Thursday, January 19, 2017


Happy 2017!!! Last year was the best year for Fishmuffins of Doom. I posted the most of any year and I have more readers than ever. If you are a new reader, I'd like to welcome you and if you have been reading a while, thank you so much. I write because I love it and having people read and respond has been very awesome.

In the future, I'd like to return to books a little more. I feel like I reviewed so many more movies this year because work has shortened my time for reading. If you'd like to see particular content or totally love something or totally hate something, please e-mail me or comment.

I haven't posted lately because of work and being super sick these past couple of weeks, but I'm gearing up for Women in Horror Month in February where I hope to post at least once a day. You can check out other Women in Horror Month happenings at the official website. See you in a bit!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Holiday Horror: Holidays

* Valentine's Day

Maxine, AKA Maxie Pad by horrible bullies, is an introverted girl in love with her swim coach. Said horrible bullies make her life hell by constantly mocking her and even pushing her off the high dive. Maxine gets the last laugh as she exacts her revenge. This segment is a strong beginning for the anthology. It's gorgeous with bright, 80's neon colors and striking imagery including over the top reactions and slow motion reactions. The plot and style bring to mind other horror films like Carrie and The Craft. Maxine barely says anything, but manages to be a very sympathetic character. The ringleader bully could not be more odious, especially when she seems totally oblivious to the mental and emotional torture she inflicts. The gym teacher is frustrating, especially watching as a teacher, when he allows this extreme bullying to go on. The ending is too abrupt, but it's gratifying and gory.

* St. Patrick's Day

In Ireland, a young teacher tries to connect with a contrary red headed child named Grainne. Grainne gives the teacher her deepest wish for a baby, but with a dark twist. The teacher is so ernest and sweet that I don't want anything bad to happen to her. When the type of baby is revealed, it's a bit heavy handed, especially after all the spiral imagery to come before it. I loved the development of the story and the ending. The teacher decides to carry her baby as it is to term despite everyone urging otherwise, which is important as she exercising her bodily autonomy. Although the baby looks ridiculous, she loves it as it is and an enjoyable film. Grainne was amazing because she never said a word, but had very intense looks and a creepy as hell smile.

* Easter

This segment addresses confusion with Jesus and the Easter bunny during Easter. A little girl asks her mother about it and receives a muddle response. Later that night, she catches a horrifying amalgam of these two figures in one: a bunny with a man's body, a crown of thorns, a gash in his side, and stigmata in his hands. The chilling ending brings up some questions about pushing faith onto children and the effects it might have on them. It's another wonderful performance by a child actor and a very creepy segment.

* Mother's Day

A woman terminated nearly 20 pregnancies and gets pregnant every time she has sex. Her doctor suggests she go to a fertility ceremony since modern medicine won't help. The woman decides to go and receives a chilly response since the rest of the women are struggling to conceive. The fertility group women kidnap her and force her to bring her pregnancy to term, keeping her docile with as much drugs as they can safely give her. The forced pregnancy is completely terrifying to me. The situation seems to be developing and then it ends abruptly and oddly. It has a lot in common with the St. Patrick's Day segment and seems odd to be in the same film.

* Father's Day

A young woman receives a tape from her dead father that leads her to find him again. She's elated that he's alive, but so angry at her mother for lying. The tape leads her to places she remembers from her childhood and even hears her younger self on the tape as her father walks the same route. This story keeps you guessing and builds tension right until the end. Unfortunately, the ending isn't as good as the build up and disappoints. Jocelin Donahue's emotional performance elevates the segment.

* Halloween

Shame on Kevin Smith. Halloween is such a cool holiday and it was wasted on this stupid and juvenile story. Cam girls are exploited by their director as he forces them to work on Halloween. The director really lays on the misogynistic comments thick. The women take revenge in a disgusting fashion that doesn't even make sense. The ending implies that they will continue on exploiting other cam girls, making this "empowering" story even more horrible and completely the opposite. I find it sad that his own daughter stars in the short. I will definitely examine future Kevin Smith films more closely if this is how he's going to write.

* Christmas

A pathetic father who waited until the last minute to buy the latest VR gadget for his son;s Christmas gift. The clerk gave the last item to another man, who has a heart attack just as he's getting into the car. Instead of helping the man get his dropped pills, he steals the gadget and goes home to his domineering, cold wife. The VR device shows the father more about himself and some shocking revelations about his wife. Seth Green is always awesome, but this character is such a spineless worm. The ending is very Tales from the Crypt, but is left open ended.

