Horror Bulletin
Horror Bulletin
I Saw the TV Glow, Saw X, Jigsaw, Spiral, The Invisible Ghost, and Black Sunday
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I Saw the TV Glow, Saw X, Jigsaw, Spiral, The Invisible Ghost, and Black Sunday

Weekly Horror Bulletin Issue #288

We’ll start out this week watching the recent “I Saw the TV Glow” from 2024. We liked it but admit that we probably didn’t fully understand all of it. Then we’ll get caught up by watching the most recent three movies in the “Saw” series: “Jigsaw” (2017), “Spiral” (2021), and “Saw X” from 2023. Then we’ll watch some old classics, “Black Sunday” from 1960 and “The Invisible Ghost” from way back in 1941. This is one of those rare weeks where we liked everything!

Check out all our books with one easy link: https://brianschell.com/collection/horrorguys

I Saw the TV Glow (2024) 

  • Directed by Jane Schoenbrun

  • Written by Jane Schoenbrun

  • Stars Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Ian Foreman

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This is a beautiful, well-made movie with bright colors and angst and allegories galore. It’s a slow-moving piece, and we can’t say we quite understood it, but it kept us watching with fascination. It’s just a television show that Owen is watching, so how could it be impacting reality? Well, it certainly seems to be. We’d recommend it for a watch with the caveat that you’ll probably love it, hate it, or be baffled.

Spoilery Synopsis

Young Owen watches a trailer for a horror movie on TV. Credits roll. It’s 1996, and Owen is in school, waiting for his mother to vote. He sees a girl reading a book about that show, “Pink Opaque.” He talks to Maddy, who’s two years ahead of him in school. He wants to watch the show, but it’s on in the evening past his bedtime. 

He asks his mom if he can stay over at a friend’s house, and she makes it all as awkward as possible. Then he goes to Maddy’s house instead, where he can stay up to watch the show. 

We watch some of the show, and it’s full of lame teenage dialogue and a killer ice cream cone. Afterward, Maddy explains the show to him; the ice cream man is just the monster of the week, Mr. Melancholy is the “Big Bad.” Isabel and Tara are the main characters, and they are the Pink Opaque. He doesn’t really understand most of it. He goes to sleep on the floor at her house. In the morning, Owen walks home, thinking about the show. 

Two years later, Owen’s mother has cancer. She says he always seems like he’s somewhere else lately. He still has a 10:15 bedtime, and he’s not allowed to watch the show. His father is a jerk, so he’s still not allowed to watch it. He tells Maddy this, and she starts taping it for him. She also writes him a lot of notes about the show. 

He watches them over and over again. We watch part of the pilot episode with him, where the two girls meet. Owen wants to stay at Maddy’s house overnight and watch the show live, but she warns him that she’s into girls, not him. Owen doesn’t much care for boys or girls, he just likes TV shows. He thinks maybe there’s something wrong with him. They stay up late (for him) and watch the show, and Maddy cries during the episode. 

Maddy tells Owen that she’s going to be leaving town soon, as her parents are just terrible. She draws the symbol that the TV show characters have on their backs, on his. That night, he dreams about the glow of the TV. Maddy tells Owen to make plans for next week, so they can run away together. He doesn’t really want to go, and Maddy disappears without a trace; all they found was her TV set burning in the backyard. “The Pink Opaque” got canceled that same month. 

Eight years later, Owen works at a theater. He’s still very shy around people, and his coworkers laugh at him. One night, on the drive home from work, he sees strange lights in the road- a fallen power cable. He finds a page from one of the Pink Opaque books. Owen’s mother has died years before, and his father is still awful. 

Owen goes to the grocery store and sees someone acting strangely. It’s Maddy. We cut to a band singing a song as Owen and Maddy talk in the back. Everyone thought she was dead, but all she wants to talk about is the show. “Do you remember it as just a TV show? Do you ever get confused? Like the memory isn’t quite right?” We flash back to her making him wear dresses during the show. Were they actually in the show? 

She says she has been inside the show for all these years. She can’t stay here much longer, she’s going back soon. She wants him to meet her tomorrow night at midnight. Owen goes home and watches the tape of the show’s final episode. It absolutely doesn’t feel like a kids’ show anymore. Both the main characters die and are buried alive. Then the show just ends. 

Owen’s father goes into the basement and finds Owen trying to crawl inside the picture tube of the TV. The father carries him up to the bathroom, where he vomits TV sparks. 

Owen goes to see Maddy, who explains that she ran away to Phoenix and got a job. She bought a coffin and paid some guy to bury her alive. She talks about watching herself start to die and then clawing her way out of the coffin. She goes on and on about her exploits and drama. She says all his memories were put there to distract him from the Midnight Realm. 

