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Barbarian, The Guest Room, V/H/S/99, and The Descent Part 2
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 195
We've got four hot horror films this week. We'll start out with our only not-new film this week, "The Descent Part 2" from 2014. Then we'll look at "V/H/S/99," "The Guest Room," and "Barbarian," all from this year. Good stuff!
In the Bonus reviews this week, over at
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The Descent: Part 2 (2014)
Directed by Jon Harris
Written by James McCarthy, J Blakeson, James Watkins
Stars Michael J. Reynolds, Shauna Macdonald, Jessika Williams
Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s not quite as good as the first one, but it was a surprisingly good sequel. Due to production issues, this didn’t get a theatrical release, and it slipped under the radar a little. Since we know there are monsters in the caves, we get to them right away, so the action starts a bit sooner this time around. The cast is good, the effects are great, and they still manage to make caving look not any fun at all. For maximum enjoyment, you should absolutely see the first movie before seeing this one.
Somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains, an old guy in a tow truck almost hits a deer. Sarah Carter, from the first film, comes to his window for help. Credits roll.
A few days after the first movie, rescue teams are searching for the missing women. Sheriff Vaines goes to visit Sarah in the hospital, but she’s in shock and sedated. She’s a suspect in the murder of the other five girls, since she was covered in blood that wasn’t hers. Sarah doesn’t remember any of what happened. Since the girls lied about their caving plan, the men are searching in the wrong place.
There’s an old mine shaft in the basement of an old church. The tow truck driver says that there’s a whole uncharted system of caves down there that connects to it. The sheriff thinks Sarah could go down there and help search. Deputy Rios gets Sarah ready to go down into the cave; there’s an old elevator, so how bad could it be? They assemble a team of three professional rescue folks, the two police, and Sarah.
The ancient elevator doesn’t kill them, and they eventually make it to the bottom. Dan is the leader of the rescue group. They explore for a while. They have an audio scanner that picks up sounds down in the tunnels. Those movement noises have gotta be a survivor, right? They do find a body. Sarah starts to remember, but now everyone thinks she may have murdered her friends. Sarah goes berserk and runs off. Everyone splits up to go looking for her.
The sheriff is attacked, and he fires his gun, causing a cave-in that closes off the way they came and traps them all inside. Cath gets trapped in a tight spot, and the others start digging. They soon figure that it’s hopeless and start looking for another way. One of the creatures finds her first; she manages to escape.
Dan, Greg, and Rios find the “boneyard,” and it’s pretty obvious that Sarah didn’t do all that. They find the lost video camera from the first film. Sarah and Rios watch the creatures on the tape as one of them crawls up behind them. One of the creatures kills Dan. Greg and Cath find one another.
The sheriff finds Dan’s mutilated body. Greg is soon killed, and Cath finds herself hanging over a chasm, but she makes it through that, only to find there are monsters on both sides of the pit.
Sarah and Rios have to go through a water-filled tunnel, and Rios is terrified. Rios records a final message on her phone, but Sarah says they can still get out.
The sheriff figures out that he’s not alone down here and has a brief fistfight with a creature, but he’s rescued by-- Juno, who isn’t as dead as we were led to believe in the first movie. She steals his flashlight and runs away, but he follows. Sarah and Rios beat one of the monsters to death with a crampon and a pin hairpin.
Sarah and Rios run into the sheriff and Juno, and the two fight. Juno calms down and says she thinks she knows the way out. The creatures regularly go to the surface to hunt. She couldn’t get out because she had no light plus her leg was injured. Sarah refuses to follow Juno, so the sheriff handcuffs her to his arm. Three minutes later, someone gets his arm cut off and falls to his death.
The three women find the tunnel to the outside that Sarah used last time, but there are creatures all around. One of the things drags a big stag down into the tunnel and calls all the others for food. Something goes wrong, and the three have to fight. Juno dies… again.
Dozens of the blind cave creatures close in around them, and Sarah distracts them from Rios, who climbs up the tunnel and gets away.
Then she’s beaten over the head by the tow-truck guy who drags her body back to the hole to feed the “people” down there.
These two films really make caving look fun, don’t they?
