Last Night In Soho movie poster by James Paterson

I have been wanting to see Last Night in Soho ever since I first heard it mentioned, but after last night’s viewing, I realized that I had gone into it with absolutely no idea what it was to be about. Mesmerized by the groovy, dreamy, colorful time-traveling mystery vibes, I never bothered looking into it further or read any reviews to see what folks had to say about it.

If I am not being too picky, I’d say that I enjoyed this story of timid country-mouse Anna, moving to the city of London to pursue her fashion design dreams. Anna is a rather sensitive soul, both in her personality and behavior as well as her psychic ability. She often sees the ghost of her mother hanging around her and her gran’s house, and it seems like a friendly-comforting presence, but we do learn that at some point earlier in time Anna had a bit of a mental breakdown of a sort, ostensibly related to these sensitivities, but I’m not sure if we ever learn more about it than that.

Anna attempts to settle into her student housing situation but her roommate, the singularly named Jocasta, is quite horrible in all the typical mean-girl ways. Anna says “fuck this” and finds a bedsit above a garlicky French bistro, run by a cranky Mrs. Collins. Things start to go weird almost immediately, as on a nightly basis Anna is transported to the swinging sixties where it seems from our perspective, she both watches and becomes budding starlet, Sandie–whose existence goes from dazzling romance and glamourous nightlife to grimy and gross under the predatory management of slimy Matt Smith, and which involves “entertaining” a slew of handsy, faceless men. Anna becomes increasingly jangled and disoriented in her waking life at design school, in her job at the bar which she obtained in order to afford the alternative housing, and in her growing friendship with John, an adorably sweet fellow design student. These visions culminate in a moment of blood and violence, and Anna’s reality utterly fragments.

As a person who is terribly, overwhelmingly sensitive to how humans behave toward one another, this film was such an interesting study in how shitty and shifty people can be, but also how gorgeously, heartbreakingly kind, and empathetic they can be, too. I don’t guess it’s the point of the film at all, but two interactions nearly brought me to tears. They both happen at the bar where Anna is working. John (the film’s sole Black character, I should add) shows up to check on her because he is worried, and they have a bit of small but really lovely interaction and he is just such a wonderful character amidst a throng of nasties. I wish they’d given him a bigger part, I really do. And the second moment in this vein also happened at the bar; Anna asks her boss Carol if she believes in ghosts. Carol’s response was just so thoughtful and reassuring. I really loved it:

“Ghosts? Why, are you scared down here? Look, I believe every old house, public or not, has its history, but this place? If this place is haunted by anything, it’s the good times. The good vibrations and I don’t mean The Beach Boys. When it’s empty in here all I hear is the laughs. Every gangster, every copper, every red-faced lush has been in here and all those high spirits have soaked into the walls. You could probably get drunk just on that.”

I had said that if I wasn’t being too picky, I would say that I enjoyed it. But. The film really fell apart for me at the end and about that all I will say is that it was visually beautiful and transportive and marvelously immersive, and I wish they had just run with that angle for the entirety of the film. We won’t get into all the rest of the whys, as I try to keep my thoughts here relatively spoiler free, but I’ll leave it with that while I guess I liked it okay enough, I did not love Last Night In Soho.

I watched Last Night In Soho on HBOMax.
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I have to say right off the bat, lest you think me a knee-jerk naysayer: I am HERE for the reimaginings, remakes, reboots, revisionings. My way of thinking is that if I loved something the first time around, I want to see more, More, MORE of it. However…

I hated this Hellraiser reimagining so much that I didn’t even double-check to make certain that I grabbed the correct movie poster art for this blog post. Not that any of my reviews are all that nuanced or insightful, but this one is going to be a million times less so.

I don’t even know what to say about it, so here’s something I told a friend over on Twitter just now: “Oh, it’s so stupid. I hate all these babies. It’s like a long boring episode of 90210. Don’t do drugs. Don’t make deals with rich guys or demons. Whatever. We get it.” There was something so…young people mtv apartment soap opera – bordering on reality tv show cenobite mansion about this Hellraiser story.  To which I say: nope.

