Review: 'New York Ninja'

By: Heather Seebach

In 1984, martial artist John Liu set out to make his first American film, serving as director, star, producer, and more. The core plot of New York Ninja is a familiar one to genre fans: a man's wife is murdered by thugs, propelling him into the role of an unlikely vigilante cleaning up the streets of 80s New York City. It was shot guerilla-style on-location with a miniscule crew. The movie wrapped filming but was unfortunately left gathering dust in storage after funding fell through and the production was abandoned. The sound elements of the film were lost over time, along with many of the original cast and crew as there were no credits, call sheets, or even a script anywhere to be found.

The film reels passed through many hands over the last thirty-five years, even Troma Entertainment who felt the movie was unsalvageable. Fortunately, the heroes at Vinegar Syndrome took a shot at the seemingly unfathomable task of reconstructing New York Ninja from the original unedited negative. What followed was one seriously ambitious jigsaw puzzle that involved trying to make sense of the jumbled footage without any sound or context, then having to reverse-engineer a script. Where there were gaps in the narrative, the VinSyn team drew upon their extensive knowledge of other 80s ninja films to maintain authenticity as much as possible. 

The source material is wild and it is easy to see why they could not just let this film be lost to time, or even worse, the garbage bin. Despite the guerilla style in which it was made, New York Ninja has some pretty legit action shots and stunts. It also has rare footage of 42nd Street in the heyday of exploitation cinemas, along with ridiculous, scene-stealing comic book villains and copious amounts of WTF. 

With the popularity of "so-bad-they're-good" movies these days, it must have been tempting to deliberately inject humor into the film but it never feels that way. While taking some artistic liberties is inevitable in a situation like this, the VinSyn guys did an incredible job preserving the source material and letting the bonkers footage speak for itself. When you have a roller skating ninja and a henchman who chews on his own rattail, you don't need to add anything. This is not Kung Pow: Enter the Fist; the ADR serves only to re-create the original performances (many of whom are still unidentified), not to add parody or forced irony. A couple of genre legends were recruited to lend their voices, including Don 'The Dragon' Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Michael Berryman, Linnea Quigley, and Leon Isaac Kennedy. Wilson had an especially challenging task as Liu's original lead performance is notably over-the-top. Liu's camp performance often provides the film's natural humor that will easily solidify its place among cult favorites like Miami Connection or The Room

In addition to the dialogue, the score had to be re-created. For this endeavor, synth-rock band Voyag3r was brought onboard to provide an authentic sound for the era. They did their research, including watching other John Liu films, and the result is a soundtrack that you will absolutely believe was born in 1984. It is suitably synth-heavy without being an undue distraction. The film even has a ninja rap which was amazingly tracked down from the source and not a modern-day addition! 

I am a purist when it comes to cult/bad/b-movies so I was originally hesitant at the thought of a film being "tampered with" but the reality is, they saved it. When scientists unearth 80% of a dinosaur skeleton, they fill in the missing bits and take a few liberties to re-create the animal for our viewing pleasure. The same has been done here for a film that would otherwise be lost forever. It goes without saying but genre fans can trust the film preservationists at Vinegar Syndrome to treat a movie like this with respect and not bog it down with hipster nonsense. They have resurrected it for all to see, as it was meant to be seen. The sleazy grindhouses of 42nd Street may be gone but New York Ninja lives on!

Review: 'Malignant'

By: Heather Seebach

Full disclosure: if I see the words "James" and "Wan" attached to a horror movie, I am automatically in. The Conjuring films are not always my cup of tea but Wan's scare-crafting skills are undeniable. I especially love when his films go a little nutty, like Insidious: Chapter 2. Well, Malignant turns that nuttiness up to 11. It swings for the fences and, although it suffers a few missteps along the way, Wan's outrageous return to splatter reminds us that the young Aussie who made Saw seventeen years ago has not lost an ounce of edge. 

Ever since Madison Mitchell (Annabelle Wallis) was injured in a brutal attack, she has suffered paralyzing visions wherein she is forced to bear witness to a series of grisly murders at the hands of a deformed serial killer. While helping the police catch the culprit, Madison must re-visit suppressed memories from her past that may unlock the key to the identity of the murderer. 

The horror influences are wide-reaching, running the gamut from Roman Polanski and Dario Argento to Sam Raimi and Frank Henenlotter. Even attempting to sub-categorize this film will run you in circles: Is it a haunted house story? A slasher? A psychological thriller? Perhaps all of the above? Malignant certainly keeps the viewer on their toes. Stylistically, the film is wild and daring with bold cinematography and the most in-your-face score since Suspiria. Longtime Wan collaborator Joseph Bishara delivers everything from the mournful strings of a ghost story to heavy metal chords that liken back to Charlie Clouser's Saw soundtrack. 