Owen says “This is just the suburbs.” He thinks she may have gone insane, but follows along anyway. She really seems to think she’s in the show. He tackles her and then runs away. 

Owen waited for Maddy to come back, but he never saw her again. Her story couldn’t be true, could it? What if she was right?

More years pass. Owen throws out his old CRT TV and gets a new flat-screen. He tells us directly that he’s got his own family now. He’s watching “The Pink Opaque” on streaming now. It was nothing like he remembered, truly awful, cheesy, and cheap. It’s nothing like what he saw when he was younger, and that embarasses him. 

Twenty years later, older Owen still works at the Fun Center, but he doesn’t look healthy. He freaks out and screams during a birthday party, and everyone freezes as he rants and cries. He later goes into the restroom and uses a box cutter to slice open his own chest. When he tears his chest open, there’s a TV inside there, playing the good shows. 

Commentary

I’m sure this is some kind of artsy allegory for something, but I have no idea what. There’s a lot here about being a fan of media, especially before the Internet, and how people would obsess over their favorite shows– especially kids who didn’t have anything else. Maddy talks about the real world suffocating him, and toward the end, more and more, Owen has trouble breathing. 

It’s very atmospheric, visually interesting, but slow-moving. We went into this completely blind, and still felt kind of blind afterward. I never really did have any idea where it was going, but it kept my interest throughout.  

I liked it a lot, but I feel like I didn’t really understand it as much as I should have. 

Jigsaw (2017) 

  • Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

  • Written by Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger

  • Stars Matt Passmore, Tobin Bell, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Anderson

  • Run Time: 1Hour, 31 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

Ten years have passed since John’s death, but we start right out with a group of people in a trap. Bodies of those who failed are dumped outside, putting the police on the case as well as two medical examiners. It’s got all the Saw elements, and it’s decently made, making us wonder what’s going on. If you’re a fan of the previous films, especially the first few, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Spoilery Synopsis

We open with a high-speed chase as someone runs from the cops and causes a lot of mayhem along the way. He climbs up to the roof of a building, the cops pull their guns, and the man, Edgar, claims that five people are going to die if Detective Halloran doesn’t show up within minutes. Edgar says the game is just about to get started; he’s holding some kind of hand-held detonator, so the cops shoot it. As Edgar collapses, hand blown off and one in the chest, he groans, “The game– it’s started.” Credits roll. 

Five people wake up with buckets bolted to their heads. A very familiar voice comes over the speaker and explains the rules. All the buckets have a chain that’s going to pull them into spinning saw blades. John says he wants an offering of blood to get out of this trap. One girl lightly cuts herself on a saw blade and gets out. She warns the others, who lose more or less blood. They get pulled into the next room, all but one guy, who dies. Anna, Mitch, Carly, and Ryan are in the trap room. 

At the hospital, Detective Halloran and Hunt talk about Edgar. They can’t figure out what Edgar was up to, and he’s not able to tell them because of his wounds. 

In the park, some people find the man who died in the saw-room hanging from a bridge. He’s still wearing his bucket-helmet. The corpse has a jigsaw piece carved into his neck. Halloran mentions that it’s like what John Kramer used to do, but he’s been dead for ten years. He’s got a tag, “and then there were four” on a memory card. The card has an audio of Jigsaw, saying there are going to be four more; it sounds like John Kramer. 

In the trap room, Billy rides his tricycle with a sign, “Confess” around his neck. The chains start pulling them again, and they all start confessing. Mitch sold a guy a bad motorcycle, Anna lost her baby, but those aren’t much. Mitch plays the audio tape. We get a flashback to a purse snatcher, stealing a dying woman’s medication. Carly gets a one-in-three chance of injecting herself with acid. 

Carly admits to accidentally killing someone as a result of her stealing. She and Ryan argue about the injections until Ryan stabs her with all the syringes. That… turns out to be really messy. 

Back at the morgue, Halloran reports that the voice ID says that it was John Kramer on the recording. The dead guy was a degenerate who got off the hook for murdering his own wife. 

Mitch, Ryan, and Anna move into the next room. Ryan says he sold bad mortgages and good coke; Anna mentions that her husband rolled over and suffocated her baby, but that wasn’t her fault. Ryan tries to break down the door marked “No Exit,” and ends up stepping into a trap that seems poised to cut his leg off. 

