The Munsters, Martin, Poltergeist (2015), and When the Screaming Starts
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 190
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. This week, our oldie film is "Martin" from 1977. We'll watch the 2015 remake of "Poltergeist," the new horror-comedy "When the Screaming Starts" from 2021, and last, the new "Munsters" reboot.
In the Bonus reviews this week, over at
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"The Mephisto Waltz" from 1971
"The Thing That Couldn't Die" 1958
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The Munsters (2022)
Directed by Rob Zombie
Written by Rob Zombie
Stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Daniel Roebuck, Cassandra Peterson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 49 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a prequel to the old television series, ending pretty much where the show starts. It’s kind of a strange movie with lots of pop culture references appealing to adults, especially older adults, but humor that seemed geared toward young people. It’s fun horror, not scary horror. The visuals are excellent, managing to be bright and colorful while being dark and gloomy at the same time. All in all, a thumbs up from The Horror Guys but it’s probably not going to be appreciated by all. We’d expect strong mixed reviews.
Men enter a Transylvanian crypt with shovels. As Dr. Wolfgang and his assistant Floop open the casket, they find it empty. The walking, talking zombie comes in behind them. The zombie was the world’s greatest pianist, and Dr. Wolfgang wants his hands. They knock him over the head and take selfies with the zombie. They’ve been collecting parts from lots of corpses.
Elsewhere, in the big castle, the Count wakes up and rises from his coffin. His back is out, and he needs Igor to fix it. “Once you hit three hundred everything starts to go.” His daughter Lily is out on a date with Mr. Orlock. Orlock’s a creepy old Nosferatu, but he’s wealthy, so that’s OK. They go the the Egyptian restaurant, and the service is really slow– the waiter is a mummy. Orlock has pictures of his rats, and he’s pretty boring at first, but he’s really a disco party animal.
Zoya the gypsy gets Lester the werewolf to call the Count; she wants to buy his castle and build a casino there. The Count is watching old movies on TV, but the show is interrupted with the news that Shecky Von Rathbone, a bad comedian, has just died; so has the smartest man in the world. Dr. Wolfgang wants the dead genius’s brain, and they get Shecky instead because Floop is Floop.
As Lily sits at home being lonely, Dr. Wolfgang assembles the body parts into a regular Frankenstein’s monster. Floop decides to name the creation Herman Munster, like the cheese. The switch is thrown, the sparks fly, and it’s all excessively dramatic. Is it alive? No. Wolfgang breaks down and has a tantrum. Oh, wait, that creature is alive!
The Count and Lily watch the morning show, and Dr. Wolfgang is on there unveiling his creation. Herman walks out into the spotlight, and Lily is immediately smitten. He tells a bad joke, but he can’t play the piano at all and he doesn’t seem too bright. Shecky’s brian has taken over.
Herman soon goes on the comedy club circuit, which makes him easy for Lily to find. In the office above the nightclub, Zoya gives Lester an ultimatum; he has two weeks to get her the castle. Lester runs into Lily on the steps; they’re siblings. Herman’s into Lily too, so that works out well. She invites him over for dinner at midnight tomorrow.
Herman arrives, and The Count is not impressed. He and Igor decide to get rid of Herman, but Lily is all in on Herman. They get tattoos of each other and sing karaoke. Before long, they’re engaged. The Count pulls out a spell book and chooses a “husband spell.” He ends up conjuring up a dancing ape instead.
At the wedding in the cemetery, Lester tells Herman about the real estate deal, but Herman doesn’t care about the finances. He signs Lester’s contract without even asking about it. Much to the Count’s dismay, the marriage proceeds.
The pair go to Paris for their honeymoon, and there are mime and Frenchman jokes to spare. They read about a monster haunting the sewers of Paris, so they have to go visit. They catch a little dragon and name him Spot.
Back in Transylvania, Zoya sends the Count an eviction notice. Zoya is the Count’s ex-wife, and she wants revenge. He goes to Paris to kill Herman in retaliation. The Count rages about the contract and eviction to Lily and blames it all on Herman. Herman thinks he can make a killing in California; they need a fresh start. Time to leave Transylvania!
Herman says the Count can come along, but he’ll have to leave Igor behind. The Count mixes up a potion for Igor that turns him into a bat. They call a realtor to get a new house. She likes their “Halloween costumes” and takes them to the house for sale. They drive through Mockingbird Heights, a too-clean suburban neighborhood that’s fully decorated with everyone in costume. It’s Halloween, and Lily has no idea all the “beautiful” kids are just wearing masks. They fall in love with the condemned mansion down the street, and the realtor’s grateful to be rid of the eyesore.
