Spook Retorts continues with Danielle sharing the 2018 film Bird Box. Imagine a terrible, mysterious event that is causing people around the world to lose control and kill themselves. Now imagine this isn’t the Shyamalan movie The Happening; that’s basically Bird Box. Sandra Bullock is Malorie, an emotionally stunted pregnant woman in a world about to undergo an apocalypse. Mysterious creatures have appeared and if you so much as catch a glance of them they will drive you to madness and suicide. Malorie manages to find refuge in a house full of weirdos and John Malkovich, which is redundant. Meanwhile, future Malorie (yes, it’s the kind of film that jumps back and forth in time a lot) is undergoing a perilous, blindfolded journey down a river towards shelter, escorting two small children she has dubbed Boy and Girl in what Sam thinks is a stunning display of emotional abuse. Back in the past, the refuge house is infiltrated by someone…possessed? Obsessed? Infected? by the creatures, and at this point neither Danielle or Sam can explain how anything in this world works. It doesn’t matter because a couple of births and shotgun shells later things resolve one way or another. If you want answers or even the barest notion of what these creatures are so as to better grasp the stakes or struggles in this movie, boy, do we have bad news for you. There is, however, a box with some birds in it that is almost entirely irrelevant, so ten out of ten, perfect movie.
It’s time once again for Spook Retorts! Sam kicks off this year with the 1987 ensemble monster movie The Monster Squad. We start in Transylvania where Abraham Van Helsing is attempting to banish Dracula and his menagerie of armadillos using a glowing amulet and a teen girl. Van Helsing fails spectacularly, for reasons that are entirely opaque, and Dracula decides to lay low for one hundred years. That’s just enough time for a group of snarky and unfortunately homophobic kids to form a monster club in small town America. These kids are somehow very selective for membership in their monster club, even though it seems to require only the barest minimum of basic monster knowledge to join. One of the kids comes into possession of Van Helsing’s journal which immediately makes them a target for Dracula, who is assembling a coterie of monster, which is, bafflingly, not the titular monster squad. After encountering the mummy, hearing about a werewolf, and befriending Frankenstein’s monster, the children decide to form the Monster Squad to take on Dracula using the instructions in Van Helsing’s journal and, worryingly, a fair bit of sexual blackmail. So join Sam and Danielle the premiere of this year’s Spook Retorts that will having you rooting for the monsters to defeat the real evil: Human children.
Sam concludes this year’s Spook Retorts with the 1990 thrill-omedy film Arachnophobia. When a hitherto unknown species of giant, deadly, Venezuelan hive spider is transported to a small West Coast town things are going to get creepy-crawly. Impressively quickly, the Venezuelan spider breeds with a common house spider which raises for Danielle all sorts of questions about spider reproduction that Sam is ill-equipped to answer. Mismatched spider breeding sizes aside, Dr. Ross Jennings, played by the always delightful Jeff Daniels, is a new transplant to the town looking to set up a medical practice, but finds himself in every doctor’s worst nightmare when all his patients start mysteriously dropping dead. Will Dr. Ross be able to unravel this mystery and protect his family all while overcoming his intense fear of spiders? Maybe, but not until suspiciously after his medical practice competition is eliminated. Luckily, John Goodman, playing a goofy exterminator, is there to be the hero we all want in our lives. As for how the spiders feel about all this, I’ll let renowned spider lover Jimmy Buffett’s end-credits song lyrics speak for them: “I’m fakey, real flaky, eight legs and one pea brain, so don’t bug me.”
Half-way through this year’s Spook Retorts Danielle pulls out the big-guns of horror with the movie adaptation the Stephen King and Joe Hill novella In the Tall Grass. While on a cross-country road trip, pregnant Becky and her brother Cal make a pit-stop in the middle-of-nowhere of Kansas, and you know things aren’t going to go well. Lured into a field of, predictably, tall grass our two luckless travelers find themselves lost in a world of shifting geography and unmoored time. This very cool concept quickly gets wacky when they meet a lost child and his rock obsessed father. Throw in weird grass people, Becky giving birth next to a massive hole of writhing bodies, and a wormhole finding dog, and both Sam and Danielle are so lost they might as well be in the tall grass themselves. Don’t worry though, none of these question will be answered by the end of the movie. Still, the concept of the flutewolf is born, so we think overall that’s a win.
The month of Spook Retorts continues with Sam sharing the 1993 dark comedy movie My Boyfriend’s Back. Johnny Dingle (yes, it’s that kind of movie) has been in love with Missy McCloud since before he can remember, and he is determined to go to prom with her no matter what. When a truly idiotic plan he concocts to win her affections goes awry, Johnny learns that not even death can stop his creepy obsession with Missy and getting that prom dance. Unfortunately, now a zombie, Johnny faces the conundrum of how to control both his lust for human flesh and the equally off-putting lust Missy suddenly has for this walking corpse. Throw in some zany antics and parents who are way too supportive of Johnny’s new diet, and it’s impossible to predict where this movie is going, though Danielle tries by tossing out several excellent alternate endings, as well as a dubious new business proposition. This movie may be low on the spooks, but it’s got wackiness to spare so Sam gives it at least five severed-thumbs up.
This week Danielle kicks off our first ever Spook Retorts with the 2005 horror movie House of Wax. On their way to a football game a group of college friends camp overnight on a deserted stretch of road. Though a putrid smell emanates from the woods, they inexplicably stay overnight, and in the morning find one of their cars has been sabotaged. The only place to find help is the nearby town containing the 100% creepy Trudy’s House of Wax. That may sound like the setup to the most generic horror movie ever, and it is, but this movie quickly goes off the rails with the delightful addition of encasing people alive in molten wax. Sam can’t understand how the evil wax-working brothers can be everywhere at once, Danielle can’t remember any of the characters, referring to them solely by their actors’ names, and neither of them has any idea how long it takes to make a wax figure. Danielle gives this movie a solid 6.5 spooks out of 10.