James Roday of Psych fame brings us an unbelievably dark and gory horror-comedy and it mostly works.
It’s Halloween and the workers at Chuy’s Mexican Bar and Cantina are getting ready to close. They consist of the bartender Kerry (Sutton Foster), a waitress nicknamed Cricket (Molly Ephraim), Yannick (Lothaire Bluteau) the French cook, Chuy (Paul Rodriguez) the manager, Hector (Gabriel Luna) the busboy and aspiring MMA fighter, and security guard Winketta (Gabourey Sidibe). The only customers are the recently dumped Bert (Ethan Sandler), the exceedingly affectionate couple Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and Mimi (Lily Cole), and Stef’s clown-costumed brother Anson (Michael Weston). However, it’s soon revealed that all the doors have been welded shut, all the phones are down, and that Stef, Mimi, and Anson are taking over the restaurant and making a few changes to the menu… namely, who’s on it.
James Roday, best known as Shawn Spencer on Psych, wrote and directed this film and, I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty impressive effort for a first-time feature film. This is a dark comedy, which is something that’s usually pretty hard to pull off to begin with, that decides to go to some insanely dark places, but it still mostly works.
A lot of it comes from the talent in the cast. Michael Weston, an actor who is one of the ultimate “that guy in that thing” answers, manages to balance playing a complete sociopath with a genuinely somewhat sympathetic character. Jimmi Simpson, a talented actor who hadn’t yet broken out for his Westworld performance, plays his even more insane but also somewhat likable brother. Everyone else is similarly amazing, all managing to get laughs out of how horrifying the situation their stuck in really is.
As this is a B-Grade Horror Movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that some people die, and holy heck do they have some fun kills. They’re so absurd that you almost find yourself laughing at it even though they are VERY graphically depicted. Part of it is that all of the characters don’t really show a ton of emotional damage at the other deaths, which makes it easy for the audience to detach from what the reality of the situation would be. One of the best recurring bits is the interactions between Stef and Yannick, who reveals that he is a world-class chef capable of cooking anything, including people, to perfection. Their banter is pretty much always funny, even though it’s literally about cannibalism. Comedy is frequently just horror from a distance, as I have now gotten in the habit of repeating, and this movie needs a lot of distance.
That’s actually part of the downside to the movie: It’s definitely going to be too dark and too gory for most audiences. Hell, even I felt uneasy at some parts of the movie, though usually someone would quickly say something funny enough to bring me back. Also, without spoiling it, the movie does subvert a lot of tropes, including never really making you feel like any of the victims deserve anything that happen to them. Even in regular horror movies, we usually like our characters to earn their fates, even if only slightly, whereas these characters often die during moments of nobility. Still, it mostly works.
If you have a dark sense of humor, this is a great film to watch. It’s on Amazon Prime right now if you’ve got it. Really, I have to give James Roday credit for putting this together. I hope he tries to make another movie in the future.
I get my first reader request to try and interpret a movie, the British film Await Further Instructions. I regret accepting this request.
It’s Christmas time. A time for family. Even the family that you don’t really get along with. The last one is the circumstances that our protagonist Nick (Sam Gittins) finds himself in, when he returns home after a long time away, bringing his girlfriend Annji (Neerja Naik) to meet the Milgram Family. They immediately find themselves in conflict with Nick’s racist grandfather (David Bradley), his pregnant and proudly-ignorant sister Kate (Holly Weston), her meathead husband Scott (Kris Sadler), and his authoritarian father Tony (Grant Masters). His mother Beth (Abigail Cruttenden) is just sort of weak and obliging, but everyone seems to manage to get along, though it’s strained. The next morning, Nick and Annji decide to leave early to avoid more conflict, but find that the house is now surrounded by a mysterious black substance.
All cell phones are down, the internet is down, and the only contact with the outside world is coming through the television, which is displaying emergency messages, telling the family to “Await Further Instructions.” At first they attempt to just continue life as normal as possible, but soon the messages tell them to get rid of their food, to rub their bodies with bleach, then to inject themselves with “vaccines” that come through the chimney and are contained within dirty needles. At every step, the cycle basically goes “Nick and Annji point out that this is a terrible idea, then Tony overrules them.”
Throughout the movie, the people are compelled to do more and more extreme acts by the television, until the truth of the situation is revealed.
This movie is an example of “good idea, bad execution.” The premise of people under stress turning on each other is fairly old, including the classic The Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” but tying it in with technology and featuring a family representative of the current societal cultural divides does distinguish it. There are, however, three big problems with this movie. First, the characters are too over the top. Tony, Kate, and Scott are all just too irrational, too quickly. Tony is not just immediately ready to believe whatever the TV says, but to use violence to enforce it. When it’s time to pick someone to be isolated, they don’t even consider that Scott, the guy who literally just shoved his hand into a mystery hole, might be the one who is infected. Meanwhile, Nick and Annji, the supposed voices of reason, just keep going along with stuff after they get shouted down. Nobody does much to figure out what’s going on for the first hour of the film, despite that being most people’s first reaction. It just doesn’t work well. Second, the dialogue is clunky as hell. Almost every line is awkward and uninspiring and could basically be called “cliche roulette.” Last, *Minor Spoiler* the last twenty minutes of the movie is such a violent change that it kind of feels like it was intended to be a different movie. *End Spoiler*
So, the actual request I got was asking if this was an “anti-vaxxer” horror film. It’s pretty obvious why the question comes up, since the people in the movie all inject themselves with vaccines which *Minor Spoiler* doesn’t end well *End Spoiler.* I don’t deny that you can interpret that scene as being against trusting vaccines given to you by authority figures, but I think I can explain it as just being an incidental part of a bigger message.
The film’s about blindly obeying authority, and that’s really any kind of authority. The family that is featured, the Milgrams, are even named after the famous Milgram Experiment, an experiment which confirmed that, if people are told by an authority figure to hurt or even kill someone, about 30% of people (or potentially up to 60%) will eventually do so. Admittedly, the experiment was aimed at being about authority, but subsequent experiments suggest it’s less about obeying and more about disclaiming responsibility. Still, the movie is a clear cautionary tale about the perils of not questioning orders.
“But Joker,” I hear my reader say, “isn’t the basis for rejecting vaccines essentially rejecting the authorities telling you that they’re helpful in favor of asserting your own belief (comment below if you actually said it, because that’d be awesome)?” Well, yes, but the difference is that vaccines are supported by scientific authority, whereas policy or command decisions are derived from, eventually, martial authority. The beauty of scientific authority is that any human being could, through study and time, go through the entire history of scientific discovery and eventually understand why and how vaccines work. Science is not an opinion, it’s a system by which we remove opinions until the truth remains. Yes, sometimes prevailing theories wrong, particularly in soft sciences, but the beauty is that if you prove a theory wrong, then your correct theory becomes the new main theory. Science never encourages you to blindly follow it, because the less blind you are, the more it helps science. Scientific authority is best summarized as “what is proved right becomes right, what is proved wrong becomes wrong.” Citation: Every scientist ever (myself included).
Command decisions on the other hand, such as Tony’s orders to the family or the TV’s orders to Tony, are backed by martial authority. That means that, eventually, you fall in line because if you don’t, someone bigger than you commits violence upon you. That’s pretty much the way that all of civilization works: If you break the agreed-upon commands, someone kicks your ass. Sure, we’ve got courts and lawyers between us and most of the actual violence, but if you keep breaking the rules, eventually, violence will be inflicted upon you. We actually see that exemplified in the movie multiple times, particularly with Tony’s drafting of Scott as a foot soldier who carries out violence when Nick disagrees. However, the issue with unchecked martial authority is that eventually more and more violence is used in response to smaller and smaller violations of decrees. The movie weakly tries to bring in religious or divine authority, but it’s mostly tied in with martial authority. Martial authority is best summarized as “what is right is what I say is right or else I smash your face in.” It encourages blindly following authority, because every time you question it, it has to smash your face in and sometimes that encourages you to smash back. Citation: Pretty much all of history.
The scene in the movie where the characters take vaccines even has a character point out that the risk isn’t just in the vaccine, it’s that the vaccines are improperly packaged, contain dirty needles, were delivered by chimney, and are in response to a health crisis that there is no evidence is even real. That’s not the same as saying don’t trust doctors and scientists. Hell, the two most educated characters, including one nurse, are the ones who are actually shown to be in the right about everything. So, no, I don’t think the movie is actually anti-vaxxer, it just was a little messy in this scene.
