2022 Horror Movie & TV Reviews: Werewolf by Night / 28 Days Haunted / V/H/S/99

An unlikely MVP this week, but even that isn’t particularly great.

Werewolf by Night

Werewolf by Night is basically a beautiful Cadillac with no engine in it. Based on a Marvel comic or property or some sort, don’t know, don’t care, Werewolf by Night, a 53-minute “TV Special” is gorgeously crafted from a technical perspective and designed to emulate classic monster movies from the 1930s. However, there’s one considerable difference – those movies were simply plotted where as this is a convoluted overly-complicated mess of “who’s that guy?” and “is that the werewolf? whose the werewolf??.” It opens with Y Tu Mama Tambien‘s Gael Garcia Bernal and a couple of other folks attending some meeting or club or something. The positively fabulous Harriet Sansom Harris (Bebe from Frasier, The Agent Lady from Licorice Pizza) comes out in fucked up eye makeup and begins talking about some red stone that needs retrieving or something. “Oh, so these people are bounty hunters!” I said to myself and then got confused again when she just droned on and on about some secret society or something. The case in so many of these Marvel productions is the exposition is so clunkily dropped in all at once, making me eventually reach a point where I’m so exhausted/bored by it, I just zone out and merely hear words. After a boring ass 20 minutes of jaw-flapping, the movie gets going, but because we don’t care about any of these characters, there are little to no stakes. Who the fuck is Gael Garcia Bernal‘s character and why should I care about him? Why should I care about Laura Donnelly’s character? Who is that hacky Groot/Hagrid mashup tree guy and why should I feel heart-warmed by his reunion with Gael Garcia Bernal? Maybe if they spent the first 20 minutes fleshing out the character dynamics instead of a dumb speech about how important this fucking rock is, I’d give a shit. As it stands, I’m constantly switching between mildly bored and mildly entertained for roughly an hour. The key word is mild, which is shocking because first time filmmaker Michael Giacchino is so well respected for his beautifully unique film scores – Up, Ratatouille, The Batman, TV’s Lost, etc. This feels like a passion project that most likely stemmed from his reverence of classic Hollywood movies. Awesome, I like those movies too, but that can’t be your whole movie. Even if it’s only 53 minutes. Grade: C (Disney+)

28 Days Haunted

SPOILERS I GUESS? DON’T WATCH IT, JUST READ MY REVIEW. IT ISN’T WORTH YOUR TIME.

An egregiously self-serious Netflix-produced ghost hunting special that puts three teams of insufferable assholes in separate haunted locations for a period of 28 days. Why 28 days? Cause that’s the time frame that Ed and Lorraine Warren (the real-life Conjuring couple) claimed you needed to fully investigate a haunting for the house to “reveal its secrets to you.” I guess it’s just to properly bond with the ghosts and/or demons inside. Anyway, knowing nothing about the history of the locations (allegedly) and having no access to the internet or outside world (allegedly), these three teams run around with EVP equipment, freaking out about floorboards creaking and allegedly, ALLEGEDLY becoming possessed. I’m an actor and know bad acting, this isn’t possession it’s BAD ACTING. Anyway, I wasn’t upset because the paranormal activity was most likely faked – it’s a ghost hunting show, that shit is probably always 95% fake, no surprise there. I was more upset that the drama between the ghost hunting teams was so obviously fabricated. One guy starts awkwardly forcing himself to cry in a confessional interview because his friend didn’t agree with him about something ghost-related. There is also a team investigating a murder house where they find a folded up newspaper clipping of another murder that may be related. They predict it was left there by the killer, who was never caught, so they start touching it (EVIDENCE!) with their bare hands and don’t even call the cops. If that wasn’t fake, and I’m sure it had to be, Netflix should be prosecuted for tampering with potential evidence. Seriously. What else? Let’s see, one couple, investigating a house where a dude raped his oldest daughter, got her pregnant, panicked and then murdered the entire family in the 1920s, claim the guy killed his family and sexually abused his daughter because he was possessed by a demon. It’s actually disgusting they sympathize with this sociopath and portray him as some sort of victim. Is it much of a surprise then that the couple investigating this home are so clearly MAGAs? The fat guy demonologist, sporting mad Alex Jones energy, suffers heart attack symptoms after putting on a bicycle helmet decorated with strobe lights in order to conjure up an incest demon, and subsequently has to be rushed to the emergency room. When he gets back via Uber, he’s wearing a mask with his nose popping out. Of course, lol. Apparently the hospital couldn’t determine the cause of his heart attack so it MUST BE GHOSTS! It’s probably just your cholesterol, bro. Anyway, this thing concludes so frustratingly anti-climatic that for a second you start to wonder if it actually is real. That is until the MAGA couple woman utters the last line of the series, “I think it’s over now”, prompting the fat guy demonologist husband to spike the camera and wink like he’s now possessed by the incest demon. CUT TO CREDITS. WTF? Come on, Netflix! This is probably going to be their most watched program of the year and that’s scarier than any piece of media released this decade. Grade: F (Netflix)