Carly’s body is found by the police, and Logan, the coroner, and his assistant, Eleanor, get to work on her, identifying the acid that killed her. Halloran starts to suspect that they might be the killers. Eleanor has been spending a lot of time on the dark web researching Jigsaw. They find a blood sample on the first victim, and it’s John Kramer’s blood. 

Mitch and Anna get stuck in a grain silo, and video screens come on. Billy explains that Ryan can save the other two if he’s brave enough to pull the lever before they’re buried alive. Ryan worries that he’ll lose his leg if he pulls the lever. It’s all very tense, but eventually, Ryan pulls the lever. Ryan does lose his leg, but the others get out of the silo. 

Eleanor and Logan talk about them both being Halloran’s suspects in the case. Halloran’s not a great detective, and several suspects have gotten off on technicalities in the past. Eleanor admits that her alibi for the first victim is sketchy, so she drives him to her “studio,” where she’s collected a whole bunch of John’s old traps. She got John’s plans and built some of them herself. Detective Hunt has followed them and starts taking pictures. 

Back at the hospital, someone kidnaps Edgar. Halloran looks into Logan’s military history, he was tortured during the war. 

In the trap room, Mitch finds a tape with his name on it. John brings up the faulty brakes on the motorcycle Mitch sold; the guy who bought it was John’s nephew. Mitch is suspended above some huge shredding blades, powered by the same motorcycle engine. There’s not much left of Mitch when that’s over. Someone in a pig mask sedates Anna. 

The cops have John Kramer exhumed. Inside the coffin– is Edgar. Halloran and Hunt raid Eleanor’s Jigsaw studio. They find Mitch’s body there, which seems almost too easy. Hunt goes to arrest Logan, who claims it must have been Halloran. Hunt is with Internal Affairs and is already investigating Halloran. Could Halloran be a copycat killer? 

Eleanor comes to Logan; she says she knows where the current game is taking place. 

Anna wakes up in chains next to Ryan. We see that they really are with the real John Kramer, not dead at all. He tells what Ryan’s guilty of. Anna used to be John’s neighbor, and he knows that she was the one who killed her baby. Her husband was accused, and he later killed himself. 

Eleanor drives Logan to an abandoned pig slaughterhouse that used to be owned by John’s wife. Halloran has followed them. They go inside, and we see that it’s the right place. Halloran comes in, gun drawn, and there’s a fight. Someone injects Halloran with a knockout drug. 

Hunt finds little jigsaw-shaped pieces of flesh in Halloran’s freezer. 

John leaves Ryan and Anna a gun with one shell inside and leaves. One must shoot the other, or so it appears. Anna grabs the gun, points it at Ryan, and the gun shoots backward, killing her. Unfortunately, the key to Ryan’s padlock was destroyed in the gun blast. 

Logan wakes up in a trap right across from Halloran, in the same kind of trap as him. John’s voice comes on and says they are the final two players. Their collars have laser cutters inside; all they have to do to escape is confess their sins. 

Logan admits that he was the medical student who messed up John’s X-rays many years ago, making his cancer harder to cure. The laser slices him anyway, with blood gushing out his neck as he collapses. Halloran starts confessing all his police screw-ups and wrongdoings. The lasers turn off, but he’s not released. 

Then Logan stands up; his lasers weren’t fatal at all, and the blood was fake. Logan is the one behind all this, after all. He recorded Halloran’s confession. Ten years ago, a game just like the one with Anna, Ryan, and the others took place in this barn. He was the first body, the guy we never really saw die. John gave him a second chance and took him on as a protege. So Logan decided to re-enact the very same games with Mitch, Ryan, Carly, and the others. Logan adds that Edgar killed his wife, but Halloran kept him out of prison because Edgar was his informant. 

We get a flashback showing how Logan set all this up. Logan turns Halloran’s lasers back on, and they split his head open like a Bloomin’ Onion. “I speak for the dead,” Logan says as he leaves. 

Commentary

Taking place ten years after the previous film, there’s none of the same characters here. It’s got more traps and fewer callbacks, essentially a reboot. 

It’s nothing unique or different, but if you like the others, this is good too!

Spiral (2021) 

  • Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

  • Written by Josh Stolberg, Pete Goldfinger

  • Stars Chris Rock, Samuel L. Jackson, Max Minghella

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This was set in the same universe as the “Saw” movies and a sort of spinoff. It was well made, with realistic effects and decent acting. But it managed to be a little bland and, we thought, easy to solve the mystery. If you’re a fan of the series, you might want to see it for completion, but we don’t give it a high recommendation.

