Godzilla Vs Kong (2021)

As far as let downs go, GODZILLA VS KONG isn’t so bad. It delivers some true eye-popping spectacle or maybe I’m just the easiest mark when it comes to buildings being destroyed and flashy neon colors. I wonder if it’s possible I might have enjoyed it more if I was able to see it in my beloved (but now dead-by-Covid) local movie theater? Maybe. On the other hand, I didn’t mind watching in sweats with a fridge full of beer either. Ah, why blame the victim (me) though? The sad truth is that this is a movie that does a great job with monsters destroying things and a terrible job creating anything remotely human. I’m a big disaster movie fan so I’m not asking for much as far as characterization goes. I just need a few quick but juicy brush strokes. I’m not looking for more backstory, more info or more time spent with the characters; I just need them not to be dried out charmless husks. I’m curious if anyone can confirm if director Andrew Wingard appeared younger after filming because it truly appears that he sucked the life energy from his cast.

We all want to see the monsters fight its true. We all know going in that we’re going to have to endure a bunch of scenes with people looking at maps and computers speaking gobley-goop. It’s an agreement we all sign up for. Usually in a well done film the downtime works to create anticipation for the promised eye-candy and may even accentuate the eventual cathartic release random destruction brings. But GVK seems to take it a couple dozen painful steps further and the non-action scenes play like dead air and white noise. I’d say every other movie in this monster –verse series (GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS) dealt with pretty much the same format but were still able to install a sense of wonder and a variety of good and bad human-types to get behind or root against. I’m not sure how nothing remotely like that happens here. To render Rebecca Hall uninteresting, Alexander Starsgard uncharismatic and Millie Bobbie Brown a dead weight is really some sort of unholy cinematic alchemy.

This is a flick that introduces something called the “hollow earth” a stupid concept that a Saturday morning cartoon would be embarrassed to try to sell and yet it’s sadly appropriate for such an empty vessel. GODZILLA VS KONG is beautiful, mighty beautiful. There are some incredible visuals that brilliantly call back Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES but I’d almost rather check them out in a special effects reel. Again, I don’t think I’m asking for much just to have the bare minimum of believable story and at least remotely relatable characters. Heck, I don’t even think my pal Godzilla came across very well, somehow he even seemed like he was there to pick up a paycheck and split and he’s (to the best of my knowledge) pure CGI; how does one suck the energy out of something that isn’t even alive? Oh well, I loved the fight against the backdrop of neon buildings in Hong Kong, In fact, I’d say its worth the price of admission alone, I guess. Plus there’s a pretty nifty surprise special guest star monster I was Mecha-delighted to see. Maybe next time add a puppy in peril though and give me something to wring my hands about.

Name That Trauma:: Drew P. on a Sherlock Holmes Robot

Last time I submitted A Name That Trauma, it was identified within 24-hours. Let’s see if folks can beat that!

Okay – so there was this TV show on daytime PBS during the early 90s. Probably between 1990 and 1994. I watched this on either Vermont Public Television or New Hampshire Public Television. I don’t think this was a regionally-produced show because the local stations were always pretty strapped for cash. The show was all about mathematics. We’re talking weapons-grade math: geometry and algebra. Stuff that was way too complex for my puny child mind to comprehend. (Stuff that’s way too complex for my puny adult mind too, but I digress…) The bulk of each episode consisted of a bland, polo-shirt-and-moustache, middle-aged-dad sorta guy interviewing teachers and mathematicians. 

Here’s where the trauma comes in: each episode also featured prologue and epilogue segments with robotic versions of Sherlock Holmes and Watson attempting to thwart Professor Moriarty. These segments were rendered in very primitive, early 90s computer animation, and Holmes and Watson looked like blocks on wheels with spindly ball-and-socket limbs. The Holmes robot had a pipe and a deerstalker cap. The Watson robot had a moustache. Moriarty had a black fedora, a dracula-esque cape, and sharp claws. I found the claws to be a particularly frightening detail.

