Thoughts on ‘Insidious: The Last Key’ From a Storyteller’s Perspective

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There are two healthy — and at times nearly interchangeable — haunted house/paranormal possession film series right now.

James Wan produces each, and Patrick Wilson starred in the initial films for each series, while the stories that make up the movies are said to come straight from the life of medium Lorraine Warren. I genuinely can’t recall the plot to The Conjuring after watching Insidious 2, and can’t remember which film hosted the Darth Maul Demon after sitting through the less-than-stellar Annabelle (a prequel to The Conjuring, if you’re keeping score.)

But after eight years, it seems like the Insidious films are going to continue to concentrate on the life of Lorraine Warren, while The Conjuring stories are going the route of the horror anthology. And after viewing Insidious: The Last Key, I’d have to say I’m tired of following the demonic encounters of the main protagonist of the Insidious movies, Elise (our bio-fictionalized Lorraine Warren.)

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Insidious: The Last Key’s visual elements and pacing are its only strong suits. The dialogue, sound effects, music, characters, and story arc are hamfisted, disinteresting, and at times, scatterbrained. There are countless moments where Elise is expositing on the why of the haunting that I felt completely unnecessary. We’re horror fans, we suspend logic; and more often than not, the why is better left unspoken, or at least open to varied interpretation.

The film does very well in showing the development of the haunting of Elise’s childhood home in New Mexico. How it corrupted her prison guard father, then its modern-day caretaker; how the Key-Fingered Demon itself was released, and the way in which it accomplished its deeds. The visual elements surrounding the emergence of the Key-Fingered Demon in the basement of the New Mexican home was the centerpiece of the film. The demon is a worthy villain, its purpose clear: bringing out the demonic from within the living.

Thoughts on the characters

Elise and her forgettable, cringe-inducing sidekicks are called to her childhood home. She hadn’t been back since she was a teenager, driven off by her abusive father. Her only regret, that she left her younger brother, Christian, behind. Christian is a bystander in childhood, and adulthood. His only contribution is birthing two daughters who will aid Elise in confronting the demon. The girls are all-too eager to help their kooky aunt out, a woman they’ve never met nor even heard a word about from their father. One of the girls, Imogen, is a medium like Elise, and ultimately enters the Further (spirit world) to rescue Elise from the Key-Fingered Demon. There is a recurring ghost girl with more presence and personality than Imogen.

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Plot misses

In the scenes focusing on Elise’s childhood, the looming presence of the nearby prison, and its light-flickering executions, permeates the story, but is never developed.

Christian never believed his sister saw ghosts and hated her for terrorizing him with her stories. By the end of the movie, he is shown no evidence, experiences nothing of the hauntings, and never considers whether Elise has endangered his daughters, or worse, but all is forgiven.   

The movie reveals that Elise’s father was guided by the demon to do hideous acts, which leads Elise to a moment of empathy for her father, but it doesn’t quite spell out whether all of the heinous acts were demon-driven, or just the most vile. It’s important, because if the violence against his daughter wasn’t also demon-driven, the empathy she shows him is out of place.

When Elise begins seeing entities in her bedroom as a child, the Darth Maul Demon from Insidious briefly appears. Everyone knows this particular demon. Why show him if he’s not going to appear again in the house? You see Darth Maul again in the final scene, which attempts to set up a new movie, but it’s completely unrelated to Elise’s childhood home, and was an unnecessary, and distracting, addition early on.

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Who would I recommend this movie to?

If you didn’t like Annabelle or Annabelle: Creation, but liked the first few Conjuring and/or Insidious movies, this film is good for one theater viewing, and no subsequent home viewings. If you know nothing of the earlier Conjuring or Insidious installments, then this movie is probably a waste of your time. Insidious: The Last Key relies too heavily on fandom. There is little depth to the storytelling self-contained within the movie. You’re expected to have seen one of the earlier installments to be invested in the lackluster story.

Joe Sullivan is the author of several paranormal and dark fantasy books, available on Amazon.