Spoilery Synopsis

A purse snatcher runs through a crowded carnival, and another guy with a gun chases him down into the subway tunnels. A man with a pig mask grabs him from behind. He wakes up inside a machine that is chained to his tongue, and he’s balanced over the track. The pigman comes on the screen and says he wants to play a game. He is accused of lying on the stand to put innocent people in jail. The only way he can get out of the trap is to rip his own tongue off. He takes too long, and the train hits him. Credits roll. 

Zeke Banks goes on a tirade about Forrest Gump, how he died of AIDS from Jenny, which is why there was never a sequel. His friends then break into the hotel room next door and steal a bunch of money from drug dealers. Then, a dozen cops arrest them all; turns out Zeke is an undercover cop. 

Captain Garza chews out Zeke for being a lone wolf cop. She assigned Detective Schenk to be his new partner and babysitter. Zeke turned in a bad cop twelve years ago and has been paying for it ever since. They are assigned to investigate a case where a guy got hit by a train. Zeke and Schenk talk about how hard it is to be a cop. They find the guy from the opening scene– or what’s left of him. 

Back at the station, Zeke gets a flash drive that says, “Play Me.” The spiral on the tape hints that it’s related to the Jigsaw killings, but that was a long time ago, and this might be a copycat killing of some kind. They find the man’s tongue and badge– he was Boz, a cop friend of Zeke’s. 

Zeke takes charge of the case, which annoys many of the other detectives. He goes to see Kara, Boz’s wife. Lisa, Zeke’s wife, is there as well. Zeke goes home and finds Marcus, his father, a retired cop, already there; they argue. 

The detectives all get together and talk about the evidence they don’t have. Detective Finch finds out that Boz was chasing a small-time crook named Benny and steals a gun from a shop. Finch goes to where Benny stays, but someone grabs him from behind and puts him into a machine. 

We flashback to when Zeke turned in Pete, the dirty cop. Zeke’s father Marcus was the police chief at the time, and he was not happy about the situation. Zeke gets another video taunting him and the police. It leads them to a box of fingers and Finch’s badge. We flashback to Finch not doing his job when Zeke got shot. We then flash to what happened to Finch– he was in a finger-pulling-off machine. 

Checking out enemies, Zeke goes to see Pete, the cop he got thrown off the force. He’s uncooperative but still tells Zeke what he needs to know. Zeke gets another box, and this one has a doll wearing the skin off Schenk’s arm. The little paint bottle included leads them to a hobby shop where they find Schenk’s skinned body. 

Meanwhile, Captain Garza gets gassed in the cold-case room and passes out. The pig-mask guy is there and puts her in the next contraption. The tape comes on and says she covers up the corruption in her department. This machine, as with Finch, is a no-win situation, and she dies painfully. 

O’Brien suggests that Marcus may be involved, since he knew about the hobby shop location, and Zeke hits him. Both Pete and Marcus had access to the security camera footage at the police station. Someone grabs Zeke. We cut to Marcus, checking out a “spiral” location. There’s a note asking if he wants to play a game. Someone grabs him as well. 

Zeke wakes up chained to a pipe with a hacksaw within reach. He could cut his arm off– or he could use the hairpin to pick the lock. He gets out and finds Pete hanging from his hands from the roof. Pete denies knowing anything about anything that’s been going on. They play a tape and hear about Pete’s crime. This particular trap shoots broken glass at Pete unless Zeke can unlock the padlocks holding him there. Zeke finds the key, but it’s too late for Pete.  

Zeke goes into the next room and finds Schenk there, not dead after all. Pete killed Schenk’s father. Schenk lied about everything else. Pete, Finch, Boz, and the others were all crooked, not like Zeke. Schenk wants to partner up with Zeke to “clean up” the police force. Schenk shows Zeke into a room where his father hangs from chains. Zeke has one bullet to either shoot Schenk or free Marcus. He reveals that Marcus was the one who corrupted the police force in the first place. 

Zeke shoots the trap and releases Marcus. He chases and beats up Schenck. The police arrive outside and start cutting through the steel door. They cut through a cable that pulls Marcus right back up again like a puppet on strings. The cables on Marcus make him raise a gun and point it at the cops, who blow him away excessively. 

Schenk takes the elevator and gets away. 

Commentary

Kevin felt early on that Schenk would turn out to be the killer. I thought it was more likely Marcus. Both of them were apparently eliminated as suspects well before the end, but either could have been a red herring. 

This is more of a side-story to the main series, as it’s a copycat killer, but John/Jigsaw doesn’t appear at all in this one. Since it’s not John, the rules are different, and we never really know why any of this is happening until the end. 

I will quote Kevin on this one, “It was OK.” Definitely not up to the rest of the series, but not bad in itself. 

