UNCLE PECKERHEAD (2020)
Horror/comedy finds the members of the band “Duh” being evicted from their apartment and having their van repossessed right before they embark on their first tour. Judy (Chet Siegel), Max (Jeff Riddle) and Mel (Ruby McCollister) meet a guy who calls himself “Peckerhead” (David Littleton), who offers to lend them the use of his van and himself as the driver, in exchange for food and gas money. Only problem is, Peckerhead turns into a flesh eating monster for thirteen minutes each midnight. What’s a struggling band to do?
Flick is written and directed by Matthew John Lawrence and is sadly kind of a mixed bag despite the amusing premise. The flick has some moments, some very gory bits and the cast all try hard, especially Chet Siegel as the feisty and ambitious Judy. It’s just that Uncle Peckerhead is simply not very funny as a comedy and not scary or all that disturbing as a horror. The elements of neither genre are strong enough to make this a real midnight movie treat and Lawrence simply doesn’t milk the amusing concept for all it’s worth. A flesh eating monster, roadie in a rock band? You need to take the ball and run with it! The direction is very by-the-numbers and the film has a bit of a blasé feel to it, when it should have been a lot of fun. It’s also feels stretched out a bit, even at only 97 minutes long. To paraphrase, when a rock band hires a flesh eating monster as a roadie in a film called Uncle Peckerhead, you just expect a lot more energetic, wacky fun. Does earn points for some really good gore and being film in New Jersey!
BLACK WATER: ABYSS (2020)
Thirteen years later, Andrew Traucki returns to his Black Water with an unrelated sequel, save for the hungry crocodile and it’s human snacks. This film finds five friends going cave exploring in the middle of the wilderness. A sudden and fierce rainstorm causes flash flooding, which fills the cave system with water. Drowning isn’t the worse concern, as a large and hungry crocodile is in there with them and now hunts the scared spelunkers.
Traucki directs from a script by John Ridley and Sarah Smith. It is an entertaining movie but would have been far more effective if we hadn’t already seen the scenario played out in The Descent and the more recent 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. It’s all quite familiar at this point, though Traucki does give it some nice tension and Ridley and Smith give us some fairly likable characters to fear for. There is some bloody violence, as can be expected, as the gator thins the numbers of our trapped adventurers. We once again have a pregnant character and it’s this abundant familiarity that keeps Black Water: Abyss from being a really bloody fun treat. We’ve seen it all before. Worth a watch, but too ‘been there, done that’ to really make a lasting impression. Stars Jessica (The Meg) McNamee as Jennifer, Luke Mitchell as Eric, Amali Golden as the pregnant Yolanda, Benjamin Hoetjes as Viktor and Anthony J. Sharpe as Cash.
BLACK WATER (2007)
Australian survival thriller finds Lee (Maeve Dermody), her sister Grace (Diana Glenn), Grace’s partner Adam (Andy Rodoreda) along with guide Jim (Ben Oxenbould), heading into the mangrove swamps for a little fishing tour. Unfortunately they are attacked by a hungry crocodile which strands them up in a tree surrounded by water. Can they make a daring escape, or is it only a matter of time before the hungry predator makes a meal out of them?
Flick is based on a true story and directed by The Reef’s Andrew Traucki from his own script with David Nerlich. Like that movie, Traucki keeps things tense and suspenseful, as he not only establishes quite early that the crocodile can strike from out of nowhere and no one is safe, but also that Grace is pregnant, which gives us added reason to fear for her. There is obviously some graphic violence and the threat of croc attack is always present, as our survivors try to figure out a way back to the boat and out of reptile infested waters. The small cast are all good and create characters we like and care about. It’s a tight, though moderately paced, 89 minutes but an 89 minutes that is thick with atmosphere and tension.
LA LLORONA (2019)
Shudder original is a Guatemalan film that mixes the supernatural with some all too real events from Guatemalan history. The film opens with elderly Enrique (Julio Diaz) on trial for war crimes he’s accused of committing as a general during the bloody Guatemalan Civil War. Events surrounding the trial have he and his family trapped inside his home, with hundreds of angry protestors outside. When new housekeeper Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) is brought into the house, strange things start to occur and soon it appears something more dangerous than the angry mob outside, is now inside the home with them. What is it and what does it want?