 

The Director of ‘Get Out’ is Producing a ‘Twilight Zone’ Reboot and I Have Mixed Feelings

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You can binge the show to your heart’s content on practically every steaming service, but it’s been over a decade since a new episode of any iteration of The Twilight Zone has aired. That’s all about to change, as Jordan Peele, director of the mega-successful horror/thriller Get Out is executive producing a reboot on CBS’ All Access streaming service.

As a long-time fan of the original show, my interest is certainly piqued. The Twilight Zone is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic and celebrated series in television history, and I’ve long since hailed it as “like My Favorite Show, guys,” but will it actually be good — or will we be longing for Rod Serling and his tobacco-stained intros?

Why I’m Excited

Anthology storytelling is in again

 

Anthology horror has made a comeback in recent years. Series like Black Mirror and Dimension 404 harken back to anthology horror/fantasy from yesteryear, filling the gap that The Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, and similar shows once provided. It’s clear that there’s an appetite for this format of storytelling, and there are creators out there producing new and interesting stories. The Twilight Zone worked because it delivered quality stories in a half-hour format — simple, no nonsense, 30 minutes and you’re done — and it’s clear that style can work in a modern setting, and that there’s an appetite for it.

Peele knows suspense/horror

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I didn’t see Get Out until a couple months after its release, as the Hype over the film was out of control; it seemed to good to be true. To my surprise, the movie was not only decent, but genuinely unsettling. (Spoiler alert: I was creeped the F out when Chris was tied to the chair and that blind dude from Office Space was explaining how he’d be taking over his body.) Peele delivered a tense, fun thriller, borrowing ideas from The Skeleton Key and The Stepford Wives and creating an original work that deftly mixes horror and humor. Dread-building and wit were essential to the tone of The Twilight Zone and Peele’s style fits in that regard, definitely more so than, say, a director like Rob Zombie. That would be insane.

The world is still messed up

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The 1960s were rife with massive, anxiety-inducing world and social issues — the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War — and The Twilight Zone managed to address some of these in a subtle, under-the-radar way, using aliens, monsters, etc. as analogues for real-world players and situations. With the world as screwed-up as it is today, there will be no shortage of issues to touch upon in a new Twilight Zone series. Peele addressed issues of race and privilege in Get Out and I’m certain he’ll be tackling those, and more, in his run.

Why I’m Leery

The series has been rebooted before, to mixed results

 

I can’t speak with real authority on this matter, as I have only seen a handful of episodes of either iteration, but The Twilight Zone was rebooted in the 1980s and for a short time in the early 2000s, and neither show lived up to the original in terms of storytelling, cinematography, music, etc. Put simply: “The Twilight Zone is coming back”!” is not a groundbreaking idea. The original show has taken on an iconic status in American/TV culture, and any attempt to replicate it is almost a fool’s errand. It hasn’t worked yet, and it might fail again.

No one has freaking CBS All Access

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I remember when Star Trek: Discovery was announced and everyone bemoaned the fact that it would only be available on CBS All Access. Well, now I’m bemoaning the fact that CBS is planning on airing this show exclusively on its no-name service. It just seems outlandish to subscribe to a service that’s so niche when providers like Netflix and Hulu feature shows from a wide variety of channels. I don’t know anyone who subscribes to CBS All Access, and I’m certainly not going to join it just to watch the new Twilight Zone. Throw in a Tales From the Crypt reboot too and maybe I’ll consider.

I’m going to have to do a free trial or something and see what the first few episodes of the series are like, whenever (and if ever) it airs. I’m cautiously optimistic. Peele has a good track record (I actually really dig his comedic stuff in Key & Peele), but he’s not the only one involved. Whatever happens, I’ll keep watching Mr. Serling and his eerie-as-hell original , which shall never leave my Netflix queue.

John Brhel is an author of paranormal and fantasy fiction. Marvelry’s Curiosity Shop, which he co-wrote with Joe Sullivan, has been compared to The Twilight Zone by many reviewers.