Short Film: Pizza Panic Party (2024) 

  • Directed by Graham Denman

  • Written by Graham Denman

  • Stars Avery Potemkin, Sydney McCarthy, Chaya Mathews, Kyra Wisely

  • Run Time: 9:37

  • Watch it:

What Happens

Margo, Jeanette, Tracy, and Sandra are four teenagers in 1986. They get together to watch movies and listen to music in their typically 80s style. They order in pizza, but one of the girls argues about the toppings, leaving more for Margo. As Margo eats the pizza, she, and the others, soon regret it. 

Commentary

This looks great. It’s really got that 80s aesthetic down, much like “Stranger Things” did before they gave up on it. The special effects are really good for a short, and the dialog and gore shots are perfect for the retro look of the film. It’s really good, possibly in the running for our “Best of the Year” this time around. 

Saw X (2023) 

  • Directed by Kevin Greutert

  • Written by Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg

  • Stars Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Synnove Macody Lund, Steven Brand

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 58 Minutes

  • Trailer:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

This is effectively “Saw 1.5,” taking place between the first and second movies. John is the main character this time around which was interesting, giving his lessons more directly and hands-on. There are games and traps galore, and we thought it was excellent. One of the best in the series.

Spoilery Synopsis

We open on John getting some medical tests done. We then cut to him in a cancer support group. The doctor gives him a few months to a year to live along with some unsupportive advice.  

While in the hospital, John sees one of the staff, a custodian, go through another patient’s things and steal his watch. We cut to that staff member sitting inside one of Jigsaw’s finger-breaking, eyeball-sucking-out games. No– that was all just John’s imagination; the custodian sees John watching and puts the watch back in the drawer and avoids that fate. 

John sees a man he met in the support group; he’s in remission now and feeling much better. Henry talks about a doctor that he read about who operated on him and gave medication – but the treatment isn’t approved yet. He gives him a link to Dr. Finn Pederson. John researches Pederson on the Internet. There’s a whole conspiracy thing going on where Pederson went into hiding from Big Pharma because he could cure cancer, and they want to shut him down. Pederson’s daughter is still active, and John contacts her. 

She soon calls John and sets up a time to get him into treatment near Mexico City. They arrange to pick John up at the airport and take him to the treatment, but on the way, they are pulled over by bandits. No– the bandits work for the hospital; the “kidnapping” was just to avoid infiltrators from the big drug companies. 

He gets to the big building and meets Gabriela, who shows him around. She says that Cecilia Pederson saved her life. The place used to be a chemical factory, but now it’s a secret high-tech operating facility. He meets Valentina and Mateo, some of the staff, as well as Parker Sears, another patient. 

Cecilia asks John what he does, and he says he helps people overcome their obstacles, sort of like a “life coach.” Not long after, John undergoes brain surgery. Later, he wakes up in a hotel, and Cecilia says he’s doing much better. She tells him to leave his bandage alone, drink his medicine for the next seven days, and then go home; he’ll be fine. He agrees to wire the second half of the payment in the morning. 

A few days later, he takes a bottle of tequila as a gift to Gabriela and finds the whole “hospital” deserted and realizes that his whole treatment was fake. He pulls off his bandages, and there’s no scar, no hole, nothing. 

Diego, the taxi driver/surgeon, is first; he tells John everything he knows about where the others are, but that doesn’t stop the two explosives embedded in his wrists. He could cut his own arms up– which will he choose? Diego gets to cutting, and removes both of the explosive devices in time. “You’re going to be OK,” says John, who takes him a first aid kit. 

Then John calls his detective friend and arranges for some help finding the others. 

Mateo, actually a veterinarian who sells animal drugs on the side, is captured. Gabriela gets captured. Valentina too. 

We cut to Cecilia, who has piles of cash on her desk to pay her accomplices. She also is captured– by Amanda, John’s “associate.” 

Mateo, Gabriela, Valentina, and Cecilia all wake up in a warehouse. When John comes in, they all know what’s up. They all beg and blame Cecilia. 

Valentina gets to play first. She has to either suck all the marrow out of her own severed leg or be beheaded by a wire. John tells the others that all of them are going to play a game like this. They’ve conned 34 people over 8 years, and John is not happy about it. 

Valentina touches the suction device, and her counter starts. She puts on the tourniquet and starts cutting on her leg. She uses the wire and starts sawing; the leg falls off. She hooks up the suction device, which starts draining her marrow. She’s just a little too slow, however, and ends up losing her head. 

The others are now convinced that this is not a trick. John and Amanda discuss philosophy and second chances. 

