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 and 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 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

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Happy 10th Birthday, StickyRed!

Ten years. 

Ten years of all things hacking and stabbing. Ten years of filling up this compendium of bodycounts from slasher movies and its kin. I never really thought I could make it this far! 

It kinda feels like it was just yesterday when I finally decided to start writing about my favorite horror sub-genre after visiting sites like Hysteria-Lives, Slasherpool and Retroslashers. (Dang, who remembers the last two?) I wanted an outlet and this site gave me that opportunity to do just that so, thank you. 

Thank you for those who dropped by to see what this little man has offer in insight regarding your favorite and/or new slasher titles out there. (I sure do hope I didn't spoil any movies considering the bodycounting I do here! haha) Thank you for tolerating my grammar, which I swear I check and re-check, over and over. Thank you for commenting and sharing a few suggestions for me to watch and read. (You know who you are, you good people!)

Thank you, to all the little friends I made here. Knowing you take a time off your day to see what I write about simply puts a smile on my face. (What can I say? I'm a man of simple pleasures!)

So ten years has passed since I started this blog. Here's to another ten years and more! So long as evil walks on two legs and there are final girls and boys to stop them, I will power on to see what this fine subgenre has to offer! So here's to StickyRed: Bodycount Compendium! So now, dear readers...

The Witch Forever Lives: Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Kiana Madeira, Ashley Zukerman and Gillian Jacobs

Previously on Fear Street; After learning through a fellow Shadyside massacre survivor's own harrowing account back in 1978 that they can end the curse afflicting their town by reuniting a dead witch's severed hand with the rest of her remains, siblings Deena and Josh find the buried hand and go forth to her suspiciously misplaced grave. But when Deena bleeds unto the remains, however, she begins to see things from the past through, much to her surprise, the witch's eyes...

It's the early 17th century, at a settlement called Union; Sarah Fier is just like any other youth around the community, spending her days helping around with her family's chores and enjoying whatever free time she has left with her friends. But when one night of festivities under the full moon had her confessing her love for her friend Sarah Miller and got intimate, it somehow kicked off a curse that spoiled the town's harvests, poisoned the water and possessed the settlement's pastor Cyrus Miller into murdering a dozen children. As the town's grievance boils into blaming rage, they set their eyes on hunting down Sarah Fier and Hannah Miller as many claim to have seen the two practicing witchcraft. 

Now on the run and blamed for the mysterious plague, Sarah Fier looks for a way to save not only herself, but her beloved Hannah, this including striking a deal with the Devil himself. But not everything is what it appears and Sarah, along with our present day Shadysiders, will find out the horrible truth about the darkness befalling them...

Much like the first two Fear Street movies, 1666 subverts expectations by practically handling a story that is its own rather than a homage to a popular slasher plot; running around nearly two hours, the film is split into (further) two parts, with the first being a folk horror story taking place during the fire-and-brimstone era of colonial America. This is where the trilogy bring forth its most intriguing and strongest plot point as it plays with the idea of forbidden romance, paranoia and religious fanaticism through a twisty mystery as a mean to flesh out a workable overarching story even more. The unexpected turns within these parts work fittingly well with the overall tone of the story as a whole, keeping us on our toes as we watch Fier and Miller (both played by the two main casts from the previous two films, a nice touch that gave their characters a bit of legacy) figure out what's causing the misfortunes, all the while surviving an extremist mob on a murderous witch hunt. Through its gloomy camera work and suppressive score, this half is simply evocative and intense down to the expected yet still shocking and surprisingly bittersweet end that leads us back to the present.

Without giving away the big reveal, the second half of 1666 follows up on where the events of 1994 left off so far, now with a stronger sense of urgency and tighter atmosphere as a surprise villain is made aware that their secretive exploits have been compromised and is now willing to do anything to make sure it stays hidden. The whole second act just ties neatly to everything that been happening, made better with the fact that it brought back the spunky energy of the first movie which was noticeably absent from the second. This means more creative Scooby-Doo friendly plans to stop yet another small army of stabby, masked and not-so-masked villains (I swear, these killers better get their own movies!), ending with a satisfying finale that tug heartstrings and a last shot implying some possible mayhem in the future. It perfectly balances out the bleak and gloomy first half, a cleverly entertaining way to wraparound the entirety of the story.

