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The Northman, Unhuman, The Last House on the Left, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 174
We’ve got a weird selection of horror films this time around. We'll start with the epic "The Northman" from 2022 and end with "Unhuman," also from this year. In-between, we'll watch a short film and take a retro look at "The Last House on the Left" from way back in 1972 and "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" from 1995.
Bonus reviews at https://horrorbulletin.com this week:
• “Reptilicus” from 1961
• “The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent” from 1957
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The Horror Guys Guide to:
• The Horror Films of Vincent Price
• Universal Studios' Shock! Theater
• Universal Studios' Son of Shock!
• Hammer Horror Films
• The Silent Age of Horror
• A Sextet of Strange Stagings: Six Surprising Scripts
• Tales to Make You Shiver, Volume 1 and 2
Here. We. Go!
The Northman (2022)
• Directed by Robert Eggers
• Written by Sjon, Robert Eggers
• Stars Alexander Skardsgard, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang
• Run Time: 2 Hour, 16 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s beautiful to look at and amazingly filmed. It seems very authentic. It has a good story, and it’s surprisingly not action after action. There are many lulls. It’s not really horror, but there is enough creepy imagery, witchery, and visions to make it a close neighbor.
We start out with Viking ships in the year 895. The king has returned home, and Amleth and his mother the queen await. King Aurvandil arrives and says his brother Fjolnir will be joining them soon. He seems less than fun, but Heimer the Fool makes jokes. The king was wounded in battle, but he thinks Amleth is still too innocent to be named a successor.
The King and Amleth go into the temple of Odin and crawl around like howling animals. The king makes Amleth swear to avenge him if he should be slain by the enemy. Amleth has a psychedelic experience in the ritual. Not long after, the king is killed in an ambush by his own brother, Fjolnir. The king curses Fjonir with his dying breath as Amleth watches from a hiding place. “Bring me the boy’s head!” Shouts Fjolnir. Ameth gets away in a small boat, swearing to avenge his parents.
In the land of the Rus, we see that years have passed and Amleth has grown up. Doing lots of big boy exercises along the way. He’s pretty fit. The warriors do a ritual for Odin similar to what we’ve already seen just with more people. The next day, they attack a walled town and we see that Amleth is very good at killing people. They lock all the people they haven’t killed or enslaved in a house and set it on fire. They are not gracious victors.
Amleth sees a strange fortune-telling priestess in the village. She talks to him about his last teardrop and reminds him of his oath. She encourages him to fulfill his destiny. She details the fate that the Gods have spun for him and vanishes. Amleth gets news of Fjolnir, who soon lost the kingdom. He cuts his hair and boards a boat full of slaves, blending in as one of them, destined to his uncle’s estate. He meets Olga on the boat, and she knows who he is.
The boat sinks, but Amleth and Olga make it to shore, in Iceland. Elsewhere Fjolnir teaches his own son about leadership. His order of slaves has arrived, and he doesn’t recognize Amleth. Fjolnir especially likes Olga’s white hair. Almeth sees that his mother is actually still alive.
Amleth goes to see the he-witch, and we see what became of Heimir the Fool, and it isn’t pretty. The ghost of Heimir tells Amleth about his fated sword that he must use to kill Fjolnir. Amleth goes to a crypt and has to fight the undead guardian of the sword.
The next day, Amleth is drafted with other slaves to fight in a kind of mock battle, it’s basically soccer with big clubs. Fjolnir’s son, Gunnar, runs out into the field and is rescued by Amleth, so he’s a bit of a hero now and is given new privileges, including Olga.
Several of Fjolnir’s men are killed one night and their body parts shaped into the form of a horse. We know Amleth did it, but to everyone else, it’s a mystery. An old woman says the wounds on the death are not of this world. Fjonil says it’s Trollish sorcery and starts arming the slaves for additional defense.
