Firestarter, The Righteous, The Crazies, and The Babadook
Horror Bulletin Reviews for Week 170
This week, we’ll watch a wild collection of films, from two new films, “The Righteous” and the remake of “Firestarter” both just released, and “The Crazies” and “The Babadook” from the early 2010s. We’ll also have a really good short film for you.
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where this week, we cover:
“From Beyond the Grave” from 1974
“Il Demonio” aka “The Demon” from 1963
Next week, we’ll be back with more films!
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The Horror Guys Guide to:
Here. We. Go!
The Righteous (2022)
• Directed by Mark O’Brien
• Written by Mark O’Brien
• Stars Henry Czerny, Mark O’Brien, Mayko Nguyen
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Powerful performances, an intriguing script, and excellent cinematography make for a really good movie. It moves slowly and builds nicely. Definitely one worth checking out.
Frederic Mason prays for justice. We cut to a funeral, where Frederic and his wife, Ethel have lost their daughter. The old priest Graham talks to Frederic about moving so far away from everyone; twelve miles. Frederic also has mental lapses that concern the old priest. He wonders if Frederic has reconsidered quitting as a priest himself; he could go back to it.
At home, Frederic prays some more, and Ethel looks on a little disdainfully. Doris stops by to give her condolences, and she’s a scatterbrained chatterbox. Doris asks if Ethel ever told the girl that she was her real mother. This starts a whole new wave of grief for Ethel. Frederic nails the daughter’s door shut.
Frederic hears a scream outside. He takes a knife from the kitchen and goes outside looking for the source. A young man staggers up and falls down. He’s got a sprained or injured foot, but he can’t explain his foot. Frederic gets some first-aid stuff and goes back out to help the guy, who has since passed out. Frederic and Ethel carry him inside and fix him up.
Mary stops by; she’s the police for the area. Frederic makes up a convoluted story about the boy being his nephew. Ethel wants the guy to leave, but Frederic wants to “keep him.” His name is Aaron, and his story doesn’t really hold up. He’s not fooling anyone, but they let him stay the night anyway.
Frederic and Aaron talk about things. Aaron is a good listener and an even better storyteller. They talk until Aaron passes out again.
Frederic wakes up in the morning to find Ethel and Aaron singing in the kitchen. Ethel is now all in on keeping Aaron in the house; a total reversal. Frederic mentions that he’s been having his memory lapses for the past twenty years, ever since they moved from up north. After a very short while, they’re both happy to have Aaron there.
Out of the blue, Aaron tells Frederic that he wants Frederic to kill him. If he doesn't, Aaron says he’ll take Ethel with him. This is Frederic’s punishment. Frederic says he needs to leave now, but Aaron passes out once again, eliciting sympathy from Ethel. Things get weird after that. Aaron says he’s trying to save himself as much as Frederic and Ethel.
Aaron really does want to die. He says he was forced to kill their daughter on her bicycle. He thinks he was possessed. He reaches over to a flower, and it wilts immediately. They argue dramatically.
Turns out, twenty years ago, Frederic raped a woman who kept it quiet. Later, the woman died in childbirth, and Frederic ran away to another clergy. Aaron says he is that son, and Frederic actually prayed for justice during one of his lapses. This is the justice Frederic prayed for; this is his penance. Aaron insists that Frederic kill him.
Frederic goes to see Graham at the church, and they discuss sins. Graham suggests that Frederic’s conscience is causing all this. Maybe.
When he returns home, Ethel informs him that Aaron will be moving into their daughter’s room. He’s not leaving.
Frederic apologizes for leaving Aaron all those years ago. He apologizes for leading his mother along and using her. He’s not, however, willing to compound his sins by murdering Aaron.
Doris drops by again. She talks to Frederic about her nightmares. She feels like she let them down with her weakness, so she asks him for a blessing. When Frederic goes to look for his Bible, Aaron hurts Doris badly. Aaron admits to Ethel that he did it; he reveals everything about Frederic to her. Aaron ramps up the pressure until Frederic finally does stab him.
The police arrive, and officer Mary approaches Frederic. Frederic sees fireballs falling from the sky right toward him.