Every episode had a pattern. Moriarty would lure Holmes and Watson into a math-inspired trap and Holmes would apply the concepts taught in the episode’s mathematics lesson towards a solution. Piece of cake. Done in one. But then, during the epilogue, Moriarty would spring a SECOND trap, leaving Holmes and Watson in LETHAL DANGER. And then the show would end. It would just END.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Every. Single. Episode. Ended with Holmes and Watson utterly trapped and about to die. One episode ended with Holmes and Watson at the mercy of snarling sphinxes with glowing red eyes. Another episode ended with Holmes and Watson getting chased by howling yetis. They were trapped in claustrophobic mazes, collapsing tombs, avalanches, and rising floods. It was nightmarish. The whiplash between middle-aged-math-dad boredom and the inevitability of death was extremely upsetting. The fact that Holmes and Watson would reappear in the next episode didn’t give me any comfort. It was as if they were reborn just to die all over again. Cruel, infinite deaths.

Hope some fellow PBS kid is able to identify this! 

Five Favorite Things:: Night of the Demons 2 (1994) By Unk

1: Perfect for Halloween.

The original NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is a well-acknowledged perennial Halloween-set horror favorite but somehow its nearly equal sequel gets somewhat shafted. NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 kindly treats viewers to plenty of spooky season eye candy including but not limited to a plethora of costumes and decorations at an All Hallow’s Eve bash. Sure the trees are tellingly green but the film’s climax features a hefty load of crunchy leaves framing a courtyard fight for life. Beyond the visual array, the film’s consistent commitment to mischief, hijinks and mayhem is the perfect fit for a Halloween night.

2: Solid Sequel.

NOTD2 does everything a sequel should do and it does it right. It expands from the original film without stepping on its toes, it takes it in new directions while still being faithful and it winks toward the previous film whilst offering the unexpected and new. It’s actually such an airtight, well constructed ship that I’d say it can stand completely on its own and familiarity with its source material is beneficial but certainly not required.

3: The Humor.

Combining humor with horror can be a treacherous affair and the road to hell is paved with failed attempts. As silly and over the top as NOTD2 is willing to go (this is the type of film to shamelessly utilize the old holy water in a super soaker gag) it’s able to keep the threat level high enough that the chuckles never sink the ship. A kick-ass nun with Ninja skills may elicit eye rolls on paper but the miraculous way it is pulled off here creates a memorable heroine for the ages. Sick, dark, bawdy and maybe a slash corny this movie is consistent giddy fun.

4: The Special Effects.

NOTD2 may be a mid-nineties horror film but the squishy brazen gore and twisted monster effects may have you convinced it was born a good decade earlier. Perhaps because it avoided theaters and was released straight to video, NOTD2 clearly has no qualms showing the good stuff and there is some real eye-popping artistry on display if you’re so inclined. Be prepared for a horrific mouth injury, breasts that transform into grabbing hands, one of the better decapitations I’ve ever witnessed and a final-boss snake-beast that puts most big studio horror pictures to shame.

5: The Cast.

Returning Amelia Kinkade’s demonic Angela is still the star of the show but just as in the original, she’s surrounded by many a scene-stealer. Merle Kennedy (MAY) is highly sympathetic as Angela’s estranged sister Melissa who is better known as “Mouse”, Cristi Harris (NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW) shines as Mouse’s only ally, Zoe Trilling (DR. GIGGLES) is the ultimate bad girl and Christine Taylor (THE CRAFT, CAMPFIRE) is her usual brilliant self as snarky but ultimately likable brat Terri. For my money, Jennifer Rhodes performance as Sister Gloria is the jewel on the film’s crown. At first, she is presented as the typical nightmare scold but by the end of the movie, her character keenly destroys all cliché expectations. On her Imdb page, Rhodes says she’s best known for a horror film she doesn’t wish to discuss but since she was in SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE 2 as well, I’m going to assume that’s that one she is referring to. Surely, she can only be proud of NOTD2; a fun, frightening foray perfect for Halloween viewing.

Five Favorite Things:: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) By Doc of Camera Viscera

Nothing gets me in the mood for the spooky season like popping in my VHS of Halloween 4 and hearing the VCR hum to life. Even just typing that made me want to light some pumpkin spice candles and crawl under a blanket on the couch. Now, there is no doubt that the original Halloween is one of the greatest horror films ever made and—for obvious reasons—the film most closely associated with the holiday that shares its name. But, for me, it’s Halloween 4 that really sets the mood for all of October.

And since Halloween (the holiday) is on everyone’s mind currently, I thought I’d revisit one of my favorite sequels of the Halloween franchise. Here are my Five Favorite Things about Halloween 4.

