Tag: Breihan Dryden

Scary Stories and whatnot

Breihan Dryden, A&E Correspondent

I, like many other children, grew up reading the 1981 children’s horror classic “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.” 

I, like many other children, developed a love of horror fiction (and I’m pretty sure night terrors) from this collection of folk horror, coupled with its delightfully grotesque illustrations. 

In 2016, the world learned that Oscar winning director Guillermo del Toro would be producing/co-writing an adaptation of the original story and I couldn’t be happier. “Seriously, the guy who made the folk horror classic ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and produced the absolutely chilling ‘The Orphanage’ is making this?” my excited horror geek mind asked. “What could possibly go wrong?” 

Fast forward four years and add acclaimed horror director Andre Ovredal (“example,” “example”) into the mix and we finally get to gaze upon the glorious teen horror that they have brought us.

Honest to God, I’m just happy that this film got made and is pretty good. 

Set in the late 60s, “Scary Stories” tells the tale of three friends and a crush cursed by the spooky kid killer Sarah Bellows. 

The kids irritate some bullies on Halloween and then hide in the car of this dude at a drive-in. After the bullies are asked to leave, the kids decide to go have a look at the old Bellows place, because it’s supposedly haunted, ya dig? It is haunted by the one and only Sarah Bellows, who was supposedly locked up in her basement following the death of some kids she would read to, through her wall. She hanged herself and now her ghost cries out, wishing only to read to the children from her book of scary stories to tell in the dark.

This is a movie best seen almost completely blind. If you’re like me and saw the posters and watched only the first trailer, then you’ll thoroughly dig this. 

From what I’ve heard, all the other trailers kind of spoil the movie rotten and that’s a darn shame, because the best thing this movie has going for it are the monsters and how they play in to each character’s life. Seriously, the monsters in this are absolutely eerie and lead to some of the most well-crafted scenes of terror I’ve seen since “Hereditary.” 

That’s not to say that this is some crazy horror classic, it isn’t. Ultimately, it’s teen horror exploitation at its most nostalgic. But it’s well-directed, with some fantastic shots and brilliant atmosphere provided by the film’s 1960s Halloween aesthetic. 

Should you go see “Spooky Tales Being Spoke of at Night?” Yes. Good God, yes. 

Give this movie all your money so we can get a sequel.

Mercy Black, more like mercy whack

Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer

Thousands of years ago into the future, the year was 2014 and two pre-teens thought it was a cool idea to lure their friend into the woods and stab her to appease a fictional creepypasta known as “Slenderman” (or as I like to call him, SlenDaddy Long Arms). Why do I bring this up? Well, my dear reader, this is basically the plot of the 2019 horror film Mercy Black. Obviously, this might come across as being in poor taste to some people. I find it a bit odd that this movie could be considered far more offensive to the OG victim’s family, yet the actual Slenderman movie (that shares surprisingly little to do with actual crime) was subject to a crap ton of controversy when it was finally crapped out by Sony, but I digress. My point? “Is this in poor taste” isn’t something I generally consider when reviewing a film. No, “Mercy Black” isn’t a bad movie because of what it’s based on, it’s bad because it just kind of sucks.

Seriously, I was actually interested in this movie when it popped up on Netflix outta nowhere a couple of weeks ago. It looked like the Slenderman movie that I always wanted. Sure it wasn’t *actually Slenderman, but the title character of the film, the aforementioned Mercy Black, looked cool and it didn’t look like your average “is the monster real or is the crazy person jUsT cRaZy?” horror movie. It’s kind of disappointing to watch it and find out that, yeah, it’s just a bland, milk toast, and cliché-ridden direct to video (VOD, actually) horror movie, complete with creepy kids, lame jump scares, exposition dumps, and every adult acting like an actual, literal baby. Now excuse me while I re-use the same review format from my Us review, because I’m tired and I wanna go to bed.

