The Black Phone, Terrified, Sinister, and Halloween (2007)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 180
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. We'll start off with the NINTH (or first) "Halloween" film, the reboot from 2007. Next, we'll look at "Sinister" from 2012, "Terrified" from 2017, and "The Black Phone" from 2022. We'll also watch a fun short film about Death.
Bonus reviews at https://horrorbulletin.com
Not gonna tell you-- check them out!
Tenth Issue of Horror Bulletin now available
The newest issue of Horror Bulletin Monthly, our monthly compilation of all our reviews, is out now. This includes all the bonus content and is available as both a print book as well as an ebook. If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you!
Buy from Amazon: Amazon.com
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
Here. We. Go!
Directed by Rob Zombie
Written by Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Stars Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Brad Dourif
Run Time: 1 Hour, 49 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It emphasizes too much on Michael as a crazy kid. Then he grows up to be a big crazy man. There’s little mystery since they swapped out the hints of supernatural to blatant insanity. It’s a decent remake, entertaining and watchable, but not as good as the original and totally unnecessary.
We’re in Haddonfield on October 31st. A little boy in a clown mask plays with his pet rat. Deborah Myers argues with her deadbeat husband Ronnie, while daughter Judith goes upstairs to bring down Michael. Michael complains that his rat died and he had to flush it– the rat that was perfectly healthy a minute ago - and he was just cleaning blood off his hands in the bathroom sink. Ronnie’s a bullying jerk, and he pulls the mask off Michael’s face.
At school, Little Mikey gets bullied more, and cusses out the principal who intervened. The principal calls in his mother, as well as a psychologist, Dr. Loomis. The principal found a dead cat in Michael’s locker. And loads of dead animal pictures in his stuff. It’s not the first animal Michael has killed. Loomis warns that “it’s an early warning sign of bigger and deeper problems.” Michael overhears and runs away as he grabs the clown mask and the familiar theme music plays. Mike follows the bully home from school and gets his revenge. The little masked killer beats him to death with a stick as he pleads for his life.
At home later, Ronnie picks on Michael for killing cats. Judith was told to take Michael out trick-or-treating because mom has to go to work. But Judith sends him away so she can have alone time with her boyfriend. The boyfriend has a very familiar-looking mask on. Michael goes home, eats some candy, pulls a knife out of the drawer, and kills Ronnie in his sleep. Judith’s boyfriend is next. Michael trades masks and kills Judith wearing the now-iconic white-faced mask. When Deborah finally gets home from work, she finds Michael sitting outside alone and covered in blood.
Eleven months later, at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Michael is admitted after being found guilty. Loomis starts treating Michael. He doesn’t appear to remember what he did, and when his mother visits, he asks how everyone is at home. One of the orderies, Max, tells Michael to start living inside his head to deal with being locked up.
Michael starts to obsess on the construction of masks. He only takes them off when Deborah comes to visit, and eventually not even then as he gets crazier. Michael deteriorates and starts acting out. He wants out, but Loomis says that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. After a while, Loomis reports that “there’s nothing left here now.” On her final visit, Deborah gives him a photo of him with baby sister Laurie. As Deborah and Loomis talk outside, Michael kills a nurse. That night, Deborah goes home and kills herself.
Fifteen years later. Michael’s still in the institution, and his room is floor-to-ceiling in masks. Michael has grown very tall. Max is still his orderly, and as he shows a new guard around, it’s clear that he has some compassion for Michael and treats him with respect. The new guard, who has doomed written on his forehead, doesn’t have any respect for the crazies. Michael hasn’t spoken in all those years. Loomis is moving on, he’s given up on helping Michael. Loomis has written a book about his experiences with the famous case of Michael Myers, and we see a scene of him addressing an audience about him.
That night, the new guard and his cousin decide to have a good time and open up Michael’s cell to bully him. They rape a girl in his cell as Michael watches. Michael kills them all. Max comes to work and finds a mess… and Michael walking loose. He tries to put Michael back into his cell, but Michael brutally kills him and breaks out. Loomis gets a phone call telling him that Michael’s escaped.
Michael goes to a truck-washing place and kills a trucker for his green jumpsuit.
Back in Haddonfield, on October 31st, Laurie Strode annoys her parents, Cynthia and Mason, and then walks to school with Tommy, the kid she babysits.
Michael breaks into his old house and finds a knife and the mask he stashed fifteen years ago. He also recovers his theme song, which plays ominously as he dons the mask. Not long after, Laurie spots Michael staring at her from across the street.
