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Antlers, Lake Mungo, Attack of the Giant Leeches, and Nightmare on Elm Street 2
Horror Bulletin Week 156
This week, we’ll watch the new “Antlers” film from 2021, the ghostly “Lake Mungo” from 2008, the second film in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, and an old with “Attack of the Giant Leeches” from 1959.
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Here. We. Go!
• Directed by Scott Cooper
• Written by Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper
• Stars Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A grim and depressing film that’s pretty terrific. It builds nicely, gradually letting us figure out what’s going on - and what has already gone on. The characters all have a lot of depth, the child actors are excellent along with the rest of the cast, and the special effects are top-notch.
We are told that Mother Earth has been pillaged, and this has awakened a malevolent spirit.
Frank works in the old abandoned mine while his son Lucas waits in the car. They both hear strange sounds. The man goes down into the tunnels beneath the place - they have a meth lab down there. Frank and his partner go investigate the odd sounds. We don’t see it, but something attacks them both. Then the boy goes inside looking for dad. Credits roll.
Julia is a recovering alcoholic and teacher in Oregon. She’s explaining Native American storytelling and folklore to a bored classroom.
Lucas, Frank’s son, is one of her students. Lucas goes home, to an empty-looking house, and we see he has a locked room inside. Something on the other side of the door bangs against it. We hear on the radio that the mine is going to be re-opening soon.
Julia goes home, and we see that her brother Paul is the sheriff. Something weighs on her mind, as she takes pictures off the wall. She thinks that she’ll move out soon, her brother says she’s welcome to stay. Neither of them seem pleased with their jobs or their life.
In class, twelve-year-old Lucas reads a creepy story that he wrote to the class. It's about the three bears, but it’s not a pleasant version. Julia calls Lucas’s house, but no one answers. She follows Lucas home that afternoon. Lucas says he lives with his brother. She goes inside the house, and she hears the thing behind the door growling, but she leaves. Lucas feeds roadkill to his brother and what appears to be a mutated version of his father.
Paul gets a report from Stokes, the retired sheriff, who found part of a dead man in the woods. The other half was found in the old mine. We see that Julia still has PTSD from her abusive father. She tells Paul what she heard at Frank’s house. We piece together that she got old enough to bail and moved out of state, leaving Paul to live alone with their father. Who eventually died and Paul inherited the house. There is a lot of pain, grief, and baggage.
Julia goes through Lucas’s school desk and finds many creepy drawings. She goes to the principal with the information. The principal goes to Lucas’s house and she hears Lucas’s brother crying inside the locked room. She goes up to the attic and finds more than she expected. We get a good look at Frank as he eats her and glows from within. With the extra protein, he mutates further.
On the way home from school, Lucas is accosted by Clint, the school bully, who soon finds out there are worse things than bullies in the woods. Lucas runs home to find that Frank has escaped.
Paul goes looking for the missing principal and ends up at Frank’s house. They don’t have a warrant so they don’t go in. Julie finds the principal’s card so they have probable cause and go in to find the body. They also find some of Frank’s body. We get a flashback to what happened with Frank and Aiden and the locked door right after they got infected.
Julie wants to take care of Lucas, but Paul isn’t thrilled with the idea. They go talk to Stokes, an old Native American man, and he knows about the antler they found in the mine. He thinks it’s from a wendigo, a crazed, cannibalistic monster that feeds on flesh. Eating only makes them hungrier. It can only be killed by extinguishing its beating heart. Paul thinks it’s a myth, but Julia is a little more accepting.
Julia takes Lucas to her house and tells him that his father is dead, but Lucas says that was his old dad who died. His new dad only needs food. “He will come for me and take me to the mine to be with Aiden,” he says. There’s a howl outside. “He’s here,” he adds.
The monster kills Deputy Dan, and Paul is also attacked. Julia says Lucas ran off to go to the mine, and she plans to follow them. She loads Paul into the car and drives to the mine instead of the hospital.
She goes into the dark mine alone with nothing but Paul’s pistol and a flashlight. She finds Lucas and Aiden, who tell her to go back. She then sees the wendigo eating a bear. It still has parts of Frank’s face stuck to it. She stabs it repeatedly in the heart. Eventually it wears down, and she cuts the heart out, killing it.
Aiden starts to scream; the wendigo is taking a new host. She has to kill the little ten-year-old.
