The Nun 2 & A Haunting in Venice

Lord help me, I rather enjoyed THE NUN 2. I’ve gathered this CONJURING universe offshoot is considered to be a lesser branch on the franchise tree but I appreciate its pure simplicity and love how it generously pours on the gothic ambiance.The ever unassuming Taissa Farmiga returns as sister Irene who, after some globetrotting and Nancy Drew-ing, discovers that her nemesis, the demon nun Valak (Bonnie Aarons) rather than being relinquished to hell as assumed, has hitched a ride inside her good buddy Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) aka “Frenchie” and is hanging out in a boarding school in France. I can’t help but find myself grossly concerned with the jump-scare-happy happenings that follow because gosh darn it, I really want these two characters to live full and happy, demon nun-free lives. This is one of my favorite aspects of cinema, it allows the viewer to feel empathy for other humans while keeping them safe from any damage that fellow humans may potentially cause. I’m fine with simply being a cheerleader here. Go Irene and Frenchie! Down with Valek! Boo too all evil demon nuns!

Much like ANNABELLE CREATION and OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, I’m thinking THE NUN 2 is a happy step up from its underachieving foundation building predecessor. The scares (or at least the chair shaking, bombastic Dolby system my local theater wields) work well. In fact, one clever bit that plays with apophenia at a newsstand startled me even after I’d witnessed it countless times in the trailer. The titular Nun herself looks especially formidable throughout the climax and as hoary as many of the visual elements are, I have to admit they pretty much match my own personal aesthetic and I’d gladly hang many of the shots in this film on my wall. Better still, there is a previously unseen monster that makes a late in the game appearance (via a stained glass window no less) that absolutely turned my pupils into giant cartoon hearts. I wish I could describe this creature further without ruining his inauguration but suffice to say, I now covet an action figure of this glorious cherry on the cake beast. Consider me a convert, THE NUN 2 delivers the gruesome goods you'd expect and several you might not see coming.


I’ve always considered murder mysteries as horror adjacent fare and the latest Agatha Christie adaption courtesy of Kenneth Branagh A HAUNTING IN VENICE (proceeded by MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017) & DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)) favors the fright zone even more so than usual. Based on Christie’s 1969 novel “Hallowe’en Party”, this outing (again featuring the director as detective Hercule Poirot) focuses on seances, curses, ghosts and of course, murder most foul.

On Halloween night mystery author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey… now, I know you may be thinking, “Hey Unk, one of the many benefits of being a horror fan is that it makes it easy to avoid movies that prominently feature Tina Fey” but trust me, Branagh is well aware of the delicate situation and puts her innate snarkiness to ample use) coerces a retired and uninspired Poirot to attend a seance in a cursed orphanage inhabited by a grieving opera singer (EDEN LAKE’s Kelly Reilly) in order to expose the assumed phony psychic medium Joyce Reynolds (recent Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh). Poirot is quick to find a slew of flim-flam falsehoods throughout the session but as the night progresses and bodies pile up, it appears something supernatural may actually be afloat. It’s unlikely anyone will get too frightened of the goings-on here but there’s absolutely no denying the cozy nest of tension built or the dark foreboding beauty of the surroundings. As an epic storm rages outside, Branagh dips into the Orson Welles bag of cinematic artistry he has not deigned to plunder since DEAD AGAIN (’91) and wow, Venice has not been this visually stunning and haunting sinister since Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW.

The Outer Limits and Childhood Diak-Changing Compulsion Disorder By Bigwig

In our household, there are kids’ channels and picture-driven menus that corral my son and daughter to a safe haven of youth programming, and restrictions that prohibit them from most else, if they would even be so inclined to try venturing out of bounds at an early age.

For any other pentagenarians out there, the TV of my youth was navigated via a dial that you had to physically get up and turn and covered all of twelve channels (13 if you counted the “U”). The menu was the TV Guide at home next to Dad’s ashtray.  As a kid, you knew when the cartoons were on, as well as general kid-fare, and the few channels that would deliver it.  Saturday mornings, and about an hour before and after school was all there was, and even that was relegated to maybe two channels at best. The rest was a roulette wheel of “anything goes”, and the further the clock strayed from those kid times the better the odds were that you would stumble upon something best left unseen.