Meanwhile, Cecilia cuts out Valentina’s intestines to use as a rope to pull in a bag with a cellphone inside. She gets the phone, but Amanda soon takes it away. 

There’s a pounding at the door. Parker Sears is there, and he wants his money back. Amanda whacks him and ties him to a chair. He tells John that the doctors were crooks and didn’t operate on him either. John shows him his prisoners on the monitors. They explain the games and rules to Sears, who agrees to help them. 

Mateo is up next. Billy wheels out a tray of medical equipment and a tape. Mateo’s job is to cut out parts of his own brain and put them in a jar within three minutes, or something bad will happen. Cecilia talks him through the procedure, and there is much screaming. Again, he’s too slow and the machine cooks his head. 

Cecilia admits that she’s a fraud, but her father is real. She can get John in for treatment by him, but John doesn’t even entertain the idea. 

Gabriela is next, with her arm and one leg chained and suspended in mid-air. He’s hooked up part of a radiation treatment machine to slowly fry her unless she breaks her arm and ankle. She uses the metal bar to break her ankle and get out of that chain. She starts beating at her wrist as the blisters on her face grow bigger and bigger. John tells Amanda to take her to the hospital. 

Just then, Parker Sears grabs his gun and demands that Amanda give him the keys. He leads them both down to the “game area,” and it becomes clear that he’s been in on the con all along. He releases Cecilia and puts John in her trap in her place. John still wants Gabriela sent to the hospital, but Cecilia stabs her instead. 

Cecilia stops and gloats over how she’s outsmarted John. She’s actually glad that John removed her accomplices, “loose ends.” She knew all along that he was Jigsaw. She hears the little boy, Carlos, outside playing ball and brings him inside to put in the same “game” as John. 

Sears activates the game, and both John and Carlos are pulled to the floor in chains. Both of them take turns being drowned in blood, mostly John taking the worst of it. Which one will sacrifice the other? Sears and Cecilia go upstairs to get their cash. They grab the bag of money and a timer is triggered; they are in the true final game. The trap in the game room stops, and John, Amanda, and Carlos release themselves from the not-deadly trap and fake restraints. John tells little Carlos that he’s a warrior. We flash back to John disabling Sears’s gun. We also see Diego telling John all about Sears’s part in the scam. 

Jigsaw comes on the speaker, telling them that he knew everything about their tricks all night. Gas starts flooding the room they are locked in. He says only one of them can survive the next trap. The gas is poison, but there’s a hole that one of them can breathe through. They fight over the hole, and Cecilia ends up stabbing Sears. She survives but is injured, broke, and alone.

John takes Cecilia’s bag of money and gives it to Carlos. He and Amanda lead the boy outside. 

In an after-credit scene, we see John get revenge on Henry, who showed him a fake scar and got this whole mess started. Detective Hoffman has caught him and says that Henry picked the absolute worst guy to scam. 

Commentary

This is actually the first time that John is the main character and not a policeman or other victim. 

In Saw VI, John’s insurance denied him coverage for this treatment; in this one, he tries for it anyway. This one actually takes place between “Saw” and “Saw II.” How does a sickly old man in Mexico, who doesn’t speak the language at all, make these death machines? Billy and the audio tapes aren’t really necessary since John is right there, personally involved this time, but they’re a nice connection to the other films. 

Both Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith look way too old for a prequel movie, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. In all the films, John’s victims are criminals or otherwise deserve what they get, but this time, it all seems much more personal and reasonable. 

This might be the best of the series after the original. 

Invisible Ghost (1941) 

  • Directed by Joseph H. Lewis

  • Written by Helen Martin, Al Martin

  • Stars Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire, Clarence Muse

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 4 Minutes

  • Watch it:

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone

The premise is a little far-fetched in this one, but it still manages to be a decent film. There are no actual ghosts, just crazy people doing crazy things. Still, it’s fun, and the cast does a nice job with it.

Spoilery Synopsis

Charles Kessler comes downstairs, and the servant Evans says it’s time for dinner. Charles sits at the table alone and talks to his wife, who is just an empty chair. Evan serves “her” first. Is he insane, or is there a ghost? 

Virginia asks Evans about her father, and she doesn’t seem surprised. Ralph comes to the door, and Virginia isn’t thrilled to see him. Ralph watches Charles talking to his imaginary wife. Virginia explains to Ralph that it’s like this every year. Her mother left Charles for another man, and he does this every year on their anniversary. The two go out for a walk. 

Cecile the maid talks to Evans about whether or not Virginia and Ralph are going to get married. Jules the gardener has told Cecile about the local murders, and she’s a little weirded out. Jules then grabs some food and sneaks out to the barn, where he goes down a trap door into the cellar, where they keep Mrs. Kessler. He tells her that no one knows where she is but him. She’s not quite mentally all there. 