They have the house of their dreams, but they’re flat broke. Herman decides to go out and get a job. The trio go outside and introduce themselves to the neighbors at the Halloween party, and of course, everyone is in costume. They fit right in and think the whole thing is terrific. The Munster family wins the prize for “best costume.” The men who run the local mortuary hire Herman on the spot to carry their larger clients.
The next morning, they are horrified to discover normal suburban life now that Halloween is over. It hits Herman that all the people his neighbors are actual, normal humans; how terrifying. “We can’t live with people who look like that!” Lily exclaims. But they decide it’s what’s inside a person that counts. Lester comes to the door and hands them a bunch of money; he made a killing in Vegas with his share of the castle proceeds. Happy ending!
It’s the origin story we didn’t know we needed. The visuals are great, with silly animated backdrops when appropriate. The jokes are horrible “dad jokes” for the most part, which is exactly what you’d expect from Herman. There are lots of pop references, but they’re mostly referencing stuff from the sixties, so I don’t know how many young people are even going to understand those. There was even a “Car 54” reference. Still, I don’t think this was aimed at young viewers. Except the humor is really, really juvenile, as if it were aimed at kids. I think the film has confused itself.
Grandpa Munster is just “The Count” here, since he’s not a grandpa yet, and technically he's not a "Munster" anyway. Most of the actors also have a dual role as someone who appears on their TV shows.
Before release, there were all the usual comments about Rob Zombie casting his wife in all his films, but Lily was probably the best thing about this film. Daniel Roebuck as the Count was also pretty good. The weak point here, unfortunately, was Herman. For a character as iconic as Herman, he just didn’t pull it off. (Horror Guy Kevin disagrees and thinks he did a pretty good job of building the character from zero - being reanimated - to the point where they are settled in to start a family.)
I watched all the original shows as a kid (in the 70s), and they were a lot of fun. This is pretty much exactly the same thing. It’s not updated or rebooted, not really; it’s exactly the same thing. They’re all set up for possible sequels, so it’s more of a reminder that these characters exist than anything else.
I liked it a lot, but it’s probably not going to appeal to everyone.
When the Screaming Starts (2021)
Directed by Conor Boru
Written by Conor Boru, Ed Hartland
Stars Katharine Bennett-Fox, Lee Nicholas Harris, Yasen Atour
Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A horror-comedy about a wanna-be serial killer who starts his own Manson-like murder family and the filmmaker who wants to document the whole thing. Things do not go well. This is really excellent and everyone should see it.
We get news reports about a dinner party massacre. Fourteen people are dead. Credits roll.
Norman is a true-crime documentary filmmaker who has found his next story. He believes Aiden Mendle is going to be the next serial killer and wants to document that. Aiden is at least an “aspiring” serial killer. He accidentally shoots a cat and acts surprised when the gun goes off. He works at the local movie theater and imagines killing the patrons. Claire is Aiden’s girlfriend, and she’s murder-obsessed as well. Even more so. She likes to take photos of dead bodies. Aiden explains how wardrobe is important, since “you don’t want people thinking you’re a terrorist when you’re really a serial killer.”
Aiden wants to kill Luke first; he was the vocalist in his band, and when he left, the band broke up. Claire tells him, “Don’t screw this up. If you kill someone, we can have sex.” Luke wonders what all the cameras are for; it’s the documentary crew, here to watch him be murdered. It goes badly when Luke chokes out Aiden and gets away.
So now, Aiden and Claire decide to start a cult instead. They interview prospective members, starting with Mickey, who’s ruled out because he’s an orphan and Claire says orphans can’t be trusted. Viktoria and Veronika, creepy twins, come in, followed by a whole string of weirdos who want to join the cult just for something to do. Amy is an insane rich girl who killed her own pony. One guy just wants yoga lessons and has the wrong address, but he doesn’t speak English so they don’t know why he’s really there. They finally settle on a small group of future cultists.
Next up is boot camp and weapons training. The yoga guy decides that something isn’t right with this group. They get a headquarters to live together and plan murders together. The plan is to find a family, do a home invasion, and kill them all, just like the Manson Family. But without racism. Aiden insists they are all inclusive.
Tonight’s the big night, their first murder. They’re all really looking forward to the slaughter. The yoga guy thinks they’re going to a retreat. They go to the house, documentary crew in tow, and get inside. It turns out that this is Amy’s parent’s house. Her parents say it’s a wonderful surprise, and then she stabs her father with a fork. They do, in fact, actually kill everyone at the party; it’s a fun time for all. Norman and the cameraman just watch in awe.
