Posts Tagged ‘films’

Everyone probably knows Scooby Doo. That dog and his human friends have been solving mysteries and getting into hijinks since my parents were small. However, what most people don’t know is of the other dog dealing with ghosts and ghoulies, Courage the Cowardly Dog. This series aired during the late 90s and early 2000s, and followed a little dog named Courage living on a farm in Nowhere, Kansas with his kindhearted, elderly Scottish owner Muriel and her crotchety husband Eustace Bagg. There, Courage would be forced to fight supernatural, paranormal, and sometimes just weird threats to his home. It was dark, surreal and a ton of fun.

And someone at Warner Bros. had the genius idea that, since Scooby-Doo and Courage the Cowardly Dog have certain similarities, why not have them crossover? Thus came about Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog. And fans of both series have been wondering since: is this movie as genius as the idea?

As someone who has been looking forward to this film as much as Halloween Kills, I can confirm it is.

Straight Outta Nowhere starts with Scooby and the gang finishing off a mystery in Kansas when Scooby hears an odd sound and feels an overwhelming compulsion to find the source. This leads him to run off to Nowhere, home to the highest number of strange occurrences in the world, and meets Courage. The two dogs quickly become friends, which is good because giant cicadas have risen up and are attacking people! And surprisingly, this isn’t a normal Tuesday for Nowhere.

There’s a lot to like about this film. The animation styles for Scooby Doo and Courage are highly different, but the animators managed to synthesize them into something that works. Not only that, but the writing is really good and the characters play off each other very well (it’s cute how much Muriel and Velma become besties within five seconds). It also feels like the Courage TV show I remember as a kid, with random monsters unrelated to the main plot showing up at random to menace the cast. Having the Scooby gang trying to logic this stuff out when logic clearly has no place in this story adds a bit of hilarity to the story as well.

Add in all sorts of Easter eggs from the original TV series (haunted mattress for the win!), references to Monty Python and Young Frankenstein, a decent explanation for why Nowhere is so weird without overtaking the actual plot and characters, and some stellar writing, and you’ve got a great movie here.

That being said, it’s not perfect. I would have liked to see some more of the minor characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog, such as the psychic chihuahua and Dr. Vindaloo. And for some reason, Eustace is given a hip-hop number, to which I say, “Why?”

However, all in all, Straight Outta Nowhere is a great mashup of these two shows and will delight fans of both franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5. It’s hilarious, delightful, and might end up in my DVD collection someday.

It’s certainly better than Scooby Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, anyway. That was a big middle finger to fans of the TV show it’s based on and misunderstands what made The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo good. It’s basically the Friday the 13th remake of Scooby-Doo. Yes, I trashed the Friday the 13th remake again! Bite me, MIchael Bay!

Read the book by Max Booth III last month. Finally got to see the movie, the screenplay of which was penned by Booth as well and which was directed by Sean King O’Grady, this evening. Let’s get reviewing.

As I said, We Need to Do Something is based on the novel by Max Booth III and follows Melissa and her family as they pile into the master bathroom during a violent storm (no basement). However, they soon find themselves trapped in that bathroom with no way to get out, and it’s unlikely anyone’s coming for them. Hunger, fear and their own dysfunction soon lead to tension, terror and their own personal ride to Hell.

Okay, first off, the bathroom in the movie is both bigger and tackier than the one I had in my head. Seriously, there’s plenty of space, but has that bathroom not been remodeled since the 1970s?

Enough silliness. Onto the actual review.

The film was made during the height of the pandemic and O’Grady said that the movie and current events sort of mirrored and mimicked each other. And you can see it in the film: all four of the main cast are trapped inside a small space due to events in the outside world and can’t leave. They grate on each other rather quickly and events make things worse and worse. Add in some crazy, ambiguous happenings to heighten the atmosphere and the situation further deteriorating, and it makes for a great analogue to the pandemic.

Not only that, but the ambiguity in the novel is translated very well into the film. It’s more heavily implied that what’s happening outside the bathroom (which we never see) might actually be real rather than a side effect of cabin fever or anything. But it’s still quite mysterious and leaves you with just as many questions as the novel did.

