A little more comedy this time around in the first sequel to SLEEPAWAY CAMP. And a lot more Angela!
FOX’s Scream Queens
Season 2, Episode 4: “Halloween Blues”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “Handidates” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Chanel Pour Homme-icide” – click here
After the bloody events of Chanel Oberlin’s (Emma Roberts) would-be wedding to Chad Radwell ended with his death, she weeps over the body, as everyone wonders exactly what’s happened. Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) is of course ready for the whirlwind of another serial killer in her midst. Denise Hemphill (Niecy Nash) continues with her conspiracy theories, as everybody goes a little mad. #5 (Abigail Breslin) oversteps her boundaries and sets Chanel off on a rant against them before being carted off in a fit of madness. Taking the lead is Denise, but can she be trusted? I’m not saying she’s a murderer, though she is completely god damn foolish. We do get a window into Chad and Denise’s roleplaying, involving some Brokeback Mountain stuff. Weeeeird.
So Denise dresses like Mrs. Chad Radwell for Halloween. She and Munsch go to see the Lecter-ish Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele), who spouts mostly ominous bullshit.
Everybody gets together for Chad’s will – his family died on the way trying to stop him from marrying Chanel. Haha, dig it. Turns out that Chad – in sound mind and “bitchin‘ body” – leaves his estate to Cathy Munsch. Wow. And he changed it just before dying. Hmm, coincidence? Red herring? Either way, Chanel absolutely flips out, charging at the accountant reading the will before beating the shit out of him a bit.
But there’s still Chanel-O-Ween! She decides to send out terrifying gifts this year to separate herself from the masses: “For my disgusting hippo fans.” And they positively eat it up to ridiculous lengths.
In other news, Dr. Brock Holt (John Stamos) checks Chanel out, she’s not feeling so hot. From mind to body. Can’t be nice having another serial killer in her life. Is it Dr. Holt? Or maybe the literally dead Dr. Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner)? No telling for sure, not yet.
At home Chanel wakes up after taking the colloidal silver Brock gave her for a rash on her leg – to find her skin is blue. As if things couldn’t get any worse for the rich white girl.
The night before Halloween, Denise is setting up decorations on one of the hospital’s floors at the nurse station. Then the power goes out. Uh oh, Mrs. Chad Radwell! In the darkness of a nearby room the Green Meanie comes at her. They tussle a bit, but you know Denise can kick some ass, boy. She gives the Meanie a run for his money, eventually pulling a gun. Although the green killer makes off without taking a bullet. This sends Denise to get Hester: she’ll be wearing an anklet for the Halloween party, then later she has to give up the killer’s identity. Even gets a Jason Voorhees mask to put on. Denise then hilariously goes on to mix up Michael Myers as being played by Mike Myers, y’know, after Wayne’s World. Love her and love the dialogue the writers give her.
Lots of shade thrown around between Chanel and Denise, as they stand toe to toe in their costumes. And again, more of the roleplay between Denise and Chad – this time, American Beauty. Christ, this episode is awesome and funny, too! Lots of movie references flying around usually. This episode is on another level, and doing so wisely.
Finally, Chanel goes to see Holt about her tinted skin. He says there’s no cure. Yikes! Well right now Holt also has himself an alibi, he can’t be the killer – he was boning Munsch while Chad was killed. Holy christ, Cathy gets around, doesn’t she? Good on you, ma’am. But now Chanel is taking off, sick of all the bad luck she’s immersed in. Then someone in an Ivanka Trump outfit turns up, silent, trying to murder her. No change in that luck. Oh, and it’s Hester underneath that mask. Where’d she get it, though?
Tsk, tsk, tsk. #5 is outed now. Zayday (Keke Palmer) and #3 (Billie Lourd) reveal they helped #5 find herself an Ivanka Trump costume earlier in the day. GASP! COULD IT BE? Nah, we know the truth. However, everybody turning on #5 – more so than usual – isn’t any good. It doesn’t look good having her left all alone, especially during the Halloween party. Chanel warns her plainly: “If you show up to that party, we‘ll kill you.”
