The Mortuary Collection (2019)

In Raven’s End, Mortician Montgomery Dark manages an isolated and creepy mortuary all alone. After a recent funeral, that of a young boy, Montgomery gets an unexpected visitor. A young woman named Sam has noticed his “Help Wanted” sign outside of the mortuary, and practically demands an interview right away. He decides to give her a tour of the old, creepy place, and Sam shows an interest in the small coffin that belongs to the boy which Montgomery has just performed the funeral for. He starts telling Sam stories about some of the residents of the town, and the weird and unexpected ways they died.

 

Mortuary Collection is like a “Goosebumps” styled movie, just for a more adult audience. While we have horror movies aimed at a younger audience like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this one increases the blood ‘n gore with a few notches. At first glance, it feels a bit more on the “spooky” side rather than something that will provide any actual scares…which for the most part is pretty accurate. It does deliver some rather nasty scenes and imaginative twists and turns throughout its tales, however, which makes it a darn nice Halloween movie with gorgeous visuals, some decent bloody/gory scenes and a lot of fun!

 

The movie contains four stories: one set in the 1950’s, where a woman is using the restroom while going through the wallets she’s been pickpocketing during the ongoing party outside. But while inside the restroom, the medicine cabinet starts acting weird. The second story, Unprotected, is set in the 1960s and it’s considerably longer than the first story, and brings us a pretty twisted take on the horrors of not using a condom. This one was pretty fun and inventive, although it felt a little bit dragged out during its first moments. The third story, Till Death, is about a man who takes care of his catatonic wife, and when the doctor gives him a well-meant advice to let her “accidentally” overdose on painkillers, he must make a very difficult choice. This is by far my favorite episode, which is both sad and actually a bit horrifying in its thematics. Then there is the fourth story, The Babysitter Murders, which is actually Sam’s story (fun facts: the director actually made a horror short by this name in 2015. Also, although not related to this movie: The Babysitter Murders was actually the original title of the horror movie Halloween, until Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and thus naming it Halloween instead, to which Carpenter agreed).

 

The stories themselves are overall pretty entertaining and spookily fanciful, but the haunting visuals are what really puts the cherry on top. The Victorian-era styled mortuary (where its exterior is actually the Flavel House Museum in Astoria, Oregon) with its Victorian-styled interior and decorations, and Mr. Montgomery Dark himself which looks like a typical horror show host, just gives everything the perfect Halloween vibe. It’s a little bit cheesy here and there, but it fits with the subject matters portrayed in the stories and the tone set throughout.

 

Mortuary Collection is a pretty good Halloween movie: whimsical, bloody, and with enough gorgeous visuals to feed your eyes with tasty treats.

 

The Mortuary Collection

 

Director: Ryan Spindell
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors: Tristan Byon, Eden Campbell, Hannah R. Loyd, Clancy Brown, Caitlin Custer, Christine Kilmer, Mike C. Nelson, Jacob Elordi, Brennan Murray, Michael Bow, Ema Horvath, Ethan Clossin, Anthony Farrington Jr., Darryl Love, Clavacia Love, James Bachman, Jennifer Irwin, Sarah Hay, Barak Hardley, Darrell Salk, Phyllis Applegate, David Fierro, Fernanda Romero
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt7781432/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

The third installment of The Conjuring franchise sets the focus on the young man Arne Cheyenne Johnson – a case that is most noteworthy for being the first murder case in US history where the defendant tried to plea not guilty due to being under control of demonic forces. And as soon as the Warrens meets with Arne’s lawyer who believes he has no chance to get a plea deal, Ed delivers his rather thought-provoking phrase “The court accepts the existence of God every time a witness swears to tell the truth. I think it’s about time they accept the existence of the Devil.” This is a real quote from Ed, and possibly the most rational thing he ever said.

