found frightage: hell house llc

This one’s gonna be short and sweet, because how much really needs to be said about another found footage movie? As it turns out, thankfully, HELL HOUSE LLC is actually a pretty decent one, but it’s also populated by the usual assortment of characters no one in their right mind would ever care about, much less be friends with in real life.

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The setup is right there on the poster. A group of colleagues who specialize in running haunted houses in, (deep breath, pure Old El Paso voice) NEW YORK CITY! decide to take their gig about 40 minutes outside of Manhattan, and they’ve found a real sweet property in Abaddon. I’d say it seems too good to be true, but this abandoned hotel is a total dump, which I guess makes it the perfect place for a chintzy haunted house in upstate New York.

As the crew soon finds out, something real bad went on here, and whatever’s left of it is going to end up claiming lives by the time opening night is upon them. The framing device is pretty standard fare for found footage: investigative reporters are trying to get to the bottom of what really happened in the basement of Hell House on opening night, and the surviving proprietor just so happens to have a stack of tapes that show everything from their perspective.

It actually works pretty well, and half the anticipation comes in wanting to see what kind of spooky stuff occurred in these harrowing haunted halls for yourself. Hell House LLC delivers on its promise and has a few genuinely unnerving gags, most of which center on one of the nasty dudes below popping up inexplicably throughout the house while the crew crashes there in the weeks leading up to launch.

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I’m convinced the only reason anyone cares about found footage is because we’re dying to see something on them tapes. Whether it’s Bigfoot’s dumpy-ass strut or a blurry UFO, real-life found footage always disappoints. So, we turn with pwease-may-I-see-it eyes toward any filmmaker looking to make something on a dime, and we either come away annoyed or pleasantly surprised. Hell House LLC entertained me enough to put it on my “why not watch it?” list, so enter this house if ye dare whenever you’re hankering for some shaky cam shrieks.

Halloween 2019 Movies:

Sequence Break
Deadtime Stories

tonal terror: deadtime stories

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What happens when your drunk horndog uncle will do anything to get you to go to sleep once and for all? Why, he pulls up a chair, lets out one last exasperated sigh, and fills your head with enough DEADTIME STORIES to have you drifting off for good.

This month’s second film comes from 1986, a year during which no one could figure out what’s for kids and what’s for adults. In ’86, all kids were basically adults, and all adults were borderline octogenarians. Maybe that’s why Jeffery Delman’s directorial debut is such a tonal trainwreck, making the leap from fairy tale setups to bare boobs and dire dismemberments in a single bound. If you frame it all as literally coming from the mouth of the aforementioned drunkle—played by Michael Mesmer in what would be his only credited feature film role—it kind of makes sense. Otherwise you’re just left with a mediocre horror anthology that’s sure to trigger a strange sense of déjà vu in the minds of all ’80s kids, whether you remember seeing the movie or not.

Before we get to the stories, get a load of this slapper of a title song:

If you only make it through the theme song, you’re good. What follows is the first of three stories, spinning a deeply corny period yarn about a boy who was sold into slavery to a pair of nasty witches. In fact, as my friend Brandon was quick to point out, the witches’ whipping boy was played by Family Ties‘ Scott Valentine (Nick! The earring!), who also starred in the cheesy sexy horror comedy My Demon LoverThey make him do their bidding day in and day out, but he finally starts to question their motives when he helps them lure a pastor back so they can melt off his hand and use it to create a potion that locates the third sister’s corpse.

That was the first straw. The last comes when the boy is tasked with kidnapping a beautiful young woman, who the witches aim to sacrifice in order to resurrect their sister. The highlight of this story is definitely the reanimation of her corpse, which involves a rotten heart that threads its veins through the skeleton’s bones, forming musculature and, eventually, another foul witchy woman. This is totally for kids.

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When Little Brian asks for a second story, Uncle Mike nearly flips his lid. He’s half a Bud Heavy deep and watching a Miss Nude pageant, so his frustration is understandable. Nevertheless, he relents and unleashes a riff on Red Riding Hood that would make Kojiro Abe blush.  The level of horny this starts out at is way too high to even be in the same neighborhood as an 8-year-old child, much less the same room, yet Uncle Mike persists. What we end up with is very much a Wolfman Lite story that perfectly contrasts against the high calorie count of Unc’s beer of choice.

And then, at long last, we have the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Like you, dear reader, I’ve spent decades seeking out a take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears starring a homicidal girl with telekinesis and a trio of mental hospital escapees led by Melissa Leo as Judith “Mama” Baer. Her dopy, Baby Huey-esque son quickly falls in love with psycho killer Goldilocks, and the whole crew end up as one big happy family as they kick off a life of crime while the authorities unload an entire armory’s worth of ammo in the direction of their now empty home.

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When we first meet Goldilocks, she’s enjoying some quality time with her collection of dead boy toys. When the Baers first find her in their home, she’s naked in the shower. Again, kids in the ’80s had nine-to-five jobs to hold up and mortgages to pay; we were made of sterner stuff.

