Saturday, September 18, 2021

Say His Name: Candyman (2021)

Candyman (2021)
Rating: ***
Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett

Personally, Bernard Rose's Candyman (1992) will forever remain as one of the many slasher masterpieces I have the good will and grace to experience; I love its gothic, modern fairy tale-esque direction, how it utilized the power of belief and legends to create a memorable, psuedo-romantic horror figure, as well as how it subtly uses the subtext of black oppression to create a level of depth and atmosphere to its approach in horror. This being said, I really wanted director Nia DaCosta's "spiritual sequel" to work, at least, all the way.

Struggling to find a spark of inspiration for his latest work, Chicago artist Anthony McCoy decided to wander around Cabrini-Green after hearing about an urban legend surrounding a graduate student who went on a killing spree back in the 1990s and was eventually stopped right before she was about to throw an infant into a bonfire outside the house projects. It is there where he meets William Burke, a laundromat owner who introduces him to yet another legend; the Candyman.

According to Burke, his Candyman was an eccentric hook-handed man named Sherman Fields, believed to be responsible for putting razor blades in sweets after a girl found one in her Halloween stash. It wasn't long before overzealous police corners and beats Sherman to death but, much to everyone's horror, the man was later revealed innocent when more razorblades were found in sweets after his murder. It is then said that by saying "Candyman" five times in in front of a mirror, a now undead Sherman will come to murder those who called for him through this little ritual.

Now inspired to do a collection based on the Candyman legend and racial tension, Anthony develops an art exhibit with the help of his art gallery director girlfriend, Brianna Cartwright. The resulting showcase, unfortunately, wasn't the buzzing success he was hoping it would be, but Anthony will soon find out that he may have unleashed something powerful when those who tried calling out for Candyman start to get horribly murdered and he himself appears to be deteriorating physically after a bee stung him. Soon, Anthony learns the horrific truth about his past and what fate awaits him back at Cabrini-Green...

Let me just go on the record and say that I love the idea that Candyman here is, as described in the film, a hive. It just fits the killer's nature as an urban legend embodied, how there will never be only one version of the tale and that there's always be a varying take based on whoever's telling them, all the while the strongest key elements remain the same. The Candyman is no longer just a lone murderer from beyond the grave in this movie, but is now also a catalyst that leads to people like Sherman Fields and many other African American figures hinted later, all victims of prejudice and racial hate, to wear the cloak and wield the hook.

This is a wide and welcome move to expand the world behind the iconic supernatural slasher and I really wished Candyman (2021) found a way to make this work into the story to full effect but thanks to the writing's lack of cohesiveness and focus, and too its missed opportunities to be subtle and flair, this lore ended up something closer to a footnote that wouldn't come up again until the near end where it may have gone a little too on-the-nose with what it is implying. 

Until then, we're practically treated with a supernatural psychological mystery that hovers mostly on our main lead's ties to the Candyman legend and his declining state the further he delves into the rabbit hole, coupled with slasher murders and body horror nightmares. I will say that this attempt of a mystery is as predictable and basic as the characters involved (If you already saw The Midnight Meat Train (2008) and The Devil's Candy (2015), then you may have a clue or two what troubles our artist lead is heading to), even leaving some doors open and just hang them there without any form of resolution or point, but at least it is comfortable enough to sit through as your typical slasher story and the talents involved, particularly Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris and Colman Domingo as Anthony, Brianna and William Burke respectively, did all their best to put out a fine performance despite the standard characterizations. 

Visually, Candyman (2021) is a real treat to the eyes at its best, probably the movie's strongest point with its stylized depictions of the Candyman murders, the history surrounding the figure and even the legend himself; when it needs to be bloody, it gets real bloody, but the film isn't shy on experimenting with what can be done without overly relying on anything graphic on screen. The result is a lot of striking compositions of shots and sounds, among the best being a massacre in a girl's bathroom wherein we can see just a glimpse of a floating Candyman through a bloodied compact mirror, as well as an eerily shot death of a critic who we see gets lifted and murdered above ground by an invisible force while the camera pans away.

Intriguing to note, too, how the Candyman is shown here as he barely appeared completely on the flesh whenever he kills and he's depicted instead as a shadow, a reflection in the background or, as mentioned prior, just an unseen force drags you away to be hooked from groin to gullet.  Whenever he does appear onscreen, he's more of a specter and an omen haunting Anthony, a sort of foreshadow of things to come doubled as your classic, creepy grinning spook straight out of your ghost stories. If there's anything more to praise, the last few shots of the Candyman are probably the most memorable for me; just a floating man in a coat, a hook for a hand and a swarm of bees for a head. That's Eldritch imagery at its best and I love it!

