Double Feature: Christmas Evil (1980) & All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (82)

Welcome to the last holiday double feature for this year. Not double feature because that is staying, just before Christmas, no more holiday reviews. So we are ending with a nice change of pace to alternate Christmas horror found via Shudder: 1980’s Christmas Evil and 2018’s Christmas horror anthology All The Creatures Were Stirring.

Christmas Evil (1980)

Christmas Evil

Director (and writer): Lewis Jackson

Cast: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Andy Fenwick, Marc Neville, Joe Jamrog

A toy factory worker, mentally scarred as a child upon learning Santa Claus is not real, suffers a nervous breakdown after being belittled at work, and embarks on a Yuletide killing spree. – IMDB

Christmas Evil is really a Christmas film as its not only set in Christmas but a horror story of a mentally unstable man who was scarred so deeply as a child that Santa Claus isn’t real that he chooses to make himself into Santa and takes revenge on all those who did him wrong. Being 1980 film, there is definitely that 80s slasher vibe that goes with it which actually is quite endearing to watch. However, the film does suffer from some issues of being rather slow in the first half of anything happening other than setting up all the bad things that happen to Harry and then his desire to become Santa.

Deal is, there is still this unsettling feeling with Christmas Evil especially in the second half when Harry loses it completely and from the moment that he commits to turning into Santa and starts all the actual killing spree parts, it gets rather fun to watch in an 80s horror way and as much as I don’t find them particularly scary, it has the entertainment element. This is pretty much where Christmas Evil fits in.

All The Creatures Were Stirring (2018)

All The Creatures Were Stirring

Director (and writer): David Ian McKendry & Rebekah McKendry

Cast: Graham Skipper, Ashley Clements, Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue, Mark Kelly, Matt Long, Amanda Fuller, Catherine Parker, Morgan Peter Brown, Michelle DeFraites, Stephanie Drake, Peter Cilella, Makeda Declet, Megan Duffy, Brea Grant, Matt Mercer, Diva Zappa

When an awkward date on Christmas Eve leads a couple into a strange theater, they’re treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories, featuring a wide ensemble of characters doing their best to avoid the horrors of the holidays. From boring office parties and last-minute shopping, to vengeful stalkers and immortal demons, there’s plenty out there to fear this holiday season. – IMDB

All The Creatures Were Stirring is a horror anthology with five horror stories set during Christmas and revolves around the central story of two people going on their first date on Christmas Eve to see a play where these five stories are being acted out. As with more horror anthologies, its a hit and miss deal with a lot of the stories. There’s an obvious indie low budget thing going on here as well which for some does add to the charm. If anything, its a lot more about some of the interesting creative elements added into the scenes than the stories as a whole which at times were downright odd or hard to get into while there were two that did stand out.

Dash Away All and In A Twinkling are the two that definitely were highlights of the anthology. Dash Away All is set in a parking lot where a man locks his keys in his car and ends up asking two girls to borrow a phone and ends up having this really fun twist. In A Twinkling is about a bunch of friends going to visit for a surprise Christmas party and the night takes a turn for a worse when they enter into a black and white loop from outer space. These two were a tad funny and had a hint of creepiness.

The Stocking Were Hung was okay with an Secret Santa party at work which turns into a Jigsaw killer sort of thing. There are some clever bits here but it feels a tad familiar (especially with Saw having so many movies in that franchise already). All Through The House is a horror Christmas Carol sort of deal which is pretty much the same sort of stuff but they did have one thing that I remembered kind of gave me a little jumpscare. It just feels a tad weird in its pacing. The last one to talk about is Arose Such A Clatter which really was the least appealing BUT it had the whole “killer” point of view going on that kind of made it a little more unique in the way they executed it.

The central story which is generally called To All A Good Night is what links these pieces together. It does capture the awkward element well but then it seems to lack some substance to it as it does try to have a twist ending and ends up leaving it as an open-ended deal which is a good and bad thing, leaving the mystery but then makes it feel incomplete especially since this being the piece that connects the stories together means the story itself isn’t fleshed out in between the stories. Some good, some decent and some meh stories here making this one that I might not want to revisit considering it took me a few sittings to get through it this time already.

