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Things that are

seance 2021


2.5 Stars  2021/93m

“A joke might have caused an awakening.”

Director/Writer: Simon Barrett / Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Ella-Rae Smith, Inanna Sarkis, Madisen Beaty, Stephanie Sy, Marina Stephenson, Seamus Patterson, Djouliet Amara, Jade Michael, Megan Best.

Body Count: 6

Spoilers. The epitome of average, Seance – ‘from the creators of You’re Next and Orphan‘ – leads us to believing that a group of boarding school girls have conjured up the vengeful spirit of a past student who committed suicide there in the 90s. A prank orchestrated by a couple of them seemingly scares poor bookish Kerrie to death, as the others find her dead on the ground outside minutes after she fled.

Shortly after, taking Kerrie’s space is British girl Camille, who almost instantly finds herself in the crosshairs of bitchy chief-prankster Alice. Seven girls are given detention and decide to try to contact Kerrie through a homemade spirit board and, thereafter, the girls begin meeting their maker as they find excuses to go off on their own. Is it the ghost? Is it Kerrie? It’s certainly someone in a papier-mache drama class mask.

Remarkably, after a series of disappearances and ‘accidental deaths’, the headmistress doesn’t close the school and send everyone home, allowing the killer to continue offing the pack, until we arrive at the now-requisite girl-tied-to-a-chair-for-exposition scene.

With such a small cast, the killer’s identity is no real surprise. The motive though, what the actual fuck? Covering up a stolen essay. For real. Fortunately, Seance has another trick up its sleeve, albeit not game changing, it at least provides some context, and a couple of the kills towards the end are pretty gnarly. I know I won’t remember a damn thing about this a year from now.

Sé lo que hiciste el verano pasado

killer book club 2023


3 Stars  2023/89m

A.k.a. El Club de Los Lectores Criminales

Director: Carlos Alonso Ojea / Writer: Carlos Garcia Miranda / Cast: Veki Velilla, Álvaro Mel, Priscilla Delgado, Iván Pellicer, Hamza Zaidi, María Cerezuela, Ane Rot, Carlos Alcaide, Daniel Grao.

Body Count: 8

Six years after a girl burns her mother to death in a pile of torn up books, eight teens who form a college book club engage in a revenge prank against a skeezy professor. After assaulting shy writer Angela in his office, her friends decide a little payback is in order and, having just finished a bool about coulrophobia – fear of clowns – purchase seven identical costumes and scare the crap out of the guy.

Of course, teen pranks never end well, and one of the masked clowns slashes his face, causing him to tumble over a balustrade and become impaled on the university’s statue of Don Quixote. In true Southport style, they swear secrecy, burn the costumes, and become depressed.

killer book club

Soon after, each of the group receive invitations to read an unfolding new novel on a fan fiction, detailing the clown’s revenge on them, casting each in a standard horror role, and publishing a new chapter to coincide with each murder: The clown comes equipped with a blade-ended hammer doodad, which he uses to slash and impale his quarry.

For a script about creating literature, there is literally nothing unexpected in this Netflix original, which owes a truckload of gratitude to the recent Scream movies, all the while stapling them to the standard Prom Night I Know What You Did Last Summer Sorority Row secrets-never-stay-secret opus, and occurring on Urban Legend‘s campus.

killer book club 2023

There are, however, several good chase sequences, the best being around the botanical gardens, culminating with Angela hammering against the doors while one of her friends is stuck on the other side, loon approaching.

Everything else balances precariously on coincidence: A horror themed book fair where dozens of attendees wear the same clown costume, characters deciding to pack up and leave campus in the middle of the night and go wait at a secluded bus stop, others falling for clearly bogus texts that lure them into weird inescapable places.

killer book club 2023

Killer Book Club is colourful though (sans Angela’s heinous green sweater/dungarees combo), with nice sets and the always-refreshing alt-perspective of its European setting, adequately bloody, and while a significant part of the revelation was entirely obvious, there was a part that I genuinely didn’t see coming, so extra points for that, even though it made sense in hindsight.

Go in with your expectations in the basement and you’ll get some mileage out of this loveletter to 90s teen horror.

Blurb-of-interest: Daniel Grao was in Julia’s Eyes.