Overall, parts of the film, mostly the eerie way the television communicates and the body-horror, are well done. Other parts, particularly the characters and the dialogue, are just uninteresting and terrible. Horror doesn’t always need great dialogue (so many conversations from 80s slashers about sex come to mind), but it has to at least be INTERESTING dialogue, if you’re not having super strong visuals, and there aren’t many visuals until the end. I actually think they would have done better to have the television be communicating seemingly through regular media broadcasts, which might have given them a more cohesive message at the end, which brings me to…
At the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the black mass surrounding the house is actually a tentacle monster which is basically made up of coaxial cables and has been infiltrating their television and controlling them. At the end, it even moves to motivating Tony to worship it, allowing it to completely control him. After everyone in the house is dead, the monster dissolves Kate’s body and says hello to her baby. Meanwhile, the rest of the neighborhood is similarly falling apart and being consumed by the black creatures. So what’s happening here?
Well, I admit that the last 20 minutes of this film is a little bit off-the-walls and gets a little confusing in themes. Most of the movie up until this point has been a fairly straight-forward message about the danger of not questioning authority or about succumbing to martial authority, but while the monster had been using the television to control everyone, it doesn’t do anything through traditional media. In fact, any time anyone tries to guess the source of the broadcast, it’s either Tony asserting that it’s the government or Nick asserting it’s coming from a sinister other source. The only statements about traditional media are a few lines about stories that the characters use as a basis to discriminate, but nothing about them really places any message about the media there. Despite that, the ending seems to be a pretty straightforward metaphor… I mean, it’s a child that is going to be raised by a television telling the baby to “worship [it].”
Like I said, the ending gets a little confusing, and I think the key to it is that Annji sees the heart of the television is actually controlled by the monster. This indicates that the monster hasn’t just been there since Christmas, but possibly for a while, meaning that the monster knew how humans can divide themselves over issues and how prone certain people are to taking commands, allowing it to craft a perfect series of commands to the family to get them to kill themselves. Hell, it even knew Christmas was the time when people are the easiest targets, because they’re all together. When Nick and Annji resist, it just has Tony do the job. Finally, when it’s left alone, it seems to gently greet Ruby, the baby. That’s because this has probably been its goal all along, to raise a generation of children under its control to provide it with unquestioned worship. That’s the only way to explain why it chose to spare the baby, but not Tony, who is already its worshipper. Do I have very much to go on there? No, because the last 20 minutes of this movie are insane and hard to nail down. Is it about all authority or media? Is it about killing people or controlling people? I have no idea, but that’s my best guess. If the movie had chosen the television to communicate through, say, hijacked news broadcasts, that would have made a better metaphor, in my opinion, but I didn’t make the film.
The 1970s decided that everything on Earth could be a threat to humanity: Jaws, Piranha, Grizzly, Frogs, worms in Squirm, an octopus in Tentacles, and even bunnies in Night of the Lepus. So, a team got together and decided to make one of the most absurd spoofs ever by making a movie about people dealing with the least threatening monsters on film.
So, the beauty of this film is mostly in the absurdity, largely presenting the characters and the world through ridiculous scenes that parody other films or genres. Nothing I can do can convey the insanity of the plot, the dialogue, the sight-gags, or the settings of this film. That said, here’s the actual plot:
Tomatoes are killing people. Some eat people, some crush people, some poison people who drink their juice. The President’s Press Secretary Jim Richardson (George Wilson) claims there is no threat, but the President (Ernie Meyers) puts a man named Mason Dixon (David Miller) in charge of a taskforce to deal with the tomatoes. Dixon recruits disguise expert Sam Smith (Gary Smith), deep sea diver Greg Colburn (Steve Cates), and olympic swimmer Gretta Attenbaum (Benita Barton), as well as para-soldier Wilbur Finletter (Senator Stephen Pea… wait, Senator? Holy hell, Stephen Peace became a California State Senator).
It’s discovered that the regular-sized tomatoes seen thus far in the film are, in fact, cherry tomatoes and that regular tomatoes have now become massive. To combat this threat, the President sends Richardson to get ideas from an ad agency headed by Ted Swan (Al Sklar), who pitches a bunch of slogans but no useful plans. A masked assassin attacks Dixon, revealing himself to be with the tomatoes, but Dixon escapes. Meanwhile, a Senate committee tries to address the problem (hilariously ineffectively), but instead leaks the committee guide to the crisis to a newspaper, which sends reporter Lois Fairchild (Sharon Taylor). Finletter mistakes Fairchild first for a prostitute and second for a spy and tries to kill her, but fails. He also tries to catch the masked assassin when he strikes again, but loses him.
Gretta gets killed by the tomatoes and the Army is defeated by the giant fruits. One tomato chases Dixon, but it jumps out the window when Dixon hides in a young boy’s room playing the awful song “Puberty Love.” Dixon spots the assassin and chases him, but is captured. The assassin is revealed to be Richardson, who, though he didn’t create the tomatoes, figured out their weakness and can now control them. He’s about to reveal his secret when Finletter appears and kills him. Dixon realizes that the secret is “Puberty Love” which has driven off the tomatoes throughout the film.
Dixon gets all of the tomatoes into a stadium and tells Finletter to bring all the people left in the town to fight. However, only crazy people are left in town (everyone with sense left), so all the people that show up are in funny costumes. Dixon plays “Puberty Love,” which cripples the tomatoes, allowing the crowd to destroy them, except for one tomato who found earmuffs. The last tomato attacks Fairchild, but Dixon saves her by having the tomato read the sheet music to “Puberty Love.” The two profess their love for each other. Then, the carrots start talking…
This was one of my favorite films when I was a kid. It had jokes that I was positive were “adult,” goofy over-the-top characters, a weird soundtrack, and the kind of oddball humor that I never could quite figure out. Plus, there was a TV Show on Fox Kids in the 90s, which was when television was awesome. Admittedly, it was based on the sequel film Return of the Killer Tomatoes and the best part of it, John Astin’s Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen, wasn’t in this film, but… well, the title was the same.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was a huge critical flop when it came out and it’s not hard to see why, in 1978, this film didn’t do well. It’s a surreal farce in the vein of Airplane! or Police Squad!, but the comic timing (and talent of the performers) wasn’t near the level of those two. This isn’t to say that the performances or the writing are bad, in fact, they’re pretty good, but this was essentially trying to make a surreal humor spoof a few years before the ground was really broken and this movie is even more surreal than most. Audiences probably weren’t ready for this yet. We needed a Star Wars to break the ice, but instead we got… I’m gonna say The Last Starfighter.
However, if you watch this film, you realize how influential it was on later media. A lot of gags that you see in this film are repeated in other, later, comedies, most notably the “Slow Car Chase” scene and the “Too-Small Meeting Room.” Hell, the idea of a song killing the evil monsters by being truly terrible would later be ripped off by Mars Attacks (though Howard Stern claimed to have come up with it in 1982… 4 years after this movie came out). Also, fun fact, “Puberty Love” was sung by Matt Cameron, drummer for Soundgarden and later Pearl Jam.
I have to admit that I had forgotten a lot of elements of this film, because some of the scenes are a little forgettable due to their disconnect from the rest of the movie. For example, I had forgotten most of the scenes with the Ad Man, Ted Swan, which include some interesting musical numbers and a parody of the extremely stupid “Whip Inflation Now” campaign… something I didn’t know existed as a kid. That’s definitely one of the reasons why this film is a little weaker, since a lot of the vignettes are connected to the tomatoes, but not directly to the central plot of the film. They’re funny, but they’re not outstanding enough to be remembered independently.
Overall, I really did enjoy re-watching this film. Despite being made in the 1970s, there aren’t a ton of things in it that aged poorly, including the (intentionally) awful effects and camerawork. Sure, some of the contemporary references are hard to catch, but most of the movie is pretty timeless. Is it the best horror spoof? No, but it’s pretty damned fun. If you’ve never seen it, you definitely need to. Much like with Airplane, a lot of what makes this film work are the non-sequiturs and the clever gags.