Eventually, Paul recovers from his injury, and the two decide to keep Lucas to raise. Paul just can’t stop coughing up black goo…
This may be the grayest, most depressingly morbid town ever, even without the monster. The sense of impending doom and dread is really thick here. This just isn’t a fun place to live. Add in meth addicts, child abuse, and neglect, and you’ve got a seriously fun film.
There’s a whole backstory about Paul and Julia’s abusive father that we never really see, but we get enough to know that it scarred both of them. Frank’s abuse or neglect of Lucas and Aiden parallel this, and make them all a lot more sympathetic.
eco-horror #wendigo #folklore #mythology #family
1985 A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
• Directed by Jack Sholder
• Written by David Chaskin, Wes Craven
• Stars Robert Englund, Mark Patton, Kim Myers
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
After the huge success of the first movie and popularity of the Freddy character, of course they had to make a sequel. This one is pretty good, taking a little different path this time. More of a possession tale, with less of an emphasis on appearing in dreams. The acting is good, Robert Englund is still great, and most of the effects still hold up.
We start out on a school bus being driven by normal-looking Robert England. They miss a stop, but the driver doesn’t slow down. Soon, they head cross-country out into the desert. Suddenly, it’s Freddy driving the bus. The bus is soon dangling over a deep pit with lava and lightning. Jesse screams.
“Mommy, why can’t Jesse wake up like everyone else?” Asks his sister as she eats her “Fu Man Chews” breakfast cereal. Lisa comes over and the two drive to school. Jesse hears from Grady that the house they just moved into had some weirdness there not too long ago. A girl watched her boyfriend get butchered just across the street. Yes, it’s on Elm Street.
That night, Jesse dreams of Freddy again. At school the next day, Jesse dozes off in class and is attacked by a snake, although this one is real. Lisa comes over, and they clean his bedroom together. They find Nancy’s diary from the first film— it’s five years old. They read about Freddy; Jesse recognizes the character from his owndreams.
Jesse goes down to his basement and looks inside the furnace. He finds Freddy’s glove. Freddy appears and tells him to try them on. “Kill for me!” Freddy shouts.
Everyone in the house complains about how hot it is in the house, and then their birds explode into flames.
That night Jesse goes out in a near-sleepwalking daze, Jesse goes to a gay bar and runs into the coach. Now that he knows the coach’s secret, the coach has it in for him. They go back to the school so the coach can abuse him some more, but the various balls and things in the locker room start shooting everywhere. Jesse watches as the coach is tortured by an invisible force. Then Freddy comes in and finishes the job. Or is it? We see Jesse wearing the bloody glove.
Jesse’s mom thinks he needs therapy; his father wants to send him to rehab.
Lisa reads the diary, and they go to the power plant where Fred Krueger worked. This is where the boiler room was. They go inside and not much happens.
Lisa has a pool party and she and Jesse make out, but it takes a weird turn halfway through. He tells Grady that he killed the coach, but Grady doesn’t believe it. He wants Grady to watch him sleep and stop him from doing anything. Naturally, Grady goes to sleep as well. Freddy crawls out of Jesse and kills Grady. Jesse wakes up just in time to find the body.
Lisa confronts Jesse and Freddy chases her around. Meanwhile, the pool party gets a little crazy.
Lisa hurried right over to Freddy’s factory, where she encounters several weird creatures and finally Freddy himself. Jesse still has some influence over his own body, so Freddy has difficulty killing her. Lisa kisses Freddy, and he burns. Jesse gets up and peels the remnants of Freddy off of his body.
The next day, Jesse and Lisa get on the school bus, and he thinks the bus is going too fast… It’s all over, right?
It’s a good follow-up to the first film, where Freddy was destroyed at the end, sorta. Most of this film has you wondering if Freddy is real or if Jesse is just crazy, and it could go either way for a long while. Freddy was seriously weakened in the previous film, and he’s obviously having a hard time manifesting in our world again; he’s never been weaker.
It implies that this particular house on Elm Street is haunted, even though that wasn’t the case in the first film; Nancy’s house wasn’t anything special there, but it seems to be the focus of Freddy’s spirit now.
Freddy’s not confined to just dreams any more. The whole pool party scene takes place in the real world, and none of the characters are asleep.
