Salem's Lot, The Monolith Monsters, Guilt, and Halloween (2018)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 183
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. We'll start off with a miniseries from the 70s, "Salem's Lot" followed by an indie film called "Guilt" from this year. We'll then look at 1a pretty lame, yet still entertaining classic, "The Monolith Monsters" from way back in 1957, and finish up with "Halloween" from 2018.
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Salem’s Lot (1979)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Stephen King, Paul Monash
Stars David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin
Run Time: 3 Hours, 20 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was originally aired as a miniseries, and they do a nice job keeping it scary and interesting while still tame enough for television. The direction, acting, script, and effects are all very good. It’s long, but well worth the watch.
We start in Ximico, Mexico, where Mark Petrie and Ben Mears fill vials with holy water. “They found us again,” Ben says when one of the bottles starts to glow. Credits roll.
In Salem’s Lot, Maine, two years previous, Ben Mears looks at a creepy old house. An older man, Richard Straker comes out; he’s well dressed and classy looking. Straker gets in his car and drives off, giving Ben a_ look_. Later, we see Straker unpacking lots of stuff from boxes; he’s moving into a new antique store, “Barlow & Straker.” Ben goes to the realtor to talk about the Marston house, but it’s already been sold.
Ben gets a room at the boarding house, and we learn that he’s a writer, a local who left and has now come back. He meets an art teacher, Susan Norton, and she has one of his books. That night, he stares out the window at the old Marsten house. He’s obsessed with the place.
Constable Gillespie tells “Weasel” Phillips, the town drunk, to keep an eye on the newcomer, Ben Mears. Ben meets Susan’s parents, Bill and Ann. Straker arranges for Crockett, the realtor, to send a truck to pick up a box at the docks tonight. Crockett keeps asking to meet Mr. Barlow, and Straker keeps saying “soon.”
Cully Sawyer goes to the cemetery and asks the caretaker there, Mike Ryerson, to gather a few strong men for a job at the docks tonight. Cully is married to Bonnie, who is having an affair with Larry Crockett. That night, someone or something kills Ryerson’s dog.
Ben introduces himself to Jason Burke, an old teacher. They talk about Mark Petrie, a young writer still in Jason’s class. They also talk about the Marston house and Hubie Marston, who used to live there. Ben went into the Marston once, and he imagined seeing old Hubie still hanging there, a ghost. Ben thinks the house is inherently evil; bad things have always happened there. “An evil house attracts evil men.”
Ryerson and Ned Tebbers pick up the Barlow Box at the docks while Cully spies on his cheating wife back home. The box in the truck is unnaturally cold to the touch. Ted wants to open the crate, but Mike isn’t interested. They get spooked and run off, throwing the padlocks on the ground and driving away.
Ralphie and Danny, two brothers from Mark’s school, take a shortcut home, and something gets Ralphie. Danny makes it home, but he’s in shock.
Straker gets home to find the house is not locked up, which is concerning. He goes downstairs to find the big crate has been destroyed. Straker carries a package downstairs; it’s Ralphie in a body bag. Across town, Cully catches Bonnie and Crockett in the act and stomps in with a gun. It’s a bluff; Crockett runs outside, but something completely unexpected gets him.
Ben and Susan are making out down at the lake, and they hear a car. They walk over and find Crockett, sitting in his car in his underwear, dead. They call the constable and make a report. Danny dreams that his dead brother comes to his window that night. He opens the window, and it’s not a dream.
The constable pays a visit to Mr. Straker after Ben casts some aspersions. The constable checks out Ben Mears as well as Straker and Barlow. Dr. Norton tells Ben that Crockett died of a heart attack, and Danny has pernicious anemia. That night, Danny lets his brother inside again, and this time, Danny doesn’t survive the experience.
Danny’s funeral is held at the cemetery, and later on, Mike starts to fill in the grave with dirt. He stops and stares at the coffin a long time before he jumps in and uncovers it. Danny sits up and bites him.