Olga does some Earth magic, and many of the soldiers kill themselves and each other - drugged out of their minds. Amleth reveals himself to his mother, but she raves that she never liked Amleth’s father anyway. She always like Fjolnir better, cause he’s a real man. She was in on the coup and actively encouraged it. This is not what Amleth was expecting to hear. Oh, and she likes Gunnar better than she ever liked Amleth. Still, she thinks he’s hot, and if he kills Fjolnir and his son, she’ll do anything he wants, wink, wink. Ew. He lets her live but kills the eldest son on the way out.
The Queen tells Fjolnir all about Amleth and that he killed Thorir, his son. Fjolnir kills some of the slaves until Amleth intervenes. Amleth kills ten men without even taking his sword out of the sheath (it only works at night). Still, they wear him down and capture him.
After Thorir’s funeral, Fjolnir finds that Amleth has escaped with the help of a valkyrie. The valkyrie turns out to be Olga, and the two recuperate together and make it to a boat heading away. Turns out, she’s pregnant with his child, which makes her Fjolnir’s target too. He jumps overboard, choosing to go back to finish with the revenge quest.
Amleth gets to Fjolnir’s camp and gets to work. He ends up killing his mother, which she thanks him for. Gunnar hops on Amleth’s back and goes at him with a dagger, and he dies quickly too. Finally, it’s just Amleth, who is pretty beat-up at this point and Fjolnir, who is fresh and ready for a fight. Instead, he just picks up the bodies and leaves. They’ll meet at the gates of Hel for their final battle. The slaves burn the estate to the ground.
Later, at the Gates of Hel, the two men fight next to an erupting volcano, which had been prophesied. Eric Northman, of course, has the “high ground” and throws the ring into— no, wait— Fjolnir runs Amleth through as he is beheaded. It’s a tie! Amleth has a vision of Olga and their two children before he goes to Valhalla.
It’s not strictly a horror film, but there’s a lot of creepy imagery, witchcraft, oddball characters, and at least one battle with an undead zombie. There’s plenty of gore and violence, and the witchcraft aspect alone makes it horror-adjacent. Don’t be looking for lots of monsters though, they aren’t here.
It’s loosely based on an actual old legend about Amleth, and it’s said that the Amleth legend may have been one of Shakespeare’s influences for Hamlet.
As always with a Robert Eggers film, the scenery and sets are outstanding. The attention to detail overall is really impressive; this all feels quite authentic. Story-wise, it’s an epic telling of a mythological character, and it’s all pretty predictable if you know how those tales always go.
It’s a bit long, but it’s not boring. There’s not as much action as you might expect, but it’s a good story that looks great. Just don’t expect any surprises.
The Last House on the Left (1972)
• Directed by Wes Craven
• Written by Wes Craven, Ulla Isaksson
• Stars Sandra Cassel, Lucy Grantham, David Hess
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 24 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a strange mix of upbeat music, almost slapstick humor, and horrific murder and rape scenes. It’s low-budget and dated, but one that should be seen.
The mailman admires how much mail Mary gets, and he says she’s “the prettiest piece” he’s ever seen. Credits roll.
Mari’s getting ready to go out, and her father notices she’s not wearing a bra. Her parents are squares, dude. Her father gives her a peace symbol necklace. The folk rock starts to play as Mari and her friend Phyllis hang out and lament that they don’t have any grass. Yep, it’s the 70s.
We cut to four escaped convicts, murderers and rapists; Krug and Junior Stillo killed some nuns. Fred Weasel Podeski is a pedophile and peeping Tom, his girlfriend Sadie is with them as well. Sadie says she’s putting out anymore until they get “a couple more chicks in here.”
Mari and Phyllis run into Junior and ask about buying some grass. He says he has an extra ounce of good Columbia for $20. He takes them home to get it. “Gotcha!” Says Fred.
Meanwhile, Mari’s parents hang up a “Happy Birthday Mari” banner and take the cake out of the oven. We cut back and forth between cake-decorating and a tense situation with Phyllis and Mari. They rape Phyllis while Mari watches, knowing she’s next.
The next morning, the four criminals stuff the two girls in the trunk of a car and head out to the country. Mari’s parents call around, but don’t call the police and report her missing because teenagers need their flings. Their car breaks down right in front of Mari’s house. They go back into the woods and demand that the two girls take their clothes off and make out.