October 31st hits and the party is on. Zayday is Isis – no, not like caliphate-style, like the Egyptian goddess. Again, hilarious! Then#5 turns up as Ivana Trump, not Ivanka. They make a super funny and kinda disturbing point about the Donald and his daughter. Then there’s the fact Ivana is still wandering around, Hester in disguise. She disappears through the halls when a Halloween party full of people turn up puking and going crazy. Seems that they were bobbing for apples and ergot (a fungus) was growing on them, making people quite sick. Although, Zayday doesn’t believe that diagnosis from Dr. Holt, she challenges him.
Meanwhile, Denise and Chanel are conducting a Ouija board ceremony, fighting over the dead Chad Radwell. He event contacts Chanel over his goat, the one he keeps for milk – being lactose intolerant and all. He also tells Chanel he loved Denise more than her, but doesn’t quite get to tell her about the killer before everyone rushes off somewhere.
And all alone is #5 just as I suspected. As if Ivana Trump hasn’t been through enough married to Donald all those years. Eventually Ivana comes across Ivanka. Hester doesn’t kill #5. She lets the Green Meanie do it instead. Ohhhhh shit.
With the help of a girl dressed as Snow White, Zayday and the others figure out what happened at the party. She saw the Green Meanie changed out the apple bobbing water: the water got dosed, as I suspected again, with DMT. Yowzahs, very wild. Anyways, things are settled at the hospital. For the time being. But maybe the Meanie didn’t want to kill him. Perhaps he needed “a distraction,” as Zayday notes. Now, there’s trouble.
Denise comes across a stabbed #5, and once more she’s also confronted with the Green Meanie. The killer tosses a punch bowl all over Denise before shocking her with some paddles. Is she dead, or can her heart take it?
An awesome, exciting episode. Really dig this season so far. Next up is “Chanel Pour Homme-icide” and I bet we’ll get more Hester, too! Can’t wait.
The Gallows. 2015. Directed & Written by Travis Cluff/Chris Lofing.
Starring Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Travis Cluff, Price T. Morgan, Theo Burkhardt, David Herrera, Gannon Del Fierro, Mackie Burt, and Adrian Salas. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 81 minutes.
Found footage is a sub-genre I do enjoy, honestly. That being said, there is still a fine line between what I enjoy and what I find crap. Some people say it’s all crap; that’s just dismissive, to me. I’m a fan of Cannibal Holocaust, unapologetically I love The Blair Witch Project, and then there’s newer stuff I’ve enjoyed like the V/H/S trilogy (I got a ton of online shit on an IMDB message board for my love of all three especially the third), Lovely Molly, and the terrifyingly unsettling Home Movie. There are other titles, I just don’t want to go on. You get the picture: if something is done right using found footage, I believe there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyable. Certain people seem to think the whole sub-genre is useless, but again, I say that’s nonsense. Found footage needs to be used effectively, otherwise it’s simply another gimmick. To say there’s no good found footage is ignorant.
The Gallows has a fun premise and I haven’t seen any found footage so far to use this setting. The majority of what I enjoyed about this movie is the atmosphere, most of which came from the location of the school’s auditorium/theatre. Otherwise, I found almost all the characters to be stiff; the high school dramatics felt real, I did think Reese Mishler and Cassidy Gifford were pretty decent throughout the movie, but overall the cast wasn’t very solid. With only a little to enjoy, The Gallows feels more like a wasted opportunity than an absolutely useless horror.
Starting with a recorded home video from 1993, we see a boy named Charlie Grimille accidentally hang to death during a high school play. Worst of all, it happens in front of an audience who watch on in absolute fear and horror.
The present day in The Gallows sees a new production of the play being put off. In one of the main roles, a jock named Reese Houser (Reese Mishler) tries his best to play his part opposite a girl he has a crush on named Pfeifer Ross (Pfeifer Brown). At the same time, Reese’s jock budy Ryan Shoos (that’s also his real name) films everything behind the scenes, supposedly helping but doing nothing except make a mockery of the production while others work hard and passionately to make it the best they can.