That’s it for this holiday double feature!
Have you seen these two films before? Thoughts?
Are Alternate Christmas films part of your holiday viewing?

After Hours – Love, Death + Robots (Season #1)

Season 2 officially wraps up with our final After Hours pick. This time, Elwood picks our first anthology series, Netflix Originals, Love Death + Robots. We try to touch on all the little stories here as well as talk about the ones that impressed us the most.

As Season 2 wraps up, you can already see that the banner on Movies and Tea has already changed with our next feature director, Sofia Coppola for Season 3. With that said, guests are always welcomed to join us if any of the movies interests you. Just drop me or Elwood an email or leave us a comment. Its almost completely unfamiliar territory for myself so it’ll be a fun dive into her filmography as we change not only film genre and our first female director highlight.

With that said, head over to Movies and Tea to check out our latest episode and share your thoughts on Love Death + Robots!

Movies and Tea

Wrapping up season #2 our final bonus episode has us looking at Love, Death + Robots for our first boxset binge.

A project from David Fincher and Tim Miller whose initial plans to
remake Heavy Metal were mophed instead into this anthology of short
animated tales with seemingly limitless scope for the stories which can
be told as we discover from this first season.

So get ready for alternative histories, monsters, shocking twists and of course love, death + robots!!

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

Listen to the Show

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Book Review: Osgoode As Gold (Toronto Comics #5)

Yonge at Heart (Toronto Comics #4)

Osgoode As Gold (Toronto Comics #5)
By: Stephanie Cooke

Osgoode As Gold

In a city of competitive wizard barristas, nervous werewolves and scoundrel Trash Pandas, you’ll find some of the best upcoming comic creators! We’re back again with twenty-four fresh comics from local indie veterans and first-time creators.

From the strange giants that prowl Kensington at midnight, the vengeful Pacific Mall dance mafia, or the dragon-hunting wannabes working Queen Street, we’ve got stories inspired by every part of the city we love. – Goodreads

The 4th comic anthology revolving around Toronto in Toronto Comics is called Osgoode For Gold. If you have read these anthologies before, you already know that while the central focus is set in Toronto, the stories all vary and can be set in fantasy or reality or past, present or future. There are no limits in these stories and yet once again, the creativity and the themes addressed here are truly great to read. They shed light on the people and culture in the city and have stories for everyone. At the same time, the art also changes with each story as well as the color palette. Its what makes them unique.

There are 23 stories while it ends with an additional 4 which are thoughtful one page art. It would be crazy to talk about each of them, however, I will choose a few that I personally like.

They are the following:

  • Catnap Cafe: When a newly immigrated girl moves to Toronto, she goes to Catnap Cafe for the experience where she turns into a cat and befriends another cat who guides her back to apartment in hopes of being able to turn back into human. Lets just say, cat cafes and cat related stories are things that I love so this one also had the perk of the whole details and such that I really liked.
  • Leave it to Leo: More of a comedic offering in a vibrant colors and art set in 1940s, Leave it to Leo talks about comic book artists who want to be compensated for their worth and play a trick on their editor.
  • Mirrored: Nothing like a little imagination of interdimension fantasy, Mirrored tells the story of a subway entrance to another dimension for magical battles with a little twist ending parallel to reality.
  • FinalMIX! Difficulty Expert! : Set in Pacific Mall in Markham and structured around a video game dance battle, this story is about as relatable as they get for me.
  • Cenotaph: Set in a future Toronto, we look at ghosts who are looking back at the city that was when they were alive and how the destroying and building has changed it in the present.
  • The Part-Time Knight: Wrapping up the anthology is this story about a stable kid who hears a dastardly plan to murder the king and finds a way to bring the message as knights would do.

