Not a sinner not a saint

candy land 2022

CANDY LAND

3.5 Stars  2022/93m

“We’ll take care of you.”

Director/Writer: John Swab / Cast: Olivia Luccardi, Sam Quartin, Eden Brolin, Owen Campbell, Virginia Rand, Guinevere Turner, William Baldwin, Brad Carter, Bruce Davis.

Body Count: 27+


Beware thy necessary spoilers.

Admittedly, when I read Candy Land was a slasher pic centered around sex workers at a truck stop, I pictured some regurgitated 80s throwback script with a succession of underdressed hot women being judgmentally offed by a wacko, while the patrons of their services get away scot free. And with the very first shot is of a naked chick riding a guy in the cab of a truck, I thought my suspicions were justified.

So it was a nice surprise when Candy Land turned out be something of an insightful little gem that adheres to the expected, but does so without leering at its subjects like they’re irredeemable filth.

candy land 2022

In 1996, a quartet of sex workers (Sadie, Liv, Riley, and Levi) run their ‘lot lizard’ business out of a truck stop motel alongside a remote highway. They turn tricks for cash in cabs, behind the dumpsters, in the bathroom, and get boarding from owner Nora, while local Sheriff Rex gives them no trouble in exchange for freebies from lone-male hustler Levi. This includes being lax about investigating the discovery of a mutilated corpse found in a bathroom stall. Other visitors include judgey Christians from a local cult, who routinely stop by to tell them to repent before it’s too late.

Ejected from this cult one day comes Remy, a sheltered girl covered by a thrift store dress out of Grandma’s 1950s collection, who is taken in by the group, fed, given a place to sleep, and taught the trade, if she wants to stick around. Receptively, Remy copies the others as best she can, but soon reveals that the bulky wooden cross she carries with her contains a lethal blade, which she uses to skewer, slash, and de-eye the men who try to lay their hands on her, including a sleazy old priest and a family man who’s “never done this before”.

candy land 2022

Praying that she’s saving them from themselves, Remy soon finds herself having to eliminate any witnesses, including one of the other girls and a luckless motorist who stumbles in on a kill. Then she sets about killing just about everybody for Jesus, before posing as the sole survivor and getting Rex to drive her back to the cult, where an intense end scene unfurls, which, if I’m honest, catapulted Candy Land up an extra star from ‘nicely done’ subcultural slasher to unsettling comment on opposing facets of American culture: Religious extremes and hedonism.

While the outcome is pretty bleak and there’s no real hero/heroine figure to root for, John Swab has written a group of interesting characters who exist in a non-traditional family unit, look out for one another, and possess awareness of the risks they face, emphasised in a scene where Levi is beaten by a patron who then rapes him. Visual objectification feels like a necessity here, given the subject matter, but at least seems to be from a place of art rather than titillation, and is sure to comment that those who judge most harshly are more often than not the ones frequenting the hookers’ services.

Blurb-of-interest: Owen Campbell was in X.

Schrei Zwei

dead island school's out ii 2001

DEAD ISLAND: SCHOOL’S OUT II

2.5 Stars  2001/95m

Director: Robert Sigl / Writer: Kai Meyer / Cast: Katharina Wackernagel, Barnaby Metschurat, Anna Kanis, Luise Bähr, Alexandra Finder, Annette Kreft, Karin Giegerich, Nezâ Selbuz, Susanne Berckhemer, Friederike Kempter.

Body Count: 7


A TV sequel to 1999’s German TV Euro-Scream sleeper, School’s Out, where a scissor-wielding harlequin hunted a string of school friends.

In the follow up, heroine Nina (Wackernagel) is now residing at a clinic on a small island, once home to a convent until the nuns up and vanished one day. Something about a murdered baby. Sacrifice. Jealousy. Revenge. The subtitles were live translated from the German audio so it’s not clear. At one point somebody apparently exclaimed: “The cake itself carried away with it!”

In the now, Nina’s boyfriend Niklas sneaks on to the island alongside a visiting doctor, there to oversee and report back on the questionable methods of therapy employed by the wheelchair-bound professor who runs the place.

Before long, someone in a veiled nun’s habit starts killing everyone: A girl is chased into a bog and sinks, a couple of others meet the business end of a harpoon, and most others die off camera. Tame stuff, but with some nice aesthetic flourishes here and there and a fun locus with the abandoned fortress on the edge of a cliff.

I wasn’t particularly clear on the killer’s motive, but the attempts to hide their identity are also curiously absent. Expect a sort of Murder She Wrote: Teen Jessica’s Adventures and you’ll picture it. About as good as the first one. Take that as you will.

Gorestunbury

wreck season 2 2024

WRECK – SERIES 2

4 Stars  2024/274m

Directors: Louis Paxton, Chris Baugh / Writer: Ryan J. Brown, Ellie Kenderick / Cast: Oscar Kennedy, Thaddea Graham, Jodie Tyack, Harriet Webb, Peter Claffey, Miya Ocego, Alice Nokes, Amber Grappy, Warren James Dunning,  Niamh Walsh, Greg Austin, Joseph Arkley, Alan Dale, Orlando Newman, Anthony Rickman, Buck Braithwaite, Sam Buttery, Carolyn Bracken, Shaheen Jafargholi.

Body Count: 25

Laughter Lines: “She’s the worst person I’ve ever met – and I went to stage school.”


Gonna be honest, I didn’t expect there to be a second series of Wreck, the BBCs LGBTQ-peppered horror comedy series which, initially, skewered cruise ship culture for laughs and scares. For all its in-jokes (both horror and homo), nobody else seemed to be talking about it. The good news is that it must’ve done something right, because here we are again – and it’s even better than before.