 

Arne received a reduced sentence of five years, and both he and his wife have later appeared in an episode of the TV series A Haunting on Discovery Channel, called Where Demons Dwell. The episode only deals with the possession of David, and not a single word about what happened to Arne later, oddly enough, which is the most interesting aspect of this whole messy case. In 1983, two years after the trial, a movie made for TV titled The Demon Murder Case starring Kevin Bacon in one of the roles was aired. The film seems to be completely forgotten and seen by very few. So we just  have to jump thirty years later and take a look at the latest film loosely based on the case, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.

 

We are at the home of the Glatzel family where the Warren couple, Ed and Lorraine, are in the middle of a chaotic exorcism seance of the young boy David. His sister Debbie and her boyfriend Arne Johnson are among the helpless witnesses, while all hell breaks loose which never seem to end. Arne finally gets enough, and pulls off a Damien Karras to urge the demon to rather take him – which makes Ed’s panic button go off just before he faints from a heart attack and gets rushed to the hospital in a coma. While everything seems to be back to normal, Arne and Debbie decide to take the relationship one step further by getting engaged and move to the country. Arne has clearly not been completely himself after he invited the demon into his meatsuit, and things take a really brutal U-turn when he one day gets piss drunk, starts to hallucinate and ends up stabbing his landlord, Bruno, to death 22 times. As soon as Ed wakes up from the coma, a battle is set to convince the justice system that Arne killed under the influence of demon possession, and they’ll try to save him from the death penalty. What happened in real life will always be up for debate, but it gets more tempting to assume that it was more the alcohol that made him do it than anything else, and only used his invitation of the demon as a desperate excuse. But this alone is of course not enough material to fill a supernatural horror film, so just like the two previous films, it diverges completely from facts to fabricated fairytales with its own imaginative mythologies, which includes satanism and an ongoing curse to find the source of.

 

James Wan, who directed the two first films, is only responsible for the story and worked as producer, while the newcomer Michael Chaves has taken over the torch as director with only The Curse of La Llorona and some short films under his belt. David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick got the challenging task to write the script, which was enough for me to not lower the expectation to zero, after watching Orphan, another great horror flick he also wrote. And the story is really good here, and more complex than the previous two, which mixes supernatural horror with elements of True Crime which opens everything up to a more adventurous field trip rather than just being stuck in a haunted house scenario, which honestly only James Wan is able to really master. The film is rich in locations such as scary basements, gothic underground tunnels, and a morgue where the Warren couple gets attacked by a giant monstrous man who could be something straight out of a Resident Evil game. There’s also a nod to The Exorcist as seen in the trailer, which was nicely done, and the scene with the waterbed made me think of a certain Elm Street film. Even though the film is not as edge-of-your-seat scary, it has a ton of atmosphere with some really great visuals, creative set-designs and a steady pacing that keeps the entertaining value on track, and overall a compelling story and mystery to get invested in. So yeah, Michael Chaves has proven himself to be a competent director to trust in, I would say. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are as usual great and convincing in their  roles with as good chemistry as in the first two, and the acting in general is strong and solid all over the board. It was also fun to see John Noble in one of the roles, whom I haven’t seen since the Fringe days.

 

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

 

Director: Michael Chaves
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble, Eugenie Bondurant, Shannon Kook, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Keith Arthur Bolden, Steve Coulter, Vince Pisani, Ingrid Bisu, Andrea Andrade, Ashley LeConte Campbell, Sterling Jerins, Paul Wilson
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt7069210/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color Out of Space (2019)

Nathan Gardener and his family moves to his late father’s farm somewhere in rural New England, in the hopes of living a quiet life and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Just when they start to settle in, a meteorite crashes into their yard which emits an otherworldly color (a color out of space). One of the children (Jack) is traumatized by the event, and seems to be affected in strange ways. He becomes obsessed with the well in the garden and claims he’s got a “friend” there. Strange flowers and plants starts growing, animals suffer grotesque mutations, and the Gardener family’s life transforms into a colorful nightmare.

