Posted in Movie Recaps

Recap #280: The Worst Witch (1986)

The Worst Witch (1986)

Title: The Worst Witch (1986) – or the definitive Worst Witch, for our generation

Tagline: Things never go right for Mildred Hubble…

Summary: Mildred Hubble (Fairuza Balk) is one of the young girls at a prestigious witch academy. She can’t seem to do anything right and is picked on by classmates and teachers. The headmistress of the school, Miss Cackle (Charlotte Rae), has an evil twin sister (Agatha) who plans to destroy the school. Can Mildred foil the plan before the Grand Wizard (Tim Curry) comes to the Academy for the Halloween celebration you’ll never forget?

Initial Thoughts:

Dear America

I know you do Halloween so much better than us, that’s a fact. You knock it out of the park, while we just watch in helpless envy.

However! This is the only thing we did for Halloween in the eighties (well, this and Ghostwatch, which I have also recapped as a double-bill). We’re very proud of this. While pumpkins and trick or treating may be the staples of Halloween to you guys, this this is the one thing we remember.

It was on every Halloween without fail for so many years. Right up until everyone started having VCRs. Around the same time everyone thought to themselves, “You know what, I’m going to record The Worst Witch, so I can watch it outside of Halloween”, that was the moment it stopped being shown.

This is ours. We’re happy to share it with you, but it is ours. It’s the only Halloween thing we have.

Love,

England

[bat: It’s ironic, since the origins of Halloween are Celtic, but America’s commercialization of the holiday with candy and costumes has made it into a lasting tradition that Britain cannot keep up with. Still kind of want to spend Halloween in England, just so I can bitch the whole time about no candy or decent costumes.]

Recap:

This cannot house an entire school plus dorms

We open with a shot of a teeny-tiny castle that absolutely and unequivocally cannot house a school, much less a boarding school. The reason I know this? It’s about the same size as the main hall of my primary school, which had about 100 students maximum. So no, it couldn’t house multiple classrooms and dorms. [JC: Until someone tells me otherwise, I’m going to assume it’s like the TARDIS. Bigger on the inside.]

We cut to Miss Hardbroom [bat: RIP Diana Rigg; watching this now makes me cry.] being smug and efficient, as she straightens her hat and snaps her fingers. A cupboard pops open and her broom floats towards her. Inside the cupboard is a picture of the unfortunately named, Grand Wizard (Tim Curry). Or at least, I assume it’s him. With the quality of this copy, it could be a picture of my cat for all I can see.

I wish there was a clearer copy of this. Surely the original copy could be cleaned up a little and re-released, or am I showing woeful ignorance about technology? I don’t imagine it could be 1080p or anything, but I’m watching a legitimate digital copy, and it’s as if I’m watching VHS on the old fuzzy TV we had in the 80s. [bat: My DVD copy is okay. I’m assuming that it wasn’t filmed on good film stock and by the time they got around to home video release, it was already degrading. I don’t think they ever realized how important it would be to a generation and thus didn’t make it to last long.] [JC: I watched this on YouTube, where it purported to be in 720p. It looked surprisingly good for YouTube, but the copy was obviously fuzzy to begin with.]

She greets Miss Cackle (the headmistress), who says that it’s a lovely morning with the most bizarre intonation. She’s rather odd. Possibly an inspiration for Dumbledore, because I find it impossible to believe that Rowling never read The Worst Witch. [bat: Ditto.]

We have some truly outstanding CG of Miss Hardbroom flying on her broom to the top of the school. The scale is… um… questionable.

Side note: It also looks like the courtyard from Potter.

Miss Hardbroom is referred to as HB in the books by the kids, so I’m sticking with that. HB flies up to the bell and jabs it with her wand to wake the students. And then we have my personal favourite of the songs in this, Growing Up by Bonnie Langford. I know, controversial. You’re supposed to like Tim Curry’s song best. I’m sorry, I don’t. I was terrified of him as a kid.

Also, as the chubby kid who walks with a limp, how do I not empathise with kid who is failing at everything, rather than a super wizard with odd intonation who is shilling Halloween to an audience already totes in love with it?

FIGHT ME. [JC: *assumes fighting stance* *reconsiders the merits of each song* *lowers fists* *shrugs*] [Dove: *sighs in relief*]

The song shows a montage of Mildred failing. She oversleeps. She trips and – impossibly – grabs the rope for bell-ringing (which apparently lives between the dorms and the bathrooms), ruining HB’s bell ringing. As everyone rushes from the bathroom, Mildred rushes in. Students file down the grimmest stone steps in the universe (with a truly ugly blue wall behind it, which seems so out of place in a historic castle), then there’s a pause and Mildred’s satchel falls down the stairs. I’m assuming they envisioned Mildred falling, but given that the budget was no more than £2.50, which was all thrown at paying for exterior shots of St. Michael’s College, they couldn’t afford that stunt. All of this culminates in Mildred running down some more stone steps (these ones are much more in line with the building), taking a sharp corner and knocking her entire class over.

HB glares at her and Mildred gulps.