Guatemalan tale of a vengeful spirit is directed by Jayro Bustamante from his own script with Lisandro Sanchez. It ‘s a very atmospheric and spooky film on one side and some stark commentary on Guatemala’s bloody history of internal war and genocide on the other. The film is very moderately paced and while there is plenty of supernatural activity going on, it does seem to lean more towards drama, as the family is forced to look at it’s part in some horrific events. When the spooky stuff comes, it is quite effective and Bustamante not only presents some chilling visuals, but achieves his effectiveness with simple in-camera lighting and shot composition. There are no CGI phantoms here, just good old-fashioned filmmaking. The cast are all very good and the Latin folklore adds even more atmosphere to an already atmospheric film. An effective movie that chills both with the supernatural and with the evils that men do. Now streaming on Shudder and costars Sabrina De La Hoz as Enrique’s daughter Natalia, Margarita Kenéfic as wife Carmen, Ayla-Elea Hurtado as granddaughter Sara and María Telón as Valeriana, a housekeeper and possibly illegitimate family member. Definitely NOT to be confused with last year’s lackluster Conjuring Universe flick, The Curse of La Llorona.
WARRIOR NUN (2020)
Netflix original series is based on Ben Dunn’s comic book Warrior Nun Areala and finds teen Ava (Alba Baptista) waking up in a morgue with a strange and powerful object in her back and possessing supernatural powers. She soon finds the object is allegedly an angel’s halo and she now belongs to The Order of the Cruciform Sword, a Vatican backed order that protects the world against demons. How Buffy!
Despite the intriguing scenario and a dynamite leading lady, this series was a bit of a disappointment and a mixed bag. The problems here are simply that there is a lot of filler drama on hand and a few of the episodes are dull and don’t seem to progress the story much. The first season’s story arch could have been told with a tighter six to eight episodes, instead of drawn out over ten. It could have lost a few subplots, too, without missing a beat. Alba Baptista does make a feisty and sarcastic heroine and the actress has a lot of charm and charisma on screen. Unfortunately, it takes far too long for her to start doing something important and the series takes far too much time dwelling on her indecision between being a regular girl and holy warrior. The actress portrays it well, but we got the idea about two episodes before she finally makes up her mind. Character development is a good thing, but it gets repetitive here. The FX are quite good, the Spanish locations sumptuous, the religious aspects of the story are treated respectfully and the action, when it does come, is energetic and surprisingly violent. The most vexing thing of all about Warrior Nun, however, is that despite having some nice major twist/reveals in the last episode, the season also ends in a massive cliffhanger without concluding any of it’s many story lines. This show does have all the elements needed to be a kick-ass show. If there is a season 2, it needs to be more streamlined and more to the point.
DEAD SHACK (2017)
Horror/comedy finds a dysfunctional family heading up to a remote house in the woods for some vacation time. Divorced dad Roger (Donavon Stinson) is bringing his daughter Summer (Lizzie Boys), son Colin (Gabriel LaBelle), Colin’s friend Jason (Matthew Nelson-Mahood) and Roger’s latest younger woman conquest Lisa (Valerie Tian from Juno and Jennifer’s Body) together for what he hopes is some bonding time. If trying to get along isn’t hard enough for this bunch, they cross paths with a mysterious neighbor (Lauren Holly), who has a very deadly secret in her house…one the nosey kids unfortunately let loose.
Canadian flick is directed by Peter Ricq from his script with Phil Ivanusic and Davila LeBlanc. As such it’s a bit of an uneven mix as it starts out more comedic and then gets very gory and violent in it’s last act. It’s amusing enough and the gore is well done, but some of the characters, especially drunken, man-child Roger, are very grating and we never get a clear enough explanation as to why the neighbor’s “family” are in the state they are in. Not that we really need much of one, as the bloody hi-jinx are the point here. Lizzie Boys does make a cute and perky heroine, Holly an appropriate villain and the film moves along quickly, so, at 85 minutes long, there isn’t too much time to think about how silly it all is. A moderately entertaining movie currently streaming on Shudder.