Finally, the cast does a great job as their characters. As Melissa, Sierra McCormick is brimming with hurt and pathos, while Vinessa Shaw (Allison in Hocus Pocus, if you can believe it) does a great job as the mother tired of living a friction-filled marriage. And while Pat Healy’s take on dad Robert is written the tiniest bit more sympathetic than in the book, he still comes across as a mega asshole you love to hate.

Oh, and guess what? Ozzy Osbourne is apparently in the film. I’ll let you guess which character he is.

On the downside, the flashbacks with Melissa and her girlfriend Amy do feel kind of lacking without a lot of the context the novel gave them. While the score reminds me of the best of Colin Stetson’s work, it does have a few moments where it doesn’t work too well with what’s occurring in the movie. And in certain moments, the snake does look laughably fake.

But all in all, this is a great translation of the novel to the screen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give We Need to Do Something a 4.5 out of 5. If you can’t make it to a theater playing it, you can find it on YouTube, Apple TV and Amazon, among other sites, so go give it a watch. You’ll be reminded that, as bad as your pandemic experience with your family has been these 19 months, at least you weren’t trapped like these guys!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I get to work on new stories, but right now, I’m going to hit the proverbial hay. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I first heard of this film earlier this year. And I heard a lot of back and forth on it. Some people loved it, other people hated it. It got a terrible response when it was released. However, there’s a cult following around it, and I recently found it on HBO Max. So, unsure of what I was getting into, I watched it.

Based on the graphic novel from Boom Studios (which I may need to read now), The Empty Man follows James Lasombra, a former cop with a past. When his friend’s daughter Amanda goes missing and the police show little interest in finding her, he does some investigating himself. This leads him not only to a strange cult with connections to a spirit in Bhutan, but to a rabbit hole that will not only change him, but the world.

Well, that was something else. And I have to say, I’m glad I watched it.

For one thing, the main part of the film is very atmospheric. There’s this somber air around the whole film which pairs well with the story and the characters. Add in some decent jump scares and some even better creepy sequences, and you actually have a film that’s hard to look away from. I especially like the sequences involving the cult, which is just freaky as all get out. Especially that bonfire scene.

Oh, and the sequences with the titular Empty Man is quite creepy to watch when they’re onscreen.

That being said, it’s not perfect. The main issue is the film’s opening. Remember two paragraphs ago where I said “main film?” The first twenty minutes are kind of a prologue to the rest of the movie, but it feels like its own short film rather than part of a cohesive story. And I’m sure the difference between those first twenty minutes and the rest of the film is part of why this film got negative reviews after its release.

In addition, there were never any moments where I felt a huge surge of terror; Lasombra’s personal trauma is supposed to be very important but is only really explored near the end of the film when its impact on the audience won’t be that strong; and I’m sure there are people who won’t like the final twist, or get the philosophical mumbo-jumbo from the cult.

That last part wasn’t a big turn off for me, but I can see it being a turn off for others.

All in all, though, I can see how The Empty Man could receive a cult following and has been doing so much better since being released to streaming and home media. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it a 4.2. It’s strange, creepy and compelling. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think you should check it out and find out if it’s yours.

Don’t let nothing stop you from watching it.*

*That makes plenty of sense if you’ve seen the movie.

It’s a James Wan horror film. He’s the guy behind Saw, Insidious and the Conjuring films. Nuff said.

Malignant follows Madison Mitchell, a woman who becomes connected to several murders in the Seattle area, starting when her abusive husband is murdered by a mysterious intruder. Not only that, but Madison becomes witness to the murders in dreams, committed by a mysterious figure named Gabriel. As the police attempt to figure out the connection, Madison’s sister learns a secret from the former’s past. A rather disturbing and deadly secret.

This film started out rather slow and kinda typical for an average horror film, but it got better with time. And honestly, it was really interesting.