There was a big TW for me in this version of Hellraiser (which, I will only say this once, but there was no earthly reason for this Hellraiser movie to exist.) There’s a character who is dealing with addiction and substance abuse issues. And anything I can say on this topic is ugly and unkind, and that’s because I have a lot of unresolved issues with addicts, and so I am just going to keep my mouth shut.

Also, the costumes/prosthetics/effects or whatever they might be referred to in this instance…just really made me sad. There was something so plastic-armor about the cenobite’s overall looks, like vintage Kenner Star Wars toys and Halloween costumes from the late 1970s-early 1980s. Just flat, dull afterthoughts, void of detail. The viscera didn’t even glisten!

Anyway, I hated this stupid pile of garbage. You can find it on Hulu if you want, but I suggest that you do not want.

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I’m always up for some creepy horror anime, so when I found Housing Complex C, an adultswim offering on HBOMax, I figured “aha! this will be perfect binge watch for 31 Days of Horror!”

What I did not realize is that there are to be only four 25-minute episodes in total, and at the time of this writing, only two episodes have been released. So there’s not much I can say about it other than that I am tentatively intrigued.

Exuberant and friendly, nine-year-old Kimi is one of the tenants in the run-down Japanese seaside titular Housing Complex C. There are a handful of old codgers who are always sitting around outside grumping and gossiping, Mrs. Wada, the even grumpier and definitely racist old lady building manager, and a few other characters that we vaguely get to know. In the first episode, Kimi and the oldsters go exploring a dim, dusty storage area under the building in order to find a shaved ice machine that someone had stowed away down there at some point. They make a strange and unsettling discovery in the form of a grotesque, mummified little dog, and a stone with some esoteric elder sign-type chalk markings that one of the seniors pockets on the way out.

Some new folks move into the building. The Koshide family, a Mr. & Mrs. and their 10-year-old daughter Yuri, along with a group of foreigners who are there to be “fishing interns” in the town, for whom Mr. Koshide is the manager and consultant. Of course, Mrs. Wada is already prejudiced toward the newcomers, so things are awkward and tense from the start. Kim and Yuri strike up a tentative friendship and the episode ends on a mystery, with one of the apartments abandoned, its inhabitants disappeared and piles of moss left in their wake.

With glimpses of fish-people out of the corners of the eye, the murky seaside locale, the ancient underground tunnels, and of course the elder-signage, we’re no doubt working up to some sort of Lovecratftian horror story here. The apartment complex itself, creepy and worn down, reminds me a lot of the film Dark Water, right down to the poster art. I’m keen to see what happens, though I will be a snob and say I hate watching these things dubbed, I much prefer subtitles, and some of the voice actors here, especially Kimi, are annoying to the point of grating.

You can watch Housing Complex C here.

Bonus Material! I just finished Paul Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World, and speaking of grumpy, when I reached the last page, I didn’t realize it was the last page (because HOW COULD IT BE) and I grumpily shouted WHAT THE HELL! I wasn’t planning on reading this home-invasion/psychological horror story, but when I saw that there was to be a film adaptation of it, it goosed me a little because I’m not about to watch that without having read the book first, right? I am also that kind of snob.

Hey kid, want some spooky music? I am a sucker for eerie scores and soundtracks to movies that don’t exist, and here’s one that was recommended to me recently (thanks Daniel T., always a source for amazing new sounds!)

 


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While I was compiling a list of suggested viewing for myself this month, I hit upon the idea that I was going to throw several made-for-tv movies in there, because they just seem way less intense and stressful than a barrage of feature length films. I did a little research on “best made for tv horror” and Kolchak was something I’d never seen and which seemed to show up again and again, so I considered adding it as a possibility. This list is included below, for reference and possible interest.

Yvan happened to be peeking over my shoulder as I was putting this together and exlaimed in distress, “If you don’t watch Kolchak with Tony, he will be HEARTBROKEN!” Which…okay, now that he mentioned it, my brother-in-law has been offering Kolchak as a feature for every movie night we have at his house, on his big projector screen. Fine, then! Kolchak movie night at Tony’s it is!

