Prey, Glorious, Achoura, and The Innocents
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 184
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. This week, we'll take a look at four newer films, starting with 2018's subtitled "Achoura," and 2021's "The Innocents." Then we'll talk about the big-budget "Predator" sequel, "Prey" from this year. Lately, we'll make fun of the most ridiculous, yet still awesome film, "Glorious" from 2022.
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Directed by Telal Salhami
Written by Jawad Lahiou, Talal Selhami, David Villemin
Stars Sofia Manousha, Younes Bouab, Omar Lotfi
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a good one. Extra interesting because it was set in Morocco, that we don’t often see in horror movies. Well done, with a slowly unfolding mystery of what’s happening now and what happened in the past. Thoroughly creepy and disturbing.
“Ashura” is a religious celebration in Morocco where children splash water on each other and celebrate with bonfires. It is also called “Child’s Night.”
A long time ago in Morocco, a boy and a girl sneak away from the celebration to hide in the cornfield. She’s married to an old man, and is not happy. She made the boy a whistle to call her. When they hear her husband’s voice, they run to an abandoned building to hide. Something on the ceiling turns into smoke and takes the young girl… credits roll.
Today, Youssef is late for school. Ali obsessively watches recordings of interrogations; his boss says it’s a waste of time since this is a closed case. Elsewhere, a boy, Hakim, wanders into an abandoned factory and runs into a pair of very strange squatters: one is a prisoner of the other. The prisoner has something growing inside him.
We see that Ali is Youssef’s father, and he’s separated from his mother, Nadia. Nadia goes to Stephane’s opening; he’s an artist of creepy paintings. Stephane tells the story of his recurring dream about sleep paralysis and a creature that stares at him before choking him. “Monsters are a reflection of our society.” Now he’s going to share his nightmare through his art. “I know what abducted Samir, and I need your help, Nadia,” he asks as he puts on a strange mask. Suddenly, everyone is wearing masks but her.
Twenty years ago, Nadia, Ali, Stephane, and Samir were playing. Nadia tells them a story about “The French House,” a place that eats kids, on the far side of the corn field.
Nowadays, we see that Samir is the prisoner in the old factory. Hakim comes back to visit Samir and asks why he’s chained up. Hakim takes the gag off. The thing inside Samir escapes and gets Hakim. Two detectives come looking for Hakim, who is now missing. Elsewhere, a young boy tries to sleep but ends up hiding under the bed from a monster. Samir breaks in just afterward, and the parents knock him out. Detective Majd calls Ali about the weird man they captured who won’t speak. Ali recognizes Samir, who is his brother, after all these years. Samir insists that he wasn’t abducted; he needs to stop Bougatate.
Back in the past, we watch Samir go into the cornfield alone. Samir runs into Bashira, the girl from the pre-credit sequence. She says she’s lost. Bashira says she needs help for her friend at the house, and all four children follow her. They all hide in the house.
In the present, Stephane explains that they all swore to remember, but they all forgot. When he started to remember on his own, he painted the creature. This all upsets Nadia, who starts to remember as well. Nadia then runs into the Bougatate at school but is saved by the old man who had been holding Samir prisoner. Ali shoots the old man, mistaking him for a threat, and the monster flies off with another young girl. Ali and Nadia take Samir to see Stephane, and everyone is happy to see him after all these years.
Back in the past, the four kids explore the French House. They find an old man wearing a gag much like Samir was in the beginning. He, too, has something inside him that comes out when little Samir takes the gag off. They all see the creature as it tries to eat Stephane. The old man breaks in and can control the thing with a whistle; he forces it to go into Samir. The old man then ties up and gags Samir and takes him away.
“How do we kill it?” Adult Ali asks. “I swallow it,” answers Samir. Stephane has researched the Bougatate, a type of demon who eats childish joy and innocence. Ashura is the perfect time for it to feed. Meanwhile, the Bougatate only has eyes for Youssef. Ali blows the whistle and forces the monster back into Samir. Samir then jumps out the window, killing himself and the monster inside.
Except it doesn’t work; now the Bougatate is on the loose. Nadia grabs Youssef and hops in the car, but the creature pursues them, and they crash. When Nadia wakes up, Youssef is gone, and Ali, Stephane, and she are on the way to the French House. The floor is covered in small skulls and bones. They find Youssef, but Bashira’s still inside the creature. They pull her out, but the monster absorbs Stephane.