So what did you like?” Well, something I thoroughly dig is the look and use of color in this movie. Reds and blues permeate throughout and the whole film has a really solid look. Lots of cool shots are scattered about the film and there was only one CGI shot that I could see. Yes, that means that “Mercy Black” is chock full of some pretty decent practical effects. Mercy herself is a real, physical presence in the film….kind of. More on that in a second. Some other things that are decent: the editing….uh, the soundtrack? Maybe? It’s a pretty decent soundtrack.

Sooooo what didn’t you like?” Pretty much everything else. The acting is dodgy, the story makes no sense, the film doesn’t follow its own rules, and what is perhaps the most egregious problem this movie has, it’s just sooooooooooooooo boorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. Forreals though, homie. The pacing of this film constantly chugs back and forth between breezing through what seem to be important moments, just to spend fifteen minutes with people we don’t care about, doing things we don’t care about, in places that don’t matter. Plot convenience? This movie has loads of that, too. Since when does the creepy son of the sister of the crazy lady have a fat best friend? From the earlier scenes of him at school, it implies that if he isn’t bullied, he at least stays away from other kids. So why is he hanging out with someone now? Oh yeahhhhh, it’s because we need fatty to be in this (admittedly cool torture scene). Also, don’t get mad because I’m calling him fatty; a good number of people in this movie (including lard lad and Dwight from The Walking Dead) are straight up Dicks, like my good friend Richard.

Is Mercy Black a good movie? Oh god no. Didn’t you read the last paragraph? No, Mercy Black is a couple of steps above bottom of the barrel Netflix trash like American Poltergeist II, 13/14 Cameras, The Hatred, or Cam. At least it has those few steps, though. Besides, it’s still leagues better than the actual Slenderman movie. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to turn Slenderman into a f——- tree??!

Mercy Black gets 4 Golden Taylors out of 10

Us is… a weird one

Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer

I would like to start this review with a quote from my mother.

What the f— did I just watch?

Back in 2017, comedian Jordan Peele shocked the world by releasing a really, really solid horror film called Get Out. While some hailed this film as a masterpiece (it even scored the man an Oscar) and others thoroughly despised the film, I sat firmly in the “Yeah, it was pretty good.” category. The film went on to make a stupid amount of money on a relatively low budget and naturally, people were incredibly curious to see what Mr. Peele would do next. Fast forward to 2019 and we can finally view the fruits of his creative labor and boy, it sure is something. It is so much something, I honestly don’t really know what to think about it.

Much like Get Out, people have already started calling this film a modern masterpiece and I am of the opinion that those people are A.) Not very well versed in the horror genre (of which Peele has made it incredibly known that this film is a horror film). Or, B.) They see this movie as a political tool they can use to pander to the black community by way of the bigotry of low expectations. That’s not to say that Us is a film of low quality, it isn’t. Neither is it me saying that Jordan Peele is a bad/incompetent writer or director, he isn’t. He is, however, still pretty new to the horror genre and has a few missteps in his films. Sorry to get political for a moment but unfortunately, you can’t talk about this film without getting political. On to the actual review!

“So what did you like about the movie, Breihan?” Well, I actually dig quite a lot about this movie. It has a very solid look to it, specifically through its use of color and the fantastic cinematography from Mike Gioulakis, specifically during the entire opening segment. The soundtrack by Michael Abels is also pretty fantastic. From eerie chants, to jarring percussive blasts, to a wonderfully creepy rendition of the song “I Got 5 On It”, the score as a whole is as the kids say, “solid af”. Some other things I liked were the family dynamic of our main characters, some genuinely laugh out loud moments, Tim Heidecker in general, and (most of) the performances.