Mark and his father talk about his interest in monsters and magic tricks. Ben and Jason have dinner, but they are interrupted by Mike, who is acting very strangely. He has bite-marks on his neck. Mark gets a nocturnal visit from Danny, but Mark knows about monsters and won’t let him in. Jason takes Mike home with him for the night to keep an eye on him.
Jason wakes up with nightmares and calls Ben to bring over a crucifix and a rosary. Mike is dead, and there’s a single drop of blood on his neck. There are no marks on his neck now. Jason tells Ben all his suspicions, but there’s just so much they can do. They do tell Dr. Norton about it, but he’s not a believer.
It’s opening day at Barlow and Straker Antique shop. Ben talks to Straker about the house; he’s writing about it, and he’d like to visit. Out of nowhere, Ned Tebbets attacks Ben for dating Susan. Alone for the night, Jason hears someone upstairs; it’s Mike, back from the dead. Jason revokes his invitation, and Mike falls out the window. Jason then has a heart attack. Over at the police station, Ned Tebbets gets a visit from Mr. Barlow in his jail cell.
Susan tells Ben that people are dying all over town. Ben tells her and her father about the vampires, and they believe him now. Mark talks to the local priest, who mostly believes his story after hearing similar things from Ben and Susan. Barlow and Straker break in and kill Mark’s parents. The priest pulls out his cross, but it doesn’t help. It’s a trade; Barlow wants the priest.
Ben and Dr. Norton go to the morgue to investigate the latest victim, and Ben makes a cross out of taped-up popsicle sticks. He burns the new vampire with the cross, and she simply vanishes. The next morning, the constable and the deputy are both sick. People all over town are sick today.
For some reason, Susan goes to the Marston house and runs into Mark there. The two of them soon wind up in Barlow’s basement. They go upstairs, and it’s not much better there. Straker catches them easily. He ties up Mark and takes Susan to see Barlow. Mark is good at escape tricks and works himself free.
Ben goes to see the constable, who is planning on leaving town. The constable gives Ben his gun. Ben and Dr. Norton grab some holy water and head for the old haunted house. They run into Mark. Straker picks up Norton and impales him on some deer antlers. Ben shoots Straker six times before he falls down.
Ben and Mark go down to the basement and eventually find Barlow’s coffin. There are other bodies laying around in various states of half-life. They try to figure out how to open the coffin as the sun goes down. Barlow tries to fight back as Ben drives a stake into his heart, but it’s too little, too late for him. The two guys then set the house on fire, not even bothering to look for Susan.
We return to Ximico, Mexico, two years later, where the other vampires are still chasing Ben and Mark, looking for revenge. The latest vampire turns out to be Susan. She “just wants a kiss,” but Ben stabs her anyway.
It’s long. It was originally a miniseries, and the format gives the movie plenty of time for character development and backstory. Parts of it feel a lot like a soap opera, but then there’s always something horrible going on in the background. The further the story progresses, the more it focuses on the vampires.
We watched “Midnight Mass” a few weeks back, and it’s hard not to see the roots of that story here. They have several very interesting parallels: vampires appearing in small towns, lots of family and local drama, and a fear of outsiders at the center of it all. They even burn the town at the end.
Barlow’s makeup is very good. He’s essentially a color version of Nosferatu. The other vampires all look good, with huge fangs and glowing eyes. Very nice, very creepy, and very believable.
Directed by William Chaffin
Written by William Chaffin
Stars Anna Hoots, Jared Noble, Liz Fletcher
Run Time: 1 Hour, 15 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a low-budget looking film, but the acting is decent, the story is interesting, and it moves well. It’s in the are-they-crazy-or-not trope, and they pull it off.
Elizabeth unloads her car; she’s returning home after a long trip. At first, she can’t find her parents, but she does see a creepy, pasty-faced woman with long hair and a shroud. She then kills her parents… and wakes up: just a nightmare. She goes downstairs to see her parents are alive and perfectly normal. We see in various ways that Elizabeth has some pretty serious OCD.