Jules’s wife asks why Jules doesn’t tell Charles about having his wife in the barn, but he doesn’t think Charles would take it well. Could she be behind all the murders? No, Jules says, “She is like a child.” He’s waiting for Mrs. Kessler to get better and is afraid to tell anyone about her at this point for fear of getting in real trouble. 

Cecile approaches Ralph, and she knows him from before. She’s infatuated with him, but she says he’ll never marry her. Cecile plans to tell Virginia about him soon. 

Later that night, Mrs. Kessler wanders out of the barn, which is apparently unlocked. She stands in the yard, and Charles sees her. “I’m afraid to come home. You’d kill me. You’d kill anybody,” she says to herself. 

Charles thinks he imagined it, but he starts walking around as if he's in a trance. He goes downstairs into Cecile’s room and… Evans finds her body in the morning. 

Charles calls the police, who find a note. They find a note from Ralph in Cecile’s pocket, warning her to leave. Evans overheard the conversation between Cecile and Ralph. Ralph is arrested and charged with murder. Ralph is soon convicted, sentenced to death, and executed, all very quickly. 

Paul Dickson, Ralph’s identical twin brother, comes to see Charles. That night, Mrs. Kessler gets out of the barn again, and once again, Charles sees her and goes into a trance. He then goes downstairs and kills Jules in the kitchen. In the morning, Evans finds Jules’s body, too. 

Virginia says that others have been killed here, but no one can find any clues, fingerprints, or evidence. They’d leave, but Charles’s wife used to be here, so they refuse to leave “in case she comes back.” Detective Williams talks to Paul about the details of the case. 

Jules’s wife comes to see the body and screams that he’s not dead. He is, in fact, twitching and trying to talk. Charles is there, and he asks if Jules recognized the man who tried to kill him. Jules takes one look at him and dies of fright right then. Charles finds it all confounding. 

Charles talks to Marie the new cook about not quitting. She’s pleased that Charles liked dinner and agrees to stay. Later, Charles sees his wife looking into the window and he ends up sneaking into Virginia’s room. Lightning flashes, and Charles comes out of his trance– what’s he doing in his daughter’s room? He goes back to his own room without hurting anyone. 

In the morning, Charles is terrified that the cook has been murdered, but she was just out shopping. Detective Williams comes to the door and says the police were stationed outside all night. They find Detective Ryan in one of the rooms, dead. The cook complains about food missing from the kitchen. 

Williams thinks the murderer is probably Evans, but Paul suggests bringing in a psychiatrist to judge Evans. 

As they question Evans, Mrs. Kessler sneaks in the back door and raids the fridge. A couple of police officers walk in and catch her. “But I’m dead, you understand?” They take her upstairs where the others are. As soon as Charles lays eyes on her, he goes into his trance as the others all watch. 

Charles attacks Williams. In the next room, Mrs. Kessler just falls over dead. At the same time, Charles relaxes and comes out of his trance. “What happened here?” He still has no idea what he’s done. The police take him away to jail. 

Commentary

There’s a mildly racist joke as Evans, who is black, sees Paul and thinks he’s seen Ralph’s ghost. “Am I pale? I feel pale.” Yep– he was almost scared white!

The story moves along quickly and is interesting, but the main concept is ridiculous. The insane wife triggers her husband into a murderous trance. There were no ghosts, invisible or otherwise, just a couple of crazy people and a weird domestic situation. 

Other than the silly premise, it’s a fun film. 

Black Sunday (1960) 

  • AKA “The Mask of Satan” 

  • Directed by Mario Bava 

  • Written by Ennio De Concini, Mario Serandrei, Nikolay Gogol 

  • Stars Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi 

  • Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes 

  • Trailer:

  •  

Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone 

Excellent sets, a good script, skillful direction, and a strong cast make for a good movie that still holds up and is entertaining today.

Synopsis 

Satan was abroad in the 17th century, and so were witches and vampires. Before the hunters burned them at the stake, they were branded with the Mark of Satan. Asa’s face is covered in the Mask of Satan before she is burned for falling in love with the evil Igor Javutich. The metal mask has spikes on the inside. “In the name of Satan, I place a curse on you,” she says before the burning begins. The executioner uses a big hammer to smash the mask over her face. Credits roll.  

It starts to rain heavily, putting out the cleaning fires. The witch Asa, and her lover Igor, are buried before dawn.  