With the story straying away from the typical hack-and-stab film plot, this leaves Fear Street 1666 a bit of an oddball within the interconnected slasher trilogy with its lack of sizeable onscreen kill count or recognizable teen horror tropes. It does earn points here, however, as a general horror flick with its bold moves of having the first set of slayings involve children (done offscreen and it's only for a single scene, but the shown aftermath of the carnage is still unnerving) and Sarah Fier's own hanging being effectively distressing considering the twist. It further makes up for its lack of solid slasher build with a very engaging story and character development and this is something I personally see as not only this movie's winning factor, but the entire trilogy's; there's respect for the slasher tropes we all know and love here, addressing it before giving it a spin of its own. This fresh take on the subgenre is exactly the kind of welcome creative response we need and is why each film works.

A strong last chapter to a trilogy of slasher throwbacks and then some, Fear Street 1666 is as good as it can get when it comes to a fun mystery, intense thrills and ghoulish cavalcades of masked killers and traitorous spellcasters. It certainly has its little flaws (I find it kinda hard to buy that puritan teens sneaks out for parties, drinking the fruits of the land and take berries as drugs but, eh!), but for all the good it has to offer, I can honestly say this is a one gratifying entry for a of a kind slasher event!  

12 children found murdered, eyes plucked out with a horseshoe hook pick
1 male stabbed in the side with a pitchfork
1 female had her throat cut with a knife
1 female hanged
1 male stabbed through the neck with a knife
1 male knifed in the gut
1 male knifed in the eye
Total: 18

Thursday, July 15, 2021

No Talking. No Texting. No Breathing: Al Morir La Matinée (2020)

Al Morir La Matinée (Uruguay/Argentina, 2020) (AKA "Red Screening", "The Last Matinee", "Bloody Matinee")
Rating: ****
Starring: Ricardo Islas, Luciana Grasso and Franco Duran

Sometimes you don't have to flex a high concept to make a fun horror movie. Sometimes you could just work it out with some guy with a bag full of tools, a fairly sizable bodycount and set of gnarly kills, all taking place in a old school movie theater. 

It's a rainy day in 1993 and young projectionist Ana (Luciana Grasso) is taking over her emphysema-stricken father's shift at the Cine Opera downtown theater, which is mostly empty that day. The few patrons who are staying, though, are treating themselves with a showing of Frankenstein, The Monster (With clips taken from Frankenstein: Day of the Beast (2011)) all the while going on with their own shenanigans of hooking up with girls, giving their dates a hand and, for one kid, sneaking in to brave a movie that might be too scary for him. Unbeknown to them all, a gloved maniac is staying in the very same theater and he has set his eyes on killing them all.

While it isn't new to have a slasher film set in a movie theater seeing we have titles like The Meateater (1979), Movie House Massacre (1984)Anguish (1987), and Matinee (1989) already, as well as a few horror titles opening with a murder taking place in crowded theaters such as He Knows You're Alone (1980) and Scream 2 (1997), none of them really took the sleek and gory approach as good as Al Morir La Matinée (2020). Basically, the film's direction is to have the hack and stab elements stripped down to its very core, a throwback of sorts with a simple premise and somewhat okay characters being themselves while a killer picks them off one by one. It never strays away from this approach. No twists or curveballs. Just have a psycho stalk the cinema and murder away anyone he can grab hold on to.

This, in turn, means that the characters can be lacking a bit of depth or personality, but the interactions between themselves and others do have their subtle, cheeky and cheesy moments, thus keeping their scenes far from being boring whenever the film focuses on them. It also helps that the group isn't that big so the focus isn't all over the place, as well as the fact that the plot is paced nicely between the horror and non-horror scenes, giving us enough time to take a quick breather before our killer decides who to stalk and stab next.