The detective calls and explains that Elizabeth’s friend Victoria committed suicide, but Elizabeth swears she wouldn’t have done that. She blames Kyle, Victoria’s boyfriend. She gives the same story to her psychiatrist, Dr. Colby, but she lies about not having dreams.
Elizabeth goes to a party and admits to her friend that she’s gone off her meds, but she feels good about it. She runs into Paul, an old boyfriend. Kyle is there too, and he confronts Elizabeth about her accusations. He thinks maybe Elizabeth murdered Victoria. Later, Elizabeth and the woman in the shroud kill Kyle. Another nightmare?
Matt Graveman, a private investigator, talks to Detective Mattingly about Kyle’s apparent suicide. He explains that he used to be a priest, and there may be something supernatural about this case.
Elizabeth sees the shrouded figure in her house and chases it out to the woods. She watches the figure kill Stacie. And then she wakes up. Another nightmare? Her mother wonders about Elizabeth’s schizophrenia; she was diagnosed just after her sister Stacie died. She admits that she’s off her meds, but it’s all good. Elizabeth thinks her parents made up her schizophrenia to blame for Stacie’s death.
Elizabeth tells Detective Mattingly that she’s off her meds, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and that she’s seen two murders. The detective, rather than treat her like a suspect, sends her to talk to the ex-priest, who believes that Elizabeth may actually be haunted by a demon.
So, is she crazy or is she haunted? You have to watch to find out.
It seems obvious early on that Elizabeth’s schizophrenia is making her see things and murder people, but as the film progresses, more supernatural explanations make more sense. Which is it?
It’s clearly a low-budget indie film, but it’s got a good story and good pacing, which is something so many indie films get wrong. It doesn’t get boring, and the suspense builds nicely.
My biggest complaint about the film is that she “witnessed” several murders, clearly admits she’s schizophrenic and off her meds, and the police completely ignore that and go with a supernatural answer anyway? Even if there was a supernatural force behind all this, that’s not going to be ANY detective’s first assumption.
Short Film: Tech Savvy (2022)
Directed by Scott Vasey
Written by Scott Vasey
Stars Lia Walton, Ashlyn Jade Lopez, Kendra Pepe
Run Time: 8:32
A mother and her children bicker over breakfast. They make a lot of Game of Throne references, which was probably the “hip” thing to do in 2019. The mother then talks to a friend over Skype, and they talk about Charlotte's ex-husband’s new girlfriend. They decide that Charlotte needs to set up an online dating profile.
She gets ready to choose a profile picture and Photoshops out a mole. Then the mole on her real body vanishes… This could lead to trouble!
I really hate Charlotte and her children. No one is that fake-cheerful all the time. Still, it’s well-shot and looks good, and the story goes just about where you expect it to.
Always color in the lines– and especially learn how the “undo” function works.
The Monolith Monsters (1957)
Directed by John Sherwood
Written by Norman, Jolley, Robert M. Fresco, Jack Arnold
Stars Grant Williams, Lola Albright, Les Tremayne
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one is heavily science fiction with horror elements. There are no actual monsters. Just rocks from space. But it is very well made and manages to be entertaining. And a time capsule of technology and small-town life from the late 1950s.
We get some narration about how meteors strike the Earth every day. Once in a while, some of them strike the Earth and make craters. We watch one impact in a fiery explosion. Credits roll.
Ben’s car overheats in the desert, so he gets out to fix it. He finds some strange rocks on the ground and takes one with him but drives on. We see that when water from his radiator spilled on the rocks under his vehicle, they released smoke. Ben goes to his office in town and takes the sample in. He works for the Department of the Interior. Martin the newspaperman comes over and whines about how boring this town is. That night, the rock gets wet, and this time, Ben sees what happens. The rock grows!
Dave comes to work in the morning, and he’s surprised to find the front door of the office is locked. When he goes inside, he’s even more surprised to find rocks like the one Ben found all over the room, and Ben is quite dead.