Here are a few that I like and of course, all the stories were pretty great whether it was the different art styles or the time frame they chose to use or the realistic or fantastical angle. It shows off the talent and the stories that any place and experience can inspire. Sometimes they are predictable but the majority times, they aren’t.

Thats it for the review of Osgoode For Gold.
Have you read any comics from Toronto Comics?
Have you read/seen comics inspired by a city?

Double Feature: Gods of Egypt (2016) & Holidays (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature. This time, we’ve landed coincidentally on two 2016 movies. Our G selection is one that had some pretty bad reviews when it came out and that is fantasy action film, Gods of Egypt. The H selection is horror anthology Holidays directed by a good few directors, one of their headlines being Kevin Smith.

Let’s check it out!

Gods of Egypt (2016)

Director: Alex Proyas

Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Courtney Eaton, Nikolaj  Coster-Waldau, Gerard Butler, Elodie Yung, Rachel Blake, Bryan Brown, Chadwick Boseman

Mortal hero Bek teams with the god Horus in an alliance against Set, the merciless god of darkness, who has usurped Egypt’s throne, plunging the once peaceful and prosperous empire into chaos and conflict. – IMDB

So…Gods of Egypt…not sure where to start with this one. The cast here is pretty good and probably one of the reasons why I decided to at least give this a shot. Sad enough though, this movie is a lot of flare and not a whole lot of substance. Its actually not even a lot of fun to watch because its pretty boring and stupid. Gods of Egypt is one of those films that remind me of previous bland experiences like Clash of the Titans (the remake) and The Immortals (which I also disliked both of these). It bases itself on playing with the various gods of Egypt (as per its title) and uses a fairly basic story where Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is an pretentious god who eventually gets his throne taken from him when he gets blinded by Set (Gerard Butler). In the process, Set puts Egypt into this world where everyone needs to gain whatever value or money in order to get a better afterlife. In desperation to save his love of his life, the mortal Bek (Brenton Thwaites) tries to get Horus to stop his self-loathing and help him get back his sight (aka his powers) so that he can get back the throne and hopefully make Egypt better again.

There’s some romance and some bromance and some good versus evil and some personal character development. Its not clear who is the hero here or who is the main lead and the story is as predictable as it sounds. There’s a whole lot of plot holes and its pretty forgettable and there’s nothing very special of it. I can’t really find a whole lot of good to say about this. I really liked Chadwick Boseman’s character. It gave the story some well-needed humor and enthusiasm.

Holidays (2016)

holidays

Directors (and writers): Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Scott Stewart, Adam Egypt Mortimer

Cast: Madeleine Coghlan, Savannah Kennick, Rick Peters, Ruth Bradley, Ava Acres, Mark Steger, Sophie Traub, Aleksa Palladino, Joceline Donahue, Harley Morenstein, Harley Quinn Smith, Ashley Greene, Seth Green, Clare Grant, Lorenza Izzo, Andrew Bowen, Megan Duffy

HOLIDAYS is an anthology feature film that puts a uniquely dark and original spin on some of the most iconic and beloved holidays of all time by challenging our folklore, traditions and assumptions. – IMDB

Its always tough to decide how to approach reviewing anthologies. Holidays takes 8 shorts from different directors that center their stories around 8 different holidays and the darkness in the characters involved. There are some very odd stories in this anthology that can only be described as weird and bizarre. However, in some ways, it does work. In some other ones, my less favorite ones, the stories are a bit too far-fetched for my taste. Its one of those things in anthologies where some things just work better than others and that changes by personal preference.

Here’s how I’d rank the 8 shorts in this anthology:

  • Christmas
  • Father’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • Happy New Year’s
  • St. Patrick’s Day

Taking a look back at the 8 stories in Holidays, my favorite was no doubt almost equally Christmas and Father’s Day. In terms of the horror comedy style, Christmas nails it and has Seth Green who does a stellar job however, in terms of horror atmosphere, Father’s Day captures that one really well. The execution of the both of these are on point. If we talk about creepy kids and a little weird and psychological, which is the type of horror that I like also, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day both have these elements and for that, these four are the most memorable to me and well rounded.