 

Color Out of Space is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft. The director, Richard Stanley, last directed a film way back in 1992 (Dust Devil), so there was a 27 year pause until his comeback. Things didn’t start out all that trouble-free, however, as the movie lacked funding when Stanley revealed the project in 2013. In 2015 it was announced that the production company SpectreVision would produce the film…but it was still delayed until 2018, around the time when Nicholas Cage was confirmed to play the leading role, and then the filming started in Portugal in 2019. Sometimes, things simply just take time. Stanley first stated that this is the first movie in a planned trilogy of Lovecraft adaptions (the next one supposed to be based on The Dunwich Horror). However, in March 2021 the trilogy was canceled after Stanley was accused of domestic abuse by his former partner Scarlett Amaris, and SpectreVision cut all relation with him.

 

Many of Lovecraft’s stories have been made into film adaptions, some more successfully than others. And most of them have a varied love/hate reception…and this movie is no exception to that rule. And it isn’t even the first time Color Out Of Space was adapted to the screen…there are actually as much as four earlier adaptions, including a 2010 German black & white adaption that’s called Die Farbe aka Color Out of Space.

 

As this story was originally published in September 1927, and Stanley’s movie adaption goes for a more modern take on things, there are some changes here and there. For those that have read the original Lovecraft story, you’ll know that the color is described as one that humanity has never actually seen…but that is, of course, not really possible to portray in a movie unless it was made in black and white (like the German 2010 adaption). However, the purple-pink-ish color used here actually looks pretty good and makes for a highly visual and mesmerizing treat. It’s a Lovecraftian snack-bag filled with goodies that can be enjoyed by many: visually wonderful, a dosage of some pretty good body horror moments, all mixed in with the classic cosmic terror and the fear of the unknown. That being said, I can understand why it’s not tickling everyone’s pickle as some people might be put off due to the changes, and others might find the humor in it a bit weird. Like with nearly every Lovecraft story that’s been adapted to the screen, there’s both love and hate for it.

 

Overall, I think Color out of Space is an entrancing surreal cosmic horror movie. Stanley is also a Lovecraft fan, so the film is filled with a nice handful of easter eggs that people who have read Lovecraft’s other stories will recognize (like the daughter, whose name is Lavinia). And of course, it’s always a pleasure to watch Nicholas Cage go bonkers in a horror movie.

 

Color Out of Space

 

Director: Richard Stanley
Country & year: USA, Malaysia, Postugal, 2019
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Josh C. Waller, Q’orianka Kilcher, Melissa Nearman, Amanda Booth, Keith Harle
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt5073642/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

You know the legends… Now learn the truth.

 

Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) is alive, but far past his glory days, to put it mildly. He has become a bedridden old geezer, who rots away in a small nursery home somewhere in Texas, filled with bitterness, grief, lost identity, and can’t say one sentence without spewing sarcasm. To make it worse he has a cancerous growth on his willie. And how much worse can it get from here? No one thinks he’s the real Elvis. Because, hear this: Once upon  a time Elvis had to retire from showbiz and pass the mic to the Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff (Bruce Campbell again) when his hip went bye-bye. When Sebastian Haff died of an overdose, Elvis never got the chance to reclaim his identity. So here we are. Life is unfair.

 

The one and only who believes he’s The Elvis is none other than a senile, weird old man who claims to be John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis). And he’s.. well, uhm… black. Ok. And guess what; an ancient Egyptian Soul-sucking Mummy starts to terrorize the oldies at night who ends up dead at a high rate at the nursing home.  JFK is strongly convinced that a mummy called Bubba Ho-Tep is behind all of this. Of course it is. And since Elvis hasn’t got much better to do than shuffle around with a walking chair, he teams up with JFK and puts on his iconic stage-outfit one last time to kick some mummy ass.