This took place in a pitch-black dark cave system, and yet we could still see everything that was happening. Too many newer films get carried away with the darkness.
In the first film, the monsters didn’t show up until around halfway through the film; here, they show up pretty quickly. This film doesn’t have quite the claustrophobic atmosphere of the first, as the monsters are the focus, not the caving. Seeing Juno turn up again was a big surprise.
The final scene was also a surprise. Downer! It wasn’t as good as the first one, but neither of us hated it.
The Guest Room (2022)
AKA “The Room”
Directed by Stefano Lodovichi
Written by Stefano Lodovichi, Francesco Agostini, Filippo Gili
Stars Guido Caprino, Camilla Filippi, Edoardo Pesce
Run Time: 1 Hour, 41 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
You will probably have theories watching this one, trying to figure out what is really going on. You probably won’t be correct. This one is really well acted, well produced, and has a very cool story with an intriguing wrap up.
We see a woman in her wedding dress, crying in the rain. She’s ready to jump out a high window of her building to kill herself when the bell rings and snaps her out of it. Someone’s at the door. She’s dripping wet and a real mess, but she answers the door. He’s Guilio, he says he booked a room with Stella. She says they haven’t rented in a long time. The website will refund him. He really has no place else to go, and he’s persistent. He’s been out of the country for a while and is just returning. He says Stella’s husband Sandro will be coming by to say hello, and she perks right up. Credits roll.
She lets him in and shows him the bedroom. She looks at her suicide note, closes the window, and puts on normal clothes. Sandro used to like to meet new people, and Stella doesn’t, so when he left, she stopped renting the room.
Guilio finds a pair of Stella’s underwear in his room, and he eagerly starts sniffing them. He then notices holes in the wall and peeks through. Whatever he sees makes him angry. He puts on Stella’s husband’s clothes and fixes himself some lunch, even after Stella said no. Stella mentions that her son lives with Sandro and won’t be joining them for breakfast. They finally talk; Guilio had been in Japan, but came back to visit his dead parents.
Guilio is very pushy about what he wants, and Stella is grumpy, but goes along with most of it; she doesn’t care enough to argue.
Sandro comes to the door; he’s come because of her suicide text messages. Sandro doesn’t know anything about Guilio. “Did you get a reservation number?” He stopped advertising the room months ago. Sandro says he doesn’t have their son; what happened to him?
Guilio then whacks Sandro over the head and chokes out Stella. When they wake up, they’re zip-tied to chairs. Guilio shows Stella a photo with Sandro, another woman, and a child. Sandro’s got the same photo in his wallet. All these years, he’s had another whole family out there. Guilio goes upstairs to a closed door and talks to the person inside. “I brought you your yogurt.” It’s Stella’s son. Although we don’t see him, there’s obviously something weird going on. That’s who Guilio saw through the peephole in his room.
Guilio smacks Sandro repeatedly about avoiding the son upstairs for the new one. Sandro tells his side of the story; they were happy together until the baby came, and then things went badly. He actually hoped that Stella would kill herself. Sandro says it was all Stella’s idea to keep their child locked up upstairs. Sandro breaks loose from the chair, knocks out Guilio, but still can’t get out of the house; the doors are screwed shut.
Stella is still tied up as Sandro looks for a way out. Guilio takes his shirt off, and we see that he’s all scarred up on his arms. He has her suicide note, but it looks really old. Guilio asks what her son’s name is. It’s Guilio. Yes, this is the same Guilio, but he’s obviously not ten years old. “I am dead, right?” she asks. He smiles and walks away.
Guilio goes upstairs to find Sandro ready to jump out the same window Stella was going to jump out of earlier. Guilio says Sandro used to abuse him, but Sandro says he never hit his son. Stella breaks free and hears Guilio upstairs torturing Sandro. “This time thing is a mess,” says Guilio. We see a video that in the future, Guilio has murdered both Alex and Linda, the other woman and hus other son. “Here’s the nice part; when he dies, I’ll disappear too.” He’s come back in time because Stella killed herself over Sandro’s lies, and adult time-traveling Guilio wants to fix things.
