A year after a Black Friday sale riot that resulted in tragedy, the people of Plymouth Mass are terrorized when a killer dons the folkloric mask of the hometown hero John Carver (irony!) to take revenge!
So it’s right around turkey genocide day, and the kids of our high school are having a nice little standoff with the kids from a rival HS football team, or whatever it is, as we do in relatively small towns. The Wright-Mart, owned by town entrepreneur Thomas Wright (Rick Hoffman), is about to have its huge Black Friday sale, and though it’s only on the way to the party destination, our kidlings insist we have to stop at Wright-Mart and pick up some supplies.
Jessica Wright (Nell Verlaque) is our Final Girl, but here at the Wright-Mart sale riot she’s just a daddy’s girl who happens to have snuck her dumbass friends into an employee entrance early. Her friends Gabby (Addison Rae) and Yulia (Jenna Warren), and their jock boyfriends Scuba (Gabriel Davenport) and Evan (Tomaso Sanelli) are all gleefully razzing the getting-angrier folk outside the doors, right up until the moment the doors crack and flatten a poor security guard, setting off a riot of epic holiday proportions!
As was brought into uncomfortable spotlights both during and right after the pandemic, humanity as a whole can be some seriously destructive and selfish a*sholes. The riot at Wright-Mart that resulted in the death of the freaking store owner’s wife Amanda (Gina Gershon) and a few others, saw people beating each other with waffle iron boxes, trampling and rampaging whilst idiot Evan there just has to hop up on a register and film everything on his phone, frames the idiocy and carelessness of the mob mentality to a T. Director Eli Roth went by an over-the-top method to show the destruction of the riot, which is good because it reminds us to laugh at a scene which is, for some, a little too close to home.
Jess’s boyfriend Bobby (Jalen Thomas Brooks), formerly of the Golden Arm persuasion, up and disappears when it looks like the injury he sustained in the riot has crushed his pitching dreams. And it’s not weird or creepy at all yes, Jess has now taken up with the boring but very persistent nerd Ryan (Milo Manheim), but still hangs out with her former jock friends and their girlfriends, trying to make a blend. To top it all off, Jess’ dad has a new woman, the plastic-y and greedy Kathleen (Karen Cliché), who wants the Black Friday sales of Wright-Mart to continue merrily on.
Speaking of creepy, this year, a year after the Wright-Mart riot to be precise, masks with the supposed likeness of John Carver, the folkloric hero figure and purported progenitor of Thanksgiving around these parts, have begun circulating town. And of course, someone with a real hunger for revenge has taken it upon themselves to don a Carver mask and invite the catalysts of the Wright-Mart riot to a Thanksgiving feast they’ll never forget!
The good ole boy Sheriff Eric Newlon (Patrick Dempsey) tries to keep up with the murderous shenanigans, but always seems a step behind when it comes to the Carver executions. First up is the Karen of your nightmares, Lizzie (Amanda Barker) the waitress at the local diner, who takes the whole half-off sale thing far too seriously. Then the cowardly security guard (Tim Dillon) and his brat of a cat, and a disastrous attempt at a trap laid for Carver during the annual Thanksgiving day parade results in more deaths at the hands of a killer clown (anybody else sees callbacks to Roth’s Clown in there too?), and the special VIP guests are late for a Thanksgiving feast with all the trimmings, served up by the Carver killer himself.
Giving homage to the likes of Craven’s Scream movies, and even the zany early Evil Dead films, Thanksgiving reminds us that our selfishness has long-lasting and even murderous consequences, and how the best of us can be twisted into the worst of humanity far too easily. Laugh out loud at the excessive gore and hilariously inventive death scenes, because it’s far too late to cry, and remember to be genuinely thankful for the blessings in your life, lest the Carver killer with an understandable motive invites you to your own feast!
Gobble down as much as you can stomach, of Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving in theaters now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts: Love conquers all
After a very long war and a hard-won treaty of peace between the human kingdom and Ozmargo, the kingdom of beasts and demons, the 99th annual human sacrifice given in tribute to the beast kingdom is allowed to live and given the chance to become the royal consort, a human Queen for the beast kingdom.
A true Beauty and the Beast style romance, the show is gentle and firm, often giving us lovely pastels and light colors for the humans and their interactions, with stronger, more passionate colors besides black for the beasts and demons.