 

Bubba Ho-Tep is written, produced and directed by Don Coscarelli, based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale which mixes drama, thriller, horror comedy, fantasy and an overdose absurdism. The premise itself is so bizarre, and far-stretched to oblivion that it’s hard to actually see any directors at all able to translate this to a coherent feature that walks a fine line between the absurdness and seriousness in a sober way. But Don Coscarelli certainly did it, and also wrote the script and produced Bubba Ho-Tep as a passion project which quickly became a modern cult-classic. The result, with a budget of one million dollars, is pretty solid, to say the least, with Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis as the most unlikely duo ever put on film, in its bizarre plot that doesn’t look like anything else. But for those who expects blood n’ gore, you will be disappointed as Bubba Ho-Tep relies far more on atmosphere (an eerie one I would say) surreal character study, and dialogue-driven scenes with some really rough language your mom probably wouldn’t appreciate.

 

A horror comedy where Bruce Campbell portrays an old Elvis is enough of itself to get anyone’s attention. But we shouldn’t underestimate Ossie Davis (1917-2015), who was an unknown name for my part. A serious actor who’s inducted to the American Theatre Hall of Fame is one of the last actors you’d expect to see in a film like this. Even his manager at the time meant he was too good for a film like this, and recommended him to skip the role, but the power of a good script convinced him otherwise. We could easily get an over-the-top goofy JFK, but Ossie plays him in a very serious and calm down-to-earth demeanor, how hard, unlikely and utterly bizarre that sounds like. The chemistry between Bruce and Ozzie really shines and they seemed to have a blast on set. Bruce Campbell does one of his greatest performance ever. He completely disappears into the role of Elvis and clearly shows that he’s a lot more than a certain Ash with a chainsaw. I also have to mention the soundtrack by Brian Tyler which is just plain and simply beautiful.

 

Bubba Ho-Tep

 

Director: Don Coscarelli
Country & year: USA, 2002
Actors: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy, Edith Jefferson, Larry Pennell, Reggie Bannister, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger, Harrison Young, Linda Flammer, Cean Okada
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0281686/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hidden (1987)

It’s apparently a regular sunny day in Los Angeles, where the random middle-aged guy Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey) brutally robs a bank and storms off in a black Ferrari. He drives in full speed like a madman through the famous Echo Park, hits an old geezer in a wheelchair while he headbangs to some hair metal on the radio, and goes pretty much into full GTA-mode. His crazy adventure is quickly going towards an end when the police blocks the road, blows his car to flames, and… the guy walks out of the burning car and gets bullet-stormed by the police. He miraculously survives and…Nothing to see here, folks, move along. He gets brought to the hospital while the police scratch their heads and struggle to come to a conclusion as to why this man, with no criminal record, suddenly snapped…and how the hell he’s still alive. On top of that, he had during the last two weeks killed twelve people, stolen six sport cars, robbed eight banks and six supermarkets, four jewelry stores and one candy store. He even murdered two kids with a butcher knife. Good Lord…

 

DeVries wakes up in the hospital, gets out off the bed and approaches the unconscious patient next to him where he spews out a slimy parasite-like creature into his mouth so he can transfer to another body and continue the killing spree journey of looting and mayhem. The police officer Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) teams up with the FBI agent Lloyd Gallager (Kyle MacLachlan) to get to the bottom of this what-the-holy-fuck case that quickly gets weirder and weirder.

 

The Hidden is really what you could call a hidden gem, and it’s pure fun from start to finish. Director Jack Sholder is probably most known for Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and the hilarious Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, and even though The Hidden is more action driven with elements of dark comedy, drama, and a dose of 80s political incorrectness, he does a great job stitching it together to a fast-paced and highly entertaining B-movie. With a budget of five million dollars, which is basically nothing in today’s standard, there’s many well-crafted scenes with some wild car chases, gunfights, explosions, and of course a parasite-possessed stripper going berserk while fucking a guy to death in his car. While I wish we could see more of the alien itself, our partners Lloyd and Tom makes up for it with some great and somewhat bizarre buddy-cop dynamics, which manages to drive the quite simple plot fast and steady (or furious, if you will.) It’s also worth to mention that Kyle MacLachlan brought a lot of the character in The Hidden over to his most known role in Twin Peaks as Agent Cooper three years later, and the similarities are quite striking.

