Tag Archives: spoilers

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.

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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”.

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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.

Doll Domination

chucky season 2 2022

CHUCKY – SEASON 2

2.5 Stars  2022/381m

Directors: Jeff Renfroe, Samir Rehem, Don Mancini, Leslie Libman, John Hyams / Writers: Don Mancini, Kim Garland, Rachael Paradis, Mallory Westfall, Nick Zigler, Alex Delyle, Isabella Gutierrez, Amanda Blanchard / Cast: Zackary Arthur, Bjorgvin Arnarson, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Brad Dourif, Devon Sawa, Fiona Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Bella Higginbotham, Rosemary Dunsmore, Lachlan Watson, Alex Vincent, Christine Elise, Andrea Carter, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Meg Tilly, Barbara Alyn Woods, Carina Battrick, Billy Boyd.

Body Count: 15

Laughter Lines: “You’re worried about me? There’s a corpse in the closet and a killer doll on the loose – I’m worried about me.”


Given the ajar ending of Season 1it was pretty clear that we’d be coming back to the valley of the dolls, which rapidly ties up how things were left off, with Andy in the truck o’ Good Guy Dolls, at (doll) Tiffany’s gunpoint. He succeeds in driving it over a cliff and everybody thinks the nightmare is over.

Several months later, Jake and Devon have been fostered by other families far apart, while Lexy is attending therapy at the behest of her politically-thirsty mom and liberally popping pills to get through each day. When the three of them reunite on Halloween, Chucky reappears to finish them off and ends up detonating a bomb that kills Jake’s pre-teen foster brother. Naturally blamed and written off as problem kids, the trio are packed off to the Catholic School of the Incarnate Lord – Charles Lee Ray’s boyhood residence – ruled by the rather dogmatic Father Bryce (Devon Sawa, but reportedly no relation to either of his earlier characters).

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Bad kids galore should provide a buffet of meat for Chucky to torment, a la the military academy seen way back in Child’s Play 3, but instead Season 2 embarks on a rather restrained path, with the few remaining dolls being quickly dealt with and, in one case, deprogrammed and turned into a Good Good Guy, who Jake quickly believes, along with new team member, Nadine.

Meanwhile, Tiffany struggles to prop up her Jennifer Tilly identity, and, when non-binary twins Glen and Glenda arrive for a visit, they’re accompanied by Jennifer’s real-life sister Meg, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, Sutton Stracke, and a mysterious butler. The episode openly excludes the other narrative entirely, functioning as a bizarre farce that ends with quad-amputee Nica being liberated, while Chucky ‘presents’ to the audience. It’s a weird bump in the road, exploiting Tilly’s comedic muscle, but sadly really sucks you out of the flow, reminding me of a review I saw way back when that posited the series has become a bit of an in-joke that only Tilly and Don Mancini are in on.

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Things eventually realign: Kyle and Andy return, the priests and nuns finally face up to the reality of Chucky, the kids fall out, make up, fall out, make up, and then it kinda stops with one episode to go. In the finale, we leap another few months forward, to Christmas, back in Hackensack, where the final Chucky doll makes a play for the kids one last time, and Tiffany, now wanted for murder, tries to get her mitts on a new doll to transfer herself into.

Where the movies had slowed to an instalment every few years, the demands of a 10-part series and all of the criss-crossing storylines built up over thirty-plus years becomes an entanglement difficult to write itself out of. Consequently, the result is choppy and peppered with ideas and concepts seen in earlier movies as various character motivations collide. Dare I say, Mancini might need to kill some of his darlings for the next season to up the stakes.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Dourif’s other slasher film credits include Color of NightTraumaUrban LegendChain LetterDead Scared, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and its sequel; Jennifer Tilly was also in The Caretaker and Far From Home; Devon Sawa was Alex in Final Destination; Meg Tilly was in Psycho II.

Below Duck

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WRECK

3.5 Stars  2022/272m

Director: Chris Baugh / Writers: Ryan J. Brown & Ibrahim Salawu / Cast: Oscar Kennedy, Thaddea Graham, Harriet Webb, Louis Boyer, Peter Claffey, Anthony Rickman, Warren James Dunning, Miya Ocego, Alice Nokes, Amber Grappy, James Phoon, Ali Hardiman, Ramanique Ahluwalia, Donald Sage Mackay.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “The fraternisation clause – you penis flytraps have blown it.”


A few years back my parents reached the age where they traded in package holidays for cruises, and so I’ve been regaled by many-a-tale of room upgrades, rough seas, singers I assumed had died years ago, and what sounds like a median patron age of 69. Hearing this, I wondered how it would be if a psycho blew a fuse and decided to start hunting victims aboard. And here we are! Steer carefully around some spoilers!

