They/Them (2022)

Respect, Renew, Rejoice….

As soon as I saw the trailer for Blumhouse’s They/Them (pronounced They Slash Them), I knew that it wouldn’t be just another run of the mill slasher film. Yes, it has a cast filled primarily with LGBTQIA+ actors and takes place at a gay conversion therapy camp, which automatically makes it unique as a horror film, but that’s not what I believed would set it apart. I thought that it might utilize the horrors of conversion therapy as the catalyst for the horror and ultimately attempt to teach us about the evils of conversion therapy, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, or something along those lines. Instead, the film is more of a “hunter becomes the hunted” type horror thriller that, well, lacks thrills.

Spoiler-free review ahead!

The film follows a small group of LGBTQIA+ campers as they spend time at Camp Whistler, a conversion camp headed up by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), his wife, Cora (Carrie Preston), who is the camp therapist, two activities directors, Zane and Sarah (Boone Platt and Hayley Griffith), and the brand new camp nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky). Initially, Owen and his brood of conversion counselors appear to be friendly and accepting of the campers. As the week progresses, however, the facade begins to chip away to reveal a sinister group of people intent on scaring the gay away from the campers.

While that might be scary in and of itself, the real horror comes in the form of a slasher that begins to take out individuals. Without giving too much away, the killer targets specific people to eliminate, and the film goes from being a potentially excellent reflection of the horrors of conversion therapy and the struggles of LGBTQIA+ in the world to a generic slasher film with an underwhelming and predictable conclusion.

I picked out the villain almost immediately. Certain characters were alluded to as the potential killer, but they were so forced that I was drawn to another character who, not surprisingly, was also blatantly obvious as the killer. The whole film has a forced tone to its horror, and the movie suffers as a result.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some amazing performances in this film. Monique Kim stood out from the pack as Veronica, the cooler-than-cool kid who eventually reveals their heart in the movie. Quei Tann, who portrayed Alexandra in the film, also gave a stirring performance. The rest of the young cast, especially Darwin del Fabro and Austin Crute, also gave great performances. Sadly, Theo Germaine, who played Jordan and was the focus of the film, delivered one of the weaker performances of the young cast members. Of the veteran actors in this film, Kevin Bacon pretty much phoned in his performance and Anna Chlumsky wasn’t given much to work with overall. Carrie Preston was sinister as the camp therapist and I wish that we would have had more of her on the screen.

This film wasn’t an entire bust. The performances of the young cast carried it enough that it held my interest. There’s a brilliant twist featuring one of the campers as well. As for the slasher, the mask was amazing and there’s definitely potential for a sequel. I just hope that if there is another They/Them film, it will either fully embrace the slasher angle or pursue exposing the evils of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s worth a watch if you have Peacock, but it’s not a must-see film.

Thanks for checking out my review. I have a few more reviews up my sleeve that will be coming soon and next week I’ll be post my next entry in The Year of KISS. See you soon!

NECA Halloween II Toy Capsules

Perhaps they came from a sadistic Easter Bunny???

When I saw this bag of nine toy capsules sitting on the shelf at Walmart, I was a tad perplexed. Sure, I’d already seen and passed on the Universal Monsters Toy Capsules, but these Halloween II capsules caught my attention. Perhaps it was the orange and black bag and capsules? Maybe it was Michael Myers’ face on the bag? Whatever it was, I was compelled to purchase this bag of surprises. There was also a Chucky bag but I decided to pass on it for the time being.

Each bag comes with nine surprise toy capsules. These capsules are exactly like the ones that you might find in a candy machine. One of the cool things about them is that the orange side of the capsules features the Halloween II title. Apparently the nine surprises in each bag are the same, so there’s really no need to pick up two bags unless you really want a pair of whatever collectible catches your eye.

Just so you know, I’m about to spoil what’s hiding in those capsules. Below this image of Michael Myers is a description of and photos for all of the items. You’ve been warned…..

The nine surprises are actually pretty cool. Here’s a list of all nine of ’em.