Ali blows the whistle and drives the monster into… Youssef. Ali and Nadia then drive away, guardians of the boy who holds the monster inside.
It’s very visual, with lingering, sometimes awkward, shots of faces, places, and things.
It’s an interesting mystery seeing what happened to Samir and why. The creature is a blend of practical and CGI effects, and it mostly looks really good.
I have no idea if this was just a random idea for a horror movie or if the Bougatate is an actual local legend from Morocco, but it had the feel of a legendary creature.
It was good.
The Innocents (2021)
Directed by Eskil Vogt
Written by Eskil Vogt
Stars Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf
Run Time: 1 Hour, 57 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a unique take on horror with a nice slow build. Children are so innocent and harmless; if they start developing special powers, nothing can go wrong. Right? The kid actors are all great. The special effects are perfect. This one is a winner well worth the subtitle reading.
A young girl, Ida, wakes up in the back seat of the car. She has a sister, Anna, who is severely autistic. She reaches over and pinches the sister but doesn’t get much of a reaction. They are moving into a new place, and she walks down the beach to stomp on worms.
Ida doesn’t have any friends at the new place, so she tries to make some new ones. She meets Ben, a little boy who shows her a trick. He tells her to drop a stone, and when she does, he makes it fall sideways, presumably using a psychic power.
Ida doesn’t like Anna much. When she finds some broken glass, she makes sure to put some in Anna’s shoe. Elsewhere, Aisha, a little girl with vitiligo, finds that her foot appears to bleed when she puts her shoes on. But it’s just a vision. Anna gets all the attention in the household, and Ida obviously feels neglected.
Aisha goes looking for her cat in Ida’s building. They seem to have some kind of mental connection. That night Aisha asks her mother about praying, but instead of asking for things, she just wants to listen. She hears the voices of people all over the apartment complex.
Ida leaves Anna on the swings while she goes to play with Ben. Aisha comes over and talks to Anna. Ben and Ida find Aisha’s cat, and he drops it down the ten-story stairwell, but the cat survives. Ben then squishes its head, but Ida doesn’t approve of that. On the way home, she sees that Anna and Aisha have become friends.
The next day, Ida and Anna want to go to the park again. Ida goes to the storage room and finds the dead cat. Anna is obsessed with spinning pot lids and frisbees on the ground. When Ben is nearby, she can spin them indefinitely. Ida figures out that Aisha can hear Anna in her mind. We soon see that all these children are fairly neglected.
Anna and Aisha start having mental conversations from separate apartment buildings. Ben can pick up on it too, but a little less. The children practice reading minds and sending messages from greater and greater distances. It’s all a lot of fun for them until Ben gets angry and starts throwing rocks with his mind. Anna sees this, and she and Ben have a battle of wills. Afterward, Aisha gets Anna to actually speak a little out loud.
Ida tells her mother that Anna can speak and play a little, but her mother doesn’t believe it until they demonstrate.
Ben uses his power to throw a frying pan at his mother, and suddenly, Aisha’s mother starts bleeding. No, not really; Aisha just thinks she sees the blood. We see that Anna has started to move things with her mind as well.
On the last trip with the kids, Anna got a huge splinter in her leg and isn’t allowed to play any more. Their mother takes Anna to the park to see Aisha next time, and she hears them talking. That night, we see that Ben’s mother is still dead on the kitchen floor. Ben uses his power to make a man kill the school bully.
The next day, Ida goes to the spot where the murder happened without being told about it. She sees Ben there. Ben tells her that he can make people do things now. He demonstrates. Ben starts causing trouble with the bullies, and both Aisha and Anna can feel it happening. He breaks a kid’s leg from half a block away. Aisha comes to tell him to stop, and he basically force-chokes her until Ida shoves him to break his concentration. Just when you think he’s going to turn on Ida, Anna shows up, and Ben runs off, afraid of her.
Aisha and Anna conspire telepathically about fighting Ben; Ida overhears. Ben takes over Aisha’s mother, who picks up a knife and stabs the little girl. Anna feels the pain, and Aisha dies.