Mention Halloween 4 to any fan of the film and the first thing they’ll bring up are the opening credits. And it’s true: they’re great. Just a few shots of a barren field and some weathered halloween decorations under an overcast sky—boom, that’s all that’s needed to set the tone for the entire movie. Simple, but incredibly effective.

But it’s not just the opening credits that create that sort of atmosphere; the whole movies feels like it’s actually October in a small Midwestern town. The streets are perpetually wet and dappled with fallen leaves. A foggy haze hangs low over the backyards at night. Our protagonist, little Jamie Lloyd, buys her Halloween costume from a local drugstore (employed with teens who all know each other). The town watering hole is a total dive filled with hicks with shotguns. It’s just feels so real.

Part of the reason why Halloween 4 got the seasonal look so right was because it was shot in Salt Lake City, Utah at the beginning of April, when it’s incredibly wet and dreary, with temperatures barely rising above 60. (Halloween, on the other hand, was shot in and around Los Angeles in May, when temps are already in the high 70s—if not higher.) Pop Halloween 4 in on an overcast fall day and I’m sure you’ll agree!

When creating a fictional town like Haddonfield, the best way to make it feel real is to fill it with real characters. The original Halloween introduced us to some local teens and the police department. Halloween II did an even better job, inserting other neighborhood residents, news crews, more police, and an entire hospital staff. Halloween 4 raises the bar even higher.

The gruff Dr. Hoffman; the stoic Deputy Logan; the prophetic Rev. Jackson P. Sayer; lame-o Wade; stocky and standoffish Bucky. It’s been said “there are no small parts, only small actors”, and that feels particularly true with Halloween 4. Every character, no matter how brief their screen-time, fleshes out the world of Haddonfield that much more.

Halloween II did a great job of this when Nurse Janet tells Bud and Jimmy an anecdotal story about Michael Myers, in the breakroom of the hospital: “Julie saw him, you know—you know the Shop and Bag out by the mall? She stopped at the light and saw him walking in that field behind the Lost River Drive-In. Julie said he was so creepy.” We never see the drive-in she describes, or the Shop and Bag; we never see or hear anymore about this Julie character. But it builds a world.

Same thing for Halloween 4. At one point, a fired-up group of hillbillies accidentally gun down an innocent local kid (again, mirroring Ben Tramer from Halloween II); “Shit, Earl. It’s Ted Hollister.” says one of the good ol’ boys. Who’s Ted Hollister? Doesn’t matter. It’s just world-building, and it works.

I like when horror sequels are able to find a balance between “paying homage to the original” and “elevating the original idea”. You don’t gotta send your villain to space to keep me interested. Just find that happy cozy medium between the original and somewhere slightly beyond.

During the climax of Halloween, Laurie strode is running around her post-trick-or-treated neighborhood, desperate to find some help and/or shelter from her pursuant killer, Michael Myers. But no matter where she goes, the porch lights are off and the doors are locked.

How does Halloween 4 elevate that? It knocks out the power in the entire town and kills off the entire police force. It’s great! No one is able to call anyone for help—everyone is on their own! In another mirror of the original: Michael was chasing the babysitter in ’78, with the kids as collateral. In the ’88 sequel, he’s chasing the kid with the babysitter as collateral. God, this movie is good.

Much like almost the entirety of Halloween II, Halloween 4 finds the beginning of its third act taking place in a single location. H2 had the hospital and its labyrinthine bowels, H4 has a two-story Victorian that’s been dead-bolted and is inescapable.

“We’re trapped in this house,” explains Brady to the terrified Rachel and Jamie. Again, upping the ante: imagine being unable to escape the house while Michael Myers is locked inside with you! Adding to the scare factor: Michael is able to snuff people out within the darkened house (remember, he knocked out the power in the entire town) without anyone else in the house even noticing at first.

The scene culminates on top of the house, with Michael slashing at both Rachel and Jamie as they slide down—and eventually fall off—the roof. In the original story, the house was supposed to be on fire while all of this was happening, but budget and time constraints nixed that. While a burning rooftop chase would have been an awesome sight, the whole climax as it stands is incredibly exciting.

Michael Myers is genuinely scary in Halloween 4. Dare I say, maybe the last time he was scary? (Though, I will concede, he had his moments in Halloween 6 and Halloween (2018).)