After escaping The Sacramentum, pals-by-trauma Jamie and Vivian find exposing parent company Velorum for their Elite Hunting-esque set up impossible. The company either pays off potential witnesses or disposes of them – a fate which quickly befalls a number of the surviving crew members.

wreck series 2 2024 main cast

Meanwhile, in the beautiful woods of Slovenia (been there, it is that lush), a Velorum-backed hippie festival, Exodum, is about to launch. Headed up by the company owner’s daughter Devon (see Laughter Lines), it seems nothing has changed and bright young things who came to work there find themselves put aside for the killing pleasures of rich clientele.

Jamie and Vivian, along with the ever-loveable Cormac and Rosie, Lauren, and a reluctant Sophia (until her friends are murdered) meet up with inside-man Ben to try and save themselves from a pair of duck-masked killers, one of whom possesses Jason-like invulnerability. Also in attendance? Jamie’s ‘dead’ sister, Pippa, who makes it clear she and something of a resistance network are already on the case and intend to stick it to Velorum, with a little help from an unlikely source.

wreck series 2 2024

I watched Wreck S2 in the same week that I was involved in a conversation that mourned Scream‘s recent reluctance to raise the stakes and kill its darlings, something that is not a problem for Ryan J. Brown; characters we liked and even loved are not spared the business end of a blade this time, which adds an emotional weight to proceedings, rather than just bussing in a new serving of clueless schmucks as knife fodder. Look out for the scene with the heavy oak door and the pitchfork – sad, brutal, daring. It pays off.

Beyond the sad though, Wreck wrecks me with its humour. Sharp, cutting dialogue flies off the screen at locomotive pace (“despite the sensible shoes, I’m not a fur trader”) and the light disdain for festival culture (“this is some white people shiiit”) is endlessly amusing. The reassembly of the quirky, diverse group of underdog heroes is where it scores most impressively though, drawing out their likeable all-for-one qualities, albeit mocked by the bad guys, and keeping us rooting for them right to the end.

wreck series 2

Season 3 don’t wait too long!

Blurb-of-interest: Alan Dale was in Houseboat Horror.

Less is more

vengeance part 2 bloodlines 2022

VENGEANCE PART 2: BLOODLINES

2.5 Stars  2022/108m

“Legends are worth dying for. Family is worth killing for.”

Director/Writer: Jason Brooks / Cast: C.J. Graham, Thom Mathews, Darcy DeMoss, Kelly Tappan, Sanae Loutsis, Morgen Johnson, Jason Brooks, Tom McLoughlin, Rob Mello, Tamara Glynn, Richie Ramone.

Body Count: 36


A follow-up to the 2019 fan filmBloodlines brings back the sisters Jarvis, still looking for their pop, while Elias Voorhees spurns Jason on to keep killing, well, everybody.

Meanwhile, a couple of devotees (including Jason Lives director McLoughlin) abduct the younger sister for… why? I don’t know, I was having a hard time decrypting what was going on in this one. Anyway, Tommy turns up, possibly running straight from or to the set of Never Hike Alone 2, and everybody fights.

Also back for more is Darcy DeMoss, who apparently survived having her head smushed into the wall of an RV, as part of a bachelorette party that’s caught up in a traffic jam that Jason crashes, tearing up dozens, dozens, of schmucks by smashing their heads in doors, throwing spears, machetes, using drumsticks, his bare hands etc, etc.

Amusing and well done as some of these kills are, like before, they just go way too far in both number and violent excess, with heaps of nameless characters running around the woods before they’re disembowelled with little to no suspense. Dare I say it gets… boring?

Another actress from a Halloween sequel rocks up and I lived up to my psychic destiny be saying aloud a second before she did when asked: “You grew up here, didn’t you?”; “No, I grew up in Haddonfield.” Word for word. Then she dies, obvs. And one of the Ramones is here!?

But at least these guys are doing something. Part 3 awaited.

Blurbs-of-interest: Rob Mello was also in both Happy Death Day films; Darcy DeMoss was also in Return to Horror High; Tamara Glynn was in Halloween 5; Thom Mathews was also in Final Summer.

Pick n’ Mix

candy corn 2019

CANDY CORN

2 Stars  2019/86m

“This year there’s a new Halloween tradition.”

Director/Writer: Josh Hasty / Cast: Courtney Gains, Pancho Moler, Nate Chaney, Jimothy Beckholt, Madison Russ, Cy Creamer, Caleb Thomas, Sky Elobar, P.J. Soles, Tony Todd.

Body Count: 8


So you’ve managed to bring in the of Candyman and a genre name from Children of the Corn – what can you call your film? Children of the Man? No, wait, Candy Corn!

Of these names, plus P.J. Soles, it’s only Gains who really ‘stars’ in Candy Corn, a bit of a nothingy tale of douchey smalltown teens who take their annual physical humiliation of local simpleton Jacob too far and end up killing him. He is resurrected by Moler’s travelling carnival witch doctor, given a creepy mask, and let loose to even the score.

One by one, those involved are gruesomely offed, while Gains’ sheriff tries to control the situation. Todd plays a doubting carnie, while Soles is behind the desk at the cop shop. Both probably appear for a combined total of maybe ten minutes?

There’s still some nice photography going on, adequate performances and a nice Halloweenie atmos, but it all feels like it was pulled out of the oven too soon.

Blurbs-of-interest: Gains can also be seen in The Landlady; Todd’s other credits include Final Destination‘s 12, and 5Hatchet‘s 12Hell FestiMurdersJack the ReaperScarecrow Slayer, and the third season of the Scream TV series; P.J. is also in HalloweenInnocent PreyThe Tooth Fairy, and Uncle Sam.

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