It’s all filmed in black and white to accentuate the moodiness and old-fashioned feeling of the film. There are some good sets and scenery, and the cinematography is quite good. It’s very much like a stage play, there’s never more than three people on screen at one time. Things develop slowly, but even with a bit of explanation in the middle, it’s not clear how it’s all going to end.
It’s about guilt, and faith, and sick, twisted justice.
• Directed by Keith Thomas
• Written by Stephen King, Scott Teems
• Stars Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s somewhat more of a reimagining of the story than a strict remake of the 1984 film starring Drew Barrymore. It’s very good, with an excellent cast and top-notch special effects.
Loving parents put their baby to sleep in the crib. It’s all very peaceful and happy. Suddenly, a fire breaks out in the baby’s room; a potted plant just bursts into flame. The father rushes back in to save the baby, but it too, bursts into flame.
Andy McGee wakes up. That was all just a nightmare. He goes in to check on Charlie, his young daughter, and finds her in the kitchen playing with a cigarette lighter. She says the “bad thing” inside her is changing. He reminds her how to calm herself down and not lose control. Mom, Vicky, wakes up, and they all have pancakes.
As credits roll, we watch old footage of the parents submitting to a science experiment involving telepathy, telekinesis, and injections of something call “Lot 6”. We also see that the experiment went horribly wrong for most of the participants.
Today, Andy hypnotizes a woman to quit smoking, telepathically. It works, and the patient is extremely pleased. He feels sick and his eye bleeds afterwards. At school, Charlie mentions that she doesn’t have Google or the Internet at home. She almost fries the other students in her class.
Vicky wants to train Charlie to use her powers, but Andy wants her to be a normal girl. The red headed kid at school picks on Charlie relentlessly, and she hides in the school restroom to literally let off some steam. When the teacher follows her, she finds something that’s definitely not normal as Charlie vents her frustrations in an explosive way.
“Bad men after us because of the special things we can do,” Andy explains to Charlie. They argue, and Charlie sets her mother’s arms on fire.
Meanwhile, in the evil-looking headquarters of DSI, satellites zoom in on Charlie’s school. Captain Hollister calls Rainbird to reactivate him. He’s a “cleaner.” Hollister suggests that Rainbird is “uniquely qualified” to deal with this subject.
Vicky demands that Andy take Charlie out to a movie or something to calm down, while she tries to pack with her severely burnt arms. Home alone, she senses someone inside the house, and it turns out to be Rainbird, who also has powers. Andy and Charlie return home and Rainbird threatens them both over Vicky’s dead body. Charlie sets everything on fire and they run away, but Rainbird avoids the worst of the blast somehow.
Captain Hollister goes to visit Dr. Wanless at the VA Hospital. He was the scientist in charge of the program back in the day. She says she wants to help Charlie, but Wanless thinks she just wants to use her. He warns that Charlie’s current powers are trivial to what they will be; she may someday be able to cause a nuclear explosion. He suggests they simply kill Charlie before it’s too late.
Andy “pushes” a farmer into helping them out. Charlie senses something weird about the place and finds Essie, the old man’s comatose wife. Andy tells the story about how he killed a couple of men to save Charlie the day she was born. The police show up, but Rainbird is there as well, and he shoots all the police and the farmer.
Rainbird comes up after Charlie, but Andy fights him with his mind. Rainbird knocks out Andy and captures him, but Charlie escapes. Rainbird reports to Hollister and says that Charlie will come for Andy.
Elsewhere, Charlie vows revenge and stalks menacingly toward the DSI prison. She uses her “push” powers on some kids for a bike, clothes, and lunch. She finds her way into the building, and they let her proceed downstairs. They turn out the lights, and we see “heat vision” where soldiers are following her.
She soon finds Andy, and Hollister. Captain Hollister spews her garbage, and Charlie doesn’t fall for it. Andy uses his power to “push” Charlie into killing everyone, himself and Hollister included.
Charlie uses her powers to unlock all the doors in the place, including that of Rainbird’s cell. Rainbird kills several of the guards, and she walks past him, letting him live. She burns the place to the ground, and outside, Rainbird carries her away; he really has switched sides.
