What Josiah Saw (2022), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996) and Ritual (2002)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 182
We’ve got our usual collection of four horror films and a short film for you this week. We'll start off with an interesting tale of mystery and suspense, where we'll find out "What Josiah Saw" released this year, then we'll finish off the Tales from the Crypt series of films with "Bordello of Blood" and "Ritual" which drove the nail into the coffin for that entire franchise. Finally, we'll watch the old voodoo zombie film, "I Walked with a Zombie" from 1943. Good stuff!
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What Josiah Saw (2022)
Directed by Vincent Grashaw
Written by Robert Alan Dilts
Stars Robert Patrick, Nick Stahl, Scott Haze
Run Time: 2 Hours
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a thriller, but it’s pushing it to be called horror. It looks great, has a powerhouse cast, intricate story, and interesting visuals. It seemed a bit long and drawn out, but things build as the the past comes to light. Multiple things aren’t what they seem, and it does have a really interesting conclusion.
We open on establishing shots that demonstrate that we are in farm country; poverty-stricken farm country. Thomas talks to his broken tractor, which he almost gets started. Josiah Graham watches him from inside the house. Thomas comes inside and mentions something about God. Josiah tells him that he saw something strange this morning. He describes seeing a little leprechaun out in the field doing a jig. Josiah compares believing in leprechauns to believing in God, and Thomas is pretty religious.
We cut to some real estate developers talking to the local Assemblyman, Mr. Gentry. They want the town’s outlying properties to extract oil from shale. Gentry points out that the Graham property will be a hard sell; “That place has a bad history.” He tells that the wife, Miriam Graham, hanged herself one morning. “The townsfolk, they swear it’s haunted, that a ghost walks that farm at night.” The developers are unimpressed.
The town thinks of Thomas as the village idiot. Thomas is infatuated with Tanner, a little boy in town. Thomas admits to Josiah that he still looks for his mother’s ghost outside every night. Josiah hits him and insists “She ain’t out there.” That night, Josiah wakes up in the middle of the night and sees something that terrifies him.
“We’ve been given a way to wash away our sins and make peace with God,” he tells Thomas. He believes in God now, and he believes that Miriam is in Hell for committing suicide. Dead-Miriam came to him last night and explained it all. They have to right a great wrong, and she can be saved. First, they have to clean up the house, which is a neglected mess.
Josiah and Thomas get to work on getting the place ship-shape. The two of them talk about women, sex, and dirty magazines. The conversation gets weird, to say the least.
Elsewhere, Thomas’s brother Eli has sex with a woman for drugs. His parole officer comes by and handcuffs him before asking about a missing nine-year-old girl. Eli says that the girl was 16 in a bar and didn’t look her age, he did his time, and he has nothing to do with this missing girl. Later, Eli goes to see local crime lord Boone, after getting past his gatekeepers. Boone hands the sheriff a big envelope of money. Eli owes Boone a “substantial amount of money,” and Boone threatens to have him killed. Boone tells a story about a local group of gypsies that are supposed to have a bunch of gold bars; he wants Eli to go with Billy and see if the story is true and steal them.
Billy explains the plan. Eli’s job is just to go in and distract the girls. Eli goes to the gypsy party, and they all do gypsy dances and gypsy stuff. Wait– Actual Romani Gypsies in Odessa, Texas? I am skeptical. Eli talks to Gina, and she is, in fact, distracted. She offers to “give him a reading.” She takes him to an old woman who is a genuine fortune teller. She says he’s going to die–_ soon_. She then reads tea leaves and says, “You are why she burns.” “Who burns?” “Your mother. You run from something unspeakable that’s not finished with you yet. Oh, and you’re after our gold!” The gypsies attack the three men. And Eli’s tea was drugged.
When Eli wakes up, he finds that Boone has sold him out. He’s still with the gypsies. Eli gives his captor the drugs he got from sex from earlier, not mentioning to him that it’s uncut and too powerful. The captor is soon quite dead. Eli takes the gold, which is in a locked box, and leaves with the missing nine-year-old, who had actually been kidnapped by the gypsies. He gets away and squares things up with Boone. Boone picks up the gold and almost immediately dies; it’s poisoned or cursed or something. Eli turns the girl over to the sheriff and leaves town. He reads the letter sent by the oil developers.
Mary and Ross Milner go to see a lawyer about getting approved for an adoption; she got tubal ligation at a very young age. She consents to having someone evaluate her mental stability. She does really hard workouts and abandons her grocery cart at the store, demonstrating to us that she has some mental issues. Ross fears that Mary will kill herself, and they have a fight. She still wants a child, but he fears she’s not going to be a good mother.
After a trip to the psychiatrist, Mary goes home to find her brother Eli is there. She’s not happy to see him. She got the letter from the developer too. He wants to sell, and they all have to sign off on it in order to sell. She wants to go back to the farm with Eli and see the place one more time before they’re rid of it for good.
Eli and Mary go home and see Thomas, who is happy to see them both. They were expecting them; Thomas got the letter too. Eli mentions the old garbage dump and sinkhole to Mary, who knows what he’s talking about. Josiah believes that Eli and Mary were too close, and Mary got pregnant. That’s why Miriam killed herself. Josiah wants to right this old wrong.
Mary talks to Thomas as Eli digs in the dump. Mary gets a call from Ross; the adoption people have approved them to become parents. She’s going to be a mother! Her reaction is mixed. They confront Thomas about his own ex-wife, whom we haven’t heard about until just now. She left Tommy and remarried a man named Tate. We hear that Tanner is Thomas’s real son, but there’s a whole pile of restraining orders to keep him away from the boy.
Thomas talks about Eli and Mary’s baby, and Eli makes it clear that the baby came from Josiah, not him. Thomas’s mind is blown. Josiah had been lying about all this to Thomas for years. They ask who Thomas is talking to. Josiah of course. Then Eli reminds him that Josiah’s been dead and buried for twenty-three years.
Wait. What? So that’s why Thomas was the only one we ever saw speaking with Josiah.
Eli couldn’t find the grave in the dump. We find out that Thomas really isn’t all there mentally. Made worse when Josiah burned him in the head with an iron when he was a boy. Shortly after their mother killed herself, all three children beat Josiah to death, twenty-three years ago. Some time ago, Thomas dug up the baby’s bones and Josiah’s and put them in a box.
Thomas kills them both.
We get a flashback to see Eli and Mary boinking in the motel. Thomas wasn’t wrong about them. Or was that only what he was imagining happened?
This is just plain weird. The cinematography and sets are great; it all looks really creepy and dark. The acting is good, and all the characters are believable. The stereotypical fortune-telling gypsies are a bit much.
Early on, we hear Josiah and Thomas talk about Eli, and we see in an old photo that Mary is their sister, so this is all one big, connected family drama.
About halfway through the film, Kevin said, “This is long and dull.” About two-thirds of the way through, I agreed with him. I still agree with him, but it does all tie up in an interesting way in the end. A lot of the middle action with Eli could have been cut out, but it’s still an interesting story.
It’s majorly creepy; there’s no arguing that, but is it horror?
Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)
Directed by Gilbert Adler
Written by Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, William M. Gaines
Stars Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon
Run Time: 1 Hour, 27 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one has some great gore, a whole lot of humor, and Dennis Miller being Dennis Miller. It’s okay, but not great. Like one of the okay episodes of Tales From The Crypt that goes on a little too long.
In Tierra Del Fuego, a group of men ride by some skeletal corpses put up on poles. It looks like “Indiana Jones,” but the main guy is a dwarf, Vincent Prather. They dig their way into a cavern, and there’s a coffin that supposedly contains treasure. No, it’s just a skeleton with a little dried skin. This is Lilith, the most horrible woman the world has ever known. He has four pieces of her heart, which magically connect and fuse together, beating on its own. He then puts the heart in her chest, and the body reconstitutes around it. She’s the mother of all vampires, and she’s very hungry. Vincent has the key that we saw in the previous film, and she’s afraid of it.
The mummy talks to the Cryptkeeper about business. The mummy cuts off Crypties' hand. This leads into the main story…
Katherine Verdoux does a workout as credits roll. Her brother Caleb wants to go out and have some fun; he’s a partier, and she’s kind of a religious nut. As Caleb goes to the bar, one of the patrons says he knows a place where his whole gang can get laid so hard they won’t be able to walk home afterward. He really oversells it. Credits roll.
McCutcheon lets them in, and it’s a funeral home, but he promises lots of naked flesh, so they follow him. The old man points a gun at them and makes them climb into a coffin together. The coffin then goes into the crematorium, down a ramp, and into… the bordello. We soon see that most of the girls have tooth marks on their necks. Caleb’s friend goes first, and then Lilith comes in, she’s the boss. She gives him tongue– all the way down until his heart bursts out. She promptly eats it. Lilith then comes in to see Caleb and offers him some “deep throat.”
Katherine goes to the police station, but they don’t have time for her. Rafe Gutman introduces himself; he’s a private investigator. Rafe takes the case, and she fills him in on the details. Rafe finds Caleb’s friends and finds out the address of the whorehouse. Rafe goes to the address and finds a funeral in progress.
We cut to Reverend Current in his huge megachurch. He’s like every TV preacher you’ve ever seen. Rafe walks in during the sermon and finds Katherine there. So is Vincent. Rafe thinks she’s pretty uptight. Rafe goes to the bar and runs into the same weirdo that told Caleb about the brothel.
Rafe goes back to the funeral home and talks to McCutcheon, but he doesn’t get in. He breaks in and sees Lilith. He finds evidence that Caleb had been there. The next night, he finally gets in as a customer. He takes the coffin ride downstairs. He runs into Tammy, who shows him around. He ties up Tammy and escapes, but he leaves his wallet behind, which Lilith finds.
Lilith shows up in Rafe’s office. She tries to seduce him, but Katherine interrupts. The two of them go to the police and tell them about the brothel. They go over there, but Rafe’s story doesn’t check out.
Lilith talks to Vincent about doing away with the Reverend and going off on their own. The Reverend rehearses for his big show with a devil model and the “Laserlight of the Lord.” Katherine tells the Reverend that she wants to do a documentary. The Reverend goes to a strip club in disguise to meet Vincent and Lilith. Katherine comes in with a cameraman for her film, and both men go out the back door. Vincent destroys the key.
Both Katherine and Rafe have issues with people they saw not showing up on film. Rafe suggests vampires. Caleb calls, and he needs help. They do find him, but he’s obviously a vampire. Katherine is captured by the vampires, but Rafe ends up in the hospital with the police.
The Reverend comes to the brothel to see Lilith. He says he wants to join them. Rafe drives through the front door. Rafe and the Rev go vampire hunting. They shoot the vamps with squirt guns full of holy water. The Rev tries to kill Lilith, but this goes badly. Rafe doesn’t fare any better, but at least he lives to try again.
The Reverend dies, but tells Katherine to go back to their studio and make a broadcast. They do, but the special effects all go crazy as Lilith attacks Katherine. Rafe is in the control booth, but he has access to the “Laserlight of the Lord”. He cranks it up to burn a cross right through her, splitting her heart into four parts again. But, it doesn’t stop her because the four parts are still inside her. Katherine pulls the pieces out, and Lilith bursts into flame.
What could go wrong?
The Cryptkeeper makes a final joke; there’s nothing left of the mummy but a head.
TV Shopping networks were mentioned more than once. They were a big thing back in the 90s. So were TV preachers, but I guess they still have those.
Dennis Miller played the same character he played all through the 90s before he went insane and ruined his career over politics. At one point he says, “I feel like I’m in a bad ‘Tales from the Crypt’ episode.” He isn’t wrong. The gore when the vampires die is pretty impressive, but otherwise, there’s too much humor and not enough of anything else. The previous film was a lot better; this simply had too much of Dennis Miller being Dennis Miller.
The Puppeteer (2022)
Directed by Jacob Arbitter
Stars Vicki Hanson, Patrick Hanson, Donald Cluff
Run Time: 7:30
A woman lies in bed and watches an old video. She’s watching a recording of her and her husband on vacation. She watches a creepy man-thing appear behind her husband in the video– and then she sees it outside her window… alongside her dead husband.
The makeup here is well done. The Puppeteer himself doesn’t look great; he’s a little rigid, obviously just a man wearing a mask. Still, the idea is good, the execution is also excellent. You know something bad is in the works, and it doesn’t disappoint.
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Written by Curt Siodmak, Ardel Wray, Inez Wallace
Stars Frances Dee, Tom Conway, James Ellison
Run Time: 1 Hour, 9 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s low-key horror, but pretty entertaining. There are zombies, but it’s more of a mystery figuring out what’s going on and who’s behind it.
“I walked with a zombie,” explains Betsy. “It all began in such an ordinary way…”
Betsy Connell interviews for a medical job in the Caribbean. She’ll be paid $200 per month. The hospital director makes it all sound really nice - especially talking about palm trees when there is heavy falling snow visible out the windows of his office.
She soon meets Paul Holland, who is her new boss in the West Indies. “There’s no beauty here; only death and decay,” he warns. “Everything good dies here, even the stars.” He’s obviously a lot of fun, so Betsy decides she likes him.
The driver tells that the Hollands brought all the black folks to the island– as slaves, back in the day. She’s cheerful about the story, ignoring the whole thing about slavery. She settles in and gets called to dinner with Paul's half-brother Wesley Rand. They hear the drums in the jungle. She likes him too, but there is obviously some conflict between the two brothers.
Betsy wakes up that night hearing a woman crying outside. She follows the sound to a tower. She runs into Jesscia Holland, who looks like a zombie and advances on her threateningly. Paul comes in and breaks things up. Betsy says she heard crying, which Paul denies, but Alma the maid speaks up and says there was a baby born. They are all still wallowing in the misery of their former slavery so they cry when a baby is born and laugh with joy at a funeral. Alma attends to both Betsy and Jessica in the morning. “She was very sick and then she went mindless,” Alma says about Jessica.
Dr. Maxwell comes by, and Betsy asks him about zombies. He says that Jessica had a spinal fever which results in a person without any will power, but will obey simple commands, like a sleepwalker. He tells nurse Betsy about her treatment and care.
On her day off, Betsy runs into Wesley in town. They listen to a singer singing a song about the Holland family, which offends Wesley. Wesley warns Betsy about Paul. Betsy meets Wesley’s mother, Mrs. Rand. That night, over dinner, everyone discusses voodoo. Betsy falls in love with Paul, but Paul is obviously still married to Jessica. Betsy wants to cure Jessica even more just to help him.
Dr. Maxwell wants to try a risky procedure on Jessica involving insulin and an electric shock. Alma tries to point out that there are better doctors on the island– the_ Hungan,_ the voodoo priest. Betsy asks Mrs. Rand about taking Jessica to the hungan.
The two girls do go to the voodoo ritual. She runs into Mrs. Rand there, who warns Betsy that Jessica cannot be cured. A man sticks Jessica with a sword, but she doesn’t bleed. When they get home, Paul admits that he doesn’t really want Jesscia back.
Wesley thinks that Paul drove Jessica deliberately insane, but Jessica doesn’t believe that. He wants Betsy to go back to the mainland for her own safety.
That night, a giant zombie shuffles around outside Betsy’s room. Betsy follows the sound and goes back into the tower. She calls for Paul, and they both see the zombie-man. Mrs. Rand intervenes and sends the zombie back to where he came from.
Dr. Maxwell comes in and says there’s going to be an investigation into what happened to Jessica. Wesley put them up to this; he still accuses Paul of everything. Mrs. Rand claims that Jessica isn’t insane; she’s dead. Living dead. She turned Jesscia into a zombie, and she admits it all. Jessica wanted to leave Paul and run away with Wesley, so she asked the hungan to make Jessica into a zombie. Dr. Maxwell says it’s just a coincidence, and Jessica simply has jungle fever. No one believes Mrs. Rand except Wesley.
We see the hungan doing a ritual with a doll, and Jessica starts walking toward them. Paul and Wesley argue about the truth of voodoo. Wesley thinks Betsy knows the drugs well enough to cure Jessica. Later, the hungan tries again, and this time Wesley opens the gate and lets her out.
Wesley follows Jessica and then stabs her to death. He carries her into the ocean, and they both die as the giant zombie simply watches. Some local fishermen find the bodies and carry them home as Paul and Betsy watch in horror.
It’s got a few things that wouldn’t fly in modern films, but considering this takes place in Jamaica in the 1940s, it’s not too offensive. White people sure dressed formally in the 1940’s Caribbean islands. The men are all in suits and ties, and the women all have long gowns, and no one sweats. I suspect that’s not quite the reality of the situation.
The love triangle (or quad-angle in this case) isn’t really necessary, but it doesn’t take too much time.
It’s not particularly terrifying, but it does have zombies, and watching the mystery unfold is entertaining.
Tales from the Crypt: Ritual (2002)
Directed by Avi Nesher
Written by Inez Wallace, Curt Siodmak, Anerl Wray
Stars Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer, Daniel Lapaine
Run Time: 1 Hour, 39 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is a horror movie that was made, then after the fact called a Tales From The Crypt Presents with an introduction by The Cryptkeeper tacked on. It’s totally lacking the humor that makes the Tales From The Crypt episodes and movies so much dark fun. This is a long, dull slog despite having a talented cast.
The Cryptkeeper has moved to Jamaica and gotten Deadlocks. He likes the scenery there.
Credits roll as we see a huge garden party. We meet Dr. Matthew Hope as he meets some of the other guests. The party has been set up by Paul Claybourne as his brother Wesley’s birthday party. We see that Wesley is in his room under some kind of voodoo spell.
That night, Dr. Peter Winsvold meets up with a woman who wants a DNA check on something. As soon as she leaves, his lab starts to boil– and so does he. His shoes literally melt. The woman who wanted the DNA check is also killed out in the woods.
Elsewhere, Dr. Alice Dodgson has a dying child patient, and she wants to use unapproved treatment. The head of the hospital denies her request, but she does it anyway. The patient dies, and her license is suspended for two years. She ends up taking a medical position overseas in Jamaica, where the job doesn’t require a license.
J.B. picks her up at the airport. She soon notices that lots of people carry a machete. She watches men working in the sugar cane fields. J.B.’s father is a voodoo priest. Alice goes to meet Paul Claybourne, who explains the job. Alice has been hired to care for Wesley. Wesley thinks that he’s a zombie. She sets up shop in the same lab that Dr. Winsvold melted in.
That night, Alice is kidnapped, tied down, and has spiders poured all over her body. She wakes up; just a dream. She goes to see Caro, who answers the door naked. Caro is a sculptor. The two of them go to see Wesley, who lives in an old crypt. He’s a jerk, but he really believes that he’s a zombie. J.B. explains that zombieism is just a sickness of the soul. Someone, somewhere is doing a voodoo ritual, and J.B. has a seizure while driving.
Alice talks to J.B.’s father about Wesley. He, too, has a seizure. That night at dinner, Alice talks to Dr. Hope, who knows all about Wesley. Wesley actually shows up to dinner, and he wants to sit next to Alice. Later, Paul and Wesley play some music for the crowd. Wesley lays on the charm, and Alice is into it. On the way home, some of the other party guests are killed.
J.B. warns Alice to just leave the place now. It’s only going to get worse. It does. There’s some talk about Paul selling the plantation. Alice literally trips over the body of one of the dead guests. She takes a blood sample from Wesley, and soon they’re having sex on the beach. Alice dreams about some bad things again.
The lab report on Wesley’s blood shows something strange. Alice also gets tested for the same virus. Dr. Hope calls Paul, and it’s clear that they are in cahoots on some kind of real-estate plot. We see that Dr. Hope is a veterinarian, and he’s been experimenting on cats, at least until the Superintendent stabs him.
Alice tells Wesley about Paul selling the estate, and he takes it badly. Paul says that Wesley is no longer fit to make decisions and that Paul now has power of attorney. Maid Violette explains the terms of Wesley’s will. Alice enlists J.B.’s father and Violette to help her out. Alice ends up getting a vision that tells her something about Wesley, Hope, and the lab full of cats. Alice now thinks she can create an antidote for Wesley’s virus.
Alice explains to Wesley that Dr. Hope created this zombie plague to infect Wesley and make him look like the village idiot. Wesley’s will gives everything to the locals, so he can’t simply be killed by Paul.
Alice tells Paul that she’s found a cure for Wesley’s illness. She knows it’s him behind it. The superintendent kidnaps Wesley.
Alice comes across a huge voodoo party where they appear to be turning Wesley into a full-blown zombie. Paul is there, and he doses Wesley himself. Then they put Wesley in a coffin and bury him. Alice gets the drop on Paul, but then the voodoo leader reveals herself to be – Caro! Turns out, she’s Paul and Wesley’s illegitimate sister. With Wesley –and Paul– out of the way, she would get it all.
Caro orders Alice to blow the zombie-dust into J.B.’s face, but she blows it on Caro instead. They dig up Wesley and give him the antidote powder.
Later, Alice and Wesley get married. Elsewhere, the Superintendent brings home his own wife, Zombie Caro.
The Cryptkeeper never looked so “puppety” before - which was part of their making it a Tales From The Crypt after the fact. They didn’t use the usual high-tech animatronic Cryptkeeper. His bits were entirely unnecessary and highly cringeworthy from a modern perspective. This was based on the 1943 film, “I Walked With a Zombie.” They didn’t even bother with a closing Cryptkeeper scene.
This movie was not planned as a Tales from the Crypt film but ended up as one when the Cryptkeeper scenes were added for home video release. It’s pretty obvious, as there’s very little humor here.
Tim Curry’s just sort of in this and is completely wasted. The other cast is fine. The problem is if it weren’t my job to watch these films, I’d have turned this off at the one-hour mark. Too much stuff happens that doesn’t seem related to the plot. Interesting stuff seems to happen in Alice’s dreams; so much of the good stuff isn’t even real. It feels about a half-hour too long.
The one important thing I learned from this is that Jamaica is a very sweaty place.
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