The use of shadow puppets is also a creative touch I come to really like from the film, perfectly bringing the folkloric touch out of the legends and stories about he who is the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom. Add the fact that the ending credits is also a short puppet show featuring all the previous variants of the Candyman just makes the overall film a little bit better despite the flaws.

A far cry from being the perfect companion piece to the original Candyman (well, for me at least), Candyman (2021) is still a commendable ole' "college try" to bring back and partially re-invent a horror icon for the modern audience. It has a good eye on style and atmosphere, plus an interesting take on a slasher heavyweight's mythos, just be prepared for some loose, unresolved and kinda undercooked ends.

1 male beaten to death (flashback)
1 female had her throat cut with a hook
1 male had his heel hooked, later found disemboweled
1 male jumps out of a window (flashback)
1 female had her head smashed and dragged across a window
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a hook
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a hook
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a hook
1 female slaughtered offcamera with a hook
1 female slaughtered with a hook (flashback)
1 male stabbed to death with a box cutter
1 male shot dead
1 male seen walking out with a gashed neck
1 male slashed across the gut with a hook
1 male had his throat slashed with a hook
1 male slashed across with a hook
1 male hacked on the back with a hatchet(animation)
1 boy executed via electric chair (animation)
1 male tied behind a truck, dragged to death (animation)
1 male hacked on the back with a hook (animation)
1 male hacked on the head with a hook (animation)
1 male ran through the back with a hook (animation)
1 male snared and murdered with a hook (animation)
Total: 23

Monday, September 13, 2021

Cut Out The Cancer: Malignant (2021)

Malignant (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson and George Young

When it comes to James Wan, I like a lot of his horror films as I see the kind of fanfare I typically enjoy in my fright flicks: crazy B-grade goodness with creepy moments, fun jump scares and expressive camera work. Fortunately for us, Malignant, Wan's little supernatural love letter to giallo and slasher cinema (and then some), delivers all the goods you would expect in a great bodycounter with a little more extra for that positively insane movie experience!

Starting the scene in 1993, at the Simion Research Hospital, where a group of doctors go through a harrowing attack from an obscured patient named Gabriel who somehow has the ability to control electricity, broadcast thoughts through airwaves and overpower anyone twice their size. The staff eventually subdue the vile thing with a dart gun and, hoping to finally stop the patient's increasing threat, prepare Gabriel for surgery to "cut out the cancer".

Forwarding twenty-eight years later, a pregnant woman named Madison Lake gets the rough end of a strained and growingly abusive relationship with her husband Derek Mitchell when he beats her head against a wall, arguing at her about the futility of them having children since Madison appears to be prone to miscarriages. As night falls, something otherworldly invades the couple's residence and gruesomely murders Mitchell before going after Madison, knocking her unconscious during the attack. By the time she comes through, responding police has rescued her and she's taken to a nearby hospital, where she is informed by her sister Sydney that, devastatingly, her unborn baby didn't survive the ordeal. 

It wasn't until two weeks later though, when a recovering Madison returns to her home, that everything shifts for the far worse; she quickly learns that whatever has targeted her during that home invasion is far from done terrorizing her life as visions of savage murders and monstrously taunting phone calls start plaguing her days and nights. The more the bodycount rises, the more Madison and Sydney, as well as Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss, a pair of detectives looking into the murders, start to piece together a grim puzzle and untangle a dark past involving medical horrors and a familiar violent entity that goes by "Gabriel".

Albeit the tone can be a bit (if not mostly) all over the place, it does befit the craziness Malignant wallows in and it is put to good use as Wan embraced the absurdity of the movie's premise to give us the outrageously energetic madness that is this hodge-podge of supernatural horror, brutal slashings, body horror, medical nightmare and, yes, even a little bit of creature feature. It isn't without its own rusty cogs and drawbacks, of course, such as the characters being a little dim, holes on the plot and the twist being anything but close to original (I can tell two other slashers that already did it, though I cannot say which as it'll spoil the fun. You might get it once you see it, though), but the manically stylized execution and wild, increasingly no-holds-barred direction undoubtedly make this film a real popcorn horror treat.

As the director himself put it, Malignant is a horror film made for horror fans, so it doesn't come as any surprise that it has genre homages in every nook and cranny; there are giallo influences pretty much present within the movie's cinematography as well as the villain's get-up and the home invasion around the first act even has its little slice of ghostly scares for that supernatural creepiness. But what really brought home the fun factor for me is the ridiculous levels of campy creative choices and hammy dialogue that certainly place this movie around the same plate as cheesed-up 80s slashers and monster movies, especially with its Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)-inspired victim/killer shared visions and a bodycount going monumental by the second half courtesy of a police station massacre that rivals The Terminator (1984) or Maniac Cop 2 (1990), committed through the hands of a maniac with a rather interesting concept and design focused on limberness and flexibility in all the wrong way. (Oh, and random electricity-based powers. That's a thing you get for being that, apparently) It's crazy, without a doubt, but as everything is done with a straight face and a semi-serious banter, the half-and-half subtle tongue-in-cheek is just made twice the better!

This being said, those looking to see sober scares may want to look elsewhere as the movie's clearly made with the intention to be darkly playful and littered with dismembered body parts. What else is there to say but James Wan really let it all loose in Malignant and I am happy to say that the resulting gory, campy and thrilling little devil is destined to be a bonafide cult classic!

1 female smashed against a door, killed
1 female found murdered
1 female found murdered
1 male had his head internally decapitated
1 female beaten to death with a trophy
1 male stabbed and carved to death with a weaponized trophy
1 male found slaughtered to death with a weaponized trophy
1 female had her neck torn open
1 female clawed through the gut
1 female stomped on the head
1 female had her neck broken
10 females slaughtered offcamera
1 female thumbed on the eyes, used as a human shield and shot dead
1 male repeatedly beaten against iron cell bars
1 female found murdered
1 male found murdered
1 male found murdered
1 male stabbed through the back with a weaponized trophy
1 male had his throat slashed with a weaponized trophy
1 male stabbed through the gut with a weaponized trophy
1 male shot with a shotgun
1 male used as a human shield, shot dead
1 male stabbed through the neck with a weaponized trophy
1 female stabbed through the head with a weaponized trophy
4 victims seen murdered
1 male stabbed in the gut with a weaponized trophy
1 male stabbed through the neck with a weaponized trophy
1 male slashed across the neck with a weaponized trophy
1 male stabbed with a weaponized trophy
1 male stabbed with a weaponized trophy
1 male slashed across the throat with a weaponized trophy
2 males seen murdered
1 male had his pacemaker supernaturally cooked, explodes out of his chest
Total: 46

Also, "Cocky-Knockers"

Monday, September 6, 2021

Short Shear Terror: Trapped At Boarding School (1983)

Trapped At Boarding School (Denmark, 1983 Short) (AKA "Attrap 1980")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Michael Andersen, Søren Børgesen and Erik Jensen

One of the things I enjoy about reviewing slasher films is that, at times, I get to find and watch little rusty gems like this whenever I search for movies to try. 

Made in the early 80s by a younger Heini Grünbaum who some of us would remember directed the straight-to-video 2000 Danish slasher Flænset (AKA "Shredded"), Trapped At Boarding School tells a simple, dialogue-less story of a teen enduring his stay at a boarding school as a trio of nasty bullies abuse him whenever they get the chance. One day, the teen had enough, dons a mask and starts stalking them down one by one.

Not gonna sugar coat the low and gritty quality of the movie as this is an obscure 1980s 8MM short edited from a 49 minute original footage, but Trapped At Boarding School does feel a little genuine in its approach of being an easy-to-digest slasher short. Looking past the sun-bleached picture quality, patchy acting and pacing, as well as its cheap editing with John Carpenter's Halloween theme ripped for that extra frugal feel, the short is still a fairly fun watch as an 80s time capsule of do-it-yourself horror effort; the story is quick and easy, the kills are fairly bloody and the direction has a style and vision that at least aim to be creepy and messed up despite the lack of any spoken lines.

It might be a far cry from being a great short, Trapped At Boarding School is at least an enjoyable little slice of foreign vintage slasher goodness that delivers enough bodycounting goodies for a casual horror fan. See it if you like!

1 male hacked on the back with a hatchet
1 male hacked on the gut with a hatchet
1 male repeatedly hacked on the chest with a hatchet
Total: 3

Monday, August 30, 2021

Bite Sized Giallo Bits: Body Puzzle (1992)

Body Puzzle (Italy, 1992) (AKA "Misteria")
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Joanna Pacula, Tomas Arana and François Montagut

A 90s giallo affair from Demons (1985) director Lamberto Bava, Body Puzzle starts with a frustrated pianist (François Montagut) showing off some talent on the ivory keys as he recalls a tragic rainy night many years ago, involving a friend in a motorbike fatally crashing during a car chase. This flashback somehow ignites a murderous spark from the man and his first victim is a candy store owner who he knifes to death before slicing off an ear.

