brendan halpin


Everybody else in my house is sick, which means horror movies on the big TV for me! This week’s selections go from the sublime to the ridiculous, and if you think you can tell which is which just by the title, you’re absolutely right!


Oh, wow, this is a gloriously awful movie. Christopher Atkins (star of The Blue Lagoon, A Night in Heaven, and The Pirate Movie) and Michelle Johnson (of the execrable Blame it on Rio as well as Waxwork and Death Becomes Her) star as a TV reporter and her cameraman who investigate a series of bird attacks.


Recently watched the Netflix offerings Dear Child and The Woman in the Window. Both featured excellent performances and both, weirdly, left me feeling a little unsatisfied at the end.

Dear Child is a German six-episode series about a young woman and a young girl who escape from domestic captivity and how the mystery of who they are and what happened to them unravels. It’s well-acted top to bottom, with Nalia Schuberth turning in a fantastically creepy performance as the child, Hannah. I hope Germany treats its child stars better than we do, or else that she takes the money and leaves the profession for ten years.

The Woman in The Window is a Netflix movie starring Amy Adams as an incredibly wealthy (that house! In Manhattan, yet!) agoraphobic in yet another riff on Rear Window. Here, as in Dear Child, the performances are fantastic, especially Amy Adams, who does a really fantastic job bringing a complicated character to life. Julianne Moore and Bryan Tyree Henry (you may remember him as the highlight of Bullet Train) are great in supporting roles, and Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Anthony Mackie are all wasted in small roles where they’re not asked to do very much. This is especially true of Oldman, who yells three times, and Leigh, who has, I think, 2 lines. Just a weird flex to put such talented actors in roles where you don’t give them anything to show what they can do.

Both the show and the movie, though, fail to stick the landing. The twists in The Woman in the Window are pretty good, but the final twist was just kind of meh to me. I guess the big reveal felt pretty mundane compared to what came before. Masquerade was a terrible movie and No Way Out was a pretty good movie, and both of them had big reveals that made you go, “WHOA!”. That’s not the case here. My reaction was, “hm. Interesting.”

Also, fun fact: did you know that almost getting murdered can cure your agoraphobia? Apparently that’s the case! Why would a movie lie about such a thing!

Dear Child has a lot of very satisfying twists, but literally every punch in the series is telegraphed, so that when it lands, it doesn’t really land. Here’s an example that will spoil very little. One character puts a hand on another character’s hand when they’re sitting next to each other. The second character moves the first character’s hand away. Two episodes later there’s a big reveal that these two had an illicit affair. And, like, duh!

It’s like that with every twist in the show, but the most egregious (and here be veiled spoilers, so proceed carfully) is that there’s a character whose face isn’t shown at all through 5 episodes. So naturally I’m thinking, “oh, he’s a character we know from somewhere else!” Nope! Just a guy!

Anyway, both were entertaining and had five star potential and three and a half star execution.

#review #netflix #tv #movies

Who doesn’t love some gothic goodness? Spooky old houses! Repressed sexuality! Dread!

I recently watched The Haunted Palace with Vincent Price. It’s about how Vincent Price inherits a gigantic castle in Massachusetts(!) and gets possessed by the evil spirit of his ancestor who originally owned the joint!

It’s a fun time, if not as colorful as Masque of the Red Death. Kind of like a Hammer movie with less cleavage. For a fun bonus, it features a couple of guys who were on every TV show in the 1970s! (If you watch the movie, you’ll know them immediately, and look them up on IMDB trying to figure out where you know them from, then realize it could be literally any network TV program from 1970-80!). There’s a pretty big plot hole, but the end is great and it delivers the spooky atmosphere. Disappointing that Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth are mentioned but never make an appearance in the film. Whaddya got against elder gods, Roger Corman?

