When I was eight years old, I went on a big family trip to Disney World with my parents, my aunts and uncle, and my grandparents. For a long time, I was the only child in a family full of adults and was therefore heavily doted upon. Sometimes I was jokingly referred to as the Chosen One.
Being a spoiled child at the happiest place on Earth, we spent our vacation going on all the rides we could. Space Mountain, the Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean before it was a movie, The Tower of Terror – I was having the time of my life.
We eventually came upon a ride that I would never forget – the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. Going into this, I knew it was going to be a scary ride, but I’d seen Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, horror lite for kids. I’d also gone on some of the scarier rides at the park, like The Haunted Mansion and the Tower of Terror. Whatever Disney was going to throw my way, I was ready. I was tough enough to take it.
For anyone who did not go to DisneyWorld between 1995 and 2003, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was an enclosed-theatre experience based off of the Alien movies. It had a soft opening at the end of 1994, but the CEO at the time, Michael Eisner, felt it wasn’t intense enough. They spent another six months developing the attraction before it was officially opened in mid-1995. By the time I arrived in 2000, it was more than intense enough.
The Alien Encounter
Basically, what happened was this:
You go into the attraction under the pretence that you’re at some cool intergalactic conference that’s being held to showcase this new teleportation technology created by an alien organization. Things seem hunky-dory enough. We then entered a circular room with a giant tube in the middle, spanning from the floor to the ceiling, and were strapped into chairs that were arranged in a circle around the tube. At this point, we’re told we’re going to witness a demonstration of this teleportation technology.
The demonstration goes terribly wrong, and a man-eating, terrifying alien is teleported into the chamber instead, breaking through the glass tube in the centre of the room. The lights in the room are flickering sporadically, only giving us flashes of what’s going on around us. The power goes out completely, and I. Lost. My. Mind.
Every logical thought left me. I forgot we were at DisneyWorld in a ride and fully believed there was an actual alien in the room with me. I never said I was a smart kid.
We can see a maintenance worker approach on the floor above us, speaking to us through the grate in the floor, telling us he will get the power back on as soon as possible. Fully believing everything that was happening was real, I screamed at the man, “WE’RE DOWN HERE!”
After I finish screaming for help, he is immediately mauled to death by the alien and his blood sprays in the faces of the audience members, myself included. We can hear the alien approach, the rumbling from its steps shaking our chairs. As it slowly stalked me from behind, I could feel its hot breath blowing against the back of my neck and its drool dripping onto my shoulder.
At the precise moment that the jets of air installed in the seats’ headrests were blowing warm air onto the audience’s necks, my dad took the opportunity to try and prank my aunt by unexpectedly grabbing her leg and roaring loudly. It had the intended effect and she screamed in terror.
I already thought everything happening was real, but hearing my aunt scream louder than anyone else in the theatre only confirmed to me that this was reality. I was hysterical.
I don’t particularly remember how they wrapped up the conflict, but eventually we were somehow saved from the carnivorous alien. As we exited the ride, I was still bawling inconsolably.
My grandfather was waiting for us outside the ride, opting not to join in on that particular attraction. When he saw me, his only grandchild stumbling outside, red-faced from the tears and panic he was furious. He scolded my mother for allowing me to go on such a scary ride, I think he even called her a jackass. (Which was a very big deal for my grandfather to do that.)
For the duration of the Alien Encounter, I genuinely, legitimately, truly believed I was going to die. It was only later when we got stuck on the It’s A Small World ride for 40 minutes that I wished I actually had.
Did you ever go on this ride before it was removed in 2003? Or are there any other overwhelmingly scary theme park rides you’ve experienced?
This morning, I was in the shower singing along to the soundtrack of one my all-time favourite musicals, Little Shop of Horrors, and lamenting to myself that my high school drama club never endeavoured to put it on. (Yeah, I know, I was really cool.)
I began to think to myself that there weren’t many horror musicals that I could name… Evil Dead the Musical and Sweeney Todd were the only others I could bring to mind off the cuff.
But wait! There’s more!
After doing a little research, there’s a handful of other horror musicals out there: apparently Phantom of the Opera is considered horror, Anna and the Apocalypse and Repo! The Genetic Opera are two I’ve heard of but never seen and embarrassingly, I completely forgot about the iconic Rocky Horror Picture Show. But, these are about it, there’s not a ton of horror musicals out there.
With this sad realization in mind, I thought I would propose a handful of horror musical adaptations that we really need.
Ginger Snaps: A Horror Musical
I would LOVE to see this (Canadian) story of awkward teenage puberty portrayed on stage! Two co-dependent, social outcast sisters are forced into conflict when one is bitten by a werewolf and begins to slowly transform.
Imagine this: at the climax of the story, the eponymous Ginger has fully transformed into a werewolf and is stalking her sister, Brigitte, through their basement. Just think of the haunting harmonies, (I’m thinking something akin to First Aid Kit’s gorgeous harmonizing) we could have between the two as Brigitte is forced to choose between saving herself and saving the only person who truly understands her.
The Thing: A Horror Musical
The Thing is one of my all-time favourite horror movies and in my opinion, is essential viewing for any horror fan. I began to think about what kind of music The Thing would feature if it were to be translated into a stage musical, and my first thought was a rock opera, however, that quickly changed when I found this hilarious and frankly, genius video by the user legolambs on Youtube.
Alien: A Horror Musical
Can you imagine seeing the chestburster scene onstage? I have no idea how they would facilitate that but I know the Stratford Festival could swing it if they really wanted to! And I know what you’re thinking – will there be singing Xenomorphs?
I had a lot of fun visualizing what horror movies could be turned into musicals. Do you have any fun ideas? Are there any musicals you think I forgot? Let me know with a comment!