I always think it’s awesome that Fairuza Balk played The Worst Witch, and then a very different kind of worst witch in The Craft (and, for that matter, owned a wiccan shop). I’m not alone in this. But I was alone in deep confusion over whether she was American or England (I’m terrible at hearing accents). She was Mildred Hubble, queen of British failures, but she was also Dorothy Gale, iconic dog owner of Kansas. [bat: I always wondered why Mildred was “American” and the rest were obviously British. It always confused me.] [JC: Did she start out trying a British accent, then give up? Because it sounds like that “accent” every famous actress had in 40s movies that was meant to sound classier than American, but not quite British. There’s a specific name for this that escapes me at the moment.]

On reflection, her first conversation should have told me that whatever accent Mildred has, it’s not from the UK. Ethel Hallow (THE NEMESIS) breezes past the foreground, commenting smugly that she learned all the spells. Maud Warlock, Mildred’s best friend, asks if she’s nervous about the test. Mildred says she thought she knew everything last night, but today she’s terrified of being yelled at.

Side note: I adore the names in this series: Maud Warlock, Dawn Undercover, Misty Meadow – now that’s a keeper. Anything that is borderline My Little Pony is cool with me. Another thing I love? The school uniforms. I went to a school where the colours were bottle green and mid grey. We looked like mouldy fruit. These girls look so Halloween in orange and black. [bat: The two month stint I did in Catholic school, we had blue/white/black/grey plaid uniforms with white shirts. I look good in blue and although I hated it being a skirt, at least I didn’t agonize over clothing every morning.] [JC: I briefly went to two different Christian schools, and while they both had strict dress codes, neither had uniforms. I always kind of thought school uniforms would be neat.]

Maud sneaks her book in the front of her tunic to cheat with, and HB calls her on it with barely a glance in her direction.

Today they are making laughter potions, they have three minutes to brew a potion. Damn, that’s quick work.

Ethel Hallow is better than you.

Ethel and her partner get to work with looks of studious superiority on their faces – Ethel was really well cast. She looks just like the illustrations in the books. Or maybe she just brings that, “die, pleb” attitude. I think it’s all in the eyebrows. These are the eyebrows of someone who doesn’t need to fuck your shit up, because she’s too busy never fucking up.

Over with Team Fail, they comment that the laughter potion was an unlikely pick since HB lacks joy and hilarity. While Team Perfect measure carefully, Team Fail kind of chuck things in and hope for the best.

HB chivvies them along, reminding them that laughter potions should be brewed quickly in case of an emergency. Um… what emergency? I mean, I have been to a few work meetings where some well-meaning jokes have died a painful death, but even then, I can’t see that being a suitable situation for an emergency potion. Fellow recappers, any ideas?

[bat: I always assumed it was a case of causing your enemy to laugh themselves to death‘.]

[JC: Emergency cheering up for a depressed friend?]

Everyone has to take their potion. Giggling erupts around the class. Ethel is actually screaming with laughter, which I think is a callback to the book, where Ethel’s potion was so potent she needed to take some kind of calming potion to counteract it.

Team Fail, on the other hand, just comment they don’t feel “all there” and then promptly vanish. HB notices and shouts at them. While both try to take responsibility, HB doesn’t care, she tells Mildred that when she reappears, she needs to go to Miss Cackle’s office and explain herself.

HB dismisses the laughing class (wait, so they had a five-minute class?) [bat: I think it was kind of a pop quiz deal, not a true class.] [Dove: Awww, it’s so sweet you think that’s a thing in England.] [bat: Wait, what, you don’t have “pop quizzes” in England??], and as Ethel leaves, almost floored by her own hysterics, an invisible foot kicks her. From the stool the invisible person sits on, it looks like Maud kicked her.

And holy shit, I’m fairly certain that Susan from the BBC Narnia series just wandered past. *a moment later* Yes, yes she did.

The girls start to reappear, from the head down, and Mildred confesses that the pond weed that should have been collected at midnight was “sort of after midnight”. Then a couple of boots appear from the right and walk over to the girls. Maud asks whose boots they are, and Mildred says they’re hers, the laces are undone.

Guys, you’re just invisible. Or have you discovered a new spell where your body parts not only vanish, but wander off. I’m certain bat is screaming “MAGIC: HOW DOES IT WORK?” because that’s kind of her thing. [bat: JUST CHISEL IT ON MY TOMBSTONE]

The girls fully reappear and Maud comments that it’s a remarkable spell, and if they knew how they did it, it’s certainly one to tell the grandchildren. “If I live to have any,” Mildred responds and they giggle again.

This is why the Brits love Mildred. She’s crap and she embraces it. Sure, she’s tired of it, but you can’t keep a Brit from being self-deprecating. (Well, ok, basically every politician, but they don’t count. They’re barely human.)

We cut to Miss Cackle’s office, where she’s speaking to her niece, Donna, on the phone. Donna has just had a phone installed on her broom – so 80s. [bat: The fact it’s a corded phone and not cordless always boggled my mind.] She invites Mildred in, ends her call, and Mildred explains the situation. Miss Cackle is sympathetic and grandmotherly, but comments that Mildred must be the worst witch in the entire school.

Note to adults: never say a child is the worst at something. They will get a complex.

Mildred vows to do better, then as Miss Cackle ushers her out, there is a crash from above. “Donna’s arrived!” Miss Cackle announces. She adds that Donna will be 136 soon, but still acts like a teenager. Oh, so witches have longer lifespans than regular humans? Gosh, that’s a bit like that other magical boarding school series, isn’t it?