Guilio tells Sandro that if Sandro kills himself now, in the future, Linda and Alex won’t die. Sandro slits his wrist, but it’s not enough to kill him, so Guilio puts a bag over his head and sucks all the air out. Stella watches all this in shock but doesn’t try to stop any of it. Guilio wants to know why Stella never hugged him or told him that she loved him. He says goodbye and waits to disappear.
He doesn’t disappear. He was supposed to vanish with Sandro’s death. Stella doubts that she’s his mother. Guilio tells her about his past and his hard life. He convinced himself that it was all Sandro’s fault. “But I was wrong. It wasn’t his fault.” No, he decides that Stella was guiltier than Sandro ever was.
Stella goes to little Guilio’s bedroom to hide with the boy. Trapped in there, with adult Guilio breaking down the door, she apologizes to the little boy and tells him that she loves him. They hug, and the screaming at the door stops.
The two go downstairs, and Stella throws away both the new and the old suicide notes. She gives him some yogurt.
We both had multiple theories about what was going on, and they repeatedly got smashed down as the story continued to evolve. It’s very “twisty” and unpredictable in that once you think you know what’s going on, things change. A couple of times, characters mention that Stella “killed herself” in the past tense, and we weren’t quite sure if that was a clue or a translation mistake. Turns out, it was accurate, just not in the way we were expecting.
I liked this. The performances were good, the set was excellent, and the best part is we didn’t see what was coming until the very end. Nice!
Short Film: Life and Death of a Living Dead (2022)
Directed by Gautier Babe
Written by Gautier Babe
Stars Alizee Linavert, Jacques Vanel
Run Time: 13:13
A woman mourns her dead lover. She walks out into the misty field and watches him slowly climb out of the grave. She refuses to help, and it takes him a long time; he can’t get out of the grave! She has to listen to him wailing all night long. She goes out to shoot him but just can’t do it. He’s out there stuck in that hole for days… Will she come around eventually?
It’s very atmospheric and looks really good. The zombie makeup is good, and it’s an interesting situation. It’s slow, with very little action, yet it’s still interesting, as you don’t know where it’s going.
Directed by Flying Lotus, Maggie Levin, Tyler MacIntyre
Written by Zoe Cooper, Flying Lotus, Chris Lee Hill
Stars Verona Blue, Dashiell Derrickson, Tybee Diskin
Run Time: 1 Hour, 49 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a little hit at miss for The Horror Guys, with some of the tales resonating with us and some of them not so much. There are ghosts and vengeance and demons and some unexpected things. We liked it more than disliked it, and the wrap-around was very cool.
As with the previous installments of the series, this is an anthology of short tales. We start out with a goofy animation with little green toy soldiers. We watch a bunch of clips from things that have been recorded over, probably multiple times.
An annoying group of teens decide to break into “The Colony,” a former arts collective. Back in 1996, a fire broke out there, which claimed four lives. The four members of the band “Bitch Cat” all died in the fire. We get an old video of Bitch Cat being interviewed, and they are very 80s. Their music was pretty good.
Ankur isn’t really into going to the place where the four girls died, but he goes with the others. They soon find signs that someone may have been living down there. They find a little shrine, and three of the friends mock it, but Ankur tells them to stop it. They all grab musical instruments and play some music in the old, burnt-out club. Ankur gets angry and leaves. The other three then proceed to stomp on blow-up dolls full of jello to simulate the crushing death of the four musicians. Things take a turn very quickly when the actual undead musicians show up.
2. Suicide Bid
Lily records a video after going to a sorority earlier in the day. Helen comes in and says that restricting herself to one sorority application is a “suicide bid.”
Next thing, the sorority drags Lily to a big mortuary. They’re obviously snobby bad-girl types. They mention Giltine, a girl who wanted to join a sorority like theirs. She was told that she had to spend the night buried in the coffin; when they finally dug her up, there was no one in it. These girls want Lily to do the same thing, spend the night in a coffin. They give her a box to open when she’s the most scared. They bury her.
Lily, buried alive, talks to the camera, and she refuses to be scared until she hears scratching outside the coffin. She gets scared, opens the box, and finds it’s full of spiders. Outside, it starts to rain, the police show up, so the sorority sisters run away. The rainwater floods the coffin, and it couldn’t get any worse for Lily… until Giltine shows up.