“What about the things you didn’t like?” For starters, it isn’t scary, save for one really well executed jump scare. That’s not say there aren’t some good atmospheric build ups, but they never go anywhere. Something else, is that this film is soaked in 80’s film and horror references. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but Jesus Christ, I would say that this film and its dialogue is about 70% comprised of references to 80’s horror. Granted, it has a purpose within the story, I just personally think that the way Peele handled it was fairly lazy. Up top I mentioned that most of the acting was good and that still holds true, but there are two very glaring issues that I have with the, um, “mouth noises” of certain characters (you’ll understand if you see the movie). Specifically, I have a problem with the doppelganger “mouth noises” of Gabe and Adelaide Wilson. While actress Lupita Nyong’o has gone on record saying that she spent a good chunk of time learning how to create her choppy vocal performance without damaging her vocal chords and I can respect that, I also think it sounds reallllllly dumb. As for Winston Duke, I don’t know if he didn’t really understand what was wanted of him or if JP was just like “Nah man, that primal yell is going to sound super scary”, but Christ, it just doesn’t work in the slightest. Again, there are story reasons for why the characters sound the way they do, I just think the results themselves are awful.

The reason why I started the review with a quote from my mother was because it perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this movie. I didn’t hate it by any means, but it’s not the spectacular masterpiece that people are touting it as. Do I think you should see this film? Definitely. Hell, I’m going to watch it again, but I’m going to wait until I can get it at RedBox for a dollar. I suggest you do the same.

Us gets 6 golden Taylor’s out of 10

Evil Dead is evil indeed

Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer

Over the past week, I have taken it upon myself to show my fiancé the Evil Dead trilogy. The trilogy is made up of The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn, and Army of Darkness and, in my humble opinion, they make a rock solid trio of horror, comedy, and high concept fantasy. While she overall enjoyed the series, she pointed something out that I’ve never really given much thought to. That being that The Evil Dead is the only film in the series that seeks out to be a straight up horror film. Not that this is necessarily a detriment to the series. Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness are fantastically gory flicks that throw all of their budgets at the wall to see what sticks, but admittedly, there is a rather large disconnect between the self-contained, micro budgeted first film and its higher budgeted sequels. This week, let’s take a look at the gross, unnerving mess that is 1981’s The Evil Dead.

Throughout the 1970’s, frequent collaborators Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, and Scott Spiegel cut their filmmaking teeth on making low budget, super 8mm short films, mostly of the slapstick variety. During this time, Sam and Bruce decided that they wanted to make a hyper gory exploitation horror film, so they went out to a friend’s cabin and shot Within the Woods, which was a prototype to The Evil Dead. While some things would change, such as the inclusion of an ancient Indian burial ground being the source of the evil and Bruce Campbell being the antagonist (although this would later be reused as a plot point in Evil Dead II), the basic structure was there: a group of friends go out to a cabin in the woods for a good time and end up unleashing an ancient evil that proceeds to decimate the group. After securing a screening in a local Michigan theatre playing before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Within the Woods was a local hit and led to Sam wanting to juice it up and turn it into a feature length film. With a goal in mind, a budget scraped together, and a cabin secured in Tennessee, the mostly group of filmmakers set off to see their vision through.

After a shoot that could only be described as “grueling”, Sam and Co. were finally ready to unleash their creation out into the world. And what a creation it is. The Evil Dead is an exercise in budget filmmaking done right. The film has a very kinetic energy behind it that is always building up the idea that something is constantly watching this group. The moon is always being shrouded by thick smoke, fog is constantly spewing from the ground, and the woods themselves have become living, breathing creatures. How does the group handle the messed up things happening to and around them? Well, about as well as you and your friends would, which is to say, not very well. People bicker and make dumb decisions, but never at any point do you actively want these people to die. Unfortunately, the Kandarian demons that have taken to possessing these kids have different plans in store. The characters are beat up, thrown around, possessed, un-possessed, and one girl even gets raped by one of those ye ye trees. Through the use of over the top sound design and viciously icky practical effects, you can feel each and every little thing that the characters have happen to them, and it truly is glorious.

