Time for another trip to the drive-in for a double feature! This time around, Jenny has chosen PUMPKINHEAD (1988) and GIRLS WITH BALLS (2018) for the bill. Enjoy! (Apologies for some technical faults in the recording. We do our best.)
Neil (DOG SOLDIERS, THE DESCENT) Marshall’s latest film is set in 1665 England. The plague is still active, as are Withcfinder Generals, and witch trials. Grace (Charlotte Kirk) and Joseph (Joe Anderson) have a newborn and work the land they lease. Joseph takes a trip into town for work, and drops by the local pub for a quick ale afterwards. This decision sees him infected with the plague and, to save Grace and their child from the same fate, he hangs himself outside the family home.
With Joseph gone, the Landlord calls upon Grace to let her know he still expects the full rent on time. When he later returns he’s shocked to see her give her her late husband’s wedding ring as three months worth of rent. When he balks she attempts to give him her wedding ring to cover her for a total of six months. This leads to the Landlord deciding he’s rather “take the rent in trade”, and he begins to assault her. Grace fights back, and the Landlord is sent packing while warning her she’s not heard the last about this.
Stopping at the pub to “lick his wounds” he begins to spout falsehoods about Grace, and question what really happened to Joseph. If he truly had the plague both Grace and the child should have perished. If Joseph didn’t have the sickness, maybe Grace bewitched him into the noose that took his life. After reminding most everyone in the pub that he’s their landlord the group begin to drum up false accusations against grace.
These accusations see Grace attacked, taken into custody along with her baby, and brings Withcfinder General Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) to town to find the “truth” about Joseph’s demise and Grace. From here the film turns into part torture-porn, and part revenge-porn. These are two horror sub-genres I don’t care for, so THE RECKONING was a struggle for me to endure.
I can say that Sean Pertwee was chewing scenery, in the best way possible, as Moorcroft. However, there’s not much else that I can praise the film for. At nearly 2 hours it was far too long, and the script (co written by Edward Evers-Swindell, Charlotte Kirk, and Neil Marshall) didn’t bring anything new to the witch/witch trials sub-genre. If you don’t have the same opinion on torture-porn or revenge-porn as I do, this movie could possibly work for you. For me…I can’t recommend the film, and it’s not one I’ll look to revisit.
Writer/Director Bryan (THE STRANGERS, THE MONSTER) Bertino is back with a film about siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbot Jr.) returning to the family farm for the week to help their Mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) with their terminally ill Father (Michael Zagst). It becomes quickly, and abundantly, clear the kids don’t return home very often and that their mother doesn’t want them there.
Bryan Bertino wastes no time dropping us into the thick of things. A horrible incident with Mother leads to the kids finding her diary. In it they find page after page of her taking about something evil out there coming for their Father. His nurse (Lynn Andrews) tells Louise her Mother had changed recently, began sitting next to her Father and talking, but it was as if she was speaking to someone else and not him. Louise becomes convinced their Mother kept telling them not to come so she could save them from the clutches of whatever she was talking to.
Louise and Michael both begin to see and hear things, and this is where Bryan’s script really grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. The sense of dread that falls over the farm is palpable. It is in fact, dark, wicked, and unrelenting as each new night raises the stakes until the kids decide they should have their Father transported to a hospital, so they could leave the farm. The evil entity haunting the farm, of course, has other plans for the siblings and those around them.
The performances, especially by Marin Ireland, are impressive and gut-wrenching. Xander Berkeley as a Priest has a small but extremely memorable role as well. Bryan Bertino’s script is viciously efficient and cuts right to the bone. His directing masterfully places you in the middle of the horrendous events, won’t let you go, and forces you to watch the unspeakable events that unfold. This movie is bleak with a capital B, and it so very in my wheelhouse. I rarely have nightmares after watching horror films, and I have to admit I bolted out of sleep a little past 3:00 a.m. this morning because of the movie.
With THE STRANGERS it was all about “What happens if the evil gets inside?” Here the question is “What happens if the evil is already inside?” THE DARK AND THE WICKED will be available via VOD as of 11/6/2020, and I can’t wait to own it, and watch again. I have a good feeling I’ll be talking much more about this film when we do our top horror films of 2020 in a few months.
Writer/Director Justin Simien brings us the story of an ambitious assistant, Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine), at a music television station in 1989 doing everything it takes to get ahead when her job is in jeopardy. This desire to move up the corporate ladder leads her to get a weave when her new boss, Zora (Vanessa Williams), tells Anna her look isn’t up to par for the music channels new “brand.” Zora gives her a card to the place she uses for her hair, and Anna eventually visits to get a weave. Unknown to her, the hair used for these weaves are “special” and just may have a mind of its own…as well as a taste for blood.