  1. Michael Myers Keychain
  2. Halloween II Magnet
  3. Halloween II Lanyard
  4. Halloween II Shoelaces
  5. Michael Myers Eraser
  6. Miniature Silver Shamrock Skull Mask
  7. Miniature Micheal Myers Mask
  8. Haddonfield Memorial Hospital Patch
  9. Michael Myers Pin

I really like the pin, keychain, magnet, lanyard, and shoelaces. All of the items appear to be of superior quality. The magnet is a tad on the thin side but I’m okay with that. The lanyard will definitely be put to good use because I can use it at work. The shoelaces will probably go to my daughter as she’s the only other horror fan in the family. She’ll probably end up with the keychain as well.

There’s really not much else to say about these miniature surprises. They are well made, look cool, and are perfect for any Halloween II fan or Halloween fans in general. If I can find them, I might grab the Universal Monsters set as well. I’m still on the fence about the Chucky set, but I’ll let you all know if and when I get those two sets!

Thanks for checking out my post. See you again soon!

Classic Horror: The Slumber Part Massacre (1982)

“Close your eyes for a second….and sleep forever.”

On its surface, 1982’s The Slumber Party Massacre is just one more entry in a long line of standard 1980’s slasher films that feature plenty of sexually active teens winding up on the business end of a murder weapon. There are plenty of attractive young ladies in skimpy outfits, pointless nude scenes, and poor choice making skills as well as an insane killer on the loose. When you look a bit deeper, however, you’ll quickly find out that this sleepover is different.

L to R: Andree Honore, Debra Deliso, and Michele Michaels.

The film’s plot is pretty simple. Our leading lady, Trish (Michele Michaels), has the house to herself for the evening and decides to invite over a few friends. She also plans on inviting the new girl in school, Valerie (Robin Stille), but Trish’s friend Diane (Gina Mari), says a few derogatory things about her and Valerie declines Trish’s offer. On the radio at the beginning of the film, the news reports that a mass murderer has recently escaped from prison and might be in the area. After killing a couple of people at the local high school, the murderer, Russ Thorne (Michael Villella), makes his way to Trish’s house and starts picking off the girls one by one.

L to R: Deliso, Michaels, Honore, & Gina Mari.

Sounds pretty standard for slasher films, right? Well, The Slumber Party Massacre is anything but standard. The movie was written by feminist Rita Mae Brown, directed by Amy Holden Jones, and edited by Wendy Greene Bricmont (with Sean Foley). In the film, traditionally male roles are given to female actors including a telephone worker (Jean Vargas), a brave coach (Pamela Royance), and a carpenter (Pamela Canzano). On top of that, the damsels in distress fight back, especially the final five ladies.

The few males in the film prove to be defenseless against the murderer. Two boys (Joseph Alan Johnson and David Millbern) sneak up on the girls, watch them getting dressed, and then try to scare them. When the murderer arrives, the boys attempt to save the day and fail. Mr. Contant (Rigg Kennedy), the only real male rival to the murderer, is offed early in the evening. It’s up to the girls, including Valerie, her little sister, Courtney (Jennifer Meyers), and Coach Jana (Royance), to finish the job.

L to R: Joseph Alan Johnson (Neil) & David Millbern (Jeff).

Despite the women-taking-charge message, the film falls into all of the standard trappings of 80’s slasher films. In the opening moments of the film, Trish is shown topless. Later on, there’s a basketball game that features plenty of lingering shots on the legs and backsides of the girls. Then comes the obligatory shower scene that features long pauses focused on the rears of some of the young women. It’s a bit excessive, especially considering the fact that this film was directed by a woman, but it’s not unusual for these types of films. There are a couple of other skin-baring moments in the film as well. Some of the young ladies make poor decisions, the boys split up, and loud noises distract some of the characters from hearing the deaths of the killer’s victims. There’s even a bratty younger sister that gets in the way…..a lot.

