises, and even other JLC films! Go watch those! Prom Night, however, is a miss for us.

Ghostbusters (2016); Or Safety Lights are for Dudes

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we look at films that are fun for the whole family! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they strap on their proton packs and suit up for a reported disturbance in NYC.

Today’s film offering: Ghostbusters (2016)

Andy: How could we not do Hallowfest this year without touching on one of the biggest and most weirdly controversial movies of the year? But before we begin, let me make a few things clear:

1) We liked this movie. A lot.

2) We liked the original a lot too. Probably not as much as many people, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

3) There is no point getting angry about remakes.

Anyway, with that out of the way, onto the movie itself!

Lilly: Unless this review is going to ruin your childhood, too.

Excuse me, I’ll be right back, I just need to fetch my eyes that rolled clear out of my head.

Andy: The plot concerns one Erin Gilbert, a physics professor desperate to achieve tenure at Columbia University, and tries to cover up her past as one of those weird paranormal researchers you see on covers in that section of the bookshop.

Unfortunately for her, though, her partner Abby and past come a-callin’, and before you know it she’s out on the street out of a job. Cue teaming up with her ex-partner, her wacky engineering friend and streetwise subway worker, and, well, who ya gonna call?

Lilly: Besides your friends so you can complain about why women don’t NEED to be Ghostbusters, and LOOK, they are making a sex object out of Chris Hemsworth, and GOSH this is the WORST.

Okay, but seriously. Go on.

Andy: It’s worth noting that even with the comedic talents of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (who we are fans of, to be clear), Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann doesn’t so much steal the film as chloroform it in a dark alley and demand a ransom. Like I said, we like this movie a lot, but she is the only thing to completely come out of the shadow of the original.

Part of this is due to the nature of a remake though. It is inevitable that with the plot requiring a team be set up, many of the same plot beats will be hit, and story-wise there’s not a huge amount of originality here, but it’s not really where the heart lies – it lies in letting the comedic actresses do their thing.

The film is at its best when it focuses down on this – Melissa McCarthy’s endless running feud with the delivery boy downstairs is wonderful, Kristen Wiig’s awkward flirting with an oblivious Chris Hemsworth is amazing and creepy and funny as hell, and Kate McKinnon – well, we’ve already covered her. Rounding out the quartet is Leslie Jones, who manages to be boisterous, knowledgeable within her area, and very, very genre savvy. She skirts the line of being a stereotype on occasion, but that’s forgivable when she’s this charismatic.

Lilly: And going back to something I said earlier (obviously I haven’t been listening to Andy, I’ve just been waiting to say things), re: Chris Hemsworth’s character and the aforementioned flirting Wiig does, she is doing the thing male characters typically do to ‘secretary roles’, throwing flirtatious lines out, ha ha, and it’s like okay, fair turn! Fair turn, there should be a female character who gets to do that. Ladies get to ghost bust AND make unwanted advances, DAMN IT. The difference was, Chris Hemsworth had a character who was fleshed out past a ‘Oh stop!’ and giggle most of those female equivalent characters get. He had a shitty acting career and idiocy that topped most, not to mention his actions in the second act! Plus, at the end of the film, they didn’t somehow end up hooking up even if her lines had consisted of ‘Oh you!’, ‘Oh stop!’, and ‘Phonecall for you, sir–why yes, this IS a new blouse!’

Ghostbusters works to make something accessible to another HALF of the population, and I appreciate that ever so much. At Party City, seeing the fact that the female ghostbuster jumpsuits (not the sexy ones with cleavage on the go and thighs for days, but the actual jumpsuits) were sold out while the male ones weren’t just made my tiny black heart flutter because yes. Yes. Women should get to dress up as any occupation they damn well please, including fictional ones. And that’s the point of the film. Women should get to pretend they are whatever they want to be, because that’s the wonder of imagination, and maybe someday, reality will follow suit so we can be whatever we want. Including Ghostbusters. I’d say I’d sign up, but I’m more a secretary, not going to lie.