I have to say the scene where Anna gets the weave put on at Virgie’s, by Virgie herself (Laverne Cox), is one of the most terrifying and intense moments of the film. The scene is shot as slasher, every move seems menacing, and every moment seems to be killing Anna. Armed with her new look Anna climbs out of being on thin ice with her job to becoming associate producer on the overhaul of the music channel.
Anna quickly discovers the weave is “alive”, through several horrible incidents. While this film is billed as a horror-comedy, it really leaned into horror most of the time. The more out of control her hair becomes, the more her life begins to spiral out of control. Searching for answers finds Anna researching the myth of the Moss Haired Lady with the help of her academic uncle (Blair Underwood).
I found BAD HAIR to be a Hell of a fun ride. The cast is great, there’s so many people who are in this I didn’t even get to mention, and the mythology used to explain the sentient, evil hair was interesting. I did a quick search to see if the myth of the Moss Haired Woman was some that already existed or if it was created by Justin Simien. So far, I’ve not found anything on the tale. While there were comedic moments, it wasn’t a packed with comedy as the premise may suggest. So, keep that in mind going in. This isn’t some silly, horror parody. I also would have liked a deeper dive into the social commentary of the beauty standards black women face in life and in the workforce (please seek out reviews and articles about this film written by black women for a far better perspective on the social commentary, and really real world implications they deal with on a daily basis, than I can provide as a cis, white male). While it’s touched upon here, it’s not explored much further once the bloodshed begins. BAD HAIR will debut on Hulu on 10/23/20, and I’ll be watching it again for certain.
We’re huge fans of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s films here at The Podcast Macabre. So, to say I was excited to score a ticket to see their latest movie at the Misson Tiki Drive-In as part of Beyond Fest 2020 is an under statement. SYNCHRONIC is easily their most ambitious movie to date. Set in New Orleans, friends and paramedics Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) begin to see increasingly bizarre deaths as they work the night shift.
Steve is the single, party, and “play the field” guy while Dennis is married to Tara (Katie Aselton), and has kids. Secretly Steve longs for what Dennis has, while Dennis seems to have hit a “midlife crisis”, and feels trapped by his family. The guys eventually tie a new designer drug, Synchronic, to the odd cases they’ve seen just in time for Dennis’ teenaged daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) to disappear after taking it while hanging out with friends.
The lives of both Steve and Dennis begin to unravel in different ways, leading Steve to go around town in an attempt to purchase all of the available Synchronic so nobody else would get hurt from the supposedly harmless drug. At one of his stops Steve is confronted by a man who wishes to purchase the Synchronic from him at triple what he paid for it. Steve declines, even when offered $2,000.00. We later discover the man is Dr. Kermani (Ramirez Monsef), and he designed Synchronic. As Dr. Kermani reveals the truth behind, Steve is sent on a time-traveling journey in an attempt to rescue Brianna.
I love the premise of SYNCHRONIC, and the visuals people see as they get high on the drug are impressive. Anthony Mackie was a clear standout for me, but the whole cast delivered. My only complaint there is Katie Aselton as Tara didn’t get nearly enough screen time. As with their other films, Benson and Moorhead utilize every cent of the budget they can on screen. The effects work looked great, and nothing made the movie seem budget constricted or small.
Fans of Benson and Moorhead should definitely check SYNCHRONIC out when they’re able. Anyone who loves time-travel stories would do well to get their eyes on the film as well. It’s a great addition to their filmography, and further promises nothing but great things for their future. In a pre-recorded intro to the film Benson and Moorhead revealed they’re quarantining together because they’ve been working on their next project, which went into pre-production as of yesterday. They didn’t drop any hints at what it’ll be about, but I’ll be there to watch whatever new adventure they wish to share.
Focusing on the production companies behind a lot of great indie horror in the past decade, we share our personal 15 faves from A24 Films, Oscilloscope Labs, Spectrevision, and XYZ Films. (Letterboxd companion list link in show notes.)
We’re making our lists and checking them a dozen times as HoopTober 7.0 is upon us on Letterboxd. And who better to have on to talk about it than the mad genius behind it, Cinemonster! Please enjoy this fun as hell interview and maybe join the challenge yourself. (Check all the links in the show notes, too!)