In an effort to supposedly save his buddy Reese the shame and failure of going onstage, Ryan suggests breaking into the school’s theatre at night and trashing the set. That way the production would be halted and Reese could ‘comfort’ Pfeifer. Misguided and foolish, Ryan, Reese, and Ryan’s girlfriend Cassidy (Cassidy Gifford) head into the school through a door said to never be locked, due to it being broken for years.
However, once they run into Pfeifer inside – who wonders why they’re even there in the first place, as they wonder the same about her – they discover the door is now locked, out of the blue. What follows is a horrifying night for the group of friends while they begin to figure out all about what happened 20 years ago to Charlie Grimille, and why he’s still lurking in the shadows of the school.
There’s certainly an innovative aspect to The Gallows in its premise. I think beyond that, there’s not much to distinguish it from other found footage horror movies. However, the whole concept is pretty fun. Theatres in general all have their own spooky nature; there’s something eerie about a theatre, all the history and the many people who’ve graced both the stage and the seats. Add in a school and it’s even creepier, as old schools all have their own history, many lives passing through its halls and corridors, as well.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the filmmakers used this premise enough to their advantage. As I said, most of The Gallows sticks to the bargain basement techniques of Found Footage 101. For instance, there’s an early and needless jump scare – that you can’t even fully call a proper jump scare – which involves Ryan (Shoos) just popping up in front of his camera in his bedroom; not even horror, simply him trying to pull a gag. Stupid, and also gets your heart pumping for no good reason. A jump scare is effective if there’s a reason, if there is purpose to it, however, if you simply make people jump without any substance whatsoever then it’s a piss off. For me, anyways. There’s always the “trick jump scare” in horror movies, but this is not one of those at all. It’s just a dumb addition; in fact, the scene in which it’s involved serves no purpose itself, so the whole 1 minute or so could’ve easily been trimmed out of the film.
Even though the movie uses so much of the shaky cam style, there’s still a decent atmosphere all the same. As someone who acted a great deal from a young age up until my early twenties, I spent a massive amount of time in theatres; specifically the big one at the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts back in my hometown, which partly resembles the auditorium of the school in this film. There’s something inherently spooky about the cold, sterile like hallways in the basement, the darkness of the theatre behind the stage, which immediately makes things unsettling.
If this were done in straight style, using some more steady handheld work even, I think it would’ve benefited greatly. Now I know, Blumhouse most likely wanted to try another lower budget found footage effort and try to make big bucks; the estimated budget is only$100K, which by industry standards in Hollywood is a minuscule production. But still, this is where the concept of the entire film becomes wasted. I’m confident had the filmmakers chosen to do this without found footage, a ton more emotion would’ve come through, the backstory might’ve benefitted – as well as the ghostly presence of Charlie – and the scares could’ve been ten times more effective.
Sadly, The Gallows comes out much like so many of the low budget indie efforts in the found footage genre – the ones unable to rise up to the weight of their premise.
One particular scene I did find effectively creepy, regardless of the found footage style (mostly because the phone camera being stationary for the shots), was when SPOILER ALERT Cassidy (Gifford) is in the red lighted hallway; behind her in the dark creeps the figure, hooded like the Hangman from the play. What I find most scary here is how there’s a moment where you don’t see anything, then all of a sudden – as if magic – the noose is around her neck. An unseen force drags her away through a door in the background of the shot, and it slams shut behind her. Very good and creepy scene, I found it wasn’t jumpy it was simply a nice shock to the system. A solid scare.
Furthermore, there’s a scene where Reese (Houser) and Pfeifer (Brown) are running from the ghostly presence of Charlie, clad in the suit of the Hangman, and they’re climbing up a ladder – we get an excellent, terrifying look at the Hangman mask/suit up-close. It’s again not a jump scare, so much as it’s one brief look that gives you enough to make you go WHOA. I’d almost love to see a slasher now set in medieval times, or before, with a hangman as the slasher – it’s just the first thing that popped in my mind when I saw the mask. Awesome little shot, not too long and not too short.