That being said, these ladies really do take charge in this film. Instead of running from the killer, some of the ladies take a stand against him. The most impressive one in my opinion is Kim who, while our heroine cowers in the corner, takes charge of the situation and starts throwing things at the killer. Her efforts prove fruitless, but she buys Trish some time to escape. Coach Jana, Valerie, and Courtney also face off with the killer. I won’t spoil what happens when these ladies battle Russ Thorne.

Brinke Stevens.

The movie is pretty good, but it does have a few shortfalls. For starters, the killer’s weapon of choice is a power drill with a long bit. The weapon is awkward, entirely too noisy, and easily dispatched by a machete late in the film. I also didn’t care for Russ Thorne’s motives for killing: He loves the beautiful girls. He’s obviously deranged, but I would have preferred to not even know what reasons he had for killing these young ladies. There were also quite a few continuity goofs in the film. I’ll let you watch the movie and see how many of them you can spot.

Deliso & Michaels.

The film’s standout performances were by Michaels and Deliso. Deliso was my favorite actress in the entire film and I want to see more of her work. She’s currently a professor at USC among other things. Brinke Stevens has a small role in the film as Linda. It was her biggest early role, and we all know that she would go on to become a scream queen in her own right.

Villella & Stevens.

I do recommend checking out The Slumber Party Massacre. It’s a bit exploitative but the feminist overtones drown out the skimpy clothes and the flesh. Thanks for reading my post. I’ll be posting again real soon.

Classic Horror: Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)

Unholy Communion

Released in 1976, Alice, Sweet Alice may not be one of the first films to come to mind when one mentions classic horror, but it has definitely found a place in the hearts of many horror fans. Often considered one of the final proto-slasher films before the likes of Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers took to the big screen, Alice, Sweet Alice combines religion, jealousy, and a creepy mask and raincoat combo to give the viewer plenty of creep scares.

The film starts off by showing us the strained relationship of two young sisters, Alice and Karen Spages (Paula E. Sheppard and Brooke Shields in her film debut). It is quickly established that Karen is the favorite daughter of their mother, Catherine (Linda Miller), who is preparing for Karen’s first communion. We are also introduced to Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich), who is presented in a questionable manner. While he doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong or perverted, the film presents the character (and the local Catholic Church) as somewhat bizarre and a bit too touchy feely.

On the day of her first communion, Karen is savagely murdered by a mysterious person. The primary suspect? Alice. A series of stabbings, some fatal, some not, begin to occur and the police attempt to find the culprit. Alice is isolated from her mother and estranged father, Dom (Niles McMaster), but the attacks continue. Who is behind all of the violence? The answer is quite surprising and revealed fairly early in the film…..or is it? The ending is vague enough that there isn’t a definite answer by the time that the credits role.

The film features a cast primarily culled from the local theater scene in New York and New Jersey. Outside of Shields, none of the cast has made much of an impact in film or television with the exception of Alphonso DeNoble, who featured in a couple of other cult films, Night of the Zombies (1981) and Bloodsucking Freaks (1976). Zombies was released posthumously, as DeNoble passed away in 1978. Some of the cast caused trouble for director Alfred Sole, particularly Linda Miller, whom Sole called “a real nightmare.” Paula Sheppard did an amazing job as twelve year old Alice, especially considering the fact that she was nineteen at the time of filming. Her performance was very convincing, especially as the situation started spiraling out of control.

Many critics and viewers believed that the film was anti-Catholic. As someone who actually is Catholic, I understand why they would believe that, but I also credit Sole’s direction in making the entire film’s setting, especially the moments inside of the church, very unsettling. Yes, Sole was excommunicated from the Church due to another film that he previously made, but I see only vague hints at an anti-religious theme. Ultimately things are left pretty vague, so no one really knows what happened with Father Tom, the Church, or anyone else in the film. I’m intentionally leaving out certain characters, as it would spoil parts of the film.

I really liked Alice, Sweet Alice. It was atmospheric in an unsettling sort of way and just vague enough that you aren’t sure if the killer was really captured. I recommend checking the film out if you’re a fan of early slasher films and especially if you like your horror with a religious spin.

Thanks for reading my post. I’ll see you all again real soon!