V/H/S/99

Anthologies are tough, especially if they’re horror, and the V/H/S franchise perfectly represents how much of a mixed bag they can be. The premise of the V/H/S movies is pretty simple — people find old VHS tapes with spooky found-footage shit on them, each representing a different story with each film usually containing 3-5 stories within, complete with a wraparound segment that’s usually terrible. The first film was basically a piece of shit, with the one section being its opening story about a succubus that kills date rapists (written & directed by Hellraiser 2022‘s David Bruckner), while the sequel, V/H/S/2 improved upon the original in every single way and featured the franchises’ best story about an Indonesian death cult. The third film, V/H/S Viral was hands down the worst of the franchise, replacing found VHS with viral videos and featuring three longer than usual stories that were uniformly terrible. Last year, Shudder released V/H/S/94 which smartly didn’t take itself nearly as seriously as the first installments, making it the best offering since V/H/S/2. This year, Shudder has released the latest entry in the series, V/H/S/99, which somehow surpasses V/H/S/94 but is still not as good as V/H/S/2. This collection of stories takes place on the verge of Y2K, and smartly ditches a traditional wrap-around segment for Everything is Terrible-esque video clips of infomercials and home movies.

The first story, Shredding, written and directed by Maggie Levin (Miss 2059), is pretty goddamn weak but features one or two enjoyable visual gags. It’s about a group of asshole teen musicians that try to deface an abandoned crime scene where an all female band was accidentally trampled to death. Things don’t work out for them. The second story, Suicide Bid, is the worst of the bunch, a painfully predictable paint-by-numbers sorority pledge story, written and directed by Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City). The third story, Ozzy’s Dungeon, written and directed by rapper Flying Lotus is where shit starts to get real interesting. It’s super convoluted and ends terribly, but this exploration of how callous big organizations can be when it comes to accepting liability has some truly wonderful moments. The fourth story, The Gawkers, written and directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls), is clearly the best and also the shortest. It surrounds a bunch of horny high schoolers who get brutally punished for being peeping toms. The conclusion of that story is the scariest the franchise has been since V/H/S/2. Finally, rounding things out is the fifth and final story, To Hell and Back, written and directed by Vanessa and Joseph Winter who just this year made Deadstream, a Shudder original movie I absolutely hated. Surprisingly, it’s the second best segment of the entire movie and shows that maybe they’re just better filmmakers in smaller doses.

With V/H/S/94 being not bad and this one being maybe good, perhaps the franchise has more life blood left in it than I previously thought. Grade: B- (Shudder)

50 MORE SPOOKY TITLES

Streaming & In Theaters

Barbarian

BarbarianHBOMax

Halloween EndsIn Theaters + Peacock

Deadstream Shudder

The Midnight ClubNetflix

HellraiserHulu

Mad God

SmileIn Theaters

Mad GodShudder

PearlIn Theaters

House of Darkness$6.99 rental on Amazon

WatcherShudder

Orphan: First Kill

The InnocentsShudder

Orphan: First KillParamount+

Star Time Tubi

PreyHulu

Bodies Bodies Bodies$5.99 rental on Amazon

Yellowjackets

Nope$19.99 purchase on Amazon

Stranger Things Season 4, Part 2Netflix

The Black PhonePeacock

Yellowjackets Season 1Showtime + Paramount+

Crimes of the Future99 cent rental on Amazon

Scream 2022

Men$5.99 rental on Amazon

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2022Netflix

Scream 2022Paramount+

Nightmare AlleyHBOMax + Hulu

Don’t Look UpNetflix

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: AfterlifeStarz

Paranormal Activity 7: Next of Kin Paramount+

Last Night in SohoHBOMax

AntlersHBOMax + Hulu

Anything for JacksonShudder

Malignant

TitaneHulu

V/H/S/94Shudder

MalignantHBOMax

Candyman 2021Amazon Prime

OldHBOMax

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

In the EarthHulu

Army of the DeadNetflix

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do ItHBOMax

A Quiet Place Part II Paramount+

Spiral: From the Book of SawStarz

Saint Maud

Willy’s WonderlandHulu

Hillbilly ElegyNetflix

Antebellum$3.99 rental on Amazon

Freaky$3.99 rental on Amazon

Saint MaudParamount+

Black Bear

The Vast of NightAmazon Prime

Black BearAmazon Prime

His HouseNetflix

Possessor$3.99 rental on Amazon

Lady in the Water$2.99 rental on YouTube

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