* New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve, a serial killer finds a date and hopes this one will be different. His date is much more similar to him than he expected. The two major reveals were surprisingly gory. The serial killer is a little too over the top in comparison to his date, especially with his brown colored teeth. While this was kind of a weak one to end on, I enjoyed it.

After every segment, a beautiful card for each holiday is opened before the next one. It was a nice way to tie them all together. Overall, Holidays is pretty uneven and many of the segments had weak endings. Some had some interesting ideas, most notably Easter and Father's Day. I would recommend for a watch, but not enough for a repeated viewing.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Holiday Horror Short Films Part 3

* Rare Exports (2003)

Rare Exports Inc. (2003) from Woodpecker Film on Vimeo.

This short film has little in common with the full length version it would become, but it has some fun concepts. An elite team of hunters captures wild Father Christmases who are powerful and dangerous. Over months of training and conditioning, this wild creature becomes a Father Christmas who will make children very happy, leading to the ending of the full length film. I especially liked the Danny Elfman-esque score that makes it seem much sweeter than it is. This version is a lot more sinister without Pietari.

*  Rare Exports: The Official Safetly Instructions 2005

Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions (2005) from Woodpecker Film on Vimeo.

If you are receiving one of these rare exports, you must follow a series of rules so as not to revert the Father Christmas back to his savage roots. Rules include no smoking, no swearing, and no drinking. These experts demonstrate how the Father Christmas will behave in a controlled environment that still seems quite dangerous. I loved seeing how these seemingly callous experts do mourn the passing of the Father Christmases they civilize and train. Pietari is in this segment and adds that touch of innocence and passing on the family business to a younger generation.

* The Winter Stalker

The voice over is what makes this short effective. It's sleazy, creepy, and unnerving with an unexpected ending.

Any shorts that I missed? Comment below!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Holiday Horror Short Films Part 2

* Do You See What I See

This short starts out with snarky Sloane as she gears herself up for her high strung sister Jessica's ugly sweater party. Jessica is in fine form as she bosses everyone around and guilts them at the same time so her party can be perfect. A slasher killer stalks the party goers, first hiding in the basement and then killing as many as possible. The twist at the end definitely could use much more explanation and I argue that no one would put on someone else's glasses, but it has interesting implications.

* A Very Zombie Holiday

If you even wondered how to balance the zombie apocalypse with being the perfect 50's style party host, this helpful instructional video is for you. I love how the undead are treated as an annoying nuisance rather than the much more serious threat they are. My favorite segment is when they talk about Christmas carolers and if one of their annoying group was shot, everyone would think it's an accident. The zombie hiding in the back plus the carolers staring incredulously while she talks about "accidentally" killing them makes it even more hilarious.

* Santa

This one goes from sweet to horrifying very quickly. I especially love how the movement of Santa is altered to be so unnerving and creepy. This one conveys everything with visuals and music because there are no speaking lines whatsoever. Very impressive.

Did I miss your favorite holiday horror short? Comment below!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Holiday Horror: Short Films Part 1

* Evil Santa

Santa is pretty creepy on his own. He knows when you're sleeping, awake, bad, or good. This short takes it to the next level. What if bad children got more than coal as punishment for their bad acts? The creepy, slowed down version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is a particularly creepy touch. This glimpse into Santa's grisly workshop and his creation is definitely memorable.

* Elf on the Shelf

If you think the Elf on the Shelf is as creepy as I do, this short is for you. The short and concise story punishes the selfish and rewards the ones in the holiday spirit.

* There Shall Come Angels

The first half of this movie is the heartwarming stuff of Hallmark cards and cheesy made for TV Christmas movies when a group of carolers magically provide a family money and presents for the holiday when they were in debt and not able to celebrate. They move on to someone not so into the holiday spirit and show what happens when kindness and the Christmas spirit is rejected.

Any holiday horror shorts that you loved? Comment below!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Holiday Horror: Treevenge

Treevenge from jasoneisener on Vimeo.

I stumbled onto the short film Treevenge and I thought it would be awful. It kind of is, but in the most awesome way possible. The theme from Cannibal Holocausts start the film, which is a nice reference. It features sentient trees that can talk to each other, but not to humans. At first, they are living in a beautiful forest with not a care in the world until savage humans come in and rip them from their habitat. One even tramples a sapling. In the truck, the trees are lamenting their fate, bashing against the walls, and crying.