There’s just something very ghostly and ethereal about Michael in H4—it’s like he’s haunting Haddonfield. From the creepy shots of him appearing (and disappearing) in Jamie’s mirror to him being discovered hanging out in the diner kitchen by Dr. Loomis to him loitering in foggy backyards at night, his presence in H4 just feels otherworldly. Halloween 4 employs many of the great things that makes the character so scary, like having his mask just barely visible in certain shots, and including the classic POV shots that the original did so well.

And the mask—the mask gets a lot of criticism from fans, but I always liked it. It has an incredibly blank expression—more so than the original, I think—and it looks kind of sad to me, which actually ups the creep factor. The combo of the forlorn expression while he’s murdering people—chilling!

When I think of the later sequels, Michael just doesn’t seem that scary. Sure, he’s threatening. Sometimes he’s big and bulky; other times he’s excessively violent. But are those things necessarily scary? As scary as a guy who tracks down his 7-year-old niece to murder her, while bearing a face that says “I don’t even know why I’m doing this”? I think not!

Note: Visit Doc at his awesome home joint Camera Viscera HERE!

Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Robstercraws

Scalpel (1977)

Directed by John Grissmer (“Blood Rage”), this movie may not be horror, but there are enough twisted and horrible things going on here to please most horror fans.  A psychotic plastic surgeon helps a go-go dancer who had her face bashed in by giving her a brand new face….the face of his young adult daughter!  See…he allowed his wife to drown and killed his daughter’s boyfriend, which was enough to send the daughter packing.  In her absence, she inherited a hefty sum of money, so the surgeon does what any father would do and gives the dancer his daughter’s face so SHE would inherit the money.  They then have an icky sexual relationship.  Everything seems fine until…..his real daughter shows up again.  Then things really get twisted!  Horror elements include face-bashing, pseudo-incest, murder, and a general all-around sleaziness that makes one wonder how on earth it got away with a PG rating.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

This disturbing film follows a psychopathic boy from birth to young adulthood and the horrible event that ensues once he reaches high school.  Tilda Swinton, as Kevin’s mother, is outstanding in this movie and is totally believable as a mother who is at times frustrated, infuriated, confused by, and afraid of her son. As you watch Kevin grow up, you just know something terrible is going to happen eventually.  It’s like waiting for a train wreck to happen. As a parent, this film made me aware of a horror I’d never even considered: the horror of not knowing who your child is and being afraid of the answer.

The Devils (1971)

This ranks as one of my top 5 favorite movies, horror or otherwise. In 17th century France (in the midst of the plague) Father Grandier (Oliver Reed) is the only person preventing Cardinal Richeliu from taking over the city of Loudun in an effort to control all of the country.  The power-hungry Cardinal and his witch-hunters accuse Grandier of being a demon and of having control of the local nunnery, run by an insane hunchbacked nun who lusts after Grandier.  An exorcist is brought in to rid the “possessed” nuns of their demons and to prove Grandier guilty.  The corrupt court humiliates, tortures, and ultimately kills Grandier by burning him at the stake…all while his fellow townspeople watch.  Grandier is dead, the town is taken over.

Enough scenes of horror are in this movie to make it qualify as “horror” in my eyes. You’ve got several scenes of torture, a crazy, hunchbacked nun, plague victims thrown in pits, Oliver Reed being burned at the stake, forced vomiting, and the movie’s most controversial scene:  “possessed” naked nuns going berserk in a church, taking down a statue of Jesus, and masturbating, fondling, and going batshit crazy all over it. It must be seen to be believed! Unfortunately, an uncensored version of The Devils has never been officially released in the United States because of its controversial nature. Everything depicted in the film, however, is true and actually happened. The fact that Warner Bros. refuses to release a masterpiece of a film about church corruption BECAUSE of Catholic influence is the real horror!

Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By bdwilcox

OK, I’m going to totally cheat here because I’m about to give my three non-horror movies for horror fans as well as three runners-up. I will divide them into the categories of science fiction, comedy and fantasy.

Science Fiction: Because horror so closely rides a parallel rail next to science fiction, I’ll start with that category. My pick for a non-horror sci-fi movie for horror fans is The Hidden (1987) (If you liked The Faculty (1998), you’ll love The Hidden). The runner-up would be Ex Machina (2014). Both underappreciated gems in the Sci-Fi genre.

