The Sadness, Torn Hearts, X, and The Found Footage Phenomenon
Horror Bulletin for Week 172
We’ve got some messy ones for you this week. We’ll begin with the ultraviolet sorta-zombie film, “The Sadness,” followed by some murderous country music stars in “Torn Hearts” then we’ll make some “X” rated porn, and see what we find with “The Found Footage Phenomenon.”
Bonus reviews at
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes” from 1963
“La Casa Del Terror” from 1960
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2021 The Sadness
Directed by Rob Jabbaz
Written by Rob Jabbaz
Stars Berant Zhu, Regina Lei, Ying-Ru Chen
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Rated G for general audiences. Just kidding. This one is over the top in blood, violence, and sexual situations. Very inventively so. Fast, crazy, smart zombies are probably the worst and this movie is full of them. Really excellent.
We start out in Taiwan, with a young couple, Jim and Kat, waking up together. They’re planning on taking a vacation trip next week, but he can’t go, as he has to work.
Jim watches a YouTube video with a guy being interviewed about the “Alvin Virus.” People say that it’s no worse than the flu, but experts are concerned about it mutating into something else. It’s closely related to rabies, and it wouldn’t take much to go over the edge, but people are politicizing the disease.
Jim sees a bloody old woman standing on the roof of the building next door, but Kim doesn’t see it. Next door neighbor, Mr. Lin says he has a cold. Jim drives Kat to the train station on his scooter, and everything looks very normal— except for a very bloody situation involving the police, ambulance, and dead bodies.
Jim stops off at a local breakfast place. They talk about how the pandemic is killing the housing market. That old woman Jim saw earlier shambles into the place, and everyone notices her. She spits in a man’s face and then pours boiling cooking oil on the proprietor. Almost immediately, others in the restaurant start attacking each other, so Jim gets out of there quickly. People chase Jim all the way home.
The nice Mr. Lin tries to kill Jim with hedge clippers, and Jim figures out what’s going on real fast— especially after he loses fingers. He goes back outside to get Kat, and sees that it’s a full-blown zombie apocalypse all of a sudden, except these “zombies” are alive, smart, and very sadistic- they use guns and weapons too.
Meanwhile, Kat is on the train, The man sitting next to her asks about the book she’s reading. The businessman is a little too friendly, and she suggests that he back off a bit and stop being creepy. The man gets upset and starts talking to himself, so Kat gives her seat to another passenger. A minute later, some random guy on the train stabs another one, and then within seconds, everyone on the train is infected and fighting. The businessman is infected as well, and he pokes out the eye of the girl next to Kat. The train stops, and everyone gets off.
Kat runs off, helping Molly, the girl who just lost her eye. The businessman, for some reason, is still following them. He taunts them from down the hallway— yes, he can still speak. He laughs and runs after them. They run into a big guy who tries to help, and the businessman bites his nose off. He winks at the girls as he kills the helpful stranger. They get away, but it’s clear the businessman isn’t done yet.
Elsewhere, Jin finds bodies everywhere. He is trying to get to Kat’s work, not realizing she never made it there. He stops to do a little Duct-tape-first-aid on his two missing fingers. He scares off a group of infectec who are attacking a man, but the man doesn’t want to be saved.
Kat and Molly make it to the hospital. The ER has been overrun, and the police have been very busy. There’s a military address on TV, and they explain that the disease is serious, and so far, the scientists haven’t found a solution. The President comes on and gives a standard pep talk. The general goes berserk and kills the President right then on air— with a grenade.
Kat sees the businessman waiting for her outside. He breaks the window and lets the other crazies in. He goes looking for Kat but finds Molly; he does things in her eye socket as she screams.
Jim gets a message from Kat saying she’s at the hospital now. Jin has a kind of vision, but he shakes it off. Is he infected?
The businessman continues to follow Kat, and she beats him over the head with a fire extinguisher until there’s not much left of him. She meets up with a guy in a hazmat suit who orders her to cuff herself to a pipe and shower in disinfectant, which she does. He’s a virologist, Dr. Wong, and he says he tried to warn people that the Alvin virus would mutate.
Jim arrives at the hospital and starts his search. Dr. Wong injects Kat with the virus to see if she’s immune or not. He also injected all the babies in the maternity ward with the virus to see if they were immune; they weren’t. He gets a text that a helicopter will be landing on the roof for him in five minutes. They leave the safe room, and Wong is almost immediately attacked.
Kat helps Wong walk to the roof, but Jim shows up, clearly infected. He kills Wong as Kat runs away. Wong laughs about killing babies as he dies himself. Jim talks about all the things he’d like to do to Kat, but they’re separated by a locked door. She runs up to the roof to the helicopter and we hear gunfire up there.
She doesn’t get away.