Some of the visual effects, like Freddy climbing out of Jesse’s body, were really well done. Others, like the human-faced dog-things at the factory, were laughably awful. All in all a decent sequel, but it wrapped everything up and it’s the last time we see Freddy. Right?
2021 Ignore It
• Directed by Sam Evenson
• Written by Sam Evenson
• Stars Madison Rojas, Madison Leyson, Michael Perl, Aina Dumlao, Crystal Hughes
• Run Time: 6:33
• Watch it:
Dad comes into Justin’s room and warns him to ignore “The Woman” as much as possible. “Don’t look at her, don’t think about her. She’s going to leave, but only if you pretend she isn’t there,” he says hurriedly. The boy looks upset; this has happened before. It’s an awkward dinner to say the least.
Call me crazy, but if I had a strange woman ghost roaming around in my house, I’d turn some freakin’ lights on. This house is so dark that it just invites evil spirits.
It’s very well acted and looks great. You don’t see much of the creature, but that’s probably good, since if you notice it, bad things happen. I like this one a lot.
1959 Attack of the Giant Leeches
• Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski
• Written by Leo Gordon
• Stars Ken Clark, Yvette Vickers, Jan Shepard
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 2 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a creature feature, and it’s okay. Not quite awful. Not quite great.
Lem, a hillbilly rows his boat across the lake. He sees something in the water and shoots at it. He takes another swig from his jug and moves on. Credits roll.
A bunch of locals hang out in Walker’s General Store. Lem, the guy from the pre-credit sequence is there, telling his story about the man-shaped thing with suckers on its arms. They all tell him he’s been drinking too much.
Big Fat Dave, the owner of the general store, goes in the back room to talk to his slutty wife Liz. She’s going out but won’t tell him where. Dave’s clearly out of his league with her.
Steve Benton and Nan Greyson are out on the swamp putting animals out of their misery. He’s the game warden. The two start to kiss, but are interrupted by a scream. It’s Liz, and she’s found a dead man; it’s Lem. Steve knows that it wasn’t an alligator attack, but the sheriff says it was.
Doc Greyson explains squids and octopuses to Steve and Nan. There’s no way these salt-water creatures could be living in their swamp, so it’s a bit of a mystery.
The two go out in a rowboat later to investigate. They hear some things, but don’t see anything.
Dave and Liz argue again. She wants him to sell out and leave town after the killing. Liz and Cal are having an affair, and they go over to the swamp to make out in secret. Dave’s out there with a shotgun searching, and he finds them. He forces them to walk deeper into the swamp at gunpoint. Suddenly, the giant leeches come up behind Cal and Liz and kill them both. Surprise!
The sheriff offers a fifty dollar reward if someone can find the bodies. They all just assume that Dave killed the pair, as everyone knew they were fooling around. They arrest Dave, and soon find him hanging in his cell.
Doc Greyson still thinks there’s some previously-unknown life out there, but Steve thinks that’s unlikely. Meanwhile, a pair of the local men are still hunting for the missing bodies in the swamp. They think it’s odd that they haven’t seen any gators in this swamp. The leeches capsize their boat and take them both.
Next we see the leeches drag the men into their secret cave lair. Cal and Liz are there, but they aren’t dead. The leeches are keeping them alive and feeding from them.
All the townspeople head to the swamp to search for the two most recently missing men. They also note the lack of gators.
Doc wants to use explosives to bring the bodies up, but game warden Steve says that’s too destructive. The next day, Doc bombs the swamp anyway. Three of the bodies flat to the surface; all except Liz. We see that she's still alive in the cave.
Doc examines the bodies and thinks it’s something like a leech. He also says they hadn’t been dead more than an hour or so before the bodies were found.
Steve and Mike put on scuba equipment and go down into the swamp with spear guns. The sheriff and his men watch from shore, because he’s a know-it-all jerk. Steve shoots one of the creatures, not realizing there are more than one.
“Maybe the proximity to Cape Canaveral has something to do with it. They use atomic energy there,” Doc hypothesizes. Liz finally floats to the surface, dead and covered in sucker-marks. Steve and Mike attack the leech and drive it off.
They drop a bunch of dynamite into the swamp, set up the detonator, and Steve presses the plunger. BOOM! Giant dead leeches float to the surface. Problem solved! No, we see a few more just out of range.