The Stand is a true epic novel that follows the rise of a fast-spreading, highly fatal respiratory virus that devastates the world’s population, the aftermath of the virus including the remaining populations’ efforts to rebuild, and an overarching theme of the fight of good versus evil. When I read this during the sunny summer of 2018, this was all speculative fiction. People were still shaking hands, taking flights across the world, and sauntering happily through life maskless. The coronavirus had yet to come to fruition. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
Fast-forward to now, it’s March 2021 and we are one year into a pandemic that has effectively halted the world we once knew. The rates of daily COVID-19 infections are bouncing between three and four thousand and my province of Ontario has just implemented its 500th stay-at-home order.
This new miniseries has been in the works for a while, long before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped people from drawing parallels between the story and our reality.
Luckily for us, the coronavirus has not been as devastating as Captain Trips – it’s deadly, but at least it isn’t 99%-of-the-population-dies deadly, decimating the world’s population in a matter of months by the flu-like pandemic.
Creepy Harold is a highlight in this miniseries
One definite standout in this adaptation is Owen Teague, who has actually been in a few Stephen King adaptations, playing bully Patrick Hockstetter in It and It Chapter Two, as well as Jordan in Cell. In The Stand, he plays the role of Harold Lauder, our post-apocalyptic teen incel. He manages to make Harold both wholly repugnant and at times sympathetic, leaning into Harold’s relatable desires for love and acceptance as well as his creepy obsession with Frannie, his former babysitter. We see Harold emulating a picture of Tom Cruise, smiling broadly and giving the finger guns to the mirror, attempting to produce the same wide, fake smile to convince both himself and everyone else that he’s cool and desirable. It’s simultaneously sad and unsettling.
When Harold and Frannie are the only two people left alive in their hometown, Harold sees this as a twist of fate – Frannie would never choose to be with him under normal circumstances, but given he’s seemingly the last man on earth, she doesn’t have many other options. Once they come across other survivors and it becomes clear that Frannie is interested in Stu, the story’s protagonist, Harold starts to spiral. We see the depths he’s willing to go to and the lies he’s willing to believe to get what he wants.
But our primary villain is… OK
Our main antagonist is Randall Flagg, a villain who crops up in various works of Stephen King’s, although sometimes under other pseudonyms. Randall Flagg is a representation of evil incarnate, and in many of Stephen King’s novels he is referred to as a demonic, a literal physical representation of hell. He first appeared in The Stand, but has been seen in the Dark Tower Series, The Eyes of the Dragon, and Hearts of Atlantis, among others.
In the TV and film adaptations I’ve seen, I’ve found that Randall Flagg never really gets an accurate, compelling portrayal or that the full impact of his role as an antagonist is never really felt. In the Dark Tower, we’re given a slightly more consistent picture of Randall Flagg’s powers, but personality-wise, it’s basically just Matthew McConaughey wearing all black.
In the 2020 miniseries, Randall Flagg’s power and influence feels inconsistent. At times, we see how powerful he is, like in this scene showing how he facilitated the spread of Captain Trips. But at other times, he feels more like a petulant child throwing tantrums when things don’t go his way, rather than a demonic entity threatening the existence of the Earth’s remaining survivors.
Brass tacks, you should watch The Stand
My thoughts overall on the new miniseries? It’s worth a watch, but the book is better. I haven’t seen the 1994 adaptation yet – but I’ll be checking it out to compare it to this new miniseries. Have you seen both? Tell me what you think in the comments!
For many people, scary movies aren’t fun. Whether it’s because they get too scared or think it’s a low-brow genre, they just can’t get into it. I can’t personally relate to this, but I’d like to extend a recommendation for folks who might want to branch out and try something horror-adjacent without being too scary or too Scooby-Doo level.
If you like comedy-horrors like Beetlejuice or What We Do In The Shadows, Vampires Vs. The Bronx should be your next watch. This kid-friendly, comedy-heavy, satirical condemnation of gentrification is funny, full of heart, and represents the neighbourhood as a home filled with culture and community.
Our movie opens on a Bronx nail salon, where salon owner Becky, played by Zoe Saldana, is giving a manicure to bubbly and blonde Vivian, who tells Becky she’s moved here after being priced out of her old neighbourhood. Becky tells her the same is happening in the Bronx, in fact, she has been offered a ton of money for her salon, so she is excitedly selling and Vivian will be her last manicure.
After she finishes Vivian’s manicure, real estate developer Frank Pollidori comes into Becky’s salon to finalize the sale. After she finishes signing the papers, a dark figure emerges from the back of the salon and attacks Becky, biting down on her neck while Pollidori watches uninterestedly.
The next day, a young teen named Miguel is biking around the neighbourhood putting up signs promoting a block party he’s organizing to help save the local bodega, which is like a second home to Miguel and his friends.
Their group consists of Miguel, also known locally as Lil Mayor for his constant efforts to help save their neighbourhood, Bobby, and Luis. The bodega is owned by the warm and paternal Tony, played by The Kid Mero, who you may know from the Showtime show Desus and Mero.
The boys go to a local Catholic school run by Father Jackson, played by Method Man.
They notice the local courthouse is going to be changed into apartments by the same company that took over Becky’s salon, Murnau, which has a symbol that looks suspiciously like Vlad the Impaler.
Miguel wants to disperse flyers around the courthouse but his friends run ahead to go to play Xbox at Tony’s bodega. As Miguel is putting flyers up, he notices a thin, long-haired, pale guy staring at him and whistling creepily, so he get on his bike and rides away. A valid decision.
Encounter with a vampire
Speeding around a corner, Miguel crashes his bike directly into Slim, a gang member, knocking a drink out of his hand and spilling it all over himself. He chases Miguel to a parking garage where he hides, when they both start to hear the same whistling from before. Still hidden, Miguel watches as the man from earlier approaches the Slim confidently and casually. Slim pulls a gun on the man, but he begins to control his mind, immobilizing him. The man kills Slim and Miguel sees that he is a vampire.