Phyllis tries to run away, but Mari gets stuck trying to talk Junior into letting her go. Meanwhile, the cops play checkers. Fred ends up stabbing Phyllis to death. the police spot the criminal’s car, but they run out of gas themselves.
Krug carves his initials into Mari’s chest and then rapes her. Mari then walks into the lake where Krug shoots her. They’re still close enough to Mari’s house that her little dog hears the shots. The sheriff and deputy hitch a ride on the roof of a chicken wagon.
The four criminals go to the nearest house, which just happens to be Mari’s parents’ place. They say their car broke down. The parents are accommodating and let them all use the guest room. They actually end up in Mari’s room.
During dinner, Junior starts having a nightmare from guilt and his withdrawals. Mari’s mother recognizes the peace sign necklace around Junior’s neck and knows something is up.
Estelle, the mother and father leave the house and find Mari’s body by the lake. Mari’s father John is a doctor. Fred has a nightmare about them getting their revenge on him— surgically. Did they really find the body, or was that all part of his dream?
Estelle distracts Fred while John gets the house ready, “Home Alone” style. Fred brags about being able to “do” Estelle with his hands tied behind his back, and she takes him up on it, tying his hands behind his back with his necktie. She— bites his dick off.
Back at the house John can’t really fight off Krug. Junior, however, has a change of heart and shoots Krug, but misses. Krug shows us what a great father he is. John comes after Krug with a chainsaw. Sadie runs outside, straight into Estelle.
The battle rages back and forth just as the sheriff arrives to see both murderers killed.
It’s pretty dated, but the music is fun. This was considered over-the-top brutal and got an X rating at the time of release, but it’s actually pretty tame compared to many modern films.
The twist at the end with the parents’ revenge was nice, and definitely deserved. The message is clear: don’t mess with suburbanites, that’s the source of true evil.
It’s a bit dated and definitely low-budget, but it’s really good for the time period. It’s got a great ending.
Short Film: Itsy Bitsy Spider (2022)
• Directed by Brodi-Jo Scalise
• Written by Brodi-Jo Scalise
• Stars Fletcher Donovan, Thomas Nicholson
• Run Time: 17:35
• Watch it:
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Great acting, great setting and special effects. An all-around good one that makes you wonder what is really going on.
Chris lays in bed and listens to the couple upstairs having rough sex. He rolls over and does the “itsy bitsy spider” thing up his boyfriend’s arm. He’s been gone for six months and hasn’t seen Jake since then, but Jake has to go to work today.
Chris stays home alone and finds an empty condom package in Jake’s trash can. Uh-oh. As he sits there being lonely, he spots a large spider on the bookshelf. The hunt is on!
Chris doesn’t seem entirely stable from the start, and that’s all I have to say about that. It’s well filmed, well acted, and you aren’t sure where it’s going until it gets there.
I suspect there’s some metaphor here that I don’t quite understand that gives some overall cohesion to this. I missed the point along the line, but it’s definitely creepy and suspenseful.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
• Directed by Joe Chappelle
• Written by Debra Hill, John Carpenter, Daniel Farrands
• Stars Donald Pleasance, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Part six of the series. If you loved the first two movies, but wish they were kind of awful, this one's for you. Michael isn’t the killer that he normally is, more of a pawn for others. There’s not nearly the same suspense or tension that there should be.
Doctors wheel a woman on a gurney through an industrial-looking complex into a cave-y area with torches. She screams and gives birth. The baby is handed over to a man in black with a hat. The man black does a Satanic ritual over the baby and paints a mark on him. A nurse lets Jamie Lloyd and the baby go, but then “The Shape” kills the nurse as the iconic music starts. Jamie steals a truck and drives off into the rain.
Back in Haddonfield, Kara Strode puts her son Danny to bed and listens to the creepy radio show talking about Michael, who has been missing for years now. She spots her neighbor Tommy watching her through the window. Tommy calls in to the radio show to tell that he actually saw Michael years ago. He says Michael’s work in Haddonfield isn’t over and that he’ll be back soon to kill again.