We cut to the hallway where Donna appears, wearing leather, chewing gum, and talking on her broom phone in what I think is an attempt at a New Jersey accent (the actress is British). That always baffled me. Why is she American? [bat: Better yet, why is she New Jersian?]

I have yet to meet a Donna that I don’t want to punch. No offense if you’re called Donna – I haven’t met you yet and I’m sure you’re lovely, but the sampling I’ve encountered have all been asshats. This one is no exception. [JC: My “Donna” is Cassie. I’m sure wonderful Cassies exist, but I have not had the good fortune to meet any of them. All the Cassies I’ve met have been demon spawn.] [Dove: I knew a Cassie who I thought was nice, but she borrowed my Dark Materials books and then sold them. So… uh, jury’s still out. Donnas and Cassies, come forward and be our friends!]

“Sawry about the windah,” she says as she sweeps past Miss Cackle. Urgh. Just die.

That night in the dorms, Mildred tells Maud that she’s worried she’ll never make it as a witch, HB hates her. Maud is vaguely reassuring that HB hates everyone. Then they get gossipy. Apparently HB was madly in love with the Grand Wizard (remember that picture in her broom cupboard), but she was jilted because a prettier witch wanted him, so cast a spell over him so that every time he looked at HB, he saw a slimy toad. The girls gross each other out at the idea of kissing either a toad or HB, and get quite giggly. This is cut down immediately by the appearance of HB who tells them off severely for goofing off and spreading “disgusting gossip about matters which do not concern you” and reminds them that they are failing good and proper, so maybe shut up and work harder.

HB blows out the candles and leaves.

Mildred then whispers to Maud that she can’t sleep because she’s afraid of the dark. You’d have thought that would have come up by now, since, y’know, nothing about the preceding scenes indicated that it was the first day of school. [bat: What about the GIANT FLYING FOX hanging from the radiator?! How did they get their hands on one??] [JC: BAT! I LOVE THE BAT! . . . erm, the animal, not the recapper. Not that you’re not great, bat, but I’m not actually in love with you. I hope you understand.] [bat: I’ll live.]

l-r: Madame Hooch, Professors Dumbledore, Snape, Vector and Burbage (e.g. the two that are named but never show up)

The next day the girls are crowded into the teeniest assembly hall ever. I feel like any moment now, Wing’s going to point out the England has no space, and I endlessly bitch about how small everything is in comparison to the USA. Yeah, no, but this is an ancient building. It should have plenty of space. It should at least have more space than the assembly hall of my primary school.

The teachers assemble on a balcony – and is it just me or does the flying instructor look how you expected Madame Hooch to look before you saw the movie? Maybe a smidge less Evel Knievel, but basically that.

(OK, maybe when I read Potter for the first time, my brain cross-referenced this movie a lot.)

We are then subjected to the kids singing the school song, which is just as awful to watch as it was to live in real life. I can’t really remember my school’s song, but I do remember that we changed the final line to “to the vision of raining strawberries, ever holding faaaaaaaaaaaaags” (fags being cigarettes, not a gay slur) and sang it on Founder’s Day after getting tipsy on the school field at lunch. [JC: . . . I have never met a school that had its own song. I understand from British media that this is a thing, but I have never encountered it in life, and it fascinates me.]

Spot the least happy person in the room

I particularly love the energy of the girl in the foreground, everyone else has demurely clasped their hands in front of them. One girl has belligerently crossed her arms. She is standing next to a girl with a ginger mullet. It’s hard to know what offends her more, the singing or the hair.

We cut outside to Agatha Cackle, Miss Cackle’s evil sister. That isn’t revealed for a good forty minutes, but c’mon, you’ve had 34 years to watch this movie. Don’t blame me for spoilers now.

She has pink hair and ragged robes and a friend called Delilah. Actually, as a kid, I never noticed she was played by the same actress as Miss Cackle. She seems to be doing a generic American deep south accent, which is also incomprehensible. They’re sisters, why do they have two different accents if they grew up together? Huh, ok, the actress is from Wisconsin. Ok. I assumed she was Scottish and trying to do an English accent, given the weird inflections she uses as Good Cackle. Ok, well, fine. As I’ve said, I’m terrible at placing accents. [JC: Dove, you do know that this is Charlotte Rae, aka Mrs. Garrett from The Facts of Life, right? Did . . . did that show not travel across the Atlantic? Anyway, I’m not sure Aggie’s accent is regional so much as it’s just “generic redneck.”] [Dove: Um… if it did, it didn’t make it to terrestrial TV. Never seen it. Don’t know anyone that has. Sorry.] [bat: The Facts of Life *did* air on satellite channels in the UK for a hot minute but never terrestrial TV. Also, I don’t know that the concept would have made a lot of sense across the pond. Boarding school, sure, but the girls’ escapades may not have translated as well. It would be funny to have Dove watch some episodes and get her reaction, though.]

Agatha rages that the school song has been changed. The whole school should have been hers from birth, so I assume she’s older, but their mum always loved Good Cackle best.

Then comes a wacky 80s lol that I’m so glad died. Mildred and Maud run into Agatha and Delilah (off screen) and they go tumbling into the air (read: two dummies in approximately the same clothes are tossed into the air) and we cut to the bad witches looking aggrieved.

Hilarious, right?