Sometimes my readers love to torture me. This is one of those times. Honestly, I think I have been putting off doing reader requests specifically to avoid watching this episode again. As you’ll note from my list of the 100 Greatest Episodes, plus another review since then, I think highly of the show Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s not perfect. Sometimes, they missed the mark, and this episode is definitely not a bullseye. This is more akin to throwing the dart, missing the board entirely, and having it ricochet into your buddy’s eye. It’s not the worst episode of TNG, but it’s solidly in my bottom five. If you want to know my least-favorite TNG… well, request it. I’m not watching that piece of shit again without reason.
Quick Recap of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Takes place about 100 years after the original Star Trek and features the crew of the next starship Enterprise. The notable crew members are Captain Picard (Patrick “I’m basically made of magic” Stewart), Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes, the episode’s director), chief engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Chief of Security Worf (Michael Dorn), Android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), Lt. Commander Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis), and this episode’s focus Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). They explore the universe dealing with random problems ranging from legal issues to reality-warping aliens.
That’s enough background, on to the creepy ghost sex!
The episode begins at the funeral for Beverly Crusher’s grandmother, Felisa Howard (Ellen Albertini Dow), who was apparently a doctor on a Scotland-esque planet called Caldos IV. During the funeral, Crusher sees a weird guy (Duncan “I was Zorro in the 90s” Regehr) leaving that apparently does something to her ladybits, but from her face might just have been gas. No one else appears to have seen him.
Crusher goes back to her grandmother’s cottage (which, despite it being the future, is still a cottage), and looks through it for mementos, finding her grandmother’s diary and a candle which apparently had great spiritual value to the Howard Family (Crusher’s maiden name). As she heads upstairs, a man named Ned Quint (Shay Duffin) enters and blows out the candle, saying that it was bad luck for her grandmother. Beverly kicks him out, because that’s what you do to creepy strangers who come in and mess with your stuff.
Back on the Enterprise, the engineering team determine that there is a problem with Caldos IV’s weather system, and that an unexpected storm is brewing. Subtle. Meanwhile, Crusher has been reading her grandmother’s diary and discovered that, despite being 100 years old, her grandmother was in a casual sexual relationship with a man in his 30s named Ronin. From the diaries, it appears that Ronin started seeing Crusher’s grandmother, Felisa, shortly after the death of her own mother. Since we already had dialogue in the episode that mentioned that Crusher’s own mother died when she was young and that her grandmother raised her, this is the creepiest foreshadowing ever.
While Crusher sleeps on the ship, a ghostly presence starts to undress her then says her name, waking her up. Crusher goes to talk to Counselor Troi about it, saying it’s a dream, and the dialogue in this scene might be the worst in almost any episode of any version of Star Trek. Not just because Crusher is discussing reading a “particularly erotic chapter of [her] grandmother’s journal,” something that SHOULD NEVER BE IN A TV SHOW, but because it comes off as a weirdly clinical discussion about sexuality. I suspect this is tied in to the fact that women getting sexual gratification, even in the abstract, is essentially guaranteed to get your ratings boosted to MA, but maybe the person writing the dialogue just hadn’t ever heard anyone talk about sexual experience. The credit for the screenplay is a woman (Jeri Taylor), while the teleplay credit is a man (Brannon Braga), so I ultimately have no idea what led to the weird-ass sequence between these two characters.
The next day, Crusher visits her grandmother’s grave and runs into Quint (sadly, not the one from Jaws). Quint warns her that a ghost is causing the weather problems, and that if she lights the candle, the ghost will come for her. He also warns her not to go to her grandmother’s house. However, a thunderstorm comes up, which prompts the Enterprise crew to start working on fixing the weather control system. Crusher is forced to take shelter in her grandmother’s cottage, finding it full of flowers.
She hears things moving around the house and sees the reflection of Ronin (the guy from the funeral) in a mirror. Ronin talks to her as a disembodied voice, telling her that he was the visitor from the night before. She moves to call the Enterprise, but is struck with sudden disorientation and either arousal or pain (maybe both?). The voice says that it loves her, just as it loved her grandmother before her. It claims it was born in 1647 in Glasgow and lived with Crusher’s ancestor Jessel Howard, then stayed with every Howard woman after the last one died (apparently the surname was matrilineal until Beverly?). This includes moving to Caldos IV at some point.
The spirit then tries to “merge” with Crusher, which she resists… only for her to be seen back on the Enterprise acting as if nothing has happened. When Troi questions her, she says that she’s “seeing” Ronin, but only in the physical sense.
On the bridge of the Enterprise, fog is rolling in, as weather control is now malfunctioning onboard the ship. The crew catches Quint trying to alter something on a panel, saying that someone is going to kill them all. An energy discharge kills Quint before he can explain. Beverly determines that he was killed by an anomalous energy pulse, meaning it was no accident (Dun dun duuuuun).
Beverly returns to the cottage to talk with Ronin, who is now corporeal, but only for a few minutes at a time. Ronin begs her to light the candle, which is where he lives. She has to go back to the ship to get it, while Ronin travels to the ship in a beam of energy. She lights the candle in her quarters on the ship, which allows Ronin to appear and merge with her. Crusher then resigns her post with Starfleet and states her intention to become a healer on Caldos IV. Picard is unable to stop her, legally. Searching for the energy source that killed Quint, Geordi and Data find it coming from Crusher’s Grandmother’s grave. Crusher and Ronin “merge” again, this time in a manner which appears pretty much fully sexual. Picard comes to check on Crusher, finding her in a mildly compromising position.
Picard points out that something is wrong with Crusher, forcing Ronin to appear as himself. Picard questions Ronin until he disappears, resulting in Ronin shocking Picard in the same way that he killed Quint earlier. Refusing to let Picard die causes Ronin to separate from Beverly, with Ronin intent on stopping Geordi and Data from exhuming Felisa Howard’s grave. Ronin, in Felisa’s body, rises from the grave and disables the pair. When she arrives, Beverly realizes that Ronin is an Anaphasic lifeform which has to bind with a host in order to keep living, finally destroying the candle. Ronin tries to possess her again, but she kills him with a phaser, before dropping to her knees crying.
At the end of the episode, Crusher and Troi are talking about the fact that Crusher is somewhat sad that she couldn’t be with Ronin, because he made her grandmother very happy.
This was not an easy re-watch, and I was tempted to just do it from memory, but in the end I caved.
Here’s the thing about this episode: It never feels anything but creepy to me. Crusher says at the end that Ronin “seduced” her and her grandmother, but the first time we see her interacting with him, he’s undressing her while she sleeps. The next time, he keeps her from calling out to the Enterprise, makes her physically weak, then apparently “merges” with her without her consent. From then on, we’re shown that she’s now almost physically dependent on Ronin, to the point that she’s shaking like a heroin addict while waiting for him on the ship. He’s literally corrupting her mind to make her want him. Nothing about this is “seduction,” unless you have a very messed-up idea of courtship. And that could very easily have been brought up at the end. Beverly could have expressed some anger at the fact that she was basically mind-raped for the entire episode, but no, instead, she says “oh, who cares if he literally manipulated her mind to make her love him, as he had done countless times before, he made her happy.” And then she’s kind of sad that she couldn’t just stay happy with Ronin. I get that the ghost orgasms were really good, but, seriously, he was clearly altering your mind, woman!
This isn’t a new concept, that maybe it’s worth losing your free will to gain happiness. And if the story was about addressing that idea, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s not. That’s not even a particularly great concept to address in Star Trek, since one of the primary conceits of the series is that humanity is basically always in a state of self-actualization, which makes it basically incomparable to the search of happiness in the modern world, where humans rarely achieve that point in their lives. So, the ghost banging continues to seem more akin to sexual assault and brainwashing than seduction or pleasing. This episode kind of reminds me of why I don’t like some modern “semi-erotica” like 50 Shades of Gray, because it’s basically treating an abusive relationship as just being sexually aggressive.