At the bodega, Bobby, Luis and Tony are all playing Xbox when Miguel races in, shouting in fear about the vampire, who then arrives in the doorway of the bodega, lingering awkwardly. Being a friendly business owner, Tony says, “Welcome to Primo Bodega.” The vampire enters and he and Tony engage in a stiff, weird chat as the boys hide behind the display. When he eventually leaves, they notice he has no reflection in the circular anti-theft mirror above the door.
Tony remarks to the boys that nobody’s going to care if Slim disappeared. “Why, because he’s a gang banger?” Bobby asks. “No, because he’s from the Bronx, like us.”
Eventually, in an effort to arm themselves to defend against the vampires, the boys scour their homes for garlic and crosses, and steal holy water from Father Jackson.
We discover that Vivian is a vampire, and she and the rest are in The Bronx to find a new home. She says she doesn’t want The Bronx to change – it’s easier for them to live somewhere that people’s disappearances aren’t investigated. Worst of all, she killed Tony. In an attempt to defend himself from Vivian, he had broken his prized possession, a bat used by Sammy Sosa to hit 60 home runs in one season.
Protecting The Bronx
At the movie’s climax, all the other vampires have been killed and Miguel and Bobby are cornered by Vivian. Bobby is weakened lying on the floor and Vivian is hypnotizing Miguel, about to go in for the kill. She tells him The Bronx is a shithole. As she’s about to bite him, a shout interrupts her – it’s dozens of Miguel’s neighbours and community members coming out of the woodwork, infuriated that she had the audacity to call their neighbourhood a shithole. They are immediately ready to throw down to defend the neighbourhood from her insults and vampiric gentrification. Miguel and Bobby’s moms, Luis’s auntie, Father Jackson in a really cute sweater, and the rest of the neighbourhood are all in attendance and armed for battle.
As they’re all squaring up against Vivian, they’re interrupted by two teen girls who casually stroll through the no-mans-land between them. They’re scrolling through Instagram and gossiping about an acquaintance’s shitty weave before they notice what’s going on around them.
“Who’s this bitch?”
“Iuno, but she ugly.”
Vivian attacks the girls but their neighbours intervene, defending the girls and the neighbourhood. They fight Vivian with little success, until Gloria throws one of her Timberlands at her, smacking her in the face.
Vivian grabs Bobby and holds him midair, threatening to break his neck if anyone approaches. She is about to bite Bobby and turn him into a vampire when Miguel charges towards her, riding his bike with Tony’s broken Sammy Sosa bat on the front like a jousting lance. He impales Vivian and she dies. The Bronx is saved, and Miguel quietly thanks Tony for the bat as the vampire crumbles into ash.
The Bronx is finally free of vampires
Days later, the kids and the whole neighbourhood are at the block party having a good time and we see a graffiti mural honouring Tony and the Primo Bodega. Gloria closes out the movie telling us that the neighbourhood is back to normal and safe again, and warning invaders not to try it in The BX.
So, yeah, I loved this movie. It’s not perfect of course – it offers a very simplified understanding of gentrification and its process, but it’s meant to be enjoyed by everyone, kids included. An in-depth explanation of the phenomenon may be better suited to a documentary or drama or something.
A love letter to a hometown
This film is a family-friendly, funny and sweet tribute to the culture in The Bronx while also being a damnation of the gentrification plaguing in the borough. One of the most beautiful things about this movie is that it depicts The Bronx as a tight-knit, culturally rich, vibrant place to live.
I’ve never lived in The Bronx, so I can’t personally vouch for the accuracy of this depiction, but it seems authentic, albeit a little sunnier than reality, perhaps. But isn’t that something we all want – to see our neighbourhoods, communities and selves illustrated in all our glory and authenticity?
If you haven’t already seen it, Vampires vs. The Bronx is available on Netflix. If you have seen it, let me know what you think with a comment!
I love a good monster movie. I don’t know what it is, but something about them just does it for me. Jurassic Park, Tremors, King Kong, Rampage, The Great Wall… Scratch that – I indiscriminately love monster movies, regardless of whether or not they’re any good. (I stand by my love of The Great Wall. It is pure nonsense and I love it both for the weird giant lizards and the absolutely batshit nature of the movie as a whole.)
I’ve enjoyed the recent incarnations of the King Kong and Godzilla movies, so you can imagine that I’ve really been looking forward to the release of Godzilla vs Kong. In my anticipation, I was recently doing a search on previous Godzilla movies and found an overwhelming online sentiment that the scariest Godzilla movie to date was Shin Godzilla (2016).
I’m an uncultured Westerner and I love trash
Before I fully delve into Shin Godzilla, I must share an embarrassing fact: I’ve only really seen the Hollywood versions of Godzilla, so I’m definitely no expert on kaiju films. For the uninitiated, like myself, “kaiju” can refer to both the genre of Japanese monster movies as well as the monsters themselves.
After settling in and watching the film, I think part of what makes Shin Godzilla the scariest of the genre is that it’s the most realistic in terms of what would likely happen if a giant, radioactive lizard monster began terrorizing one of the biggest cities in the world.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, has a damn clue of what’s going on, least of all the government.
Unlike Hollywood’s Godzilla, Shin Godzilla doesn’t give a shit about people and their well-being.
This Godzilla is kind of disgusting.
Let’s get into it.
Shin Godzilla doesn’t mess around with any preamble – the film starts out with a disaster in the Tokyo Bay. Investigating an abandoned boat in the bay, the coastguard discovers there’s been a leak in the Aqua-line, an underwater highway connecting both sides of the bay, and a deluge of blood comes crashing down on the cars inside.
The majority of Shin Godzilla focuses on the government and its inability to act quickly enough to mitigate the damage done by the monster. We watch this through the eyes of our protagonist, Yaguchi, a young government official with political aspirations. In the ministerial meetings, government officials are debating over the cause of the leak in the Aqua-line, suggesting it may be underwater volcanic activity, a hydrothermal vent, a submarine.