There’s a big deal made about using the Internet or cell phones because the government could track them. It would be really hard to avoid that in the modern day.
It’s been years since I saw the original, but it seems to follow pretty much the same plot. They both follow the basics of the book. It’s good, but didn’t seem necessary when the first film adaptation was fine. But that’s show business.
Rainbird has powers in this version (plus he’s actually played by a Native American actor in this one rather than a white actor as in the original and sequel), and Charlie has more abilities - those of both her parents plus her own fire power.
The acting was good, the story moved along at a nice pace, and the special effects were very good. I’m not sure that this is a film that needed a remake, but it was well done.
Short Film: Rancour (2022)
• Directed by Dane Hallett
• Written by Dane Hallett
• Stars Travis Jeffery, Elaine Hudson
• Run Time: 18:42
• Watch it:
Dale pulls something out of his stomach. What was that? There’s a knock at the door; it’s his mother, bringing food. The place is a filthy mess, but she pretends not to notice. It soon becomes clear that Dale’s hiding something strange in the back bedroom. Mother says that Dale’s father has lost a lot of weight and is in the hospital. Dale’s very distracted and acts very zoned-out. As they talk, strange things start to move within the apartment. Some of it crawls into her purse...
If you’ve ever had an unexpected guest interrupt something you don’t want to talk about, you know exactly the mood of the film. It’s pretty clearly a metaphor for addiction and drug use, but it’s also good as a straight up horror film. The production values are great; nothing looks cheap. The acting is excellent, and the body horror really works.
The Crazies (2010)
• Directed by Brock Eisner
• Written by Scott Kosar, Ray Wright
• Stars Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, Danielle Panabaker
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is another one that we get to see unfold and figure out what’s going on along with the characters. The opening scene is one of disaster. Then we go back to two days earlier to see what led to that point, and we go beyond it. It’s pretty realistically done, the cast is all fine, special effects are great. It’s one that slipped under a lot of people’s radar, but is worth the watch for sure.
We see a disaster, then we flash back two days earlier. Dr. Judy gives her assistant Becca the afternoon off to go to the baseball game. David is the sheriff, and he’s at the game as well. As the game progresses, the cops there notice a man walking onto the field carrying a gun. David goes out to stop the man as everyone else clears the field. It’s Rory, the town’s “reformed” drunk, who isn’t usually violent. Rory points the gun at David, so David shoots him. We zoom out to see airplanes leaving chemtrails over the town of Ogden Marsh. Credits roll.
The next morning, Judy tells her husband David that he did the right thing. The ME calls and explains that Rory hadn’t been drinking at all. What made him go off like that? David goes back to the baseball field and talks to Principal Ben, who seems completely out of it. Judy sees patients, and patient Bill seems very distracted and zoned out. His wife says he’s not right, and he doesn’t seem that way, but the doctor can’t find anything actually wrong with him. She sends him home with them, ordering rest and more advanced tests in a bigger town next week if he’s not improved. That night, Bill gets a knife and forces his family to hide in the closet. Then Bill locks them in and sets fire to the house, killing them both. David and Judy go over there, and it’s clear that Bill has lost his mind.
The next morning, a bunch of hunters find a parachute and a dead body in the swamp. Bill’s in custody, and David comments that he’s giving exactly the same look Rory gave him. The sheriff investigates the skydiver, and looks for a crashed airplane as well. They soon find a big plane sunk in the swamp. We zoom out to see satellite visuals of the area. Someone is watching.
David considers that the swap drains into the town’s drinking water. The mayor says he won’t turn off the town’s water supply under any circumstances. David then shuts it all down anyway. Deputy Russell finds Bill apparently dead in his cell. No, he’s faking it, and his craziness has gotten a lot worse. Just then they discover the phone lines are out. So is cell service and the Internet. The streets are deserted.
There’s a disturbance in the mortuary. David investigates and finds a man with his mouth sewn shut. The mortician has gone insane as well, but Russell comes in and saves the day. David sends Russell to get help. That night, Judy refuses to leave town, but David really wants her to get out. Out of nowhere, a bunch of military guys load David and Judy onto a bus at gunpoint. Russell and many others are already on board. Russell says he was intercepted on the way out of town.