Anyway, back to the film as a film, not a social movement.

It was funny! Having heard not too much in praise of it, I was surprised by how much I was laughing. And the cameos! Like seriously, how can you claim to know what is best for a franchise, saying women can’t do it, when all of the cast who could return were there! Even a bust of Harold Ramis showed up! And then there was Charles Dance, and Andy Garcia (yelling ‘Never compare me to the mayor in ‘Jaws’’ which was PERFECT)! Like Andy said, Kate McKinnon definitely stole the show (and my heart) but the cast was still so talented, I was delighted by all of them. I mean, the one odd casting job was the villain of the piece, but. Not to spoil it, that didn’t really make too much of a deal in the long run.

Thinking of it in the realm of family friendly, I did think the ghosts were a bit too scary looking–but then, I’m a known and admitted scaredy cat. If your kids are watching the original, they should be able to take this one, but I’d definitely take a look at the ghosts first to be sure.

So, that’s a definite go, watch, and enjoy from us! Give it a go, and who knows–you might like it more than the original!

Hahaha okay, I’ll stop trying to anger internet people now. But seriously. Go, watch, and enjoy!

Dracula 2000; or Captain Von Trapp, Vampire Slayer; or THIS IS TRANSYLVANIAAA!

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursdays, where we watch films that are crucifix, holy water, and garlic heavy! You join your reviewers, Andy and  Lilly, as they try to find sanctified ground to use for a hide out until dawn.

Today’s film offering: Dracula 2000

Lilly: Oh my gosh, guys, you have no idea how long I’ve been wanting someone else to have seen this film. Like anyone else. I’ve been holding in my childish glee over it for years. Sixteen, in fact. Well. More like fourteen, since I tried to watch it, rented it and all, and then got scared so didn’t try again for another two years. True story!

Andy: Also true: my IT teacher when I was in Year 8 had the poster for this movie on his wall, and that was my only exposure to this film until today.

Lilly: Anyway.

Dracula 2000 is the story of a robbery gone wrong when it is discovered what a mysterious Mr. Van Helsing (oh ho hoooo) has been keeping in his private vaults is a certain member of the undead. Dracula! Yes! And oh, by the way, Mr. Van Helsing isn’t the grandson of Abraham, he IS Abraham. And Johnny Lee Miller is around. Oh, and then there is this girl, Mary, who keeps seeing Dracula in her dreams (when he is played by Gerard Butler, what is the problem there?), oh, oh oh, and there is a gang of thieves, and–well. It’s great, people. Think of every plot you could have tied to Dracula, and Wes Craven clearly already thought of it and put it in this film.

Andy: Yep, we’re back in the comforting arms of Mr. Craven, who when I pointed out he was probably Lilly’s favourite horror director, she responded “Huh. So he is.”

Lilly: Okay, all my excitement aside, I actually really like this film. First of all, Dracula. I have my favourites (Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing and Keith Lee Castle in Young Dracula)–

Andy: What, no Christopher Lee? What is this?

Lilly: …but Gerard Butler brings up a close third with his predator romantic traitor take on the Count. There is some fantastic moments of showcasing his power, such as a cameraman watching the person he is filming get scratched along the neck to only realize Dracula is standing there once he pulls away from his camera–because vampires don’t show up on film! Get it! AhIloveit.

Secondly, throwbacks to the book. At the beginning, Mr.Van Helsing makes a joke about his grandfather not being worth a character created by some ‘Irishman’. But once it is evident everything is real, it kicks off! Van Helsing’s building is called Carfax, the main character has a roommate named Lucy, a Dr. Seward shows up, and the ways to kill vampires are narrowed down to the basics–silver or wooden stake to the heart, beheading. Boom. Vampire Basics 101.

The tone of the film definitely works with the topic matter–there are some over the top action sequences tied in with some over the top sex scenes and romancing between Dracula and Mary, and then there is the last third of the film, with scenes that just completely kick you in the face with plot, imagery, and twists.