 

And yeah, a direct-to-video sequel was made in ’93, and it looks like… well, see for yourself.

 

The Hidden

 

Director: Jack Sholder
Country & year: USA, 1987
Actors: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, William Boyett, Richard Brooks, Larry Cedar, Katherine Cannon, John McCann, Chris Mulkey, Lin Shaye, James Luisi, Frank Renzulli
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0093185/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl on the Third Floor (2019)

Donald Koch (aka Don) and his pregnant wife Liz has decided to buy a fixer-upper in the suburbs. Believing this will be a perfect place to raise a family, Don takes his dog Cooper with him and starts renovating their new home while Liz stays back in Chicago. As the renovation work brings a few unpleasant surprises, it becomes evident that there’s something not quite right with the house…and when a sexy young woman called Sarah appears on the property, acting all seductive and insistent, Don gets more than a handful of problems to handle.

 

Let me start by saying this: The Girl on the Third Floor is a movie that is most definitely not for everyone. While starting off with what could be interpreted as a typical haunted house story, it adds a few elements of its own that is apparently a bit…off-putting for some people. Already from the start, we see goo on the floor and around the house (which obviously is bodily fluids). It’s dripping out of electrical sockets and down from walls, while we listen to strange moaning sounds. And we get to know what all of this represents: as Don works on the renovations and gets into a conversation with a neighbor, he finds out that the house was once a brothel. While I have seen many twists on houses that partly becomes alive in some ways during a haunting, I have never seen one where a house is having an orgasm. So, uhm…that’s a new one. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s actually a fetish for that kind of thing).

 

The story starts with a familiar construction: a couple trying to get a new life, by moving to a new location and buy themselves a fixer-upper. In this case, Don’s infidelity is what’s caused a severe strain on the relationship, and this is supposed to be their second chance. Don is quickly tempted back to his old ways when Sarah appears, and needless to say…he is giving in pretty easily to his temptations. Seductive and tempting as she may be, this makes it a bit hard to sympathize much with Don.

 

Some of the things that happens throughout Don’s attempts at renovating the house is of the typical “haunted house” bits and bobs, but there are some pretty clever ideas here and there. Especially the ghost who is the girl on the third floor, who appears with a mangled face and some kind of bondage-harness wrapped around her body. While she isn’t the only ghost there, her background story is what mostly fuels the darkness behind the house: the brothel was used by people who had dark urges, and little to no respect towards the women who worked there, often abusing them and even causing their deaths. This part feels a little unexplored, however, and what actually happened to the girl on the third floor and the other girls is mostly hinted at…although I guess this can leave more to the imagination. We know that the girl on the third floor was abused and killed, and her ghostly appearance very clearly shows us the after-effects of what she went through. Overall, The Girl on the Third Floor never manages to be scary, but it does have a fair bit of atmosphere, and pleasant visuals.

 

Fun fact: the movie was filmed in a real house, that underwent renovations during the time (but it was held off until the filming was completed). And this house was already rumored to be haunted.

 

Girl on the Third Floor

 

Director: Travis Stevens
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors: C.M. Punk, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks, Elissa Dowling, Karen Woditsch, Travis Delgado, Marshall Bean, Anish Jethmalani, Bishop Stevens, Tonya Kay, Eileah Pyrzynski
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt9026184/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert (2015)

Before Annabelle, there was … Robert!

 

And yes, we’re talking about a real doll that is (allegedly) cursed. We’re going way back to 1906 where a young boy named Robert Eugene Otto was given a cursed doll by an Bahamian servant as a birthday gift. The rumors say that she was treated badly by the Otto family, and hoped that the doll would give them misfortunes. And the story is pretty much a nothing-burger from there on. Robert got married in 1930 in France, and moved back to his childhood home in the United States with his wife where they spent the rest of their lives. Robert died in 1974 and his wife two years later. Two decades later, the doll was donated to a museum in Florida where it’s been ever since. And the legend says that he’s still cursed and causes things like car accidents, broken bones, job loss, divorce and of course mass shootings (just kidding).