They are taken to a huge compound with a bunch of medical and military personnel. They’re checking people’s temperature. Judy’s got a temperature, so they lock her away separate from David. There’s a shootout with some hunters in a pickup who breach the fence, and a bunch of the sick people break out of their enclosure in panic.
They take Judy to a hospital where everyone is wearing contagion suits. David is taken to a huge truck stop at the edge of town and held there with many others. He wants to go back for Judy. Judy finds Becca strapped to the table next to her; they can’t escape.
At the medical compound, the military starts to pull back since things are spiraling out of control. David meets up with Russell, who also escaped from the sick zone.
Principal Ben comes into the sick area and starts stabbing people with a pitchfork until David comes in and shoots him before he can kill Judy. They decide to try to get out of town, and we see that the town is burning in multiple places, which is where the pre-credit sequence began. Wrecked vehicles and debris are everywhere. Judy wonders if she’s actually sick or if she had the temperature because she’s pregnant.
They stop to pick up Scotty, Becca’s boyfriend, and they run into more military guys. They watch Scotty and his mother gunned down and burned by the soldiers. They make it to David and Judy’s house, but they run into Rory’s family, who are heavily infected now. Russell shoots them both, and the group continues. Judy thinks Russell is infected; he wouldn’t shoot people like that... would he? He is looking sweaty and erratic.
They drive into a car wash to avoid the helicopters. The car wash activates and pulls the car in. They’re attacked by more crazies, and they lose Becca. When they get out to check on Becca, the helicopter blows up their car.
They capture an intelligence guy, and he explains that it was a biological weapon that was on the plane and infected the town. The crash was an accident. “After 48 hours, you’re either dead or you don’t have it.“ Russell then shoots the guy halfway through the conversation; he’s clearly infected.
Russell holds Judy and David at gunpoint as they continue walking. David finally disarms Russell, who realizes he’s infected but promises to behave and begs to tag along. They continue on until they find another military checkpoint. Russell volunteers to be a distraction so the other two can sneak past the camp. That goes badly for Russell, but it does go according to plan.
David and Judy make it to the truck stop, which had been their goal, but everyone has gone. David goes inside, while Judy looks around out back. They find a truckload of dead people; the army exterminated everyone, not just the sick.
David finds a radio and overhears an aircraft saying something about “T minus ten minutes on the countdown.” Judy soon learns that they aren’t as alone as she thought and hides among the corpses to avoid the men. There’s still time for one more big battle with crazies before they can steal a semi and leave.
They take the truck down the road toward Cedar Rapids. They hear the countdown continuing on the radio and speed up. When zero hits, what looks like a nuke over the little town goes off, vaporizing all the infected, non-infect, and everything else. The truck goes off the road and crashes in the shock wave, but the pair survives.
The two walk on, and we eventually see the big city just ahead of them. We then see a computer readout explaining that it’s time to “contain” Cedar Rapids as well. It’s not over.
Timothy Olyphant is always good. He often plays the exact same character, but at least he’s good at it. Everyone else here is fine, but the real star here is the mystery behind what’s going on.
It unfolds slowly, and it’s fun watching the mess build. We don’t know if it's a plague, a contaminant, or some kind of zombie thing until about halfway in.
The action scenes are good, but not unbelievable. The “crazies” use weapons and can think, so they aren’t typical undead zombies, but otherwise, it’s pretty much the same kind of thing.
The Babadook (2014)
• Directed by Jennifer Kent
• Written by Jennifer Kent
• Stars Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Denshall
• Run Time: 1 Hour 34 Minutes
Amelia dreams about being in a traffic accident with her husband. Her son Samuel has nightmares about monsters. Credits roll.
Samuel is an annoying child, and he’s obsessed with monsters. Amelie is a nurse, and she gets a call from school about Samuel’s obsession with weapons. He has “significant behavioral problems.” Amelia wants Samuel to get special, individual attention from the public school system.