If we talk about the last four, the one that I remember the least is St. Patrick’s Day. Aside from, there are some creative twists to say the least. Easter is creative in the sense of mixing the Easter bunny and recreating it with a religious twist. I can’t decide if maybe it might not be as welcomed. While Halloween had a more over the top twist which was a tad disturbing but strayed away from the very gory bits and as much as I like over the top in some scenarios, I wasn’t a particularly huge fan of the execution while acknowledging the psychological elements behind it and Happy New Year’s also has a clever twist behind it which I have to say works also.

Holidays isn’t the best horror anthology out there but in terms of embracing its weird and horror comedy nature, it achieves that quite well. The stories vary in tone and atmosphere and using the theme of 8 different holidays is a nice idea.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films?
Are you a fan of horror anthologies? If you’ve seen Holidays, which is your fave segment?

BITS 2018: Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End (2018)

Montreal Dead End

Directors: Remi Fréchette, Priscilla Piccoli, Quentin Lecocq, Emilie Gauthier, Loic Surprenant, David Emond-Ferrat, Eve Dufaud, Frederick Neegan Trudel, Mickael N’Dour, Julie De LaFreniere, Catherine Villleminot, Tiphaine Dereyer, Hugo Belhassen, Audric Cussigh, Gaelle Quemener, Mara Joly, Charles Massicote, Jimmy Pettigrew

Montreal Dead End is a 15 part horror anthology set while “a supernatural mist is seeping through the cracks of the city, causing various evil enchantments related to the neighborhood from which it escapes, waking up a dark spirit here, a vengeful ghost there, releasing a plethora of terrifying creatures, possessing numerous citizens and even turning some of them into zombies, or entities from the beyond. The key to this paranormal chaos lies within a First Nations legend, a shamanic amulet and a guardian (Marco Collin) in search of a book of prophecies and premonitions which only he can decipher.  The quest takes us from one part of the city to another, crossing paths with unexpected events and multiple creatures along the way. ” [BITS 2018]

A fifteen part horror anthology that runs over less than an hour and a half is a marathon in itself. Some of these are barely snippets and is truly a short film in itself set in the different boroughs of the city. Between these films is one part of the anthology called The Guardian (“Le Gardien”) directed by Remi Fréchette that is the key behind all this chaos. It is intertwined between all these different stories and brings the entire story together. The beauty of Montreal Dead End is that it acts as a tour of the island of Montreal. Its panning scenes taken by drone takes a lot of aerial landscapes of this city, at the same time also showing off its many touristic areas. Being knowledgable of Montreal probably adds to the enjoyment of the city because of the familiarities and the preconceptions of each neighborhood.

Montreal Dead End

To call this anthology a beauty is not accurate because it is better described as a quirky movie experience. Many of the stories grow from some very odd ideas, for example “Part 10: Who Listens to Celine Anyways?” where anyone who listens to Celine Dion music will automatically be possessed and some can see some indirect influence from other films like “Part 13: Folie Legumineuse” that feels a bit like the gingerbread man scene in Krampus. There isn’t any story in particular that is extremely horrific however. It acts more of a horror comedy with perhaps a few slight exceptions. A lot of the merit of these stories are in its creative ideas even though some of the execution is overly obvious.

This anthology’s heavily lies on the main plot that runs throughout with the guardian played by Marco Collin as he goes in search for the book of prophecies that only he can control. It is well-timed each time the appearance of these small snippets appear from one location to the next just like a treasure hunt as it also helps gain a better understanding of what is going on. After the resolution of it all seems a little hasty. 

Montreal Dead End

A movie anthology like this has its charms. To be fair, any anthology has its great, good and lackluster bits. With one with so many different parts, it is hard to escape that fate. With that said, Montreal Dead End won’t be for anyone. Maybe one story or another will please someone but this one has some very odd ideas that might just seem off putting for many.  You can’t fault any of these directors for not putting their twist and being incredibly creative with their ideas. Its going to appeal to a specific audience who will appreciate what its trying to do here.

