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Peeping Tom, Uncle Sam, Halloween H20, and Open Grave
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 177
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. We'll start off with the SEVENTH part of the Halloween saga, "Halloween H20" from 1978, then have fun on a different holiday with "Uncle Sam" from 1996. We'll try not to fall into 2014's "Open Grave," and then we'll have a little naughty fun with 1960's "Peeping Tom."
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"Beauty and the Beast" from 1962 (It's a werewolf film)
"Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton"
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Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Debra Hill, John Carpenter, Robert Zappia
Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin
Run Time: 1 Hour, 26 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
An interesting sequel that allows them to pick it up 20 years after the 2nd movie. It's blissfully as if the 4th, 5th, and 6th movies never happened. A little of the magic of the first two films is back, and overall it was quite good.
In Langdon, Illinois, a woman comes home from work and finds that her front door is open. She runs next door and gets young Jimmy to check out the house. He checks out the dark house and doesn't even try to turn on the lights. He doesn't find anything, so she goes inside. For her, the lights don't work. We see that she has a photo of Dr. Loomis in her office as well as a file on Laurie Strode. She gets creeped out and runs back next door to find Jimmy has been murdered by Michael Myers, as well as Jimmy's little friend. Michael grabs her just as the police arrive next door at her house.
We hear the next morning that she was Marion, Dr. Loomis's nurse. Loomis died a few years ago, and she took care of him. Detective Fitz mentions that they never did find Michael Myers' body twenty years ago. Credits roll.
Keri Tate wakes up with nightmares as her son John rushes into the room. We know her-- she's really Laurie Strode, who was supposed to have been killed in a car accident years ago. John takes care of his mother, who has a lot of mental issues and PTSD. Oh, and it's coming up on October 31st again, which is never a good time of year for her.
Laurie/Keri still imagines seeing Michael everywhere, even twenty years later.
Out in the country, a girl and her mother stop in a park restroom to pee. They noticed Michael's car outside, but they don't see him-- until he steals her car.
Laurie/Keri and John argue about him taking a trip to Yosemite. John has a girlfriend named Molly and friends Charlie and Sarah at school, none of whom are able to go to Yosemite with the rest of the school. Laurie and the school's guidance counselor, Will also aren't going. We see that Laurie and Will have something else going on between them, but she's worried that her past is going to mess this up too.
The school's security guard, Ronny, wants to be a writer, and he lets John and Charlie out through the gate.
Will wants Laurie to open up and tell him everything, but she still isn't ready, but he knows she's damaged goods. Laurie catches John and Charlie in town, and she's not happy. They argue some more.
Laurie holds a class where they talk about Frankenstein, fate, redemption, and having nothing else to lose. I suspect these them will be coming up again. Laurie gives John permission to go to Yosemite, but since none of his friends are going, he decides to secretly skip the trip.
Norma (Janet Leigh) runs into Laurie as the students all drive away in the bus. She warns her about getting over bad things happening in the past (you know, like in Psycho).
Night falls, and we see that Ronny may be the worst security guard ever. Laurie sees Michael, but it's really just Will again. Laurie finally tells Will her true backstory and her real name. He's heard the story, but didn't know about Laurie faking her death. He's surprised, but pretty OK with the story.
It occurs to Laurie that all the murders happened when her sister was 17, when she was 17, and John just turned 17. Could that be a pattern? She finds John's suitcases, and she knows he didn't go to Yosemite.
Meanwhile, Sarah and Charlie die grisly deaths. Michael stabs John in the leg, but John and Molly get away. The kids catch up to Laurie and Will, and Laurie actually gets a face-to-face look at Michael. Will takes Laurie's gun and accidentally kills Ronny the guard. Will doesn't have time to get too upset before Michael stabs him in the back.
Laurie, John, and Molly run to the gate. Laurie tells Molly to drive John to the neighbors and call the police, but she's not leaving. She turns around and goes back inside, grabbing an axe. She goes hunting for him. The two have a running battle for a while, but she eventually stabs him good and his body drops over the railing. Whew, he's finally dead for good.