With that stage set, I remember vividly stumbling upon a rerun of The Outer Limits, one channel away from Philadelphia’s The Wee Willy Weber Show, which showed my favorite cartoon, Milton the Monster.  The Outer Limits, in its high contrast black and white, was a great example of a trap show for impressionable young minds of the early 70’s.  The episode (as I’ve backfilled with research) was Behold, Eck! – featuring a two-dimensional electricity monster that could only be seen with special glasses, by various forehead-sweaty scientists, and shrieking damsels.

Tame and goofy as it is by today’s standards, it was enough to nightmare me out, come bedtime. The remedy was simple enough….stay away from channel 5 during Wee Willy Weber.(approach the channel counter-clockwise, no less!)  But therein lie the problem…I knew it was there, and just one small channel change away.  I let it go a few days I suppose as my false bravado built, and debated a quick flick back and forth, for a quick peer into Pandora’s Box.  I’m sure I had a few quick back-and-forth’s without any problem as I set approached the inevitable.

But then, of course, in the spirit of William Shatner opening his airplane window shade to be met with the fuselage-ripping Gremlin,  I managed to go from this:

To this:

High Rise Horror: Part 2 By Ghastly1

I'm piggybacking off of Unk's stellar post about high-rise horror because I really like this little subgenre and while these may not exactly be horror films, more "thrillers", I've always tended to think of that as a fairly nebulous term and not too important a distinction as I find there is a lot of overlap. Anyway, here are a few I like... 

Tenement (1985)

The tenants of a dilapidated South Bronx tenement building are besieged by and fall victim to a Death Wish 3 style street gang with a taste for rape, murder and mutilation amongst other things, until they resist with lethal force of their own. This is a fairly forgotten and pretty nasty film, but is definitely one of the best in the genre. 

Blackout (1978)

Using the 1977 NYC blackout as a backdrop, this film has future nerd Robert Carradine leading a bunch of psychopathic killers who escape while being transferred from prison on a revenge mission of a much more violent sort on the inhabitants of an upscale high-rise building. 

Enemy Territory (1987)

Can’t we all just get along? This film, starring a pre-Candyman Tony Todd and post-Ghostbusters Ray Parker, Jr. of all people, answers with a resounding “no”. When Barry Rapchick (Gary Frank) an alcoholic insurance salesman takes his lily-white ass into the ghetto to make a sale, The Vampires, a local racist black militant street gang led by The Count (Tony Todd) take it upon themselves to let him know, he ain’t in Kansas anymore.   

Along the way, some obligatory kumbaya-ing takes place between Barry and Will (Ray Parker, Jr.) a telephone repair man who is in the projects tapping more than phone lines-if you catch my drift. But in the end, it is a “bigoted” crippled shell-shocked Vietnam veteran (Jan Michael Vincent) and his arsenal of high-powered automatic weapons that provides the means of survival. 

Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)

Right off the bat I just want to say, I in no way endorse Sting. I do however recommend this thriller from Ridley Scott. It tells the story of a lower-class Queens cop played by Tom Berenger, protecting a Manhattan socialite who is being pursued by a killer, after she witnesses the murder of a fellow bourgeois. It is one of my favorite "New York movies" and features gorgeous inky black night time cinematography.  

Trapped (1989)

Now this is the quintessence of what we're talking about, people trapped in a big building with a homicidal lunatic; simple, straight forward and very satisfying. A corporate spy and a business woman are trapped in an office building and must contend with a ruthless killer on a mission to revenge himself upon the corporation responsible for his wife and son's deaths. This is a very good thriller which is well paced, taut and pretty intense. 

Lisa (1990)

This is a cool little film about a hormonal man obsessed teenaged girl named Lisa, whose mother doesn't allow her to date, because she's afraid she'll wind up like her, a single mother. So instead, Lisa stalks and spys on random guys (way to raise a kid there, single mom). While returning from the store one night, Lisa runs into a guy she becomes particularly enamored with. Unbeknownst to her however,  he just so happens to be the guy going around the neighborhood killing beautiful women. As if that wasn't bad enough (wait, there's a cheap pun coming) she begins flirting with danger when she inadvertently begins seducing this lustmord lothario over the phone in her best big girl voice. 