Elsewhere, Dr. Loomis is listening to the same radio show. Dr. Wynn wants Loomis to go back to the institution to work again. Jamie calls the radio station from the bus station to beg Dr. Loomis for help, and he hears her. Shortly afterwards, Michael Myers finds and kills Jamie, but he doesn’t find the baby.
It’s Halloween in Haddonfield; the ban on Halloween is finally being lifted. There’s friction between Kara Strode and her abusive father John. Little Danny pulls a knife on John. Her brother Tim is dating Beth, and it’s a pretty dysfunctional household.
Dr. Loomis goes back to the institution, and he hears about Jamie’s body being found just this morning. We see Tommy listening to tapes of the radio program and see that he obsesses over Michael Myers. He goes to the bus station and follows Jamie’s bloody footsteps and finds the baby abandoned in the bathroom.
The baby has a mark on him that the cultists put there, and they find the same mark burned in the hay near Jamie’s body. Tommy runs into Dr. Loomis at the hospital. Tommy says that the baby is the last of Laurie’s bloodline; he also mentions that there are more Strodes living in Michael’s old house; the family that adopted Jamie.
Loomis goes to the Strode house and talks to Debra, the mother. He’s pretty intense, but she believes him. She calls John at work who yells at her, but Michael sneaks up from behind… What’s he gonna do with that ax?
Danny walks home from school and spots the man in black and he runs into Tommy. Kara gets home and finds them both there. Danny sees Michael outside, but doesn’t tell anyone. Tommy takes them to his place and shows Kara his crazy wall, including runes of the demon Thorn, which is the mark on the baby.
John comes home to find the power out and goes into the basement to turn it back on. He… gets what’s coming to him. The radio host gets it next as Tim and Beth arrive home. Tim gets sliced up, Danny hears voices, and Kara sees Michael in the house across the street with Beth.
Danny sneaks into the house with all the action, and Kara follows. She finds Tim and Beth’s bodies. Tommy and Loomis show up outside and find the baby has gone missing. Kara and Danny join them, but no one else even knows about the baby— except for Dr. Wynn, who turns out to be the man in black. Kara jumps out the window and somehow the others are drugged. We don’t know how this happened because of poor editing.
Loomis takes Tommy to the sanitarium where Wynn runs the place. Loomis goes after Wynn while Tommy hears Kara screaming. Wynn says they are at the dawn of a new age with the baby, and someone hits Loomis from behind.
Tommy finally gets to meet Michael as he frees Kara. They find Wynn and the other cultists getting ready for surgery. The doctors have Danny and the baby. Kara watches as Michael goes into the operating room and slaughters all the doctors and cultists. Tommy and Kat grab the kids and run for it. They hide in a lab where Kara spots lots of genetic signage. Tommy injects Michael with a bunch of random syringes as Kara beats on him with a pipe.
Loomis arrives and gets Kara and the kids out while Tommy beats Michael down with the pipe. The good guys drive away, leaving Loomis at the sanitarium to clean up the mess. Of course, Michael is gone…
We literally had to go back and review the synopsis of part five to figure out what was going on in the beginning of this one. Little Jamie from the previous movie has grown up and had a baby in captivity. The man in black had no explanation in the previous film, and now we get that.
It’s kind of a jumbled mess, especially the ending. Someone jumps out of a closet. Someone knocks out Loomis. Michael is basically just a pawn of the cultists and doesn’t do much on his own here.
Donald Pleasance died before there were any re-shoots, and the director didn’t like a lot of his scenes, so his part is a little sparse. This is, however, Paul Rudd’s first film role, and even gets an “Introducing…” on his credit.
This one was pretty bad.
• Directed by Marcus Dunstan
• Written by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton
• Stars Brianne Tju, Benjamin Wadsworth, Uriah Shelton
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The zombie thriller Unhuman is now available On Digital and On Demand. When a high school field trip goes bloody awry, the students' trust in each other is tested to the limit in a brutal, horrifying fight for survival. Buy or rent Unhuman and watch it today. Unrated. From Paramount Pictures.