A spectacular opening serves us the usual babe-in-peril scenario, with a young woman chased through a series of corridors by a maniac …dressed as a duck! Girls Nite Out eat your heart out. A rapid chase eventually shows our fleeing victim is aboard a huge floating hotel at sea. When cornered, rather than suffer being stabbed, she flips off the killer and throws herself overboard.

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Some time later, her younger brother, Jamie Walsh (a thoughtfully named combo of Ms Curtis and Elm Street 2‘s Jesse) signs up as a sort of all-jobs lackie, taking the identity of lovelorn Cormac who, unknown to Jamie, has also decided to come along, to win back his girlfriend Rosie. While Jamie works shit jobs and befriends sarcastic Vivian, he looks for clues as to Pippa’s disappearance, knowing there’s more to it than the official explanation offered by the cruise line.

When his initial suspect also meets the business end of the duck’s knife and is thrown into a pool, Jamie confides in Vivian his true reason for being there and the two play detective, with some help from cabin-bound Cormac, and fellow crewmember Olly.

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After the slasher-heavy first episode (of six), Wreck sets a new course for a while, focusing in on the drug racket aboard the ship, with employees smuggling and dealing to colleagues and guests alike. Jamie suspects one of the officers but keeps getting stonewalled. Meanwhile, Vivian falls into an awkward relationship with first class rich girl, Lily.

Crew disappearances continue, explained away by the no-nonsense chief officer, Karen, who has no problem threatening jobs when the questions get too close to a possible cover up. Come the penultimate episode, the duck has all but been forgotten and Wreck becomes a kind of Hostel-at-sea, as it transpires first class guests have, as part of their package, the ability to pick and choose a low-rung crewmember to hunt in a number of scenarios in hidden parts of the ship – the officers and purser all oversee it, the low-hanging fruit in the crew are purely expendable.

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Despite this swerve from slasher shenanigans, Wreck‘s most appealing elements lie in character and witty dialogue, both of which are top drawer, with a pair of LGBTQ leads, where their sexualities are largely incidental in the grand scheme of things, allowing for Vivian to quip “A lesbian with a powertool – how original!” during a climactic fight scene.

The body count remains low and things end with a find-out-in-the-second-series revelation that, honestly, I saw coming to an extent, but it also saddles the whole thing with a slight sense of incompletion… but I’d love to spend more time in the company of these characters so it’s not worth getting irked by.

The End of an Era. Again.

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HALLOWEEN ENDS

2 Stars  2022/18/111m

Director/Writer: David Gordon Green / Writers: Paul Brad Logan, Chris Bernier, Danny McBride / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Andi Matichak, Rohan Campbell, Will Patton, James Jude Courtney, Kyle Richards, Michael Barbieri, Karaun Harris, Michael O’Leary, Michele Dawson, Joanne Baron, Rick Moose.

Body Count: 18


The Final ChapterThe Final NightmareThe Final Friday – we’ve been here before, even more than once in the same series. It doesn’t feel that long ago (but probably is) that Halloween H20 was supposed to be the closing word on Michael Myers. But it made bank, so he regained his severed head, but the series soon died again.

The second reboot, taking the series off into its fourth possible timeline, in 2018 was also supposed to be the last one. It was fine, flawed here and there, but carried an aroma of crispy fried finality. It made bank, so suddenly two further sequels were announced. 2021’s delayed Halloween Kills delved deep into fan service and then some weird allegory around vigilante mobs. Laurie didn’t share a single scene with Michael – it just… strange, but housed a couple of decent scenes to just about earn a pass.

Ends though… My, my, my where to begin? Big spoilers ahoy. Well, it begins a year later – Myers is AWOL, Haddonfield has become a bit of a depressed state where everything gets blamed on The Boogeyman or his legacy. Into a simple babysitting gig walks Corey, a slightly dorky student, who replaces the unwell first choice to look after rich kid Jeremy, whose pranks ultimately lead to the kid falling to his death.

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Three years later, Corey is a social pariah, hated by the locals and wasting his potential. He runs into Laurie when she wades into a confrontation with some entitled douchey teens and introduces him to Allyson, with whom Corey instantly sparks, their mutual sadness connecting them at an unseen level. Laurie soon sees a darkness in Corey that reminds her of you-know-who, threatening her new found Zen outlook on everything.

When Corey meets you-know-who, subsisting in a sewer pipe, instead of becoming another victim, they too have a meeting of the minds and embark on some bizarro twin-killer spree, taking out those who have wronged Corey in some way. Stranger still, the murders seem to go totally unnoticed, and when Corey decides his own scarecrow mask isn’t up to it, he steals Mikey’s and dons himself an official tribute act.

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This is where Halloween Ends becomes ‘okay’ – in the same way Resurrection worked as a goofy, fun slasher movie if you divorced it from its forebears, Corey-as-Michael puts in a few decent kills, first offing Ally’s manager and the young nurse he’s sleeping with, then the douchey teens, his overbearing mom, and a shit-talking shock jock who sassed him a day or so earlier.