Montreal Dead End is showing on November 24, 2018 at 9pm at The Royal Cinema for BITS Festival.

Fantasia 2018: Nightmare Cinema (World Premiere 2018)

Nightmare Cinema is a 2018 horror anthology featuring nightmare stories told by five renowned directors. It was an opening film at the Fantasia Festival and the screening was preceded by the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Joe Dante, one of the five directors of this film.

Nightmare Cinema (2018)

Nightmare Cinema

Director: Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Eric Nelsen, Sara Elizabeth Withers, Zarah Mahler, Mark Grossman, Richard Chamberlain, Maurice Benard, Elizabeth Reaser, Adam Godley, Orson Chaplin, Faly Rakotohavana

Are you ready to enter the world of The Projectionist in the old Rialto Theatre? This Nightmare Cinema brings 5 complete strangers where their darkest fears are the focal point of the story on screen. This anthology features five decent lengths short stories pieces that each have their homage to a nice variety of horror genres but adds in their own twist to make it more modernized or more entertaining or even more intense.

Nightmare Cinema

The opening segment takes no time to introduce us we follow a young girl into the theatre where she sees a movie with her name as the main feature called “The Thing in the Woods”. Directed by Alejandro Brugués, an Argentinian director known for his work in Juan of the Dead and The ABCs of Death 2 segment, this segment pays tribute to the 80s slashers that many still love. As with many slashers, there is a campiness to it as well as a dark humor that surrounds it with both great effects and well-timed moments. Probably the least serious and frightening of the five tales but also a great way to start off this anthology especially with this genre being one of the most popular in the horror subgenres. There is an artistry to the way it is filmed and even the way the story is written with a fantastic twist which honestly is what makes it stand out.

The second segment follows with “Mirari”, directed by the ever so renowned Joe Dante as he takes the audience to the horrors of plastic surgery and boy, do things go horrifyingly bad. While the story does keep you guessing for most of the film, it is the one that feels more mysterious and suspenseful because of the premise. It plays on the obvious expectations that the audience will have, knowing that there is no way that this plastic surgery won’t go wrong. What keeps the audience under the wraps is when it becomes apparent that the people around our victim all become rather sinister.

Nightmare Cinema

The third segment “Mashit”, directed by Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura, known for The Midnight Meat Train among many films, enters the world of a Catholic school and possession. Its bloody and eerie. Some scenes brings up memories of The Exorcist if it was done in this day and age with some outstanding effects that will send a chill down your spine. There are a lot of elements that work here including creepy children and scary makeup. The best part here is the use of light with the hallways covered in sinister colors and then adding in this gloomy backdrop that highlights the bloody parts. However, some parts do get a little overboard and ticks those over the top boxes a little too much.

The penultimate segment is directed by David Slade, the man behind the disturbing indie film, Hard Candy as he presents “This Way To Egress”. Not surprising to see that this story follows a mother of two who visits a psychiatrist office who believes she is going crazy. Her world falls into this ugly reality. This is helped by the stylish black and white feature especially making it more psychologically disturbing as you wonder whether the world are full of monsters or her mind is turning everything into monsters. It straddles the line of truth and fiction while tackling some serious subjects as her story unfolds. While it never quite hits the disturbing levels of Hard Candy, This Way to Egress does pack an effective punch and amps up on the tension as we near the end of this anthology. Nightmare Cinema

The final segment “Dead” along with the intermission segments with The Projectionist is directed by Mick Garris. A great finale to wrap up the anthology as it takes a look at some The Sixth Sense area where a young boy wakes up from being dead for essentially 17 minutes to realize that he can see the lost souls. There is much more to the story than that but the dead are all creepy. There is a great amount of tension arising from the circumstance that he is put in. Dead ends the anthology packing quite the punch. However, the films merit is in creating this character, The Projectionist, portrayed by Mickey Rourke who is a mysterious fellow as we see him more and more in the intermissions between segments as he hints towards what this Nightmare Cinema is all about and well, the final scene shows that there is potential for these stories to just keep on going.