Kevin thought this movie was so delightful that Kevin barely complained about people in their 20s playing teenagers. It quickly gets going into the zombie genre with a bus load of people trapped and attacked. It's not what we expected from it. A real fun house of a movie that's really well done and entertaining. Just a little too long going at the very end, but it's forgivable.
Ever and her mother have an annoyingly typical mother-daughter talk before Ever leaves on her field trip. Her friend Tamra nags at her about wearing *too much clothing. They run into Randall on his bike with their car, but he’s OK. The school bullies drive by and bomb Randall with a slushie. We see that Ever doesn’t have a cell phone when the teacher confiscates everyone’s phone. There’s not a actor on the bus under 22, but whatever... Mr. Lorenzo gives a pep talk before the bus leaves for the field trip, and he’s... weird. Credits roll. As the credits roll, we’re reminded how monstrous high-school really was.
The bus crashes in the woods rather dramatically. Suddenly, they get a radio broadcast announcing that the United States is under siege by a chemical attack, but the P.E. Teacher makes them shut that off.
A man knocks on the school bus’s door and then eats Lorenzo. Most of the students make it off the back of the bus out into the foggy woods. Danny the jock thinks they’re all crazy with their zombie fantasies. They barricade themselves inside an abandoned building. They hear Candace screaming outside, but the guy the bus ran over is right outside their windows, still creeping around. Ever yells to Candace, but Wayne the bus driver attacks her instead— he’s a zombie now.
The zombies break in, and everyone is on the run again. There’s more fighting and running, and soon, the number of students has fallen dramatically. They then find a room full of mannequins dressed just like them. “They chose us!” Danny yells. Randall beats the bus driver to a bloody pulp, which makes Tamra look at him romantically. Danny got cut in the chaos, and everyone wonders if he’s infected.
Randall and Ever argue about who’s in charge. Ever and Steven make a trip outside to the school bus to try and retrieve their phones. They find the bag of phones, but they’re all broken. Ever has a whiny spell and Steven’s not good at cheering her up. They turn on the radio and find that the government warning they heard later was a tape. Who did that? Steven did, as he and Randall inject Ever with something to make her sleep.
We flash back 4 or 5 weeks ago. Randall talks Steven into a sort of “Scared Straight” program for the school assholes. They talk Chip, a local drug dealer, into playing the original zombie who killed Mr. Lorenzo, “I’m fuckin’ METHOD, dude!” The bus driver overhears this, and he’s in as well. Chip comes up with some kind of zombie juice that makes the victim violent and suggestible.
Back on the bus, Chip got carried away; no one was supposed to die. Steven and Randall yell at Chip on the bus. Chip reveals that this was his chance to get revenge for his own high school experience. Randall’s been keeping the “dead” students in cages; they aren’t really dead.
Ever fights with Chip while Randall re-injects all the kids in the cages, making them act like zombies again. Tamra finds Randall and he consoles her. Ever beats Chip and starts to wake up from the drug.
Randall arms the other “rescued” kids and talks them into killing the ones in the cages. Ever runs in and yells for the others to stop; she explains everything. Tamra whacks Randall, but he grabs the last syringe of the zombie chemical. As he reaches to inject Ever, he’s pulled into the cage with the zombies, who tear him apart.
Randall attacks Ever with a sword, but Danny gets stabbed instead. Jacey, who hasn’t done anything through the entire film, hits Randall with a crowbar. Of course, he gets up one more time, and Ever really lets him have it.
Then they all explain what lessons they learned in their adventure, which was maybe one ending too many.
How many abandoned crack houses have working electricity and black light fixtures?
It was all going well until Ever found out what was really going on, then it all sort of dragged to a halt as everyone got all angsty. The editing in the climax made the whole thing hard to follow.
I get the motivations behind what Randall and Steven did, but I’m not sure what their final plan was going to be. They had to come out of the woods at some point, and even a light investigation by the police would turn up a lot of inconvenient information about their plan.
It all looked good, the editing, except for one scene, was well done, and the acting was decent. The plot is one where you don’t want to think too hard about the hows and whys, but it was fast-paced and overall, I liked it.
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