She limps downstairs and actually looks surprised when his body is still there. She pulls out the knife and gets ready to stab him again when Ronny the guard, who isn't dead, stops her. The police show up and load Michael's "dead body" into an ambulance, which Laurie promptly steals.
She watches Michael wake up, which she was expecting, so she slams on the brakes and watches him fly through the windshield. When he gets ups she runs into him, driving him, her, and the ambulance over a cliff and pinning Michael's body underneath. Laurie stumbles over and picks up the ax and approaches the burning van. She then cuts off his head. It's gonna be hard to come back from that one, right? Right?
In the opening credits, we hear lots of VoiceOver dialogue from Dr. Loomis. None of the original voice footage could be used, so actor Tom Kane imitated Donal Pleasance's voice to re-record all that dialogue.
This one is actually very good, a far step above part 4, 5, and 6. This film basically pretends everything after part 2 didn't happen.
Uncle Sam (1996)
Directed by William Lustig
Written by Larry Cohen
Stars William Smith, David “Shark” Fralick, Christopher Ogden
Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Sometimes the dead come back to life because reasons. This one is a little unclear on that point. That aside, it's decent. A little light on the onscreen kills, but the effects, acting, story are okay overall. Watchable and entertaining shy of greatness.
We begin in Kuwait, on June 14th. The Major appears at the crash site. Can they identify anyone from their tags? The plane crashed three years ago and they just now found the body. The sergeant says it looks like friendly fire, but the Major "don't want to hear that crap!" The body is Master Sergeant Sam Harper. Sam comes back to life and shoots both the sergeant and the major. "Don't be afraid, it's only friendly fire," he moans. Credits roll.
In Twin Rivers, back in the USA, on July 1st, we see normal-looking neighborhood. We see young Jody asleep next to a photo of his uncle, Sam. He had a dream about Uncle Sam, and he wasn't dead in the dream. Jody loves his uncle, but his mother Sally doesn't see to think too much of her dead brother.
Louise gets out of her boyfriend Deputy Phil Burke's car and finds Sgt. Twining waiting for her. The men in the desert have finally identified the body in the desert; they have verification of his death now. He's been missing for three years. He hands over Sam's dog tags.
Sgt. Jed Crowley complains that he was the only one who made it home, and he wishes he hadn't. He was a war hero, and he helped influence Sam back in the day.
Louise tells Sally about them finding the body, and it's clear that they're both glad he's definitely not coming back; they were terrified of him.
Jody takes his uncle's medals to school with him. His teacher, Mr Crandall, was a war protester during Vietnam; he was a draft dodger. Sam Harper's body arrives back in town, and they wheel his coffin into the family's living room.
Sgt. Twining's a bit of a creeper; he tends to hit on all the grieving wives and seems to do pretty well taking advantage of the situation. Betty is dating Ralph, a lawyer, and she tells him the story about her abusive ex. Ralph brags about how he got a bunch of tax evaders let off in court.
That night, Jody sneaks downstairs and opens Uncle Sam's coffin, and we see movement inside. Jed comes to the funeral, and Jody asks lots of questions about his wooden leg that he lost to a land mine. Jed is very much against the idea of Jody joining the military. Jed says that Sam likedkilling.
Late that night, out at the cemetery a bunch of college kids are burning the flag, and Sam wakes up. He puts his medals on and gets to work. Sam hunts down one of those twenty-foot tall Uncle Sam stilt walkers and kills him. He takes his clothes and puts together an Uncle Sam costume. Sam comes across one of the flag-burners and buries him alive. Another gets strung up the flagpole.
It's the Fourth of July, and the big celebration is about to begin. Mr. Crandall goes looking for George Washington's hatchet for the parade. Sam gives him the hatchet... in the head. A young guy messes up the National Anthem, and Sam doesn't like that. Ralph, on the other hand, thinks it's hilarious. Sam kills the kid with a meat cleaver.
There's a little blind boy, Barry, in a wheelchair who was hurt with fireworks by his friends, and Sam comes to him and offers to get revenge for him. A crooked congressman arrives to give a speech. Jed runs into Uncle Sam, and he's creeped out, but all right afterwards.