The next day, a strange man follows Ida, Anna, and their father home, but he can’t get in the locked door. Did Ben send him after them?
Ida goes to see Ben, and they go to the footbridge to fly an airplane. She gets him up on the railing and pushes him over. There’s a witness, and he lands in the grass. Suddenly, Ida is in a dark nightmare world full of snakes and killers. Ida steps into real-world traffic and is hit by a car.
She later wakes up in the hospital. Her mother wants to know who the boy Ida pushed off the bridge was - she denies she did that. Ida eventually goes home with a broken leg and sees Ben standing outside the apartment. Anna knows he’s there too. Ida’s mother picks up a knife, and Ida hides in the locked bathroom. The mother says she’s going out for a few minutes, and when Ida comes out of the bathroom, Anna is gone too. Ida decides she was just being paranoid about her mother.
Anna goes outside and starts looking for Ben. They face off across a pond in a busy park. Back at the apartment, Ida gets frustrated. There’s no elevator coming, and she can’t get down the stairs with that cast on. She screams, and her cast explodes; she couldn’t do much of anything before. All the babies, pets, and children in the park sense something is going on, but the parents are clueless. Ida arrives and holds Anna’s hand; together, they concentrate. Ben appears to die, and the park goes back to normal. Anna and Ida go home.
Ida’s mother gets home and is surprised to see that Ida’s cast is off. Anna sits and scribbles on her noisy drawing toy. It appears she may have lost all of her progress.
The child actors here are all very good. I couldn’t sit through two hours of a kids’ story otherwise. It’s a slow burn, but you can see things developing even early on. You know things are going to go badly, but it’s not quite clear how for a long while. The suspense grows along with the increase of the kids’ powers.
The bleak apartment house is the perfect setting for this. The four neglected children are bound to get into trouble. Only the method here is new.
This is very, very different from most other horror films. I really liked it a lot.
Karaoke Night (2019)
Directed by Francisco Lacerda
Written by Amarino Franca, Francisco Lacerda
Stars Fernando Alle, Rita Borges, Francisco Afonso Lopes
Run Time: 8 Minutes
A woman sings karaoke at a bar. A pair of sleazy looking men with tinted sunglasses, gaudy suits, and smarmy faces admire her and eat like pigs. Afterward, one of the men uses a cheesy pickup line and comes onto her. She kicks him where it counts and leaves, but he still takes credit for having sex with her.
Later, in the parking lot, he learns what it’s like to be taken advantage of.
Kevin tried to get the song for his Apple Music playlist, but it wasn’t recognized. It looks like it’s unique for the movie since the director is credited with writing the lyrics. Hopefully it will be released.
The man looks, dresses, and talks like a sleazy version of Borat. Very nice.
It’s more comedy than horror, but the creature and gore effects are awesome. Overall this was great.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Written by Patrick Aison, Dan Trachtenber, Jim Thomas
Stars Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a really well-made prequel to the Predator movies. It’s simultaneously authentic-looking and believable and far-fetched. But the cast is excellent, the effects are mostly great, and it’s really entertaining.
We are told, “A long time ago, a monster came here.”
The Northern Great Plains, 1719
Naru wakes up in her tent. She’s a Comanche living in the woods with her people. We see that she’s really good at throwing a tomahawk. She’s out hunting a white tail deer when there’s a loud sound that spooks the deer. Her dog gets his tail stuck in a trap, but she releases the dog. The strange noise continues, and she watches as an alien spaceship comes down through the clouds. Credits roll.
Naru tells her brother Taabe about the “Thunderbird sign in the sky” and wants to hunt something that’s hunting her; it’s a kind of coming-of-age task for their people. Naru and her mother prepare food and medicine for the war chief’s bad knee. All Naru wants to do is hunt, mostly because everyone says she can’t.
Elsewhere, we see the Predator’s spaceship take off into the sky, leaving one of them behind.
One of the men soon goes missing, and the rest go out looking for him. They find the missing man, and it looks like a mountain lion got him. As night falls, they build a litter while Naru applies medicine. Naru wonders why he’s still alive. Did something scare away the lion? She finds strange tracks, bigger than a bear and like nothing she’s ever seen. Taabe tells Naru that this could be her test; the mountain lion is hunting her now.