Malignant is rather atypical of a horror film. James Wan made it more of a giallo film, which is an Italian genre mixing mystery-thriller with suspense and horror (they were quite influential on slashers). The result is a mostly well-done balance between a crazy crime thriller and a strange horror film, especially in scenes like in the Seattle Underground. And the final reveal is rather ingenious, with some very nice body horror that made me shout in my own living room in shock.

Also, what a film score! It was kind of all over the place, but it was still interesting to listen to.

However, the film’s first twenty minutes or so did feel a little cliched and below-average for a horror film. And the ending was kind of a let down for me. Something much darker would’ve worked better for me. And they do bring down the film’s score for me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Malignant a 3.4. Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the film, and ooh, that twist! What an image! I’m going to dream of that for years. However, there’s a lot that could have been improved or done differently. If you want to watch it, go ahead. It’s in theaters and on HBO Max. Still, it’s not the best thing I’ve seen this year. Not by far.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed so I can hang with friends and maybe do some editing tomorrow. Good night, and pleasant nightmares!

I saw a few trailers for this film, but wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, the premise sounded interesting, so I went to check it out. And that’s my intro.

Directed by David Bruckner and starring Rebecca Hall, The Night House follows Beth, a teacher whose husband committed suicide recently. As she tries to handle day-to-day activities, she finds out that her husband kept things from her. He may have had a secret life full of darkness. And as supernatural events happen around her, Beth begins to discover that something dark has come for her. And it can be found in a reversed replica of her and her husband’s lakehouse across the lake from them.

The first two thirds of The Night House were really good. Rebecca Hall does an excellent job playing a woman grappling with grief and the senselessness of her husband’s death. There’s a genuine atmosphere of unease that starts fairly quickly and keeps building throughout most of the film. A lot of this is done through what’s not seen as much as what is seen, and that proves to be really effective. Add in how skillfully they pull back the layers surrounding the husband, making him seem more and more complicated and twisted with every reveal, and some genuinely terrifying special effects, and you’ve got yourself a horror movie.

I will say, however, that the final reveal didn’t land very well with me and affected how I liked the final act. I think if they changed a few things, it would have kept up the terror of the film and made it a more effective reveal. As it was, however, it wasn’t as powerful or as terrifying. I respect what they were trying to do, especially as it ties into the film’s themes of grief and loss. I just wish they’d approached it in a way that kept the film as scary as it was for the first two-thirds.

All in all, I’m giving The Night House a 3.9 out of 5. As I said, if the final reveal was more to my taste, it would’ve been a better movie and gotten a higher score. Still, the first two-thirds are very scary, so I’d recommend it just to see that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. For now though, it’s late and I need to sleep if I’m to do anything this weekend. So, until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Remember Five Nights at Freddy’s? Well, if you don’t, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, or FNAF for short, is a video game franchise that was pretty popular in the mid-2010’s. The games revolve around surviving the night, usually at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese knockoff, while fending off killer animatronics. The unique and simple gameplay, combined with the dense lore revealed in the games, made it pretty popular for a while. There have even been in-universe novels (all of which I reviewed) and a movie has been in development hell since 2015.

And in the meantime, a couple of other films have been released that use the same concept but are just different enough to avoid IP problems. Thus, we get Willy’s Wonderland, which fills the gap for animatronic carnage horror films FNAF leaves quite well.

Starring (and produced by) Nicholas Cage, the film follows Cage as a mysterious drifter who gets stuck in the tiny town of Hayesville after a car accident. To pay for repairs, he accepts an overnight cleaning job at Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family entertainment center complete with giant, creepy electronics and a bloody history. What he’s not told is that the animatronics are alive and murderous. Thus begins a standoff between the eight deadly robots and the drifter. One that will be more explosive than anyone expects.

I’ll say this, these new slasher horror-comedies can be quite surprising. And if films like Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Willy’s Wonderland are the beginning of a new trend in horror, I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

This film is a bonkers fun time! I think my favorite part is Cage’s unnamed character, who’s kind of a riff on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s always got this sour look on his face, and his silence, addiction to energy soda, and routine make him nigh inscrutable. I also enjoyed the animatronics, which were visually interesting, moved well and were in the right area of the uncanny valley to be both funny and creepy. Add in some stellar action scenes and a good balance between the humor and horror elements and you have a really fun time.