This pulpy supernatural crime thriller debuted as a movie of the week on ABC in 1972, following quippy everyman reporter Carl Kolchak as he determinedly stumbles down the vampiric rabbit hole of a string of Las Vegas murders. It’s dated in all the obvious ways and more than bit sexist, but I think I can see why it’s generational horror comfort food. The horror is on the light side, but again, this was the early seventies and it aired on weeknight network television, so that’s to be expected. It was fun, and it entertained me for an evening, and that’s what this month is all about, so I can’t complain. Also, Kolchak was a funny guy! So if you’re looking for a horror comedy that’s easy on the scares and gives a real sense of time and place, this would be a great pick

Interesting tidbit: the script was written by Richard Matheson, who horror fans will recognize as the author of Hell House, I Am Legend, A Stir of Echoes, etc.

What was NOT entertaining or interesting, is how, on the way home from movie night, we had a bit of a real-life horrifying experience. Now that we’ve moved closer to everyone, it’s about a 15-minute drive between our neighborhoods (as opposed to the 2-hour trek we had been previously making for a visit.) About 5 minutes into our homeward journey, on a somewhat quiet road around 10:30 pm, a car screamed past us and then spun out of control RIGHT IN FRONT OF US — and then careened off the road into the darkness and smashed into a tree!

We pulled over, and while I called 911, Yvan raced over to the car to see if they were ok. In an incredible piece of luck, this all happened practically right in front of a fire rescue station. The firetruck and ambulance were there almost before the 911 operator picked up. And impossibly, thankfully, all of the idiots in that car were fine. I was still shaking when we arrived home and got into bed. LORDY BE. Please don’t drive like bozos, people!

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A few weeks ago at a family dinner …which is a weird thing to reference; I never had “family dinners” with my own family, but now that I’m married to a big family and we’ve moved to be near them, I have family dinners twice a week. It’s a lot. But at the same time, it’s something I’ve never had, so I’m cherishing it, too…but okay, my point, and I do have one: after Sunday supper a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law mentioned the Fright Night movies, and I said I had never seen the sequel, Fright Night Part 2. He suggested a marathon, and that’s what we did last night!

The above artwork is not the original poster art for the movie, by the way, it is by Ralf Krause and I found it on an “alternative poster” website. I also found this database where you can see some of the Fright Night movie posters and marketing from other countries.

It’s been about 30 years since I had seen the original Fright Night and I think I can say that not only did it stand up, it was so much more interesting watching it as an adult and all the experience and baggage that goes along with that. I’m going on the belief that most everyone has seen this movie, but just in case, the one-sentence summation is that a teenage boy who believes that his new next-door neighbor is a vampire who has been doing some casual murders around town, and attempts to enlist the local tv station’s late-night horror host to help him kill the monster. The teenager in question here, Charley Brewster, is played by the guy from Herman’s Head, if anyone remembers that show? And the “vampire killing” horror host is of course Roddy McDowell, and Charley’s girlfriend Amy is Marci from Married with Children.

Chris Sarandon as suave, creepy vampire-next-door Jerry Dandridge was much more fascinating to me this time around, and that much more uncomfortable for me too– with him leering over Charley’s mother at night, and doing that vampire-mind-control seduction thing on Amy, who ends up in a very sheer nightgown at one point—and who took her out of her clothes and put that nightgown on her? That nonconsensual nightgowning also makes me uncomfortable.

Jerry Dandridge has a “roommate,” Billy Cole, who was his carpenter and daytime protector, and vampire-servant, basically. But what was Billy Cole? He was not human, as we can see when he was eventually reduced into a pile of sand and goop and exploding bones. The internet speculates that he was a golem, but whatever he was, he was a lot more fun this second time around.

And do you know what was just as fun, and twice as scary? The effects! Unholiest of molies! Evil Ed’s and Amy’s vampiric transformations are still, so many years later, utterly nightmarish. I mean, come on:

I am so glad that I watched this again! It is a lot of ridiculous fun and a perfect balance of horror-comedy that actually is a bit frightening, too. But do you know what was maybe even more fun…?