 

In this film, very loosely inspired by Robert the doll, we meet the privileged rich couple Paul and Jenny, and their 12-year-old son Gene. They live in a nice house, with nothing much to complain about. While Paul works in the justice system, Jenny is a depressed, nagging, demanding, sour, pathetic bitch of a woman with a really irritating voice, and is a completely unlikeable person from the start. Nothing is good enough for her, and she sacks the housekeeper Agatha for being a little forgetful. In order to get revenge, she picks up a doll hidden in the attic that the previous homeowners left behind, and gives it as a farewell gift to their son. Robert the doll looks of course completely different in reality, and here he looks more or less like Annabelle with short hair. And as mentioned, Robert is cursed and kills people who don’t respect him, such as pushing people down the stairs and attacking with a baseball bat. We could only hope that the doll wipes out Jenny first, but we’re not so lucky.

 

Gene quickly becomes friends with Robert, who starts talking to him. His mother wakes up to strange noises at night, finds things broken on the floor, and of course suspects Gene. We see some POV shots of Robert as he lurks around the house, writes “Die” on the mirrors with lipstick, and sabotages one of Jenny’s paintings. Sounds like some decent ideas for some suspenseful scenes, but it looks more like a cheap student film made for YouTube. It tries to be a serious horror film just like a mouse trying to be an elephant.

 

There is zero chemistry between the actors, with personalities like a grey rock, and it is impossible to buy Paul and Jenny as a married couple and feel any underlying danger and tension. It’s complete flat-line where one hopes that Robert kills the whole family after the first ten minutes, just to pull the plug and be done with it. The kid who plays their son Gene is possibly the worst child actor I’ve ever seen. Most of the film is painfully slow with lazy and uninspired directing, wooden acting, and the  few murder scenes are just ridiculous and goofy which gives no other impact than some great laughs. The ending is especially hilarious. So even though Robert is mainly a bore-fest, it’s a perfect film to tear to shreds and a good showcase on how not to make a movie in general.

 

And  there’s actually four sequels, believe it or not: The Curse of Robert , The Toymaker , The Legend of Robert the Doll and Robert Reborn.

 

Robert

 

Director: Andrew Jones
Country & year: UK, 2015
Actors: Suzie Frances Garton, Lee Bane, Flynn Allen, Judith Haley, Cyd Casados, Samuel Hutchison, Megan Lockhurst, Annie Davies, Ryan Michaels
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4141368/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rent-A-Pal (2020)

David is a 40 year old single man who has dedicated his life to take care of his mother, who is suffering from dementia. Since we’re in the 90’s, there’s no internet dating services or other easy ways of getting to know someone, so in a desperate attempt to find someone he can share his life with, he signs up on Video Rendezvous, a video dating service (yes, this was a real thing back then). After failed attempts and little response, he one day comes over a VHS tape with the curious title Rent-A-Pal. Deciding to try it out, he brings it back home with him and meets his new friend Andy, who is sitting in a chair and pretending to have a real conversation with whoever is playing the VHS. Finding it awkward at first and struggling to make proper replies to Andy’s lines, he soon becomes accustomed to the conversations, and to David it feels like an actual friendship. Except, it’s just a simple VHS tape…or is it?

 

Rent-A-Pal is a well crafted psychological thriller, which gets pretty dark and depressing at times. Set in the 90’s, it does a very good job on recreating the era and makes it feel genuine. The portrayal of David and his dementia-suffering mother is both realistic and sad, without being dramatically overdone. It’s like seeing small glimpses of what an everyday life can be when taking care of someone with a condition like that. It is also interesting how the movie initially portrays David as a pretty nice guy, not the clichéd “loser” type or some new Norman Bates. He is genuinely caring and kind, and in one of his video dating performances he actually gives a really good and sympathetic speech about himself and his life, and how he takes care of his mother. However, the video dating service’s cameraman asks him to cut it down and have a re-take, so the end result ends up making him look like a total write-off instead. You can’t help but feeling sorry for the guy…