I do have some complaints, however. For one thing, some of the slasher tropes felt kind of shoehorned in because they were expected. You would think this long after the slasher boom, even fictional teens would know not to do some of that dumb shit in a situation right out of a horror film. Speaking of which, several of the teen characters are not at all interesting or sympathetic. Honestly, one or two came off as detestable. Which might have been the point, given which tropes they engaged in, but I really could have done without that aspect of the film.

All in all, though, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun, bloody good time that will leave you amused and wanting more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it an even 4. A sequel or prequel is supposedly in the works, and I would love that. You could have a whole trilogy around Cage’s character getting into horror movie shenanigans. It would be hilarious and you could come up with so many inventive ways for him to get into scrapes with monsters or bad guys.

And in the meantime, if you want some FNAF movie goodness and can’t wait for that film to be made,* go check out Willy’s Wonderland.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope the next post isn’t a review (though I guarantee nothing). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Assuming it gets made. Supposedly a script was approved and filming was supposed to begin this spring, but nothing happened and we haven’t had any updates in a while. Between that and the franchise having passed peak popularity, I feel like even if the film gets made, it’s going to face the same issues Slender Man’s film did. Namely that it was too late and there wasn’t enough interest, to say nothing of the quality (see my scathing review here).

I’ve seen Max Booth’s tweets on Twitter a bit, but this was the first time I’ve read one of his works. I was spurred to do so by the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation, which looks terrifying (click this link to watch it). I had an audio book credit and the novel looked short enough, so I downloaded it and got to listening.

We Need To Do Something follows Melissa, a teenage girl who gets home from a friend’s as a massive storm hits the area and tornado sirens wail. As her family hides in the parents’ bathroom (no basement in the house), a tree falls in front of the door, trapping them inside. As Melissa, her little brother Bobby, her mother Diane and her father Robert, struggle with time, hunger, and their own dysfunction, they’ll also go on the ride from Hell. Possibly in more ways than one.

This novel is predicated on the concept “Hell is other people” and I love it!

What I really was blown away by is that everything takes place in the bathroom. Even flashbacks take place in the bathroom, presented as dreams or as hallucinations rather than as full flashbacks. This really gives you the sense of isolation and claustrophobia the characters are feeling. And this space acts like a pressure cooker, forcing them to confront their problems, themselves and each other. It is intense, and the confusion Booth weaves into the narrative only makes it worse. Are they really experiencing all of this? Is part of it something supernatural, or is there an element of shared delusion? You’ll read till the end asking those very same questions.

It doesn’t help that when the outside world does make an appearance, it’s only to make things crazier. Truth be told, you could learn a lot about writing tension from this novel.

As for the characters, you get to know them quite intimately. You also come to like them quite a bit–well, most of them. Robert, Melissa’s father, is an alcoholic with serious anger and toxic masculinity issues, and does not see the irony in calling his daughter a “snowflake” at one point. You love to dislike this guy from early on. But the others, you do start to feel sympathy for the others. None of them are perfect–Melissa has her own anger, Diane has been suffering for years and probably wishes her life was closer to a fifties sitcom than what it really is, and Bobby exists to annoy his sister and make fart and pee jokes–but you do grow to like them. And Melissa especially has more to her than what you meet in the first few pages, which at first glance is a typical phone-obsessed teen who’s annoyed with her folks.

The one downside is that there’s a lot of ambiguity and not everything you’d think would be clarified is. Now, for me that doesn’t really take away from the novel, but for others it’s going to be frustrating.

Altogether, We Need to Do Something by Max Booth III is a terrifying rollercoaster of a novel. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.5. Grab a copy, use the toilet real quick (not during a storm, though), and get settled in. You’re going to want to read this one.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m hoping to get you my thoughts of Audition by Ryu Murakami by the end of the week. And when the movie for this novel comes out, I’ll probably review that too. And I’ll likely have more to say in the near future. Point is, there will be more from me soon.