This amazing gang of vampires is from Fright Night Part 2, which was utterly nonsensical and even better and perhaps more essential than the first one in terms of 80’s horror viewing. Charley’s in college, in therapy, and now believes the vampires from the first film were the result of group hypnosis. He’s got a new girlfriend whose hair and beautiful round baby face remind me a lot of Topanga from Boy Meets World, a show I never saw once, but for some reason, I’ve been thinking about her hair for several decades. They decide to visit “vampire killer” Peter Vincent, as Charley’s been ignoring his calls, and it would be good to make amends and put that part of his past to bed. After a nice visit to Peter’s spectacularly awesome apartment with its beautiful green walls and archways and tons and tons of horror paraphernalia, Charley is feeling better about things but becomes deeply unsettled when, as they are leaving, a glamorous quartet enters the building and takes the rickety little elevator to the upper floors.

Are they vampires? Oh, for sure. There’s an incredibly dressed, velvet-clad, rollerskating genderqueer vampire, who as far as I recall, did not speak a single line of dialogue. There’s the gorgeous Regine, in town to do interpretive dance and steal Peter Vincent’s job! There’s the guy from the X-Files/BtVS! And some comedian in a bomber jacket who I recognize from his more recent roles (he was in The White Lotus, he played the guy that Jennifer Coolidge was fixated on) and I don’t know if he was mean to be a vampire or werewolf or what, but who cares, because at some point, this gang goes BOWLING.

This movie is wild. It’s sort of like three movies in one because it switches gears so often. And it really brought me back to such a weird place. In 1988, 1989, 1990, I was 12, 13, 14 or so. Just getting into my teen years, figuring things out, not knowing what life was about or what was expected of me, and there was just so much existential angst and uncertainty. And in my memory, those feelings and uncertainties are wrapped up in late, hazy nights, too tired to even sleep, anxious about everything, and watching snippets here and there of late-night horror movies. And the thing is, I don’t know if some of these movies are as strange and surreal as I recall, or if it was just that, in my half-dreaming state, everything took on a bizarre unreality.

There was definitely a moment in Fright Night Part 2 that made me feel just like I was 13 again. A fever-dream slice of seconds where there was something that you thought was meant to be safe, and all of a sudden, it wasn’t… and what was on its way to normal, was all of a sudden batshit insane again. (If you’re watching, it’s when Topanga’s hair–I forget her name– is in the car with the therapist in the middle of the night and they are stopped at the railroad tracks. They are meant to be on their way to save Peter Vincent, but when he turns to face her, he has fangs! The fangs stand for EXISTENTIAL ANGST!)

Anyway, these are less reviews, and more reactions, I guess? And my other brother-in-law is in town and I am being pressed to hurry up and finish this because we are apparently trying to pack in a lot of family time while he is here and everyone wants to go out and look at new cars for us. Ours are old and rusty but we work from home and no one’s trying to impress anyone over here, but I have learned with this family, you just have to let go and let god or whatever. Be up for whatever and go with the flow. They’re Icelandic and there’s an Icelandic saying, “þetta reddast” which I think basically means “it’ll all work out” and that’s what I try to tell myself with these guys, hee hee.

I doubt I can talk any of them into watching the new Hellraiser with me, though. I guess I’m alone on that one!

 

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Here’s the thing. You didn’t know you wanted a semi-feral little girl coming-of-age story/ after-school special/fairytale-hybrid with Gríma Wormtongue and Arwen Evenstar in supporting roles as shady daddy and earnest sheriff, respectively. Ok, that’s the end of the sentence.  Because I can’t assert that you actually, in fact, do, want this.

…but I think I did?

Young Anna has never seen the outside of her small room, though she yearns desperately for it through her barred windows. Locked away since birth (one assumes) the attic room where she is kept is her entire world, and “daddy” is her only friend. Daddy tells her of the Wildlings, monstrous beasts with razor-sharp teeth and claws who have gobbled all the children–she is the very last, and she must never go outside, lest the Wildlings find her, too.