Andy: And If I can talk about the twist for a second without spoiling it…

Lilly: SPOILER SPOILER WATCH FOR A SPOILER OR SKIP THIS BIT.

Andy: What…

Lilly: Oh. No spoiler? FALSE ALARM. NO SPOILER. DON’T SKIP THIS BIT.

Andy: Anyway. There are some films where you feel like you should have seen the twists coming. Of course, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same person! Of course, Bruce Willis is dead! Then there are others that come so far out of left field that there is no way you could have seen them coming.

Then there is this film.

It has a twist of such BATSHIT insanity that I laughed, yelled ‘WHAT!’, and felt impressed all at the same time. The movie, unfortunately, is not quite good enough to pull it off, but you’ve got to admire the sheer balls it took to make the decision to go in that direction. Seriously.

Lilly: Globe sized balls, really. And that twist is actually why I figured people wouldn’t like it, why I never really pushed it on others. And I’m not wrong, I don’t think. You got to be willing to really commit to that twist to be a fan of Dracula 2000, and that’s hard.

Andy: I would say it’s worth watching for the twist alone, but for the casual vampire fan there’s not as much new going on, other than a cool Dracula and a couple of cool scenes. The scene where his coffin first opens manages to be spectacularly creepy in a genuine way – something surprisingly rare for a Dracula movie. It’s certainly entertaining. And Christopher Plummer’s in it! Brilliant.

As for downsides, I can rattle them off pretty quickly – the soundtrack mostly sucks, filled with absolutely godawful nu-metal from twenty years back; there are definitely some actresses in here that suck (pun intended); it doesn’t do a very good job of exploring the few new aspects of vampire lore it does introduce aaand that’s about it. Although there are also possibly a few too many shots of people being thrown across rooms into things or through windows. It happens all the time for some reason.

Lilly: There are actors that suck, too, of course, but the women get to last longer because sex appeal. Which I can’t complain about since Gerard Butler is shirtless for a lot of the film for no reason, which I’m thankful for, so. Equal opportunity objectification? Yay? And yeah, the soundtrack doesn’t really help the film–at one point, you are hoping the music playing is just some shitty party mix they are walking by while wandering the streets of New Orleans.

Andy: But that twist though. What a ludicrous thing to run into. It’s like walking into someone’s bathroom and finding a jetski in the tub.

Lilly: Go, watch, en–wait, what?

Witchfinder General; or This Really is What East Anglia is Like

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Witchy Wednesdays, where the brews are bubbling and the spells are casting! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they argue about which one should be searched for the Devil’s mark first–joking, Andy’s a gentleman, it’s ladies first!

Today’s film offering: Witchfinder General (also known as The Conqueror Worm)

Lilly: What’s a series of witch films without one that mentions Matthew Hopkins? Self-proclaimed Witchfinder General, he went around England during the civil war, taking his show of ‘Witch or No Witch?’ on the road. A slimy individual, he was responsible for the deaths of 300 women in the span of two years, and that’s…terrifying.

Andy: Yeah, he’s one of the most deeply unpleasant individuals in English history, up there with contemporary puritan bastard Oliver Cromwell. And they’re both from my neck of the woods. Lovely!

Lilly: And then they up and cast Vincent Price as him in the film! As if he needed help being creepy!

Witchfinder General is the tale of a young soldier and his lady love who happen to get tangled up in the mess that is Hopkins’ reign of terror across England. It involves all the tried and true methods of finding witches (save the old ‘compare their weight to a duck’ trick), from pricking to see if moles are the Devil’s mark to the whole drown-and-you-are-innocent, float-and-you-get-back-here-and-hang-you-witch trial and terror.

Andy: As for the movie, we slot it into a sub-genre of ‘pastoral horror’, along with critical darling The Wicker Man, and Hallowfest favourite Blood on Satan’s Claw. Seriously, I think it might be our favourite joint movie. The former brings a wonderful, cultish weirdness and the latter brings forth the kind of feelings in us that are usually in bad love songs, what does this one bring to the table?