Yaguchi finds a viral video of an enormous creature submerging itself in the bay, but his coworkers tell him he’s making a mockery out of a ministerial meeting. At the same time, an enormous reptilian tail emerges from the water. Seeing this on the news, they’re forced to come to grips with the possibility that Yaguchi’s creature may be real.
The creature begins forcing its way down the tiny Nomi river like a bull in a china shop, its massive body displacing the water so it flows onto the streets, yachts and sailboats rolling helplessly in its wake.
The Prime Minister makes an announcement live on TV to reassure citizens not to fear the creature coming on land. They suspect the sheer weight of the animal may be too much for its legs and lungs and would be crushed upon beaching itself. He finishes his speech saying, “There is no danger of the creature coming ashore, please set your minds at ease.” As he finishes saying this, an official approaches him whispering.
The creature has come ashore
It is at this point that we get our first good look at the monster and it’s not quite what I expected. The expression on its face is reminiscent of someone who made a really embarrassing pun and is waiting for a laugh that will never come.
This is not the Godzilla I’m used to seeing, and while I would absolutely shit my pants if I saw this in real life, seeing it on screen didn’t have the intended effect I think it was meant to. Its doofy, slack-jawed, bug-eyed face isn’t what I’ve come to expect when I think of Godzilla.
As the creature waggles its poorly-configured body through the city, we see the source of the blood in the water and tunnel – every few steps, the creatures releases gallons and gallons of blood from waggling gills attached to its neck. It’s quite a sight to behold.
The government finally moves to evacuate Shinagawa as the creature lumbers through the region like the cat in Cinderella when it gets stuck in a sleeve.
Also, the creature seems… stupid? It helplessly flops around Shinagawa like a fish out of water, and somehow manages to scale its badly-proportioned body up the side of an apartment building, which then crumbles immediately under the animal’s enormous weight. This Godzilla doesn’t have an agenda, it just seems like a confused and scared animal lashing out, which ultimately makes it all the more realistic.
After crushing the apartment building, the monster stops for a moment, raises itself to its full height, and then slams itself back down onto the ground. It begins to shake violently, its body changing in a gory and bizarre display, and like Charmander into Charmeleon, it evolves into a different form that walks upright like a T-Rex.
Facing pressure from his cabinet and the American government, the Prime Minister is forced to make a decision to launch an attack and deploys helicopters to dispatch the creature. The helicopters approach and prepare to fire on the creature, but upon realizing citizens are still in close proximity to the monster and may be in danger, the attack is called off. The creature flops back down and recedes into the Tokyo Bay.
Yaguchi organizes a team of experts to examine what little information they have about the creature to see what they can learn and to make a contingency plan for the creature’s inevitable return.
The Arrival of Reinforcements
In response to the high levels of radiation in the city, the US Deputy Chief Assistant to the President and his aide have arrived to assist in the issue. The aide is the politically savvy and ambitious Kayoco Patterson, daughter of a US senator and also of Japanese descent. She meets with Yaguchi and enlists his help in locating Goro Maki, a former Japanese professor who defected to the US to work in the Department of Energy. In exchange, she offers him all the intel the Americans have on the creature.
It turns out, the boat found drifting in the bay at the beginning of the movie belonged to Goro Maki. Yaguchi gives Kayoco the files found on his boat and she gives him a file in exchange. The file’s codename is “Godzilla” and in Japanese characters, Goro Maki wrote “Gojira” on the file, a translation from his home on the fictional Odo Island meaning “god incarnate”.
They learn this whole situation was borne out of unregulated dumping of hazardous radioactive materials in the ocean that Godzilla has been feeding on. Goro Maki theorized the creature was an ancient form of marine life that fed on the radioactive waste, mutating it and developing the ability to adapt to life on land and sea.
To combat the creature, they decide they must try to cool its blood down with a coagulant to immobilize it. They call it their operation the Yaguchi Plan.
An exponentially more terrifying-looking Godzilla approaches the Sagami Bay, coming ashore. It has evolved again and is now double the size it was before entering the water. As the monster approaches Tokyo, the government becomes concerned about what may happen if Godzilla attacks a nuclear facility. As the Yaguchi Plan and the coagulant are not yet ready, the Prime Minister approves an attack to stop the creature before it can approach any metropolitan areas and spread radiation.
Machine guns and missiles make no visible impact. They make use of tank fire and begin launching rockets in an aerial assault on Godzilla as it approaches Tokyo. The rockets appear to be effective, and Godzilla begins to retreat.
A torrent of blood pours out of Godzilla as the bombs hit and we hear the iconic shriek we’ve all come to know and love. Badly injured and infuriated, Godzilla startsto glow. Its bottom jaw splits in two sections and it exhales an inferno of both radiation and actual fire onto the city. It shoots radioactive photon lasers out of the dorsal fins in its back and truly begins to unleash hell onto the city. You could almost say that he… goes nuclear.
After an evening of raging and expelling radiation across Tokyo, Godzilla is totally spent and takes a wee rest.
The next day, the country is reeling from the events of the night before. The Prime Minister is presumed dead as his helicopter was destroyed in the chaos of Godzilla’s fury. In radio and media, many are quick to compare the tragic events to the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This is actually a nod to why the Godzilla movies were created in the first place – as an allegory to the damage created by nuclear war and a damnation of the effects it has on the citizens who are placed in harm’s way.
Kayoco learns of another American airstrike planned against the monster, as they think it may travel to the US next. The scale of damage from the bomb will be 75 times stronger than the devastation of Hiroshima. In the order to drop a bomb on Tokyo, Kayoco has been ordered by her government to evacuate. She tearfully laments to Yaguchi that she does not want to see a third nuclear bomb dropped on her grandmother’s country.
Now, Yaguchi and his team of scientists and experts are in a race against time to finish developing and producing their coagulant before the bomb strike or Godzilla wakes. They rush to organize the production and shipping of the coagulant for as soon as the following day.
