Monster Mash

Horror Noire

by Hope Madden

Remember Shudder’s 2019 documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror from director Xavier Burgin? It was great, wasn’t it? And if you thought to yourself that you’d love a sequel, you should know that this week’s Shudder premiere Horror Noire is not that. Not exactly.

Instead, it is an anthology of six horror shorts made by Black filmmakers. Writers, directors, performers, ideas, perspectives, points of view — everything the documentary made us realize we were not getting – is delivered by the anthology.

Production values and performances in every film are solid. Familiar faces of veteran talent elevate the individual pieces. Tony Todd, Malcolm Barrett, Rachel True, Peter Stormare, Lenora Crichlow and others turn in memorable performances in creature features, Gothic horrors, psychological horrors and comedies.

Todd, True and Barrett star as a married couple pulled apart by a cult in one of the strongest entries, Rob Greenlea’s Fugue State, a sly comment on a common problem. Kimani Ray Smith’s Sundown is a fun reimagining of horror tropes led by Stormare’s characteristic weirdness and the action hero stylings of Erica Ash.

Julian Christian Lutz’s Brand of Evil reworks familiar ideas, turning them into an unexpected creature feature that’s both savvy and strangely touching.

Other shorts are a little less successful. Robin Givens’s Daddy digs into parental horror but can’t balance build-up with payoff. Zandashé Brown’s The Bride Before You brims with insight and style, but an overreliance on voiceover narration keeps the film from developing the kind of atmosphere it hopes for.

Joe West’s The Lake also falls just short of keeping you interested and guessing, although a fuzzy backstory allows for a more thought-provoking lead character than you might expect.

The full stash runs two and a half hours and might have played better as a short series. It’s a long commitment, and every film has weak spots, which makes the time really feel like a commitment. But there’s much to enjoy with each episode. Taken as a whole, there’s variety enough in style and substance to promise something for everyone.

Send ’em In

Clown

by Hope Madden

Sympathetic, surprising, and often very uncomfortable, Jon Watts’s horror flick, though far from perfect, does an excellent job of morphing that lovable party favorite into the red-nosed freak from your nightmares.

Because clowns are terrifying.

Kent (a pitiful Andy Powers) stumbles across a vintage clown outfit in an estate property he’s fitting for resale. Perfect timing – his son’s birthday party is in an hour. What a surprise this will be, unless the suit is cursed in some way and will slowly turn Kent into a child-eating demon.

It does! Hooray!!!

Watts, who co-wrote with the talented Christopher Ford, weaves a fantasy of Nordic folklore turned modern nightmare. There are moments of grotesque brilliance and edgy horror as poor Andy slowly, painfully morphs into a monster who feeds on children.

Because of the victim pool, the film is likely to upset a lot of people, so keep that in mind as you going in. For those who are prepared for this, though, there is a Chuck E. Cheese scene that is pretty vintage.

Most of the balance of the cast is comparatively weak, but a weird-as-ever supporting turn from Peter Stormare helps the film overcome other acting let-downs.

Watts fails to maintain consistent tension or momentum, but gets credit for taking the horror places you might not expect, and for squeezing as much sympathy as possible before that last swing of the ax.

Verdict-3-0-Stars





Fright Club: Best Onscreen Satan

In honor of our next Fright Club Live – where we unspool the unhinged French horror show Sheitan (French for Satan) – we decided to pick through all the performers who’ve played the dark lord onscreen. George Burns to Dave Grohl, we considered them all. Here, though, is our list of the best of the best.

5. Jack Nicholson (The Witches of Eastwick– 1987)

Old Jack really breathed life into the idea of wretched excess in this one, coming across equally as frightening and charming. Appropriate. He seems to be playing off of his own persona, but given the comedic nature of the effort, and the absurdity that this slovenly old cuss could seduce three stunning, intelligent women (Susan Sarandon, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer) – well, it’s a charm Nicholson seemed to come by naturally, so why not exploit it here?

4. Peter Stormare (Constantine – 2005)

There are two reasons to remember this film – Tilda Swinton and Peter Stormare – and luckily they have one epic scene together. But Stormare manages to even outdo the effortlessly glorious Swinton – androgynous perfection as Gabriel – and that’s something to crow about. He’s been preparing to play the dark lord ever since he pushed Steve Buscemi into that wood chipper in Fargo. Once he got the shot, he was sinister, funny, frightening…and eventually undone by Keanu Reeves, which was almost enough reason to leave him off the list, but not quite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rVFse1LLQs

3. Viggo Mortensen (The Prophecy – 1995)

There is no question this film belongs to Christopher Walken – as do all films in which he graces the screen. His natural weirdness and uncanny comic timing make the film more memorable than it deserves to be, but when it comes to sinister, Viggo Mortensen cuts quite a figure as Lucifer. Unseemly, gorgeous and evil, he seethes through his few scenes and leaves the celluloid scorched.

2. Robert DeNiro (Angel Heart – 1987)

De Niro’s well manicured and articulate Louis Cyphre perfectly balances Mickey Rourke’s handsome slob, and both fit beautifully into this sultry version of 1955. It’s really a beautifully made film, courtesy of Alan Parker, who adapted William Hjortsberg’s novel Fallen Angel and directed the film. Deceptively bloody, unusually classy, effortlessly creepy, Angel Heart stays under your skin. Maybe it’s the casual evil, the lurid atmosphere. Maybe it’s De Niro’s understated menace, with those long nails and that hardboiled egg.

1. Tim Curry (Legend – 1985)

Best Satan Ever. That voice, the sultry way he drawls out every syllable, the sweltering inappropriateness of his seduction, the look. Wow. This image clearly influenced both South Park‘s vision, as well as the Dave Grohl part in Tenacious D’s Pick of Destiny. But Curry pulls it off like no one else. Tim Curry is the world’s greatest sweet transvestite, the world’s greatest terrifying clown, and the world’s greatest Satan. Too bad the character is trapped in such a crap film.

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