In the meantime, however, I’ve got work tomorrow, so I’m getting ready for bed. Good night, sleep tight, and pleasant nightmares!

M. Night Shyamalan has a record like a seismographic reading. Sometimes his movies are huge hits, other times they’re disasters, and occasionally they’re just okay. Nothing terrible, nothing great, just okay. Since his latest film had a very interesting concept to it, I thought I’d give it a watch. What did I think? Well, read on and find out.

Based on the Swedish graphic novel Sandcastle (which is available in the United States and which I’ve ordered from the library), Old follows several families who go to a private beach recommended to them by the island resort. However, once there strange things start to happen. Not only are they unable to leave, but the families start to age rapidly, especially the children. With only a day or so until they’re dead, it’s a race against time to find out how to get off the beach. But can they make it?

Well, that was an interesting film. And there was good there. The concept is very interesting and certainly makes for a good scary film. The actors do a damn good job in their roles (not surprising, given that Alex Wolff of Hereditary fame is among the cast, so he’s used to dark and challenging roles). And there are several moments where you feel tense. Not just from the race against time, but the increasingly terrifying acts of violence and body horror.

Also, the film the character Charles is trying to remember with Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson? It’s called The Missouri Breaks. I may not get why he’s obsessed with that particular film, but I get its use as an indicator of the toll on his mental state.

However, there are some things that just ruin the experience. While I can buy a couple of kids going around asking people their names and professions for their own amusement (I knew plenty of kids who did similar stuff at that age), I couldn’t help but notice that they said everything. And I mean everything! You would think in a movie, showing versus telling wouldn’t be a problem, but there are several times where, instead of showing us what is happening, the camera pans away and the characters just tell us what happens. Um…was there a reason for that?

Speaking of the camera, there are some long, uninterrupted shots that are brilliantly done, but others where you really wonder why we’re panning away and getting blurry or not focusing on the action. This plays a lot into the characters saying everything out loud, and it’s a problem.

That being said, I think this was worth the ticket money. Yeah, it’s not perfect, but Old certainly was a fun, enjoyable horror film and I can see it becoming a cult hit in the future. On a scale of 1 to 5, I hereby bequeath Old a 3.9. Grab a ticket and see for yourself if it’s any good. Just make sure you write out your will before you go.


Only four more days to send in a question for the Ask Me Anything, or AMA, in honor of my ten year blogging anniversary. One lucky participant will win a special prize, even! Just send your question to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. I look forward to reading all your questions.

When I saw the original Escape Room two years ago, I liked it. And while I may have revised my original assessment, I still think it’s like a Saw movie for those who don’t like torture porn (like me). I was wondering if they could keep things up with the sequel. So, I headed off to the theater (which was way more packed than I’ve seen it since the pandemic started. You can blame Space Jam 2 for that) to see what the film had to offer.

After surviving the death game of the first film, protagonists Zoey and Ben head to New York to see if they can find Minos, the group behind their trauma. Their goal is to bring Minos down, but the trip quickly turns dangerous as they realize they’re trapped in another death game. One in which all the other participants are, like themselves, survivors of past games. And this time, the rooms are not just deadly. There’s a hidden secret behind them.

Well, I’d say it was worth the ticket price.

The film does have a number of great scenes full of tension. You watch these characters try to solve the problems while trying to preserve their lives, and as time limits kick in, you start feeling a little nervous. The escape rooms are also pretty cool, and the puzzles are rather clever (though I have questions about one feature of the Beach Room). The actors do a good job of simulating terror and dealing with trauma. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the twist they wrote into the film.

That being said, that twist wasn’t really a good twist. The ending seems to invalidate the growth of the characters in the rest of the film, and there wasn’t as much development of the cast as I would have liked. I especially wanted to see more of Holland Rhoden (Lydia from Teen Wolf). Seriously, she’s a great actress and her character had an interesting trait that could’ve used some more exploration.