Well, for starters it is one of the most relentlessly unpleasant and nasty films we’ve reviewed. Somehow managing to get a commercial release in 1968, it features torture, mostly of women, truly despicable villains, and a sinking sense that even the most optimistic ending after a certain point is always going to be pretty bleak. Anyone who saw Vincent Price in his earlier AIP films is in for a hell of a shock.

Lilly: Not to mention those of us who were introduced to Vincent via The Muppet Show!

We actually managed to watch a Director’s Cut of this film, featuring scenes cut out at the time the film was released in cinemas. It had the incredibly troubling and scary introductory text of:

At the time of its original release the BBFC decided that certain scenes should be trimmed to comply with rules on the depiction of violence. In these more enlightened times we have been able to reinstigate these scenes to recreate the original director’s cut.

It goes on to warn us that the quality of the cut scenes would vary from the kept, and so whenever the film went bad, it went bad. But how insane is that second sentence? ‘In these more enlightened times’? What, in these times where we can take seeing a woman with her face beat in, or her back pricked deeply with a needle? What! How is that enlightened! I think the word you’re looking for, weird opening title card, is ‘desensitized’.

Andy: Yeah, this is definitely one that we’re not exactly going to decry, but aren’t going to recommend, either.

Lilly: I mean. Some films you get through, you know? You make it to the end and feel relief. So, saying ‘go, watch, enjoy!’ seems like it would be almost sarcastic. You aren’t going to enjoy this film, per se. It’s nasty.

Andy: Even Hostel wasn’t this needlessly vindictive.

Lilly: No, seriously, see our reviews of Hostel & Hostel 2–they were messy, but not cruel. Especially due to the fact that they weren’t set in actual historical events. This one, however…Well, let it speak for itself. Go, watch, and….well. Try and sleep at night after?

A Study in Terror & From Hell; Or Elementary, My Dear Ripper

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Twofer Tuesday, where you get two films for the price of one–shame that price is your SOUL (lightning, lightning, thunderclap, thunderclap, cackle)! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they venture into the foggy streets of 1800s Whitechapel, which are no place for a lady at night (so they should both be alright).

Today’s film offerings: A Study in Terror (1965) & From Hell (2001)

Lilly: Full disclosure: I’m all about Jack the Ripper stuff. I’ve been on the tour in London far too many times, I’ve read books, I’ve listened to all the theories (both plausible and outlandish), and we own TWO Jack the Ripper themed board games (three, if you count a pocket version of one).

Andy: He’s also a sort-of brutal irony in human form. No one knows who he was, but he’s easily one of the most famous serial killers ever. He’s very stylishly shown, but in reality he mutilated his last victim so horrendously she could only be identified from her ears. His victims elicit sympathy for their anonymity amid the squalor of London, but in death have achieved an immortality they would otherwise have lacked.

Lilly: Second full disclosure: I’m all about Sherlock Holmes stuff. I studied the stories in uni, I have done walking tours (both self guided and not) of locations mentioned in the tales, I have visited 221B Baker Street more than once, I have several video games starring the great detective, and we own FOUR Sherlock Holmes themed board games (though they overlap with the Jack ones in the case of two of those).

So, did I like A Study in Terror, a film where Sherlock Holmes attempts to solve the unsolved mystery of who Jack the Ripper is? Can I just point you towards those first two paragraphs, please and thank you, I’ll wait here.

Super biased as I am, however, I’ll do my best to review the film without dying of excitement. Let’s do this!

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A Study in Terror is everything we love about 1960s British horror–outlandish, garish, creative death scenes, and cockneys. Okay, maybe not all horror from that era had cockneys, but one set in 1880s Whitechapel sure does. With an opening scene where a prostitute gets stabbed through the neck with a large knife (there are no spoilers with these films re: the deaths, just wiki Jack the Ripper–though don’t depend on the deaths being in order at all, because nope), you can’t say this film doesn’t kick off quick. It’s actually pretty well paced, the murders happening at perfect intervals between Holmes and Watson (and Mycroft makes three!) trying to solve the case.