The Evil Dead is a film that every aspiring filmmaker should watch, because it gives one hope that with enough drive and the right people around you, anything is possible. Do you think that Mr. Raimi and his crew thought that their little exploitation film would go on to be one of the most well regarded horror films ever created? Probably not. But hell, they gave it their everything and it totally shows.

The Evil Dead gets 9 Golden Taylor’s out of 10.

Suspiria is a remake that forgets the original

Breihan Dryden, A&E Writer

Wayyyyy back in the yesteryear of 2008, director Luca Guadagnino somehow convinced Italian horror master Dario Argento (probably via a dump truck of money) to let him option off the rights to his magnum opus Suspiria. The original Suspiria was released in 1977 and became a grindhouse hit, what with its quick pace, gorgeous lighting/sound, dubbing, and mysterious story about a coven of witches working out of a dance academy in Italy. While the original film isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it still manages to be a fast paced little horror movie with style to spare. So of course the remake threw all out that out that window and replaced it with a drab look, artsy fartsy editing, bland acting, and a three hour runtime. Also, it has Tilda Swinton. Lots of Tilda Swinton.

Let’s start with Mrs. Swinton, shall we? Not only is she the head of the dance troupe, Madame Blanc, but she also plays the head of the witch coven (The Three Mothers) Mother Helena Markos AND Dr. Joseph Klemperer, who is the psychiatrist of one of a former dancer who has now gone missing. Got all that? Now, before the film came out, it was leaked that Swinton was going to be playing a dual role, one of which being an elderly man (Dr. Klemperer). Both Swinton and Guadagnino came out and called this fake news and maintained that the character was played by an actual German psychiatrist by the name of Lutz Ebersdorf. But oh man, it turns out that the old dude who looks like Tilda Swinton in old man makeup was actually *drum roll*, Tilda Swinton in old man makeup. “But Breihan, why are you getting all butt hurt about Tilda Swinton playing a man? Is It BeCaUsE yOu’Re SeXiSt??!” Well you see, dear fictional person complaining about a real person complaining, It’s not that I care that a woman is playing a man, it’s that it’s a pointless casting decision that could have easily been changed to just have the character be female. Besides, T-Swint (as I will now exclusively refer to her as such) doesn’t even pull the performance off. In fact, she doesn’t pull ANY of her performances off. She’s bland, uninspired, and reeks of *insert snobby actor voice* an actor that is acting. The rest of the cast doesn’t do anything interesting, either. We have Chloe Grace Moretz being wasted in an extremely minor role, the chick from Fifty Shades of Grey being about as charismatic as a leather studded whip that was left out in the rain, and a handful of generic dance girls. Sure, there are other characters, but they don’t matter. Nothing matters. This movie sucks.

Alright, now that I’ve had a chance to take a deep breath and jam out to some Goblin, let’s discuss how this film acts as a remake. It sucks. Sorry, allow me to go into a bit more detail. The film stays in the same year, that being 1977, and remains to be a story about an American girl unraveling the mystery surrounding this dance academy and the witches that run it. Other than that, the film changes its setting from Italy to Germany (just so that we can have an ultimately pointless side story involving the German Autumn) and replaces the neon drenched color scheme of the original with a drab, lifeless look that is devoid of primary colors. It’s not like this remake doesn’t have its own identity and look, because it most certainly does and I can respect that, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Another drastic change is that of the music. While the original film had a very proggy, eclectic soundtrack performed by the band Goblin, the new film is scored by Thom York of Radiohead fame. The new soundtrack gets a solid “meh”. It’s just sort of there, meandering about in the background. I get that remakes don’t have to be shot-for-shot like the original, after all, that’s how we got that awful Psycho remake with Vince Vaughn, but this feels like it was made in spite of the original film, and that doesn’t sit well with me, no sir.

All in all, skip this movie. By all means, if you’re a fan of the original film and are curious to see how this turned out, go for it. But for anyone who has never heard of Suspiria (I assure you that most people haven’t) do yourself a favor and pick up a Blu-ray of the original. Trust me, it’ll be a much more entertaining time for