2! 4! 6! 8! Who do we decapitate?

bring it on cheer or die 2022


1.5 Stars  2022/91m

Director: Karen Lam / Writers: Alyson Fouse, Rebekah McEndry, Dana Schwartz / Cast: Kerri Medders, Alexandra Beaton, Missi Pyle, Alten Wilmot, Sierra Holder, Rudy Borgonia, Marlowe Zimmerman, Makena Zimmerman, Sam Robert Muik, Madison MacIsaac, Tiera Skovbye, Erika Prevost, Samuel Braun.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “What are you – telepathetic?”

Quasi-spoilers. That the 20-years-earlier past trauma in Cheer or Die occurs in 2002, after the first of seven Bring It On movies that have been released – all straight to DVD with the exception of the pretty damn awesome original – makes me feel old with a capital “say it again, love?”. Rihanna’s in one of them, Hayden Panettiere, someone from Buffy… They each pit a down-on-their-luck cheer squad against some evil rival team and the big finale usually plays out at a competition.

In the seventh instalment, however, the Diablo high school squad have been banned from doing anything worth watching by their tyrannical principal (Pyle) since a death at just such a competition in 2002. Irked by their lack of success, the team decide to practice off site at the abandoned Elk Moore High.

bring it on cheer or die 2022

When one of the co-captains eats a pom-pom, the other, Abby, has to lead the team. But someone dressed in the mascot’s uniform is choking, skewering and axing members of the squad. Who could it be? I pegged it from the moment the character appeared, so don’t expect a surprise. Or threat. Even with two killers working together, they must be the least imposing wackos in horror history.

With PG-13 violence, an encompassing cheapness (one girl is partially drowned in a toilet, but her hair is bone dry in the next shot), and lacking even the trademark cheer-themed toxic put-downs of its brethren, there’s sadly nothing to do a back handspring with round-off over here.

Initiate 800th slasher flick

initiation 2020


3 Stars  2020/18/93m

“Murder is trending.”

Director/Writer: John Berardo / Writers: Lindsay LaVanchy, Brian Frager / Cast: Lindsay LaVanchy, Isabella Gomez, Lochlyn Munro, Jon Huertas, Froy Gutierrez, Shireen Lai, Gattlin Griffith, James Berardo, Yancy Butler, Maxwell Hamilton.

Body Count: 4

Minor spoilers. At Whiton University, frat boys and sorority girls party, drink, make-out, partake in all the cliches we’ve been watching on film for the past forty years. (I wonder, what do students who don’t pledge the Greek system do with their time?) Anyway, after intervening in a potentially awkward situation, science major Ellery takes her so’sis Kylie home and tries to find out why she was passed out on the bed of douchey frat Beau, behind a locked door in a room that also contained Ellery’s swim-team superstar brother Wes… There’s chatter about ‘what happened last year’, but Kylie just doesn’t remember.

initiation 2020 lindsay lavanchy shireen lai

The campus has an ongoing problem with frat boys “identifying ho’s to protect the bro’s” by adding single exclamation marks as comments on photos. Ellery tries to covertly run a DNA sequence on Kylie’s shorts to find out if her brother was involved in something bad, but before she can get her answer Wes is brutally murdered by a hooded killer wearing a reflective mask (that looks like the Transformers symbol) and power-drilled to a door.

The cops come, they interview his friends, his sister, evidence is discussed, the figurehead of the school makes a speech – but is he just scrambling to cover up something more sinister? Notably, a number of older male characters growl and grumble to their sons and legacies about keeping quiet. Two more boys from the frat are slain, then Ellery and her friends find themselves locked in the main building on campus, with the killer roaming free.

initiation 2020 gattlin griffith

Initiation is definitely an impressive looking beast and opts to treat its psycho-killer opus with a dose of reality, insofar that the killer is neither superhuman, nor able to effectively teleport to just the right place he needs to be to pounce. When hit, he limps, when stabbed, he bleeds; would-be victims are able to escape from him by hiding in good places.

It also inverts the standard expectations to some degree; the victims are all male and most are attacked when vulnerable, in states of undress – one has literally just finished masturbating! – that satirise the cow-girl templates of dumb bimbos screaming with their tops off.

initiation 2020 isabella gomez lindsay lavanchy

So why only three stars? The film plods a bit at an uneven pace, taking a full thirty minutes for anything horror-related to happen, and early on I was lost in a pool of characters who seemed to have confused purposes, culminating in no absolute lead to identify with rather than a bunch of possible suspects, as well as others who just disappear from the story altogether. It could have done with a bit of a re-edit, perhaps starting with the murder and then flashing back to the events that preceded it. A couple of the actors are also clearly way older than their characters. In more pertinent terms, I correctly guessed the killer towards the end due to the weight given to their otherwise minor presence.