Also, everyone’s behavior in this episode is a little off. First, no one seems to be super weirded out that Crusher would have sex with a guy who had just been sleeping with her grandmother. I dunno all of what happened in the next 350 years in Star Trek, but I really hope we don’t follow the timeline that assimilated “normal to be wiener cousins with your grandmother” into the culture. And, understand, this isn’t like a distant relative Beverly never met, her grandmother is the one who raised her, making her effectively her mom. Second, Crusher really doesn’t seem affected by the fact that Ronin straight up kills a guy for almost no reason. Despite the fact that she’s later extremely concerned when Picard gets mildly injured. Is it that it’s Picard who is her on-again-off-again love interest? Maybe, but it’s still weird that a guy gets killed and nobody really comments on it. Third, what the hell is wrong with Troi? Why does she never realize that Beverly, one of her closest friends, is being controlled by a strange force? Instead, she basically keeps advising her to “go with it.” She’s the worst counselor ever.
The dialogue in this episode is also notably bad, even by Star Trek standards (look, I love the shows, but the dialogue is generally either crap or gold, no in-between). On Memory Alpha, there’s even a quote by writer Rene Echevarria that he can reduce this episode’s writer to a shuddering mass by saying “I can travel on the power transfer beam,” a particularly stupid and useless line that somehow still made it into the episode.
The episode’s inspiration, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, also doesn’t really help sell any kind of love story. If you haven’t read it, go read it now, it’s not particularly long and it’s online for free . Or, if you’re gonna be lazy, let me just summarize it as “governess looks after two young children while dealing with a haunting by two former lovers.” Ultimately nothing about the story really lends itself to this idea of an “inherited ghost lover,” except for the gothic setting.
So, I don’t like this episode at all, and I regret watching it again to write this review. I had to re-watch “Darmok” just to get the taste out of my mouth. Thanks, readers, for torturing me again.
Alright, so, this episode of a children’s show is fairly infamous and goes around the internet on occasion. Why? Because it’s basically an example of cruel and unusual punishment.
Quick background on the show:
Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends takes place on the Island of Sodor. It’s a fictional island in the Irish Sea that’s heavily industrialized with a massive railway system, and all of the trains, and many of the other vehicles, possess human faces, emotions, and a degree of autonomy. This becomes important in a minute.
The most famous character is Thomas, a tank engine (meaning he carries his water for his steam on-board in a water tank), who is engine number 1, and has a very cheeky but upbeat personality. However, the focus of this episode is Henry, engine number 3. The episode is narrated by none other than Ringo freaking Starr.
When it starts to rain on the island, Henry, worried that the rain is going to ruin his nice new paint job, goes into a tunnel to hide, blocking off one of the two tunnels to get through those hills. Sir Topham Hatt, the fat controller of the rail system, tells the train guard to get a rope, and has all the workers on the rail line try to pull Henry out of the tunnel. Henry refuses to budge, stating that he doesn’t want to ruin his paint. The workers point out that it isn’t raining anymore, but Henry says that it will eventually, and then it’ll ruin his paint. Topham Hatt has the workers try to push Henry through, but Henry refuses to budge.
It’s worth noting that Topham Hatt does not actually try to pull or push with the people, instead citing that he has a note from his doctor not to do any actual work.
Finally, they send Thomas to try and push him through, but Henry still refuses to budge. Frustrated, Topham Hatt decides that they’re going to punish Henry. So, they brick him up inside of the tunnel.
Now, again, this is a train with emotions, who talks, feels, and thinks just like a human. He’s been inconveniencing the rail for about a day, if that. And their solution is to BRICK HIM INSIDE OF THE TUNNEL, rendering the tunnel he’s in useless anyway. They only do the bottom half, however, so that he can see out, and the other trains can mock him as they pass. But, Henry can’t really respond anymore; he has no steam left, because he’s TRAPPED IN A F*CKING TUNNEL. Since, apparently, he can’t die, they leave him in there just to be mocked at and stay there forever, with a sad look on his face.
Edgar Allan Poe once described a similar idea in a short story called “The Cask of Amontillado.” A man, Montressor, bricks up an enemy, Fortunato, leaving him to die behind a wall, over what is stated to be an “insult.” Fortunato doesn’t appear to have realized it was that big of a deal, or that he’d even offended Montressor. To justify his actions, Montressor merely states that it comes from his family motto: “No one attacks me with impunity.” It’s basically a massive, cruel overreaction to a small grievance. This children’s show just did the same thing, and made it even worse by having Ringo end the narration with: “Soot and dirt from the tunnel had spoiled his green paint with red stripes anyway. Henry wondered if he would ever be allowed to pull trains again. But I think he deserved his punishment, don’t you?”
Yes, Ringo, teach the children that minor inconveniences should be handled with horror-story punishments. Other kid steal your toy? Cut their heart out and bury it under the floor. Someone pushes you on the playground? Tie them to the ground and slowly lower a razor-sharp pendulum towards their stomach. This episode is basically made to create sociopaths.
Fortunately, if you watch the very next episode, Henry is actually let out of the tunnel after another of the trains is disabled, and Henry agrees to go back to pulling the train cars again. That episode ends with Henry learning that the best way to keep his paint nice is to ask his driver to “rub him down after a run.”
So, remember, kids: Over the top punishments are fine, but you can stop once you need that person to perform an essential task and you have literally no other options. That way, you’ve tortured them into complacency.
When I opened this up to requests, I was expecting some bad movies, or some weird TV shows that people wanted reviewed. What I was not anticipating was that someone would request a review of a celebrity sex tape. But, I only get a few requests a month, so I can’t really afford to turn them down, yet. Also, this is literally the easiest piece of media to find on the internet. The first copy I found had been watched 134 Million times. That’s more than watched the Super Bowl this year, and that’s just one video on one site.
Up front: I’m not a fan of Kim Kardashian, and I actually thought Ray J was a completely different person (no, not Ray J. Johnson, I know he’s fictional… I thought it was the guy who played Moesha’s OTHER brother). However, I am a professional, so I did my due diligence.
Kim Kardashian is now famous for being famous and hot and married to Kanye West, but back in 2002 she was a hairstylist for Brandy Norwood (after she was Cinderella, sadly), and apparently was dating Brandy’s brother Ray J. Also, didn’t know Brandy was Snoop Dogg’s cousin until now, so that’s neat.
Well, Ray J and Kim went to Cabo to celebrate Kim’s 23rd Birthday, and filmed themselves goofing around, and also in the bedroom. Kardashian apparently was married at the time, something I did not realize. Ray J and Kim later broke up, and Kim became friends with other noted celebrity sex-tape-haver Paris Hilton. Then, in 2007, this tape got bought up by Vivid Entertainment (noted distributor of sex tapes), and apparently the rights were sold to them by Ray J. Kardashian sued to stop the distribution, but settled for $5 Million instead. The popularity from the tape, combined with her appearances on Hilton’s Simple Life, got her a TV show and ensured that we will never be rid of her or her family.
As part of my nauseating background research into this article (by which I mean reading TMZ, you sickos), I found out some other interesting things:
1) Ray J makes a lot of money on this. As of 2014, he makes around $10k/month. When Kim “broke the internet,” with her nude photo shoot, apparently Ray J made $50k that week in royalties. Also, apparently, every time she has a baby, gets married, gets divorced, or makes the news, that doubles or triples that week’s income.
2) Ray J is a douchebag. He constantly tries to remind people, especially Kanye, that he slept with Kim first. He has songs about it that I’m not going to listen to. (update: Some A-hole requested the song of course).
3) TMZ loves this tape and the ensuing drama. There are probably 100 articles about it. Including a series of statements that Kanye West owned a copy of this video before he and Kim started dating, and that he often watched it while with other women. That’s… love, I guess?
Now, there are two versions of this video: The Original and the Extended Cut.
The original video was 41 minutes long, about 20 of which was sex. However, since then, they’ve cobbled together other tapes of Kim from her time with Ray J and added 1 hour of bonus footage, which includes, apparently, more sex. Specifically, about 4 minutes of it. In an hour. Of them doing stupid sh*t around Mexico and L.A. So, I stuck with the original.
I’m going to go ahead and skip the actual summary of the material for this. You can watch it yourself if you want, but I don’t recommend it.
The main takeaway from this is that Ray J should never have been the cameraman. It’s not just that he doesn’t do well with focusing, lighting, or any of that stuff, it’s that HE MAKES HIMSELF THE FOCUS MOST OF THE TIME. Clearly, he believed that he was going to be the real celebrity out of the two of them. So, in a video which is marketed as being about Kim Kardashian, famously attractive woman, she’s actually out of frame a lot of the time, instead having Ray J direct the camera towards himself.