Let’s talk Holmes and Watson for a minute. It was said at the time of the film’s release that they were clearly heavily influenced by Rathbone and Bruce’s depiction of the pair, and since Bruce is (in)famous for creating the bumbling fanboy to Holmes version of Watson, I got to agree on this one. While John Neville’s Holmes is a picture perfect replica of the Paget illustrations of Holmes, and had some quirks that really delighted the Holmes fan in me (not to mention dropping famous lines like it was hot throughout the film like a Holmes’ Greatest Hits album), Donald Huston’s Watson had to practically comb his moustache every two minutes to make up for the mess it was after metaphorically blowing Holmes for every single deduction he made. I have a real pet peeve with having Watson act that way, so naturally, while amused by just how ridiculously up Holmes Watson was in this story, I was also annoyed because damn it, Watson is a sounding board with intelligence, not some sort of Yes Man.

Then there is the fast and loose way history is used in this piece. There are some good Holmes + History mashups out there (like The Seven Per Cent Solution which has Holmes and Freud teaming up, for one of MANY examples), but this…is not one of them. It is barely a good enough Holmes story, but coupled with the murders being in the wrong order, in the wrong places, and at the wrong time, well. It’s a bit like making a film about the Titanic set in Alaska in the 1980s.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d watch Titanic 2: You Betcha That’s a Big Boat, but it wouldn’t be anything close to the actual story. And don’t get me wrong, historical fiction doesn’t need to have all the facts–fiction can come into play–but if you take the dates and locations and mix them all about, it’s no longer historical, even, it’s just using the same name and place. To go back to the Titanic comparison, it would be like a film called Titanic being about a schooner that hit a rock and everyone lived. Basic idea of boat disaster, but waaay off the mark.

That said, Sherlock Holmes didn’t exist, so we are already setting the bar pretty low for reality.

It’s a fun film. It’s cheesy, it’s got little Holmes fan shout outs and little Jack the Ripper mythology fan shout outs, and it features very young Judi Dench, so how can you say no! Go, watch, enjoy!

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Andy: From Hell is a different beast entirely. Here, the chronology is more or less intact, Whitechapel is suitably depraved and disgusting (and most importantly, dark), and it seems to have a much firmer grasp of time and place.

What’s different is that the motive for the murders is a grand conspiracy involving everyone from the Queen down, and that the poor women of the East End, the ‘unfortunates’, were killed because of hidden knowledge about a royal affair.

Based on Alan Moore’s comic book of the same name, the story mostly concerns the trials of Frederick Abberline, one of the lead detectives on the case, and Mary Kelly, one of the women implicated in the plot. Unfortunately, if you know anything about the ripper killings, you can take an educated guess that things aren’t going to go well.

It’s an odd film, filled with all of the weirdness of late Victorian London – lobotomies, poor houses, opium dens, and bizarrely, grapes.

It’s certainly not a very fun or hopeful movie – there’s none of the morbid humour you get in, say, Sleepy Hollow, which has a similar vintage and Johnny Depp. Also, I am not sure about the decision to make Abberline a drug-addled psychic, considering the real guy was commended a bunch of times and lived until 1929.

Still, it’s one that might be worth watching. It’s conspiracy is pure hogwash, obviously, but it does a good job of leading us around between suspects. On the other hand, a half decent documentary might be your best bet on the ripper killings.

The Day of the Triffids (2009); or The Only Apocalypse You Can Fight With a Can of Weedol

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Monster Hunt Monday, where monsters menace heroes and heroines! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get ready for some aggressive weeding.

Today’s film (or rather, mini series) offering: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

Andy: The Day of the Triffids was originally a book by awesome British author John Wyndham, who also wrote The Midwich Cuckoos which became another Hallowfest favourite, Village of the Damned.

Lilly: But you didn’t come here for a literature lesson, dammit, you came here for monster plants!

