The Visitor, Dead Bride, Ash and Bone, and The Things We Cannot Change
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 193
We've got four brand-new movies for you this week-- no oldies this time around! We'll start out with "Ash and Bone," look at the "Dead Bride," say hello to "The Visitor," and wonder about "The Things We Cannot Change." Good stuff!
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Ash and Bone (2022)
Directed by Harley Wallen
Written by Bret Miller
Stars Jamie Bernadette, Angelina Daniella Cama, Harley Wallen, Kaiti Wallen
Run Time: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The character actors in this one really make the movie. It’s got a good story that moves a little slow in places but gets the job done and has a nice climax. All in all, it was an entertaining indie.
A woman runs through a field at night. She flags down a truck on the road, and the driver kills her. Credits roll.
Lucas and Sarah Vanderbilt drive with goth daughter Cassie along for the ride. They stop at a diner. “Give me a waffle or something; whatever won’t give me e coli,” Cassie moans to the waitress. It’s not the most comfortable family trip. Cassie misses breaking beer bottles with her friend Tina. They arrive in Hadley Lake, Michigan, where Lucas is from. They’re staying at his brother’s house, but they soon find they have no cell service in the little town.
Sarah is Cassie’s new stepmother, and there’s a lot of friction between the two. Lucas reminds Sarah that Cassie’s doctor says it’s a big change for her, so they have to go easy. That evening, Cassie steals their car. Lucas wants to call the sheriff, but Sarah talks him out of it.
Cassie goes to the local bar, where a somewhat ominous old bartender named Louie says she’s too young to be there, but her ID says 21. A guy introduces himself, and she pulls a knife on him. She meets Tucker and Anna, who immediately noticed that Cassie’s not from around here. Cassie talks about urban exploring and haunted cemeteries; is there someplace they can go explore? Anna mentions the old McKinley house. Bad things happened there, and a weird brother and sister live there.
There’s a whole wall of missing persons, and some people think they all wound up in that house. Tucker thinks it might be safer if they all went. They slip open a window and go inside. There are lights inside, so why they don’t assume there’s someone in there is hard to imagine. They go down into the basement, and they really hate the smell down there. They find a camera that is full of torture and execution porn. They have been killing the missing people down there!
May and Clete McKinley return home. Anna and Tucker go back out the window, but Cassie is stuck inside. Cassie finds a bedroom with a decomposing body in the bed. May McKinley shoots Tucker in the arm, but they all get into the car and speed away. May says she has “marked them.” The sun comes up, and Cassie wants to call the police, but Tucker says no, the whole town could be in on it.
Cassie goes back to her parents’ house, and dad’s mad because there’s a bullet hole in the back window of the car. Lucas calls the sheriff to talk about the bullet hole. The sheriff tells Lucas to get a gun; “There are some tough types up here,” he warns. Cassie calls her friend Tina and tells her what happened last night. Lucas goes to town and buys a gun.
May and Clete talk about the break-in. She recognizes Tucker, and they say they’re gonna do something about that. Anna soon gets a call from Tucker, and he doesn’t sound good at all. He apologizes. She goes outside, and the McKinleys get her too. They both wake up chained to the wall in the basement. Clete wants to know who the other girl was, and Tucker eventually tells him. Clete and May are worried about their cousin Vinnie coming for them.
Cassie and Sarah argue, and Cassie runs off into the woods. Being from the city, she immediately gets lost. Clete and May are out there following her. Sarah confronts Lucas about the gun; she wants that thing out of their cabin.
Cassie flashes back to her time in Detroit with Tina. The cops almost caught her vandalizing the school, but then she stole the police car, and that didn’t go so well. Back in the present, the sheriff talks to Cassie about the other night; Tucker and Anna have gone missing. He gives her his card.
Cassie goes home to find Sarah beaten and tied to a chair. Clete grabs Cassie from behind. Meanwhile, May is outside playing William Tell with Lucas and an apple. Cassie tells Sarah what she found in the McKinley house. Cassie manages to call the sheriff and tells him they need help.