Bishara's score, along with Safari Riot's cover of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?", are featured so prominently that they feel like characters themselves. Where this gets the film into divisive territory is the intrusive use of the music during scene transitions, often undercutting tension or making a serious scene downright laughable. Not helping matters are clunky exposition and cheesy dialogue. I found myself cringing at these moments, and yet, by the time the movie was over, I couldn't even be mad about what doesn't work. 

Malignant won me over with sheer audacity and batshit craziness. There is an unfortunate lack of that quality in mainstream horror (or cinema in general). By the time this movie reached its climactic reveal, the gore was flying with reckless abandon and I was SMITTEN. I wanted to stand up and cheer right there in the theater. The prison sequence is one you will not soon forget and I dare anyone to be complaining about awkward transitions or corny dialogue at this point. 

Seeing Wan follow up Aquaman with a film like this reminded me of when Sam Raimi came back and made Drag Me To Hell after his stint directing Sony's Spider-Man films. For horror fans, it's like a warm-and-fuzzy feeling which reminds us that the low-budget horror auteurs we love are still in there. You can take the man out of horror but you can't take the horror nerd out of the man. Growing up on their work, we all know what talented filmmakers they are and are so proud for all their accomplishments but watching Raimi and Wan let their freak flags fly once more re-captured the first time we fell in love with them. Now, if only Peter Jackson would give us one last splatterfest... *dreamy sigh*

It almost feels like we are in on some hilarious prank that a film like this even gets to hit mainstream audiences. When I left the cinema, I heard some twenty-somethings call it "the worst movie they had ever seen." I had to laugh because this is not for them. They have never sat in a seedy auditorium at 3am watching obscure horror movies and screaming with joy when a movie reaches peak bonkers. People like us do not watch a lost 70s horror and lament the bad dialogue so why should modern horror be treated any different? If anything, I am more impressed when a new and/or mainstream horror film takes risks. 

Malignant is weird, flawed, and never not interesting. For all the influences it wears proudly on its proverbial sleeve, the film still feels original, like a shiny new amalgam of old parts. Wan has yet again demonstrated his passion for the genre, as well as his grasp on the broad and diverse elements that make it great. The fact that he has made horror films that both me AND my mother love speaks volumes. My anti-horror mother who can't even see a noseblood on-film absolutely adores James Wan for his Insidious and Conjuring films. She will NEVER watch Malignant, however, and that's okay. It is not for everyone. It is DePalma meets Darkman with a heaping dose of "what the fuck did I just watch?!" And that has my number all over it! 

Review: 'Seance'

 By: Heather Seebach

I first discovered screenwriter Simon Barrett at the 2010 Philadelphia Film Festival premiere of A Horrible Way to Die, his first collaboration with Adam Wingard. I watched the movie for AJ Bowen but was ultimately impressed with the film and its ability to creep under my skin with a relatively simple tale of relationships gone wrong. The writer-director duo would go on to make a series of acclaimed thrillers, including You're Next and The Guest (both favorites of mine). For the last decade, the names Wingard or Barrett have had horror fans pouncing eagerly on any movie to which they are attached, even the out-of-left-field surprises like Blair Witch or Godzilla vs Kong

Although Barrett has helmed a few shorts, including a segment for V/H/S/2, the writer hopped into the director's seat for his first feature with Seance. The film takes place at Edelvine Academy, a prestigious school for girls, where legend tells of a vengeful spirit that haunts the halls. When a late-night ritual/prank ends with one young girl dying under mysterious circumstances, her friends are left wondering if they accidentally awakened something sinister. The vacancy is quickly filled by a new transfer student, Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) who - after some growing pains - ultimately joins forces with the other girls to find the truth about the dead girl. Along the way, the body count rises and suspicions begin to fly. 

I am sad to report it but the problem with Seance is that it is just too...bland. It is a boring slasher masquerading as a boring ghost movie, never really committing to either. At its best, it has giallo-inspired moments - one cool shot with a mirror and a blade comes to mind. The all-girls school definitely gave me Suspiria vibes. I would have preferred Barrett just go all-in on the homage; at least then it would be interesting, albeit a bit trite. Instead, the film straddles a snooze-worthy grey area.