This was very creative, to say the least. It’s exceptionally bloody, and as much as I like gore shots, there’s just too much blood to be realistic.
There’s no parallels here with any other pandemics that have been reported as fake news. Nope, none at all.
It’s essentially a zombie movie, but the zombies here aren’t dead, just infected. I’m reminded immediately of “The Crazies” which we reviewed only recently. The disease just seems to make people evil, sadistic, and mean; otherwise, they seem to have all their faculties. Some of them are very creative.
Directed by Ti West
Written by Ti Wes
Stars Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow
Run Time: 1 Hour, 46 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a movie within a movie as a group of youngsters making a porno find out they’re in a whole lot of trouble. It’s one of those endings-shown-first movies, then we get to see the details of what led to that point. The cast is all very good, as is the script. It’s well worth the watch, much better than either of us expected going into it.
Several police cars are in front of an old farmhouse. The sheriff goes in, and there’s blood and gore everywhere. The sheriff and officers find something in the cellar...
24 Hours earlier, in Houston, a group of strippers get into a van and go on a field trip to make a porn movie. It’s 1979, so there are refineries everywhere. Maxine wants to be famous, and she thinks this may be her big break. Wayne says she “got that X factor.”
RJ and Lorraine are the film crew. RJ swears “it’s possible to make a good dirty movie.” Wayne is the director, Jackson, Bobby-Lynne, and Maxine are the talent. They’re heading out to the country to film the new porno, “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Eventually, we see them pull up and park at the house we saw earlier, so we already know this isn’t going to end well.
Wayne knocks on the door, and Howard comes to the door... with a shotgun. Howard thinks Wayne’s from the county, which is bad. Wayne explains that they are there about the boarding house. Howard’s a creepy old guy, and he warns the others to behave themselves, something they have no intention of obeying. Wayne never told the old man the reason for their visit.
They get down to the business end of making a porno. RJ and Lorraine film the action while Bobby-Lynne and Jackson go at it. Maxine goes for a walk while the others “work” and someone watches her from inside the woods. She goes for a swim, and we see an alligator is there as well, and she narrowly avoids being eaten. Afterward, she goes to the farmhouse, where she sees an old woman, Pearl, Howard’s wife. They have a creepy conversation.
Howard gets home and finds evidence that Pearl wasn’t alone in the house. The rest of the gang moves into the barn, where Maxine has to milk a cow for the camera. It’s then Maxine’s turn to have a go with Jackson on camera. As they film, Maxine sees Pearl peeking in through the window. Pearl gets “in the mood” and goes inside and wants sex from Howard, but he refuses because of his heart.
That evening, Bobby-Lynne and Maxine give their point of view about sex and porn to Lorraine, who’s inexperienced and a little prudish. Wayne exclaims that the new, growing home video market is going to blow the market sky high. “Porn ain’t gonna be just for perverts any more!” We then get a musical interlude from Jackson and Bobby-Lynne crosscut with ancient old Pearl getting ready for bed. When Lorraine decides she wants to be in the film, RJ refuses to allow her to get involved. Wayne takes her side, but RJ thinks Lorraine “is a nice girl.”
Lorraine gets her scene, but RJ cries afterwards. RJ gets mad and takes the van, abandoning everyone else. He sees Pearl standing outside and gets out to see what’s wrong. “Look at me like you looked at her,” she moans. He’s pretty turned off by the old woman, so she stabs him in the throat— over and over and over. She then does a little old-lady ballet dancing.
Lorraine notices that RJ is missing, and she and Wayne go out searching. She runs into Howard, who is out looking for Pearl. Wayne, in bare feet, has an encounter with a rusty nail. He soon finds out that’s not the worst part of his night when he runs into Pearl and her pitchfork.
Howard sends Lorraine into the basement after a flashlight. She finds it, no problem, but then gets locked in. She then finds the body Wayne chained from the ceiling.
Jackson sees Howard outside and asks what’s going on. “She gets confused after dark sometimes,” the old man explains. Jackson offers to help in the search. Meanwhile, Pearl slips into Maxine’s room and undresses before slipping into bed with her.
Jackson finds an old car half-sunk in the pond (ala “Psycho”). Howard starts in on Jackson about “enticing my wife” and then shoots him.
Lorraine finds a hatchet and goes to work on the door, but Howard returns and cuts some of her fingers off.
Maxine wakes up and finds Pearl asleep next to her and screams. Bobby-Lynne runs in to help and passes Pearl on the way out. Bobby-Lynne goes outside looking for Jackson, but finds Pearl again. Bobby-Lynne gets to her first, and Pearl pushes her into the pond, where the alligator finally gets fed.
Howard and Pearl come into the house looking for Maxine. They decide to try to have old—people sex as Maxine hides under the bed. Maxine crawls out and gets the gun from the van. She hears Lorraine screaming inside and goes in after her. Lorraine runs outside and is immediately shot by Howard,who talks to Pearl about dumping the bodies in the pond. Howard says Lorraine’s body is heavier than she looks and then has a heart attack and dies on the spot.