Aiden feels left out because he didn’t go with the others. Claire and Amy start to get close, and Aiden’s left out of that as well. Aiden still considers himself “The brain” of the operation so they are really his murders, but the others don’t think he did much. Norman thinks his footage is going to put him “on the map.” Amy plots a coup against Aiden. The yoga guy still likes Aiden, but no one can understand a word he says, so that doesn’t matter. They all leave him, even Claire.
Norman wants to go with Amy and the twins, but they don’t want witnesses or evidence, so they take his footage. Aiden wants to give up and go home, so Norman is now completely out of it. Aiden vows to start again, but the only one he can call is Mickey, who they didn’t want for the first group.
Norman tries to break into Amy’s house to get his footage back. He finds what he came for but then runs into Amy on the way out. Amy tries to kill him, but Norman ends up stabbing her in the eye and killing her. Of course, the cameraman gets all this on film too. Claire walks in and takes his picture, so he stabs her to death as well, not quite so accidentally as with Amy. “I always knew it would be you,” she says.
The news reporters think maybe the brutal murder of the two women is related to the murder of that family last week. Aiden hears about Amy and Claire on the news, and he doesn’t take it well at all. Aiden gets a call from Norman, who wants to meet.
Norman congratulates Aiden for killing Claire and Amy; it’s like a present from Norman. He offers to give Aiden credit for all the murders. All he has to do is admit it on camera and kill Norman too. Does Aiden really want to be a murderer? Aiden won’t do it, so the two men struggle over a knife. Eventually, there can be only one.
Norman has learned his job well. Why film it when you can live it?
It’s a horror comedy, so none of this is serious horror. But there is some serious dark humor. It’s more about the build-up and situations than it is about the plot itself, but it gets to the murders eventually. The plot unfolds naturally, considering the silly premise, and everything makes sense. Turns out, Aiden’s about the only one in the film who doesn’t kill anyone.
The jokes are good, the acting is good, the cinematography is good, and it’s all well paced. It’s not a laugh-a-minute, but it gets the job done.
Short Film: Mukbang (2022)
Directed by Alex Magana
Written by Alex Magana
Stars Becky Bush, Juliette Cecil
Run Time: 5:25
Carly is doing a cooking show. “Today we’re doing the Korean Fire Noodle Challenge,” she tells the camera. There’s a HUGE bowl of noodles in front of her. Twenty packages of Korean fire noodle ramen. The current record is fifteen packs. She starts her timer and starts chowing down.
Later, she gets a text “I know you cheated!” She did, in fact, cheat, but how would anyone know that? Now we get to see her eat all those noodles for real…
Some people take their TikTok pretty seriously. Maybe too seriously. A “mukbang” is also known as an “eating show,” is an online audiovisual broadcast in which a host consumes various quantities of food while interacting with the audience.
I’ve had those same noodles. They’ll halfway kill you the first time you try them, but you get a tolerance pretty quickly. Still, twenty packs is a lot. I bet I could do it…
AKA "Martin The Blood-Lover"
Directed by George A. Romero
Written by George A. Romero
Stars John Amples, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Tom Savini
Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is the story of Martin the vampire. Or is he just an unbalanced young man? We’re left wondering. It’s pretty slow moving, but still manages to be interesting and watchable.
A bunch of people board an overnight train. Martin is there, and he turns out the light, making his way to the restroom. He opens up a package and pulls out a syringe. He fills it with something and then picks the lock on a sleeper-car’s door. He fantasizes about the woman inside, but when he goes in, she’s in the bathroom putting on a facemask. She comes out, and he drops the syringe. They wrestle, and we notice that she’s completely lost her face cream. They argue, and he explains that he doesn’t want to hurt her with the needle. “I’m always very careful with the needles,” he soothes. He puts her to sleep, gets undressed, and then he undresses her. He slices her wrist open and gets her blood all over him as he drinks it. He then spreads around razor blades and drugs to make it look like a suicide. He cleans himself up and goes back to his own compartment as credits roll.
When he gets to Pittsburg, Martin meets up with Cuda, who says they need to take a different train. They eventually arrive at a big house in an older neighborhood. Cuda calls him ‘Nosferatu’ and says he will destroy him; but first, he shows Martin to his room. “You may come and go, but do not take people from the city!” orders Cuda. He also forbids Martin from speaking with his granddaughter. It’s all very strange.