Most of the characters are completely unlikeable; the exception being Helina, the kind-hearted RA played by Ella-Rae Smith. The rest of the schoolgirls range from dull to unbearable. One them is inexplicably played by an actress in her 40s. The protagonist, Camille, has a romantic subplot that surprisingly works but mostly she just comes across as a second-rate version of Erin from You're Next. She, along with other bits of this film, feel like recycled leftovers from better features. There are a few moments that work, where that biting sense of Barrett humor shines through, but unfortunately they are just too few and far-between to make this film particularly memorable. 


SEANCE is available on DVD and Blu-ray August 3rd, 2021 from RLJE Films. 

Review: 'Werewolves Within'

By: Heather Seebach 

Fresh on the heels of his 2020 feature debut Scare Me, the latest from director Josh Ruben tackles the werewolf subgenre with the horror-comedy Werewolves Within, based on a Ubisoft video game of the same name. The game was a multi-player VR game about a medieval town under attack by a werewolf, and the players are tasked with figuring out which of the townspeople is the monster.

The film adaptation relocates the story to a small American town called Beaverfield, where a proposed pipeline has divided the townsfolk in a passive-aggressive battle of environmentalism vs capitalism. When a massive storm traps them all together, they quickly realize they are in danger from some kind of wild animal. Neighbor turns on neighbor as fear and paranoia run rampant.

The first 30 minutes or so drags a bit as we are introduced to the protagonist Finn, played by Sam Richardson. He is the new U.S. Forest ranger assigned to Beaverfield. He becomes swift friends with another newcomer, Cecily the "mail-person", played by Milana Vayntrub. We also meet all the weirdos inhabiting Beaverfield, from the rednecks and yuppies to the nutjob trapper who lives in the woods. 

This introductory period of the film is largely carried by the charms of the effortlessly-likable Vayntrub. Where the film really gets going, however, is when this colorful cast of eccentrics get holed up together in the local Inn and a hirsute whodunit emerges. What - or who - is picking them off? In the classic Clue tradition, everyone has a motive and the question constantly lingers: is there even a werewolf at all? 

Much of this film reminds me of the 1974 Amicus production The Beast Must Die, another werewolf whodunit about a bunch of contentious assholes stuck in a house together,  trying to figure out who is actually a werewolf. I make this comparison as a sincere compliment; frankly, the world could use more werewolf murder mysteries! This one is far more of a comedy, of course. Expect less Peter Cushing and more toothless crackheads.

At its lowest point, Werewolves Within feels like a another middling horror-comedy trying to be Shaun of the Dead but then it taps into something special in the middle act. It finds its groove as the characters self-destruct and the mystery thickens. Even the humor improves as the film goes on. The character development is scattered at times but the film ultimately pulls it all together into one fun entry in an underappreciated subgenre.

Trainwreck Cinema - Episode 6 - "Lady Terminator"


By: Heather Seebach


Unfortunately, I had to re-locate my videos to DailyMotion but yes, I really did make a new Trainwreck Cinema for the first time in 7+ years, so pardon me as I shake off the dust. The resurrection focuses on a long-time favorite of mine, Lady Terminator. Enjoy!

Review: 'At Night Comes Wolves'

By: Heather Seebach

I went into At Night Comes Wolves knowing only two things about it:

1) It is advertised as an "anti-misogyny horror film"

2) The grammatically incorrect title really bothers me

Admittedly, the anti-misogyny promise lured me right in; unfortunately, it never quite sticks that particular landing. It is an ambitious but messy, meandering genre-bender about toxic marriage, doomsday cults, and love in the time of zombies (yes, you read that correctly). 

Leah (Gabi Alves) is a human doormat to her emotionally abusive husband, Daniel (Jacob Allen Weldy). She is ever eager to please her man but nothing she does is good enough for him. When his insults become too much, Leah runs away and soon makes a new friend in Mary May (Sarah Serio). The latter introduces Leah to a prodigal chemist named Davey (Vladimir Noel) who brews up what may be psychedelics and/or poison in the woods. Sounds legit, right? Their little doomsday cult speaks of transcending to a new "phase" of mankind, and a promise to "never feel fear again." There is, however, the small detail of Daniel and his unsavory relationship with Leah's new friends. 

A relationship drama turned cult thriller? I assure you, Ari Aster did not direct this one. The film jumps around the timeline between past and future with completely unnecessary title cards such as "The Past: Origin No 1." As you might guess, there is an ongoing metaphor about wolves but it is too convoluted to take on any real meaning. There are also seemingly pointless subplots, like one involving a park ranger. Then there are the flash-forwards to a post-apocalyptic world where two lovers are dealing with loss after something known cryptically as "The Incident."