Deputy Phil makes the move on Louise, who doesn't appreciate it. He thinks that Louise is *still * afraid of Sam even though he's been dead for years. Ralph is killed, and Jody says it was because he was a crook.
Sally and Louise get sick of hearing Jody hero worship Sam, and they explain what an abuser he was. Jody thinks she's making it all up.
Night falls, and the congressman is tied to the fireworks display. Boom! Deputy Phil gets impaled on a flagpole.
Blind Barry can't see what's happening, but he's not afraid. Barry tells Jody that Uncle Sam is really his Uncle, Sam. The two boys tell Jed who did it all. The trio goes to Jody's house, and they see that the coffin holds Sgt. Twining's body, not Sam.
Jed runs into Sam again, and they argue. Louise and Jody finally see Sam without his mask on. Louise empties her pistol into him without much effect. Jody tells Jed to get his cannon.
Jody keeps Sam busy while Jed goes back to town and brings the big cannon. Jed blasts him, but of course, that's not enough. Jed blasts him a second time, and this time the whole house explodes around him.
The next morning, Jody burns all his soldier toys.
It's well shot and looks really good. The acting is fair to decent, except for Jody, but it's all super predictable throughout. The killings are fairly uninspired, and the gore is pretty limited, with most killings happening offscreen.
The actual story here is pretty good. Not all of the people who were killed had it coming, which was a weak point; this kind of film is better when they all deserve it. The deputy and the teenage cook didn't do anything wrong.
There's no obvious connection between Sam and Barry, and Barry wasn't even introduced until halfway though the film. It's not clear to me why the story needed him, as it adds a whole layer of unnecessary things that aren't explained.
Short Film: Abracitos (2022)
Directed by Tony Morales
Written by Tony Morales and Fer Zaragoza
Stars Beatriz Salas, Carmen Salas, Virginia Gomez
Run Time: 9:39
Watch it at:
A terrible phone call in the middle of the night shakes Laura’s world. Meanwhile, little Ainara plays in her room. The appearance of an unknown being will test the mental and emotional stability of the two sisters.
Sometimes scary fairy tales do exist. At least I guess they do, because it was too dark to see anything in this video. It's very tense and suspenseful, but I have no idea what was going on.
I looked up "Abracitos" on Google to see if it's some kind of myth that I was unfamiliar with, but all that came up was links to this film. Apparently, their mother died and this evil woman-spirit thing decided to stalk the two daughters for some reason. I feel like I missed half the story, because there's just no explanation at all.
Open Grave (2013)
Directed by Gonzales Lopez-Gallego
Written by Eddie Borey, Chris Borey
Stars Sharlto Copley, Thomas Kretschmann, Josie Ho, Joseph Morgan
Run Time: 1 Hour, 42 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It's a slow burn putting together who these people are and what's going on. Maybe a little too slow of a burn. But it's well done and entertaining over all. Good cast, realistic effects, and a decent story.
A man wakes up in severe pain. His bones crack and pop and he's really dirty. He pulls keys and a Zippo from his pocket, and he sees that he's been injured as well; there's a dead man laying next to him. No, there's a whole pit full of dead people, and he's trapped down there with all of them. He finds a gun, and then someone finally throws him a rope. Credits roll.
The man makes his way to a nearby house. He goes in and finds several people and a dead body in the living room. The man explains that he doesn't remember anything before the pit; he doesn't know who he is. The body on the floor starts screaming; he's not really dead. We soon learn that none of these people know who they are. They do have a pile of driver's licenses, so they can figure out their names at least. Our man doesn't have one, so we still don't have a name for him. There's also a mute Chinese woman who doesn't understand English, but she seems to know who everyone is.
They search the house and find a calendar with the 28th circled in two days. The Asian woman runs off into the woods, and our guy starts having flashbacks. They find more bodies in the woods, corpses tied to trees with rope and barbed wire. Michael and Nathan, back at the house, still don't have any real memories, but they do have certain skills that they haven't forgotten.
They find a wild woman chained up in the shed, who seems to know and dislike our guy, who is now going by "John Doe." The next morning, they search the grounds and find still more bodies.