Paaka boasts about being a great hunter, but then the mountain lion jumps him from off-screen. Naru falls out of the tree and has to be carried back to their camp. Taabe eventually returns to camp carrying the dead lion. Naru says something else is out there, but Taabe isn’t worried.
The next morning, Naru slips out of the camp in search of whatever’s out there. We watch the predator kill a snake and a wolf and take trophies. Naru comes across a whole field full of dead, skinned buffalos. She also finds a cigar, which means it wasn’t the predator. Not long after, the predator finds the buffalos and the cigar. Naru falls into quicksand but manages to pull herself free.
Naru then runs across an awful-cgi bear who chases her and her dog for a while. When the bear hears strange clicking noises, he loses interest in Naru and fights something invisible. The bear loses badly, but Naru gets a good look at what killed it. She runs across several men from her tribe, and she says she saw a creature that looked like a mupitsl, something from a children’s story. She wants to fight, but the others drag her home… with the Predator silently following. She tells them the thing is following them, but they don’t believe her– until they do.
On her own again, she runs from the predator into the tall grass, where she once again hears the clicking noise. She gets caught in another animal trap and has to free herself as the predator closes in. Four French-speaking men find her first and take her prisoner.
Naru wakes up in a cage in the trapper’s camp. She realizes that they are the ones who killed all the buffalo and have been setting traps. They want to know about the creature too. She sees that they have also captured Taabe, and they’re torturing him. Later, the two find themselves tied to a tree as bait for the monster. The two trappers in front soon notice that all the hunters behind them have been silently killed.
Naru and Taabe hear the screams of the white men as they die. The Frenchmen catch the thing in a bear trap and a net, but that’s not quite enough to do the trick. The predator finds creative ways to kill many humans.
Everyone takes a break to patch their wounds. One of the Frenchmen tells Naru how to use a gun in exchange for patching up his lost leg.
Taabe returns and knocks the Predator’s helmet off, but only for a minute. It’s long enough for Naru to see how it targets and shoots automatically. Taabe and Naru fight with the monster as Naru tries to figure out the gun. Taabe is killed, and the monster decloaks, as Naru runs away.
Naru comes across Big Beard, one of the trappers who abused her, and she knocks him out. She uses him as bait this time. She takes her temperature-reducing drug and walks right up behind the Predator and shoots him from behind. She runs off with his helmet. She lures him under a tree, jumps down on him, and starts walloping and chopping. She continues the battle with the now-heavily-wounded creature. She eventually knocks him into the quicksand, and he’s gone.
No, he isn’t. He rises up and raises his weapon right at her. She, however, has set up his helmet, which is still automatically targeting threats, which he has just become by brandishing a weapon. His head explodes.
Next morning, Naru walks into camp carrying the monster’s head and trapper's gun. The old chief makes her the new War Chief.
Before we started, Kevin asked is this horror? Really? It’s about an unstoppable monster in the woods picking off innocents, one by one. Yes, it’s part of an action movie franchise. Taking the film on its own, it definitely has all the elements of horror.
The CGI bear is really atrocious for 2022. The predator, on the other hand, was really well done.
I’ve seen debates on the feminist aspect of the film, and it’s obviously there, but it’s not so overwhelming that it detracts from the action.
Never have so many people been so outclassed by one creature. Having seen the other movies in the series, I can see the challenge in fighting modern humans, but these guys presented no challenge at all. I don’t see the value for the alien hunter here. I could kill ants all day long, but I wouldn’t call it hunting or take trophies.
We see early on that Naru’s medicine makes people cold. The wounded man with the mountain lion got it first; then, the injured translator mentioned he felt cold. When Naru took the drug, it made her cold enough that the Predator’s infra-red couldn’t pick her up. I don’t know how realistic that all is, but it’s established in the story.
Oh, and the dog survives too.
Directed by Rebekah McKendry
Written by Joshua Hull, David Ian McKendry, Todd Rigney
Stars Ryan Kwanten, J. K. Simmons, Tordy Clark
Run Time: 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is an interesting take on Lovecraftian-style cosmic horror. It’s surprising how entertaining a horror movie set almost entirely in a grimey rest area bathroom can be. And mostly carried by only one visible actor. This one is well done, darkly funny, almost silly, and overall very good.