Meanwhile, Dave’s girlfriend Cathy takes her grade school class on a field trip into the desert. We see the strange black rocks all over the area here too. Little Ginny takes one of the rocks home, but her mother won’t let her bring it into the house. When her mother calls it a filthy rock, Ginny washes it and then leaves it in a tub full of water.
The doctor does an autopsy on Ben, and he’s been fused into a solid mass. They talk about the strange rock, and Cathy mentions how many of them there were in the desert. Dave thinks the rocks may have something to do with Ben’s death. They drive out to Ginny's house and find the place has been destroyed. There are, however, hundreds of shiny rocks scattered about. Ginny is alive and in shock, but both her parents are turned to stone, just like Ben had been. Dave and Cathy drive Ginny to Doctor Reynolds, while the police chief remains behind at Ginny’s house.
Dave analyzes the rocks and thinks they’re entirely ordinary silicate, but in a strange composition he’s never seen before. Martin doesn’t even understand why that’s important. Dr. Reynolds calls Dave and says that Ginny’s hand has turned to stone; he’s sending her to Dr. Hendricks, a specialist in Los Angeles. Dave takes a sample of the rock to his old geology professor, Flanders. The professor thinks the rock is a meteorite. Dave says no, there are hundreds of them.
They soon figure out that the rocks suck the silicate out of people and soil in order to multiply. There’s some nonsense about silicon making human skin flexible, which is why the people seem to have turned to stone. The doctor decides to inject Ginny with a mixture of silicates.
Dave and the Professor go out to the desert to find the original meteor, and it doesn’t take them long. That night, they get a thunderstorm in the desert, and… it rains. They soon find rocks that are hundreds of feet tall. They decide to evacuate the town; it’s almost like an invasion!
Back at the hospital, Ginny wakes up; the cure works! When Cathy tries to call Dave with the news, she can’t get through on the phone; all the power in town is off now. But they figure out a way to relay communication through police car radio. Joe Higgins rushes into town, saying the rocks are headed this way fast.
More people die, and the governor issues a state of warning. They use Ginny’s cure to find a way to at least stop the impending stampede of stones. Turns out, all they need is salt to stop the progress of the stones. They decide to blow up the dam, which will make the salt flats into salt water, which should kill the monoliths. Or rather stop the chemical reaction that’s causing them to expand out of control - they are just rocks not living creatures.
The governor is late, so Dave orders that the dam be blown up right now, and they do it, flooding the valley just outside of town. The Monolith Monsters are destroyed.
It’s an entertaining mystery with some sci-fi elements. It’s not really an alien invasion, and calling them “Monolith Monsters” isn’t fair either. They’re simply rocks. Rocks that have a strange natural property, sure, but they’re just rocks. They aren’t evil or even intelligent. They’re literally rocks.
The acting is fine; they all take things very seriously and work together to save their town and the world. Still… they’re just rocks.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Jeff Fradley
Stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer Andi Matichak
Run Time: 1 Hour, 46 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This movie seems to take place years after the first movie, as if none of the others happened - not even the second one. That was a strange choice, but it’s really very good. Once again, we’re rooting for Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie, something we’ve missed in most of the other sequels and reboots.
We get scenes from inside the mental asylum at Smith’s Grove. There are journalists there to interview Michael Myers after forty years of captivity. Dr. Sartain welcomes them and says the state has lost interest in studying Michael. They are going to move him away to another facility out of his care, a move he doesn’t approve of. He was once a student of Dr. Loomis. “He can speak; he just chooses not to,” the doctor says.
They have a very weird way for the prisoners to spend time in the courtyard, and Aaron Korey, the reporter, asks Michael some questions. Aaron opens a bag and pulls out Michael’s infamous mask. The other prisoners start getting agitated; they all fear Michael. Michael just stands there. Credits roll.
Back in Haddonfield, Aaron and his partner Dana drive up to a locked compound to see Laurie Strode. She doesn’t want to be bothered, but $3,000 opens a lot of doors. She’s protected like she’s living in her own prison. She still believes Michael is the Boogeyman. Aaron thinks Laurie should talk to Michael; he might respond to her. Laurie knows they are going to be moving Michael.
Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson talks about the 1978 incident with her friends. Her friend Dave says that five people getting killed with a knife just isn’t that big of a deal by today’s standards. Later in class, she sees Laurie standing outside looking all Michael-like. Laurie gives her the money from the interview. Allyson tells Laurie to go say goodbye to Michael and finally, “Get over it.”
They’re moving Michael tonight. He, Dr. Sartain, and a bunch of other prisoners get on the bus as Laurie sits outside in her car and drinks. Holding a gun, clearly considering going after Michael right there. Afterward, she goes to dinner with the whole family and breaks down. Laurie’s daughter tells how much fun it was being a crazy woman’s daughter.
Something happens with the prison bus, and there are prisoners all over the street. A boy and his father find the bus, and the boy accidentally shoots Dr. Sartain before Michael kills the father and kid and steals the car. Officer Hawkins responds to the call.
It’s October 31st. Hawkins recognizes Michael Myers’ name from the list of passengers on the bus. He’s the only one still on the loose. Aaron and Dana stop at a gas station. She goes into the restroom, and Michael goes in as well. After killing them both, Michael gets his mask out of their car. Laurie hears the news and goes into lockdown mode at the compound. She warns her daughter, but the family isn’t interested in hearing more of what they think is Laurie’s paranoid bullshit.
Michael, now intact with his mask and jumpsuit, walks into a house, kills a woman and takes her knife. Allyson’s friend Vicky is babysitting a kid tonight, but she still manages to get her boyfriend Dave into the house. The little boy says there was someone in his room, but Vicky doesn’t believe him. Spoiler: He was right. Vicky dies; Dave runs away but also dies; Officer Hawkins gets a call; Laurie hears the police radio. Laurie shoots Michael. Dr. Sartain arrives and explains the situation to the police.
Laurie recounts that every night, she prayed that Michael would escape so that she could kill him. Allyson watches Michael kill her friend Oscar, and she knows who_ that_ is.
Laurie, her daughter Karen and her husband go to Laurie’s hidden safe room to hide until this is over. Hawkins, Sartain and Allyson are searching the neighborhood for Michael. They run down Michael, and Sartain stabs Hawkins. Now we see how the prison bus crashed. Sartain puts Michael in the back of the police car with Allyson; he wants to see what keeps Michael alive. He wants Michael and Laurie to meet to see what happens. Sartain doesn’t live long after that.
Laurie grabs her shotgun as Michael kills her son-in-law Ray. Michael reaches through the door and almost strangles Laurie, but she manages to shoot half his hand off. She goes into the basement safe room, and he breaks in the door. After things go silent upstairs, Laurie comes up and goes room to room hunting for her brother. She finds him, and the two actually fight each other hand-to-hand for a bit.
Allyson comes in, and she’s not quiet about it. Karen calls her into the safe room, but Michael hears. He figures out where the entrance to the safe room is and starts to work on it. Karen picks up a shotgun and waits for the entrance to open. Karen shoots him, then Laurie whacks him with a frying pan. Allyson stabs him multiple times. Soon, he's in the safe room, and they are upstairs.
Then they spring the trap. Metal bars close off the opening, keeping Michael in the basement as Laurie floods the place with gas from a system she had set up and incinerates Michael as if it were a big crematorium. Then the whole house self-destructs as the three women make their way to safety. Finally, Michael is dead, and there won’t be any more Halloween movies ever.
“They were feeding me guacamole in sexy ways!”
“You’re the new Loomis!”
There are some excellent lines.
I think this takes place 40 years after the original Halloween, skipping part II and the many sequels and reboots. At one time, we’re told Michael killed five people. Since Judith Myers wasn’t killed in the main film, that only accounts for the first film. I am not sure why they chose to ignore Halloween II, but this is really good– taking the original film and simply continuing it in a very realistic way 40 years later.
Until the psychiatrist went off the rails and turned evil. That was one twist too many. And why does Laurie have a house full of naked mannequins?
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