Mildred and two other girls (not Maud) apologise profusely, explaining that they’re late for assembly. We cut to inside, and the girls sneak in – the door leads to the front of the room – then turn around and back up until they’re with their class.

This is a weird setup, the oldest kids are at the front, the youngest at the back. That was not how it went in either of the schools I went to, but I suppose it gives more time for HB to notice them and glare. Also, I can’t see Maud in the assembly. It could be the awful resolution of this ancient movie, or it could just be one of those kids on set issues.

As the song comes to a painful end, Miss Cackle enthusiastically praise them for their “terrific singing”, y’know, like how Dumbledore is the only one who likes the school song.

If this makes you swoon, it’s probably because of the toxic paint

She then announces that the special guest of their Halloween celebrations is to be the Grand Wizard. Cue swooning. And cut to an oil painting that… uh… well, I’m sure it’s meant to be the Grand Wizard, but it kind of looks like what someone would draw if they had never seen Tim Curry, but had David Hasselhoff as a reference, and someone sitting on the opposite side of the room, describing Tim Curry, while really loud experimental jazz played from gigantic speakers between the two of them. [JC: Thanks, I hate it. Also, I understand that “Grand Wizard” probably doesn’t have the same connotation in the UK as it does in the US, but I still snort and cringe every time someone refers to him as such. Thank God they didn’t give him any sort of . . . white . . . hood . . .] [Dove: As someone who always sides with Cartman in The Stick of Truth, yeah, I get it. I did refer to him as “unfortunately named” above, but really didn’t expand.]

I mean, if that’s how this painting was commissioned, then they did a brilliant job. Otherwise, uh, no.

While Good Cackle does the announcements, Bad Cackle is outside doing very little except for doing and evil laugh and kissing her reflection – she now has a mirror. Nobody knows why.

Good Cackle drops her hanky from the balcony and magically appears on the ground floor to catch it. People are impressed. And for an 80s effect, it was cheap and solid. [bat: It’s one of my favorites. I always wanted to “blink” like that.] She then says that the first years are getting their kittens today – a school tradition, started by her mother, Magdelana Cackle, who created a school to protect witches from being burned at the stake. Good Cackle is very proud of her feminist mum, who made these great strides, but HB with a pointed cough and a quick teleport to behind her, brings things back to the task at hand.

So, um, why didn’t I go to a school where I got a free kitten? I have two right now, and it’s the greatest thing ever.

HB and Good Cackle give out the kittens in order of achievement at school. This means Ethel is first. Somehow now the younger years are at the front, and the ginger mullet is third from the back. Ethel rudely shoves her way between Maud and Mildred.

Gosh, she acts kind of like Draco Malfoy, doesn’t she? Only without the racism, obviously. She’s just kind of a petty asshole. Someone get her some leather pants and a redemption arc, stat! After collecting her cat, she walks back to her place, this time Maud and Mildred move aside with sarcastic smiles on their faces.

Yes, this movie has a lot of problems, but girl friendships is not one of them.

We cut to outside in the woods, and this is probably my number one problem with this movie: Bad Cackle’s gang of witches are howling. I don’t know why. They’re running around a camp fire and shrieking. Think of every negative word to describe a woman making sounds, and this is it. Why? Because they’re witches. I just don’t see the point of this noise. I can already tell they’re evil, they don’t need to be annoying too.

Even Bad Cackle is pissed off and yells “Would you all shut up!” Yes, Bad Cackle, thank you.

Bad Cackle lays out the plan: while the school is planning for Halloween, Bad Cackle and her gang of morons will sweep in and take control of the school. How? They just will, ok. Shut up. And once that’s done, those sweet little girls will be evil witches.

And now we have a song. And god is it painful. I can’t really work out why. It’s not like in My Little Pony where Megan is supposed to hit a note and flails around wildly on the first take and everyone goes, “Sure, that’ll do.” It sounds like she’s hitting the right notes and her voice is strong enough for the long ones not to sound painful (again: Megan). I think that she’s singing as Bad Cackle’s character and the voice is just not fun to listen to, which fine, sure, I’m the good guy (apparently) and they revel in the ugliness and things the rest of the world doesn’t, so actually, in universe it makes sense. However, villain songs should be catchy, and this one is, but still painful. Anyone else got any comments? [bat: I always, without fail, fast forward through this scene/song.] [JC: I think it’s a problem with the composition. Like, in better hands it could have been creepy and catchy, like the Fireys’ “Chilly Down” song in Labyrinth. And that’s actually one of my least favorite songs from that movie, but it’s worlds better than whatever they’re doing here.]

If after that rambling paragraph you decided not to watch the clip, the tl;dw version is: bad, smelly, ugly, evil people will crush it when Bad Cackle takes over the school.

Back in the school, you can see the kids are having a whale of a time fussing the kittens. “Hey, I get paid to play with a kitten? AWESOME!” and we’re coming to the last few kittens. Mildred is last, and they’ve run out of pure black cats. Hers is tabby. And also about two months older than all the black kittens. It’s nearly full grown.

One of the greatest tabby cats of all time (possibly THE greatest)

Mildred doesn’t care that her cat isn’t black like everyone else’s. This is also why I love Mildred. Tabby cats are awesome.