Loomis knows exactly where Michael is going, although the administration of the hospital denies it. Michael follows Laurie home from school. Loomis buys a gun and then hooks up with the sheriff, who isn’t convinced with Loomis’ story.
Laurie’s friend Linda and her boyfriend have a party in the empty house on their block– Michael’s old house. He kills them both in a scene very similar to the one in the original film. He then goes to Laurie’s house and kills both her parents. Michael follows Annie and Lindsey - the girl she’s babysitting - who are going to where Laurie and Tommy are at Tommy’s house. Annie drops off Lindsey so Laurie is babysitting them both, then goes off to spend time with her boyfriend.
The sheriff thinks Loomis is just trying to create hype for his book. Loomis tells him of the pure evil inside Michael. The sheriff does call the Strode house, but of course, no one answers because they’re dead. And Michael is next door, going after Annie and her boyfriend.
Laurie walks Lindsay home and finds Annie, who isn’t quite dead yet. As Laurie calls 911, Michael comes up behind her. The sheriff and Loomis are notified of the call via radio and head that way. Laurie runs down the street with Michael right behind her; she goes back to Tommy’s house, but Michael breaks in and pursues her and the kids. Two police officers arrive, but they don’t live long. One of them does manage to shoot Michael, but it doesn’t really slow him down. Michael grabs Laurie and carries her home to his place.
Tommy and Lindsay run into Dr. Loomis on the street and tell him what happened. Laurie wakes up next to Linda’s dead body. Michael shows Laurie the baby photo of the two of them, but she doesn’t remember any of that. She grabs the knife and stabs Michael and gets out. He catches up and is about to finish her off when Loomis shows up and shoots him three more times.
Loomis leads Laurie to the police car. Michael breaks into the car and grabs her once again, with Loomis in pursuit. Loomis begs Michael to take him instead, and Michael does, bashing his head. Laurie takes Loomis’s gun, and we see that he isn’t actually dead yet.
Michael charges at her, and they both go out the upstairs window. She wakes up first and finds out that her gun still works. She shoots him in the head.
Young Michael talks in this one, the first time in nine films. We get a lot of time in the asylum seeing that Michael is just a kid with mental problems. A severe case. I guess this makes it all more realistic, but mental illness isn’t fun– the almost supernatural evil of the original made for a much better villain.
The whole point of this reboot seems to be to humanize Michael and make him more realistic. Michael gets shot four times and stabbed once, so I’m not sure how realistic any of that is.
I’m not sure that anyone wanted or needed it, but it’s an interesting attempt at a relaunch. There was a sequel, which we’ll be looking at soon, but this timeline was fairly short-lived.
Malcolm McDowell is a skilled actor for Dr. Loomis, but Donald Pleasence had a desperate, nearly insane quality about his performance that made Loomis feel almost as unhinged as Michael. Certainly obsessed and a little over the top. McDowell is completely rational and professional here. Taylor Scout-Compton is fine as a scream-queen-in-training, but she’s no Jamie Lee Curtis. Tyler Mane as Michael is just Huge, the biggest actor to play Michael so far, and he really is intimidating.
As a stand-alone slasher film this is really pretty good. As a film in the Halloween franchise? Not really.
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargoll
Stars Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
Run Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
We watch grainy old footage of an entire family being hanged. Credits roll.
A family is moving into their new home, and the sheriff drives up to talk to the husband. The sheriff wants them all to move out, right now. Ellison wrote a “True Crime” book that was very anti-cop, so he’s not popular with the men in blue. He’s here to investigate a missing girl and the dead family for his new book, but the sheriff believes she’s dead. Wife Tracy asks, “We didn’t just move in a few houses down from a crime scene, did we?” Ellison says “No.” He's technically telling the truth. We see the hanging tree in their backyard…
While putting stuff in the attic, Ellison finds some old film reels. Later, setting up a crazy wall in his office, he finds a photo of the attic, and it was empty before they moved in. He decides to watch the films. We see a family doing “family things,” at least until he gets to the part with the hanging. Who made the film? Stephanie’s not in the film, maybe it was her. He watches a second film, where a different family is all chained up in their car which catches fire, and they all burn to death. He starts to call the police, but changes his mind. There are other films that are all similar in nature. He sees a demonic-looking face in one of them.