As with any horror anthology, it is about the sum of its parts as much as it is about the big picture. Each of the five stories here pack in some homage to a certain genre and boast the talent of the director and their artistry. Both the cinematography and the atmosphere is top of the line. The soundtrack also builds the mood and tension for each of these scenarios. Even when the story feels like it takes it a little too far or gets a little silly, these elements pulls it back into place. The structure of the horror anthology though is where it stands out because it goes from something more comedic like The Thing in the Woods and builds up both the seriousness and the intensity so that when you reach the final segment Dead, it is pretty much an intense segment from start to finish. With the vast amount of horror subgenres here, there is bound to be something for every horror fan.

Review also posted to That Moment In

The Funhouse of Horrors by Jazan Wild

It seems like romance or horror has been a huge focus here.  Well, its not stopping yet. After some weird random romance reads, I decided to switch things up and go read some horror. This was also a free book on Amazon when I downloaded a little while back.  I’m still on the quest to read everything I haven’t read yet. Next up is The Funhouse of Horrors by Jazan Wild.  I don’t know Jazan Wild before this book (and I probably should…I’m sorry). And I haven’t heard of Funhouse of Horrors but that sounds like a video game and you know, I’m hoping it will send some chills down my back. 😉

Let’s check it out!

The Funhouse of Horrors
By Jazan Wild

The funhouse of horrors

Young Jacob, while on a family picnic, stumbles upon an old abandoned house in the woods just a week before Halloween. The wretched dwelling is being prepared to be used as a one-night only Haunted House! A strange worker, known only as Ole Scratch, sees Jacob and gives him a book with two tickets inside that change his life — or what’s left of it after the ghosts are done with him! And the ghosts are NEVER done with Jake.
As he grows, so does the terror. Deciding that the ghouls and goblins are never going to take a hint, and leave him to rest in peace, Stone decides to become a ghost writer. It would seem that the living impaired have a lot to say. Yet legend has it, that all who read Stone’s tales of woe, begin to see the dead everywhere they go! – Goodreads

I’m not exactly sure I agree with the description on Goodreads but I guess it gives it a bit more mystery.  Do the people who read his tales start to see the dead and is that a legend? I think the version I read might have skipped over that part or I misunderstood it. Or maybe I was just getting a little frustrated on how it was dragging on that I didn’t pay much attention.  The Funhouse of Horrors is not bad and its not great.  Its somewhere in the middle between indifferent and average.

The best way to describe The Funhouse of Horrors is an anthology of short stories, you know, Goosebumps but short stories with not so great pacing.  Most of them aren’t particularly scary with a few exceptions.  The majority of them overstay their welcome but I think its Jake’s backstory that does that the most.  I don’t think there was one moment I felt truly sorry for him or did I feel that he deserved to get out of this “nightmare”. On the other hand, the part about Ole Scratch and that character, while feeling like he was a little goofy, did feel like the better part of the novel.

I’m not a connoisseur of horror books.  I don’t claim to have read a ton of them but this one didn’t work well at keeping me motivated to read it.  I would always gauge to see how long the chapter would take to finish.  However, the potential is there. Some parts didn’t work well. But the stories had a good bit going for it.  The only issue was that it lacked a good pace to keep it engaging.  There were some stories that felt not quite so unique but then some few also made me a feel a little chill run down my spine.  That should be the whole novel since I’m especially scared of anything related to souls and ghosts.

The Funhouse of Horrors is an average read.  There’s definitely some potential here but it suffers from some bad pacing.  There are some stories that are fun to read, a few that a little scary and some that really overstay their welcome.  The main character, Jake wasn’t very likable in my book but the stranger that traps him in this cursed life, Ole Scratch is very entertaining to reads.  Some of the most entertaining parts is him.  While I’m not a huge fan of this one, I do feel like maybe Jazan Wild’s other series, Carnival of Souls might have something more to offer and I might give that one a go to see if it intrigues me a little more.

Have you read The Funhouse of Horrors?