Maxine confronts Pearl with the pistol. She fires, but the gun isn’t loaded. Pearl’s on the other hand, is loaded, but it doesn’t go the way anyone expected.
Maxine grabs the keys, gets in the van and finishes Pearl off. She drives away.
We then watch the creepy old TV preacher talking about his missing daughter, who is Maxine.
How is it that we can watch tens of thousands of people die in zombie apocalypses and stuff and cringe so badly when one guy steps on a nail barefoot?
Probably due to the time period and setting, it’s very reminiscent of “The Texas Chainsw Massacre” (1974). I’m sure that’s no coincidence. I have no idea how porno films of the 70s were made, but I’d bet it was exactly like this. In most horror films, the “final girl” is the one who has no sex. In this film, the two who don’t have sex are the ones who die first.
Who knew old people could be so horrifying just by being old? There are some things old people shouldn’t be doing, and this film demonstrates that all too clearly. Maxine and Pearl were both played by Mia Goth in a dual role. The old age makeup is horrible, or maybe just horrific, making Pearl far scarier than a real old woman ever could be.
Directed by Alex Montilla
Written by Alex Montilla
Stars Timothy Guion Smith, Bud Galloway, Tristen Hagen, Amy Letcher
Run Time: 14:57
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A girl runs into a house and calls 911. She thinks her friends have all been murdered.
Six friends are camping in the woods. One of them sees the killer with the mask that the guy at the gas station told them about. No one else believes him or cares. There’s some really good “woke talk,” and the couples split up and go separate ways to make out. “What if there really is someone out there?” She asks.
Yeah. What if?
Wow. This takes the tropes from just about all the slasher films and adds in a lot of political correctness, bad puns and one-liners, and an indestructible villain. Who knew that a slasher film was really just a big, messy cartoon?
It’s pretty great!
2021 The Found Footage Phenomenon
Directed by Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escort
Written by Sarah Appleton, Phillip Escort
Stars Dean Alioto, Stefan Avalos, James, Cullen Bressak, Patrick Brice
Run Time: 1 Hour, 41 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
There aren’t many spoilers to spoil in this. It’s a documentary about the found-footage genre of movies. It’s really well put together, interviewing many people who have worked in the field and who know their stuff. Very interesting and worth the watch.
We start out with the definition of found footage: film that was supposedly shot by characters in the story, usually found after the filmmakers have gone missing. The camera and camera operators are characters within the story. The footage was literally “found” and may not have been intended to be seen. It offers authenticity and realism that doesn’t come through in normal films. It also allows a much lower quality, since these were never intended to be watched; they are not a final product. As various filmmakers explain all this, we see clips from their films.
The genre is credited to start with the original novel of “Dracula,” based on found letters and diary entries. “Frankenstein” was also the same, with someone recollecting all the activities of the book. The “War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1934 was along the same lines, pretending it was all real as the program developed.
Then they get into early found footage films of the 60s and early 70s. “Peeping Tom,” “Mondo Cane,” and “Cannibal Holocaust” are discussed.
The various tropes of found footage are discussed, things like asking “Why are you still filming?” To be believable, there has to be a reason for the filming to be happening. There was a lot of overlap at the time between documentary reporting and reconstructions used in reality TV.
Then the Internet came along, and that brought a whole new aspect to the genre: webcasting, live-casting, and eventually, Zoom and conferencing. The technology for film editing evolved around the same time, and it was much easier for anyone to make a film, so why not incorporate that into a film?
This leads right into the believed-reality of the “Blair Witch Project.” It was almost too specific, which made it hard to duplicate afterwards. Everything was going to look like a copycat. After this, “torture porn” took off, and that combined really well with the “reality” aspect of found footage.
YouTube came along next, and now everyone was taping everything, which makes the genre’s conceit much more believable. If everyone is recording, some of them are going to catch something really weird once in a while, right?
There’s discussion of “Diary of the Dead” and “Zombie Diary” and who copied whom. “Lake Mungo,” “Rec,” “Noroi: The Curse,” “Cloverfield,” and then “Paranormal Activity” are discussed. Even “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Trollhunter” are discussed.
We wrap up with discussion of newer films like “One Cut of the Dead,” “Host,” “Unfriended,” and projections of what’s coming in the future. Deep Fakes and fake footage might be one of those ideas whose time is coming.
I’m sure that the first found footage I watched would have been the obvious one, “The Blair Witch Project” (1999). It was interesting to see that there were so many films that did it before Blair Witch. They go into how the timing and methods were just right to make it a huge hit, the Internet spread, fan word of mouth, and so forth.
