brendan halpin


I watched all 3 episodes of House of Hammer (Not to be confused with Hammer House of Horror, which is also great) this weekend. It’s a riveting, disturbing documentary.

Of course it’s about sexual abuse, so it features survivors telling their stories in graphic detail, so if that kind of thing is going to send you spiraling for a few days, please do not watch it.

I found it gross and awful and couldn’t stop watching. I very rarely watch TV by myself, and yet after starting this and getting about 15 minutes in, I found nearly 3 hours to continue it.

So: an excellent documentary with a huge content warning for sexual assault. That’s the review. Now the reflections.

I hope that as stories like this continue to emerge, we’ll start to change our perception of the ultra rich. The Hammer dynasty (Armand, Julian, Michael, Armie. Not MC, who is, as far as I know, a decent guy) is comprised of shockingly horrible people. And I don’t think they’re alone. For one thing, becoming ultra rich seems to require a lack of empathy for other humans that is almost certainly pathological. For another, with apologies to Master P, growing up with no limits seems to break something in the human brain. In short, the people who amass huge fortunes probably have serious personality disorders, and even if those aren’t passed down genetically, growing up ultra wealthy seems to lead to people becoming awful. So maybe we can stop lionizing these folks. They are the absolute scum of the earth, which is not the kind of term I throw around lightly.

It’s impossible to adequately praise the courage of the women who came forward to detail what Armie Hammer did to them without slipping into cliche. But to survive that kind of horrible trauma only to be targeted by horrible fans? To know that the person you’re exposing has enough money to both smear you and evade consequences for pretty much anything forever? That really is a profound bravery, and ultimately, self-sacrifice. Because they face the public vilification in hopes of saving other women from enduring what they endured.

This is in no way to diminish the aforementioned incredible courage, but something I noticed was that one of the Armie Hammer survivors was the CEO of an app company (so just regular rich, not ultra rich), and was able to just take off for multi-week vacations on a whim. I firmly believe in most organizations, the more money you make, the less important you are to the day to day functioning of the place. The boss never has to find anyone to cover their shift because it doesn’t matter if they show up or not.

Circling back to the toxic fans. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to be able to admit when we’ve been conned. Armie Hammer successfully conned people into believing he was a certain kind of person (not a monster), and people who invested so much into admiring him would rather publicly attack a rape survivor than admit they were wrong. But here’s the thing. Cons, scams, cults, whatever—they don’t just work on stupid people. They work on all of us because they use the good parts of our personalities against us. So giving people the benefit of the doubt, showing forgiveness, believing in the necessity of working for a better world—these are all good things we don’t want to lose, and as long as we have them, people will con us. Armand Hammer didn’t amass a huge fortune by conning only dumb people. He conned everyone. I pride myself on my cynicism and was succesfully conned by two different employers, each one peddling idealism they didn’t believe. I’m susceptible to being conned again for the same reason.

Also, if you’re not a sociopath, they’re hard to spot. That’s why they can do so many crimes and become super wealthy! I, like most people, consider myself a good judge of character but was completely stunned to find that someone I used to work with was credibly accused of two violent crimes. Up until I read the details of their alleged crimes, I would have told you they were a warm, friendly, and very good-hearted person. But I appear to have been wrong about that. Or, anyway, those qualities somehow coexisted with violent rage. I would like to encourage us all to have some humility about our ability to judge people and not see our inability to immediately spot horrible people as our flaw. It’s not. It's the very qualities that make us not horrible that make us fall for these people. The problem isn’t us. It’s them.

#Review #EatTheRich


I was a theater nerd in high school, and while I do love movies and recorded music, there is simply nothing better than a live performance. So on Friday, I went to the Sons of Italy hall in Watertown, Massachusetts, to enjoy a Chaotic Wrestling show. While other forms of live performance have gotten prohibitively expensive, wrestling remains blissfully affordable. My friend Greg got us tickets and really splashed out for the expensive seats: 25 bucks.

Aside: I’m kind of obsessed with the fact that pro wrestling is heir to a long tradition of popular theater reaching back at least as far as the 16th century and the Commedia Dell’Arte. No, seriously. This does not mean that I crave respectability for pro wrestling. Horror movies are starting to get respectable, and the result is that we’re being deluged with overlong, artsy “horror” movies in which nothing happens for the first hour. But I do think we should recognize that this is one of the very few forms of professional theater that is affordable to regular people. If you want to see Fat Ham at the Huntington Theatre in Boston (and I do!), it’ll cost you 55 bucks for the cheapest tickets. Whereas if you want to go to the next Chaotic Wrestling show, 15 bucks will get you in the door.

And if you do go, you’ll get three hours of high quality entertainment. You’ll get the high-flying acrobatics of Aaron “Evil Gay” O’Rourke! You’ll get the gritty toughness of Mortar! The insufferable arrogance of Ricky Smokes! The preening of Paris Van Dale! And the awe-inspiring mullet of Love Doug! Great character work and great stage combat skills. There were several moments that made me go, “holy shit!” Yes, the outcome is scripted, but the athtletic talent on display is real and often breathtaking and even more impressive for the fact that they’re trying not to hurt their opponents while appearing to beat the bejesus out of them.

I laughed, I yelled, I came home hoarse, and I really enjoyed a couple of great plot twists. (Long-time heel Chase Del Monte somehow got relegated to waterboy status, but then he rebelled and threw in the towel for his boss, costing him the match!) And then there was this: Brian “The Mecca” Johnson came out and gave a long, rambling speech (I suspect it was stretched out because Shannon Levangie’s match seemed to have been canceled at the last minute, which was covered up by having someone hit her in the back of the head with a bouquet of roses with a metal pipe concealed inside.).

Anyway, so Mecca goes on and on about how he got off on the wrong foot by disrespecting everybody, and now he has this contract saying he can have a title shot at any moment, but he’s going to “be a man” and wait for the next event in two weeks.

Later, ring announcer Rich Palladino says he’s very proud of the inclusive nature of the company and calls out the fact that there are a couple of fans “dressed how they want to dress, and we think that’s great.” (I’ve seen these folks at previous shows—they are assigned male at birth people in full makeup and fabulous dresses.) He says every month is pride month at Chaotic wrestling.

At the time, I was like, “wow, it’s like maybe not cool that he called these fans out like that, even though he was telling everybody how welcome they are.” But then, after Brad Cashew defeated Ricky Smokes in a grueling championship match, he’s making the rounds, getting high fives from fans, and he goes over to the area where those folks were sitting, and a person in a dress and long wig punches him in the face! And then hops over the barricade! It’s Mecca! In a dress! He demands his title shot then and there, and, wearing a dress and full makeup, beats the shit out of the exhausted Cashew and claims the championship belt!

Folks, it was a beautiful moment. And the fact that the whole thing was set up with the fans who were mentioned from the ring made it even better.

Oh yeah, did I mention that the performers are friendly and accessible and will happily sell you their merch?

Though I know the speech about inclusivity was part of the Mecca storyline, it was also true. There were all kinds of people in the ring and in the crowd, and everybody was welcome. And the vibe never even approached the “maybe violence is brewing” vibe you get at a lot of alcohol-drenched sporting events. It was just a great night at the theater.

If you live in Greater Boston, I highly recommend you check out a Chaotic Wrestling show. And if you don’t live here, I recommend you check out your local wrestling promotion. These aren’t giant evil corporations—they’re small DIY enterprises running mainly on a love of the art form.

#Review #Wrestling

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