In short, the film is all over the map. You might say it feels like three different films tenuously strung together...and you would be right, as that is exactly what it is! Prior to At Night Comes Wolves, director TJ Marine made three short films: one about Leah and Daniel; one about a doomsday cult; and one about post-apocalyptic lovers (all with the exact same characters and respective actors). Had I known that fact going into this feature, I would have been annoyed by the sheer laziness of it. 

Visually, there are vibes of indie horror darlings Benson/Moorhead, or Jeremy Gardner, but the messy writing keeps Wolves from reaching those heights. There are some good, striking shots - I especially dig the post-apocalyptic scenes. The camerawork is very active, almost like a living character in and of itself; this is distracting and pretentious at times, but it also works at other times. I was intrigued by it. Still, my favorite part of the whole film is when a character utters the phrase, "You daft cunt." There is just something real satisfying about that. 

As for the "anti-misogyny horror film" billing, I would love to know how a woman's journey from serving one manipulative man to serving another manipulative man (this time with potions!) counts as a message against misogyny. Any such subtext is lost in the amalgam of genres this film haphazardly throws together. The topic of sexism is frequently broached with all the subtly of a brick, and yet the movie has nothing meaningful to say about it. It is a shame because the film has potential but trying to shoehorn three unrelated tales together into one feature was never a good idea.

out of 5 stars


Gravitas Ventures will release AT NIGHT COMES WOLVES on digital platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms on April 20.  

Review: 'Nobody'

By: Heather Seebach

Bob Odenkirk has had a vice-hold on my heart since the days of Mr. Show but this prolific funny-man blew us all away with his dramatic turn as shady lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and its spinoff, Better Call Saul. From there, Odenkirk became an in-demand supporting actor for Oscar bait such as The Post and Little Women. Not content to stop there, however, Odenkirk has now thrown his hat into the action realm as a full-fledged, John Wickian action hero in Ilya Naishuller's Nobody. The 58-year-old comedian-turned-thespian is not the obvious choice for a big-screen ass-kicker but the gamble pays off in this incredibly fun, over-the-top actioner. 

Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) is a family man living a very mundane life. His job sucks; his marriage has lost its spark; his son resents him; and generally nobody respects him. That all changes when a home invasion drudges up the man he used to be - specifically, a dangerous government hitman. This leads to an unintentional entanglement with the Russian mob who put a target on our hero's head.

Nobody is Naishuller's sophomore feature following another over-the-top action romp, Hardcore Henry, which itself was a spiritual follow-up to the viral Biting Elbows music video "Bad Motherfucker." Gone now is the POV gimmick that defined those efforts but his propensity for insane violence has not diminished one bit. The bloody set pieces are gleefully and unflinchingly brutal with no shortage of dark humor. The bus sequence in particular is delightfully clever and satisfying.

This time Naishuller joined forces with John Wick scribe Derek Kolstad, who has essentially written the same retired-assasin-takes-on-Russian-mob story yet again; however, the introduction of Odenkirk as the unlikely badass brings freshness to an otherwise dull narrative. Nobody watches these movies and relates to Keanu Reeves but most of us can related to a middle-aged, down-trodden man who is pushed too far. Furthermore, Hutch may have a "particular set of skills" but he is still human. He gets his ass kicked - HARD - and it enhances the believability of the action sequences. We see an out-of-practice killer getting his mojo back in real-time.

That is not to say the film is without its share of silliness, which is most welcome. It is a nonstop barrage of blood, bullets, bodies, and broken bones. It has the best use of a claymore mine since...well, ever. Supporting actors RZA and Christopher Lloyd bring even more giddy fun to the mayhem. The gore and the stunts are fantastic, as well. Odenkirk insisted on doing his own stunts, inspired by Jackie Chan in Police Story. You can tell he worked hard to pull this off convincingly and he nailed it.

The emotional family element of the script does not exactly stick the landing but honestly, it does not need to. Mansell's wife and kids are essentially story fodder and - let's be honest - nobody is watching this movie to get their heartstrings pulled. 

Nobody was my first film in a movie theater in over a year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was exactly what I needed and wanted: a balls-out good time full of carnage and humor. The quirkiness and the addition of Odenkirk place this one far ahead of any John Wick movie. See it in a theater if you are able - it's the perfect escape for anyone jonesing for some mindless violence. 