The Last One Left is a gothic novel by Riley Sager about a home health aide who comes to care for an old woman who may or may not have killed her parents and sister years earlier. It’s a pretty engaging read, but…well, there are many pleasures to be had from reading, and, in the mystery genre, I realize that what I really like is spending time with a cool protagonist while they try to unravel the mystery. I’m less interested in the solution.

Well, this book is all about the solution. The protagonist isn’t much of a character—just kind of an information-gathering machine. The solution is unexpected and brilliantly constructed, but…there are like five big plot twists in the last quarter of the book. After the first one, I was like, “Oh, cool!” by the fifth one I was like, “Really? Another one?” Ultimately the whole rest of the book is setting up the cleverness of the last quarter. If you like a clever solution and multiple plot twists, this is a good pick for you. If you’re like me…well, it’s still a very entertaining book. But be forewarned you may be rolling your eyes at the end.

#Review #movies #books #gothic #mystery

Terrifier 2

Fun to see a straightforward slasher after decades of meta slashers, and Art the Clown is actually horrifying and David Howard Thornton's performance is fantastic. On the other hand,


Allie's death brings the movie into torture porn territory. Why is Allie tortured so extremely when every other character is dispatched comparatively quickly? Art's glee in this scene is truly unnerving, so maybe that's the only justification you need. The fact that I'm still thinking so much about this movie a day later shows that it's an exceptional slasher movie. Still,


What the fuck, people. Halloween was 91 minutes long. I guess I would be more forgiving of the bloated runtime if everything seemed essential, but there's a lot here that doesn't advance the plot or reveal character or scare us. Brooke dosing Sienna's drink is a long bit that doesn't go anywhere, all the bullshit with Dad's drawings never resolves satisfactorily, and the final battle plays out like the longest pro wrestling match ever, with both slasher and final girl apparently unkillable and also there's some bullshit with a water tank and a possibly-magic sword. Cut 30 minutes from this movie and it's a much better movie. Cut 50 minutes and it's probably an all-time great. As it stands, though, more is less.


With so many movies suffering from bloat these days, I appreciate a movie that gets its business done in 91 minutes. Some really stunning visuals, a fun, but not mind-blowing reveal, and the always amazing Danny Huston, one of my favorite nepo babies.

Ultimately kind of forgettable, and Jena Malone's performance is pretty one-note, but I was entertained enough to stay up late to finish it.

Dead & Buried

Very entertaining twist on the living dead genre. James Farentino is not quite actor enough to pull off the last third, but Dan O'Bannon delivers another stellar horror script. Not sure why this one is so obscure. It's better than most movies of its genre and era.


Definitely second-tier Argento. I like that this one, rather than being about color, is all about batshit camera work. There are several wonderfully memorable sequences, especially when the killer is identified. The needle thing is an iconic image, but he goes to the well too many times with that. The first time, it's shocking and horrifying. The third time, it's like, oh, yeah, there are the needles again.

So I would say good for Argento fans and/or fans of directors who like to go a little overboard with camera angles and movements, but for the general public, pretty missable.

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein

Anything you read about Universal Pictures horror usually describes these movies as an embarrassment. But, as far as I can tell, horror comedy starts here. It's enlightening to watch this and see how influential it is, but, more than that, it's funny! The bad guys play it completely straight, which is key to a good horror comedy, and Lou Costello's terrified idiot is the blueprint for every terrified idiot at the heart of all the horror comedies that came after. A fun, cozy (to me and horror weirdos like me) watch.


Fun thrill ride anchored by Cassandra Naud's chilling performance. I saw the big twist coming at least an hour before it happened, but I didn't particularly care—still a very suspenseful, engaging and fun ride.


That's it. I have officially had it with “elevated” horror. You can tell it's not “just” a horror movie because the first half is boring as fuck! And if you're going to make an “elevated” horror movie, I would like to suggest that you put a little more into the effects because strapping a basketball to Maya's abdomen was a distractingly awful pregnancy effect.

In my ongoing efforts to overcome the sunk cost fallacy, I stopped watching after 45 minutes.

#Review #Horror #Movies