Son Trevor has night terrors, which involve a lot of screaming. The next morning, Trevor doesn’t remember any of it. Trevor finds out about the hanging family the next day at school, and Tracy is not amused, Ellison watches more of the movies. Each of the murders has one missing child involved. Ellison hears something up in the attic, but he can’t find anything except a big snake and drawings of “Mr. Boogie.” The drawings all represent the deaths in the movies— and then he falls through the attic floor. After the ambulance leaves, the deputy offers to help Ellison with his research. He asks about the other murders, and the deputy says he’ll look into it.
That night, Trevor is out sleepwalking again. Tracy blames everything on Ellison; he’s already a mess and drinking too much, and the book is barely getting started. The deputy turns up some information, and Ellison shares a little back with him. He calls Professor Jonas, an occult expert, who explains that the symbol on the walls of the victims is the symbol of pagan deity, Bughuul, “the eater of children.” That night, Ellison wakes up to find the films are playing themselves; something is in the house following him around.
The deputy starts to think that Ellison is over stressed, and he says there’s no way he’d ever sleep in this house. Ellison is definitely getting paranoid, but he’s not necessarily wrong. Daughter Ashley starts talking to Stephanie, the missing girl from the hanging family. This starts a huge fight between Ellison and Tracy.
That night, Ellison goes up into the attic again, and he sees all the missing/dead children watching a video of Bughuul. Ellison is really freaked out and burns the films and projector in the backyard grill. He decides that Tracy was right and they need to leave the house— tonight. They grab the kids, pack a few things and drive back to their old house.
They pass a speed trap and get pulled over. It’s the sheriff. When he hears they’re leaving town, he lets them go.
The next day, they move everything back to their old house. Professor Jonas calls back with more information. Apparently images of Bughuul can summon him; the pictures are a gateway.
That night, Ellison goes up to the attic in this house and finds more films and a projector. These are “extended cut endings,” so Ellison has to watch them. The deputy calls with still more information: Turns out each murdered family lived in the house of the previous murdered family. Guess who lived in one of those houses most recently?
The new films all include the missing children doing the murdering of their families before they vanish. Then Ellison passes out- he’s been drugged by daughter Ashley.
He wakes up tied and gagged on the floor next to Tracy. Ashley films him lying there with a Super8 camera. Then she joins the other missing children in the film.
Now there’s one more film in the box of reels.
It’s a really dark film to look at, and it makes liberal use of jump scares. It’s more about uncovering the mystery than it is about the monster, at least at first.
The acting is all excellent, and the characters all act appropriately for the most part. No one in this household seems to know how to switch on a light though, and that just seems unrealistic considering the circumstances.
It’s really good— very tense and dark.
Short Film: Death in Charge (2022)
Directed by Devi Snively
Written by Devi Snively
Stars Marina Benedict, Gillian Shure, Kylie Chalfa
Run Time: 14:54
Debbie and Brad are making out, and she ends up dead. Someone crosses an item off a to-do checklist. It’s Death.
Death then heads over to the next job, an annoying mother who mistakes Death for the babysitter. Things spiral from there…
It takes a while, but that next item on the list eventually gets marked off.
"Wanna play Blood-Spattered Corpse Orgy? No rules."
I never had a babysitter half that entertaining. Remember, Death always comes to your house for a reason…
Directed by Demian Rugna
Written by Demian Rugna
Stars Maximilian Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a brilliant one, well-written, perfectly cast with excellent special effects. The story jumps around in time and place a bit to make it extra interesting. Subtitled and worth the watch and read.
A woman does the dishes, but hears something under the sink. Or is it coming from the drain? She cancels dinner because she hears voices in the kitchen. Her husband listens in and doesn’t hear voices. She says they are going to kill her. Credits roll.
Later that night, her husband hears knocking inside the walls. Juan thinks it’s Walter, the neighbor, but when he goes over there, there’s no answer. He goes back inside and thinks maybe Clara is doing the banging. Spoiler: She is.
The next morning, he’s under interrogation, as he tries to explain that he didn’t brutally murder Clara. They say they believe him, as there was an identical case in America back in 1998.
We flash back to Walter, who pleads to Doctor Albreck’s office on the phone that he’s having some weird problems at home. The woman in her office says the doctor isn’t available. He goes home, and he, too, hears sounds in the pipes. As soon as he gets to sleep, his bed starts moving. There’s something in his room, as he hides under the covers. In the morning, he calls the doctor again, but again, the doctor refuses his case. That night, he sets up a video camera in his bedroom; he wants proof of what’s been going on. He gets his proof; there’s literally a monster in his closet. He gets a gun and opens the door, but there’s no one in there. Wait, yeah there is someone there. Walter screams.