Good Cackle announces that the first years are now having a flying lesson to teach their cats to perch on their broomsticks. And when we get outside, Maud’s cat is just as old as Mildred’s. They talk about what to call their cats. Maud’s going with Midnight, and Mildred says she might call hers Blackie, “because it isn’t”. Maud thinks the poor cat will get a complex. Mildred lands on Tabby instead.

Ethel, obviously, takes off with a perfectly balanced cat – look, they might be babies (under a year old) but they’re all full size and they look mature, so I’m saying cat from now on.

Mildred puts her cat in her satchel and dangles it off the back of her broom. With time constraints – and the difficulty of working with animals – I guess nobody wanted to waste time showing this:

Cats hate flying (illustration by Jill Murphy)

By the way, not only did Jill Murphy write this charming series, she illustrated it too. I adore this art style. There is an awesome picture in A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch which is just a GIGANTIC cat face.

There’s a voiceover of Ethel or one of her friends saying Mildred’s cheating.

Then the teacher arrives, Miss Spellbinder. Madame Hooch 1.0, if you like. The students are completely besotted with her. “Isn’t she wonderful?” one comments. “Ohhhh, yes,” her friend replies, completely crushing hard.

The CG is terrible. Miss Spellbinder flies down over a completely static picture, which has a voiceover of swooning girls. Bless.

Meanwhile Ethel says she’s telling on Mildred for cheating. And then she does. Um, that first scene was kind of pointless. Miss Spellbinder says that Mildred must learn, but for now Tabby can ride in her satchel. Ethel silently seethes. She is going to cut a witch over this.

Then Miss Spellbinder gives them a quick demonstration, which starts out simple and ends with her standing on her broom and surfing it down. Madame Hooch never did that.

I see you, Susan Pevensie

Students take off easily and Mildred mutters to herself that Spellbinder makes it sound so easy. “It is, you pathetic dumbo,” Ethel responds. PUSH HER OFF HER BROOM, MILLIE!

There is more terrible CG of girls sitting on brooms with awful backgrounds behind them. And, um, they totally forgot the cats. Nobody but Mildred has a cat.

“You’ve all improved, girls. Well done!” comments a teacher who has literally had the class for six minutes.

Now comes a lot of fail. They add cat noises to the image of Tabby in the satchel to imply she’s upset, but she’s not. She’s just bored. Mildred looks back to see if he’s ok, and loses control of the broom. Except the tech and the budget isn’t there. So mostly it’s Mildred screaming, fake cat noises, and genuinely terrible CG to pull it all together.

[JC: I’m sorry, but are we really not going to talk about the fact that the “fake cat noises” are EXTREMELY OBVIOUSLY a human literally saying “meow,” “mrow,” “rowr” and the like? AM I JUST SUPPOSED TO IGNORE THIS? BECAUSE I CAN’T, DOVE! I CAN’T! IT’S ALL I CAN HEAR NOW!] [Dove: You know what, I did hear it. I always hear it, but I had so much to say that I didn’t bring it up. It’s particularly notable when Miss Cackle refers to Tabby as “him”, then a fake meow happens, and she amends it to “her”.]

And because it’s awful, and there’s no money behind it, the only possible thing to do is ensure it lasts as long as possible, so that nobody can forget how little money they had.

It’s fucking awesome.

After about 20 minutes of this nonsense Mildred crashes into a tree. Read: some sticks are waved at her in front of the green screen, noise effects are added, and we cut to her sat on the ground under a tree with a cat in her arms and a broken broom.

We cut to Good Cackle’s office, where she and HB discuss the students. Mildred is a car wreck, Ethel is spectacular, just like all her sisters before her. [bat: Is the Hollow family the “nasty” version of the Weasley family, with all daughters instead of sons?] Good Cackle comments that she’s never cared much for the Hallow (Malfoy?) family very much.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but god is Diana Rigg great as HB. She chews the scenery like a boss, rolling her Rs, striding about, glaring… back me up, she’s awesome, right? [bat: ICONIC. ROLE MODEL. She’s Snape and better at being Snape then Snape was.] [JC: Is it possible Alan Rickman watched this and modeled his Snape after her? Because yeah. She is OG Snape.]

We cut to Team Fail swooning at the painting of the Grand Wizard. They’re at lunch, and the assembly hall is now the lunch room. If that’s not normal in the USA, I just want to clarify that it’s perfectly normal in the UK. [bat: We call that a “multipurpose room” here.] [JC: Many of my school gymnasiums doubled as the lunchroom or assembly hall.] Mildred again says she’s not cut out to be a witch and asks Maud if she ever has doubts. Maud says no, her whole family are witches. Oh, so no muggles in Maud’s family, you say? WEASLEY! [bat: More like Hermione, honestly. MUGGLE-BORN MILDRED.]

Mildred says her mother always wanted to be a witch but she never had the gift. “It’s not that I want to be the best, I’m just so tired of being the worst,” Mildred explains, summing up every sports day I have attended.

Also, for literally decades I thought this quote came from Fame. Every time I watch it and see that one character (a dancer, I think) complain about how tired she is of being told off for her imperfect form, I expect her to use that line and then the scene feels kind of empty without it. (Also, Fame is massively overrated. Some really nice bits intercut with dull as fuck or cringey moments.)