Two centuries later… 

Professors Andrej Gorobec and Thomas Kruvajan ride a carriage to Moscow for a conference, and they stop over in a little village for the night. They bribe the coachman, who is clearly terrified of the region, into taking a shortcut through the haunted woods. When the carriage loses a wheel, the two men investigate an old church in an old cemetery.  

The two go down into an old mausoleum which is covered in dust. They find one coffin with a window, and they see “The Mask of Satan” on the dead witch. The driver calls Andrej, the younger professor, out, but Thomas, the older one, stays behind to explore some more. He’s attacked by a giant bat, and in the scuffle, the window of the coffin gets smashed. Thomas pulls off the mask and cuts himself, dripping blood into the coffin.  

On their way out, they see a woman walking her dogs. She’s Katia Javda, but we recognize her face—she’s Asa the witch. The driver announces that the carriage is fixed, but we see that Andrej is smitten. Back in the tomb, we see something bubbling in the old witch’s corpse. 

Elsewhere, in the castle, Prince Vajda is Katia’s father, and Constantine Vajda is her brother. They hear a wolf howling outside. The prince is a tired old man who’s afraid of a painting on his wall. He tells the servant, Ivan, that the execution of Asa and Igor was two hundred years ago today. Back in the tomb, we see that the witch is definitely regenerating.  

At the tavern, the two professors talk about vodka and about Andrej’s crush on the princess. A young girl complains about milking her cow in the barn next to the old cemetery. The witch in the tomb commands Igor to “Rise.” The soil over his grave splits open, and Igor Javutich does rise out of the grave, still wearing his death mask. Old Igor pays a visit to Prince Vajda in his bedroom but is scared away by the old man’s cross. Katia sends for the two doctors who are staying at the inn to come help with the old man.  

Igor gets to Thomas first, saying he’s been summoned to the castle to help with the Prince. Instead of the old man’s bedroom, Igor takes Thomas into the dungeons and traps him there with the tomb of the undead witch. The witch calls him by name and orders him to look into her eyes. She wants his blood- and soon has it.  

Thomas comes to the castle to assist with the prince. He looks different now, with white hair, and he also doesn’t like the cross. The old man calms down, and they all leave Thomas alone with him. By morning, the Prince is dead and Thomas has disappeared.  

In the morning, Andrej goes to the castle for Thomas, and Constantine is rude about Thomas’s disappearance. They examine the dead prince’s body, and Katia faints. The villagers find a body that had been eaten by a demon and rush right to the castle. The milkmaid sees a painting of Igor on the wall and says that’s the man who picked up Thomas last night. The dead man and the prince both have two marks on their necks.  

As night falls, Thomas and Igor appear in the fireplace. Katia sees someone hiding in her room, but they’re gone when Constantine arrives. She and Andrej stop all the action talk in the garden about melodramatic, angsty stuff. Ivan, the butler, finds a secret door, so Constantine and Andrej go exploring. While they’re in there, someone murders Ivan. The two men find the witch asleep in the tomb. Andrej goes to find the village priest, but Constantine gets trapped inside.  

Andrej and the priest find Igor’s mask discarded in the cemetery next to his grave. They find Thomas’s body in the grave; he’s a vampire now, but the priest takes care of him.   

Katia finds Ivan’s body and goes into full screaming-panic mode, asking her dead father for help. She’s a little surprised when he opens his eyes and sits up as a vampire. The prince is about to drink her blood when Igor comes in and throws him into the fireplace to burn.  

Igor touches Katia, who quickly ages. The witch, on the other hand, gets younger. Andrej storms in and fights with Igor. Andrej wins with a little help from the dying Constantine.  

Outside, the villagers grab the torches and pitchforks and storm the castle.  

Andrej finds Katia, who asks him to kill the old witch on the table. He notices that she’s wearing Katia’s cross, but the young one isn’t. He performs the test that the priest used and figures out that the “young” one is really the witch.  

The villagers come in and grab the witch. They tie her up and burn at the stake, for real this time. As they burn her, her youth goes back to Katia in the crypt, who de-ages and wakes up. Now she and Andrej can live happily ever after.  

Commentary 

The sets in the cemetery and mausoleum are very intricate and interesting. The movie is very dark but lit well, so everything is clear and sharp. To kill a vampire, you need to stab them in the left eye socket; that’s very specific. It’s surprisingly gory for such an old film, and it still holds up well today. 

Stay tuned for more reviews next week!

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Horror Bulletin
Horror Bulletin
Join Kevin and Brian for a weekly podcast episode. Every Friday, the guys release both a video and audio podcast episode that covers everything new in horror, along with a handful of great (and awful) movie reviews!