Comedy: I find the best non-horror comedies for horror fans aren’t parodies but surreal comedies that make you feel like you’re in a fever dream. My pick for a non-horror comedy movie for horror fans is UHF (1989) which is one of the three mothers of surreal comedy to me (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Big Top Pee-Wee (1988) and UHF). Runner up would be One Crazy Summer (1986) whose cartoon interludes are worth the price of admission (And is one of the three mothers of John Cusack comedies: Better off Dead (1985), One Crazy Summer and Say Anything (1989)).

Fantasy: Fantasy movies are the lighter side of horror (plays Tales from the Darkside theme…”but not as brightly lit”…). My pick for a non-horror fantasy movie for horror fans is Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The runner-up would be Legend (1985). Both are fantasy movies whose imagery evokes feelings of horror but are tightly woven into a fantasy setting. (I was going to put in the Dark Crystal (1982) but my inner child is still too traumatized to mention it.)

Three Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans:: By Eve Tushnet


This film looks like it’s gonna be a teen horror, maybe about witches??, and it is indeed about a secret club of high-school girls who meet in the woods to perform mysterious rituals. But this update of “The Crucible” uses wiggy costumes and snappy dialogue, not spells and special effects, to represent the apocalyptic emotions of teenagers. A girl dresses like a “David Bowie bird”; the sun glows, giant against the treeline, that golden edge-of-adulthood sun you’ll never see again. The girls come together to share secrets and cope with the painful family situations they won’t reveal to anyone else. Their club is more “personal with a dash of politics” than personal-political, but even so, this movie is the closest thing I’ve found to what it was like to be in Riot Grrrl. I have some criticisms: The movie repeatedly suggests that some of the girls will be gay, or will reveal experiences of sexual assault, but if memory serves those things don’t happen; that felt like a bait-and-switch or a lost opportunity. But mostly this is a beautiful film about teen girls in the age of Facebook.

It’s honest and touching and melodramatic. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry!

Plus it includes the graffiti, EMILY PARRIS IS A BLOG WHORE. Irresistible, no?

Recommended if you like: The Craft, Ginger Snaps, #horror (which, in spite of its ridiculous name, is a very fun movie).


This movie starts when a young woman arrives at a Romanian women’s monastery where her former best friend is a nun. The two girls grew up together in one of the notorious orphanages of Communist Romania; they protected each other, and in time became lovers, but now Voichita has found a refuge in the monastery and hopes that Alina will make her home there as well. No dice–Alina is an atheist and she’s come to rescue her ex-lover from the clutches of the church.

So begins a genuinely harrowing film based on true events. Seriously, this is a hard movie to watch, as hard as MARTYRS in its own way. The nuns begin to fear the influence of Satan, both on Alina and on the monastery as a whole. Evil portents seem to appear in the natural world, and hysteria begins to take hold. The monastery’s priest dismisses the idea of demonic activity for a while, but eventually the nuns persuade him, too, to see the cloven hoofprints… and then the movie’s real tragedy begins, as the nuns and priest show their willingness to destroy Alina in order to save her from the Devil.

The movie begins at a slow, meditative pace, with long quiet shots showing the hard manual labor of the monastery, then picks up speed; the climax is agonizingly tense.

Recommended if you like: The VVitch, The Exorcist, The Rapture.


Another, very different take on “The Crucible.” Toni is an eleven-year-old tomboy, a boxer in training, who becomes enraptured with the girls of the high-school dance team… just as those girls begin to suffer from an inexplicable fainting epidemic. Is it an environmental problem, something in the school’s water? Is it mass hysteria? Is it something beyond the realm of science?

Royal Hightower is amazing as Toni, taciturn and full of longing. THE FITS is gorgeous, and I love how it shows the characters’ physicality: the glitter dusting Toni’s fingertips, the blood on a boxer’s teeth, the tenderness of a newly-pierced earlobe. And its final sequence is genuinely sublime, as the film enters the realm of pure symbolism and dream. This is one of my favorite movies of all time and one of the best blends of realism and fantasy I know.

Recommended if you like: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Paperhouse, The Company of Wolves (or any of Angela Carter‘s writing).

Enjoy! (Or I guess, in the case of BEYOND THE HILLS, Endure!) I’ve written a few books but the most recent is my novel “Punishment: A Love Story,” which you can find HERE.