I think they stretch the definition to include various fake-documentaries like “What We do in the Shadows,” which in my opinion, isn’t found footage.
Still, we added a bunch of films we haven’t seen to our “to watch” list, and you’ll be hearing more about those in future weeks . If you enjoy the genre, this is a pretty good overview of the history. The genre is older than you probably think, but it’s still one of the newer genres overall.
Torn Hearts (2022)
Directed by Brea Grant
Written by Rachel Koller Croft
Stars Katey Sagal, Shiloh Fernandez, Joshua Leonard
Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Torn Hearts, starring Katey Sagal, is now available On Digital and On Demand. A horrifying tale set in Nashville's country music scene, two rising artists' visit to their idol's mansion turns into a twisted series of mental and physical torment. Buy or rent Torn Hearts and watch it today. Unrated. From Paramount Pictures.
We watch an interview from 1993 about two sisters, Harper and Hope Dutch, who are breaking into the country music business. “We made it to the top and that’s right where we’re gonna stay!” Then we hear arguing, gunfire, and see blood pouring out from under the door...
We shift to the present, where Jordan and Leigh are on stage singing more country music. The two of them are “Torn Hearts.” Their manager, Richie, points out the artist who was in the audience. Richie says things are done a certain way in Nashville, and the girls aren’t playing nice. He calls over the musician, Caleb, who is a big star. Jordan stays late and has drinks with Caleb and tells him her story, which leads to inevitable sex.
Elsewhere, Richie warns Leigh that Jordan is a liability and that she’s gonna screw things up for all of them. Jordan notices that Caleb has a photo of him with Harper Dutch, who is her idol. Harper Dutch hasn’t performed much since her sister tragically died. Caleb warns Leigh about Harper; she’s a whacko. Leigh thinks it might be worthwhile to meet Harper and talk her into doing a trio. Caleb gives her the address.
Leigh talks Jordan into going over to Harper’s house and introducing themselves. Harper’s house is way out in the woods, and the tall wall around the place is all overgrown and creepy looking. Harper buzzes them in, and they finally meet their idol. It’s awkward. They all have a drink and talk about their music.
They all go into Harper’s studio and do a demo song. Harper agrees to do a song with them and then smashes her guitar to celebrate; it’s very exciting for all three of them. Harper talks to Jordan about duos with unbalanced talent. She might be trying to sow a little dissent. The topic comes up, and Harper explains that Hope killed herself right in front of her a few years ago. They drink a lot more.
Both girls wake up later in different clothes, and their phones are missing. Harper took their keys because they drank so much. Harper wants to work on their song. They try to make breakfast, but the food is all rotten; Harper is not appreciative. They all go into the basement and we see the door has bars.
Harper wants to see the two girls fight each other; to take their hostility out on each other. It seems ridiculous, but it takes surprisingly little prompting to get them to go at it. Harper turns on the disco ball and watches the wrestling match. Are they really best friends?
Richie comes to the door, and Harper and Leigh go upstairs to deal with him. Jordan finds a secret room full of the dead Hope’s stuff, including body parts in jars. She uses the severed finger to open the locked door and goes upstairs, just in time to hear Richie and Leigh throw her under the bus.
Jordan explains the secret room and body parts to Leigh while Richie talks to Harper, who picks up a knife and mutilates a pie. The pie isn’t the only one who gets mutilated.
Harper gets Leigh and Jordan back in the studio, and they finally start to record their song, “I’m Gonna Die with Your Name on my Lips.” The girls bicker on between themselves afterwards, trading insults both professional and personal. Then Harper pulls out a shotgun and really starts messing the place up.
The girls find Richie’s body and the bars on the doors and windows. Jordan hands a gun to Leigh. “Don’t make me kill my hero,” Leigh says. There’s a fight and some gunfire, and the two girls get the drop on Harper, but Harper’s not done yet.
Harper says that she still needs to atone for what she did to Hope. Hope wanted to break up the act and go solo, and Harper couldn’t deal with that, so she shot her. Harper wants Leigh to walk away from Jordan and be a big star. Leigh is all in on the new, twisted plan. Jordan shoots Harper; Leigh shoots Jordan. Now she has a story to tell and use the fame to catapult to stardom. Except Jordan isn’t dead yet.
The reporter interviews Caleb on the news, since he knew all the victims. He plays some of their music to boost his own career...
I can’t say I’ve seen many “country music horror films,” but here we are. The two girls are both horrible singers, but it’s not a musical, so whatever (Kevin’s note - they were NOT horrible singers. They pulled it off). Katey Sagal, as Harper, is suitably creepy and unhinged, and the others are just along for the ride.
This one is slow. The middle hour is pretty talky and dull. There are some awkward scenes where we waited for someone to say something relevant. Show business is tough, what more needs to be said. The ending is good, but it took an awfully long time to get there.
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