So, the King of Ozmargo, long may he reign in strength and virility, served with loyalty by the denizens of his kingdom (yeah right), has a Kaiju-sized secret – he is of mixed parentage, both beast and human, and cursed to suffer transformations to man-shape, and back to beast-king again. By no mere coincidence, the night of contemplation where the King goes into seclusion to hide his shape-change, is the same night the human sacrifice is given to him, ostensibly to perhaps eat or enjoy in some other way, indulging his bestial nature to the fullest. What isn’t spoken about, what almost none of the demon kingdom know, is that the unnamed King is of a far more tender nature than one might expect, and for years has been setting the human sacrifices free. (Which, given the poisonous miasma of Ozmargo and the general dislike of humans by the beasts of the Kingdom, may be a bit of a moot point – where could they escape to? Nevermind them, on with the romance!) All of that changed when the 99th sacrifice, the pretty little albino-looking human girl, Sariphi, was given to the King.
Sariphi is a shining example of what humanity could be given half the chance, loving and kind, loyal and humble, compassionate almost to a fault, and her ability to stay calm in the face of impending disaster only increases her value in the eyes of the bestial kingdom. None moreso than the King himself, especially when, after seeing him at his lowest in human form, and at his most enraged as the King of Beasts, Sariphi still loyally, stupidly, fully with all her heart, loves him. Hell, she loved the King of Ozmargo enough to give him a Name – Leonhart. And anyone who watches fantasy anime knows, giving a creature a Name is a big deal, especially if he happens to be royalty.
The rest of the Court harbors suspicions and old hatreds for humans, and now that Sariphi has been named as Leonhart’s acting-Consort-soon-to-be-Queen, the various beasts are taking it upon themselves to do whatever they can to convince the King otherwise. The King’s Chancellor Anubis especially seems to have it out for Sariphi, believing her most unworthy of the King’s affections, much less her own throne next to his. Anubis sets several challenges for Sariphi to complete to be worthy of even consideration for the Acting Consort title – hosting a very curmudgeonly Duke, rites of blessing for the unruly Princess of another kingdom, even forging peace talks between the neighboring human kingdom and Ozmargo, and goads her every step of the way with disparaging remarks and whispered poison in the Kings ear. After awhile, Anubis’ distrust gives way to a grudging respect for the tiny human girl who just won’t give in, and her apparent real, genuine love for the King.
Other friends and odd allies are made in Ozmargo by those who come into contact with Sariphi the most often – the tiny ball monsters Cy and Clops who were with her from pretty much the start; the fallen former Princess Amit of the lizardfolk who tends to Sariphi as her handmaiden and kind friend; the outcast hyena Lanteveldt who, far from being reviled for his beast subspecies by Sariphi, is instead made the Captain of her Royal Guard; and Captain of the Kings own Guard Jormungand, another lizardfolk whom Amit has a swooning after, who takes to Sariphi and her love for the King very well, for it mirrors his own.
The Kingdom of Ozmargo is proud and full of life, the beasts living within it just want to exist in peace and prosperity. Unfortunately the Kingdom is subject to troubles very similar to what humans experience far too often, but when a coup is attempted on Ozmargo and the denizens are being separated by subspecies – as in, a Bunny mother and an Amphibian father, and their fluffy green hybrid offspring are forcibly separated physically and by imposed old-fashioned caste system, the racism that runs rampant threatens to tear apart what’s left of Ozmargo unless Leonhart and his beloved Sariphi can stop it!
Full of love and hope in the face of potentially impossible adversity, Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts is an absolute wonder, and can be devoured with relish on Crunchyroll now!
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines: Thanks a lot, Grandpa
In 1969 a hereditary evil secret hidden by the town of Ludlow, Maine, is suddenly exposed when a grieving father uses the forbidden pet sematary powers to bring his beloved son back to life.
Meet beefcake farmboy Judson Crandall (Jackson White), freshly graduated and really wanting to do something with his life, to protect and serve and help people. The draft for the Vietnam war still floats around Ludlow like a dire whispered threat, though Jud’s father Dan Crandall (Henry Thomas) has pulled every last string he can to make sure that never happens to his precious son. Dan really does want his son to escape the cursed town of Ludlow, but the all-important why doesn’t come until later.
Somehow, Jud’s all-American girlfriend Norma (Natalie Alyn Lind) has convinced Jud to join the freaking Peace Corps with her. And on this day, as Norma and Jud prepare to leave Ludlow for hopefully a good long time, some very weird, freaky, and then very bad sh*t starts happening.
