Storm of the Century (1999)

I love watching winter-set horror films in the summer for a little mental relief from the heat but I also love to watch wintry horror flicks in the heart of the season when they are the most relatable. Come to think of it, I also dig them in fall and spring so I just took a long time to say I enjoy them all year round. Recently I popped in an old double VHS tape of Stephen King’s STORM OF THE CENTURY, which I enjoyed when it first aired and I found myself surprised at just how well it has aged. It’s truly chilling, has atmosphere you can cut with a knife and is filled with so many interesting characters performed by a cast of truly talented actors. There’s also a phenomenal central villain, a runtime that provides full immersion and a rather nasty moral dilemma that could leave you with frostbite. King himself has called it his personal favorite of all the television productions based on his work and I’d totally agree if not for the fact that SALEM’S LOT (‘79) exists.

A small town is presented in full frenzy as they prepare for an oncoming winter storm. I can tell you from experience that New England storms are especially fierce when you reside by the ocean, as is clearly the case with fictional Little Tall Island (which we’ve visited before to meet DOLORES CLAIBORNE). Enter Andre Linoge (a perfectly unnerving Colm Feore) who begins offing oldsters with his wolf-faced cane, causing suicides, revealing everyone’s darkest secrets and leaving graffiti everywhere that says, “Give me what I want and I’ll go away.” I don’t want to reveal what tree this dog is barking up but I will say that I have a psychic hunch that Shirley Jackson would give his wicked proposal a big thumbs up.

Helping to make the horrific circumstances all the more harrowing is the fact that those caught in Linoge’s crossfire are played by cream of the crop character actors like Jeffrey DeMunn (THE BLOB ‘88, THE GREEN MILE ’99), Julianne Nicholson (personal fave THE OTHERS (2000) & Emmy award winner for MARE OF EASTOWN in 2021), Becky Anne Baker (the mom from FREAKS AND GEEKS! She’s excellent) and even good old ‘80s staple Casey Siemaszko (THREE O’CLOCK HIGH, STAND BY ME). Some may be surprised that Tim Daly, best known for the sitcom WINGS is wonderfully nuanced, earthy and relatable as the troubled, narrating lead, but anyone who has seen 1988’s fatal witch attraction flick SPELLBINDER knows the score (plus, who doesn’t amongst us want to support Tyne’s bro?).

Director (and former stuntman), Craig R. Baxley would go on to bring other Stephen King teleplays to the small screen (ROSE RED (2003), KINGDOM HOSPITAL (2004)) but he’s best at his game here juggling compelling performances, creating a believable town to get lost in and throwing out striking imagery (with the help of cinematographer David Connell).

I’d even say you could take this in as a precursor to the type of work Mike Flanagan (MIDNIGHT MASS) has been excelling at delivering to Netflix recently. Like Flanagan’s output, STORM OF THE CENTURY helps to erase the delusion that the big screen is superior to the small, especially when weaving such expansive tales. Though a hit with ratings and critics alike, STORM OF THE CENTURY has seemed to fall toward the bottom of Santa Stevie’s bag of horror toys but I’m of the thinking it deserves to be much more appreciated. Personally, I think it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It’s top-tier Stephen King in my book.

Scream (2022)

I feel it’s my civic duty to write a review for the latest SCREAM movie and yet all I really want to do is talk about how much I love the last installment in the franchise, SCREAM 4. I’m super happy that the new film is doing well with critics and audiences alike but where was this gushing positivity when brilliant Wes Craven’s last film hit the scene eleven years ago? Yikes, that’s another thing that’s vexing me; was 4 really released that long ago? If I had to guess, I would have said it came out about five years ago. In any case, the new SCREAM is reasonably well done and offers plenty to keep one entertained even if I didn’t exactly click with any of the new characters (at least not like I did with Kirby in 4) and I felt not enough time was spent with the returning OG’s. It’s OK though, I’m probably still going to watch it countless times in the future and surely the newbies will gel with me over time.

This is a SCREAM movie so I’ll give away as little as humanly possible. The film opens with a scene that mirrors the first film’s famous opening but with a few less teeth and a victim (Jenna Ortega) who somehow survives. Soon we are introduced to her estranged sister (Melissa Barrera) and her close-knit group of friends (including twins who are nephew & niece to departed Randy Meeks). As the ghostface killer continues to strike, we’re again informed that everyone is a suspect as the group of teens discuss elevated horror, legacy characters and “requels” like an exhaustive buzzword laden Twitter feed. The SCREAM flicks have always been pointedly meta/self-aware so it’s appropriate to offer this update of current horror film discourse and yet my corny self would rather be hanging out with Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) at her new job as a morning news show host or maybe getting a glimpse of Sydney (Neve Campbell)’s new husband. At least we do get some Dewey (David Arquette) downtime, even if his character has been dumped in a trailer & is hitting the bottle.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillet (READY OR NOT) do an admirable job of respecting the series overall (even throwing out a blink and you’ll miss it Easter egg of life saving proportions) and some of the kills are wonderfully vicious (including one creepily conducted in the broadest of daylight). There’s no way I’m going to look this gift horse in the mouth as the film successfully puts the franchise back on track on multiple levels and that’s something to celebrate. I guess I’m just a bit let down by what and whom the film chooses to focus on when there are so many angles that might have been more interesting (at least to me). I will say that the films final reveal, though anything but innovative, is performed well and is sufficiently psychotic (even though I prefer part 4’s more passionate revelation). Ultimately this is a laudable feast for fans that’s nutritious enough even if I didn’t leave the table completely satiated (like I did after viewing Part 4. Damn, I love that one so much. Justice for Kirby!).