The colorful gummy bears atop her birthday cakes multiply in number to mark the passage of years, and Daddy begins giving her daily injections on the enigmatic premise that she is, in some way, becoming unwell. That this practice begins at the onset of menstruation is deeply unsettling, and more unsettling still is when he shows up in her room one morning with a gun, instead of a needle…

Anna wakes up in a hospital room where town Sheriff Liv Tyler begins asking her questions, and Anna, who knows nothing other than the room in which she was raised, is unable to answer. Foster care is bound to get involved, but inexplicably, the Sheriff takes Anna home with her. This seems to happen a lot in movies and I would love to know from my professional friends in the mental health community–does this really happen? Can law officers and doctors or nurses or whatever,  just take in these stray orphans and feral children, like in the movies? Is this based on anything real? I can’t imagine that it is.

I don’t want to say too much more, but despite the fact that this does somehow really have the feel of an afterschool special (though I am hard-pressed to tell you what the moral of the story is) I really enjoyed this fantasy-horror film tackling myth and monster and the savage biology of transformation and also just being a horny teenager who is going through some shit, I guess.

And, oh, gosh, Liv Tyler. I do love her, even if she is kind of …one note. But is that always a bad thing? At one point when the story starts ramping up a bit, and when the sweet, breathy Sheriff turns steely-eyed and stern and says, “I think you should let me handle that,” you almost expect her next words to be “…if you want him, come and claim him!”

I stumbled upon Wildling while I was scrolling through Tubi, I was looking for a sort of wild-card pick, something that I’d never heard of and which wasn’t on my lists or even on my radar. I’m glad I found it.

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Ok, remember early on, how I said there may end up being a one-sentence review in this bunch? Well, here we are.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism: “it’s fine.”

It’s been a few years since I read the book, but I feel fairly confident in saying that although the Amazon Prime adaptation seems pretty true to (my memory) of the story of Abby, whose best friend Gretchen becomes possessed by a demon, it’s missing some essential heart or soul or ….something…and ends up being one of the frequent instances where the book is just better than the movie.

Grady Hendrix’s goofball brand of horror-comedy is always such a treat, and I’m not sure they’ve captured that essential Grady Hendrix-ness here. I don’t even know exactly what I mean by this, but if you’ve read enough of his books, I think you’ll have at least an inkling of what I mean.

But if you’re here for a relentless onslaught of 80’s nostalgia with a side of corny but heartwarming teenage friendship, a sprinkling of wormy body horror, a soupçon of embarrassingly bad CGI demonology, and a muscular Christian rock band hunk of Bash Howard from GLOW, and you’re like eh, “source material, horse venereal,” then you may dig this.

You can watch My Best Friend’s Exorcism on Amazon Prime. You can also buy the book there, which I suggest you do instead.

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Incantation was recommended to me by a handful of folks over on Facebook last month when I was fishing around for some new horror viewing ideas. I think people were correct in their confidence that this would right up my weirdo-dream logic-inexplicable terrifying happenings- alley!

I think the one-sentence summation would be something like “a found-footage film in which a woman and all those around her are beset by misfortune after she violates a religious taboo.”  That’s more or less it, and I feel like the more you learn about what’s happening, the less likely you are to understand any of it…somewhat parallel to the story, where the more you learn about the curse, the less likely you are to survive it.

Six years earlier, Li Ronan accompanies her boyfriend and a mutual friend to a remote mountain village whose cult-like inhabitants are engaged in bizarre rituals involving a strange deity. Ostensibly filming it for their ghostbusters YouTube channel or whatever, the guys disrespectfully stomp through the village’s sacred spaces,  including an off-limits evil tunnel, and while Li Ronan isn’t quite doing anything wrong, she shouldn’t be there, to begin with…and by the end of the evening, she’s the only one among the trio left standing to shoulder the curse that comes of their sacrilege. Oh, and while she was in the village, she realized she was pregnant.