Martin explains that he’s not Nosferatu, he’s Cuda’s cousin, Martin. Martin picks up the garlic, even taking a bite, and handles the cross, and it doesn’t bother him. “It isn’t magic. Even I know that.”
Cuda owns a small shop, and Martin is going to work for him. Martin meets Christina, Cuda’s forbidden granddaughter. Martin eats strangely at the dinner table, using a little guillotine to cut celery. He asks Christina to put her finger in there, but it’s just a magic trick. Martin shows the trick and says that there’s no real magic. Arthur comes in, and says he’s looking for work; he’s Christina’s boyfriend.
Martin delivers groceries for Cuda. One woman, Mrs. Santini, offers to give Martin a ride back to town. They stop for gas, and she talks about her husband.
Cuda tells Christina about Martin being a vampire, and she thinks the old man is crazy. She thinks Martin was raised to believe it. Cuda says Martin was born in 1892, and then he explains the family lineage. Martin is glad that she doesn’t believe in magic, but he does claim to be 84 years old.
Martin scopes out his next victim, a housewife in the suburbs. As he gets into her house, he has flashbacks to an early kill. He bursts in on the woman expecting her to be alone, but she’s naked with her secret boyfriend. Oops. “Who is that?” they both ask. Martin injects the man, but the woman won’t call 911 because he’s not supposed to be there. Martin locks the man outside and then corners the woman. When the guy gets back inside, Martin jabs him again. Finally, both of them pass out from the drugs. Martin takes the man out into the woods and drinks his blood. The flashbacks show how an angry mob with torches once came after Martin after one of his kills. He then goes back inside, cleans up the mess, and leaves the woman alone.
Cuda makes Martin go to church on Sunday, and it may be the scuzziest Catholic church you’ve ever seen. While doing some handyman stuff for Mrs. Santorini, she decides to seduce him. It doesn’t work, and Martin runs off. Cuda asks Father Howard whether he believes in demons. Father Howard talks about the movie “The Exorcist” and laughs about it. Martin flashes back to when an exorcism had been performed on him.
Cuda brings in Father Zulmas, a different old priest, one who actually knows how to do an exorcism. Unenthusiastically in English. Martin just sits there and listens until he gets up and runs away.
Cuda walks through the fog and spots Martin in a full Dracula cape and fangs. Martin just laughs at the terrified old man until Cuda hits him with his cane. Martin spits out the fake teeth and tells him that it’s just a costume.
He delivers to Mrs. Santorini, and this time he wants to go ahead with the sex. They do. She cries afterward, and Martin wonders if it’s something he did. Cuda tells Arthur about Martin, and warns him about what runs in their family line. She hears about what Cuda told him and moves out. She and Arthur are moving away, but not to worry, they won’t have children. She’s only using him to get out.
Mrs. Santorini starts seeing Martin regularly. This seems to make killing women and drinking their blood more difficult; it’s hard to pick a woman victim. Eventually, he knocks out a couple of hobos and drains them. He then breaks into a store to change clothes, and the police show up before he’s done. He runs for it, but the police pursue. He runs into the middle of a drug deal, and the dealers shoot the cops. Before long, Martin’s the last one standing.
He goes to Santorini’s house and find that she’s committed suicide. He thinks maybe that’s OK. Cuda thinks Martin killed her, even though he didn’t. Cuda stakes Martin through the heart, killing him.
Whatever Martin uses to inject his victims with is really inefficient; it takes forever to knock them out.
Like most Romero films from the 70s this looks very grainy and low budget. The real question throughout is whether or not Martin is really a eighty-four-year-old vampire or just a messed-up teenager/serial killer. We never really find out. As Martin explains repeatedly, “The magic isn’t real.” But there is enough weirdness to make you wonder if he really could be one.
It’s pretty slow-moving and dated, but George Romero always claimed this was his favorite of his films. It’s definitely an interesting take on vampires, but it’s also right on the edge of being boring.
Directed by Gil Kenan
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais
Stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
An unnecessary and unworthy remake of one of the most classic horror films of the 80s. Within the first five minutes, we already hated the entire family, and that never quite changes through the film. If you took the basic characters and story from the original and substituted sub-par crap for all of them, this is what remains. Save your time, go watch the original again.
The Bowen family drive to their new house, and we see the three children, Kendra, Griffin, and Madison, are all annoying and stupid. The parents, Eric and Amy, seem to not care much what the children say or do. We already hope these people will all die, even before the credits. Griffin immediately takes a dislike to the old tree outside. We see that there are speakers in all the walls to listen to music. Eric’s unemployed and morose about it.