Tracy (Joanna Pacula), a young widow grieving over her brother's recent passing, gruesomely finds out that she has caught the attention of our killer when not only did she discovers the dismembered hearing organ in her fridge, but her late husband's grave was also found defiled and his body missing. This prompts Detective Michele (Tomas Arana), lead investigator of the case, to question her possible ties to the killer as it appears the madman has to have full access to her home in order to leave the body part so easily. Tracy cannot recall or think much of anybody mad enough to twistedly harass her like this, though she fears that she will be targeted next the further this escalates.

And, true enough, the killer strikes again and again, taking parts from each victim and leaving it for Tracy to find, even after she moved to her parent's mansion under heavy police surveillance. Just who is this killer and why is he offering her all of these freshly harvested body parts? 

As far as Italian giallo affairs go, Body Puzzle mostly hit its good notes when it comes to horror set-pieces, plenty of them coming from the murders committed by our seemingly random loon for how savage and dark yet outrageous they can get; one moment he's simply knifing a candy store owner to death, next would have him stalking a lady into a mall's loo to hack off her hand with a hatchet or offing a teacher in front of an entire classroom full of blind children listening to some badly narrated fairy tale. There's certainly a sense of finesse and black humor laid out in the film's direction to keep things as interesting as they can be, something I find passable even if the ridiculousness contrasts with the intriguingly twisted conundrum behind our killer's motive a tad too close into poking fun at itself sometimes.

At most, Body Puzzle tries to maintain a straight-faced story despite the cheesier instances. I love the mystery's concept wherein we already know what the killer looks like and that we're just left hanging as to why is he killing people to collect parts from them. Sadly, the abundance of plot holes and incredibly lackluster police work cheapened the impact of the story's development, more so when the movie finally reveals in the near end the twist of the whole situation. Without giving away much, it opened more questions than answer them, one of which being the ineptness of the coroner when they were embalming that body and how much legal trouble would they get for that mistake. 

Nevertheless, Body Puzzle remains wholly entertaining albeit its flaws when one would account its unintentional hilarity and cheese. I mean, how often do you find yourself watch a killer hide inside a freezer full of meat (and a corpsicle) for a surprise attack just on that slim chance someone might open it, or have sped-up shots of casual drives be passed as "car chases"? There are times half-witted jiffs like these are what save movies from being dull and this one definitely have more than enough to leave a good impression without completely straying away from being dark, macabre and stabby. 

Not exactly the finest giallo out of Bava's filmography (I would bravely give Midnight Killer (1986) and Delirium (1987) that title), but it's a divertingly fun puzzler of a horror thriller to a degree and that's okay on my book!

1 male killed in a vehicular accident
1 male knifed to death
1 female had a hand chopped off with a hatchet, later found gutted
1 male castrated with a knife whilst swimming, bled to death
1 female had her throat cut, eyes plucked out
1 male crashes unto a car, killed in collision 
Total: 6

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Go Home: Turistas (2006)

Turistas (2006) (AKA "Paradise Lost")
Rating: ***
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Melissa George and Olivia Wilde

Around mid-2000s, the horror scene seems to had a small trend going on with tourists being terrorized by malicious people as seen in the likes of Eli Roth's Hostel movies and the infamous Ozploitation cult classic Wolf Creek (2005). Hot on this bloody hike trail was a little affair set in Brazil wherein a group of turistas must survive the dark and gritty side of paradise.

After a narrow escape from being potential bus crash casualties caused by a speedy driver and a very steep drop off a cliff, friends Bea and Amy, Bea’s chaperoning older brother Alex, Australian backpacker Pru and a pair of British buddies Finn and Liam decided to stroll down to a nearby beach bar after being notified that the next bus won't be around for another 10 hours. The place looks and feels legit enough for our newly acquainted gang to loosen up and have fun, drinking til' night time after a day of swimming, playing soccer with local children and hooking-up with Brazilian hotties. 

The movie, though, makes no attempt to hide the fact shit's about to go down when a barmaid secretly phones a shady doctor after doing a headcount on the foreigners. Morning comes and not only do our gang find out they were drugged unconscious that night, but all of their belongings were also stolen. Now stranded with nothing but the clothes on their backs, they wander into the nearest town hoping to find help, which they eventually did with Kiko, a local man they met a day prior at the beach. 