May and Clete argue about Lucas. Clete wants to get rid of him, but May says it’s not fair - he always gets the girls. It’s time that she had a man to use. May wins, and Lucas loses. Oh boy, does he lose. Outside, the sheriff arrives and has a conversation with Clete. “Remember what we talked about? No city folk!” Turns out, the sheriff is their cousin Vinnie, who is completely in on it. They argue, and May shoots the sheriff just before the sheriff shoots Clete. The sheriff doesn’t survive Clete and his ax.
When May goes inside, there’s a fight. May stabs Lucas and Sarah, but Cassie shoots May and runs away. Sarah is down, but they use Lucas as a living hostage. Clete cooks and eats some of the sheriff while Cassie backtracks and kills May. Cassie comes out of the woods and kills Clete.
Cassie and Lucas head home and find that Sarah isn’t dead. The three leave town at the first opportunity.
May and Clete are fun villains. There’s definitely a bit of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Wrong Turn” mixed into their DNA.
Harley Wallen as Lucas has no idea how to deal with his daughter, and his new wife Sarah seems really uncomfortable in her new role as a stepmother - they both sell it well. Cassie seems a bit too old to play a sixteen-year-old, but that’s a small thing. Mason Heidger, who plays Tucker, really needs to be cast as Obi-wan Kenobi, since he’s nearly a clone of Ewan MacGregor.
The story itself is well done; the cinematography and sound design are decent, but it all feels a bit stretched out; cutting about ten minutes somewhere would have pepped things up nicely. Horror Guy Kevin says it needed more Mel.
It was a little slow, but everything came together in the end. We liked it!
Dead Bride (2022)
Directed by Francesco Picone
Written by Francesco Picone
Stars Jennifer Mischiati, Christopher Hulsen, Douglas Dean
Run Time: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s all good as bad things happen. It’s a ghost story that unfolds nicely, entertaining all the way through.
A man wakes up during a storm and hears sounds upstairs. He goes to investigate, but it’s dark and creepy in the attic. Then he finds that he’s not alone. Credits roll.
Alyson is moving into a new place; a big old house. Richard says it could only be temporary; if she’s not happy here, they could put it on the market. That night, she has a panic attack in bed, but he talks her through it. We get a flashback showing us she’s had these “dreams” or night terrors ever since she was little.
In the morning, we see a news report about a psychic who helped the police find a dead girl. He goes to work while she unpacks. We see that there’s a red ball of yarn in the baby’s room, which triggers another flashback to when Alyson found a similar ball when she was little. Richard brings home a plane ticket; the company is sending him for training overseas. She’s not pleased. Alyson says that her father just committed suicide, and it’s too soon to leave her alone. She brings up that Richard had an affair five years ago. She’s whiny, but he’s inconsiderate, so it’s hard to know whose side to take.
We get a flashback to when Alyson’s mother locked her in a closet for an extended period of time. Father mentions that mother isn’t well. He sends Alyson away while the priest and a couple of men come to “help” her mother.
That night, she has sleep paralysis again as some weird stuff goes on in the baby’s room; she hears it on the monitor. She calls Richard, and he asks if she’s taking her medication– she is not. We see that Richard’s playing around with his co-worker at the hotel. Alyson goes up to the attic and finds some videotapes from 1995. We see the priest, who can’t decide whether Alyson’s mother, Susan, has a psychological or supernatural problem. She stops watching the tapes when the Bible next to the TV bursts into flame.
The next morning, Alyson goes to see Father Elbert, the priest from the video. At first, he denies knowing anything about the past, but he eventually admits that he was involved. The priest explains that by putting her up for adoption, her father thought he was keeping her safe. Susan was clearly possessed, so he did an exorcism. That goes about as well as it did in “The Exorcist.” The demon says it is “the bride that was killed at the hands of this bloodline.” The demon is Mary, Alyson’s grandfather’s first wife. She disappeared shortly after the wedding. He explains that it’s not the house that is cursed, it’s the family itself.