When the girls come back in the morning, the coffin is empty. But it doesn’t end that simply…
3. Ozzy’s Dungeon
“Ozzy’s Dnugeon” is a TV show where teams do stupid stunts with lots of slime and nonsense. The first kid gets hurt and dragged out, which is what makes the show “Dungeon-y.” He described the obstacle course as “Ozzy’s Orifices.” If a finalist wins, they get any wish that they want. The game begins, and one kid gets a serious leg injury. The audience family members want Ozzy to stop the game, but he doesn’t.
We zoom out and find that a group of people have been watching a tape of the show. They have Ozzy locked up in a small cage without his clothes or toupee. The injured contestant’s mother is behind the kidnapping, and she doesn’t look healthy. Her daughter’s leg is nasty-looking and rotten. She’s got an obstacle course for him to try.
Before they torture him to death, Ozzy pleads that the set for his old show still exists; there are prizes there and they can have them. They all load up the car and go there. Under the studio is literally a cave, and they go down with torches. Turns out, “Ozzy’s Dungeon” is a real dungeon, complete with a monster.
4. The Gawkers
A couple of kids record prank videos. Then they record pervy videos of women around the neighborhood. Hired for tech work, one of the guys installs a webcam on the woman across the street’s computer. Without her realizing they have unlimited access to the view by way of the Internet. That night, the woman takes off all her clothes, but then keeps on taking things off. Including her hair, which was covering up the snakes coming out of her head. Then she notices the camera and gets angry…
5. To Hell and Back
A group of people record themselves explaining why they have volunteered to be the vessel for Lord Ukoban. They plan on calling Ukoban at midnight when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. The ritual commences, and a demon appears, but it’s the wrong one. In the process of banishing it, the cameraman and some of the others vanish too and find themselves in a demonic hellscape. They think they can piggyback into the real world again if they find Ukoban, but it’s almost midnight.
They meet a dead woman named Mabel who leads them to the cave where Ukoban lives. Maybe everything will be alright.
The little green soldiers need a full-length feature film.
“Shredding” was long and too predictable. “Suicide Bid” was really good. “Ozzy’s Dungeon” is spectacularly weird. The gawkers ended well, but took way too long to get there. “To Hell and Back” was pretty cool, since we don’t actually get to explore Hell very often.
It was very hit and miss, as most anthologies go. I’ll go thumbs-up on “Suicide Bid,” “Ozzy’s Dungeon,” and “To Hell and Back.” I’d skip over the other two.
Directed by Zach Cregger
Written by Zach Cregger
Stars Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgard, Justin Long
Run Time: 1 Hour, 42 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A young woman rents a house to stay in while she’s working in town. We find out right away there’s been an apparent mistake and there’s already a guy there who also rented it. And then things happen. This movie is really great. Excellent cast, good story, and directed in a unique way that puts things together. Check this one out for sure.
Tess checks her phone about her rental place. It’s dark and pouring rain, so she hurries to the door. The key isn’t in the lockbox, so something isn’t right. The neighbors’ houses are all very dark; it looks like no one else lives around here. There’s a light on inside the house, so she rings the bell.
A guy named Keith answers the door; he’s renting the place. They’ve both booked the same place at the same time from different companies. She goes inside to work it out with the rental people. They both compare their reservation emails, and they’re both the same. He offers to let her stay a while until she works out where to go. She’s fairly paranoid about spending the night in the house with a strange man, so she takes a photo of Keith’s driver’s license.
Keith seems very reasonable and understanding of her precautions around him. She’s in town for a research position, and he helped found a band that she’s going to research. They soon hit it off. Eventually, it’s bedtime, and she takes the bedroom, and he takes the couch in the living room.
Late that night, Tess wakes up and sees her door is open. She hears Keith moaning outside her room and goes out to investigate. He’s simply having a nightmare. The next morning, she wakes up and finds that Keith has left for the day. She goes to her interview and finds that this is the worst-looking neighborhood in Detroit. All the other houses for blocks around are burned out or abandoned. Catherine, the woman doing the interview, warns her about that neighborhood.