A little boy gets hit by a bus in front of the house, and Juan and Clara go to investigate. It’s their friend Alicia’s son.
Jano gets a call from Funes. We recognize him as one of the investigators. He’s calling because of the accident. Meanwhile, Alicia starts hearing banging in the pipes. The police called Jano and Funes about the condition they found Alicia in. There are little boy footprints all over the house, and the dead kid sitting at the table. He’s been dead four days. Funes thinks he saw the decomposing child move at one point. His hands are all torn up from clawing his way out of the grave. It could be a case of body snatching, but he doesn’t really think so. While they’re not watching, the child spills his milk on the table. Jano suggests just burying the body and not telling anyone; Alicia might be arrested.
Jano spots Mona Allbreck outside, taking photos of Walter’s house across the street. He knows she’s a specialist, and he invites her over to look at the dead child. Jano tells Funes to buy two bags of concrete to keep the kid in the grave this time. Jano says that he’s encountered strangely undead people before. She shows him the photos taken by Walter’s camera. “I wouldn’t come all the way here if I had my doubts,” she says. One of the neighborhood kids sees the dead child through the window, so they hide the body in the freezer until they can move it back to the cemetery.
So we cut back to Juan being interrogated. The interrogators are Jano, Allbreck, and Rosentock, a colleague of hers. They know a lot of this already, so they aren’t too skeptical. They want his approval to investigate further. Each of them decides to spend the night in one of the affected houses. The electricity in Walter’s house has been turned off, but Allbreck says it’s better without lights. Funes is with Rosentock, and he’s terrified.
Things start moving around at Walter’s, and Rosentock is injured. There’s activity at Alicia’s house as well. Allbreck, in Juan’s house, starts to pick up things with her instruments. The creatures can be seen and not seen at the same time, depending on your point of view. Funes has had enough and leaves the house. He goes across the street to where Jano is and finds Jano injured. He goes to see Albreck, who tells him not everything he’s seen is real. There are coexisting dimensions, and sometimes things cross over. As they talk something reaches out of the wall and kills Albreck.
As Funes lies there with severe chest pains, the creatures start crawling around in the room. Alicia comes in. and he begs her for help. She blames him for taking her child away; she’s seen the videos. Oh, and she’s dug up her child again. Funes decides not to get into the car with her. He runs to his car and drives off.
He calms down, thinks about it, and goes back to the houses. He sets them on fire.
Juan is brought before three new investigators. Then the police station goes haywire, “You brought him with you,” Juan announces.
It’s really good. you don’t know where it’s going, but it’s got weirdness galore. The characters are all played realistically, the music and sound is good, it looks fantastic, and the creatures are unique. There are lots of jump scares, but there’s lots of genuine creepiness too; it’s all good.
I liked it a lot.
The Black Phone (2021)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Written by Joe Hill, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Stars Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke
Run Time: 1 Hour, 43 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
They took a basic idea and dialed it up to eleven with supernatural elements. An excellent cast including the kids and a gripping script. Suspenseful and really very good all around.
In Denver, 1978, we start at a baseball game. The pitcher, Finney, throws two strikes, but then the other player, Bruce, hits a home run– and the game is over. Bruce sees a black van approaching, and – credits roll, with photos of newspapers declaring, “missing person,” “lost child,” and more. We see lots of missing person posters.
We see Finney and his little sister tiptoeing around to avoid disturbing their father’s hangover. On the way to school, they spot the flyers about Bruce, who’s been gone for a while now. They also watch two kids fighting, and the big one, Moose, isn’t going to get up again on his own. Robin is the toughest kid in the school since “The Grabber” got Vince Hopper. Even the papers call him The Grabber. Finney’s afraid to say the kidnapper’s name; it’s almost legendary. After school, Finney is accosted by three bullies. Robin talks about having bloody knuckles; the other three go away fast. Robin and Finney talk about watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Finney’s sister, Gwen, gets called into the office to talk to the police. She had a dream about Bruce that he was taken by a man in a black van with black balloons at the crime scene. They want to know how she knew about the balloons, since that was kept out of the papers. Her father beats her when the police come to his work. She’s psychic like her mother, but her father denies it and tries to beat it out of her. Elsewhere, we see Robin walking alone with a black van in the background…
Finney asks Gwen to “do the dream thing” to do something to help his friend, but she says it doesn’t work that way. The next morning, the police come to talk to Gwen to see if she knows anything about Robin’s disappearance. With Robin missing, the bullies are all over Finney until Gwen tries to defend him. After school that day, Finney finds a strange man spilling groceries out of a black van. Finney soon winds up in the back of that van.