Review: 'Psycho Goreman'

By: Heather Seebach

Fans of Canadian filmmaking collective Astron-6 should already know the name Steven Kostanski but for the rest of you, this director last made waves about five years ago when he and collaborator Jeremy Gillespie made the Lovecraftian throwback, The Void. In addition to the impressive creature FX, I really appreciated that it was an earnest homage to 70s/80s cosmic horror. While it wore its influences heavily on its sleeve, it bypassed that winking meta snarkiness upon which so many modern throwbacks lean. 

In stark contrast to The Void, Kostanski's latest, Psycho Goreman is an all-out comedy but it succeeds where many splattery spoofs fail for one primary reason: it has heart; a sticky, bleeding heart ripped from some poor bastard's chest but heart nonetheless. The movie builds its gory insanity around the familiar E.T. storyline with two young siblings becoming unlikely guardians to a stray space alien. Only this time he is not interested in Reeces' Pieces and phoning home so much as devouring humans and destroying the universe. Known to the rest of the galaxy as the Archduke of Nightmares, this ancient evil was entombed on Earth by his enemies millions of years ago. 

Young Mimi (Nita-Josee Hanna) and her brother Luke (Owen Myre) unwittingly awaken the beast while digging in their backyard. They also uncover the key to his power: a glowing amulet known as the Gem of Praxidike. As long as Mimi holds it, the monster - now nicknamed Psycho Goreman (or PG, for short) - must obey the girl's every childish command. Meanwhile, the ancient beings who imprisoned PG descend upon this small suburban town to wage war for the fate of the galaxy. 

Much of Psycho Goreman's humor is derived from the characters' sheer obliviousness to the insanity happening around them. PG (played by Matthew Ninaber and Steven Vlahos) walks around town without much ado, despite the fact that he looks like Radu Molasar from Michael Mann's The Keep in shoulder pads. Mimi likewise shrugs off PG's constant threats to maim and dismember their weak human bodies. Intergalactic horror monsters appear? The kids are barely fazed. Someone gets turned into a giant brain? No biggie. Even when they dress PG up in clothing (like Dr. Alan Grant, no less, in a playful nod to Spielberg), it seems more for fun than out of any necessity to blend in. You just can't have an 80s homage without the obligatory dressing room montage, right? 

With this heightened state of bizarro reality, the movie is free to be as weird as it likes. Much like with The Void, the gore and creature effects deliver in spades. Forget CGI; this one relies on prosthetics, rubber suits, puppets, and even stop-motion animation. I was constantly impressed with the film's rogues' gallery of creatures, whose inspirations seemingly run the gamut from Japanese tokusatsu and Ray Harryhausen to Stuart Gordon and GWAR. If nothing else, fans of schlocky FX will delight in Psycho Goreman's monsters. My personal favorite is the strangely adorable councilmember, Tube-Man:

The film's "heart" comes from the family dynamic, and it is just as twisted and mangled as you might expect from a movie called Psycho Goreman. PG's arrival forces Luke to finally confront the fact that his sister is abusive and manipulative, and the siblings' relationship grows from the experience. All the while, they remain oblivious and selfish to the damage they have inflicted upon the universe in keeping PG as a pet. Meanwhile, their bickering parents - who I am convinced are the live-action embodiment of Beth and Jerry Smith from Rick & Morty - are equal parts clueless and neglectful. Nobody really learns anything which is hilarious and even twistedly endearing in an "us-vs-the-world" sort of way. 

Psycho Goreman does not achieve the perfectly balanced schlock and sincerity of a film like, say, Turbo Kid - it has neither the charming characters nor the production value - but it makes for an entertaining, over-the-top, and somewhat cynical comedy that fully embraces the nostalgia of an 80s Spielberg or Dante film where kids run the show, while simultaneously mocking the innocence of that subgenre. Furthermore, it does so without obnoxiously winking at its audience all the time. Finally, I want to mention the soundtrack, which is largely comprised of original hair metal (naturally), and PG even has his own rap song much like Freddy Krueger. Make sure to stay through the end credits so you can enjoy that little gem! 

out of 5

RLJE Films will release Psycho Goreman in theaters, On Demand, and digital on January 22nd, 2021. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of "IT: Chapter 2"

By: Heather Seebach

***Warning: The following contains major IT: Chapter 2 spoilers***

If you read my review of IT: Chapter 2, you already know that I have mixed feelings about the film. There are aspects of the film that really work, while others made me downright angry. To avoid spoilers, I had to be fairly vague about my gripes in that review, so I wanted to write about the specific things that worked for me, and the things that bugged me. Keep in mind, the complaints still come from a place of love. I love the first film so much and it set the bar really high. As a result, my relationship with Chapter 2 is like that of a mother whose child has let her down. I'm not angry, just...disappointed. Why can't you be more like your older brother?!