 

When the Rent-A-Pal tape starts playing, you don’t really know what to expect, but it feels somewhat creepy and uncanny. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with it, it’s just a normal-looking guy sitting in a chair, pretending to be the viewer’s “friend”, asking questions and delivering simple statements and jokes. And David becomes more and more obsessed with watching the video. Andy, despite being pre-recorded, gives him exactly what he needs: someone who seems to care, someone he can talk to, someone who listens. So, it’s not real…but for David it starts feeling real, and he starts rewinding the tape to certain parts that fits with what he wants to tell Andy, and what he wants him to say. Well…we can all see a few red flags here already, right?

 

Despite David’s increased obsession with the VHS tape, there are a few instances where something feels a bit off…and Andy’s lines become a bit strange. Andy’s effect on David becomes more and more apparent, and it’s not a good one…so when David finally has a chance of going on a date with a girl who even appears to be perfect for him, Andy’s influence actually makes it harder for him to get what he initially wanted: a girlfriend. Whatever black hole of loneliness that originally filled David’s heart, it has now been filled with Andy’s toxic influence. And it makes it even harder for David to live the life he wished for. While this being a 90’s centered movie, I guess you could easily draw some parallels to all kinds of negative internet influences. People who find themselves in a bad place (whether it be because of loneliness, depression, feeling of exclusion, or other things), might find a connection with someone or something online which gives them a feeling of belonging, but eventually just ends up destroying their every chance of living the life they hoped for as they sink further and further into a harmful rabbithole. And maybe that was the intention of Andy (and all “Andy’s) all along…

 

Driven by strong performances, Rent-A-Pal is a strange and dark journey, where you always keep wondering what’s going to happen next and where it’s all going to lead.

 

Rent-A-Pal

 

Directors: Jon Stevenson
Country & year: USA, 2020
Actors: Wil Wheaton, Brian Landis Folkins, Amy Rutledge, Kathleen Brady, Adrian Egolf, Josh Staab, Luke Sorge, Olivia Hendrickm, Karin Carr, Sara Woodyard, Brandon Fryman
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt12274228/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grotesk (2015)

We’re told that a radioactive slime from the moon has found its way to Earth from a space shuttle that plunges into the sea near the coast of Denmark, and infects humans and turn them into murderous mutants. One of them, with a head that looks like a rotten potato, brutally kills a random couple who are having a picnic by the beach. And after this quick opening, we have basically seen the whole movie in a nutshell which oozes of zero budget and amateur hour all the way. We then get introduced to some guy who is on his way to a campsite near the radioactive area where he has rented a trailer for the summer. We can assume that this is the film’s protagonist, but he’s more like another random dude who likes to sniff at women’s panties while jerking off. And … uhm, well…

 

… what more should one really say when there’s basically no plot to summarize. “Denmark’s answer to Plan 9 From Outer Space” it says on the DVD cover. It’s more like Bad Taste meets Violent Shit in a septic tank.

 

The film looks like pure shit, like as if the camera lens was rubbed with a layer of piss and puke before every shot, just to make the visuals as ugly as possible. I can assume that the green filter, or whatever it is, is supposed to illustrate the toxic radioactivity, but it doesn’t take long before it hurts your eyes. Don’t watch this on a big screen, just trust me on that one. We also get some goofy out-of-sync dubbing, Zombie ’90-style, and amateur actors from the bottom of the barrel who probably haven’t been in front of a camera before or since Grotesk. The effects are cheap and cheesy, the micro-budget standard one would expect. Then we have one of the movie props, which is supposed to be some kind of tracking device from the military, which is made out of a cardboard box. Yeah, really. It’s so retarded to the point that you get the impression that the film was either made bad intentionally, or by some twelve-year olds with their dads, moms and creepy uncles in the roles, but I’m not so sure.