Andy: Damn right! The plot concerns a universe much like ours, with the notable exception that global warming has been solved by a genetically-modified plant called a triffid, that produces an oil that has essentially solved all energy problems. Unfortunately the modifications have also made them highly mobile, carnivorous and very poisonous. And I don’t mean carnivorous like a venus fly trap. These things will eat you.

Which is fine, because they are confined to very strictly controlled farms and handled by professionals, and anyway, we’re highly evolved and awesome humans. There would have to be some kind of freak meteor storm rendering the population blind combined with a really, really stupid Greenpeace activist or something to make them truly dangerous.

Shame that happens, then.

Lilly: So, everyone is blind, life is awful, right? The most awful it could be, right? WRONG. I have one word for you: environmentalist assholes. Wait. Two words. Two words, because these assholes only go and pity the poisonous, carnivorous plants (due mainly to the misunderstanding that they deserve to live FREE or something) and release them into the world of blind human beings, aka tasty, tasty plant treats.

Andy: And it’s up to the sighted triffid expert (ironically temporarily blinded by a triffid so he missed the meteor shower) to try and save the tattered remnants of civilization from becoming the food chain equivalent of a bag of compost.

Lilly: Not to mention his plucky side kick, Jo, the radio/local news host who is apparently famous–can I just say that is such a British thing, I feel? North American readers, name me three radio hosts. Local ones. Do it. Go on. I’ll wait.

I died waiting for you to do that because it doesn’t happen.

So this two part mini series tackles what happens directly after a world-altering accident that allows for an invasion of plants. You thought the worst thing that could happen was zombies? Imagine if you went blind, THEN zombies happened. Oh, and the zombies are plants. And the plants can sting you from ten meters away. AND THEY ARE PLANTS. How creepy is that? Every rustling of a bush could be a warning you were about to be eaten, every hedge row is the perfect hiding spot for evil, and ps, the plants are coming for you in the cities, so don’t even think they need pastoral settings to thrive.

Andy: Can I just say that if there was a Miss Universe, and instead of women, it was the creepiest fucking things imaginable, I can see these at least getting Miss Congeniality. They’d certainly do well in the talent contest.

Lilly: Then. Then you remember not only do you have to deal with murderous pot plants without pots, you have to survive your fellow human beings. And one of those fellow human beings is Eddie Izzard, and he’s not messing around–he wants to run this joint.

The tension in this mini series is ramped up with every difficulty the survivors of the blinding meet, including meeting other seeing folks who have a difference in opinion to what those who can see should be doing. Add in that no one seems to want to believe Dougray Scott’s doctor character that triffids are dangerous, and you end up angrily shouting at the screen that people are idiots and you could apocalypse better. Or was that just me?

Andy: Or you are hoping the triffids would show up and wipe the combined smug off of an awful lot of people’s faces. I mean, it makes sense, because there are some definite allusions to the idea that news of quite how dangerous triffids are to be around has been suppressed and the waters thoroughly muddied, but then in the modern world, what really is the chance of there not being at the very least rumours of how mind-bendingly lethal Treebeard’s angry cousins can be?

Lilly: Where’s your wikileaks NOW?

Andy: Hilary kept her e-mails about triffids on a remote server! More at 11.

Lilly: I heard she WAS a triffid. Crooked Shrub Hilary.

Andy: You can probably tell from our style today that we really got into this one.

Lilly: For a self-proclaimed hater of ‘movie science’, I really did get into this one! I allowed the talk of plant oils and global warming and sporing to wash over me as the story unfolded, the technicalities of it all seeming possible. And that’s all I ask for in a film with sciencey bits. To sound plausible. I mean, I’m not a botanist, so maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s all bullshit, but whatever. By the end, unlike some films with plants attacking humans (not naming names, but it HAPPENS in a specific film, where it is hard to really explain what is HAPPENING), I was like ‘Well no wonder the triffids could take over! Humans are so silly.’

Andy: It also does very well in its depiction of apocalypse. There’s nothing more shocking than the sudden realisation halfway through that the streets which were teeming with the blind are now deserted – the world ends while we aren’t watching. You don’t need million-dollar shots of the Hollywood sign being ripped up (again). All you need is an abandoned truck, and the possibility of the new apex predator on the other side.