Talking of cringey bits. Here we go. Ethel makes a few snide comments and then throws a balled up bit of bread into Mildred’s drink (“bug juice” according to Maud). Maud offers to refill it and gets a jug from further down the table. As she returns, Mildred, for no reason at all, stands up, causing Maud to pour the liquid all over Mildred. This somehow culminates in the girl on the other side of Mildred to fall off the bench, covered in ketchup. Mildred immediately starts screaming that she’s bleeding, and when it’s revealed to be ketchup, everyone laughs. Even those with their backs to the action, and definitely those out of earshot. It’s just that transcendently funny. [JC: Are they all binge-drinking that laughter potion? Because that’s the only explanation I can come up with for this.]

I’m pretty sure that’s not in the book, but I’m also willing to recap the books at some point. Anyone want to join me? [bat: I don’t have the books anymore. They were hard to find and the editions were weird reprinted omnibus-like ones and I hated them. I wish I had the books.] [Dove: The ebooks have the illustrations, if they’re available to you.] [bat: Ebooks are not for me. I prefer physical, but thanks just the same.]

We cut to later where the first years are playing terror tag. Two teams, red and blue. The aim of the game is to collect screams by scaring the other team. I have literally no clue how the scorekeeper, who stays put in the library, knows who is screaming and who scared them, but y’know, the plot says so, so just push on.

The red team is led by Ethel, they were allowed to go off and prepare, while the blue team counts to twenty to give them a head start.

If you’ve ever seen any horror movie, then you’ll have an idea of what follows. Obvious setup, “jump scare”, scream. The jump scare is basically, wherever you go, someone will be there pulling a face at you. For several minutes.

The worst is when Maud and Mildred, walking side by side, jump scare each other by looking away and looking back. It’s about on par with the endless and exhausting jump scares in the pointless and fucking terrible Blair Witch reboot.

Admittedly, it’s scarier than the Blair Witch reboot

It’s 7-6 to the blues when Mildred approaches a girl at the sinks with a towel over her head. Mildred pulls a face, and waits for the girl to stand. She does and she’s wearing a mask. Mildred screams about seven billion times in a row, well, eight, but it goes on forever. Ethel hides the mask and when Mildred says that Ethel cheated (apparently only pulling faces is acceptable, crappy masks are not), she is made to feel like a sore loser.

Mildred can’t help but blurt out that Ethel better watch out. Ethel goads her into clarifying. Mildred says that she’ll turn her into a frog. “A frog! You turn me?” she cries, sounding oddly Estuary in this line. Ethel invites her to try, pointing out that Mildred knows nothing, and is a misfit just like her cat.

Everyone else encourages her too, and it’s hard to know who wants to see her fail and who else is just as sick of Ethel as Mildred.

So, Mildred tries. The result is not a frog. It’s a pig. And I’ve got to say it’s kind of satisfying. [bat: It truly is.] [JC: Mm, bacon! Wait, was that too dark?]

Ethel demands that she be turned back but Mildred doesn’t know how.

At this point, HB arrives by way of a very 80s swirling overlay on a static background. After being brought up to speed, she tells Mildred to go to the library and look up the reversal spell, taking Ethel the pig with her.

On the way to the library, Mildred has to drop by Miss Bat’s class to excuse Ethel from chanting (that’s a class, apparently). [bat: Yes, I teach chanting. Chant chant chant!] The class laugh their heads off at the sight of a pig.

Wait. So… the kids in this class would also be first years, so how many people were playing terror tag? I assumed the whole year. Apparently not. So, was terror tag lunch or a weird kind of PE lesson with no teacher? *shrugs*

Ethel is upset by this and Mildred, because she’s a nice girl, reassures Ethel, saying that they were just surprised to see a pig, and pigs do smell a bit (oh, that ancient trope, I’d forgotten about that one). Ethel tearfully calls Mildred horrible, and Mildred bolsters her confidence a bit.

This does not make Ethel any nicer to her, by the way.

At the library, Mildred manages to find a reversal spell, while Ethel chivvies her along. A bunch of nonsense words later, and Ethel is back to normal, threatening Mildred with expulsion, because Ethel’s dad is on the board. Ethel is just a less toxic Draco Malfoy, isn’t she?

We cut to class, where a picture of the Grand Wizard is being passed around where all the class are swooning over it, some even kissing it (I see you, Susan Pevensie). HB strides in, snatches the photo and tells everyone to stop being silly. HB can’t help but swoon a little over the picture (it’s probably one of the least flattering pictures of Tim Curry ever, just so you know), and proudly says that this class has been selected to put on a performance for the Grand Wizard at Halloween.

It’s a broomstick display. The best eight flyers will be picked after tryouts on Friday. HB singles Mildred out to say that she really needs to be improved if she’s to have a hope of being even considered.

And with that, class is over.

Damn, I wish I had 3 minute classes.

[bat: Also, please note HB starts to leave the room, stops, comes back, grabs the photo of the Grand Wizard, and clutches it to her bosom over dramatically. Love it.] [JC: She totes flicks her bean to this photo. So, uh, try not to think about the girls kissing it, and the implications of that.]

We cut to the bathrooms in the morning, where one student asks where Mildred and Maud are. Someone says they got up early to practice flying. This pleases the asker, saying that HB can’t say they’re not trying. This comment causes Ethel to stomp off in a huff.

We cut to tryouts, which I’m pretty sure is reused footage from the flying lesson. Maybe they’ve changed the backgrounds on the green screen, but every time I see Susan Pevensie glide by, it pings with me.