10 Real-Life Locations That Inspired The Stories in ‘Corpse Cold: New American Folklore’

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We often base our tales in actual locations around our home state of New York. It’s fun to take everyday places, locations we’ve visited once, or often, and infuse them with our brand of lore.

Here are some of the illustrations from Corpse Cold: New American Folklore paired with their real-life inspirations!

“Amityville Beach”/Amityville Beach, Long Island

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This popular beach is located in the Long Island village of Amityville, the setting of the infamous Amityville Horror, which is mentioned in our story.

“Friendship: Dead and Buried”/The Last Ride burial simulator

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The character Kevin Morrissey in “Friendship: Dead and Buried” is treated to a “ride” on Six Feet Under, which “simulates” an actual burial. Six Feet Under was inspired by The Last Ride, a traveling amusement park attraction in the Northeast United States that offers a similarly visceral experience.

“The Big ‘M'”/Eagle Bay, N.Y.

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The supermarket featured in the story “The Big ‘M’ was inspired by a now-closed grocery in Eagle Bay, N.Y., in the Adirondacks. This is a picture of the market as it appeared in the 1980s.

“Dracula’s Bride”/Ukranian Catholic Church

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The chapel that the kids in “Dracula’s Bride” chase the elderly Mrs. Ellsic to is actually modeled after a Ukranian Catholic Church in Johnson City, N.Y. Corpse Cold co-author Joe Sullivan grew up in the same neighborhood, where the church still stands.

“Moss Lake Island”/Echo Island

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The small island featured in “Moss Lake Island” is inspired by Echo Island, situated on Big Moose Lake in N.Y. Big Moose Lake is only a short drive from Moss Lake.

“Two Visions, 1984″/Roscoe Diner

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The Roscoe Diner, where journalist Ross Davie picks up the hitchhiker in “Two Visions, 1984,” is a popular diner in Roscoe, N.Y., located on Route 17.

“Woman on the Campus Green”/Wadsworth Auditorium

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The entirety of “Woman on the Campus Green” takes place at SUNY Geneseo, where Joe Sullivan once attended college. A climactic scene in the story takes place in Wadsworth Auditorium, a performing arts venue on campus.

“The Blue Hole”/Peekamoose Blue Hole

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“The Blue Hole” is inspired by a real swimming hole in Grahamsville, N.Y., in the Catskills.

“Jesup”/Tioughnioga River

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This story was inspired by actual alligator sightings during the summer of 2017 on the Tioughnioga River, which runs through Whitney Point and Lisle, N.Y. It was no urban legend, as two alligators were eventually caught.

“Last Train Home”/Buffalo, N.Y.

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The train line featured in “Last Train Home” is based on the Buffalo Metro Rail system in Buffalo, N.Y.

Learn more about Corpse Cold: New American Folklore!

A Look Back at the 1999-2000 Reboot of ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’

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Most fans who remember the Are You Afraid of the Dark? Nickelodeon TV series think fondly of the early Nineties Midnight Society. Gary, Frank, Kiki, Betty Ann, and an ever-changing crew of friends sitting around a campfire telling memorable tales like “Old Man Corcoran,” “Watcher’s Woods,” “Laughing in the Dark,” and “Crimson Clown.” There are at least half-a-dozen stories from the original run of the series (1992-1996) that I would argue as ‘the best’ episode, while there is perhaps one story from the 1999-2000 run which I might consider in my personal top ten.

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Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The New Class

The series was revived with an original member of the Midnight Society, Tucker, taking his brother’s place as leader of a new group of kids. Andy, Megan, Vange, Quinn are, most often, pale imitations of the original Midnight Society (Frank, Kristen, Kiki, Betty Ann?), with Quinn perhaps being the only new archetype, although he seems to fill Betty Ann’s role of quiet peacekeeper nicely. Frank really felt like an over-the-top asshole, but it still made sense that he was friends with these people and really enjoyed telling stories; Sam was a tomboyish heartthrob for both Gary and young, male viewer alike. The New Midnight Society had little to offer regarding the stories of the storytellers themselves.