Traumafession:: Sebastian P. on Round The Twist’s Toy Love

Long time listener, first time caller! That’s what the kids say right? Well regardless, I’ve had this one little television show haunt me for as long as I can remember. It’s a little Aussie icon known as Round the Twist. More specifically, the episode Toy Love.

This episode was demented. It’s like some psychologists banded together and wrote an episode scientifically designed to scare as many kids as possible. This girl called Linda is stalked by a doll she attempted to throw away and they made this thing look like something plucked straight from hell’s toy store. The very fact the episode establishes that it can move faster than the eye can see and can cause actual tangible harm to you was enough for me to check for dolls under my bed every night before I slept. There is a light touch of comedy with how the doll wasn’t vengeful about Linda abandoning her and was trying to reunite with her Michael Jackson figure. Though watching it today, that Michael Jackson doll being in the same bed as a young girl might be the scariest thing in it.

Apologies if that was a bit long winded but I apparently had more to say on the matter than I realized. But regardless, I have to thank you for reading this far. Warmest regards from down under! Included is a link to the episode HERE.

Traumafession:: Jim C. on The Michelin Man

The Michelin Man!
My dad worked for Brockway trucks is the early 70’s so whenever there was a truck show in town he would take me to see the big rigs. Naturally that fucking tower of squashed marshmallows was always there dancing around and just waiting for the moment he could find me alone and eat me! I don’t care what anyone says. That white fucker was scary!

Babes in Toyland (1986) By Electric Babysitter

So I was just having a lazy, December day and looking for something holiday-ish to watch for the podcast. After perusing, I decided to revisit the lovably, bizarre 1986 Babes in Toyland. I was hoping you hadn’t covered it, but I just read the review on the site, it was spot on! May I piggyback off that review and contribute my two cents, possibly make a humble, holiday recommendation? 

I watched this version of Babes in Toyland as a kid. I didn’t know there were other versions of this story growing up, so this movie stuck out as even weirder back then. I’m pretty sure my family got our vhs with a McD’s value meal. Which makes sense because this movie, similarly to Mac and Me, pairs well with a cheeseburger. Extra cheese, please.

Probably the “worst” things (although I would argue that they’re part of the charm) about BIT are the Toyland set and props. Admittedly, they kinda have a Spahn Ranch, local theme park vibe…kinda like the set up from The New Kids (1985). But low budget aside, you can’t beat the eclecticism of this cast. I mainly just wanted to briefly give props to three special ladies that stood out during my rewatch: Jill Schoelen, Shari Weiser and Drew Barrymore.

First off, I love the coziness of a movie with low-key scream queen, Jill Schoelen. As previously mentioned in the review, she was in The Stepfather, Cutting Class, The Phantom of the OperaWhen a Stranger Calls Back and my personal favorite, Popcorn. ???? I feel like she’s always had such a likability factor about her. In BIT, she comes off as the ideal big sis, and I love her chemistry with lil Keanu!

Shari Weiser, who I just recently learned about during this deep dive, was the actress that played the Trollog (too long, don’t ask) in BIT. She was also in Follow That Bird, but most importantly, she also played HOGGLE in Labyrinth! Don’t you just love when you can connect the stars of your childhood? (Side Tangent: I also just found out that the guy that did the voice for Max in A Goofy Movie also did the voice for Thackery Binx the cat! ??)

And of course, Drew Barrymore, who is SO adorable in BIT. I’ve always rooted for Drew, especially considering what she went through at such a young age. BIT falls into my favorite time in Drew’s career, mid-80s to pre-Scream (basically the “Little Girl Lost” years). Drew was only 11 when she starred in BIT, and considering her history, there was a line Drew’s character says towards the end that resonated when I did my rewatch. She says, “I always wanted to be a kid.” Heartbreaking!

Babes in Toyland is not the greatest thing ever, but I won’t deny the warm and fuzzy nostalgia I experienced watching it again. The copy of BIT we had growing up was about 90 long, that’s the version currently on Prime. If you’re interested in the Snyder Cut version, there’s the “Director’s Cut” on YouTube. It has way more of Drew’s lip-syncing singing, and clocks in at almost 2 1/2 hours long! May I make a suggestion? Watch the 3 hour original broadcast upload on YouTube. It’s a weirdly, comforting time machine…and it’s brought to you by McDonald’s. 

If you care to listen to me ramble on more about Babes in Toyland, as well as other things TV/movie-related, listen to Electric Babysitter on whatever podcast platform and visit me on IG! 

Warm Holiday Wishes,
Electric Babysitter