 

And what else..? Not much, and I think you know by now exactly if this is your thing or not. But with the short running time of approx. 1 hour, it’s a cheesy fun-bad movie that doesn’t require too much of your time (or your brain cells). You can find the DVD from Another World Entertainment after a quick search on eBay.

 

Grotesk

 

Director: Peter J. Bonneman
Country & year: Denmark, 2015
Actors: Heine Sørensen, Jørgen Gjerstrup, Mai Sydendahl, Jack Jensen, Justin Metzger, Mai Edelgaard, Rune Jacobsen, Kim Kofod, Rune Dybdahl, Frederik Tolstrup, Jens Kofoed, Natasha Joubert
IMDb: //www.imdb.com/title/tt4418130/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Go On (2016)

Miles Grissom (Clark Freeman) is a man who struggles with an intense fear of dying, ever since he at the age of three watched his father die in a car accident. His anxiety is so severe that he won’t drive a car, will barely leave his apartment, and suffers from night terrors. In a desperate attempt to get rid of his fears, he places an advert in a newspaper, offering 30.000 dollars to whoever can show him evidence that we go on after our deaths. When his mother finds out about his advert, she scoffs and mocks him, telling him he will never get anything except a lot of kook calls. And, well…he does have to go through a bunch of videos from people who are either clearly insane, or clearly fraudsters. After a lot of work (with a bit of help from mommy) he narrows down the responses to three candidates: a scientist, a medium, and a wordly entrepreneur. Will any of them bring him definite proof of life after death? And if that happens…will he really get the peace he’s longing for?

 

We Go On does have a pretty interesting concept, and offers up an original little ghost story. How many people haven’t wanted proof of life after death, or proof of ghosts? Despite tons of existing “footage”, consisting of a plethora of photos and videos of so-called “ghosts”, there’s no actual proof of anything as of yet. I mean, just look up some of the “scary videos” on YouTube…it’s so easy to fake all kinds of things on a photo these days, and with modern technology it’s no problem to show off so-called “proof” of ghosts or bigfoots or whatever the heck you want on videos as well. People have, for centuries, gotten a kick out of faking supernatural goings-on, whether it be for pure personal enjoyment or financial gain. And if someone really did have actual proof…among all the faked photos and videos out there…how would anyone actually be able to notice the difference? No one would, most likely. But despite all the fakery, death has always been one of our greatest mysteries and people have always wondered what happens after we die. While there are those who are content with thinking that we’ll just wither and die like other living creatures, not worrying much about any so-called “afterlife”…there’s also many who simply can’t come to terms with something like that, refusing to think that death can be the end. In fact, the fear of death can be quite severe for some, and it’s called “Thanatophobia”. Our protagonist in We Go On suffers clearly from this, and it’s pretty much destroying his life by making him so afraid of death that he can’t fully live (ironic, right?).

 

As we follow Miles in his search for proof of life after death, it’s both a bit exciting and amusing to witness all the examples of crazy people and scam attempts he’s becoming a victim to. If a guy offers 30.000 dollars for so-called proof of ghosts, why not just put up some theatrics and hope he’ll swallow hook, line and sinker, right? Well, thank goodness his quick-witted mother demanded to come along on his journey, otherwise he’d lose that money pretty quickly to one of the fraudsters.

 

I think it’s best not to explain too much about what happens throughout, as it’s better to view it without knowing too much. What I can say is that there are some scenes that are genuinely creepy. It also gives some twists and turns along the ride, which is what keeps your interest up. Albeit a little slow, it does work as an effective little chiller.

 

We Go On

 

Directors: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton
Country & year: USA, 2016
Actors: Annette O’Toole, Clark Freeman, John Glover, Giovanna Zacarías, Laura Heisler, Jay Dunn, Dwight Augustin, David Bickford, David Bickford, Norio Chalico, Tony Devon, Cassidy Freeman, Edwin Garcia II, Tom Harrington, Clem Jeffreys
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt3904278/

 

Vanja Ghoul