With Godzilla’s evolutionary and regenerative capabilities, there is worldwide fear that when it wakes it will develop wings and create mass worldwide devastation. Given these concerns, the Japanese government are warned – if Godzilla wakes, the strike will happen immediately.
Mass evacuations are underway and Yaguchi and his team are left to unravel the meaning of a cryptic chart Maki left behind. They realize that folding the chart like origami creates a molecular chart for converting elements in Godzilla’s body to energy that can sustain it.
Godzilla’s frozen state begins to crack.
Various Japanese government officials try to convince the acting PM to put the brakes on the thermonuclear missile and let them try the Yaguchi Plan before allowing the total devastation of Tokyo. Kayoco opts not to evacuate back to the US, choosing instead to stay in Japan and help oversee the Yaguchi Plan.
They launch the Yaguchi plan. They bomb the hell out of Godzilla with drones, and after it exhausts itself shooting radioactive photons and fire at the drones from it’s mouth, dorsal fins and tail, they deploy a platoon of cranes to administer to coagulant to freeze Godzilla’s blood.
After they’ve finally administered the full dose, Godzilla rises up and freezes solid. After the success of the mission, they learn they were only within an hour of the thermonuclear missile being deployed.
So, what does it all mean?
I don’t know about every other film in the kaiju genre, but this Godzilla movie is all about Japan saving itself. They had the option of deferring to the judgment of the UN and the US and allowing them to destroy Godzilla and all of Tokyo in the process – and were prepared to do so – but they wanted to try and save it.
Tokyo was most certainly majorly devastated by Godzilla’s rampage, but it’s nothing in comparison to the damage incurred by a thermonuclear missile. Tokyo and Japan as a whole still have a chance to rebuild. Yaguchi’s friend, Akasaka remarks to him, “This country was devastated before, but it rose from the ashes. It’ll do so again.”
As the movie draws to a close, we are brought into a close-up on the stiffened Godzilla. As the camera pans along its body, we reach the end of Godzilla’s tail and see human-like skeletons, frozen in the process of emerging from the tip of its tail, implying that Godzilla’s next evolution would propagate via fragmentation to make Godzilla-humanoid creatures to populate Earth and take over.
Watching this movie illuminated the fact that I have a very limited understanding of the kaiju genre, so I definitely have some catching up to do on some of the older Godzilla movies. That being said, I still love trashy monster movies and I’m definitely going to check out Godzilla vs. Kong when it’s released.
Do you like kaiju films? Do you have any recommendations on what I should watch next or write about? Drop me a comment and let me know!
Have you been comfortable and relaxed these last few months? Has the coronavirus pandemic been a breeze for you? If this describes you, here’s some fun horror content to immerse yourself in to make things worse and stress you out so you can fit in! (If this doesn’t describe you and this kind of post freaks you out, I highly suggest you watch some wholesome content instead. Amazon Prime has Bob’s Burgers which is as good as it gets in my opinion.)
I would be seriously remiss if I failed to mention the movie that brought the terms “pandemic” and “social distancing” to the forefront of public consciousness before it was forever seared into our brains this last year. Contagion parallels the COVID-19 crisis a little too closely for comfort, (the virus originates in China from contact with a bat) but comfort isn’t really what we’re all about here at The Hag!
Why you should watch this movie: instead of using the racist excuse of blaming the virus on China, we can blame it on Gwyneth Paltrow. If she hadn’t used her layover in Boston or Chicago or wherever to cheat on her husband, the virus wouldn’t have spread so quickly. Dammit, Gwyneth!
2. The Stand by Stephen King
A true classic! The Stand is a massive tome, but it is worth finishing. Another worldwide pandemic story, King takes us from the birth of the virus through to the decimation of the human population to the efforts of rebuilding society in the aftermath. It’s similar to the coronavirus in that its a respiratory illness, but this virus manifests like a common cold on steroids – your body overproduces mucus so rapidly you can’t keep up. Eventually you get so phlegmy you choke on your mucus and die. Pretty gross right?
Why you should read this book: This is what we’re talking about when we use the word “epic.” This book needs to be every bit as long as it is to accurately tell the whole story. Again, I don’t love King’s dialogue, but this is a truly one of his most iconic and best works.
3. Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay
At the start of the novel, our protagonist, Dr. Ramola Sherman, is mentally preparing herself for work at the hospital to combat a volatile new strain of the rabies virus when her college roommate Natalie shows up at her home. Natalie’s husband has been bitten and killed by a rabies-infected neighbour, Natalie has also been bitten herself, and to top it off she is eight months pregnant. The race is on as the women rush to get Natalie a rabies vaccination before it’s too late for her and the baby. While this is kind of more of a zombie novel, Ramola protests against the use of the term zombie throughout the book. She opts for more compassionate, medical, diagnostic terms instead – wanting to maintain that they are still people, but just sick.
Why you should read this book: It’s got a slightly different take on the whole zombie epidemic story – coming from the point of view of a medical professional, Ramola fights to save her friend and her baby while also maintaining her humanity. This book keeps the tension high from start to finish.
Do you have any suggestions for pandemic-related content that we can torture ourselves with? Leave a comment and let me know!
Even if you aren’t familiar with the name Stephen Chbosky, it’s very likely you know of The Perks of Being A Wallflower; his smash hit debut novel that was eventually adapted into the 2012 movie of the same name with Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Paul Rudd. Long after its publication in 1999, The Perks of Being A Wallflower has remained hugely popular amongst teens and is a staple among coming of age novels.
Like so many other Millennial, and Gen Z girls I know, I read The Perks of Being A Wallflower in high school and fell in love with the main character Charlie, felt hurt alongside him through his personal struggles, and empathized with his journey to understanding himself. One of the book’s most memorable excerpts, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” has become a mantra of sorts for people whose lack of self-worth bleeds into the dynamics of their personal relationships.