Anyway, silly metaphors aside, the film has some really good elements and some real crap ones. I feel they are all worth discussing and so I will dissect them as honestly as I can. So here be spoilers, ye have been warned for the last time....

The Good

The Adrian Mellon Scene: Pulled right from the pages of Stephen King's novel, this scene is just as brutal and disturbing as it is supposed to be. Triggering as it may be to some viewers, it is essential that the scene be included. The first film saw children disappearing and sadistic bullies, but the terror needed to grow up along with the Losers Club. Depicting a brutal hate crime brings a kind of adult realism to the horror, especially in today's sociopolitical climate. A lot of viewers found this scene uncomfortable to watch but did not bat an eye at Georgie's death - that speaks volumes about what disturbs people on a deeper level, and that is exactly why it needed to be in the film. As for Pennywise's appearance in this scene, I loved it. Firstly, the depiction of him biting Adrian was far improved over the Georgie bite in the first film. Secondly, the bloody meat dangling from his mouth was a nice touch. If I could have added one thing, it would be one of my favorite little moments from the novel: Adrian's boyfriend, Don, runs screaming for help and you hear a little voice taunting him from the water - help - followed by a giggle. If you need help, Don, help yourself to a balloon!

Adult Henry Bowers: I loved the portrayal of adult Henry Bowers, even if he was sadly underused. Teach Grant, much like the rest of the actors, was great casting. I loved the introduction to Bowers in the Juniper Hill mental institution: the red balloon; the Patrick Hockstetter zombie; the bloody escape. One of my favorite little moments in the whole film is that Dutch angle shot of Bowers hopping into the passenger seat of his Firebird with zombie Hockstetter at the wheel. Get in loser, we're going murderin'!

The Losers' Club Reunion: The reunion in the Chinese restaurant is the best (and unfortunately, the only) representation of the adult Losers' chemistry. This is the closest the adult characters ever came to matching the camaraderie of their young counterparts. My only complaint about this scene is some of Eddie's reactions to the teasing are over-the-top. He gets excessively angry in a way that seems inconsistent with his character in the rest of the film. It is a very deliberate choice - even the editing adds to the effect - but it is very awkward. Other than that, I loved them all together in this scene, and the Pennywise hijinks that follow are suitably creepy. That freakin insect baby!

Every Pennywise the Clown Scene: I am referring exclusively to the scenes with Pennywise in clown form here. Yes, I am biased - I cannot get enough of that clown - but I really do think his scenes were some of the highlights of Chapter 2. In addition to the aforementioned Adrian Mellon scene, I love the scene with the little girl under the bleachers. I love that the girl does not fall for his "I'm your friend" shit so he pivots to a pity tactic instead. And his lunging bite (see below) was awesome - it resembled a shark attack. Similarly, the Funhouse scene with him licking the glass and that demonic smile was great. Perhaps my favorite Pennywise moment of the whole film, though, is when Ben is being buried under the dirt and the clown is taunting him. "All those sit-ups but deep down still just a little, fat, fat, fatty loser. Always knew you would die ALONE!" There is something in his voice there that suggests he is just fed up with these Losers. No more playful taunting and dancing, now he is just blunt!

Return to Neibolt House: I loved the scene when Pennywise is carving "Home At Last" into Ben's torso, especially the moment when he puts the knife to his throat. Ben's helplessness there is so scary, plus seeing Pennywise slitting someone's throat is way more unsettling than his usual shtick. It feels more...human? Now that's scary. Meanwhile, in the other room, we get the Stanley spider-head. Upon first viewing, this obvious nod to The Thing took me out of the scene a little bit but I came around to loving it. It is a great creepy effect and Richie quoting Palmer ("You gotta be fucking kidding") made my horror fan heart happy. Later on, Richie and Eddie face the three doors again (Scary/Very Scary/Not Scary At All). Sure, it is redundant of the first film, but that is the point, I suppose. I liked the callback to Betty Ripsom's missing legs, and that Pomeranian monster was sick! It kind of reminded me of the rabbit trick monster from Twilight Zone: The Movie. I also really liked the sequence with Beverly in the bathroom stall, as monsters from her past try to push through the door. That was a nice throwback to the first chapter without simply re-doing the same thing.