The other thing is that Kim Kardashian apparently has strong porn instincts as far as her mid-coitus dialogue goes. If this is actually what she talks like during sex, then this is clearly the work she was born for. The only problem is that half the time she sounds like she’s starting to fall asleep. And maybe she was. Mexican Donkey Valium is strong, I’m told.
I wish I could praise the artistic camerawork, the strong storycrafting, the masterful performances, but I actually believed Ray J’s character more when he appeared in season 5 of Moesha.
Overall, this is to erotica what Renegade was to television: Profitable, famous, but lacking in quality.
Scooby-Doo doesn’t die. That Great Dane has appeared on television or in film all but 11 years since it was created in 1969. You can mock the laugh track or the premise or the fact that Shaggy is obviously high all the time, but the fact is, people love the characters, that’s why they keep coming back. Sure, they’ve changed over time: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!, etc. They’ve added characters, then removed them, then added them back. They’ve changed premises. They’ve had the cast as kids. They’ve done it all.
But, in Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated, as opposed to they writers asking “what if we set it in space” or “what if it takes place in the future,” apparently they asked a different question: WHAT IF WE MADE THE SHOW AWESOME? And they did.
This series isn’t corny. It isn’t hackneyed. It isn’t pointlessly goofy. The villains in this one become willing to flat-out kill the main characters (at the beginning it’s with complicated death-traps, but by the end, it’s just pulling out a gun and opening fire). The series even has a fairly high body-count for recurring characters, and none of the deaths are taken lightly. It’s a well-written mystery-horror-comedy that manages to be inventive while still being a perfect tribute to the original show.
Unlike almost all of the other series, it’s not episodic: It’s a serial. It’s all part of one large plot-line that builds slowly until it’s revealed to be so much bigger in scope than anyone could have imagined. The ending literally explains all of the other Scooby-Doo series, including why Scooby can talk and why people in their universe like dressing up in monster costumes to commit crimes. It has the entire original team, too: Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker, Mindy Cohn, Grey DeLisle, Matthew Lillard, and Welker again).
What’s even better is that they worked thematic episodes into the overarching plot. There were episodes that paid tribute to the classic Hanna-Barbera Saturday Morning Cartoons, to the film The Wild One, even to Saw (yes, in Scooby-Doo, they had an episode about a serial murder who builds elaborate death traps, and it was awesome). And then, there was this episode.
Some of you have probably heard of this guy called “Batman.” He was kind of a big deal for a while. In fact, he appeared multiple times with Scooby-Doo during the 70s, when Batman was goofy and played by Adam West. What you might also remember is that one of the biggest comics Batman ever appeared in was the famously dark “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.” This episode is that comic. Except with a twist.
In the 1970s, Hanna-Barbera had a cartoon called Dynomutt, Dog Wonder. Dynomutt was a goofy robot dog who was the sidekick to a Batman-esque superhero called “The Blue Falcon.” They frequently interacted with Scooby-Doo, but got cancelled relatively quickly. However, apparently, they made enough of an impact for the writers of this episode to go “Hey, what if we took the same goofy Dynomutt, but paired him with the super-intense and violent Batman from ‘The Dark Knight Returns’?” My only hope is that after that sentence was first uttered, the clouds parted and pure golden light shone down upon the crew.
The episode starts years before, at the laboratory of Dr. Benton Quest of Johnny Quest fame. A robotic dragon attacks the building, injuring Security Guard Radley Crowne’s dog Reggie. Quest vows to save the dog’s life.
Cut to the present. Fred, having recently had to turn on his evil parents, is living in a van down by the river (AND YES, THEY REFERENCE THE FARLEY SNL ROUTINE). Velma summons the rest of the gang to city hall, where they discover an attack on the archives by the dragon robot.
The Blue Falcon and Dynomutt intervene, making multiple references to both their goofy show, and also to the gritty Dark Knight Returns. It’s a work of art to see these two styles juxtaposed and interacting. It’d be like watching the 1989 Batman pull out a can of Bat Shark Repellant. Or, if you have watched the Lego Batman movie, it’s like that: Pure, concentrated, awesome.
Blue Falcon explains that they’ve been tracking the robot for years, but Velma points out that Crystal Cove (the show’s setting) is the turf of Mystery, Inc., so they’re tagging along. Falcon agrees, and delivers one of my favorite lines:
“Very well, but you should know that if I need to sacrifice any of you to get my prey, I’ll gladly do it.”
To which Dynomutt, cheerfully responds, giggling: “Oh, B.F. (to Mystery, Inc., deadly serious) He’s not kidding.”
The teams work together to track down the dragon robot. They break into the headquarters of the evil corporation “Destroido,” where Blue Falcon brutally dispatches the guards… with intermixed cartoon sound effects and music. Again, the juxtaposition just makes it amazing.
They confront the company’s head, recurring Scooby-Doo villain Mr. E (Lewis F*cking Black), who refuses to talk. However, the dragon attacks the facility at that moment. They discover the dragon is downloading files from the corporate mainframe, when a voice comes out of the dragon, belonging to none other than Dr. Zin, the Villain from Johnny Quest, who has been searching for Quest’s amazing power source, which apparently is in Dynomutt. Unfortunately, Zin tells the dragon to take the dog and Blue Falcon, which leads the dragon to take Scooby-Doo by mistake.
The gang, along with Dynomutt, travel to a volcano lair to rescue Blue Falcon and Scooby. Zin tries to shoot them down, but they’re saved by Shaggy accidentally crashing the plane they were in. The gang and Blue Falcon take down Zin’s henchmen (because the Gang have all been learning to fight over this series, it actually seems reasonable). They find Zin crying over his dragon, revealed to contain his daughter, who has been trapped in the suit since the night that it first attacked Quest Industries. The suit won’t release her without an external power source, which Dynomutt provides from his battery.
Zin, getting his daughter back, remarks that his quest for power has blinded him to the beauty of a simple act of selfless kindness… before setting the volcano layer to self-destruct and abandoning them. The group escapes in the nick of time.
One of the best parts of this episode is that it mashes up all of the different styles that have come out since Scooby-Doo first began. Batman, SNL, E.T., Johnny Quest, James Bond, all of them are referenced throughout the episode, and they all work. It’s a postmodernist episode of Scooby-Doo, which is my new favorite sentence.
Zin himself is a perfect enemy in this episode, because he was both a Hanna-Barbera enemy, a Bond-esque Supervillain, and, in this episode, is mildly tweaked to resemble Ra’s Al Ghul from Batman, all at the same time.
It’s just a great half-hour of television within a great TV Show. I’ve always loved Scooby-Doo, so I know I’m biased, but Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated really was the first time that the characters were really used to their full potential. I recommend watching it, whether you loved the cartoon or not. It really just was that good of a show.
I’m also looking forward to the Supernatural/Scooby-Doo crossover coming soon.
This movie is magical. I have loved it from the first time I saw it probably 20 or so years ago. In a lot of ways, this movie encapsulates one of my most basic philosophies of media: A movie can do anything, as long as it is consistent in the amount of disbelief it asks the audience to suspend. While the monsters in this movie are clearly just people wearing cheap costumes, that’s as a tribute to the old horror movies that the kids in the film are obsessed with. The movie asks you to just go with it because it’s fun, and dammit, that’s enough of a reason to go with it.
So, the Monster Squad is the story of a group of kids who are big fans of old-school monster films, mostly the Universal Monster films from the 1930s-50s and the Hammer films of the 50s-70s. The kids are the Monster Squad, not the actual monsters, despite the monsters also being in a squad. Or perhaps the monsters are the squad, but then the kids also take the name at the end of the movie…. There are many mysteries contained within this film.
So, the movie begins with Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) fighting Dracula (Duncan Regehr) and attempting to cast him into Limbo. However, Van Helsing fails and is trapped within the other world himself.
100 years later, Van Helsing’s diary ends up in the hands of newly teenaged Monster-phile Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower). In what is one of the most unbelievably excellent moments in film history, and one that films regularly skip over, Sean finds out that he can’t read the diary, not because it’s encoded, but because it’s in German (Actually Dutch, but why would Sean know the difference?). You know, the language that Van Helsing would naturally write in, because he’s Dutch in the book. Out of basically every Dracula adaptation, this is one of the only ones that actually bother to point this out when reading his diary.