Imaginary Friend is the long-awaited sophomore novel Chbosky’s been developing for years. This author who wrote this classic bildungsroman has come out with his second novel after 20 years, and much to my delight it’s a horror novel.
What I’m trying to say is that I had very high hopes for Imaginary Friend because of how profoundly Perks affected not just me, but generations of young people.
I won’t be getting into too much detail surrounding Imaginary Friend’s plot for two reasons: first, is it a very long novel. The physical copy of this book is over 700 pages long. The audiobook I listened to was over 22 hours.
Secondly, this book’s ending pissed me right off.
Let’s get into it.
Imaginary Friend starts out wonderfully – 50 years in the past, a little boy named David Olson is being chased in his dreams by an unidentified, terrifying woman known only as the hissing lady. In the modern day, our protagonist Christopher Reese, also a seven-year-old boy, goes missing in the woods for six days with no memory of where he went or what happened to him.
Before going missing, Christopher struggles with dyslexia affecting his ability to perform in school. After he emerges from the woods, he has newfound intellectual abilities, his dyslexia is gone and a secret imaginary friend who speaks only to him, known as the Nice Man. Voices in Christopher’s head urge him to dig in the woods where he finds David Olsen’s body.
The hissing lady relentlessly chases Christopher in his dreams, which are part of “the imaginary side.” The voices in Christopher’s head urge him to build a tree house in the woods to act as a portal to the imaginary side.
The novel sets up all these questions that I’m excitedly anticipating the answers to. Who is the hissing lady? Why does she only appear in dreams? Who is the Nice Man? What happened to David? What happened to Christopher? At this point, I am invested enough that I am dedicated to spending 22 hours of my time to get to the end of this story
I’ve finished over half of the novel when it becomes a repetitive slog to the finish, but I was determined to finish and get my answers. Unfortunately for me, the answers I got were not worth the 22 hours I spent on this.
Prepare for me to spoil the ending, because here it is: the hissing lady is Jesus’ sister, the Nice Man is the devil and the imaginary side is hell. But don’t worry – Christopher saves the town with God’s love.
You might be saying, “Well, Erika, I don’t see you writing any novels.” And you’re right, but I’m still bitterly disappointed by this one. Maybe if I were a more religious person this might have been a satisfying ending, but this just felt… lazy. It almost felt like he wrote himself into a corner and didn’t know how to end it so he threw in the God explanation and voila, but sadly, I think this conclusion was planned all along.
This ending bothered me for a few reasons that I can explain by comparing this book to the works of Stephen King. It’s not that Stephen King’s books are perfect. I love him with all my horror-loving heart, but he writes dialogue like your great-great-great-great grandfather who believes people talk like characters from Archie comics. But you cannot argue that his contributions to the horror genre are unmatched.
This book parallels some of Stephen King’s works in certain ways – a little boy protagonist and a group of his friends band together to fight an unknown evil lurking in the shadows of their small town. One difference between King’s novels and Imaginary Friend is that King creates his own wild explanations for the supernatural effects instead of falling back on a tale as old as time.
A second difference is that King’s novels rarely have such a hunky-dory ending. It’s not that you can’t have happy endings in horror, but Imaginary Friend’s ending is so saccharine sweet and so heavy-handed with its religious message and symbolism it’s off-putting. I mean, the protagonist is called Christopher, we have a pregnant virgin named Mary… it’s all just a little too much.
It’s not that religious themes don’t belong in horror – The Omen, The Exorcist, and Nick Cutter’s Little Heaven are all examples of that. Religion and happy endings have their place in horror, but the way this book ends it takes it out of the horror genre and starts reading like Christian propaganda.
I finished this book well over a month ago and I’m still mad. I don’t know if a book has ever made me feel so betrayed. I know I’m ranting but Jesus Christopher this book is the Toby to my Michael Scott. I do not accept this because I do not deserve it.
If you’re reading this, you might already be rolling your eyes.
You may be thinking: “Erika, are you really about to defend a movie with Diablo Cody’s signature overly-quirky try-hard slangy dialogue and an exploitative faux-lesbian kiss?”
Yes I am – and I’m also here to argue that the kiss in question isn’t just some lazy attempt to pander to the weird straight-male fascination with Sapphic action. Hold my beer.
Alright, let’s hear it. Defend this movie that bombed.
At its core, Jennifer’s Body is about the dissolution of a life-long friendship. It’s about the complexities of teen girls’ friendships, and how they are further complicated by closeted romantic feelings for a friend in the casually homophobic 2000’s.
Our main characters are Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried,) two long-time best friends who don’t seem to fit together, but are friends anyway.
Sitting in the bleachers during a pep rally, Needy narrates, “People found it hard to believe that a babe like Jennifer would associate with a dork like me. Sandbox love never dies.” Jennifer and Needy wave excitedly across the gym to each other in what is actually a really sweet moment.
It’s at this point we are met with the first accusation of Needy and Jennifer’s relationship being anything other than platonic best friends.
“You are totally lesbi-gay.” A classmate mutters to Needy as she gazes at Jennifer cheerleading.
Needy brushes her off, but this is a question that arises multiple times in this film.
Here’s the thing with this friendship – it is clear that Needy loves Jennifer deeply, and Jennifer seems to love Needy too, despite being a little domineering and vain. But we’re starting to see the cracks in the foundation of their friendship. Jennifer guilts Needy into breaking plans with her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons,) and coming out with her to a local bar to see a band from the city, called Low Shoulder. We learn Jennifer has rules for what Needy can wear while they’re out together.
Needy tells us, “‘Wear something cute’ is very specific in Jennifer-speak. It meant I couldn’t look like a total zero, but I couldn’t upstage her either. I could expose my stomach, but never my cleavage. Tits were her trademark.”
Needy announces Jennifer has arrived moments before we hear her come through the door downstairs. She has some kind of psychic connection to her that is never fully explained.
