DEAD HOT: SEASON OF THE WITCH (2023)
Tubi Original documentary follows actress Vanessa Hudgens and her friend, musician GG Magree as they head to Salem, Massachusetts to learn more about witchcraft and the spirit world. The two women have an interest in witchcraft and the paranormal, and as the documentary begins, we see them leaving a ghost hunting investigation feeling like they need to expand their knowledge before they can proceed and pursue their interests. This leads them to Salem to seek out the history of witches and witchcraft, and obtain more insight into the spirit world by consulting witches, warlocks, various experts and even the spirits that still inhabit this legendary town. It also becomes a journey of self-discovery…and adorable goth fashion.
Yes, this can be a fun documentary, but the girls’ goofy behavior makes you question sometimes just how seriously they are taking this whole thing. There are some interesting folks they encounter along the way and the ladies do visit some interesting places during the documentary’s course, but again, Vanessa and GG don’t seem to be taking things as seriously as their narration claims they are. Still, they are having a good time and there is something fun about watching the girls visit a witchcraft store wearing only lingerie. There are moments, such as a seance to talk to GG’s grandmother, that do ring sincere and, to be honest, there is something refreshing about the girls not enacting the usual paranormal show uber-dramatics that most ghost hunting crews over-play. Not to mention Hudgens and Magree might also be the most stylish ghost hunters out there with their various witch-chic outfits, make-up, hair and nails. They may not be the best paranormal experts, but they look cute doing it…and let’s see the Ghost Adventures crew bake cookies. Overall, it may not be very scary—though a visit to a haunted house has some moments, and who could pass up a trip to a haunted liquor store—but it is silly, witchy fun. Dead Hot: Season of the Witch is streaming free on Tubi and if it became a show…yea, we’d watch, even if just for their outfits.
HORROR IN THE HIGH DESERT (2021)
Faux documentary/found footage flick follows the investigation into the disappearance of hiker/survivalist Gary Hinge (Eric Mencis) by a reporter (Suziey Block), a private investigator (David Morales) and Gary’s sister (Tonya Williams-Ogden). Gary disappeared while hiking in the Nevada High Desert and after weeks of futile searching, new evidence starts to point to Gary’s possible fate.
Written and directed by Dutch Marich this is an effective and well-made flick. The cast are a big part of why this works by giving convincing performances that help the audience believe they are watching real people and real footage. Marich also gives the film some nice atmosphere to keep us intrigued and a bit unnerved. The mystery portion works well and is engaging and a little unsettling. We get clues from Gary’s blog footage along the way, and then the last night and reveal come from the missing man’s found camera. That footage is spooky and works well enough, though it’s not as scary as we would have liked. Once you see what there is to see for more than a few minutes, it starts to lose its effect. Overall, this was a solid effort by Marich and succeeds far more than it fails, which it really doesn’t do aside from a climax that could have been scarier. Worth streaming on Amazon and Tubi if you like faux documentaries and found footage.
BED REST (2022)
Julie Rivers (Melissa Barrera) is expecting her second child along with her husband Daniel (Guy Burnet). Julie is nervous as she lost her first child and the couple have moved into a big old house to start their family. An accidental fall places Julie on strict bed rest and while she convalesces, she begins to see and hear strange things. One of those things is the spirit of a little boy she believes is her dead son Andrew come to warn her about impending malevolent intent towards her unborn daughter. Is she going stir crazy or are there actually supernatural forces conspiring against her baby?
Haunting horror is written and directed by Lori Evans Taylor. While basically a very routine and cliché haunting flick, it has some effectively spooky moments, and the material is elevated by strong work by Scream‘s Melissa Barrera as Julie. Presenting the material seriously also helps it dramatically. As in many movies like this, no one believes Julie is seeing ghosts and it makes her isolated and alone. She is also forced to investigate the house’s past and that of its former occupants, leading to a disturbing but expected reveal. Barrera has us liking Julie and believing she is not bonkers…or is she? The conclusion is a bit over-the-top after what is a mostly subtle build-up and Taylor does provide some solid chills and uses the old house setting very effectively. The movie also covers some serious themes such as loss, mourning and letting go, as Julie’s predicament brings back painful memories of losing her son at childbirth. Currently streaming on Tubi despite what the movie poster says!
ASTONISHING TALES OF TERROR: ROCTAPUSSY (2022)
Flick follows the adventures of sexy, busty ace reporter Hunter Hazelton (Brigitte Kingsley) as she covers the opening of an old mine using new laser technology. Hunter becomes trapped in the mine with a group of others when the dig awakens a giant Cthulhu-like creature. Hunter’s problems get even worse as the giant octopus-like deity decides it wants the intrepid reporter as it’s sacrifice and sends the now zombified survivors out to collect her. Can the resilient Hunter and handsome miner Casey (Landy Cannon) escape with their lives?