Sean and the rest of his friends, Patrick, Horace, Rudy, Eugene, and occasionally Sean’s 5-year-old sister Phoebe (Robby Kiger, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Michael Faustino, and Ashley Bank) go to see the local Scary German Man (Leonardo Cimino), who, as it turns out, is a kind old man who is happy to translate it from Dutch. Also, he was a former concentration camp prisoner. See, the scary figure actually was kind and himself a victim of cruelty. I wonder if this theme will come back in the film?
The Diary describes an amulet that is composed of concentrated good energy. It helps keep the balance of good and evil in the world. However, one day out of every 100 years, it becomes vulnerable to destruction, which would unbalance the world and allow evil to run rampant. However, on that same day, the amulet can be used to balance all supernatural evil from the world, by casting it into limbo. And, darned if that day isn’t pretty soon. How surprising.
The Amulet was hidden in the US by the apprentices of Van Helsing so that Dracula couldn’t find it, but now, Dracula is coming. He summons his most vicious monstrous assistants: The Mummy (Michael MacKay), The Creature who may or may not be from the Black Lagoon (Tom Woodruff Jr.), The Wolf Man (Carl Thibault), and three school girls (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill) who are made into his vampire brides. Dracula also breaks into a military plane carrying the remains of Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan), who he assumes will join his army. However, the Monster, being part human, doesn’t like Dracula that much. The monster wanders off into the forest where he encounters Phoebe, who befriends him. The rest of the Monster Squad meets Frankenstein and determines that he is not evil, but kind, misunderstood, and a victim of cruelty. … I feel like I wrote that before.
Meanwhile, the Wolf Man, when he’s human, is also not a fan of Dracula, and he keeps calling the police, who, of course, ignore him for talking about monsters. However, Sean’s father Del (Stephen Macht), is assigned to investigate all of the weirdness happening around town. He doesn’t believe any of it to be supernatural, of course.
Dracula and the monsters actually are occupying the building where the amulet is found, but the room it’s contained in is so littered with wards that no evil being can enter. The kids break in and steal it, and manage to avoid getting caught by Dracula. However, Dracula responds by following them back to their treehouse and… BLOWING IT UP WITH DYNAMITE.
No, really, in what is one of my favorite movie moments, Dracula doesn’t do the traditional “sneak into your home and attack you personally” thing, he just starts chucking explosives. He’s immune to being blown up, why the hell wouldn’t he do this all the time? It’s brilliant. However, it does draw the attention of Sean’s dad, who finally sees Dracula and believes in the supernatural explanation for recent events.
The team have to find a female virgin to read the incantation to banish evil, and it must be on holy ground, so they drive to a cathedral with their older sister Lisa (Lisa Fuller). However, because it’s a cathedral, not a 7/11, it’s closed at midnight. However, they decide to read it on the stoop, as a work-around, since the entryway is technically holy ground. Lisa begins reading, but the spell fails, because Lisa had figured that the stuff she did with one of her exes “didn’t count.” Apparently the universe draws a different line than she does.
So, naturally, they realize that the 5-year-old Phoebe is a virgin, and the German man helps her read the spell. Meanwhile, Dracula and his monsters have come, so the kids face off against the monsters. What follows is a simultaneous invocation of monster lore (like pointing out that they need a silver bullet to kill a werewolf/no one knows the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Weakness) with a mockery/common sense takedown of them (alternate solution: hit him in the groin really hard and blow him up with dynamite. Doesn’t kill him, but slows him down a lot/ Bullets work really well on fish). Eventually, they manage to kill all of the monsters except for Dracula, who arrives late.
Dracula, unfortunately for the kids, doesn’t really screw around, and just starts killing a ton of the police with ease. He finally reaches Phoebe, and threatens her, however, Frankenstein’s monster shows up and spears Dracula with a wrought-iron fencepost as the portal to Limbo opens. Dracula grabs Sean, who manages to stake Dracula through the heart. However, this doesn’t actually kill him, but at the last moment, Abraham Van Helsing emerges from the portal and pulls Dracula in with him.
Frankenstein then goes into the portal willingly, knowing that he doesn’t belong in the world of humans, and the portal won’t close without the monsters being on the other side. Phoebe gives him a stuffed animal to remember her.
Soon, the Army shows up, ready to fight the monsters, but Sean informs them that evil has already been slain, presenting the General with a business card referring to them as “The Monster Squad.” Roll. F*cking. Credits.
What’s crazy is that I love this movie mostly for the reasons that other critics seem to hate it. First, it has a ludicrously high body count for a movie starring kids. Dracula is not the traditional portrayal; here he is decidedly more vicious and ruthlessly efficient. He’s not out to seduce lonely housewives or whatever, he’s here to take over the world, and to get rid of the people in his way. He has super-strength, invulnerability, and is immortal. He just dynamites his enemies, because that’s simpler than having to find a way to be invited in. This is one of my favorite Dracula performances of all time.
Second, all of the monsters look like guys in costumes. Well, no sh*t. That’s what they are. The movie is a tribute to the costumes of the old horror movies. But they’re damned good costumes. Until The Shape of Water came out, this was my favorite-looking Fish-man (Abe Sapien is his own category).
Third, the plot’s generic. Well, yeah, but they use the generic plot to explore within it. And they play around with it enough to make it fun. Plus, the details are actually kind of nice. Van Helsing’s Diary isn’t in English. Cathedrals aren’t open at Midnight during the week. “Virgin” isn’t exactly clearly defined, because they don’t say whose standard it is. Nothing in mythology about the Creature from the Black Lagoon says you can’t just shoot him. These are great things that the movie points out, it’s like they intentionally were trying to avert some of the more common tropes of these horror movies.
Ultimately, I think this movie is underrated. I really do. I like the fact that it’s ALL of the Universal horror monsters together. I like the fact that Frankenstein is portrayed sympathetically. I like the fact that Dracula is just an unstoppable killing machine when he wants to be. I like the fact that the US Government knows enough about monsters to send in a huge number of soldiers and tanks to deal with them. Is it the best movie? No, but it’s damned fun and it delivers exactly what it promises. Honestly, this is one of the best homages to classic horror, and I hope it keeps getting seen.
So, I had 5 people complain about there not being enough I Love Lucy on the list, and specifically bringing up this episode. What’s weird is that this wouldn’t even be the episode I would consider to be the third best episode of the show. I actually rate it fourth. But, I will concede that everyone loves this episode, including me. It’s considered to have the third most memorable scene in the show (the other two are on the list), was picked as the episode that CBS liked enough to later “colorize,” and it was Lucille Ball’s favorite episode. Apparently, not considering this third makes me the minority. Well, I’ll accept that.
What’s odd is that, up until researching this entry, I actually thought the title of this episode was “Bitter Grapes,” the title of the movie that Lucy is making during the episode. And, really, I think that’s a better title, but I suppose they didn’t care that much back then, since the re-run was a new concept.
Season 5 of I Love Lucy would probably now be considered when the show jumped the shark, but it’s I Love Lucy, so it’s also still beloved. This season, as well as the sixth, were notable for having a ton of guest stars, as well as exotic locations (which were, for the most part, in California), which now are considered obvious signs that the show is running out of ideas. But, again, beloved.
Here’s a recap of the show: The show had a pretty general premise. Lucille “Lucy” Esmeralda McGillicuddy Ricardo and Enrique “Ricky” Alberto Fernando y de Acha Ricardo III (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) are married and they live in an apartment in New York with their son Little Ricky (Desi Arnaz, Jr.), where they frequently interact with their friends and landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance). Ricky is a popular bandleader and singer at a club. Lucy is a housewife who dreams of stardom, despite her complete lack of talent, leading her to do things that usually are described with “Hi-jinks Ensue.” Also, credit to her, Lucille Ball’s greatest talent is her incredible ability to play someone without any talent.
In the season, prior to this episode, Ricky had obtained a European tour booking for his band, and Lucy, as well as Fred and Ethel, follow after him. This let the show film throughout multiple famous locations. The episode before this had the four arrive in Italy. And we’re off to the races.
The episode starts with the four heading towards Rome via a very cramped train ride (Fred wanted to save money). During the trip, Lucy encounters film auteur Vittoria Felipe (or Phillipi, both seem to be used by different sites) (Franco Corsaro), who is looking to cast people for his new film. Lucy first tries to impress him with her acting, which somehow doesn’t drive him off. Instead, she gets offered a role as an American tourist in his new film, which he says would be called “Bitter Grapes” in English.