Kiko agrees to lead them to another man named Zamora who lives up in a jungle-set private house and appears to have enough connections and money to help them out of their predicament. Things only go for worse from this point as halfway into their journey, Kiko injures himself severely, thus leaving the group to hobble him up to Zamora's residence where they find out the man operates an organ harvesting ring, thus he has no intention at all on letting them leave Brazil alive.

Though low-key, the slasher elements in Turistas (2006) are present in the sense that the villains aren't shy on keeping the kill count stabby once in a while and, too, that the film has some pretty decent stalking scenes thrown here and there. It's not very often we get a slasher movie set deep in a dense tropical jungle, so it is refreshing to see this film make a fair attempt incorporating the deadly cat-and-mouse trope the subgenre is well known for with the scenic backdrop of Brazil's sandy beaches and forested wilderness. 

These facts aside, however, the overall feel of the movie leans much closer to a crime thriller laced with a horror aftertaste and medical nightmares; though Turistas (2006) has its brutal and shocking moments (particularly the demise of a Swedish couple and one unfortunate henchmen's bad end with a wooden skewer), is noticeably restrained as it exchanges most of the stomach-churning exploitative horror elements with a bigger emphasis on survivalist ventures, by-the-book vivisections and our leads' escape from their captors, not much unlike our boys back in Hostel (2005)'s fictionalized Bratislava. For what it is, the movie is a passable survival thriller, tight in tension and sparing some moments of realism even if it's still unable to escape a few parts being mediocre and predictable, which hinders the ramifications of the threat as a whole. 

Turistas (2006) would certainly have fared better, too, if it took the time to work out its premise, perhaps flesh out its characters further than the cardboard cut-outs that we have here. As expected for a movie dealing with stereotyped representations, the film is unsurprisingly bashed with controversy around Brazil for how it depicted its citizens as well. The resulting product, by the grace of it all, could have been way worse nonetheless and I would be lying if I say I didn't enjoy Turistas (2006) as a small guilty pleasure. 

1 male hacked to death with a machete
1 female ran off a cliff, falls to her death
1 male gets a wooden skewer forced into his eye
1 female operated on and disemboweled
1 male stabbed to death with a machete
1 male shot on the head with a rifle
1 male killed offscreen
1 male shot on the neck
1 male repeatedly stabbed on the neck with an arrow
1 male beaten with a rock, shot on the head with a rifle
Total: 10

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Campus Drillbit Murder Mystery: Initiation (2021)

Initiation (2021)
Rating: ***
Starring: Isabella Gomez, Lindsay LaVanchy and Froy Gutierrez

Booze, babes and bros. These are the very first things you'd see in this flick as the frat brothers and sorority sisters of Whinton University party it up one night for that typical campus debauchery. For one science major named Ellery, however, she's about to become a part of something far more serious when she unknowingly makes her way to a suspiciously locked room where one of her sorority sisters, Kylie, is seen passed out with Wes, Ellery's star athlete brother. 

Believing something happened behind that closed door, Ellery tries to talk Kylie into opening up what went down that night in the following morning, but the girl claims she doesn't remember. It seems that this isn't the first time Wes got into this sort of trouble as talks of "what happened last year" are brought up once again and, with access to the campus' labs, Ellery attempts sort the matter out by running a few DNA sequences on Kylie's discarded clothes to check if her brother involved himself to a possible assault. Unbeknownst to her, someone in a hood and mask decided to end Wes' life by slaughtering him with a powerdrill, starting off an investigation and a brutal bodycount as those seemingly connected to the incident start dying one by one.  

Intriguing to note here that despite having the face and plot of your classic campus slasher, Initiation (2021) took a more procedural approach to its story which has its pros and cons depending on how well you take the direction; there's a greater emphasis on building up a mystery here, done in this sleek yet near-realistic feel wherein characters are flawed and the situation can get grittier, with little to no horror going on for a good bulk. In fact, the first half hour of the movie felt closer to a teen crime drama than a stabby slasher, pacing itself to a crawl under the purpose of developing its red herrings and twists and it continues to do so even once the murders start happening.

This leads to a lot of scenes focusing on the fallout of the grisly killings, showing how the characters and the campus itself react to the tragedies which does add some depth and emotional layer for the increasingly dire predicament through incisive writing and genuine acting. The price of this, however, is a rather minuscule kill count and a slow burn that can get really testy for those who doesn't have the patience for it. Nevertheless, the movie never forgot to reward horror fans who are willing to stick around for its story as it can get brutal when it needs to be brutal, intense when it needs to be intense, all the while flipping some tropes in a workable turn.