Guilty As Sin (1993)

We already knew Don Johnson is the suavest son of a bitch on planet earth whom women are powerless to resist from back in his Miami days, but in Guilty As Sin, he plays a real lady killer.  David Greenhill is accused of murdering his wife and seeks out the services of an attorney played by Rebecca De Mornay, he begins intruding into her life and she comes to find he may not be innocent. She vows to do whatever is necessary to get off the case including planting evidence but that only angers Greenhill. A lot of the action takes place in big office and apartment buildings culminating in a showdown which leaves Greenhill with one hell of a splitting headache. 

Psycho Cop Returns (1993)

Here is a case of a sequel being vastly superior to the original. Just between you and me- tete a tete- the first one flat-out sucks, I mean really sucks. But hot damn, did they redeem themselves with the second one; the titular Psycho Cop rampages through an LA office building where some businessmen are hosting an after-hours party. It looks and feels like there was a budget this time, the acting isn't terrible, it's got a fast pace, there is some pretty good gore and lots of nudity for good measure- just everything a growing boy needs. 

Night of the Juggler (1980)

Stupid name, good movie. A down on his luck guy living in a South Bronx shithole had the American dream savagely denied him and so he decides to kidnap the daughter of a real estate mogul to secure a multi-million dollar ransom; problem is, he kidnaps the wrong kid; Not too bright. James Brolin plays the ex-cop father of the kidnapped girl, who will stop at nothing to affect her return; extra not too bright. This film is one of the prime examples of grimy 70s New York, when the rot was front and center; it was honest, not hidden behind a false and feeble veneer of cleanliness. 

Critters 3 (1991)

I never much cared for Gremlins or Ghoulies; for me, when it comes to movies about little monsters fucking shit up, Critters is the gold standard. In this entry in the series, a 16-year-old Leonardo Di Caprio who looks 9, takes on the furry little intergalactic killing machines in a big Los Angeles apartment building.

Lady Beware (1987)

Katya (Diane Lane) is looking to make it in Pittsburgh (where?) in the fast paced and highly competitive world of department store window displays (what?) and is stalked by a psycho lab tech (huh?). It sounds weird and it is, but there is something to it.

Nightmare on the 13th floor (1990)

Not to be confused with The 13th Floor from 1988, which is a not very good Australian film about a couple of squatters encountering some child ghosts. This 1990 made for TV film starring James Brolin (again?), nurse Ratched and Alan Fudge (mmm...fudge) is about a travel writer who discovers some satanic goings on, on the sealed off 13th floor of a Victorian hotel, where years before, a serial killer went on a chopping spree.

Scissors (1991) and Sliver (1993)

Sharon Stone wound up doing two films featuring high rises in two years, that's got to be some kind of record; but if not, it should be. In the first she plays a wacked out virgin who gets trapped in a loft apartment that looks like it belongs in a Dario Argento movie and as such the film itself kind of feels like Argento directed it; are we sure he didn't? it is very weird. In the second, she moves into an apartment in a modern human terrarium where she is spied on like a rodent and did I mention all of the previous owners couldn't help but wind up dead? because that happened too; it was one of the selling points. 

Insidious: The Red Door

When released in 2010, Leigh Whannell and James Wan’s INSIDIOUS provided a refreshing contrast to the gory splatter resurgence that dominated horror in the early aughts. With striking images, creepy tunes (that Tiny Tim song!) and clever, unsettling usage of darkness and tense silence, the film ushered in a new wave of supernatural features and even went and cemented Lin Shaye as a horror icon to boot. Its sequel presented dysfunctional family dynamics as per THE SHINING to unnerving effect and was followed by a prequel with its fair share of teeth-grinding moments, and a fourth film that was more financially successful than memorable. In the recent fifth film in the franchise, INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR the action goes full circle as we re-connect with the first two film’s unfortunate Sawyer family who now struggle with death, divorce, estrangement and for father and eldest son, that pesky feeling that they’ve been hypnotized to repress memories of battling demons in another realm. Relations threaten to becoming even more awkward with the looming possible recollection that Pop got possessed and tried to murder the entire family.

Always amiable Patrick Wilson reprises his role as Josh Lambert AND makes his directorial debut. Josh has seen better days as his mother (a missed Barbara Hershey) has died, his ex-wife Ranai (reliable Rose Byrne) finds him exhausting and his eldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) can barely stand the sight of him. Middle child Foster (Andrew Astor) is given the full middle child-treatment and is delegated to go-between status and youngest daughter Kali appears at Grammy’s funeral and then disappears entirely. Maybe due to Wilson’s acting background, there’s a clear focus on earnest drama for the first chunk of the film and I gotta say, it’s a little depressing that the Sawyers somehow missed their earned happily ever after by a long shot. Things pick up when Dalton goes to art school and an exercise in class begins to recall his ghost and ghoulie-ridden past.