Richard comes home, and Father Elbert explains it all to him. Richard throws the priest out. Elbert says it would be best if they could find the Bride’s body. On the way home, Elbert’s car breaks down. Something “gets” him.
That night, Alyson is attacked by skeletal creatures in her hallway. When they run upstairs, someone has taken the baby. Alyson finds an article about that psychic we saw earlier; she calls him. Richard’s still not completely convinced, but he talks to Dave the psychic as well. He has a clear glass ball in his pocket; it changes color in the presence of the supernatural.
They do a seance or some kind of hypnotic ritual, and Dave talks to the dead bride. He translates that the spirit feels anger and wants revenge. The bride was pregnant when she was murdered, and she wants Alyson’s baby as well. The bride has asked for help from Asmodeus, who has granted the bride the power to return from the dead. Dave also believes that finding the bride’s body will solve the problem, but it won’t bring the baby back.
Dave hypnotizes Alyson again. Alyson wakes up in a box. It’s open on one end, so she crawls in the dark. She comes out to see a TV show with her parents in a sitcom. Then she battles her long-dead mother. Meanwhile, Dave goes upstairs and runs into the skeletal man in the bathroom. Back downstairs, Alyson encounters all manner of weirdness in the spirit world. Dave goes looking for Richard and finds him, now apparently possessed as well.
Alyson watches as the bride puts on her gown and goes to the wedding ceremony. She also talks to her father, who apologizes for his mistakes. She then witnesses her grandfather shoot and bury the bride as she curses him with her dying breath. Alyson digs up the bride and finds her baby inside the coffin. The ghosts surround her and insist that they won’t let her go.
Alyson wakes up with Dave in the room. She wants to go back in for her baby, but he refuses. They hear the baby crying upstairs with Richard.
A week later, Dave stops by and finds Richard and Alyson moving out. Richard says everything is good now. Dave goes inside to find Alyson, and finds the baby all alone inside. He pulls out his little crystal ball, and it’s black now. Alyson comes in, and Dave gets nervous.
Richard comes inside and finds Dave on the floor, dead, and the baby is missing again. He goes up to the attic, where Alyson kills him with an ax.
It all looks good, it’s well acted, and the pacing and suspense are well done. The sound seemed a little off, as if the whole thing were dubbed, which may have been the case. Between the possession, the kidnapping, the ghosts, and maybe even the devil himself, there’s a lot going on in this story, but it all makes sense and doesn’t feel rushed.
It was good. A fairly straightforward ghost story without any goofy twists or surprises.
Short Film: Down and Out In Vampire Hills (2022)
Directed by Craig Railsback
Written by Heather Joseph-Witham
Stars Dawna Lee Heising, Ken May, LeJon Stewart, Bill Housekeeper
Run Time: 22 minutes
Harold, the vampire-minion, gets a job as a dog walker. When a man spills his coffee on the dog, Queen Penelope the vampire kills him in the bloodiest way possible. This is just the first of their misadventures in trying to pay their way in modern society.
We flash back three days earlier, listening to a podcast interview with a supernatural expert talking about zombies. “Death always finds a way,” the guest says. Harold explains dogecoins and cryptocurrency to Penelope. Their get-rich schemes don’t always work out. Now, they’re being evicted. They need to get a job.
It’s hard being a hundreds-of-years-old vampire in modern life.
It’s a well-written, well-shot short that looks really good. It’s one of those parodies that takes a common horror idea and plays it all for laughs. It’s really cringeworthy and terrible, but that’s the whole point– they’re completely out of touch. The cast is perfect, and it gets a big thumbs up.
The Visitor (2022)
Directed by Justin P. Lange
Written by Simon Boyes, Adam Mason
Stars Jessica McNamee, Finn Jones, Victoria Harris
Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was an interesting one riding along trying to figure out what’s going on and why. The longer it goes on, the stranger and more ominous things get. It’s well-acted and directed with things funneling down to a satisfying if dismaying finish.
The Visitor is the latest horror-thriller film from Blumhouse Productions. When Robert and his wife Maia move to her childhood home, he discovers an old portrait of a man with his likeness - a man referred to only as 'The Visitor'. Soon he finds himself descending down a frightening rabbit hole in an attempt to discover the true identity of his mysterious doppelgänger, only to realize that every family has its own terrifying secrets. The Visitor is available to buy or rent on digital now.
Robert and his wife Maia have inherited her father’s huge house, and they’re moving in. Almost immediately, she goes to a secret compartment in the floor that contains a creepy doll. They go to the bar and talk to Judy the bartender. Everyone in town is happy to see Maia returned, and they all buy them drinks. Robert drinks way too much and passes out.
Late that night, Robert hears crying coming from the attic. It’s a very old blind woman. “You’re home,” she says before roaring at him. Nope, just a nightmare. The couple talks about losing their baby in a miscarriage; she thinks he blames her for the loss.
Robert finds a painting in the attic that looks exactly like him. She doesn’t think it looks that much like him. The painting is titled “The Visitor Accepts,” and she has no idea where her father got the old painting. We see that Robert is on medication for his anxiety, and he’s had trouble with it before.
Robert goes to the hardware store, and the clerk says, “We need to talk, Robert.” When another customer comes in, she ends up writing him a note. “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” The note mentions Delacroix Art & Antiques.
Robert and Maia go to her father’s memorial service, and the pastor gives a speech about his devastating absence.
Everyone in town is way too friendly to Robert. He goes to the antique store the hardware lady indicated and finds a civil war-era painting there, again with his face. This one is titled “The Visitor Watches it Burn.” The owner says the painting was there when she bought the store. The woman says he doesn’t really want answers; “You don’t want answers– What you need is to run back to London as fast as your legs can carry you!”
When he comes home, Maia has hung the first painting in their living room as a joke. He thinks the stress is getting to him. Meanwhile, over at the antique shop, the proprietor gets an unexpected visitor, a swarm of locusts that kill her.
The next morning, Maia tells Robert that she’s pregnant. Several months pass. The pastor has a talk with Robert about being a true believer, which Robert is not. “You will be,” the old man says. “When you see for yourself, you won’t be able to deny it.” The preacher has his own painting, “The Visitor Stakes His Claim.” The preacher says the painting was of Alistair Edgar, the man who saved their town back in the day. Robert and Maia find a bunch of frogs in their living room when they get home.
Robert gets a strange phone call from Maxwell Braun, another art dealer. He’s been researching the Visitor paintings and photos as well; he’s got one with Hitler and another with Saddam Hussein and Stalin. Robert, or the Visitor, has turned up in hundreds of photos and paintings “corresponding to moments in history we wish we could forget.” Maxwell says it’s not too late to go back to London; he hands Robert an envelope full of money. If he stays, he will become the Visitor.
Robert is convinced. Maia goes berserk when he mentions going home to London. Robert gets a call from Maxwell to meet in the woods. When he gets there, Maxwell is dead and tied to a tree. He goes home looking for Maia and finds another picture of himself, but Maia says that this one is of her father. And, as it turns out, his father as well; Robert had been kidnapped as a baby. Maxwell and his friends sent Robert to London to grow up, hoping to break the cycle.
Maia reveals to Robert that it’s been him going out at night and killing people. He is a vessel for a greater power. This has been going on since Alaistair sold his soul for the town in the 1700s. Even the miscarriage in London wasn’t an accident - it was a girl and she needs to have a boy to continue the line of “Roberts”. Robert passes out, and Maia says now he can be who he was always meant to be.
We get a flashback of when Maia and Robert met in London, cut with Maia giving birth, ala “Rosemary’s Baby.” The whole town is there in robes and masks chanting as the baby is born. Robert, who is now The Visitor (again) takes the throne. Afterward, Maia is blind just like her mother. He drives through the town, jubilant as they all celebrate his return.
We very quickly got a “Wakewood” vibe, and that soon degenerated into a “Wicker Man” feeling. For most of the film, it was obvious that most of the town was in some kind of secret conspiracy, and the only one out of the loop was Robert.
Everything is explained, and it all makes sense. Some of it is predictable, but some of it isn’t. It’s not entirely clear what’s going to happen after the end of the film, but it's not going to be good. Sometimes the dragon wins.
The Things We Cannot Change (2022)
Directed by Joshua Nelson
Written by Joshua Nelson
Stars David Reyez Adamez, Ziad Alexabi, Jay Barson
Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Is it better to fight your nature or embrace it? It can be hard being a vampire. And here we have a bunch of them talking about the struggle. It’s entertaining overall, with decent acting, good direction, and interesting dialogue.
A group of people in what appears to be an AA meeting discuss their problems. The woman talks about keeping secrets from her husband, “but when it calls to you, you just can’t fight it.” “It takes over your soul.”I was hiding who and what I was.” She tells the story of when her husband brought over a friend for dinner. The friend flirted with her, and she “let the urge happen.” She followed him upstairs and… drank his blood. “Matt, I can explain!” she says. No, these people aren’t alcoholics. They’re vampires. Credits roll.
Two young women talk. One yammers about a cute guy that she met while the other blathers about shopping. Then the girl with the hot guy admits that she killed her guy and ate him. Suddenly it’s not a mundane conversation anymore. “We made love, and I bled him all over the bed.” The second girl wants to make a pact to stop, but they’re both still hungry.
Back in the support group, a married couple talks about going to a bar and picking up a guy or a girl to take home and feed. They adopted a little boy, and then just last week, he caught them eating someone. They don’t want the child to grow up around this.
A mother tells Zoey that she wants to help with what’s bothering her daughter. “I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I made.” We then see Zoey sneak out into the backyard and start licking a dismembered limb.
One of the women in the support group, Veronica, says it’s wrong for all these people to feel guilt over their murders. She’s got issues, we’re told. Another woman says that people are going to die anyway, so maybe they’re just part of God’s plan. Veronica says it’s fine to go with it, and the leader of the group tells her not to come back.
Another couple of vampires talk about loving Twilight and Lestat, and they actually sought out a real vampire to turn them. Now they regret it.
Zoey’s mom finds a corpse in her closet and sends her to Dr. Abraham’s group. Mom asks if there’s some kind of medication, but he says no, she’ll have to fight this on her own.
Veronica talks to other vampires about stopping Abraham and his group; they deny who they really are.
Lucy deals with some workplace harassment in her own way, and her co-workers have a ball with it. One young guy “comes out” to his mother, and it goes badly.
Veronica has a plan to kill Abraham and take over. Things are going to be different going forward…
Last year, we reviewed “Menopause” from the same writer/director, and it had a huge number of characters telling their stories until the end, where some of it comes together. We pretty much hated it.
This film is done in a very similar format, also with a huge number of mostly-unnamed characters telling their problems. This film has many of the same actors as well, but we both found this one to be a lot more entertaining. It’s funny how blood coming in with vampires is more entertaining than blood coming out with menopause, but there we are.
It’s mostly just people talking, with a lot of “vampire philosophy” thrown in alongside a few simple bloody gore shots here and there; there’s no real action here, but the story is good. It’s well-shot, decently acted, and the music is really good, which these indie films often neglect. There’s a lot of really good humor as well, and we laughed out loud a couple of times.
The film takes a different point of view right at the end that makes the whole thing end on a depressing and overwrought note, as the drug/vampire analogy was clear already, but overall we thought it was really good!
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