Going forward a few years, Li Ronan is collecting her daughter from a foster care facility, to bring her back home again. I’m not sure whether she was deemed unfit at the time or she gave the child up willingly, for the child’s own protection, but we follow her awkwardly greeting her daughter Do-Do and bringing her back to the apartment…where things immediately begin to fall apart. Eerie disturbances occur, spookynoises are heard, Do-Do is seeing unsettling things, and for a time it almost seems like the child might even be possessed. Things are spiraling out of control from the moment they reunite.

Between the disturbing visuals and disjointed story and the “is she an abusive/unhinged parent or is there really something supernatural happening?” I spent a lot of this movie being scared, but of… what, exactly… I could not rightly tell you. Much of Incantation’s premise hinges on the dual nature of things like blessings and curses, and how they are intertwined, and toward the end we learn that what we believed Li Ronan was telling us, wasn’t quite the truth of it. I actually struggled with a sense of betrayal as the film ended.

You know what would also be a betrayal of trust? If I did not tell you that although it’s not a huge part of the story…if you suffer from trypophobia (DON’T look it up, it’s basically an aversion to clusters of small holes) you need to consider yourself hardcore forewarned.

Incantation is apparently the highest-grossing Taiwanese horror film and can be found on Netflix.

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First off, it never gets old, seeing a book that you’ve written on a shelf–whether your own shelf or someone else’s or in a bookshop or the library or wherever! I haven’t been to a bookstore since 2019, so seeing The Art of Darkness on my own shelf will have to do for now I guess. (Ok I just remembered that’s not true. I went to *one* but they didn’t have my book.)

But secondly …it’s time for a giveaway! Wouldst thou like to win a signed copy of The Art of Darkness: A Treasury of the Morbid, Melancholic and Macabre AS WELLS AS a print of the phenomenal cover art, Antiquity V, by Alex Eckman-Lawn?

See my Instagram post for details!

 

 

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This poster for The Last Matinee is a little puzzling, with its warning of “No Talking, no texting, no breathing,” because for a story taking place in 1993, there wasn’t likely to be much texting, was there?

Details, details. Cinema doesn’t need to make sense and often we don’t get all of the answers we wish, or sometimes, even any of them. Such is the case of this 2020 Uruguayan homage to brutal retro slashers and saturated Giallo films, The Last Matinee.  

The film opens on a rainy evening with movie-goers exiting the theatre between films, while the staff is cleaning up and switching out in advance of the last showing of the night. A young boy fumbles a handful of colorful gumballs as he is dawdling behind his mother; we watch the candied orbs roll past his fingertips to bink and bonk down the staircase in sinister, dreamy slow motion. Foreshadowing? Keep your eyes peeled.

Engineering student Ana takes over the projector booth to give her ailing father a break from the potential of pulling a double shift. As he heads out, we learn of the other folks in the nearly empty theatre: Mauricio, a rumpled usher with a terrible haircut who ineptly flirts with Ana while a couple on an awkward date settles into their seats; a trio of obnoxious teens speculates about an attractive girl they saw on the bus who got off a stop earlier and who also happens to be in the theatre; and an underage kid, who has hidden under the rows, now climbs into his seat to watch the corny old-school Frankenstein thriller as the lights dim and the movie begins.

Unbeknownst to all of them, someone else has bought a ticket for this film– a trenchcoated killer with a murky jar full of eyeballs who begins violently picking off the moviegoers one by one. Who is he? Why is he doing this? We never learn. He’s not even masked, and he’s no one that is ever mentioned or referenced, even obliquely (like you know, in a 3-second news flash in the background, “killer on the loose!” or some such.) His identity is literally that unimportant.

The Last Matinee is lurid, gory, grotesque fun. Except for the killer, everyone’s got just enough personality to root for, or at least to care that their head’s being slammed into a toilet seat, or that their nice silk blouse is covered in blood from their own stab wounds, or whatever– you kinda like these people, even if you don’t get to spend very much time with them. (RIP Mauricio at the 10 minute mark, even you were kinda fun!)

I found The Last Matinee on Shudder, and I really enjoyed it!

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