And speaking of which, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) will undoubtedly make a gorehound's day as not only is it very bloody, but there's also a strong Italian giallo influence in its cinematography so expect outrageous murder angles, evocative tinted lighting and stylized brutality that would make the likes of Argento or Bava proud. (Best of which being a smoker's demise when the killer went for their throat!) What further works here is that there's a sense of tension and creepiness to the killer's massacre, utilizing the nearly empty cinema setting to give our maniac all the darkened halls and rooms to sneak and prowl around, as well as use the screams from the movie playing to drown out the sound of his weapons and distract unsuspecting moviegoers from the murder happening just a few rows next to them. There's definitely a reason behind all of these methodic killings, but who this killer is or how did he ended up this way is something the movie's keeping to itself and I'm frankly okay with that.

Smoothened with a beatastic synth soundtrack and a strong finale involving a trio of potential survivors, Al Morir La Matinée (2020) is a real winner in my eyes as an old school-style slasher done right. It doesn't beat around the bush with too many layered side-plots and its brutal enough to keep a horror fanatic excited, all the makings of a bonafide slasher experience in my book! So whenever you find yourself a chance to see this, I guarantee you a keeper here!

1 elderly male brained with a hammer
1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male and 1 female had their heads skewered together with a broken long iron hook
1 male had his face bashed against the floor, stabbed with a knife
1 female had her chest and eye stabbed with a knife
1 male knifed to death
1 female had her head repeatedly crushed with a projector's lamphouse lid
1 male ran through with a broken long iron hook
Total: 9

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Bad Things Always Happen To Shadysiders: Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021)

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd and Ryan Simpkins

Previously in Fear Street; in the cursed town of Shadyside, teen siblings Deena and Josh Johnson, along with Deena's girlfriend Sam Fraser, found a way to stop a trio of resurrected killers after seemingly disturbing a fabled witch's grave, losing their dear friends in the process. Unbeknowst to them, the curse is far from done as Sam gets possessed with a murderous frenzy. Desperate for a solution, Deena and Josh turn to the only person who can help them now, a fellow Shadyside resident named C. Berman who dealt with the witch's curse before.

As the siblings manage to restrain Sam and travel to Berman's house, much to the latter's uneasiness and reluctance to get involved with the curse again, they try convincing her to at least share what she knows. Giving in eventually, Berman recounts her own tragedy during that one night at Camp Nightwing.

It was 1978, when the rivalry between the prosperous town of Sunnyvale and the downbeaten Shadyside gets put to the test once more through the camp's annual color war. Shadyside sisters Ziggy and Cindy Berman, polar opposites of one another personality-wise, will see themselves caught in an alarming situation through their own encounters with the camp nurse, Mrs. Lane, whose own daughter Ruby Lane became one of Shadyside's spree killers. Ziggy, the rebellious one, notices Lane's distressed ramblings about the nature of her daughter's murder spree whilst getting her wounds treated, while Cindy, the uptight one, gets a far more harrowing experience when Lane attacked her and her boyfriend, Tommy Slater, after claiming she saw the boy's name on a wall.

Fortunately, Lane gets dealt with before any further damage can be done, prompting the campers to bring up the supposed Shadyside curse and Sarah Fier, the supposed witch responsible for damning the land. Being the ever rational person, Cindy doesn't buy any of this and goes snooping around the nurse's office with Tommy, looking for proof that she may just be high on something during the attack. Crashing in to join them is Cindy's former friend Alice and her boyfriend Arnie, and they find not only a bottle of unlabeled drugs, but also Lane's journal full of notes and details about Sarah Fier, her deal with the devil and the curse itself.

As Cindy and her group goes deeper into the woods looking for Fier's house to understand Lane's obsession over the witch, Ziggy deals with a group of Sunnyvale bullies and gets an unexpected help from a fellow Sunnyvale teen, a counselor named Nick Goode who, more or less, is smitten with her. It would have been a typical Summer night of misadventures for the two groups, but little do they know that the curse is real and it has taken another soul that evening. A soul damned to commit murder under the name of Sarah Fier...