The girls go to the show and Jennifer starts flirting with the lead singer of the band, Nikolai (Adam Brody.) As we see Jennifer trying her best to impress this older man, we see her for what she is – still a kid. She’s just a teenage girl trying too hard to look cool for a guy in a band who frankly has no business talking to a teenager. Jennifer is not an evil character. Sure, she’s selfish, a little rude, and sex-obsessed, but she’s clearly just a girl who grew up too fast.
As the girls watch the band, Jennifer grasps Needy’s hand excitedly. Smiling, Needy looks at Jennifer with what can only be described as love, and seeing Jennifer is focused on Nikolai, her smile fades and she breaks their grip.
Things. Go. Majorly. Wrong.
It’s at this point the bar bursts into flames and several people die. Needy grabs Jennifer and the two girls escape the inferno, but most people do not make it out of the bar. Nikolai and his band mates, however, make it out unscathed and unbothered, and convince Jennifer to get in their van. In shock from the fire, Jennifer goes with them and leaves Needy alone.
Later that evening, Jennifer arrives at Needy’s house covered in blood, the down in her winter coat spilling out through the shredded fabric. Jennifer shoves a rotisserie chicken into her mouth, vomits black spiky gunk all over Needy’s kitchen floor, and then proceeds to attack her. Jennifer nearly bites Needy’s neck, but stops herself and leaves. Typical school night for a teen girl, right?
At school, everyone grieves the many lives lost in the fire at the bar, but Jennifer is unmoved. She rolls her eyes, chuckles, and makes sarcastic quips about the incident.
In the meantime, Low Shoulder has blown up overnight. They were featured on talk radio lying about how they helped save people from the fire, helping popularize them amongst Needy and Jennifer’s peers. They announce they’re donating 3 per cent of the proceeds from their hit single “Through the Trees” to families who have been “affected by loss.”
Over the next several weeks, Jennifer kills Jonas, a football player mourning the loss of his best friend in the fire, and Colin, a creative-writing, sensitive goth kid. She lures both boys to secluded areas with the promise of sex, and then disembowels and eats them.
So… What happened?
Appearing in Needy’s room later that night, Jennifer confides in Needy what happened the night of the fire after she got in Low Shoulder’s van. Turns out, the band had sacrificed Jennifer to Satan in exchange for commercial success. Convincing his bassist to follow through, Nikolai says, “Do you wanna be a big loser? Or do you wanna be rich and awesome like that guy from Maroon Five?”
The hitch in their plan, however, comes from the fact that in order for the ritual to work correctly, the sacrifice must be a virgin. Being far from a virgin, Jennifer is resurrected as a succubus and has to live on human flesh to satiate the demon living inside her. Jennifer is still inside herself as well, which is why she was unable to bring herself to kill her best friend earlier.
The conflict between the girls is brought to a head when Jennifer lures Chip to a building with an indoor pool that is inexplicably overgrown with fauna to the point it looks like the abandoned facilities in Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
Uh? Why Chip?
Jennifer’s half-hearted interest in Chip comes from her jealousy over his relationship with Needy. It’s intimate and their closeness taken Needy’s focus away from Jennifer. The sooner that Chip is gone and out of Needy’s life, the sooner that Jennifer and Needy can get back to where they used to be.
Jennifer kisses Chip, and when he rejects her, she throws him into the pool and starts thrashing him around. Needy can feel Jennifer and Chip’s kiss and rushes to Chip’s rescue.
Jennifer is feeding on Chip’s neck by the time that Needy arrives. She leaps onto Jennifer’s back and pepper sprays her with Chip’s mace. Jennifer projectile vomits black sludge onto them both, and begins levitating above the pool, prompting what is my favourite exchange in the movie:
This nasty but banal and typically adolescent argument is hilarious, but it also hits the nail on the head for Jennifer. The accusation that she is insecure cuts to the core of the issue – she is insecure, and for many reasons. Not just about her weight or her social relevance, but about the changing dynamic between her and Needy. When Needy starts outright mocking Jennifer and her laxative use, the insults are too much and Jennifer resolves to kill her in the moment.
As Jennifer advances on Needy, Chip impales her with a pool skimmer. Jennifer runs off and Chip dies.
Heartbroken and enraged, Needy kills Jennifer, is sent to an insane asylum, and escapes to kill Low Shoulder.
As the credits roll, we see Low Shoulder partying while on tour, followed by the crime scene photos after Needy finds them.
So, what then? What’s your point?
Jennifer and Needy’s relationship is complicated. Even after Jennifer murders her boyfriend, and Needy kills Jennifer in retaliation, Needy still seeks out Low Shoulder to avenge her best friend. Throughout the movie we are given hints that there have been lesbian or at least homoromantic interactions between them growing up, and that’s partly what’s made it so hard for them to shake each other. How do you break up with someone who’s not only your best friend, but you also have this weird pseudo-sexual past with that’s tied to your coming of age?
And especially, how do you do that in a time where its still so stigmatized amongst your friends and classmates to be queer? This movie came out in 2009, before Blue Is The Warmest Color, Killing Eve, and Orange Is The New Black amongst others brought a semi-honest, not exclusively exploitative lesbian portrayal to the public sphere. (For context, in 2009 at my own high school, I knew of exactly one somewhat out lesbian, and I was in DRAMA CLUB.)
This movie is about breaking up with a friend you love in more ways than one. It’s about trying to navigate the end of a friendship that has become unhealthy. Jennifer and Needy would have grown apart or had a blowout at some point – the end of their friendship was inevitable. Jennifer’s transformation into a succubus is just gas on the fire.
I can’t and won’t argue that Jennifer’s Body is a perfect movie. It definitely has its issues with rampant ableist language and homophobia that have aged really poorly. And I still can’t fully defend Diablo Cody’s dialogue to her critics. (But I still kinda like it, okay?!?)