And now that I think about it, there’s a huge plot hole that I only just noticed. But I won’t spoil it here. If you see the film and want to discuss, hit me up in the comments below.

On the whole, I’m giving Escape Room: Tournament of Champions a 3.1 out of 5. It’s fun, but there’s plenty in the third act that I thought could have been different or better. Still, if there’s nothing else and you need to watch something, you could pick worse films.

Check back soon, Followers of Fear. I’ll have more posts this weekend, including a review of the third Fear Street film and marking an anniversary. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!


Another reminder, Followers of Fear: I’ll be celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary next month. To celebrate, I’m hosting an Ask Me Anything, or AMA, on my blog! And one lucky participant will win a prize. To participate, send an email to ramiungar@ramiungartehwriter.com by 11:59 PM on July 28, 2021. I look forward to reading your questions. Hopefully they’re all appropriate for this blog.

As promised, Netflix dropped the second entry in their horror film trilogy based on the books by RL Stine (see here for my review of the first movie). And while I’m getting to it later than I did last week (hey, I wanted to see a Marvel movie in the theater for the first time in a year), I’m here to report on the film and what I thought about it.

I’m also here to report that in 1978, my parents were in their teens, and I was influencing this Earth from another world. God, I was busy that year. So much chaos to sow!

Starting off almost immediately after the end of the first film, 1978 finds the survivors of the most recent massacre locating the only survivor of the 1978 Camp Nightwing massacre. We are then sent back to summer 1978, where campers and staff from Shadyside have an uneasy relationship with the campers and counselors from Sunnyvale. And while that would normally be bad enough, the curse of Sarah Fier awakens to wreak more havoc on the camp. But while that happens, terrible secrets will be uncovered. Ones that will affect the course of history up to the (film trilogy’s) present day.

Gotta say, I’m more disturbed by how awful the Sunnyvalers are to the Shadysiders than anything in the film. Seriously, I know these kids are rich and used to having their way, but some of these kids are freaking psychopathic! Also, why are there no adults? Only counselors and staff in their twenties! Except for counselors, most of the staff at my camp were in their thirties or older. And we never had any murders!

That aside though, this was a fun sequel and a fun slasher. It takes a lot of cues from the early Friday the 13th films and Sleepaway Camp. The storytelling is pretty tight, with more emphasis placed on the character development and interplay, as well as developments in the plot, than on gore and horror. Actually, the gore and horror is mostly held back, but that seems to benefit the film. This film knows that its strengths are in the characters, so it uses horror to move their dynamics along.

And speaking of characters, the actors do a good job in their roles. Sadie Sink of Stranger Things fame plays Ziggy with the same great attitude she brings to her character Max, along with a great side of being hurt by life and the people around her. As for the other actors, you really believe that they’re these characters. It helps that a lot of the campers are actually played by teens and preteens, which brings a sense of realism to the story. And when they interact with each other, you really feel the love, animosity, and other emotions/prejudices in these characters.

That being said, it’s not very scary. At least, not for experienced horror fans. Yeah, there’s blood and murder and the undead, but no atmosphere or suspense to really terrify you. Someone who faints at the sight of blood might get scared, but not someone whose seen a lot scarier stuff.

Still, this is a fun horror movie and much better than I thought it would be. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Fear Street Part Two: 1978 an even 4. Same as the first film. If you watched the first film and was worried about the second, I can at least assure you it won’t be time wasted. I’m looking forward to seeing the third film and how they wrap things up. It appears they’re going to do an American Horror Story and use most of the actors from the first two films in new roles. I wonder if that will be significant.


Another reminder, my Followers of Fear: there’s only 18 days left to take part in the ten-year blogging anniversary Ask Me Anything, or AMA. Just send me a question with where you’re from by 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021. If you do, you’ll be entered for a prize. All questions should be sent to my email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I look forward to reading your questions and answering them.

Unless I don’t get enough questions. In which case, forget it.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night, pleasant nightmares, and disco music is dead. Let’s keep it that way.