I gotta admit I’m quite the sucker for horror films involving artists and their creepy paintings (2015’s THE DEVIL’S CANDY comes first to mind) and the art school/college location allows for the action to expand away from its haunted house springboard. Eventually we do get to take yet another trip back to “the further” (a dreamlike alternate dimension rife with evil entities), visit with some familiar quirky characters and are treated to plenty of fan pleasing Easter eggs (for those who partake). There’s even a cool bit where this latest outing is allowed to intertwine with the earlier pictures in a really clever way I don’t want to spoil. This all may be a little too mainstream and familiar to truly knock anyone’s socks off but the film delivers at least a few fun, authentic jolts here and there. It’s all very wholesome in the end and I rather enjoyed just being inside a theater on a hideous summer day taking in the unthreatening PG-13 scares. In some ways, this family driven ghost show franchise can’t help but stoke my fond memories of the comfort horror POLTERGEIST trilogy and oh how I do appreciate that. Now, if you do go see INSIDIOUS: THE RED DOOR please stay for the end credits which incredibly features Patrick Wilson (who really seems to respect and thoroughly embrace the horror genre) and the band Ghost covering Shakespeares Sister’s nineties hit “Stay.” It’s so well done and reflects the storyline of the movie in a spot on, “Who’d of ever thunk it?” kind of way.

My Kindertrauma:: Nina on The Twilight Zone Episode "Living Doll" & Talky Tina

When the blockbuster 1960s series called The Twilight Zone featured an episode entitled TALKING TINA, I was 6 years old, and a second grade student in a very strict and demanding Catholic school. I lived in an emotional state that ranged from hypervigilance to barely concealed panic- such an overwhelming atmosphere was this for a young child. One weekend in the fall of this particular year, my mother arranged, at my insistence, for me to spend the weekend with my great aunt Genevieve, a fairy godmother of sorts, who owned a rambling old Victorian home in Cape May, N.J. Genevieve was a hearth of hospitality and warmth, full of fun and mischief unparalleled by any other adult I knew, and a colossal reprieve from the exacting religious sisters who were my teachers and torturers. My aunt and I, from the beginning, shared a love of being frightened by the unexpected…..within the confines of fiction and movies, of course. On the Saturday night of my visit, after donning our flannel nightgowns and scattering blankets along her huge maw of a sofa, we cozied up to each other to watch TALKY TINA.

The house was appropriately drafty and sibilant. As the delicious fear of the unknown enveloped me when the doll’s maniacal wickedness develops in the episode, I looked to my aunt, hoping to see my scared delight mirrored, but her eyes were closed, and her head slumped over. I was bewildered and terrified. I remembered that my mother, her niece, would exhort us to have fun whenever she witnessed our twin flame energies align, but she would also ask me not to let her get too excited. I never actually understood what felt like a looming subtext to my mother’s request, and always found this phrase strangely unsettling. My aunt had suffered a massive and fatal heart attack, as I sat next to her, thoroughly engrossed in the program. I took off, running out if the house, wailing and screaming uncontrollably until a neighbor came to my aid. I was shattered and whirling in terror. I feel so divided about sharing this experience, because my fear that the episode and I were somehow responsible for her demise, is a visceral feeling I have never been able to expunge, even after years of therapy, and the depression and shame I harbored as a young child paralyzes me to this day if anyone in my midst mentions The Twilight Zone.

Traumafession:: Unk on The Exorcist ('73)

There’s not much that can be said about William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s brilliant novel THE EXORCIST that hasn’t been said before but I’ll give it a shot. Although I recently watched the film for the umpteenth time, I can tell you that there were many years in which I absolutely wouldn’t dare do so. I thought of it as akin to courting the devil and I guess my ultimate fear was that by watching it, I might become possessed myself. Looking back, I guess there was a lot of magical thinking and supernatural paranoia occupying my head as a kid. As much as I enjoyed watching babysitters and camp counselors get killed in creative ways as a budding horror fan, my bravery evaporated when it came to anything religious or especially, anything dealing with the devil. I believed in that Satan guy until one day I miraculously didn’t and what a relief it was.I still consider myself spiritual to a degree but these days I take everything I absorbed as a child from Sunday school with a hearty pinch of salt. Still, my mind remains open a wee crack, there are no atheists in foxholes after all and who knows what the future will bring. Anyway, when my abject fear of religion hit the high road so did my overwhelming terror of the demonic force in THE EXORCIST. That said, I highly doubt there will ever come a time when I don’t squirm like a worm on a hook during the medical procedures endured by Regan (Linda Blair. Those scenes always make me wince and stand to prove that there are some kindertraumas that you never grow out of.