Samuel explains to a stranger that his father died in a car accident driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to him seven years ago. Amelia’s friends don’t want their children to play with Samuel anymore, because he’s so troubled and off. Amelia finds the dog scratching at her basement door, but the door is locked, so there can’t be anything down there.
Samuel picks a bedtime story from the shelf. It’s a book called “The Babadook.” It rhymes, and it’s about a friendly monster. But it quickly gets dark. It’s not a children’s story, and Samuel goes into a screaming fit.
The next day, Amelia forbids Samuel to even mention the Babadook or monster-talk of any kind. Robbie is friendly with Amelia at work, and she thinks he’s nice. She gets ten calls from her sister, Samuel wouldn’t shut up about the Babadook. Robbie comes over, and Samuel spoils that too.
It’s clear that Amelia isn’t completely over the death of her husband, and little Samuel is only making it worse. She finds glass in her food, and Samuel explains that “The Babadook did it!”
Is there a monster? Is it exerting mental pressure on Amelia, or is it all just real pressures? It could be either.
Something happens one night, and Samuel is terrified. Amelie Rips the Babadook book to shreds. The lights flicker that night, and Amelia hears footsteps in the house.
Samuel makes an impression at his cousin’s birthday party. “Why can’t you just be normal!” She screams at him. Samuel has a convulsion, and the doctor checks him out. She begs the doctor to give Samuel sedatives. That night, she finally has a quiet night’s sleep.
In the morning, there’s a knock on the door, and when she looks, it’s the Babadook book, all taped up and put back together. It shows the mother killing the dog, killing the child, and then killing herself. It’s now a lot more graphic than it was before, so she burns it in the grille outside. She gets a phone call, “Ba-ba-dook ook ook.”
Children’s services come by the house. Samuel tells them about the drugs his mother gave him, and they are unimpressed. That night, she sees the Babadook in her neighbor’s apartment and hears strange noises in her own house. She hears it and sees it in the room this time, so now she believes in the monster.
Amelia, completely sleep-deprived, starts to take things out on Samuel. Amelia is pretty much losing her mind by this point, and starts to sleep with her husband’s violin. Samuel wants to stay somewhere else at night, and from the way Amelia’s started acting, I don’t exactly blame him. She’s starting to dream about killing Samuel.
The sedatives keep making Samuel sick, but Amelia won’t stop feeding them to him. She starts being mean to the dog, who won’t come around her anymore either. She talks to her dead husband, who says they can all be together again. “All you have to do is bring me the boy.” That night. She strangles the dog and then pulls out one of her own teeth.
She comes after Samuel, but he fights her off with his weapons. The old lady next door comes over to see what the ruckus is all about. This breaks the spell, at least for a bit, and Amelia apologizes to Samuel. They’ll both stay next door tonight. Samuel, on the other hand, stabs her and then it’s “Home Alone” as she chases him. He wins.
Amelia wakes up tied up in the basement. She then pukes up the Babadook, or maybe a gallon of blood, whichever. Samuel says they can’t escape the Babadook. Amelia screams at the monster to go away, and it does.
The two of them go to stay with the old lady next door, and things start to recover. They gather worms from the garden, and Amelia unlocks the basement door. She takes the worms downstairs to feed to the Babadook, which she keeps down there now like a pet. Samuel finally has a birthday party.
I have often complained about children in horror films, and this kid is the worst of the worst. I suspect the vast majority of the audience wanted this kid to get eaten, maimed, possessed, or otherwise mutilated after the first ten minutes. Never has a more obnoxious, annoying child been featured in any film. If there was ever a temptation to have children, potential parents should be forced to sit through this training film.
Amelia is cracking up from grief and pressure, and the film is clearly about her descent into madness. She lost her husband in an accident, is a single mother, and has had numerous issues with her kid’s behavior and personality. It wears on a person. I know this, and I only had to sit through 45 minutes of the film before I wanted to kill the kid. This was probably not the filmmaker’s intent, but there it is.
As long as the kid is annoying, it was all very unpleasant, but once the mother went crazy, it got a lot more creepy and entertaining. I can see why people find this movie unsettling, as it’s mostly just a story about an insane mother abusing her child. It’s very weird.
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