Even while they’re talking to the Realtor, little Madison is talking to someone in the bedroom closet. The price is cheap, so they can buy the house. It’s not a new house; it’s not Eric’s company that built it; they’re just random people moving into a house.
Later, Amy is doing laundry in the basement, so there can’t be any bodies buried down there. She loses her earring behind the washer and finds something yucky back there. Kendra watches Carrigan Burke, a ghost chaser, on TV. This movie takes place in a universe where unlike the fake shows we have, he’s the real deal. Madison says “The lost people are my friends.” Griffin is afraid of the skylight in his bedroom, even more of the creepy clown doll he finds.
That night, Griffin goes downstairs to find Madison talking to the TV, which is full of static. Then the TV is full of hands that look like they want out. “They’re here,” whispers Madison. The next morning, Griffin digs up a bone in the backyard. Amy wants to get Griffin therapy because there must be something wrong with the kid.
The next night, Amy and Eric go to a party and leave all the kids at home alone. It comes up during dinner that the development was built over a cemetery years and years ago. They moved the bodies, of course, but that was a long time ago.
Back at the house, Kendra hears weird sounds through her iPhone. She follows it to the basement, where something seems to be trying to get up through the floor. She finds that same black oozing stuff her mother found earlier– only this puddle reaches up and grabs her. Griffin is attacked by the evil clown doll and also the tree outside. Meanwhile, Madison’s closet door opens up and starts sucking in the lights from the room, then the toys, and then Madison herself.
Eric and Amy come home, and they find Griffin screaming up in the tree and Kendra is hysterical too. Maddy is gone. Soon, they start hearing Maddy’s voice on the TV. They call in Dr. Powell and her film crew to investigate. The group asks questions and investigates the house to find tricks and scams.
The whole group gathers around the TV to talk to Maddy, and when she calls, there are others with her, and they don’t sound very nice. They see her shadow running around the house; not Maddy, just her shadow. Eric throws a table into the closet and it comes back through the living room ceiling. Dr. Powell wants to call in Carrigan Burke.
Carrigan arrives, and everyone’s a big fan of his TV show. He goes through the house, and we see the various weird things have escalated a bit. He knows the stuff about the cemetery, but he also doesn’t think they really moved the bodies; they’re still down there. The anger and frustration of the dead have combined to create a poltergeist. He says the dead want Maddy to lead them into the light.
Everyone in the house gets a GPS tracker. They get a drone ready. And a rope. Carrigan talks about his various scars, ala “Jaws.” One of them was apparently made by a ghost shark. Finally, they get everything set up. They throw the rope into the closet, and it comes out in the living room. Then they fly a drone inside to find Madison. It flies along the rope into the closet portal, and we see what’s inside; CGI Hell. They make contact with the little girl, but then they lose the drone.
Griffin goes in alone after his sister. There’s lots of screaming and drama, but he gets her, and the two children fall into the living room. Carrigan says “The House is Clean,” which is his show's tagline. Madison says the house isn’t clean, since the ghosts stayed behind. They get in the car to leave, but the ghosts won’t allow it. The entire car gets sucked into the house.
The closet upstairs has turned into a demonic black hole, sucking in everything. They watch the demonic monsters reach out of the closet for Madison, but they pull her out just in time. Carrigan goes back inside; he says he’s the only one who can lead the souls into the light. He jumps into the closet as the rest of the family climbs out a window. They all pile into a Mini Cooper as dead bodies start rising from the Earth. The house explodes behind them as they drive away.
The family goes house-hunting, and the realtor mentions the huge closet space. They’re not impressed with the big tree out back either…
In the original, we spent time getting to know the family, and they were all fun, happy people, so it was a shock when bad things happened later. And we were rooting for them all the way. When the going got rough, the parents stepped up and saved the kids. In this modern version, they’re all morose and unlikable to begin with, so they kinda get what they deserve. The parents watch the ten year old boy go to Hell (think The Upside Down right out of Stranger Things) to save their daughter and don’t make a move to dive in after him to help; they’re worthless people. Jared Harris is cool though; Jared Harris is always cool, even when he’s wearing a stupid hat.
If you are going to remake a film as iconic and, yes, perfect, as the original “Poltergeist (1982)” was, then at least put a modern spin on it or introduce some new elements to make it stand out. This was basically a pointless remake with none of the Spielbergian charm of the original.
Soulless, worthless, cash-grabbing garbage of the worst kind. I'd give it one star, except for Jared Harris, who raises it two stars just by being there.
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