Clocking for almost two hours, about an approximate two-thirds of Fear Street 1978 have us watching more heart-to-heart moments between the doomed teens as they discuss their troubles and outlooks in life through the eyes of troubled youth, as well as dive deeper into the hints and details as to who and what Sarah Fier could be and how the curse works. This means that, although influenced by backwoods slashers, particularly the Friday The 13th and Sleepaway Camp movies, the film subverts expectations by primarily focusing more of its narrative on the characters and the mythology behind the witch's curse, leaving the slasher elements to run its course in the background for the killcount and, frankly, very gruesome shock value. This can be a relative drawback as the approach may not sit well for those expecting full on backwoods-set hacking and stabbing through and through, especially with its comparably slower pace than the first entry and the abundance of lore talk (most of it taking place inside a cave, mind you), but the movie does make up for these with its stellar performances, inspired scripting and genuinely bleak atmosphere.

Much of the development stems from the two lead actresses Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd as Ziggy and Cindy Berman respectively, sisters who hadn't seen each other's desperation for love and acceptance for quite some time, now thrown in an otherworldly massacre that's both human and supernatural. The writing for these two and how they were acted simply flesh out the uneasy and tense history between them, giving the girls time to develop and open up with their troubles to further establish themselves as individuals and sincerely grow as family. Sad to say, as it is established early into the film, one of them will bite the big one and the impact of the demise is still no short of tragic.

When Fear Street 1978 does show its slasher side, it is mostly what you would expect from a backwoods slasher set-up featuring a mad axeman, with people getting chopped left and right with explicitly strong gore. The shock factor here, though, is that almost half of the victims were preteen children and albeit it's mostly offcamera, the fact that this massacre included young kids is pretty ballsy. It undoubtedly shows the kind of serious mood they're setting for, at the price of the camp and snark which does make the first movie memorable, sadly. The supernatural-tainted finale does also call for some fair word about it for how dark it was despite, again, knowing the outcome.

Acting as a solid midway between a planned trilogy, as well as a competent standalone campsite slasher, Fear Street 1978 is a treat for backwoods slasher enthusiasts who doesn't mind a fair bit of teen drama and witchy threats tagging along the bodycount. It may lack the vigor of the first film, yes, but I'll give it points for attempting something fresh out of the typical backwoods teen horror and for being a consistent narrative within a bigger story.

1 male repeatedly axed on the face
1 boy hacked to death with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
2 boys and 2 girls axed to death offscreen
1 male decapitated with an axe
1 male knifed to death
1 female hacked on the chest with an axe
1 female hacked to death with an axe
Total: 11

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Where Your Worst Nightmares Live: Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021)
Rating: ****
Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch and Benjamin Flores Jr.

Like many horror-inclined kid growing up in the late 90s and the early 2000s, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books were a staple reading for me during them past lazy weekend afternoons, that was until I elevated my taste for horror novels by reading my first Stephen King work. (Cujo, for those who are curious) From that point, I kinda associated R.L. Stine with kiddie horror for a while and never really bothered with the author until I started looking for slasher novels during college and rediscovered Stine through his other literary series, Fear Street, about teens living in a town called Shadyside and their deadly encounters with the paranormal, the murderous, or sometimes both!

In this first entry of a planned three-parter movie event inspired by the books, we start off in a small town mall during its closing hours and one "Shadysider" teen named Heather Watkins, clocking off from her bookstore cashier job. A figure in a robed skeleton costume suddenly shows up and starts a deadly cat-and-mouse chase with her, hunting knife at hand and a couple of other unfortunate folks littered outside already murdered. "Skull Mask" here eventually catches up on Heather after an intense stalk-and-stab act, knifing her to death just as she uncovers that Skull Mask is actually her friend Ryan Torres.

The killer then gets himself snuffed out with a bullet to the head when a responding sheriff finally makes it there, thus ending another Shadyside massacre...

As the following morning comes, news of the spree killing have the entire town talking once again, among them being the students of the local high school who some believe this to be the work of a witch who cursed the town centuries ago, leading to murders like this being an unwanted norm for Shadyside. Young Deena Johnson doesn't believe in this, however, nor does she have the time to; still bitter about a recent break-up, she just wants to get the day done and over with so she can quit the school band and go back home to sulk. Her fun junkie friends Kate and Simon, though, convince her to stay and join them in a memorial service over at the neighboring town of Sunnyvale, whose football team they'll be fighting in a later game.

The problem, of course, is that Deena's ex-girlfriend, Sam, just happens to be now living in Sunnyvale and attending the same school opposing Shadyside's. The meet-up gets as awkward as it can get when Deena starts going off on Sam for breaking her heart, made worse as a fight breaks out during the service when a Sunnyvale teen made some very unsavory remarks against Shadyside.

It all escalates for the worse when a group of Sunnyvale punks, along with Sam as an unwilling participant, decided to harass the school bus Deena and her friends are at while heading back to town. Their attempt to retaliate ends in a car crash, which lands Sam in the hospital and her boyfriend threatening Deena that he'll get her back for what happened.

And wouldn't you know it, at the night after the incident, someone in a Skull Mask get-up begins stalking Deena and the gang, lurking around and breaking into houses, seemingly preying on something or someone. Could this be, perhaps, a pissed-off boyfriend's sick and twisted attempt to get even? Or is there something far more dangerous and deadlier at play here? Something involving a witch's curse and a town's dark legacy as America's murder capital? 

With its fast pace, fun characters and captivating lore, not only does Fear Street 1994 captures the feel and tone of the book series it is adapted from, but it also twists a refreshingly creative take on throwback slashers that simply delivers; rather than being a straightforward bodycount mystery, it delved into other elements such as witchcraft horror and a bit of survivalist thrills as the middle run of the plot becomes a chase flick with not only one, but three slashers on a hunt and its up for our small troubled group to think up plans to stop them, these being the best bits of the film.

The key point that makes this direction work so well is that it gave us a chance to know our characters a bit more and see their interaction with one another despite not altogether meeting eye-to-eye at the beginning. They start out as typical slasher victim labels of junkies, nerds, cheerleaders and an obviously marked final girl, but their development during the plot's downtimes made them closer and I genuinely love the writing done for them, may it be for laughs or feels, so much so that I worry the outcome of their predicament. And, seeing this is a slasher, they eventually have to chance a gruesome fate and when it happens, it's purely cathartic.

The supernatural theme, thankfully, didn't overly complicate matters as it remains pretty easy to follow and is used to greatly fair effect here through the slashers; without spoiling a lot, the three killers are basically henchmen working under the influence of a curse and it is through this power that keeps them ticking and going. What I love about these killers is that they're pretty diverse in their theme and the lore behind them do make me wish Fear Street 1994 isn't going to just contain itself within three films as the mythology behind the curse hinted more slashers at work from the past and we don't often get slasher concepts taking place during periods of times away from the 90s, 80s, or 70s. (We got a brief look of a 1950s milkman slasher and a deformed boy on a bashing spree in 1920s. How often do we get that?!) 

When it comes to the kills, Fear Street 1994 remains generous with the bloodletting, though a good bulk of the numbers are from offscreen murders and quick carnal flashbacks. Whenever they do decide to show some serious onscreen carnage, its mostly practical with one memorable murder involving a supermarket's electric bread slicer that I doubt will leave everybody's minds as soon as the film ends. (Eat your heart out, Intruder (1989)!) Other highlights include evident homages to classic slasher scenes such as Scream (1996)'s opening act of murdering a big star like Maya Hawke of the Stranger Things fame, as well as Kate's babysitting fiasco as a possible throwback to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978).

It's a pretty strong start for Fear Street's trilogy of supernatural slasher terror and I, for one, cannot wait to see where this entry's cliffhanger ending will lead us to in terms of lore, twists and, hopefully, bodycounting. A strong love letter to slashers of old with a witty witchy twist, whether you love the books or slasher in general, I highly recommend not missing out on this unexpectedly entertaining chiller, or be damned by the witch's curse forever!

1 female repeatedly knifed, bled to death
1 male shot on the head
6 victims seen and mentioned murdered
1 male ran through with a knife
1 female found with a cut throat
1 male knifed in the throat
1 female had her throat cut with a razor (flashback)
1 female seen knifed to death (flashback)
1 boy seen with his head being bashed with a bat (flashback)
1 victim seen being drowned (flashback)
1 female had her head ran through an electric bread slicer
1 male axed on the head
Total: 17