It’s a very straightforward, by-the-numbers creature feature. The acting is fine, the pacing is good, and the monsters are silly and ridiculous. Steve, the main character, is about as wooden as an actor can get, though he looks really good doing it.. The actors who play Dave and Liz do well here, but their parts end before the halfway point.
The underwater photography was pretty good for the time, but it’s no “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The monsters themselves are silly looking men in costumes that look like a cross between a starfish and octopus.
I like how we’re supposed to sympathize and root that Liz makes it out alive, when she was a slutty cheater, a gold-digger, and caused her husband to kill himself. It’s a happy ending for the two romantic leads. The sheriff gets taken down a notch. And the Doctor has some interesting new specimens to study.
AIP #leeches #giantanimal #swamp
2008 Lake Mungo
• Directed by Joel Anderson
• Written by Joel Anderson
• Stars Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a very well done documentary that does a nice job of letting events that happened unfold and be discovered by the viewer. Except it’s totally fiction. Just when you think you know what’s going on, they add another layer to things. And another. And so on. The acting and filming all seem pretty genuine.
“Alice kept secrets,” we are told as credits roll over images of old ghostly photographs. In 2005, a tragic accident began a series of events that thrust the grieving family into the media spotlight. This is a paranormal documentary of what happened to the family.
We see news reports of the family being interviewed after the accident. Sixteen-year-old Alice went missing, drowned at the dam. We meet various characters that knew or were related to Alice as the interviewer asks them questions. It took several days before they found the body.
In the coming months, they started hearing sounds coming from Alice’s old room. June, her mother, started having nightmares and developed a tendency to sneak into other people’s houses. Her father, Russell, kept hearing things in her room until he saw her there in her bedroom. Brother Matthew started getting random bruises all over his body; he also started taking many strange photographs— Alice appears in one of them, four months after her death.
They started to doubt if the body found was really Alice; she must still be alive. They exhume the body, and sure enough, DNA confirms that it was really her. So, who was in those photos?
Six months after her death, Matthew catches her on video. It’s dim and fuzzy, but there’s clearly something there.
They call in Ray, a psychic, to help. Ray sets up a seance, which Matthew also filmed. The seance didn’t appear to work, but they spotted Alice in the video the next day. Later, Matthew admits that he’d faked several photos with camera trickery. He wasn’t trying to fool people; he was just trying to keep his sister in their lives.
Still, they all felt that there was something in the house, so they let the cameras run while they took a little trip. Alice still appeared in the new videos. They also spotted their neighbor, Mr. Toohey in Alice’s room— he was looking for “the tape.”
Next, we see the tape. Toohey had Alice and another girl doing a sex tape. He knew she had a copy, and Toohey wanted to find it before anyone else did.
It turns out Ray had also seen Alice before her death. She’d been having bad dreams. Ray didn’t tell anyone this because of his confidentiality. They no longer trust Ray after this revelation. June reads Alice’s diary and considers the dreams Alice had told Ray about— had she foreseen her own death?
Alice had gone on a school trip to Lake Mungo a few months before her death, and they examine found video footage from that. Alice was seen in the woods, burying something.
The family returned to Lake Mungo to find out what had happened while Alice had been there. They went to the place where Alice had been digging. They dug up Alice’s ring, her watch, and her mobile phone.
On the buried phone they found more footage. A strange figure came out of the darkness; it was the same dead body that came out of the lake. Alice had foreseen her own death, and this was some kind of omen. She had seen her own ghost.
When the family returned home, the house felt clean. Maybe Alice just wanted them to know the whole truth.
Ray hypnotizes June one last time to wrap things up. June describes walking through the house, and her vision overlaps with an old recording of Alice having the same experience from her own point of view. They are together, but at different times.
They sell the house and move. Could that still be Alice in the window?
It’s a fairly straightforward ghost story, but the documentary-style interviews and editing make it much more interesting than a straight narrative. The low-quality, grainy, ghostly images are like what you’d expect on old Bigfoot videos— they’re really well done and creepy.
I liked the development that a lot of the video we saw was faked by Matthew. Then the surprises start coming more quickly. There’s not really much explanation of why this all happened, but then if there was, it wouldn’t be a mystery, right?
It’s good in a very creepy way. It makes great use of found footage, grainy zooms, blurry images, and so forth.
ghoststory #haunting #documentary #reality #ghost
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Get ready for next week, where we’ll be watching four more full-lengths and a fun short film!
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