Michael finds a guy stuck on the barbed wire fence who's still alive. The man turns the tables and kills Michael. John and Sharon find a huge empty building with a little boy who calls the man "Jonah." Back at the house, Lukas is having headaches and flashbacks himself.
Nathan goes out alone and finds several cabins in the woods, each with more dead bodies. Each of the characters gets a little screen time so that we can know them better, but it's pretty mundane and slow-going.
Lukas finds a lab in the basement with four large, human-sized cells that are all empty. He finds a video camera with footage showing Jonah experimenting on Lukas and the Asian woman. Nathan finds another crazy woman, and he knows her name is Helen. She lunges at him, and he barely escapes.
Sharon and Jonah come upon zombie-like men working in the forest with axes who suddenly charge right for them. They come across more dead bodies, and the zombie-men won't approach closer due to the smell. It appears the corpses were put up to act as scarecrows. They return to the house, where Lukas points a gun at Jonah and explains what he saw on the tape. Jonah freaks out; he really doesn't seem to know what he's done.
Lukas dumps Jonah back in the pit of corpses, and thee are a lot of them. Lukas, however, seems to be becoming more and more unhinged; he's clearly sick. He attacks Sharon and the still-unnamed Asian girl, but they fight back. The Asian girl throws a rope down to Jonah which almost exactly mirrors the scene in the opening credits.
Jonah still can't remember what happens on the 18th. He finds a camp with lots of photos and maps in it, which triggers some memories. He runs into some more zombie-people who growl and get all hostile. He finds a cooler full of medicine which causes him to remember still more: something about the army.
Jonah remembers. He's a doctor, and he was trying to cure the others of a zombie plague. The cure knocks out the recipient while it works, greatly slowing their breathing and pulse, and gives them memory loss when they wake. Lukas attacks him, and Jonah is forced to kill him in self-defense. Elsewhere, Nathan finally regains his memories as well; he's Jonah's brother.
Zombies attack the house with Nathan and Sharon inside. Jonah races back to the house in his car until it runs out of gas, then he runs on foot.
Morning comes and it's the 28th. Someone outside shoots the zombies, and Nathan yells for help, running outside. It's the rescue party! Nope. The soldiers shoot him, and not by accident.
Jonah meets up with Sharon, while the Asian woman evades the soldiers. A crazy woman stabs Sharon, and they end up right back in the corpse pit so they can hide. Jonah injects them both with more cure so they can appear to be dead. Throughout the day, the soldiers throw in more bodies. Before she passed out, Sharon left a note that explains everything; he doesn't see the note when he wakes up, and his memory is gone again. The mute woman is immune to the virus, and she is the key to a cure. We hear Sharon's note explaining all in voice over as Jonah and the mute woman walk away.
We see thousands and thousands of dead bodies. There's a sliver of hope that Johan will recover his memory and recreate the cure, and the mute woman will be with him. But they may already be too late...
So if you're a murderer and don't remember doing it, can you actually have any remorse for the crime? You don't even remember doing it? For a while, it was looking like Jonah might be the next Dr. Moreau or something, but that's not the way it worked out.
It's a classic group-of-people-with-no-memory story. Who are we? Why are we here? Who did this to us? It's clear that something very nasty has been going on, but the prime suspect also seems to be the hero of the story.
It didn't go where I expected, which is good. I liked it more than I thought I would in the beginning.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Stars Karlheinz Böhm, Anna Massey, Moira Shearer
Run Time: 1 Hour, 41 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This film had a very poor reception at its release, and that makes no sense to us as modern viewers. It looks great, is intriguing, suspenseful, and well acted. Considered the first "slasher" film, though it's very low on gore. This one is highly recommended.
A man wearing a hidden camera takes pictures of a woman on the street. She wants 2 Quid for her services. She leads him up to her place, while he films the whole thing. We get it all from the camera's point of view. She starts to undress until he approaches her and she starts screaming... Credits roll as we watch the footage from the camera play back on a screen.
We resume the next day, with the camera filming the aftermath and the police carrying out the woman's body. Mark goes to work afterward. He works in a newsstand, but the proprietor also sells dirty pictures on the side. The customer does not want to be on their mailing list, but laughs at the envelope marked "educational books."