There are a number of good episodes from seasons 6 and 7, episodes that meet the standard set by the original run. There are even a few exceptional episodes that any serious fan of the original series should not miss out on. Unfortunately, many episodes attempted to draw interest by focusing on trends like Giga Pets, lazer tag, computer games, sports, and one even made an Olympic champion figure skater into a pregnant alien. It’s really about what the later seasons seem to be missing. Seasons 1-5 built their success on retelling timeless stories and re-purposing urban legends – the kinds of tales which would’ve appealed to both our parents and grandparents when they were kids.

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Cause virtual pets are scary AF.

The following are my recommendations for revival episodes of AYAOTD? that one should watch, if they enjoyed the original series and don’t want to sort through the chaff that is the majority of the 1999-2000 series. There are certainly episodes worth watching in addition to these six, but these are the stories I believe will feel most similar to the original run of the series.

Season 6

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Like Jumanji, but spooky.

“The Tale of the Forever Game” is a good restart to the series. Tucker tells the story about two friends, Mark and Peter, and Peter’s little sister, Monica, who get lost in the woods while biking. It has the feeling and tone of a story like “Whispering Walls,” while full of moral dilemma for Peter. The trio is hopelessly stuck, and the kids are being hunted down by a beast, while Peter plays a game reminiscent of Jumanji with a boy, Nathaniel, who occupies a tree.

 

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Hunting = bad apparently.

“The Tale of the Hunted” deals with the moral debate over hunting. It’s well-done for a kid’s show, and doesn’t really pick sides at the end. The female protagonist hunts with her father, and one morning she wakes up and discovers what it’s like to be the one who is hunted.

 

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This hip dude liked vampires way before “Twilight.”

“The Tale of Vampire Town” is wacky, a callback to the richness of character from a Season 1 tale. A boy, Adder, believes himself to be a great vampire hunter and convinces his parents to take him on vacation to a town with history and lore tied to vampires, specifically a series of catacombs which lie underneath the inn where the family is staying.

 

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Featuring a pre-Star Wars Hayden Christiansen.

“The Tale of Bigfoot Ridge” is the tale I teased as a ‘Top Ten’ AYAOTD? episode. It would fit nicely in seasons 1-4. A boy and his sister are trying to get over the disappearance of their friend, who went off the backside of a mountain while snowboarding. The brother and sister end up searching for her, and get lost themselves during a snowstorm. They find an abandoned cabin and attempt to survive the night, while the storm is the least of their worries. Many of the other episodes focus too heavily on the trendy sport, activity, or product of the time. This episode has snowboarding in it, but, thankfully, doesn’t try to tell a story about snowboarding.

Season 7

“The Tale of Highway 13” is the story of a repetitive haunting, where a truck races a haunted car, driven by two friends who rebuilt the car, to a one-lane bridge. The boys must continually race the truck until they either die trying to win, or solve the mystery and take a different action. This is a timeless tale, really well done.

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Don’t try this at home.

 

“The Tale of the Reanimator” is perhaps only the second time that zombies were done well by AYAOTD?, the first being “Water Demons.” It has some of the flavor of the Reanimator movies, but it feels more like the mad-scientist experiments of Goosebumps: Stay Out of the Basement.

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Like “The Reanimator,” minus the decapitations.

So, if you’re a fan of the original AYAOTD? series and have never seen an episode of the two revival seasons, I believe you’ll enjoy queuing up these six episodes and watching them back to back. Perhaps you’ll even delve deeper into seasons 6 and 7, and catch me up on a gem I overlooked.

Addendum:

I can’t imagine I’ll ever write an episode guide for the first five seasons of AYAOTD? since so much has been written and said about it already. So, I’ll just give my picks for best episodes – in no particular order: “Midnight Madness,” “Old Man Corcoran,” “Dead Man’s Float,” “Laughing in the Dark,” “Water Demons,” “Silent Servant,” “Crimson Clown,” “Dark Music,” “Super Specs,” and “Lonely Ghost.”

Joe Sullivan is the author of spook books, available on Amazon, and a fully illustrated book of horror tales inspired by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, currently live on Kickstarter.

Stranger Things 2: An Entertaining, Soft-Remake of the Original?

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The first portion of this review contains no major spoilers, while my comments on the individual episodes in the second half, will.

The first two episodes, or ‘chapters,’ of Stranger Things 2 unequivocally remind us that we identify ourselves by the media we choose to consume. When the characters are reintroduced, we’re nearly nostalgic for the first run of the series, which only aired a little over a year ago. The first series created an environment reminiscent of many of our childhood brushes with pop culture, adventure, the awkwardness of navigating puberty, etc. The second run nearly doubles down on recreating that environment from the get-go, and then as the series progresses the Duffer Brothers deftly ease off that particular pedal, and let us settle back into the day-to-day troubles of Hawkins without the distraction of a constant barrage of ancient product labels, toys, fashion, and music to take note of.

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Stranger Things 2 is nearly a remake of the first series. Our heroes reemerge to once again take on the government lab baddies and its out-of-control science experiment, although this time the threat looms even larger over Hawkins. One would assume that replaying the same plot points might mark this series as stale, from the third or so chapter on, but the characters do grow, and there are enough mini-arcs involving our favorite returning heroes to maintain interest. For me, the first run of Stranger Things often dragged, while the characters did keep me watching. Stranger Things 2 certainly kept up the pace of the story, and only hit a road bump with Eleven’s side-story in the big city.

Speaking of which, I do have to address the opening chase scene, with the cast of characters we’ll only come to again in Chapter 7. There seems to be no purpose for introducing these folks here. The van chase should probably begin the fifth chapter, where the lead, Kali, is hinted at in a flashback. For me, Kali and her gang is the one glaring misstep of Stranger Things 2. Her Eleven-like powers are introduced in the first few minutes of the series, and the viewer is left waiting for some sort of explanation, or purpose for her in the story arc, yet the distraction has little to no payoff.

Before I get to comments on individual chapters, I must say that Stranger Things 2 is well done, a superior product to the original, if you don’t detest, or fixate on, the fact that this second series is nearly a soft remake. I’d recommend Stranger Things 2 to anyone who broadly enjoys sci-fi or horror.

The following portion has spoilers and should serve as a brief episode guide, so here’s your warning if you haven’t seen the complete series.

Chapter 1: Madmax (Rating: 4/5)

Max is a redheaded girl who is always at the arcade, the boys are instantly enamored of her and stalk her. Her older brother, Billy, quickly becomes the new, even more narcissistic and nasty version of series 1 Steve, now that Steve is a sweetheart, older brother archetype to the boys.

Barb’s family has hired a private investigator and are selling their house to pay for it, although Nancy and Steve know she’s dead, but won’t say. It’s a real moral dilemma for Nancy, as it should be. We figure out quickly that most of the characters have kept quiet about what occurred at Hawkins National Lab.

Paul Reiser is Will’s psychiatrist, Dr. Owens. Dr. Owens is the a more sympathetic version of Dr. Brenner, although he still represents faceless, uncaring bureaucracy that manufactures horrible weapons and wants to treat special kids like guinea pigs.

Eleven is living with Hopper in a cabin deep in the woods.

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Chapter 2: Trick or Treat, Freak (4/5)

Eleven is still having visions, mainly to let the viewer in on the fallout from the previous season.

Hopper begins investigating poison pumpkins and vegetation. First major, “Come on, dude” moment. Hopper is only a year away from dealing with plant issues. The first thing he should think when he sees a field full of rotted vegetation is Inter-dimensional Plant Monster.

The boys go trick or treating with Max and have a great time until Will has a vision of a menacing behemoth in the sky. This is such a rich, nostalgic episode, although it doesn’t quite have enough trick or treating scenes as one might hope.

Chapter 3: The Pollywog (3/5)

Dusty finds creature in trash can outside his house. The creature transforms and Dusty is a dummy who will smack himself (again) when he sees Life (2017).

El wants to leave cabin and see Mike, but Hopper wants to keep her his secret. This was probably a missed opportunity to have an ultimate Halloween episode with Mike and El’s reunion. She already had the ghost sheet made, there’s no real reason why she can’t just interact with Mike and have him keep her secret.

Steve’s hair is out of control. It’s distracting by this point.

Hopper figures out the lab is the cause of the plant decaying poison…duh.

Joyce finally gets back to her paranormal investigating and uses camcorder footage from Halloween Night to see Will’s behemoth in the sky.

El goes to the middle school just to knock Max off her skateboard out of jealousy. It’s not a good look, or a good scene.

Will stands his ground against the behemoth, taking Bob’s advice to heart, after he’s thrust back into the Upside Down, and gets consumed by the monster.

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Chapter 4: Will the Wise (4/5)

They find will nearly catatonic in the parking lot of school. Will is now possessed by the entity from his visions and begins coloring a ton of pictures.

El returns home and has teen tantrum, destroys the cabin and Hopper leaves. She then finds a box with Hopper’s notes on Hawkin’s Lab under cabin and gets ideas.

Joyce and Hopper put Will’s picture together and decide they represent destroying vines.

Nancy records Dr. Owens admitting to Barb’s death. She and Steve want to burn the lab to ground, which is silly at the point, because they already knew Hawkins National Lab was most responsible for Barb’s death.

Dusty’s creature has escaped, and is found eating his cat. The creature now looks like the monster from the first season.

Hopper discovers the vast root system and tunnels under the poisoned fields.

Chapter 5: Dig Dug (4/5)

Hopper is investigating underground and gets blasted in face by sporing vine, and is trapped. Will has visions of Hopper in trouble.

Nancy and Jonathan meet up with conspiracy nut/the private investigator who was investigating Barb’s death and let him listen to Dr. Owens’ confession.

Bob walks in and solves Will’s drawings, deciphering them as a map of Hawkins, almost instantly.

El communicates with her Mom, finds out her Mom went into Hawkins Lab to try and rescue El aka Jane, and another girl, whom we can assume is the chick from first episode. El/Jane’s mom is caught, and Dr. Brenner fries her brain with some intense ECT.

Joyce and Bob manage to find, and free, Hopper. Hawkins Lab people also discover the underground tunnel system and they torch the labyrinths, which makes Will freaks out.

Chapter 6: The Spy (4/5)

Dusty and Steve discover that the creature has escaped from Dusty’s bomb shelter.

Will gets amnesia, and the episode begins feeling like It (2017) with the way everything leads back to one, evil wellspring which must be approached underground and conquered.

At this point the show begins feeling more like a horror movie than a sci-fi adventure. The kids battle monsters in a blockaded bus, while Hawkins Lab is overrun by the demadogs and the adults must fight their way out of the building.

Chapter 7: The Lost Sister (2/5)

Eleven finds Kali, her lost ‘sister’ from Hawkins lab, in Chicago. They share information and decide they’re going to track bad guys. Their first target states that Dr. Brenner is still alive, Kali seems to believe him. This bit of incredibly important information is quickly forgotten.

Cops bust Kali’s gang, while El has a vision of Mike in trouble, and parts ways with Kali and her gang. There was no reason that Eleven had to meet Kali or take part in any of Kali’s vendettas. It cheapened the overall story and was a distracting element from the first episode onward.

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Chapter 8: The Mind Flayer (4/5)

The adults are still trying to escape Hawkins Lab, which is overrun by monsters. Bob’s going to reprogram some computers on the fly and save everyone.

This is the episode where we go full horror movie, fun clichés spawning left and right. Bob dies, brutally to save Joyce and the others.

The group plan to kill the underground behemoth, in order to destroy the hivemind, it generates.

They need to get information out of Will, but he’s possessed by the behemoth. Will’s friends and family tell him loving stories and anecdotes, and he ultimately gives them no new information.

El returns in time to save everyone from demadogs at Joyce’s house. She took a bus home using the money which she and Kali’s gang stole, apparently.

Chapter 9: The Gate (5/5)

Comedy finally returns to the series in the beginning of this episode! Yes, levity gives perspective, and character, to heavy drama.

The group separates to burn the entity that has possessed Will, and to take on the behemoth underground.

“I shouldn’t have left.” – Eleven. Exactly, she shouldn’t have had a side story about meeting her mom and sister, as they ultimately told her nothing about herself or gave her meaningful direction to overcome her demons.

El and Hopper go into lab and run into Dr. Owens, who’s given a tourniquet and pistol by Hopper. No real reason for this run-in to occur here.

Entity/behemoth ultimately leaves Will when Steve and his gang of kids start fire in the underground hub. While El defeats the behemoth and pushes it back through the gate.

Epilogue: There’s justice for Barb and Hawkins Lab gets shut down for good. Which is really a no-brainer as the entire structure and everyone in it got destroyed.

Hopper gets Eleven/Jane’s birth certificate from Dr. Owens, and she is now his daughter. The kids have a winter dance and hook up with each other. Final moments show Hawkins Middle School in the Upside Down.

Joe Sullivan is the author of spook books, available on Amazon, and a fully illustrated book of horror tales inspired by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, currently live on Kickstarter.

“Happy Death Day” Spoiler-Free Review: Fun But Not a True Slasher

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By Joe Sullivan

There has never been an era of the PG-13 slasher, for good reason. Violence, the shock and awe of any classic R-rated slasher, sells itself best to the most impressionable of minds. Halloween and Friday the 13th were carried into the iconography of our culture by 12-year-olds who bore witness to the sort of movie the MPAA deemed unsuitable for their eyes. There is no proper ‘best of’ list for PG-13 slasher films. Happy Death Day is no exception. PG-13 slasher movies can’t properly function as slasher movies. Yet, Happy Death Day is certainly a fun, flavorful movie in other regards.

Tree (Theresa) keeps waking up in Carter’s dorm room, and she relives the same Monday, over and over, which always culminates in her death at the hands of a baby-masked killer. The filmmakers have fun with the premise, and I did enjoy the Clue-style whodunit mystery. Tree eliminates a suspect with each subsequent revival, and I found myself anticipating a satisfactory resolution – that one of the cast of characters we’ve encountered, again and again, would finally be unmasked as the killer. So, I was let down when a new, Mrs. Voorhees-level-of-unknown was thrown into the cast of suspects late in the movie.

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Happy Death Day revels in pop-culture snark, creates characters filmgoers wouldn’t mind see dying, and nearly gives Tree a proper character arc during her Sisyphean day. Carter, Tree’s sometimes assistant/sometimes love-interest, is easily the most likable character in the movie. When Carter is put into a risky situation, you genuinely want him to survive. However, the film will fail to convince many viewers regarding whether Tree should ultimately survive. She is too rotten of a person, and even on days she makes progress, she seems to undermine said personal improvements, with subsequent revivals.

The deaths in the movie were uninteresting, and this alone should alienate a large part of the genre fan base. Happy Death Day is by no means a slasher film, and certainly has no relationship to the day or month it came out. The movie has no ‘creepy’ factor, which seems to be what drives most genre movies released in October, or on Friday the 13ths.

Happy Death Day does have some suspenseful moments, and is a curiosity in its choice of story form. Ultimately, it feels like its audience might be the parents of thirteen-year-olds. Folks who grew up with Scream and such movies from the late-90s, and want to share something with an impressionable young mind in their household – without venturing into the world of the extremes we’ve come to expect from a genre slasher film like the upcoming Jigsaw.

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Who would I recommend this movie to? Fans of late-90s R-rated slashers. It’s more fun than the When a Stranger Calls remake – more like watching a Jawbreaker/Urban Legend crossover.

CORPSE COLD: NEW AMERICAN FOLKLORE is live on Kickstarter!

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Our new book, Corpse Cold: New American Folklore, is now live on Kickstarter. 17 fully illustrated spook stories inspired by 80s and 90s horror. If you grew up reading books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, go back us on the project page!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1004065989/corpse-cold-new-american-folklore/widget/video.html