Wes stands in the darkness; he can’t stop thinking about her. He wakes up, sleeping while driving. He drives down the road, barely awake, looking for somewhere to turn off. He finally stops at a rest area. There’s a vending machine with one item in it, and it still steals his money. “Sometimes things seem broken, but it just means you stopped trying,” says the strange woman sitting on a table nearby. She gets the candy bar out on the first try. She advises him to clean out the back seat of the car for somewhere to sleep if he plans to live on the road.
He’s clearly upset about something involving a woman. He calls Brenda on the phone and leaves a message. And another. He does it until the battery in his phone dies. He then gets drunk and burns most of his possessions in the fire pit. He keeps drinking till he passes out.
In the morning, all he has left is a teddy bear. He’s even burned his pants. He starts feeling sick, so he goes inside the restroom to puke. It’s all very dramatic.
“Everything all right over there?” asks a voice from another stall. He looks up to see a painting of a woman with snakes for a head. Where the mouth should be is a hole into the next stall. A glory hole. The voice is coming from the other side. The voice wants conversation, but Wes isn’t big on bathroom talk.
The voice seems to know things it shouldn’t. They talk about vomit and bacteria, which turns out to be a conversation. Eventually, Wes looks under the stall and doesn’t see any legs in there. Wes goes to leave, and the voice says his name is “Gatonovewa” or something that sounds like that, the name of an ancient god. “I am that god.” Yes, it’s a god living in a rest stop restroom stall with a glory hole on the side.
Wes climbs up and looks over the stall, and finds himself outside on the ground. He gets a vision of Brenda and then wakes back up in the stall. Wes then finds he is locked inside the restroom; the voice says he can’t leave until they’re done here.
The voice says that this isn’t a chance meeting, it’s fate. The voice is very sympathetic to Wes’s plight. Wes opens the air vent and crawls through the tunnels, ending up right back where he was. “The universe has a favor to ask,” it says.
The voice then gives us an animated origin story explaining exactly who he is. He was created to destroy all life in the universe, but he doesn’t want to do that. Unfortunately, the god is about to manifest into a physical form, which will allow his father to force him to destroy literally everything. He needs to stay ethereal, not physical. Only Wes can stop the transformation. “You need to satisfy my physical form. There’s only one part of you that can do that,” says the glory hole.
Gary, a guy from the Department of Transportation, shows up to do a regular inspection of the facilities, and he cleans up the mess that Wes made the previous night. He eventually hears Wes’s screams; the voice warns that there will be consequences. Gary comes inside, and soon, they’re both locked in. The voice tells Wes to go into the next stall, and then the voice takes care of Gary. It literally rains blood in the restroom; there’s nothing left of Gary but a leg.
“You need to satisfy my physical form,” repeats the glory hole.
Will Wes eventually do what the voice asks and save the universe?
Wes drops his drawers and uses the glory hole. “What the hell is that?” asks the voice. “Your genitals are irrelevant to the universe. I need a piece of your liver.” A broken piece of glass slides out from under the stall door.
Wes has had enough. He screams for the entity’s father to come and end the universe. The amoeba-like creator of the universe arrives outside, and the voice says he can protect them only for a brief time.
Wes eventually cuts himself open and goes for the liver. He has a flashback, and we see what Wes has been up to before the film began, and he’s not quite who we thought he was. He feeds the chunk of liver to the glory hole, which glows and vanishes.
Wes wakes up, and the restroom is mostly clean. He holds his side and crawls to the restroom door. The voice says, “The threat has passed.” Wes declares that he’s a hero. No, he’s informed that he’ll be forgotten. They both will. It’s what they deserve. Wes crawls outside and collapses with no one knowing what happened.
It’s cosmic horror, but it’s not “The Color Out of Space,” that’s for sure, although the being does use a lot of purple light.
It’s not a very well-traveled road to have a rest area that is so deserted. Though it’s implied that the god is influencing the immediate area, not just the men’s room.
J. K. Simmons plays the unseen voice, and he’s perfect for this; he’s the most soft spoken, polite cosmic entity ever. Ryan Kwanten, who I absolutely hated in “True Blood,” is really good here. The special effects and gore are well done and just enough to make the story good.
I have to admit it; this is the best talking glory-hole movie I’ve ever seen.
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