Luckily, you don’t have to be shaking in your shoes or freaking out in your footwear to enjoy THE EXORCIST. No matter your level of skepticism it’s still an expertly crafted masterwork with a hypnotic score, dynamic acting (the entire cast is impeccable) and an autumnal atmosphere that’s singularly seductive (that scene when Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) strolls through Georgetown sidewalks carpeted with fall leaves as trick or treaters pass to the tune of Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” is one of my favorite moments in all of cinema). Even though the lightening quick flashes of Captain Howdy’s pale visage no longer have me hiding under the couch, I’m very far from the mentality of a semi-recent audience I viewed it with who chuckled at every curse word thrown (philistines!). Happily too, I can say that a part of me relates to young Regan’s plight now more than ever before. I don’t know what it’s like to have my head turn three hundred and sixty five degrees but due to recent disappointments, I do understand the urge to stay in bed, use foul language and throw furniture at anyone who dares enter my immediate space. Even if you strip away the film’s blaring religious garments, there still stands a universal clash between the powers of darkness and light, positivity and negativity, and optimism and hopelessness to consider. No one religion owns this eternal struggle that we all participate in every day whether we’re conscious of it or not and you certainly don’t have to be religious to have faith in the power of good and the value of life. In this area, Blatty’s profound, surprisingly sanguine book is more adamantly persuasive than the film in relaying the idea that for as much evil as there is in the world, there is also clear, identifiable goodness as well. I always try to keep that in mind when the pea soup begins to gurgle inside me, waiting to spring forth.

Traumafession:: E.G. on Open Season 2

First off: I am a very sensitive person, and this was especially true when I was a kid. Second: I do not enjoy animals being hurt for any reason. I worry constantly about the safety of my cats and dear god, if anything were to happen to them I’d lose my goddamn mind.So with that in mind, let’s get to the most unlikely source of nightmare fuel: Open Season 2!

I had no problem with the first one. But see, the second one introduces this evil poodle named Fifi who wants revenge on the wild animals…..because one made him back into an electric light that we see the effect of. At that time I had a dog who had all sorts of weird but benign bumps, so a doggie with a big bump wasn’t too big a deal. Then we get to the electrocution proper. So this poodle, who is clearly traumatized, gets zapped by an electric fence. I wish I could say it was a silly thing where his fur pooped up and he got ash all over his face. Just cartoon ridiculousness. It was NOT.

You can see this stuff that’s supposed to be fire but looks more like pink-orange acid blazing a hole in this poodle’s floofy head fur. I was legit concerned at the time that his brain would burn. The burning and the fear of brain roasting was bad enough. A few scenes later we see the effects of the damage…complete with a burn blister and scorched fur.

I very nearly died at seeing all that horror. It upset me so bad I had to finish my lunch later (this was at a school, and the movie was supposed to be a reward for the class-it was not for me!). Thankfully we never finished it, but I read on the internet that by the end of the movie, the poodle’s fur is all burned off. I wouldn’t have survived that, I just know I wouldn’t. This memory still causes me pain to this day and even writing a creepypasta about it didn’t help (though I did wind up with a YouTube reading my pasta, and that was super exciting!). Add in the fact that my best friend at this time had a very sweet bichon named Sugar, who of course was also a white fluffy dog, and this was the worst nightmare fuel I’ve ever had. I don’t know what poodle-hating psychopathic decided to inflict this on innocent kids, but I hope karma bites them right in the-well, you know.

I can’t escape this damn memory. I hope by the time you receive this, I’ll be doing something else and not thinking about this. I’m so sorry if any images accompany this post, folks. I’m so very, very sorry. But yeah, this is definitely trauma so I thought I’d share. I hope none of you have to go through what I did!-E.G.