Once again, it’s amazing how good Lucille Ball is at playing someone who cannot act at all. I didn’t know until now that the line she delivers, “the calla lilies are in bloom again,” are a reference to the movie Stage Door in which Lucille Ball got her big break. In that movie, Katharine Hepburn delivers the line repeatedly, and Ball was a huge fan of hers. Fun facts, people. They keep me going.
Lucy, believing from the title that the movie will be about winemaking, decides that she needs to know firsthand about the wine industry in Italy. Ricky warns her that it’s a bad idea, for multiple reasons, including that she’s supposed to be an American tourist. She asks a bellboy where they make wine, and heads to the nearby town of Turo, which does not exist. Also, this entire episode was filmed in California.
When Lucy gets to Turo, they allow her to work in the vats, stomping grapes, because her feet are “as big as large pizzas.” Lucy gets sent into the vat with an Italian woman (Teresa Tirelli) and begins to stomp the grapes. At first, she loves stomping on them, and has a lot of fun playing around in the grapes, goofing around. Then, after a little bit, she starts to get tired, and decides to leave the vat. Since they have a quota, and she needs the help, Teresa tries to grab Lucy’s arm to get her to keep working. Lucy shakes her off and ends up pushing Teresa into the grapes in the vat. Thus, the great Grape War starts.
As with many parts of I Love Lucy, nothing can truly describe this scene. You just need to watch it below. But, I will say the following:
IT WAS REAL.
Yeah, see, the woman Lucy is fighting is an actual Italian Opera Singer/Actress. She didn’t speak English. They were able to explain that she was supposed to fight Lucy, but they didn’t explain to her that it was just supposed to be an act. Instead, they just got across the basics that she and Lucy were going to fight. Then, Ball pushed her harder than she expected, which angered her, so… she pushed Lucy back harder, and everything just kind of escalated. It’s not like Tirelli was ever really trying to kill Ball, but she definitely wasn’t pulling punches. The fight actually went on longer than made it into the episode because of it.
What’s really interesting is that Lucy had already done this a few times on the show with other actresses who she thought wouldn’t really make the hits look real, including the famous fly scene in the chocolate factory episode, where one of the actresses wouldn’t hit Ball solidly in the face, so Ball just slapped her. That woman suffered for her art.
Lucy returns to Rome now covered in grape juice and stained purple. The director sees her and tells her A) the title was metaphorical, and there is nothing about winemaking in the film, and B) she can’t have the role since he thinks she’s going to be stained purple. He ends up giving the role to Ethel, which makes Lucy make some remarks in Italian that have to be censored by the editors.
Okay, this episode is just comedy gold. I’m not going to say it’s highly sophisticated, even to the extent of the other episodes that actually made the list, but it’s still brilliant. It’s mostly expressed through looks and pantomime, which makes it all the more impressive. The fact that the fight is real doesn’t make it any less hilarious (because no one was hurt), and, in traditional Lucy fashion, it’s turning something tragic (like Lucy losing her role in the movie) into something funny. The only reason I think this is less impressive than the other episodes is that Lucy is actively disregarding good advice when she decides to go grape stomping, which makes it a little more karmic when she loses the role. That makes it a little more of a tragedy than just tragic, because the end is derived from a fatal flaw, and I think that’s easier to turn into a comic moment, since the audience already feels justified in watching the tragically-flawed protagonist suffer.
I do kinda regret not putting this on the list proper, but since I rated it fourth among Lucy episodes, I’d have to put the one I rated third on there, and this one is basically funny for the same reason as the two episodes already on here: BECAUSE LUCY IS HILARIOUS. So… whatever, what’s done is done. I’m glad I added this, though.
The title of this movie alone required me to watch and review it. This was not a request from a reader. This was a request from on high. Then, after about 5 minutes, I realized I was clearly hearing the voice of the devil.
I can’t call this movie bad. I would have to be more certain about what the last 80-ish minutes entailed for me to call it bad. This movie defies traditional good and bad, like one of the Great Old Ones from H.P. Lovecraft. It’s just a giant confusing waste of time. The fact that this was apparently from people who had made a previous film is shocking.
Rather than subject any of you to this movie, I have decided to post images of better horror movies.
Alright, so, the opening of the movie shows that there’s a tree that people get hanged on as part of… a ritual of some sort. Or just an execution. It’s tough to tell. Since there’s some stuff about punishment later, I guess that it’s supposed to be an execution, but that’s still not for sure. Whatever, people get hanged on it. Then, someone cuts it down and makes a bed out of it. That’s the Bed of the Dead.
The Bed somehow ends up at the “Anarchist’s Sex Club” in the present day. We’re told that a group of people died there, and the room was burned up, including the Bed. It then flashes back to the group coming in, who are a pair of couples having a foursome for one of their birthdays. They convince the woman at the front to rent the room with the Bed, even though it apparently was just the site of a murder a few weeks before.
The foursome gets on the bed, then one of them sees a scary face on the other and calls the sex off. Which seems to be kinda what everyone wanted, since this group never seemed to want to do anything sexual. There’s also a weird moment of a woman walking down the sex club hall in slo-mo that’s unrelated to the rest of the movie. I still don’t understand this, except that it gives us the only nudity in a movie that takes place at a SEX CLUB. I’m not saying you need nudity to justify a terrible horror movie’s existence, but I’m saying exactly that.
So, the four go to bed, then one of the guys gets up after seeing his dog at the door. He is then dragged by an invisible dog under the bed and killed violently. The other three decide not to get off the bed because they hear something under it.
Cut to the present, and the owner of the club clearly knows about the bed, and barges in on the police investigation. He’s arrested for being a douche.
Back to the remaining three. One of the guys is shown a hallucination of the girls gone, and a shape made out of bloody sheets attacks him. He gets off the bed, at which point he is killed by having a bloody sheet spider burst out of him. It doesn’t make a ton of sense in context either. The two girls are now covered in blood, but stay on the bed. A guy from the hallway decides to come into the room, and the bed shows him visions of the two girls begging him for sex, then it pushes him into the hallway and kills him. He touches the bed, which is apparently enough to justify dying, but you can be shown a hallucination without touching it. This movie has no real rules.
Okay, now, one of the girls manages to get her phone, and she texts her mother, but the text goes to the policeman in the future. They start texting back and forth, and it’s shown that if they change something in the past, it changes the present… but only in the present. Like, one of the girls carves her name in the bed, and the guy sees the carving appear letter by letter. If you’ve seen “The Lake House” or “Looper,” well, I’m sorry you had to sit through those movies, but it’s like that.
In the present, the officer, despite the supernatural stuff happening, doesn’t appear to be really doing anything. He takes a nap at one point. Also, he snorts coke and drinks, because he shot a kid, and somehow lost his daughter.
Back in the past, the girls are trying to sleep, until one of the girls is told by the officer that she’s dead in the future. The movie starts to imply that the Bed is punishing people for someone they killed, but… one guy just had a dead dog. Like, he seemed super happy to see the dog, so I don’t get the feeling he killed it. Does having a dog die in your lifetime count? Because that seems like a really weird bar. The second guy killed a kid in a DUI. The first woman is revealed to have killed her mother after she forced her to have an abortion. The last one feels guilty because she survived a school shooting after a guy took a bullet for her.
The woman who killed her mom decides everything is in her head, so she tries to leave and the other woman knocks her out to save her. MomKiller gets back up after a while and gets off the Bed, before dying quickly with little fanfare.
The officer goes to meet a woman who was accused of murdering her husband on the Bed, but she reveals that he plucked his own eyes out. She was spared, supposedly because she was “innocent.” Also, what kind of forensics can’t tell that someone pulled their own eyes out? The officer calls the remaining girl, who now is planning on setting the Bed on fire, killing herself, but destroying it. He tells her that if she kills herself, the bed gets to take her soul, something that he HAS NO WAY OF ACTUALLY KNOWING. So, she chooses not to burn the Bed, and apparently leaves the club… or maybe doesn’t? She was seeing hallucinations, so maybe she’s dead.