Though the killings throughout the film are satisfyingly gruesome, it is the last act of the Initiation (2021) where the slasher elements finally take full force as our masked maniac (refreshingly portrayed to be as realistically human) takes over a nearly abandoned campus office to murder away all who are left there. It is undoubtedly the movie's strongest part, with great tension to behold mostly from our female leads doing their best to stay hidden from the killer in that classic cat-and-mouse prowl, just one head turn and/or one flashlight away from being caught.

While far from a title one could loose sleep over, Initiation (2021) is at least a competent little horror thriller that does the job good enough. A little unique in its form, yes, but casual horror fans can definitely find a decent murder mystery here for that one rainy afternoon.

1 male powerdrilled to a door, neck later found cut
1 male stabbed in the head with a knife
1 male gets powerdrilled to the throat
1 male gets powerdrilled to the chest, stabbed and gutted with a knife
Total: 4

Saturday, July 31, 2021

TV Terror: The Naughty List (2021)

The Naughty List (American Horror Stories Episode 4/Season 1 (2021)
Rating: ***
Starring: Kevin McHale, Nico Greetham and Dyllon Burnside

It's Christmas in July and Santa has come to town once more to spread some holiday fear in this deservingly gruesome entry from the horror anthology series American Horror Stories, a spin-off of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story.

Taking a bloody stab at internet fame, a group of three dude bro influencers and their more timid tech guy-slash-camera man, collectively known as the 'Bro House", decided one December day to try something a little different from their usual posts of internet challenges, pranks and other tomfooleries; camping out near a bridge infamous for suicide jumpers, the gang records a man's demise and posts it online with little hesitation, hoping for millions of new subscribers. The result though, as many would've guessed, is a ton backlash from their soon-to-be former fans and sponsors, leading to the Bro House boys to try everything they can to salvage their channel and get their increasingly declining follower count to spike back up.

One of these sad attempts happen to be raiding a mall Santa's workshop where they harass staff and visiting families, unsuspectingly leading to a nasty surprise for them later: as it turns out, the Santa working there (played by the ever intimidating yet badass Danny Trejo) is actually a serial killer who snuffs out real mall Santas to take their place and you can take a good wild guess who just ended up in this murderous Sick Nick's naughty list...

How well you would take in this mini-movie episode depends on how much toxic behavior and dumbassery your stomach can handle before the carnage because it is going to take a while to get there; for a good sum of the story, we're treated to three douchebags flexing their perceived invincibility as social media influencers and their belief that they're above any form of decency and morality just because they have a website and a fanbase. Admittedly, this is both frustrating and satisfying to watch as these characters' monumental stupidity to even understand the gravity of their actions meant seeing them struggle to grasp and accept the situation they caused on their own, henceforth further digging their own graves deeper not just as internet stars, but also literally when they finally cross the wrong person. I love the fact they're suffering from their choices, but I cannot help but think this could have been written and implemented better, perhaps with a more compelling set of characters to really give that gut a good ole' punch rather than going for the easy route of Paul Logan caricatures with even less functioning braincells.

In a way, this does make the resulting massacre all that more satisfying given how much these character made themselves so deserving of being targeted by a holiday-themed slasher. I love the fact Danny Trejo's slaughtering Santa has little to go by in terms of solid origin and depth, as it kinda gives him this mysterious air of simply existing there to do harm in what he sees as his deed as Saint Nick. The kills are bloody at best, the most creative among them being a nasty way out involving Christmas lights and a pool, but with it happening around the last third of an episode with a near 40 minute run time, I did wish it was a tad more longer so we could further engross ourselves to the unfolding horror.

In a nutshell, American Horror Stories' The Naughty List (2021) embodies the worst and best elements of a simple slasher story, focusing first on a slowburn rabbit hole of internet toxicity and cancel culture before getting on the gory goods of candy cane colored crossbows and human gullet-decorated Christmas trees. It's not the grandest example of a holiday slasher story done right (heck, it barely even felt like its Christmas throughout the episode), but if you can survive your way through annoying characters without a hitch just to see that sweet, sweet mayhem for all that trouble, I say go for it and catch this!  
1 male jumps off a bridge
1 male found inside a box dismembered into pieces
1 male had his head twisted
1 male tangled in Christmas lights and thrown into a pool, electrocuted
1 male shot to death with a crossbow
1 male shot on the leg with a crossbow and set on fire with gasoline, later succumbs to his injuries in a pool
Total: 6