A part of the plot I did like was when everything returned in a circular fashion to the stage, as Reese and Pfeifer act out their scene together, and the camera turns on. The lights go up as well and the stage is set.
However, after that sequence I found things started to fall off. What I don’t like is how Blumhouse is basically setting things up right at the end for another movie. That’s essentially what happens, can anyone disagree? It’s like a mash of things happening right at the end. There’s simply too many reaching connections. So SPOILER ALERT AGAIN we’re meant to believe that Charlie’s girlfriend – the woman who continued to sit in the same seat and watch the practices, waiting for another performance of the play which killed her boyfriend 20 years ago – is also Pfeifer’s mom? I’m pretty slick most of the time, so I apologize if I’ve misunderstood. But the finale is pretty much tell us all that. I found it very mixed and matched, like puzzle pieces not intended to fit together which were simply mashed into a pile for the sake of trying to turn The Gallows – and Charlie – into an iconic style horror movie.
But this is another problem I have, I feel like Charlie is made out to be this slasher type killer. Instead he’s a ghost with a noose. That’s fine. At the same time, the movie is being marketed in a sense that Charlie’s supposed to be aimed toward becoming the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. I think not. First of all, the movie itself is nowhere near good enough to become anything like either John Carpenter’s Halloween or Friday the 13th. Second, Charlie just doesn’t come across in that way. There are most certainly a couple creepy scenes, there’s not enough viciousness for me to say Charlie is a bonafide slasher. Maybe had he really done a psychotic job on one of the high school kids, I could give in and say there are elements about the character which fit the bill. I can’t say that at all because most of what happens is ghostly creeping in the background, supernatural deaths, and nothing in the way of any blood. It’ all about the noose. Certainly no gore anywhere to be found. Is there really any way we can call Charlie a SLASHER if he did no slashing? Something to think about. I guess that’s partly the marketing’s problem. Still, I feel as if the filmmakers were also pushing towards that, particularly with the ending. There’s just no way I can get with that.
I can give The Gallows a 2 out of 5 star rating and feel okay with that. Some people say this is utterly trash. That’s fine, I respect anyone’s opinion as long as they’re not trying to force it on me as if I should feel the same way. However, I don’t think every last piece of this movie is bad. There are spots I thought were incredibly unsettling – one scene where Ryan slowly discovers there’s a body hanging up in between the walls in this tight crawlspace-like room I found to be VERY CREEPY. Ultimately though what makes The Gallows fall short is a reliance on horror cliches and tropes to the point of retreading too deeply through the footsteps of so many other found footage horror efforts, as well as the fact I found much of the acting (aside from Cassidy Gifford and Reese Mishler) extremely wooden. Not to mention I found the ending poor, beyond rushed, and it felt as they were forcing everything down our throats. While I did find parts of it scary, that finale did nothing for film overall and only served to make me actually say aloud once the lights came up: “Oh wow – that end was rough”.
Like I’d mentioned before, I think The Gallows would’ve made a better film if it went without found footage. Alas, Blumhouse – while doing exciting things on other ends – loves to go for the low budget shots in the dark like this after their huge success with bleeding dry the premise of Paranormal Activity. So it’s no wonder they went for a found footage style here instead of filming it regularly. Maybe more money would’ve been pumped in, but it still could’ve told the story more effectively, creeped people out in a much more visceral way than they accomplished here, and perhaps the performances might’ve also benefited from having a solid style. I can’t recommend this much, however, it isn’t as terrible as some critics and people online are making it out to be.
See it if you want to judge for yourself, and I urge you to do so – I’m no one to be listening to, really. Just don’t believe all the trashing, while at the same time you need to remember you won’t find anything more than a generic found footage horror. There are tons of better found footage movies out there to get you creeped out.
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. 2012. Directed & Written by Declan O’Brien.