The Bad

The Adult Losers' Introductions: The biggest problem here is the scenes are not long enough. Granted, the film is already too long but I would rather have seen other scenes be cut and get more character backstory. I know 7 characters and 27 years is a lot to squeeze in but a little more development would have helped me care about these characters more down the line. Bill is shown on a film set with his wife Audra (whose role was significantly reduced) and for what? Basically just to kick off that recurring Stephen King joke about crappy endings. The only thing we learn about Ben is that he runs some kind of company (which you may or may not ascertain is related to architecture). We see that Eddie basically married his mom. The fact that the same actress plays both his wife and mother, though, is hilarious and I love that. Ironically, Stanley gets more backstory than he had in the novel. The scene that bothers me most, however, is Beverly's. Here is a woman who has been in an abusive relationship for years, no doubt as a result of her abusive father. Within the span of five minutes, she kicks his ass and leaves him. Now, it is not the kicking his ass part that bothers me. In the novel, she beats his ass even worse, but it is clear that Mike's phone call awakens something in her. She remembers Derry, the clown, and how strong she really is. Her husband sees a fury in her that he has never seen before. Nothing will stop her fulfilling her promise. In the movie, however, she continues to cower and apologize until she has to defend herself, then leaves him like it's nothing. It's that easy, ladies! Then the worst part: she triumphantly removes her wedding ring. Really? That was a really lame and obvious way to say, oh hey, it's okay for her to kiss Bill and Ben now! Ugh.

Henry Bowers Washes Up: This is a minor complaint but I have to mention it. In the middle of the 2016 scenes, the film cuts to the sewers flooding and out washes the bodies of the missing children from 1989 and a teenage Henry Bowers. The editing there is highly confusing, as it jumps 27 years back without any sort of transition. For comparison, the next scene jumps back to 2016 with Bowers in Juniper Hill but there is a very clear transition with the balloon and the scene changing to a dim grey color. The scene that re-introduces young Bowers had no such transition or date stamp and every time I watch the movie, I find it really annoying.

"This Stick Kills Monsters...If You Believe It Does": Just stupid. And corny. Enough said.

Richie's Excessive Quipping: Naturally, Richie is full of one-liners, and most of them are fine. The ones that got annoying to me occurred in the middle of tense moments. I understand that the character, like many real people, makes jokes when scared or nervous, but in those moments, I got no indication that Richie was actually scared or nervous. The aforementioned Stanley spider scene is one such example, where Richie does not even seem fazed. On the contrary, an example where the quipping worked: after Richie kills Bowers, he makes that "overdue" joke, and then immediately vomits. That works great! Without the puking, the quip would have killed that scene for me, but the fact that he threw up shows that he is genuinely rattled. Too often his jokes were calm and casual amidst the chaos and those are the moments when the quipping fell flat.

The Death of Pennywise: They bullied him to death? Really? When they were planning to lure him through the cave's opening to make him physically small, I was down for that plan. Seemed reasonable, since he is limited to the physical form he inhabits, right? Eddie just told us that with his dying words, so clearly that is important, right? Nah, they threw that plan out the window and opted to yell at him instead. Wait, isn't that basically what they did in the first movie, only they simultaneously beat his ass in that one? That did not kill him then, but I guess it will work now if you just use words. Then he turns into a deflated scrotum for some reason. Am I the only one who felt sorry for Pennywise there? Retreating like a wounded animal, having his legs torn off, then grasping at his heart with those little baby hands? Were we supposed to feel sorry for him? Because I definitely did.

The Ugly

The De-Aging of the Kids: Okay, look, I know this one is not fair. The filmmakers cannot help the kids hitting puberty, but if we are talking about glaring ugly things in Chapter 2, I have to mention it. It is most noticeable in the clubhouse flashback. I thought Finn Wolfhard (Richie) was going to be the most difficult to de-age but man, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben) looked like a cartoon at times. Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) was also problematic but moreso because the ADR was not syncing up with his motor-mouth. It is cringey to watch, but again, puberty is a bitch so I forgive this one

Mrs. Kersh Witch: This one I do not forgive. The sequence with Mrs. Kersh and Beverly in the apartment is so tense and wonderful...right up until the old lady changes form. She is supposed to be inspired by the witch from Hansel and Gretel but instead she looks like Gollum with saggy titties and Treasure Troll hair. The character design is just silly. I also see no reason why FX make-up was not exclusively used here, especially with the great Javier Botet playing the role. Much like the flute lady in Chapter 1, I am betting there was some quality makeup work behind this creature that was then ruined with digital cover-up. At least the flute lady had a cool character design. I hate this one. To imagine (and weep for) what could have been, compare the Kersh witch to the creature below from [REC], also played by Javier Botet:

