Welcome back to Dread Central’s daily recap/reviews of the second season of Netflix and The Duffer Brothers’ “Stranger Things”. You can find our recap/review of the previous episode right HERE. Now let’s get to it!
The previous episode of “Stranger Things 2” titled “Dig Dug” ended on a high note, to say the least. And the sixth episode of the Netflix original series “The Spy” picks up with just as much speed. We begin with Will still freaking the f*ck out and being rushed into the ER of the energy plant on the hill. An intense beginning to say the least.
We then jump to Steve Harrington and Dustin crushing to Queen and being a generally awesome pair. The two show up at Dustin’s house to deal with Dart in the cellar and Steve – armed with his signature spiked-bat – finds a gooey skin Dart left behind in his epic growth spirt. Not only is it obvious now that Dart has doubled in size but he has dug a tunnel right the out of Dustin’s basement Shawshank Redemption-style and into the wild woods beyond.
Cue the synth music and glowing red titles.
We then enter the story good and proper to find Winona Ryder’s Joyce telling an entire room of scientist, including Paul Reiser’s Dr. Owen, to go right ahead suck it. Turns out not a single one of these geniuses can figure out just what the hell is wrong with young Will. I mean, my little sister figured it out, but these guys? Nope.
Meanwhile, we rejoin Nancy and Jonathan at conspiracy nut Murray Bauman’s lair of crazy. The three celebrate their new plan to rat out the powers that be and chug vodka like frat boys who don’t know any better. And in what is one of the best scenes Nancy and Jonathan will ever have together, Murray straight up calls them out for not pushing through the sexual tension and just getting it on like Donkey Kong on his pull-out couch.
Murray then slinks off to bed setting the two teens on a collision course of f*cking that doesn’t take them long to hit head first. Their awkward sequence of should we/shouldn’t we was an utter delight and I all but cheered with Jonathan finally showed up at her door and planted his kisses of love.
Because this show is for kids, unfortunately, we cut away at this point and join Hopper up at the energy pant of the hill. Dr. Owen takes Hooper down into the bowels of the building and shows him that the Upside Down has been growing like a cancer outward from the gateway in the lab and creating caverns of evil under the city of Hawkins.
Cue ominous synth track.
Meanwhile, at Will’s bedside, Joyce lets Samwise in on the whole mess. Again, since Joyce isn’t Lucas (call back to yesterday’s recap/review) Samwise believes every word and is all-in to help. Gotta love, Sam. Always there till the end. Let’s just hope he thinks of the eagles a little sooner in this story.
Next up we rejoin Nancy and Jonathan for breakfast at Murray’s house of love. The three nom eggs in silence until Murray gives out the best sexual innuendo the series has ever, or will ever attempt. As the teens eat their breakfast, Murray smiles on like a scheming nutcase and politely asks Jonathan how “the pull-out” was.
He meant the pull-out couch, of course.
Or did he…
Murray then gives the teens a bottle of vodka for the road (not kidding) and tells them to f*ck off forever. What a sweet, cordial host. I can only hope this is not the last we see of Murray. Fingers crossed. While this is going down, Lucas shows up at Max’s house and convinces her to join him on his adventure to the junkyard to meet up with Steve and Dustin to engage in mortal combat with Dart. Max agrees and they’re off the races.
Back at the sinister energy plant of the hill, Dr. Owens believes that poor little Will Byers is now possessed by the Upside Down (duh) and brings in a science experiment to demonstrate. Dr. Owens has a techie take a blowtorch to a bit of living tentacle from the pumpkin patch and sure enough, as the fire hits the tentacle, Will feels the burn. In a big way. This is going to cause major problems in the future.
While all of that plot development b.s. is going on across town, we rejoin Dustin and Steve on the train tracks for a little Stand by Me fun. The two are chumming for Jaws– I mean Dart and share one of the funniest, most charming, and badass scenes in all of “Stranger Things.” Including Steve finally letting someone (Dustin) in one just how the hell he keeps his hair so luxurious. Hint: Farrah Fawcett spray and love.
Hopper then attempts to get ahold of Eleven via CB radio but she doesn’t answer. This is due to the fact that she is f*cking miles away from the cabin in the woods and currently chilling at her mom’s house. Hopper doesn’t know this though – he would be piiiisssseed – and thus gives a truly heartfelt speech to the absent preteen anyhow.
Gotta love Hopper.
As Hopper is in the parking lot pouring his heart out to deaf ears, high up in the energy plant’s tallest tower, Dr. Owens and his team of white males talk about how they’ll have to, in the end, sacrifice Will to kill off the Upside Down. Dr. Owens protests and it seems like he might not be the season’s villain after all.
Wait, so then who will be? Will? Eleven? Samwise?
I guess we’ll see…
Now let’s cut back to the Scooby gang getting back into the action with Lucas and Max meeting up at the junkyard with Steve and Dustin. Once there, Lucas and Dustin get into a bit of a spat concerning Max and Dart and Steve breaks it up in glorious fed-up babysitter fashion. I love this new dynamic Steve’s got going on. Let’s hope they keep the ball rolling.
As Steve and the gang get the junkyard all Home Alone booby-trapped, Will tells the scientists at the energy plant that the Upside Down’s weakness can be found in a particular cavern in the labyrinth below ground. A team of soldiers then heads down into the darkness armed with machine guns for a showdown with… what exactly? Dart?
We’ll find out soon.
While we all anxiously await the fate of this group of random scientist-soldiers (deadly combo right there), back at the junkyard, Dustin gets into a fight with Max which sends her into the metaphorical arms of Lucas. Amateur move, Dustin. Hope he still gets the girl. Speaking of the girl, just as Max is letting us all in on a very personal tale, Dart emerges from the thick fog that surrounds the junkyard. Hungry for human meat.
It’s then up to hero Steve to go out and meet Dart head-on for some noggin-bashing spiked-bat style. But, oh sh*t. There’s a catch. It seems that Dart can multiply. Wait, what? Muh, who cares at this point. Sure, I’ll go with it.
Let’s move on.
Dart and his posse of Darts almost eat the ass right off Steve, but thankfully he gets back to the Bus Fortress just in time. And speaking of just in time, right as Dart and friends are about to breach the bus’ walls and chow down, the demon gods are called away.
To where? Well, the tunnels of course. Dinner is served and it’s not gonna taste like teenagers and Farah Fawcett spray. Oh, no. These Dart Dogs are gonna eat like kings. Feasting on the sweetmeats of soldiers and scientists.
Yes, this episode wraps up with the Dart Dogs dropping the mighty smackdown on the soldier-tists (waka, waka) and then breaking their way up through the tunnels and into the lab where all of our main players lie unguarded.
And the kicker? Will orchestrated the massacre and resulting invasion. Oh, snap. Guess Will is all set to be this season’s villain – even if he doesn’t mean to be. After all, it’s obvious little Willy style is possessed as f*ck.
As the Dart Dogs rise up from the hell below the facility on the hill we cut to credits on the absolute, hands-down best episode of “Stranger Things” we have seen thus far. Fast-paced and filled with humor, heart, twists, and turns this episode took us from casual fans of the series to full-on fanboys in 45 minutes flat. Impressive considering how middle of the road we found the first season to be.
Plus, this episode gets major bonus points for featuring exactly zero scenes with Eleven. What did we do to deserve this, TV Gods? Whatever it was, it was well worth it. Bring on the next episode – right now! Hoor-ray Netflix!
Check back with us tomorrow for our recap/review of “Stranger Things 2” Ep. 7 – “The Lost Sister”.
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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