Starring Doug Bradley, Camilla Arfwedson, Simon Ginty, Roxanne McKee, Paul Luebke, Oliver Hoare, Kyle Redmond-Jones, Amy Lennox, Duncan Wisbey, Radoslav Paranov, George Karlukovski, Borislav Iliev, Peter Brooke, and Finn Jones. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated R. 91 minutes.
Now, I actually gave Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings a rating that, in a totally subjective light, it probably does not deserve. However, I can be a sucker for horror movies with a decent bit of practical gore and a creepy asylum out in the woods, and isolated winter settings in horrors, particularly slashers. So, whatever.
But sweet jesus in the garden (I’m not religious that’s just one of those sayings I’d grow up hearing in my days as a good little Catholic boy before I found atheism) – Declan O’Brien seems to have just taken hold of the Wrong Turn franchise and steered it as hard into the ground as he can possibly manage. With Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, his efforts get no better. Even worse, the iconic Doug Bradley – immortalized as the villainous Cenobite named Pinhead – shows up here and not only does his character really make little to no sense, he’s just garbage.
I do dig the Wrong Turn franchise simply for the first, second, and yes, fourth, films. Even the fourth is not a good movie overall, but I still dig it. So it’s disappointing to see it keep on going while it gets no better, only worse and worse over time. They’re just milking the entire concept for all its worth, yet – following the metaphor through – there’s no milk left, it’s just like… milking a milked cow? Beating a dead horse works better, but you get the picture.
Although the whole cannibalistic clan in the backwoods trope has been more than fully explore in the horror genre over the years, Wrong Turn as a series has at least had a couple good kicks at the cat (as we say around here – ’cause we’re fucked up where I’m from). Unfortunately, Mr. O’Brien continues to nosedive the series as a whole into the shitter, one bad sequel at a time.
Bloodlines has an even worse plot than the others in the series.
The brothers – Three Finger (Borislav Iliev), Saw Tooth (George Karlukovski), and One Eye (Radoslav Paranov) – along with a serial killer named Maynard (Doug Bradley) escape from the Glensville Sanatorium. They murder people near Fairlake in West Virginia. Complete with very cheesy jokes like when Maynard asks for a hand – and one of the inbred brothers literally holds up a severed hand. HAHAHAHAH SO FUNNY, RIGHT?
At the same time, a group of friends – I won’t bother listing their names because none of it really matters – travel to Fairlake for the Mountain Man Festival during Halloween. On their way, Maynard wanders onto the highway causing the friends to swerve. Naturally the car gets crashed; how’d you know?
When they go to check on Maynard, the old bastard attacks them. They stomp the shit out of the guy until police officers arrive and take the lot of them to lock-up for the night. Of course, one of the young people has drugs on them! So during this big Mountain Man Festival, the friends and Maynard are locked away.
But Maynard warns that his boys are going to come and spring him from the Big House. Everyone thinks he’s talking smack until the brothers descend upon the jail. It’s up to the cooperation between law enforcement, a couple locals, and the out of towner 20-somethings to keep one another alive and out of the grips of Saw Tooth, One Eye, and Three Finger, or their equally disturbed friend Maynard.
First thing’s first – the inclusion of this Maynard character, played by Doug Bradley. Now, I’ve honestly never really seen Bradley in anything other than Hellraiser. Well, Nightbreed, and then there are a couple brief cameos such as during The Cottage, and more recently in Exorcismus. Regardless I love Bradley as Pinhead, there’s honestly nobody else who is ever going to be able to replace him. I feel like certain iconic horror characters, one of which is Pinhead, have such a specific persona that it’s hard to let another actor take that on. For instance, I think it was easier for different people to assume the role of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees simply because of the silence, the mask; not to say there wasn’t a particular way they both walked, moved, reacted, because there absolutely was, I just feel when it comes to emotion there is none with them so it didn’t require too much true acting (not meant to disrespect the wonderful actors who’ve played both Michael and Jason – much love and respect to them!). But when you look at someone like Pinhead or Freddy Krueger, their vocal tone and the way they say things, though able to be replicated within a certain degree, is a specific part of the character’s make-up. I mean, the newest Nightmare on Elm Street, the terrible remake, had an amazing actor (Jackie Earle Haley) play Freddy, but you just can’t have Freddy with Robert Englund. You can’t, because that guy has the charisma of Freddy; he is, was, always will be Freddy.