(Also, the outdoor cloaks are adorable too. I want a My Little Pony in those colours.)

HB comments that the Sinister sisters have “good loop-the-loop”. We don’t get to see that, of course, because budget! (I think Susan is a Sinister, rather than a Pevensie, but I’m not updating my brain.)

I’m not really sure why HB is grading this instead of Miss Spellbinder, but she is. Spellbinder is there in an admin capacity, making notes of HB’s grading.

“That’s very good. Who’s that? … Oh. Mildred Hubble. Four.”

In response, Miss Spellbinder gives a disappointed look.

And we go straight to the results. The flyers are:

  1. Ethel Hallow
  2. Maud Warlock
  3. Dawn Undercover
  4. Victoria Hobgoblin
  5. Sophie Hattrick
  6. Natalie Sinister
  7. Julie Vanishing
  8. Zoe Chant-Vestry

Zoe Chant-Vestry is not present. Ethel reports that, “Miss Cackle says she’s been at the laughter potion again.” Once more, Ethel really nails the delivery. She’s so the Ethel I pictured when I read the book.

This means the next person down gets to step up.

Guess who? It’s Mildred. She’s delighted, and HB actually acknowledges that Mildred’s hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. HB then clocks the repair made to Mildred’s broom where the handle had snapped and asks why Mildred isn’t using her spare. Mildred says it’s the only one she has. Ethel immediately offers her spare.

She runs to fetch it and takes a moment to shout at her cat, to prove that she’s an asshole. Then she casts a spell on the broom that will trigger disaster when she utters the word “faster”.

Oh, fuck me, we’re back with Bad Cackle’s gang, and they’ve got literally nothing to do other than remind us they exist. They play a more electronic speeded up instrumental of their earlier song while the other witches dance around them and Bad Cackle reminds Delilah that their Great Plan still exists.

Did anyone else actually have this shampoo? I know I did.

We cut to Halloween night with the girls getting ready in the bathroom. Someone comments that Susan Pevensie’s hair looks great enough to stop her getting into heaven, she says it’s a super slime rinse she uses. It’s supposed to parody a shampoo commercial, but I actually used to use that shampoo, for the simple reason that it was two colours. I wonder what happened to that brand. I think it might have been V05.

Maud worries that her nose will never get big warty and sexy like the novelty one she’s wearing. This baffles me. Bad Cackle wants to make everyone ugly and evil, that’s the right witch to be, but these “good” (?) witches think ugly is sexy, so… like, they’re halfway there, Bad Cackle. And Mildred’s already turned a student into a pig, so maybe Bad Cackle and Good Cackle’s policies are more aligned than either think?

Ethel strides over and presents her broom, reminding Mildred to look after it because it was a birthday present. Mildred vows to take care of it. “And it will take very good care of you,” Ethel replies with an evil glare. Mildred is too gosh darned trusting.

And here is where the location budget was spent: an exterior shot of the castle, with lights putting a smiley face on it, fireworks and smoke behind. [bat: It’s like if RHS was done on a real drastically tight budget set, ha ha.] [JC: “Over at the Bootleg Jack-o-Lantern Place”? Because I think the “smiley face” is meant to be a jack-o-lantern face, Dove.] [Dove: *shakes head* See, this is what I mean when I say England has no clue how to Halloween. We don’t even recognise the signs!] [bat: Poor Dove, I should make her a SIGNS OF HALLOWEEN handbook.]

The girls all have their capes on inside out now, I guess luminous green is a special occasion colour. I’m not bitching, it’s a great colour. Remember, my school uniform was bottle green. Why not a biting green like this? [bat: Acid green!]

Mildred asks Maud where the Grand Wizard is, and Maud says wizards are always late. [JC: False. A wizard is never late. Nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.] [bat: Thanks, Gandalf!] This prompts HB to yell at them to stop talking. Good Cackle looks at her niece and winces.

“Ya think big daddy wiz will like the rags?” She asks, between snaps of her gum. Why the fuck is she here? She serves no purpose at all. Why do you exist Donna? I hate you.

What I don’t hate is the very pointed, “No,” she gets in response from Miss Spellbinder.

Every penny of the budget is in this one frame

SUDDENLY! From the skies comes a large 80s style sanitary towel!

The sanitary towel is the Grand Wizard, flying using a cloak, not a broom. Can we just talk about how creepy he is as a character? I was scared of him as a kid and just hated everything about his character when I grew out of the fear. I always assumed that I just hated Tim Curry, but I saw Clue not long after and found him to be the most charming character in it. I found him funny in Home Alone 2. But in this? I get the kind of vibes of that old dude your mum tells you never to talk to. Is this just me? [bat: …I don’t get that vibe at all, Dove.] [JC: I just get the vibe that he’s supposed to be like some sort of weird teen idol, but (as much as I love Tim Curry) they seriously miscast the role. In my own personal head canon, I’ve decided this is Dr. Frank-n-Furter’s twin brother, who sold out for fame and fortune. Also, I think someone forgot to tell Curry he was singing to a bunch of 11 year-olds, so he tried to ooze sex appeal, then realized who his audience was and tried to abort. But by then he’d already passed out the ‘shrooms to the kids, accounting for the weird hallucinogenic music video we’re all about to be trapped in.] [Dove: Headcannon accepted.]