Blurbs-of-interest: Spot Debra DeLiso from Iced and The Slumber Party Massacre as the assistant, Dana; Lochlyn Munro was also in Freddy vs. Jason, Hack!, Scary MovieThe Tooth Fairy and Totally Killer.

Slice Versa

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton


4 Stars  2020/102m

“Basic switch. Killer new look.”

Director/Writer: Christopher Landon / Writer: Michael Kennedy / Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck, Dana Drori, Melissa Collazo, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Magnus Diehl.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’re black, I’m gay – we’re so dead!”

Where Happy Death Day would cut away, Freaky is here to provide the slashes and slits we missed in this ‘from the director of…’ recipient of the crown, which is a hop, skip and a jump from a time loop dilemma to ye olde body swap dilemma. The title should tell you as much: it was shot as Freaky Friday the 13th before being cropped down.

And of course, it being ready to go in The Year That Time Wouldn’t Fucking Pass By Swiftly Enough 2020, a big opening was screwed up and it mostly landed on VoD platforms. Sad times. It’s a good thing then, that Freaky is all kinds of fun!

freaky 2020 vince vaughn

The legend of The Blissfield Butcher, who has struck around Homecoming “every year since 1977”, is dissected by two teen couples partying at rich girl Ginny’s house and they quickly fall victim to a hulking loon in a mask not a million miles from something right outta Jason’s wardrobe. Before he leaves, the Butcher takes an antique dagger that Ginny’s collector-father had on display.

We then meet high school sad sack Millie, who is watching life go by to support her alcoholic mom, who is still not over the death of Millie’s father a year earlier. Older sister Charlene – a local cop – is all rules and discipline. But fortunately Millie has best friends Nyla and Joshua to count on. She pines for the attention of off-the-shelf dream-jock Booker, is teased by nasty rich girl Ryler, and cruelly humiliated in front of the class by her shop teacher.

freaky 2020 celeste o'connor misha oshenovich

After mom passes out and forgets to pick Millie up after the big game, the Butcher shows up and stabs her with the enchanted dagger. The moon clouds over, the sky churns, and they both receive an identical stab wound simultaneously: Millie is now inside the 6ft5 Butcher’s body, he is in that of a 5ft5 teenage girl. Hi-jinks shall ensue.

While Millie tries to stay incognito as locals recognise him/her from the composites drawn up of the killer, ‘Millie’ returns to school, all lipstick and bad-ass leather jacket. The boys drool, Nyla and Joshua write it off as PTSD, and ‘she’ starts killing ASAP, starting with Ryler, who is shut into one of the school’s cryo chambers (!?), and topples over, shattering into a gazillion pieces, when Millie-as-the-Butcher finds the body. Then goes mean Mr Shop Teacher, although he nearly makes it, as ‘Millie’ discovers the body of teen girl has its pitfalls in the brute strength department.

freaky 2020 kathryn newton

Real Millie manages to corner Nyla and Joshua and convince them that she’s stuck inside the Butcher’s body. Some research and a convenient Spanish teacher help resolve that the spiritual knife – La Dola – will switch souls and after 24 hours the spell will become irreversible. They need to capture Fake Millie to transfer things back to equilibrium.

Naturally, things aren’t that simple: The dagger is in police custody and even after successfully subduing ‘Millie’, the band of heroes – now including Booker – hatch a plan to switch things back, but ‘Millie’ clearly has other ideas.

freaky 2020 misha oshenovich

Vice VersaLike Father Like Son, It’s a Boy-Girl Thing, and however many versions of Freaky Friday are floating around: Like all of the characters stuck in their mom/dad/enemy’s body, Millie learns about herself, her suffering family, and even enjoys the lil bit of power being a huge guy affords her (the scene with the bathroom bully is great). Vaughn is good as the girl trying to operate her newly acquired huge frame, never camping it up too much, while Newton slots into the cold-hearted psycho role with ease, but it’s O’Connor and Osherovich as Millie’s BFF’s who steal most of the scenes they’re in.

Likeable through and through and, like Landon’s earlier films, it tessellates nicely over more than one genre type, proving there are still a lot or quirky variations on the teen slasher available.

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton

Blurb-of-interest: Vaughn played Norman Bates in the 1998 Psycho remake.

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