Mark then goes to a photo shoot to take pictures of models in skimpy clothes. One of the models today has a disfigured lip and doesn't want her face photographed, but Mark is really interested in that.
Elsewhere, Helen Stephens is having a birthday party, and they find Mark peeping in through the window. He lives upstairs from them. She runs out and greets him, inviting him in to the party. Mark seems painfully shy and runs upstairs. He then watches the dead body footage from this morning.
A little later, Helen brings him up a piece of cake. She knows he's a photographer and wants to see his films. Obviously, he can't show her what he's just been watching, but he shows her his cameras and darkroom equipment. He shows her old home footage that his father took, and it's quite strange all by itself. Helen is freaked out by Mark's weird childhood. Mark's father was a sort of scientist who was fascinated with filming reactions to fear.
Mark goes to his day job, working in Hollywood as a cameraman. Vivian works on the same film, and she waits after work that night to meet up with him for a "special" film. She dances, and he arranges the set with a blue suitcase. He wants her to look frightened on film, and she wants to know her motivation. He gives it to her...
Back at the house, Helen is getting a little infatuated with Mark, but her blind mother doesn't approve. "I never trust a man who walks quietly." Mark gets her a birthday present. Helen mentions that she's a writer of children's book, and she's just done a book on a magic camera, which Mark finds interesting. He agrees to take photos for her book.
On set the next day, the director details what the star needs to do in today's scene. Uh-Oh. When they open the blue suitcase, they find Vivian's body.
The police detectives ride in the cab and talk about the case of the woman in the pre-credit sequence. They arrive at the studio to examine Vivian's body; the expression of fear is identical to the first girl. They question everyone, and it's soon Mark's turn.
Mark tries to film the investigators, and he nearly gets caught in the act.
That night, Mark takes Helen out for dinner. Helen's alcoholic mother is blind, but she can usually sense when Mark's around; he gives her the creeps. Helen talks him into leaving his camera at home, and it's harder than he expects. He never leaves the house without his camera, but this time, he does it and they both have a good time.
Later that night, Mark finds Helen's mother in his photo lab. He shows her his film of Vivian. She's blind, so she can't actually see anything. The film didn't turn out right so he says he needs another one, right now. He starts filming her, but stops before he kills her. She may be weirder than he is. She tells him that all this filming isn't healthy and that he needs help. She forbids him from seeing Helen again.
The next day, on set, everyone is back at work getting ready for the movie. The actress is a bit... high strung and it goes badly. There's a psychiatrist on set that day to help with the trauma, and Mark asks if the man knew his father. He did, it was scoptophilia, the need to be a peeping Tom. The old man gives Tom a card and says it can be cured. The psychiatrist mentions the conversation to the detective.
That evening, Mark goes to his "porn job" and he's followed by the police. Mark spots the cop and knows he's been followed-- he films the detective on the street. He then sets about his work with Millie and then leaves.
Helen stops by to drop her book off at Mark's place and wanders into his film room. There's a film still in the projector, and she turns it on. It's one of his death films, and she sees it all. "It's just a film isn't it?" She asks, but he says, "No. I killed her. You are safe as long as I can't see you're frightened," he explains.
Just then the man at the newsagent's shop calls the police. He just found Millie, his porn model, murdered. The detective puts two and two together and heads to Mark's place. Meanwhile, Mark explains his childhood to Helen and then films the police as they arrive. "I've been waiting for this for such a long time!"
He photographs himself dying the same way he did all the girls.
One of the best part of this film is the retro tech. The old radios, tape players, what passed as a speaker phone, and lots more. This is a really cool display of technology from the late 50s and 1960.
It's very suspenseful and looks great. Kevin mentioned that it was very Hitchcockian, and I have to agree. The scene with Vivian, for example, goes on for a long time, and you know something bad is gonna happen, but it really takes its good time getting there. It's often compared to "Psycho" which came out the same year. Unfortunately, this one spent so many years being banned that it's notes widely known.
This is generally considered the first slasher movie, and it really is. There's no blood, no real nudity, and no bad language. I have no idea why this was banned for so many decades. It's actually really good.
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