The Grabber, wearing a strange mask, explains that “nothing bad is going to happen here,” once Finney wakes up. He’s in a dark basement with only a mattress, toilet, and a disconnected telephone. Gwen and her father finally realize Finney is missing and get the cops involved.
Finney hears the black phone ringing, but The Grabber, in a different mask, says that it hasn’t worked since he was a kid. The cord is not even connected any more. Static electricity or something makes it ring sometimes, he says. Later, the phone rings again, but there’s no one there. The next time, Finney hears a voice. “I don’t remember my name. It’s the first thing you lose.” It’s Bruce. “The Grabber hears it ring too, but he doesn’t believe it,” Bruce whispers over the phone. Bruce tells Finney about a tunnel he could dig under the tiles. Finney starts digging when he has the chance.
At one point, The Grabber leaves the door unlocked, but a black phone voice warns him not to go upstairs, because it’s a trap. She says he’s waiting upstairs to beat him with a belt. Then he will be “naughty” in The Grabber’s mind, and he’ll be able to justify killing him. It’s a twisted sort of game he plays. Finney doesn’t go upstairs, but we see that the girl on the phone was right. Billy, another missing kid, calls and tells Finney about a cable he had hidden in a crack in the floor. The dead kids seem to be helping Finney.
Elsewhere, Gwen dreams about the kidnappings, and each time, she sees more. She has a talk with her father, who admits that her mother saw things too, and it was so awful it drove her to kill herself. He desperately doesn’t want his daughter to be subjected to that too. “What if it could help me find Finney?” she asks. The two start driving around looking for recognizable things.
Canvassing the area, two detectives run into Max, a guy who lives with his brother and has a “crazy wall” related to the missing people. They aren’t too interested in what he has to say.
Finney gets another call, this one tells him that The Grabber is asleep, and there’s a combination to a padlock carved into the wall nearby. It’s 23317, but he doesn’t know how the numbers are broken up. He’ll need this later.
Finney goes up the stairs, past the too-conveniently-unlocked door, past the sleeping Grabber, and to the front door, which is padlocked. He tries the various possibilities of the combination. He opens the door, and the dog starts barking, waking up the Grabber, who chases Finney down the street outside and recaptures him.
Gwen has a dream/flashback to what happened with Vance. She sees the Grabber’s house and address.
When Finney wakes up, he gets a call from Vance, who says that today’s the day. Vance tells him how to get out of the room by breaking through the wall with the toilet tank cover. He does this, but can’t get through because the freezer on the other side is locked.
Robin calls and says he’s been with Finney the whole time. Robin tells him to fight back. Use the handset of the phone as a weapon! It’s already heavy, stuff it with dirt to make it heavier. Robin says that this will be the last phone call. “Get out. Use what we gave you.”
Piece by piece, Finney uses the bits and pieces of what he has to set up some booby traps. Outside, Gwen rides her bike around looking for The Grabber’s house. She gets some supernatural help and finds it. She calls the detectives.
Amateur sleuth Max snorts some coke and stares intently at his crazy wall map. He goes into the basement and finds Finney. He’s excited that he was right. He knew his brother was hiding something from him. Until he gets an ax in the head. The Grabber laments to Finney about what Finney made him do. “He was an idiot,” he says of his dead brother, “but he was my idiot.” Outside, Gwen points out the house to the detectives. The Grabber approaches Finney with the ax. Upstairs, the police storm in and realize it’s a completely empty house. But they find a hidden basement door.
In the basement where Finney is, he does indeed fight back, and he wins. The hidden basement the cops enter is where the bodies have been buried, but it’s not where Finney is. Finney comes out of the house across the street and is soon surrounded by Gwen and the police. Turns out, The Grabber owned two homes.
The time period, 1978, looks about right. It’s like they were trying to do “Stranger Things” but keep it a little different. It’s got school fights, child kidnappings, and ass-whippings, so, yeah the 70s.
The Grabber has several masks in the same style but with different expressions. They are really cool. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that there’s some supernatural stuff going on, but it definitely intensifies as the film progresses. Each of the missing dead kids helps out a little, telling Finney what he needs to escape.
Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw, as Finney and Gwen, are great here, which is unusual for young actors. Ethan Hawke, as the Grabber, is fine, but we hardly even see his face. Still, it was good!
Newsletter Contact Info:
Stay tuned for more regular and bonus reviews next week!
The web: http://www.horrorguys.com
Subscribe by email: