Brandon’s Coronavirus Horror Watch List

Over the past several weeks, I’ve experienced a variety of emotions regarding the current coronavirus outbreak. For the most part I tend to teeter between fear of the future and anger for the present. All the pain and frustrations (including the outbreak itself) just seem so preventable if people would be a little less greedy, a little cleaner, and use a little common sense. Nonetheless, that is not the way the world works and if I didn’t fully understand that before, I definitely do now.

The entertainment I’ve consumed has ranged from comedies (to make me laugh in this chaos), westerns/war movies (to show me people overcoming hard times), and horror (which gives me a bit of peace.)

I haven’t done the research on why I feel so at peace while watching horror during this scary time in my life, but I think it has something to do with seeing other people put into horrible situations and having to deal with these horrific events. I also think the nostalgia and community I get from my horror fandom definitely works as a comforting device and it motivates me to work more on this website.

People keep posting lists of movies to watch during this pandemic and they are usually filled with disease related movies. That doesn’t do much for me. I like horror movies that reflect the current tension that is in the air and the uneasiness that seems to be found everywhere you go. So with that being said, here is my recommended coronavirus watch list.



The Mist

The Mist is one of those movies I love to check out when there is a pending disaster on the radar. The last time I watch it was right as a hurricane was about to make landing on the North Carolina coast.


The Mist is about of a group of people who become stranded in a grocery store after a huge mist rolls into town. Everyone who goes outside seemingly doesn’t come back so fear and paranoia begin to run rampant. (You can read my full review of The Mist here.)


The reason The Mist reminds me of our current social climate is because of how everyone is locked within the grocery store and how quickly people have broken off into groups. There is this dangerous unknown entity that is terrorizing everyone, but you can’t see it or define it, you just know it’s there. Within the group of survivors you find religious zealots, racists, idiots, rational people, and everyone in-between. It’s an excellent assortment of characters that each represent the same people we are experiencing in society now who are a little more vocal because they are scared.



Scream

This movie probably looks most out of place on this list, but it was arguably the first movie that came to mind once the outbreak occurred. Scream does an amazing job of establishing real fear within the community. Following a murder of two high school students, school is dismissed and the town enacts a curfew. Some people recognize it and respect the curfew, others do not. (You can read my full review of Scream here.)


The script does a great job of peeking into various conversations where everyone is talking about the murders and their opinions on it. The level of how serious people are taking it varies between the characters but you can tell this a serious matter.


The media is constantly reporting and jostling for the latest angle and it feels very real and relevant to the way things are happening right now. Everyone is out to make a buck, under the disguise of doing a public service.



Take Shelter

This is a movie that is borderline not a horror movie. In fact, you could easily dismiss it as a form of science fiction or even a drama. But I think the psychological aspects of Take Shelter place it within the horror realm and it is another movie that really seems to fit the current social attitude.

Take Shelter is about a man who keeps hearing thunder and seeing storms coming that aren’t there. You question whether he’s struggling with mental illness or are these actual premonitions. This fear of the unknown makes him start working on a shelter for his family that is quickly mocked and dismissed by everyone around him.


The film was written during the 2008 recession and seemed to reflect the attitudes and feelings of that time period, which in my mind, have just been amplified by a thousand this time around.


Take Shelter is one of those movies that you won’t want to revisit, but it’s probably going to stick with you quite some time after you watch it.



None of these movies are about a pandemic or a disease. As I mentioned earlier, I picked them because of the emotions and feelings they evoked and how that resonated with me, not so much the plots. Everyone stay safe out there and let’s hope this chaos will be over soon.


Leprechaun Returns Review (2018)

 

My History With the Film:
I was ten years old when the first Leprechaun movie came out in 1993, and it was all the rage amongst my fellow fourth graders. Leprechaun was the type of movie that worked as a gateway horror film to reel in the pre-teens and teenagers into the world of the scary and macabre. I remember seeing it in pieces, but it never really did much for me. It was just too goofy for my liking. I believe the first time I watched the film all the way through was just a few years ago. I found it enjoyable, but it wasn’t anything I had an interest in watching again.

Leprechaun Returns, like the most recent Halloween film, ignored the previously released sequels and instead act as a follow up to the original film. Going this route eliminated all the chaos and mess that came in-between. The original teaser captured my attention and with the renewed focus on horror over comedy I decided to put Leprechaun Returns on my list of films that I needed to watch when St. Patrick’s Day came along.

On March 17th, 2019, I found myself on a flight to Paris with a downloaded copy of Leprechaun Returns on my cell phone. Here are my thoughts.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Sorority sisters unwittingly release a leprechaun who once raged havoc on an isolated house twenty-five years earlier.

What I Liked About It:
-I love Linden Porco’s portrayal of The Leprechaun. In all honesty, I like him better than Warwick Davis. I thought the makeup was good, I loved his attitude, and his portrayal never screamed “little person in a costume.” He really inhabited the character and brought it to life more than I expected.


-The story was decent for a Leprechaun film. It tied in well to the original and while there wasn’t much of a plot, there was enough to give The Leprechaun a backdrop to cause chaos and that was fun.


-There is some great gore in this film which was unexpected considering this was aired on the SyFy channel.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The movie is low budget and it feels like it. This film feels like a 90’s movie, which is something I love, but I have a feeling most people will not like in 2019. It was hard to decide whether or not to include this in What I Liked About It or What I Didn’t Like About It.


-Effort was put into this sequel and I admire the risk they took creating this film as a direct sequel to the original movie, but I can’t help but feel like they had an opportunity to do so much more and instead gave the film the proper sequel it deserved twenty plus years ago.

Additional Notes:
-Mark Holton (Ozzie) is the only original cast member to return for the sequel.


-Warwick Davis declined the role as The Leprechaun in Leprechaun Returns, because he is now a father and feels differently about horror films. He said once his child grows up, he may return to them.

-The movie was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa.

Rating:
I’ve seen Leprechaun, Leprechaun 2, and bits and pieces of all of the other films and this by far was my favorite of the franchise. It takes itself a bit more serious than the rest, but still has fun with the character and the ridiculous premise. The kills are good, the gore is great, and the makeup is top notch. With that being said, the acting is rough and this really does feel like a sequel to original film and the lower budget makes it feel like it was made in the 1990s, which is something I like a lot. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever watch Leprechaun Returns again, but if I get an inking to check out a Leprechaun film in the future, Leprechaun Returns is most likely what I’ll reach for.

Leprechaun Returns is an enjoyable time, especially around St Patty’s Day. I’d say it’s a rental and a solid two and a half out of five.



Jason X Review (2001)


My History With the Film:
I was working at Blockbuster when Jason X came out, commonly referred to as the Jason in Space. I remember snagging the poster once it came in, because who wouldn’t want a Jason X poster on their wall? I didn’t rent the movie right away, because by this point the major classic horror franchises had pretty much been run into the ground. Leprechaun was in the hood, Jason was in space, Freddy was nowhere to be found, and Michael Myers was battling Busta Rhymes.

When I did rent it, I remember thinking, “This isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.” Sure, it was hokey but so were many of the sequels. The movie held my attention for a while and I quite honestly can’t remember if I finished it or not, but I left thinking Jason X wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t absolute crap either.


I revisited Jason X in 2017 when I went through all the Friday the 13th movies in a row. I had fun with Jason X and kept the film in perspective. It was a goofy sequel to a franchise many assumed had run its course, and at least it was better than Jason Goes to Hell.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Jason is accidently woken up after being cryogenically frozen for 400 years. A spaceship full of college kids are forced to face-off with the very angry killing machine.

What I Liked About It:
-Jason X never takes itself too serious. It also doesn’t play the movie as an entire joke either.


-I liked how the android was upgraded and turned into a fighting machine in order to battle Jason. It was a fun scene.


-The whole Camp Crystal Lake Holodeck scene was by far the highlight of the movie. It was an homage to the original films, but was also self-aware and worked perfectly with the plot.

What I Didn’t Like About It:
-As usual with my reviews of movies from this time period, the CGI is very inconsistent. I know it’s not fair to compared CGI from twenty years ago with CGI from today, but I really think this all goes back director’s misusing the early CGI when prosthetics and special effects would have sufficed and aged better. This film relied almost entirely on CGI when it came to the kills and gore, and some if has aged horribly.

Additional Notes:
-Jason X had the highest kill count of any Friday the 13th movie with 28 kills.


-Kane Hodder’s final cinematic appearance as Jason. He portrayed the character in Jason VII, Jason VIII, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X.

Rating:
Jason X was a vast improvement over Jason Goes to Hell and while it’s nowhere near the best in the series, it’s an entry that works more than it should. You have to check your mind at the door and embrace the concept and you can find some fun while watching Jason X.

I rate Jason X a five out of ten and call it a low priority rental.

IT: Chapter 2 Review (2019)


My History With the Film:
In 2017, I went to the drive-in and saw IT and loved it. In 2019, I returned to the Raleigh Road Drive In to see IT: Chapter 2 and found it to be a little underwhelming. That might have had something to do with it being a double feature and it followed The Joker, but I think overall it was just too long and had too much CGI to really win me over.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
The Derry Gang gets back together as adults to fight Pennywise.

What I Liked About It:
-I don’t think they could have cast the adult counterparts any better than they did. They were all amazing and reflected the child actors well. You could easily buy in that every single one of them were the children seen in the first film, which is not something I can say for the original 1990 mini-series.


-Pennywise was great, and Bill Skargard shined again by being truly terrifying.


-The tone and the atmosphere were the same as the original film and that is what worked so well. It felt a bit nostalgic yet modern at the same time.

-The flashback scenes were well done and helped created a cohesive story.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-They CGI killed it. Look, I know that CGI was necessary to create some of the effects, but it was just too much. Every great scene was ruined by CGI and it really pulled me out of the film. 


-It was too long. It was risky taking this massive book and turning it into two movies, and it just didn’t work. More of the film should have edited or this should have existed as a streaming limited series.

Additional Notes:
-A license plate in the antiques shop is “CGQ 241” the same as Christine. The owner (Stephen King) asked for $300 which is the same amount the owner of Christine asked for.

-Both movies combined have a runtime of 5 hours and 4 minutes, which is two hours longer than the original 1990 mini-series.


-Over four hours of footage was filmed that the director has mentioned using in a possible future IT film.

-At 169 minutes, it’s the longest horror movie to be given a theatrical release.

-Made over $470 million dollars on a $79 million dollar budget.

Rating:

I hate to say it, but IT Chapter 2 was a disappointment to me. Maybe it was just bad timing having just watched The Joker, but the quality of the film just didn’t live up to the first movie for me. It was quite forgettable and too long for me. I’d love to re-watch it and review it at a later date, but I just don’t see myself sitting down for another almost three hours and watching this story again. 


That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie, because it’s not. It’s perfectly serviceable and works well. It’s just not as awe inspiring as the first film nor was it as memorable.

I’d rate IT Chapter 2 a three out of five and say it’s definitely worth a watch if you enjoyed the first film.

Read my IT (2017) Review
Read my IT (1990) Review

A Trip to Halloween Horror Nights (2019)


As a horror fan, Halloween Horror Nights has been on my wish list of places to visit for a few years now. Every Halloween, Universal Studios designs haunted mazes based on major horror properties that would make any horror fan drool. In the past few years some of the haunted attractions included: Halloween, Ash vs The Evil Dead, Insidious, The Exorcist, The Walking Dead, and more. These well designed, high budgeted sets immerse the visitors into the world of their favorite horror properties and who (as a horror fan) wouldn’t want that?


Last year, I was finally able to make it to Orlando and experience Horror Nights for two nights with my lovely fiancée Brandy. She has been several times over the past few years and was excited to take me, knowing that I would love being amongst some of my favorite entertainment settings.


The park was laid out with several scare zones (areas of the park where costumed actors and props exist to be walked through) and mazes (a more traditional haunted house affair with pre-determined jump scares and a fully immersed set).

The Scare Zones:


Anarch-cade – A street with giant arcade machines surrounded by futuristic neon lit thugs.


Zombieland: Double Tap – By far my favorite scare zone, the Zombieland scarezone featured vehicles from the movie, a large Zombie Kill of the Week Stage, actors cast as characters from the film, as well as dozens of zombies of various origins




Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe – This is exactly what you’d imagine. There was fire, half naked girls dancing, strange creates wandering, and an electric chair being managed by a dominatrix.



Vikings Undead – As far as atmosphere, Vikings Undead stole the show. It was set in a dark park setting were fog isolated you from the rest of the park and made you feel like you were someplace unique and haunted.

Vanity Ball – An over the top plastic surgeon modeling exhibit gone bad. I couldn’t help but think of Bruce Campbell’s character in Escape from LA while walking through this.


The Mazes:


Ghostbusters – Our first walkthrough was disappointing, but we just missed all the jump scares. The second time it was much better! The set design was amazing with it beginning in the New York library, going through the firehouse, and ended up on the rooftop with Gozar. It was a complete Ghostbusters experience, with Janine, the boys, and New York City all on display. It wasn’t very scary, but very cool to see in person. ****


Stranger Things – Our first maze of the trip, The Stranger Things was obviously one of the most popular and it was really neat. The rooms covered scenes from the complete series, although it seemed to focus mainly on the first season. It wasn’t very scary, but it was neat to walk through. ***


Nightingales: Blood Pit – This maze was an original maze featuring strange clicking Gladiators fighting creatures. The creatures looked very creepy, but the maze was lame. **


Universal Monsters – This maze featured all of the classic Universal Monsters such as Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, etc. It was a neat maze to walk through and the jumps were quite adequate. ***


Depths of Fear – Umm… so this was a weird underwater fish cloning/creature science lab gone wrong. *


Us – I was really disappointed in Us last year (I was so disappointed, I chose not to post my review because it was so negative.), so this was one of our last houses to walk through. The lines were long and I just didn’t want to waste any more time on a franchise that let me down so badly. Luckily for us (no pun intended), the Us maze was one of the best. It was brilliantly designed and covered all the major spots from the movie and the use of clones in the simple jumpsuits really worked out well. ****


Killers Klowns from Outer Space – Next to Ghostbusters, this was my most anticipated maze and it didn’t disappoint. Killer Klowns featured a ton of clowns and all the iconic scenes from the film. There was a great use of shadows, cotton candy cocoons and oversized Killer Klowns who loved to get super close to you. ****


Graveyard Games – Not based on a major property, Graveyard Games was one of the original mazes and was very interesting. It was essentially walking through a graveyard with various ghosts and missing teenagers. I think the story that was told via a projector on the side of the building was one of the best parts, because it showed texts and social media that discussed the haunted origins of the graveyard and the children who went missing. ***


House of 1,000 Corpses – House of 1,000 Corpses was one of my most disappointing movie theater experiences and so I went in with low expectations and they were met. This was like walking through hillbilly torture porn and I’m sure it delighted all of the Rob Zombie fans. Like the movie it was named after, this was a bust for me. **


Yeti: Terror in the Yukon – This original maze was by far my favorite. The atmosphere was amazing as you walked into a cabin in the snowy woods and were then forced outside to be stalked by several yetis. The use of different levels, cold air, and some great sound effects made you feel isolated in this cold, scary environment. I loved this maze and it was one we went through twice and enjoyed both times. *****


The Live Shows:





Academy of Villains: Altered States – A choreographed dance routine that featured a very cool contortionist and a few stunts. ***


Halloween: Marathon of Mayhem – A water display that featured lasers and video broadcast onto the buildings as well as various timed walls of water. The event covered all of the attractions featured in the park which was very neat to see, especially when Stay Puft was projected on massive buildings in the background. ****



The Rides:

Transformers: The Ride 3-D – My first ride of the day and I found myself smiling through the entire event. It was a neat on the rails ride that did hurt my neck, but was fun nonetheless. ***

Revenge of the Mummy – I hate rollercoasters and this terrified the crap out of me. I don’t like not being able to see and I absolutely hated this ride. However, a few days later (and a few other smaller rollercoasters inbetween) I rode Revenge of the Mummy again and enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it wasn’t as bad as that first ride. ***

Fast and Furious: Supercharged – This was a letdown. A very boring ride featuring badly CGI Vin Diesel. *

Men in Black: Alien Attack – A fun shooter that I enjoyed riding on. It definitely made me remember the good ole days of Men in Black. **




Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – The Harry Potter portion of the park, the Butter Beer, and the walkthrough Gringotts was better than the actual ride. The ride was decent, but you really felt like you were in the world of Harry Potter prior to stepping onto the ride. I loved that and it was one of my favorite parts of the park. *** for the ride, ***** for the atmosphere



The Simpsons Ride – Last time I was at Universal Studios this was Back to the Future, a ride I really enjoyed. Luckily, The Simpsons Ride was quite fun too. I actually rode this twice and found myself smiling and enjoying Homer’s antics both times. ****

And finally….

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit - I already mentioned that I don’t do rollercoasters. I hate being strapped down and set hurtling at high speeds. I decided to stand in line with Brandy since the line for the biggest, baddest rollercoaster in the park was quite long.


As we approached the loading platform I began to talk myself into just riding it. I felt bad leaving her to ride alone and I don’t know, maybe I was just drunk on love, so I ended up hopping in the seat next to her and faced my fears head on.

This wasn’t one of those epic moments where my fears all went away and I realized that they were unfounded. No, this ride just confirmed that I hate rollercoasters and I will NEVER, EVER ride one like that again. Fuck that.



Walking around Universal during Horror Nights is a very unique experience. It’s dark and creepy, but feels totally safe. The park does a great job of promoting all the various movies they use for mazes as the gift shops are crammed with various merchandise for those movies. Even the few carnival games had a few movie related items. I’ll just stop right here to brag about winning Brandy a large Stay Puft marshmallow man in a bean bag tossing game.

Horror Nights is a blast, but it’s exhausting. It’s a lot of standing, a lot of waiting, and a lot of walking. Luckily, the park is large enough to give you distractions such as food, shows, rides, and so on, if you need to get away from some of the 2 hour plus wait times for certain mazes.

I’d definitely recommend not going on a Friday or Saturday, and prepare to be there all night to get your money’s worth. We were able to do all but two of the mazes the first night and a few of the rides. So the second night we were able to see those mazes, revisit some other ones, and ride any other rides that we wanted to and just take it a lot easier around the park. I loved the way we spread it over two days and it was some brilliant planning on Brandy’s part.

Below are some more pictures from my time at Horror Nights. I totally recommend any horror fan making the trek to Universal one Halloween to experience this for yourselves.