So, that was a ramble, about completely different movies. Just saying, I love Doug Bradley. Solely because of Pinhead. In Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, he does his best with what he has been given by writer/director O’Brien, but the character of Maynard makes no sense. He takes up a good chunk of things at times during a film that’s centred on the bad guys being inbred backwoods hillbillies, crazy cannibals, yet there’s Maynard, an apparent serial killer, all smooth talking and normal.
It makes no sense. I hate his character.
Even worse is the fact that he’s not just a bad character, Maynard – he is jammed into the script, messing with an already feeble story. Maynard sort of bosses these brothers around, and that’s just completely nonsensical. I’m not looking for the Wrong Turn series to reinvent or innovate the horror genre, turning it in some new direction. I’m not even looking an elaborate plot. However, there’s got to be common sense, even in this survival horror type of stuff these films have going on. What I’m saying is – there’s an early scene where Maynard cranks one of the inbred brothers with a wrench, the cannibal goes down. He grabs his face, looking as if he’s hurt.
SORRY DECLAN! YOU SHIT THE BED THIS TIME!
These inbred cannibal brothers are said to have a condition where they can’t feel pain – I forget the exact name. They say it in Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, back in the 1974 scenes at the asylum. Yet Maynard whacks the guy with a wrench, that’s all there is to it. I mean, c’mon! If this were any bit sensible, the brother wouldn’t have even moved with the wrench’s force, he wouldn’t murdered that Maynard idiot, and moved on to the next kill.
Then it leads me to: how did Maynard ever get to a point where he was able to reason with these brothers anyway? They’ve got no loyalty other than to one another. Anybody they come across it seems the brothers just attack, kill, eat, whatever. So how did Maynard manage to even gain dominance over them? Sure, I’m reading way too deep into a cannibal horror movie. But am I? This movie, the whole series, is not complex, so can’t Declan O’Brien at the very least write a decent script that’s logical? Not really that hard. This could’ve just had sensible writing, if anything, and even with all the terrible dialogue O’Brien comes up with there at least would be common sense, characters that weren’t just thrown in for no apparent reason.
There’s not a single redeeming quality in the entire movie – acting is all atrocious, even Bradley can’t save the sinking ship, and the blood/gore is all as bad as it gets in any of the films. At least early on the practical effects were still decently done, well enough to keep a horror fanatic interested (I think most of that died after Wrong Turn 2: Dead End & Joe Lynch).
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is a 0 star film. I really can’t bring myself to give it any stars whatsoever. There’s nothing worth giving a star. Not even Bradley, because the character itself is so god damned useless to the whole story overall that it boggles my mind.
Declan O’Brien can’t even keep together the meagre plot of the film because he seems to have trouble following the logic of the Wrong Turn series, and worst of all he can’t keep straight things that he himself wrote in previous instalments. I wonder how much they offered Doug Bradley to do this movie, I’m also pretty curious if they looked at anyone else other than him first in terms of well-known horror names – because obviously the character of Maynard was an excuse to put a recognizable face into the film. There’s no other reason to have that character in there unless to put someone noticeable in the part, it did not in any way add to the film’s story and certainly was not a memorable character. Not to mention there’s a sequel, and I’m more than positive Maynard is nowhere to be found there. Makes no sense whatsoever.
If you want to complete the whole series, go ahead. Otherwise just skip this piece of garbage. They replaced O’Brien for the next sequel, not that it would do much of anything to help. This series has gone steadily downhill since the first film, though the second was good (plus I’m guiltily into the 4th movie). Time to call it quits, but I hear they’re setting up a 7th instalment for 2016/2017 release. Wow.
This sequel to COLD PREY homages HALLOWEEN 2, though stays fresh in its own right.