The process of preparing them for sale and weeding out the ones not fit for selling split them apart is sad and tears them away from their saplings. The trees speak in hilarious little squeaky voices with subtitles letting us know what they say. Everything the humans do looks brutal, over the top, and cruel even though the actions are fairly mundane. The tree lot is so loud with hundreds upon hundreds of trees frantically speaking, giving it an entirely different vibe than we experience in reality. The people who work are the worst ever, treating the trees terribly and cursing at them and each other.

The Treevenge comes when the trees have had enough and attack people on Christmas. The film follows a few different groups of people and their weird, dysfuctional relationships and Christmas traditions. The catalyst is a live new coverage of lighting up a giant Christmas tree with over the top lights and fireworks. It's the last straw for these poor tortured creatures and the resulting carnage is impressive. Some trees go for the direct kill while others go for pets first. One tree kills an amorous couple by threading branches through their faces and forcing them to kiss. They even kill a child for revenge of their own young. The ending is amazing with blood straining the pristine snow while people are still fighting against their Christmas trees in the streets.

I laughed so much during this film. I loved the blood, gore, humor, interesting kills, and low budget charm. I will definitely watch this every Christmas season. It's only 16 minutes long, so give it a watch. If you like over the top, irreverent, comedic horror, this is definitely for you. It reminds of the scene in Metalocalypse when the Dethklok members muse about how metal Christmas trees really are.

My rating: 4.5/5

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Holiday Horror: Calvaire

Marc Stevens is a mediocre singer, performing for old folks homes and other not very prestigious venues to get by. Set to perform at a Christmas concert, he takes his van, which he lives in, but runs into trouble on the way when it breaks down in the middle of a forest in a rural town. A kindly innkeeper named Mr. Bartel offers to help him out and fix his car. Marc goes on a walk, sees some disturbing actions of the locals, and returns, only to see his van destroyed. Bartel knocks him out. Marc wakes up dressed as woman while Bartel only addresses him as Gloria. His experience of horror is only beginning.

I went into this movie not knowing anything but the title. Calvaire is a very odd film that isn't like anything I've seen. It's unnerving, uncomfortable, and unpredictable. It starts with Marc Stevens, king of cheesy pop music, performing at an assisted living facility for women. After his performance, one of the elderly women propositions him, but quickly blames him for provoking her and herself for being promiscuous when he confusedly rejects her. The nurse who pays him also flirts with him and includes nude photos of herself with his payment. This small glimpse into the all female world of this home serves to reflect the all male society he stumbles into.

One of the director's inspirations is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which shows in the bizarre small town Marc finds himself in. There are absolutely no women and the only one ever mentioned is Bartel's absent wife, Gloria, infamous for being unfaithful and leaving. Bartel seems like the most normal person in the town at first. He seems genuinely nice and helpful while the others seem really off or are discovered committing depraved acts with a pig. When his true nature is revealed, he dresses Marc as Gloria and addresses him as such. I figured others in the town would save Marc and shatter Bartel's delusion, but they are all on the same page that Marc is Gloria.

This town has a weird hive mind, it seems. None of their delusions are ever wrong and all of them affirm each other's delusions. The biggest example of this is the most chilling scene in the film where the men dance together. This isn't conventional dancing, but an awkwared, rhythmless hopping and stiff arm waving to dissonant, windy piano music. What follows is Bartel's torture of Marc while Marc continually tries to escape. These scenes sometimes surprised me with their brutality and occasional nonchalance. Marc ceased to be a person to the town and became whatever the desired, just like in the assisted living home. Calvaire also means Calvary, giving a relgious or cult flavor to the town and their "adoration" of Gloria and Marc's crucifixion. I felt this aspect could have been a little more apparent by either making the crucifixion scene more important. It felt jarring and bizarre, but over quickly.

Calvaire makes an impression with its deep unease. While it has some interesting scenes, it was not a film I enjoyed. I felt the main source of horror is homophobia, specifically the fear of a man being treated as a woman. It feels reactionary and like the horror genre has progressed past this type of horror even in 2004 when it was made. It also seems like the film hinges on dislike of Marc and sympathy for Bartel when I didn't feel at all. Marc may not be an amazing character and way too full of himself, but he doesn't deserve to be tortured. Bartel may seem nice, but his abhorrent actions kill any sympathy I would have had for him. Overall, Calvaire has some exceptional scenes, but doesn't impress or bring anything new to the genre.

My rating: 1.5/5