Lilly: The acting, meanwhile, was fantastic. Dougray Scott pulls us along with not only his knowledge of triffids but his personal connection to the plant monsters, and Joely Richardson does a fair turn as the Voice of Britain. I think a lot of props should go to her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, as well, for her turn as Durrant, a Mother Superior who took the ‘Superior’ part very seriously. Then there is the magnificent Eddie Izzard. I cannot really explain how perfect he was for the role of Torrence.

Andy: Props also to some child actors who aren’t completely irritating as well. We absolutely recommend this one, and it’s definitely worth its three-hour length. It never feels slow or rushed, despite the fact it covers so much ground.

Lilly: High quality, well paced, plant based terror for you! Go, watch, and enjoy!

An American Werewolf in Paris; or Reports of My Lycanthropy Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Sequel Sunday, where we take a second look at second (and third) films! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pack their bags and brush up on their handy foreign phrases (‘êtes-vous un loup-garou?’ for instance).

Today’s film offering: An American Werewolf in Paris

Andy: Good Lord, there was a lot of crappy movies in the late nineties. We’re probably the only generation that can add the phrase “Thank God” to the end of “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

An American Werewolf in London was a fantastic example of something lots of movies try and very few are completely successful at – it was a loving pastiche of its genre, as well as being a very effective member of it. Paris is … less successful. It’s a lot less witty, has fewer likeable characters and a more incoherent plot. It also has literally no connection to the previous film other than the title.

Still, we musn’t be mean to the little darling, I mean, London is one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made, and we didn’t give Alien 3 as much schtick for not being Alien.

Lilly: Actually I liked Alien 3 more than Alien…

Andy: I, uh, well. We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess.

So, An American Werewolf in Paris concerns three teenage lads on a trip to Paris who discover a secret party for wolfmeat young go getters like them and are respectively devoured, captured by an evil – coven? pack?

Lilly: Pack. They’re like dogs or, hey, wolves, so pack. Or gaggle, because hilarious. Gaggle of werewolves!

Andy: …Pack of werewolves who seem to think that eugenics is a fun and useful idea in modern society and bitten but rescued by the beautiful but mysterious Serafine, herself a werewolf but not associated with the werewolves who are also Nazis.

Lilly: Yeah, #notallwerewolves.

Paris is not a film about the torturous adjusting to the monster inside so much as a ‘Yes, they are also Nazi-like, keep up!’ action thriller type film. There is little subtlety, and what actual exploration there is of the lycanthropy of this film is thrown into maybe five minutes of movie science-ing (which, for those of you just tuning in, I hate). The film seems more concerned with really making the point that not all werewolves are dangerous if they take precautions and take their medication–man, so many metaphors there. So many. Can we have a reboot of werewolf films as a thing? We can all apologize for 2010’s The Wolfman and just embrace all the things being a werewolf can symbolize. Come on!

The two main problems with Paris were that, as Andy mentioned, I didn’t really like anyone involved and the film didn’t really grab me. I mean, for starters, screw you, Andy (from the film, main character was called Andy, to be clear), maybe she doesn’t want your help, that poor sad French woman, but that is her business. What she chooses to do with her body is her business! Even in a film where the once a month her body turns on her schtick is in play! Second of all, the guys were going around, illegally jumping off buildings for fun, and that just rubs me the wrong way. Then there was the throw backs to London like the dead bothering the living after being killed by a werewolf that only served to remind me of a better film. Then there was the fact that it felt like a made for tv movie with the low quality it had, but a tv movie made for a channel that showed breasts.

Andy: Yeah, it’s just not very good.

Lilly: There you have it, ladies and gents. Our first non-go, watch enjoy of the year! Don’t bother. Just. Watch another werewolf film. Go watch Ginger Snaps or Teen Wolf. Or, actually, watch An American Werewolf in London because that is an enjoyable, interesting film to enjoy!