Angel of the Morning: This moment is divisive among viewers. When Eddie is strangling the leper, it spews black fluid all over his face while Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning" kicks in. While I usually like this random sort of humor (I loved the similar New Kids on the Block gag in the first film), this one did not work for me. Perhaps it's the fact that "Angel of the Morning" was so memorably used in Deadpool just a few years ago, or perhaps it's the way it comes absolutely out of nowhere. If the song had been previously mentioned in Eddie's life, or even been on the radio in the pharmacy, the gag would have been earned. Instead, it is just nonsensical and unfunny.

Rehashing Chapter 1's Jokes: Another way to be very unfunny is to constantly and aggressively quote the first film. The movie is only two years old for fuck's sake, you don't need to repeat all the quotes! At least when Pennywise does it (like when he mentioned gazebos) it makes sense because he stalks them and uses their words to taunt them. When Beverly says "beep beep, Richie", however, it makes absolutely no goddamn sense. That phrase was already awkwardly shoehorned into Chapter 1, but it is so much worse when Bev, who has never heard that in her life, says it. Then later, Eddie too gets in on the act with a "beep beep, motherfucker!" as he charges Pennywise. Ugh, just stop. Finally, the one that I absolutely loathe: when Bill recalls what Richie said 27 years ago at the Neibolt House and Richie proceeds to rattle off three different quotes. I don't want to die? Good thing we're not measuring dicks? Let's kill this fucking clown? First of all, they did not even remember Derry existed a few hours ago, but Richie can recite three different things he said 27 years ago in the midst of an evil clown battle? I know, perhaps I'm taking it too seriously, but aside from how unrealistic that is, I just cannot stand how this movie feels the need to pull from Chapter 1 so much. It is unnecessary, forced, unfunny, and cringey as hell.

Okay, that is enough bitching from me. What were your gripes and/or favorite moments?

Terror Tourism: The Gorehound's Playground (Fort Collins, Colorado)

By: Heather Seebach

My full-time job involves a lot of travelling. Every time I visit a new city, my first order of business is finding the best spots for a horror nerd like myself. Consequently, I have become pretty good at it! That is why I decided to start a recurring feature dedicated to those places: Terror Tourism! If you love horror, cult film, b-movies, etc. like me, and you find yourself in a new town, allow me to be your guide.

The first edition of this new feature is dedicated to a little shop with a lot of heart in Fort Collins, Colorado. I discovered The Gorehound's Playground on a work trip to Denver - it was totally worth the drive up North, so much so that I visited again on a subsequent trip to the Mile High City. Opened on Halloween of 2017, the Playground is primarily a retail store, selling movies, artwork, collectibles, and more, but it also functions as an event and community gathering space. They host filmmaker networking events, private parties, and occasionally, movie screenings. Check out these comfy couches in their screening room where I watched the hilariously awful Ninja Zombie:

On my first visit, I had a great chat with owner Jeff Abbott who clearly shares my passion for horror and cult cinema. He has a desire to bring new fans into this counterculture but also to give existing fans a place to shop, share, and socialize in Northern Colorado. I was impressed with their wide selection of both mainstream and obscure films, including releases from Arrow, Synapse, Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, and The Criterion Collection. They carry both used and new films, and rent them out, as well. I picked up a couple Blu-rays for my collection back home, including Turkey Shoot, Contamination, and Demon Wind, plus some magnets and this sweet t-shirt that is basically me: 

In addition to the many products they sell, The Gorehound's Playground also acts as a consignment shop where local artists can feature and sell their art, music, and merchandise. There is just a great sense of community here that I love. This is the sort of rare place that I want to throw all my money at and hope it never closes - and I don't even live in Colorado! I just love that it exists at all. If I did live there, it would certainly be my second home. 

If you want to support them but do not live nearby, you can visit their online store HERE. You don't need Amazon to find good films - support small businesses like this! If you live in the Fort Collins area, or plan to visit, head over to 1125 W Drake Rd, Unit B-6. Watch an obscure film, or take some with you - whatever you do, check out The Gorehound's Playground!


Fort Collins Bonus: If you are in the area and have a grumbly tummy, grab a slice at Totally 80s Pizza, a 'za shop and museum dedicated to the greatest decade. With that theme, you know there must be a little something there for horror fans....

Also find us here: