• 2019 — A Music Retrospective

    The year is finally over and it was quite the year for music releases. While there were more than 10 albums that deserve recognition, I’m limiting the list below to just the 10 that were listened to the most based on my Last.fm listening numbers.

    1. Local Natives – Violet Street
    2. Of Monsters and Men – Fever Dream
    3. Yeasayer – Erotic Reruns
    4. One True Pairing – One True Pairing
    5. Hayden Thorpe – Diviner
    6. Tool – Fear Inoculum
    7. Bon Iver – i, i
    8. Thom Yorke – Anima
    9. Lower Dens – The Competition
    10. Lydia Ainsworth – Phantom Forest

    There it is. The statistics don’t lie. Happy New Year!

  • Halloween (2018)

    Billed as a direct sequel to 1978’s Halloween, this movie explores what would happen to Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) if she spent 40 years waiting for her murderous brother Michael to come back. Not just waiting, though, prepping. Laurie Strode is the ultimate badass doomsday prepper.

    Things kick into high gear as Michael escapes custody while being transferred on a bus from one psychiatric prison to another. The mayhem ensues as Michael searches for things to kill, primarily his sister, Laurie.

    While I won’t go so far as to say this is a perfect return to form for the Halloween franchise, it is definitely satisfying on many levels. I really liked the ambiance, tone, and pacing. Where it kind of missed the mark was the overuse of The Shape. One of the things that made the original so great was how you felt Michael’s presence (or rather the presence of evil) without seeing him much until the third act. This movie had him out and about, which wasn’t necessarily bad, but seemed to lessen the suspense of the big bad coming to get you.

    I’d still happily take this one over pretty much every Halloween sequel they attempted (including the Rob Zombie remakes). I think that was the point by making the story essentially take place following the original film. A worthy sequel means the other sequels don’t really matter. I still liked Halloween II, though.


    Available to stream on: HBO (subscription required)

  • Leatherface (2017)

    This is the latest installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. It’s hard to keep track of these movies, because they did a remake in 2003, a prequel, a retconned sequel to the original 1974 film, and now this pre-prequel.

    The movie starts with Jed/Leatherface as a child and after a brutal murder, he is incarcerated at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. Ten years later and a riot allows for teenage Leatherface to escape. His mother (Lili Taylor) is searching for him to reunite and a local sheriff (Stephen Dorff) searches for him to bring him to justice. Meanwhile, young Leatherface goes on a spree with a few of the other escaped mental patients.

    The death sequences are incredibly gory. While I applaud the attempt at something a bit different, this doesn’t really work as a coming-of-age story for a cannibalistic, chainsaw-wielding maniac. No one was ever asking for this story to be told.


  • Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999)

    Say his name five times and he will be summoned to start the killing. Watch three Candyman movies and you may be bored out of your mind.

    The story follows Caroline (Donna D’Errico) who keeps having nightmares about Candyman and spends 95% of the movie in a tight shirt and panties. People keep dying in violent meat hooked ways, but Caroline manages to survive. Turns out that Candyman made some pact with Caroline’s mother before killing her or something.

    This movie was boring AF. I was more interested in the idea of the new Jordan Peele reboot Candyman movie coming next year. Candyman himself was not that menacing or scary in this movie and the plot was far too lame to waste 90 minutes on.


    Available to stream on: Amazon Prime (subscription required)

  • Inferno (1980)

    Italian horror master Dario Argento wrote and directed this sequel to his notorious classic Suspiria.

    The story follows Mark as he searches for his missing sister, Rose, in New York. As the clues bring Mark closer to the truth, a strange book is at the center of the mystery and may be the key to finding what happened to Rose.

    As far as Italian horror movies go, this is not the worst one I’ve seen. It is executed with great care and looks to be of reasonable quality. The story is too mysterious sometimes, seemingly for the sake of keeping things hidden until the very end. While there are definitely some tense scenes, this movie falls noticeably short of its predecessor.


    Available to stream on: Amazon Prime (subscription required)

  • Brightburn (2019)

    What if you were a boy with the powers of Superman and you also had homicidal tendencies? That’s what this movie is all about. A farmer (David Denman) and his wife (Elizabeth Banks) find a child in an alien spacecraft and they raise him as their own. Around his 12th birthday, he becomes aware of his powers and starts to go a bit nuts. When anyone gets in his way, he disposes of them.

    What makes this movie interesting is the question: what if Superman were evil? A powerful alien super being could do anything it wanted, and it’s certainly conceivable that the power could corrupt the child. What I think could have been more genuine is if the child had some inner conflict where he resisted the urge to “go to the dark side” but various things pushed him over the line (bullying, for example). That’s not what happens, though. This kid, Brandon, just snaps and goes full super-powered serial killer.

    If there ever ends up being a sequel, there are many aspects to explore, like: super hero hunters try to discover his real identity or how would someone go about killing a Superman?

    It’s a nice twist on super hero movies and I liked a lot of the ingenuity put forth. However, it’s so bleak, it’s depressing. You really have to root for the bad guy and just watch the world burn, because that is all you get with this one.


  • The Cell (2000)

    I was obsessed with this movie when it first came out almost 20 years ago. It was interesting watching again after such a long time.

    The story is about a psychotherapist named Catherine (Jennifer Lopez) who works on an experimental technique involving technological merging of minds in an attempt to help bring a young boy out of a catatonic state. Meanwhile, a serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio) is captured by the FBI in a catatonic state after taking another victim. Agent Novak (Vince Vaughn) convinces Catherine to use their tech to go inside the killer’s mind in an attempt to discover the location of his missing victim who is still alive.

    The music and the incredible visuals are the best parts. Sadly, the style far surpassed the substance of the script. There were the obvious parallels to The Silence of the Lambs. The thing I found the most egregious was how everything fell into place in such formulaic ways. This could have been an amazing visual feast with a strong foundation of story and characters.


    Available to stream on: Netflix (subscription required)

  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

    Stella is a teenage writer of horror stories. She and her friends find a book inside a haunted house and discover that the stories in the book come to life in horrific ways. Can they stop the terror before it consumes them?

    The movie is based on the children’s books that scared the crap out of most kids who grew up with them. I remember reading In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by the same author. I don’t remember it being that scary.

    It’s got some good moments, but overall, I wasn’t that impressed. Most of the frights were just jump scares with no real impact. Some of the special FX were cool.

    If you enjoyed the stories, you’ll probably like seeing your childhood nightmares come to life on the screen. Everyone else will be somewhat bored.


  • The Silence (2019)

    After a cave expedition unearths a large cavern, a million gargoyle things escape and begin to wreak havoc on the world. The creatures are attracted to noise, so being a deaf girl is advantageous. Ally (Kiernan Shipka) along with her dad, Hugh (Stanley Tucci), her mother (Miranda Otto), her grandmother, and her brother must try to survive in a scary new reality of monsters and quiet living strategies.

    The family attempts to escape the city, but soon encounters the “vesp” creatures and must abandon their car due to the noise of the motor. On foot, they make their way to a cabin/farm where the mother is bitten by a creature and becomes infected. This prompts Ally and Hugh to leave in search of antibiotics. As they search a small town, they encounter a cultist reverend with no tongue.

    There are definite comparisons to be made with A Quiet Place. I think this movie does a bit better job of selling the situation by adhering (mostly) to the rules set forth early on. There is a great mix of the immediate terror from the vesps as well as the psychological fear from the cultists.

    My minor complaint was the power and technology that should have gone dark within the first 24 hours of the vesp onslaught. But other than that the acting was superb. Tucci never disappoints.


    Available to stream on: Netflix (subscription required)

  • Seed of Chucky (2004)

    This installment in the Chucky franchise moves so far into the absurd territory that it starts to feel a bit surreal. Chucky and Tiffany have a child named Glen/Glenda (voiced by Billy Boyd) who struggles to control his homicidal urges.

    Jennifer Tilly plays both Tiffany and herself thanks to some meta movie-within-a-movie stuff. You got some attempted soul transference stuff. You got some Chucky beating off so his seed can be used to impregnate Jennifer Tilly. My favorite would have to be the fight between Chucky and Glen/Glenda, which starts off like a kung fu fight, but quickly turns to dismemberment.

    This movie is weird as hell. I wish I could say it was enjoyable, but really the only thing it has going for it is the spectacle of how nuts it attempts to be.