She returns home and has a brief encounter with a scary guy outside. She has to go to the basement for some toilet paper and gets locked in down there. She searches for some tools to open the door but instead finds a secret door. Behind that, she finds a filthy bed, a bucket, and a video camera. It’s some kind of cell.
Keith returns, and she tells him what she found. He goes downstairs to look, but doesn’t answer when she calls for him. She doesn’t want to, but goes downstairs anyway and finds– another secret door! This one leads to a dark stone stairway down into the sub-sub-basement. She hears Keith calling for help.
She finds Keith, and he says someone else is down there, and they bit him. Suddenly, a naked woman with long hair runs out of the darkness and smashes his head into the stone wall repeatedly (Guess he wasn’t in on it after all).
We abruptly cut to sunny California, with AJ driving in his convertible down the highway. He gets a call telling him he’s fired from his new show. There are serious allegations of rape against him from an actress in the project. His financial advisor is dropping him as well. He can’t afford his California house anymore, but he has some properties in Detroit, so he goes there to sell them. It turns out that he’s the owner of the house from before.
It’s clear that someone has been staying there, which confuses him. He calls the rental place, and they say it’s been a few weeks since they rented to anyone. He goes through Keith and Tess’s things and makes himself at home. He hears someone in the basement and assumes it’s squatters; he also soon finds the secret door. He thinks this might increase the house’s property value - more square footage! As he’s measuring, he finds the other secret door.
He gets a little farther than Tess did and he finds a room with light and a working TV playing a breastfeeding instructional video. He soon runs into the woman, but his flashlight starts to fail. He falls into a trap and meets Tess.
We flashback to when the neighborhood was all new and clean– in the 80s. Frank goes to the store and buys diapers and plastic sheets. He follows a woman home and puts on a repairman’s outfit. The woman lets him in, and he unlocks the bathroom window then leaves. We see that he’s already got someone locked up in his basement.
Back in the dungeon, the crazy “Mother” forces AJ to drink from a bottle. Mother jumps down and hugs Tess like a baby. The Mother pulls AJ away to torment him, and Tess climbs out of the hole. She runs all the way upstairs to the locked door, and the homeless guy pulls her out. Turns out, the homeless guy knew about the house all along. “She ain’t even the worst thing that’s in there! She comes out at night, but don’t you be around here when it gets dark.”
AJ uses the light on his phone and tries to find a way out, but he goes the wrong way. Tess makes it to a phone, but she’s so filthy the cops think she’s on drugs or something and don’t believe her. So, the cops leave Tess back at the house, thinking she’s a crackhead. As night falls, she breaks a window, gets her car keys, and drives away– just as Mother storms out of the house. That goes badly for both of them.
AJ finds Frank, much older and lying in bed, and he’s got a whole collection of torture videos. Frank pulls out a gun and shoots himself. AJ now has the gun. Assuming Mother is dead, Tess goes back downstairs, and AJ accidentally shoots her.
The two make it out to the street and start walking. They find the homeless man, whose name is Andre. He says that “Mother” is Frank’s daughter, and they’ve been down there for forty years, but they’re safe there at his hideaway. Mother almost immediately breaks in, tears Andre’s arm off, and beats him to death with it.
The two climb up on a water tower, and AJ throws Tess off as a distraction; Mother dives off after her. AJ goes down, but Mother’s still not dead; she pokes out his eyes and squashes his head. Tess gets the gun and shoots Mother in the head.
We live about an hour away from Detroit, and the film was pretty realistic, believe it or not, for some areas of town. The depictions of the police are pretty much spot-on as well. The acting was excellent, and the gore, what there is of it, is also good. The story all mostly makes sense, although we couldn’t figure out why Mother was so crazy strong.
As far as loose ends are concerned, we got a very brief glimpse of Frank, the original owner of the house, but it felt like a lot was missing here; why didn’t we get more of him?
The film starts one way and goes completely off the rails after a while. The second half definitely has “As Above So Below” and “Don’t Breathe” vibes. The surprises just keep coming with this one, and it’s on my shortlist for “best horror film” of 2022 so far.
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