Fun flick is written and directed by Andrew Cymek and is an entertaining, sexed up version of an old-fashioned serial like The Perils of Pauline. It follows Hunter as she finds herself in and out of all sorts of predicaments including zombies, lava, horseshoe crab-like insects and being tied to a sacrificial alter. There flick offers voluptuous star and producer Brigette Kingsley plenty of opportunities for plucky Hunter to be scantily clad or less and the proceedings are presented in a tongue in cheek tone. In a more contemporary spin, the tenacious reporter gets herself out of most of her scrapes with the somewhat dim hunk Casey being little help. The cast are all actually pretty good, with Kingsley being a fun and sexy lead, and get the tone of the material with performances bordering on, but not quite spilling over into camp. The sets, make-up FX and costumes are not bad either with the only weak point being some very substandard CGI. Overall, it’s a fun little action-adventure movie with a spunky and sexy heroine who is endearing enough to want to see return in another spicy adventure. Also stars Patrick Kwok-Choon as Hunter’s trusty, gay camera man Cam, Sara Mitich as Hunter’s devious rival Annie, and also stars movie veteran Art Hindle as Hunter’s dad. Canadian flick is streaming free on Freevee and Tubi.
THE ADVENTURES OF PAULA PERIL (2014)
The Adventures of Paula Peril is an entertaining attempt to recreate and pay homage to the old-style movie serials of yesteryear with a contemporary style. Flick is a combination of three episodes of the Paula Peril video series based on the comic book of the same name. It features the adventures of intrepid reporter Paula Perillo (Valerie Perez), or “Paula Peril” as she is known, due to all the predicaments she gets herself into. Paula is trying to solve the murder of her mother, which she believes has something to do with crime boss Carleoni (Brian Stretch) and his criminal empire. Along the way the pretty reporter finds herself in heaps of danger and trouble that she must find a way out of.
As it is a combination of three episodes, there are three directors attached. Jason Winn, Benjamin Barak and Savvy Lorestani all get directing credit helming from scripts by Winn, Eric Pai and Chris Schulte. The filmmakers bring all the clichés and wholesome charm of those old-time serials, but with a contemporary touch. During the course of 80 minutes, the curvy Ms. Perillo finds herself in all sorts of old-fashioned damsel in distress predicaments, including the classic tied to the railroad tracks. Star Valerie Perez not only has the figure of her comic book counterpart but also plays the role with the right amount of seriousness and tongue in cheek to make Paula an endearing and fun character. She’s also quite a spitfire in the action sequences as the sexy reporter has some very effective kicks and punches…no wonder the bad guys are always tying her up. The rest of the cast are fine with the acting varying somewhat, but they all try hard and get the tone of the material. The crew accomplishes a lot on a small budget. There are some fun comic book frame transitions, some decent action and the flick has an old-fashioned charm in its corny-on-purpose, Lois Lane meets The Perils of Pauline format. There is also some supernatural content that makes it fine for the Halloween season, too. A fun indie throwback with a big heart and a very spunky and resilient contemporary heroine. Flick is streaming free on both Tubi and Amazon Prime Freevee.
ALICE IS STILL DEAD (2021)
Heartfelt and sad documentary is directed by Edwin P Stevens, who co-wrote with Meredith Mantik and Joe Raffa, and focuses on his family dealing with the grief and loss of his sister Alice Stevens, who was gunned down on 11/3/13 along with her boyfriend Forrest Ison. The documentary paints a picture of a little girl adopted into a family, but growing into an emotionally troubled young woman. It tells the story of a girl growing up into womanhood, never really finding her place and not only getting into trouble, but into abusive relationships. It covers the murder itself, where she and her boyfriend Forrest, were shot and killed and the subsequent arrest of the suspects and the resulting trials. It then follows a grieving family through their loss and pain trying to deal with not only the painful emotions evoked by the brutal killings, but also unresolved issues between family members and the troubled Alice. It’s heartbreaking to watch and very effective in that the pain of her loved ones is on display and some of them will never have closure with some of Alice’s behavior and choices. The story is told through family interviews, with some very heart-wrenching testimony, especially from her older brother, director Edwin P. Stevens. The actual footage from one of the trials is an emotional wringer. It is hard to sit through. You can understand why this family will never be the same, even as they try to move past the pain…but Stevens does still end it on a hopeful note. Alice Is Still Dead is a documentary that may not be for everyone, but it is a well made, powerful and sometimes very emotionally intense film from Edwin P. Stevens.
Be warned!…there are some very graphic autopsy and crime scene photos shown that are not easy to look at. Documentary is now available to stream on Tubi.
HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY TO HELL NIGHT!
Something sinister awaits at Garth Manor!
40 years ago today the horror flick Hell Night was released in theaters and a cult classic was born! It was a fun chiller starring horror icon Linda Blair and it spookily combined slasher flick with haunted house movie! It was also one I saw on opening night, 8/28/1981, at the Oritani Triplex in Hackensack NJ! Hell Night was directed by Tom DeSimone from a script by Randy Feldman! Stream it for free on Tubi!
HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY HELL NIGHT!
A group of college kids are in for a hell of a night locked in a haunted house in Hell Night!…
LET HER OUT (2017)
Helen (Alanna LeVierge) is a young woman lucky to be alive, as her mother committed suicide while she was pregnant with her. Working her job as a bike courier, Helen has a severe accident that seems to trigger blackouts and strange behavior. As her condition gets worse, she finds out there is a mass inside her head caused by an unborn twin. Soon Helen comes to believe this is not just leftover genetic material, but another person living inside her body who finally wants control—a person who is vicious, insane and very dangerous.
Flick is directed by Vicious Fun director Cody Calahan, from his script with Adam Seybold. It is an effective horror thriller, as the emerging consciousness of her unborn and unhinged twin, fights to take over Helen’s body. It puts those around her at risk and there are some very violent moments when the evil personality gains control. Lead Alanna LeVierge does a good job being likable and sympathetic as Helen and coming across as dangerous when the other takes control. She also plays well the scenes of she and her deranged twin sister battling each other for dominance. A lot of this stuff could have gotten silly, but director Cody Calahan keeps it creepy and unsettling. It also comes to an effective and blood-soaked conclusion, with well-done practical make-up FX throughout. Not a bad 90 minutes, especially as it is now streaming free on Tubi.
SUMMER ’03 (2018)
Summer ’03 is an indie coming of age movie that finds teen Jamie Winkle (Joey King) trying to deal with the backlash when her grandmother Dotty (June Squibb) bares her soul on her death bed, throwing the family into chaos. Her mother Shira (Andrea Savage) finds out what she knew all along, Dotty hated her because she is Jewish. Her father Ned (Paul Scheer) finds out the man he thought was his father…wasn’t…and Dotty’s advice to Jamie might seem a little inappropriate. Being a teen is hard enough, but with a family in chaos and a dysfunctional funeral looming, Jamie tries to find herself in the mess.
Delightfully honest and sometimes biting and raunchy comedy/drama is written and directed by Becca Gleason. It presents a more realistic view of families, especially when secrets are revealed and real feelings come out, surrounding the death of a family member. It is also a nicely un-PC view of a teenager’s angst, not only in moments of upheaval, but in everyday teen life. The flick is not afraid to “go there” especially in it’s portrayal of Jamie following grandma’s last words of advice and of a young girl at the point of becoming a young woman. It has a bit of a devious and sarcastic sense of humor that produces some laugh out loud moments, for those who appreciate such, yet has some nice poignant moments, too, as Jamie struggles to find herself amidst her family falling apart around her. It does follow the coming of age movie formula, but does so at the beat of it’s own drum. Add to all that, a firecracker performance by Joey King, who is surrounded by a very good supporting cast and you have a movie that more people should have been talking about when released in 2018. Highly recommend and a very impressive feature film debut from Becca Gleason. Also stars Jack Kilmer as a young priest in training and Stephen Ruffin as a classmate, two young men whose attentions Jamie seeks as she tries to deal with what’s going on around her.
Flick can be found streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi.
KING COHEN (2018)
Documentary traces the life and career of maverick filmmaker Larry Cohen from his beginnings in TV to some of his film classics and cult classics.
Fun and informative documentary is written and directed by Steve Mitchell and tells Cohen’s story with the words of the man himself and many who worked with him. It covers his start writing for television shows like The Fugitive and The Defenders, to the creation of his first TV show Branded and his now classic sci-fi TV show The Invaders. Larry and guests then relate his decision to make his own movies and the start of a legendary B-movie, film career, from his first feature Bone, to his Blaxploitation hits Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem, to his classic horrors It’s Alive, Q:The Winged Serpent and The Stuff. Along the way we get some great stories and anecdotes on Larry’s guerrilla style of filmmaking from Cohen and the many talents who worked in front of and behind the camera with him. Filming in famous places without permits, making actors do their own stunts, having New York’s S.W.A.T. team converge on one of his sets and turning gang members and everyday folk into actors, is all told to us, the eager audience. It’s a lot of fun and weaves a story of a man determined to do things his way…and he did! Larry sadly left us in 2019, but his film legacy lives on and this documentary is a nice companion piece to his many classic films. Flick is currently streaming free on Tubi.