It’s tough for me to recommend Deadtime Stories, but if you were a kid when it first came out, you might want to see if it triggers some of that déjà vu (you know it do!). There are roughly one hundred horror anthologies I’d recommend before turning to this one, but hey, Scream Factory released it on Blu-ray, and if I’m being completely honest, that director’s commentary alone is a vile temptation.

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back to ghoul with sequence break!

It’s officially October, my favorite month, and I can’t think of a better, and spookier time to resurrect this blog from dormancy. RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE, SUBHUMANZOIDS!

To be fair, things on the subhumanfront have been far from dormant. If you subscribe to my Patreon, for instance, you know I’ve been working hard on a new comic called Monster Flight. For now, it’s going to be a Patreon-only series, but only because I’d like to pitch it soon. Stay tuned for more on that, because it’ll end up on this blog at some point regardless.

Now, back to October. I’ve been watching a ton of movies lately, and I’m going to attempt to kick it into overdrive this month. I doubt I’ll be able to do a movie every single day, but I’d still like to squeeze in 31 over the course of the month. That means the project has started in earnest, and the first movie I watched on October 1 was a little indie flick written and directed by Graham Skipper, SEQUENCE BREAK.

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Much like another movie I like that happens to star the eternally-passable Chase Williamson—Beyond the GatesSequence Break is a thoroughly okay movie. It’s definitely not on the level of Gates, for which I have a strange affinity, but I’m usually pretty happy if an indie horror movie can get through its runtime without having some black-eyed, basement-budget screeching possession effect.

Instead of going that route, Sequence Break sticks close to its subject matter: Video games. Williamson plays Oz, a dumpy dude who ekes out a living repairing arcade machines for an old man named Jerry (Lyle Kanouse). His life changes for the better when he runs into the enthusiastically nerdy Tess (Fabianne Therese), who instantly wants to be his girlfriend for reasons beyond the capacity of understanding. Their relationship seems especially doomed since Oz just found out the shop is going to close and he’ll soon be out of a job, but Tess doesn’t mind.

Around the same time, a shady vagrant shows up, drops off a mysterious envelope, murders Jerry—which is something Oz never seems to notice or wonder about—and spends the rest of the movie showing up at the arcade dealership to mutter cryptic ramblings and threaten Oz and Tess. At the center of his threats lie the contents of the envelope: an arcade board with an inexplicably alluring power.

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Being the crack repairman that he is, Oz quickly gets the board up and running in one of his empty cabinets, and from there Sequence Break tries its damndest to be the Videodrome of video games. The more Oz is drawn to the cabinet, and the more time he spends tapping away at this bizarre vector shooter with no name, the livelier the arcade board becomes. It’s soon pulsating, oozing, and drawing Oz into a psychosexual mindscape from which he may never be able to escape.

That last part may make Sequence Break sound cooler than it really is, but it never quite reaches its lofty goal of morphing into Video(game)drome 2017. Graham Skipper and his crew do manage to create some decent atmosphere at certain points, and the effort put into making this living arcade game into the throbbing mess it eventually becomes is admirable. There are plenty of practical effects that make the grodiness pop, even if the narrative and characterizations aren’t quite strong enough to prop up a full-length feature.

Sequence Break isn’t going to scare anyone into the seasonal spirit; I certainly watched way more appropriate stuff that had me feeling the Halloween vibes last month. In a crowded indie horror market, though, it has some crude gumption I admire.

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monster boy and the cursed kingdom and me

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I’ve been on a real kick lately, and hoo boy, watch out when I go on a kick! The latest kick is, as usual, something familiar that’s come back to the forefront, and it has to do with my enduring love for Metroidvania—or, if you’re nasty like my dude metalheadmike, Rygarmania—games. After playing through the excellent Momodora recently, I finally got a chance to dig into Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom on Switch, and buddy, it slaps.

Clocking in at around 15 hours or so, Monster Boy serves up exactly what I want out of the genre. It has a pretty large map but there isn’t any wasted space. There’s just the right amount of fanfare whenever you pick up an important item. The sense of progression comes through clearly without the need for experience points or leveling up of any kind. The bosses tend to be pushovers for the most part, but their gimmicks are clever and the journey in between is fraught with legit platforming and enemy combat-related perils.

In other words, it’s the perfect side-scrolling stew. If the visuals are a full dessert platter, the fact that the soundtrack is excellent—featuring contributions from industry masters like Yuzo Koshiro, Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, and many more—is very much the icing on the cake.

Just listen to this!

And this banger, which you’ll hear on loop a lot in The Lost Temples:

Throughout the adventure, you gradually acquire five forms on top of being a regular ol’ human—Pig, Snake, Frog, Lion, and Dragon—which is a mechanic the developers never forget to incorporate. This could have easily been a one-and-done device limited to the stages in which you acquire each form, but they all play a major role from beginning to end. I actually got a little overwhelmed thinking about how tough it is to pull off legitimately thoughtful level design while playing this. They all work together so perfectly that it’s clear the team spent a ton of time plotting out the progression of each individual stage.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a must-play game I’d recommend to pretty much anyone who likes colorful visuals, top-notch level design, and the level of personal TV game accomplishment that can only be accessed when someone actually does the genre justice.