The Bed, now having changed the past, is re-made whole in the present, and then the officer gets a call from his partner, who is in the room the next day, with the officer’s corpse on the Bed. The officer realizes that he touched the Bed in the alternate timeline, and therefore has to die, so he shoots himself. The Bed is then sold at a police auction.
Then, the credits begin, and the first credit is a typo. That pretty much says all that the movie needed to tell you.
This movie isn’t scary enough to be a horror movie, isn’t thrilling enough to be a thriller, isn’t gory enough to be gore porn, isn’t camp enough to be campy, and isn’t self-aware enough to be a parody. It’s basically just a weird set of ideas mashed together in a way that says “direct to VHS.”
The Bed killing people seems inconsistent, since, of the people killed, we don’t really see why some of them deserved to die. Most of them see some version of the person they killed before they get off the bed, and that kind of explains a little, but, one of them saw his dead dog and DID NOT INDICATE ANY KIND OF GUILT. He’s happy to see the dog, like a childhood pet you lost. Then, he’s brutally torn apart. Did he kill the dog? The revenge death would indicate that, even if nothing else does, but does that mean that anything anyone kills, even animals, can kill you? Because then you’re always just going to die unless you’re Buddha.
And the movie really keeps trying to pretend that there are rules, even though there very clearly are no useful rules to anything. Then, it decides to amp everything up by having the officer investigating the murder talking to the victims who are in the past. The movie tries to at least imply this is because the one girl is innocent, or at least it’s because the bed is trying to prevent itself from being destroyed by her, but then, at the end, the officer talks to the person investigating his own murder, and neither of those things apply, so apparently everything is just “if we feel like it.”
Also, at the end of the movie, I have no idea if the girl is actually alive. She walks out of the building, and then out of the movie, but that could just be in her head. The movie already established that the bed can make you hallucinate from a distance and kill you from basically anywhere, so… maybe she just was crushed by a giant foot or something.
The movie really doesn’t provide very interesting deaths, either. They’re fast and brutal, but they’re not particularly original or inventive. One girl just has her body break. Horrifying, yes. Original? No.
Then, the movie ends in another timeline, where the bed wasn’t destroyed, but is now being sold for auction, and I have to ask the question “why?” This Bed has now been the site of a minimum of 5 murders/suicides, according to authorities. This is usually the point where the state would lock it up just so crazy people can’t buy it. Also, how did they get the Bed to the auction site? Did it not kill at least a few of the people involved in cleaning, moving, storing, and displaying it? Because the movie establishes that you just have to touch it to die, and the end of the movie demonstrates that you don’t even have to have touched it IN THE CURRENT REALITY.
This movie was way more complicated than a movie about a killer bed should be. And, for the record, the bed never swallows anyone, which would have been way scarier. This movie was beaten, without effort, by the original Nightmare on Elm Street, decades before it even was created.
Update: I have now been informed that there is a movie called “Death Bed: The Bed that Eats,” that Patton Oswald has spoken about. I need to find this movie.
Unlike 13 Demons, which had a few good scenes, Birdemic and Iconoclast, which could at least say they were made by people who don’t make movies, or Reefer Madness, which at least was supposed to be an educational cautionary tale, this movie just wallows in being forgettable. I said in another review that part of the key to a “So Bad It’s Good” movie is that everyone on the film seemed to believe they were making a better movie than they did, but that really doesn’t apply here. I don’t ever feel like the cast was enjoying it, and they all clearly have at least some knowledge of acting. The basic movie is too well-shot for the lack of expertise to be laughable. The script is simultaneously too thin and too complicated, and the effects aren’t good enough to be entertaining, nor bad enough to be laughable.
This movie exists, and that’s about it. Don’t waste your time like I did.
Preliminary notes: Why am I sober? Why? Why would I ever be sober for this?
0:01 – A guy’s being hanged from a tree in olden times. Good start.
0:03 – Ah, the tree has been made into the bed of the dead. Well played, film.
0:04 – The scene shifts to the present, at the “Anarchist’s Sex Club.” While that’s not the worst name ever, I have decided I need alcohol. I have paused the film for the purpose of rum.
0:06 – Oh, a horror movie that involves a police investigation? I haven’t seen one of these since… actually last week with Hellraiser X.
0:08 – “That room can’t be used,” “but I’m saying things convincingly,” “Oh, then it can.” Like, I think they just directly stated it was the site of a PREVIOUS SUSPECTED MURDER.
0:10 – I cannot tell what these people are supposed to be doing here, and this is explicitly called a sex club. I haven’t seen such lack of enthusiasm for erotic adventure since… Never mind.
0:13 – Random semi-nude music video for… no reason, I think. Alcohol has been upgraded to Captain Morgan 100.
0:14 – I have never seen an orgy of people this hesitant to do anything sexual. Granted, I’ve also never seen an orgy (I have now recalled a conversation in which I was told an orgy requires a minimum of 5 people, so I guess this is just a foursome).
0:14 – Oh, hey, a terrible jump scare and the foursome is called off. Clearly the Bed of the Dead doesn’t really want them to stay.
0:15 – And they’re staying anyway. Cut to the next day and, apparently, they died by fire, and the bed is also destroyed. This movie already seems terrible.
0:16 – A wolf? No, it’s apparently one of the guy’s dog
0:20 – Invisible dog just pulled a guy under the bed and ate him.
0:22 – And the owner appears to have known about the bed. Interesting.
0:26 – Like 5 minutes of them just sitting on the bed. Dui guy is now off the bed and going to die by… weird spider cloth thing. Which apparently entered him and popped out.
0:28 – Vaping must be the new “Let me show you I’m an asshole” thing in movies.
0:32 – So the bed can show you anything even if you’re not on it. Okay…
0:33 – Guy didn’t even get on the bed and he’s being killed. Apparently, there are no rules.
0:38 – She just texted the policeman in the future. The bed can warp time, apparently.
0:40 – This movie has just gotten way more complicated than a movie about a killer bed needs to be. Actually, any movie about a killer bed is more complicated than a movie about a killer bed needs to be.
0:43 – Okay, well, the cop’s daughter is dead, I guess. Or something. Was she killed by the bed? Does any of this matter? Oh, so he has a drug problem now. And a drinking problem. Guess he picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
0:44 – Sandy actually appears to be falling asleep on the Bed of the Dead. Which is what I’m doing watching it.
0:47 – Okay, so, he’s now telling them how they died in the past from the future. And despite being mostly burned away, the bed appears to still have some power. Maybe it regenerates.
0:50 – So, they’re trying to imply that each of these people has “killed” someone, but one of the guys apparently just had a dead dog, one guy ran over a 5 year old in a DUI, one had someone take a bullet protecting her from a school shooter, and the other… unknown so far.
0:51 – Nancy has apparently decided that all of this is a hallucination… despite knowing the bed causes hallucinations.
0:56 – Officer guy knows that some supernatural stuff is going on, and that the bed’s owner knows about it, but doesn’t appear to actually want to do anything.
1:01 – Okay, and last girl was forced to have an abortion. Wait, no, maybe she killed her mother. Oh, I guess it was both.
1:02 – You need to knock her out, Sandy or Candy, whatever your name is.
1:05 – Okay, so… now he’s meeting with the last girl to survive the bed who apparently was convicted of murder.
1:08 – Flashback to last guy who got killed for leaving the bed. Husband of current woman, apparently. And he pulled his own eyes out. Something that should have been obvious to forensics.
1:09 – Okay, so, now they’re saying that the bed punishes people.
1:12 – Sandy is now being told in the past that she doesn’t have to die… but he’s standing next to her corpse.
1:13 – “It’ll have the blood it needs to take your soul. That’s how it works.” NOTHING WORKS IN ANY FORM OF LOGIC IN THIS MOVIE, SHUT THE F*CK UP.
1:16 – Okay, so… is she out? The bed just re-made itself, but the image indicates that’s because it wasn’t burned up in this timeline.
1:18 – Okay, so now he’s dead in the future, and calling the cop investigating it from the past.
1:19 – But you just said that the only reason why he could talk to her was so that she could avoid being punished. So…
1:20 – And the bed is now re-sold at auction. Despite being the location of a TON of murders. And no idea what happened to Candy. And now they’re having creepy children sing lullaby. Too late to try to scare me movie.
1:21 – They spelled Virgil’s name wrong in the credits. That tells you everything.