But I will argue that it’s deeper than just being an excuse to ogle at Megan Fox for an hour and a half. It’s not just a stupid movie that glorifies the fake lesbian kiss to lure straight men to theatres. I mean, you’ve seen what happens to men that are easily lured, right?
The year is 1998. I am six years old and I am obsessed with movies. My favourite thing is going to the “movie store” with my parents and renting a new movie as often as I can talk them into it.
I’m a frequent flyer, to the point that the employees at Hollywood Nites know me by name. I have a selection of choices I typically cycle through – The Swan Princess, The Land Before Time, The Little Rascals, amongst some Disney favourites. Today is different. Today I cross the black and white checkerboard floor to a new release I see on display. I pick it up and the title reads “Scooby-Doo! On Zombie Island.” I don’t know it, but tonight is going to be something of a formative experience for me.
At this point in my life, I’ve seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to know the formula:
Something spooky happens in a ski lodge/castle/library.
The gang investigates by splitting up and looking for clues.
They run and hide from the vampire/mummy/ghost of Christmas past until someone, typically Fred or Velma, announces they know the culprit’s identity.
They pull the mask off the villain, and surprise! It’s the butler/museum curator/tugboat captain!
I’m expecting a night of familiar comforts. What happens is this:
At the start of the film, our favourite group of meddling kids has split up out of boredom at the monotony of chasing fake monsters. Daphne is now a tele-journalist with Fred as her pseudo-assistant. Velma owns a bookstore specializing in mysteries. Shaggy and Scooby are working as customs agents for the sole purpose of rifling through people’s luggage toconfiscate undeclared foodstuffs and claim them for themselves. Wheels of cheese seem to be a common choice.
The gang reunites for Daphne’s birthday to accompany her on her cross-country mystery-solving TV show. They eventually wind up in New Orleans where they meet Lena; a woman who works on the nearby Moonscar Island and claims it is haunted. They accompany Lena on the steamboat ferry where they meet Jacques, the jolly ferry captain who transports them across to the island.
They arrive on Moonscar Island and immediately make a bad first impression on Lena’s employer, Simone, the cat-loving ghost pepper plantation owner, as well as Beau, the gardener whose landscaping is immediately destroyed by Scooby chasing Simone’s cats.
The gang sets to work on their investigation and is met by some of their typical paranormal experiences: Velma levitates and the gang is warned by various ghosts to leave the island.
To soothe their burning mouths after eating ghost peppers, Scooby and Shaggy are gulping water from the swamp. This seems gross and ill advised but zombies begin to emerge from the water and we forget about the potential E. coli infection. They and the rest of the gang are chased through the swamp alongside a musical interlude in typical Scooby-Doo fashion. At this point in the movie, everything is happening predictably enough. They finally capture a zombie, who they assume is going to be our red herring, Snakebite, the one-eyed Crocodile Dundee-esque fisherman with a grudge against Scooby and Shaggy for scaring off his fish. They go to remove the mask, and this happens…
Let’s just stop here for a second. This has entirely changed the game for me. Not only is the monster real, but Freddie just cracked his head off like the cap of a beer bottle. They play a quick game of hot potato with the severed head until the zombie reclaims it and screws it back on. More zombies emerge from the swamp dressed as pirates, confederate soldiers, fishermen, and your stereotypically dressed tourists in Hawaiian shirts with cameras around their necks. Not only is all of this real and going to get worse, it’s about to go off the rails into totally bat-shit territory.
Fred, Velma, Daphne and Beau are captured by Lena and Simone who then reveal themselves to be cat-people.
Simone divulges their origin story – how she and Lena were among early settlers on the island who lived peacefully and worshipped their cat god. Morgan Moonscar, the island’s namesake, and his band of pirates descend upon the settlers, totally ruining their picnic and forcing them into alligator-infested waters. Lena and Simone survive, and in a rage call upon their cat god to aid them in seeking revenge against the pirates. They are turned into cat-people and then proceed to kill Morgan Moonscar and his crew. Their transformation, however, is a curse to them as well, and they need to continue sacrificing people in order to maintain their semi-feline immortality.
As it turns out, the zombies are victims of Lena and Simone and are trying to warn the gang of their evil intentions. It is also revealed that in a quid pro quo situation, Lena and Simone gave Jacques immortality to be their ferry-driver.
Scooby and Shaggy literally stumble upon Simone and Lena about to kill the four and foil their plans. Angry, the cat-ladies hulk out into full-fledged cat women, tearing off their clothes and becoming anthropomorphic upright-walking cats. Unfortunately for them, they have run out of time and they are too late to make their sacrifice to the harvest moon. Their flesh starts melting off like Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly.
Lena, Simone and Jacques all crumble into dust, as do all the zombies. Velma explains, “Their spirits are avenged. Now, they can rest in peace.” Here’s our happy ending, I guess?
Beau turns out to be an undercover cop investigating the disappearances on the island, but doubts his superiors will believe his story. Daphne invites him to be on TV. Roll credits.
Watching this movie at six years old, I am both terrified and enthralled. It’s the first time a truly dark story has fully unfurled before me. A whole village was eaten by alligators and slaughtered by pirates. Freddie beheads someone. The cat-people were something I was wholly unprepared for, but also intrigued by. How can I become one of the cat people? It sounds fun. Do I need a cat talisman necklace? For context, this was a phase of my life where I was obsessed with cats.
(For further context, that phase has lasted for 28 years. Phases can be an ongoing thing, right?)
Anyway, as an adult, I consider Scooby Doo! On Zombie Island to be the first real introduction I had to the horror genre. It eases into horror territory by removing the safety blanket of the Scooby Doo formula, but there’s no real gore to traumatize a kid. Even the zombie decapitation is pretty clean.
At six years old, I still have a ways to go before watching my first proper horror movie, (Jeepers Creepers anyone?) but the fascination is there. This is a fixation I’ll be chasing for a long time.