Knowing Laurie is trying to prevent Allyson from leaving Haddonfield with him, Corey’s final call is at their shared house and Michael, clearly just wanting his mask back, isn’t far behind. He and Laurie fight, and she finally gets him where she wants him, resulting in a town-wide procession to rid themselves of the Myers curse once and for all. And the ending is final. It has to be… If we get Halloween Re-Resurrection in four years, fuck knows how they’ll find a workaround to explain this one.

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Jarring tonal shifts have plagued this new trilogy, from ballistic body counts, overly sadistic murders, that ‘Evil Dies Tonight!’ nonsense, and now the new Yoga-Laurie, although her early scenes just hanging out with Allyson and Lindsay are probably where the film feels most relaxed and natural. It’s almost like a ‘Haddonfield’ TV series was condensed into two hours, and between the not-awful scenes of Kills and Ends, there could have been a decent last outing, but the whole 2018-22 reboot cycle has been the epitome of needlessness.

Look out for Julian and the reappearance of a character we thought was no longer even alive…

I never thought I’d say this of a JLC-starring Halloween movie, but this is the worst in the entire series. Remakes included.

Blurbs-of-interest: Michael O’Leary was in Fatal Games; Joanne Baron was in iMurders.

X’s & OAP’s

x 2022 ti west posterX

3.5 Stars  2022/18/102m

“Dying to show you a good time.”

Director/Writer: Ti West / Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Martin Henderson, Scott Mescudi, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “We’re gonna be rich – feel how hard my cock is.”


It’s a bad thing that Ti West floats out of my mind, but it’s also really good that I forget how good a filmmaker he is, making each film of his I see for the first time a surprise of the best kind. Minor spoilers.

X‘s release just kinda… passed me by at the beginning of 2022 as I was going through a sort of slasher movie fatigue and some five or six months went by since my last new (to me) movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre re…whatever it was. Height of summer, a day off, time to leap back in.

Unlike most period-set horror, West actually succeeds in furnishing his films with contemporaneous set pieces and aesthetics that look high-end and genuine. X, set in 1979, carries a lot of TeXas Chainsaw-ian influence as we join a tiny adult film production squad on their way to a farm to shoot their latest movie, The Farmer’s Daughters.

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Cameraman RJ blabbers continually about being high-brow he can make the film; perky Bobby-Lynne advocates the right to make sex films; Jackson is just enjoying himself after Vietnam; newcomer Lorraine is quiet and seems to be judging it all as smut; and producer Wayne is schmoozing his way along, confident they’re about to make the successor to Debbie Does Dallas. His girlfriend is actress Maxine, who just wants to be a star. (She has an X in her name, eyes peeled).

Home-slash-set for the night is a farm owned by aged couple Howard and Pearl. The crew quickly start making their flick, complete with a book-chick-a-wow-wow soundtrack, as a stranded motorist seeks help from a farm’s nubile daughter and… yeah, sex. Later, after Lorraine says she wants to be in the film, a pissed RJ stalks off to abandon the rest of them and finds Pearl outside the farmhouse. Trying to help her, she gets a bit too tactile and, when he resists, he cops a knife in the neck.

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In true slasher form, the others discover RJ is missing and go looking for him, culminating in a pitchfork-to-the-face, shotgun blast, and death by alligator, with Howard effectively cleaning up after Pearl, who is pretty much horny for hardbodied youngsters. Maxine soon finds herself the last one standing – but are a couple of octogenarians going to fall to easily?

A porno aspect in a slasher film is usually a shortcut for trash, but despite the tits and ass (and actually some dick), this material is largely secondary in X, a plot device to leverage the themes around the horror of ageing flesh and our failing functions as we edge closer to the grave: Pearl’s homicidal streak is borne out of her undesirability, and the ickiest parts of the films come not from the grue, but a scene where Maxine wakes up to find the old lady touching her up in bed. To further compound this fear, Mia Goth played both nubile heroine Maxine and also Pearl. She later finds herself stuck under the same bed while Howard and Pearl make mechanically complicated love on it.

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Better than expected characters also paint a broader picture, as well as a final act that doesn’t drag on forever, although it’s almost an hour before the horror even begins. feels like a proper grindhouse slasher film of olde, the kind of quality Tarantino wanted, but failed to achieve with Death Proof.

I didn’t flat out love it – the murders could have been more imaginative, and I actually liked it more before the horror even began – but it gave it a grubby quality in the end that likely aided its good reviews. West had the prequel, Pearl, ready to go later the same year. Dedication.

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Blurbs-of-interest: Ti West had a role in You’re Next; Brittany Snow was in the Prom Night remake; Martin Henderson was in The Strangers: Prey at Night; Jenna Ortega was in Scream (2022) and its 2023 follow up; Owen Campbell was in Candy Land.

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