Everyone who knows about Jud and Norma’s reason for leaving generally scoffs at the idea, though they all are happy if not envious of the idea of finally leaving Ludlow for whatever reason, and none more so than Jud’s father Dan. But an eerily familiar long-haul road has a usually ordinary dog acting very strangely, and nothing would do for a pair of do-gooders but to see Hendrix the dog home.
Home happens to be the Baterman place, where Bill Baterman (David Duchovny) informs Jud and Norma that his son Timmy (Jack Mulhern) is suddenly back from the war, decorated with a Silver Star and everything. (It’s a piece of irony that no one mentions that the Silver Star, is a medal awarded for singular acts of valor over a brief period, such as one or two days, and the potential implications of that.) And we the audience already know, from the very first opening scene, exactly what is making Timmy act in the murderous way he is.
Of course, Jud has a history with Timmy, along with Manny Rivers (Forrest Goodluck) and with his sister Donna (Isabella LaBlanc), the youngling representatives of the fairly large Mi’kmaq Indian tribal presence apparent here in Ludlow. Donna recently has been plagued by ominous dreams, causing her to make spirit masks as an almost instinctual response, and of course, worrying her brother. But then, the Mi’kmaq have been here in Ludlow for much longer than these cowardly white men, and have kept a history of what they call the Mouth in the woods.
So yes, Timmy has risen from the grave (not that he was actually buried) and is wandering Ludlow unchecked in an always-hungry state, much to the dismay of everyone but especially his beleaguered father. Hendrix the dog attacks Norma, while Timmy attacks Donna like a zombie plague, getting her to rise and in turn attack others, and all across Ludlow the adults hiding secrets about that thing in the woods are starting to get very twitchy and nervous.
It’s another piece of irony that the actual history of Ludlow is so easily obtained, not from Jud’s dad or Timmy’s dad or even the Mi’kmaq elders, but from the very-drunk Priest (Vincent Leclerc) at the local church, who damns the elders for their shortsightedness at actually keeping the history of Ludlow preserved. And we the audience are treated to a fully rendered historical sequence, of settlers in 1674 led by Ludlow himself, trying to settle fertile land in Mi’kmaq territory. Ludlow falls victim to the “sour ground” and devolves into a cannibalistic ghoul, much to the dismay of his men, and of course, the poor Mi’kmaq folk he ate. The founding fathers of the territory all swear an oath to protect the town from whatever curse Ludlow may have brought upon himself, though they, with no thought to irony whatsoever apparently, name the town Ludlow so they would all never forget.
The Mouth in the woods, past the separating break wall Jud’s grandfather built, never forgot either, and knows the names of every last founding father that tried desperately to contain the cursed whispering and murderous tendencies – Benson, Baterman, Crandall, just to name a few …
Time is running out and the zombie hunger plague is spreading, Norma is all trussed up for the sacrifice, and Jud has convinced his dad and the other “elders” of the town to go after the source, which in theory is Timmy himself, with all their big ole guns and quite limited knowledge of monsters and magic and curses. Finally, after many confrontations and useless shooting not in the eyes, Jud is forced to contend with the fact that his entire family is cursed, and the real legacy his father and family left him was the responsibility and stewardship of the Mouth in the Woods, the pet Sematary, and the town of Ludlow itself. Thanks a lot, Grandpa.
So apparently this prequel Pet Sematary film is meant to tie into the Pet Sematary remake of 2019, which, hey, it would’ve been nice to know that before I watched it. The spirit of the original 1989 version is rather lacking, and that may be why. Young Jud Crandall is practically an emotionless poppet as he races from catastrophe to disaster, his reactions are minute, and the one time he does pop off and start yelling, at Timmy it is perfectly valid, he’s practically pleading rather than screaming. Jud’s no coward and the film seemed to kind of imply he actually wanted to go serve in the military, but most of his reactions to the grotesquerie of the zombie cannibals, the Mouth in the woods, and even his own families’ involvement in it are disbelief rather than anything resembling protective reactions.
Even the horror isn’t terribly horror-fic, with much of the gore being glossed over, the camera panned away right as the blood splashes, and the cannibalism is largely implied, but understood, so kind of disappointing. The makeup effects for the cursed ones are pretty good, and the one role that actually inspired fear and dread in this sad, spoon-fed tale of generational woe, was Mulhern as Timmy Baterman.
For the backstory of the town of Ludlow, Maine, and the legend of the pet Sematary contained therein, catch Pet Sematary Bloodlines on Paramount+ now!