After a brief greeting, he leaps straight into a song. Everyone loves this song except for me. I’ll respond well to it because I love this movie and it’s part of the movie, but this song sucks. And I’m sorry if I’m about to lose all my friends over this. (I feel Wing can’t leave me, but bat and JC might.) [bat: I will shade you for hating it but I hate the theme song because once it plays it takes weeks to get it out of my head. UGH. IT’S PLAYING IN MY HEAD RIGHT NOW AND I DIDN’T EVEN WATCH THE MOVIE.] [JC: But Dove, anything can happen on Halloween! Your sister could turn into . . . strangebat! Seriously, though, I don’t hate the song, but I’ve also never understood what the big deal about it is. Having said that, has anybody seen my tambourine?]

Good Cackle tries to greet him formally but sees that he is bored by that, and they move on to the broomstick display, with Ethel taking lead.

The first few manoeuvres go off without a hitch, but when Ethel utters the word “faster!” Mildred’s borrowed broom starts trying to buck her off. For some reason, everyone else loses control too. I think in the book she careens wildly and causes people to crash by hitting or trying to avoid her. Again, budget, so instead, Mildred’s broom gives a feeble wiggle, everyone screams, and we’re getting a lot of neck-up shots to hide the lack of stunt work.

How is this even possible?

The girls fall to the ground while the Grand Wizard looks offended. And for the final icing on the cake, Mildred falls to the ground, improbably balanced sideways on her broom on her chest. I need a screen cap to show how ridiculous this is.

Once she crash lands – nobody is injured, by the way, despite the allegedly huge fall – she immediately gets to her feet and starts apologising. HB is livid, and even Good Cackle is furious. She sends Mildred to bed with no supper and she is to report to Good Cackle’s office first thing tomorrow.

Grand Wizard: If these are the witches of the future, I hate to think what the future will bring.

He then fucks off to another “gig” to attend. He flies off on his giant sanitary towel, heedless of Good Cackle’s offer of a wonderful feast.

“Hawt diggaly,” opines the completely pointless Donna. (I think maybe hot diggarty, but who fucking knows with that painful accent.) [bat: It’s “hot diggity“.] [JC: No diggity, no doubt.] Seriously, why is she here?

We cut to Mildred crying in bed, cuddling her cat. No matter how poor the quality of the movie, you can actually see her tears falling onto her hand and cat. If you don’t feel sorry for her, you have no soul. [JC: I AM TOO DISTRACTED BY THE HUMAN PERSON STANDING OFF CAMERA MEOWING TO FEEL SYMPATHY!]

Mildred berates herself for not realising that Ethel would curse the broom, and doesn’t know how to prove it, since everyone will think she’s just her usual hopeless self. She’s certain that Good Cackle will expel her tomorrow.

There’s only one thing for it! WE’RE RUNNING AWAY!

While she gets her stuff together, I notice there’s a poster of David Bowie on the wall. Makes sense. He might even be a witch. If he was the Grand Wizard, that would both make sense to me, and I’d be less afraid of him. [bat: For some reason I never noticed that Bowie poster until a recent viewing a couple of months ago. It’s like when I watched The Inbetweeners and suddenly there was a Lost Boys poster in the student lounge.]

Mildred sets out and it’s day time now. Maud wakes as she leaves… wait, wut? So, Mildred was tearfully expositing out loud that she was going to run away, all the while a bunch of other girls slumbered in their dorm, but not in their beds, which were empty when Mildred got her stuff together. But then Maud was in bed just in time to see Mildred’s bed was empty?

Ok, sure. That makes sense.

Mildred takes to the air on her old broom, and in the background is a “sad” reprise of the opening song, Growing Up, which is really hard to make sad, since it’s the 80s, and the only option is ELECTRONICA!

After much serene flying (if you ignore the fact that Tabby clearly wants to jump off her lap, to his death, if you believe the green screen [JC: Meow. Rowr. Growr! RAAAAAHR! Hire me, Hollywood!]), there is the sound of cackling below.

Cut to below and Bad Cackle and her gang are making a potion. What’s the point of the potion? IT JUST MAKES THEM LOOK EVIL, OK? WITCHES MAKE POTIONS… BUT DIFFERENT POTIONS TO OUR HEROINES. JUST STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS, OK? THERE’S A REASON. YOU’RE JUST NOT SMART ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND IT.

Hiding like a boss

Mildred is now on the ground, hiding behind a tree, as best you can on a foggy October morning in the British woods, when you’re wearing luminous green.

Bad Cackle finally exposits the plan. She has a box. She’s going to turn the girls into toads and put them in the box. Step 3, obviously, is profit.

(How does a school with no students equal profit? FUCK YOU FOR ASKING, JUST SHUT UP AND ENJOY THE FUN HALLOWEEN MOVIE, OK?)

Just in case you missed the ludicrous plan that was explained literal seconds ago, Mildred recaps it for us. In a single sentence. There is some high-level plot going on here.

Mildred rummages in her spellbook for some kind of counter and finds a spell to turn them into snails.

I really don’t think Mildred and the bad witches are on set at the same time. Their woodland is completely different, and they never share a screen. Also, pretty sure Mildred’s shots are from the morning, whereas the others are afternoon. Budget, again.

The witches notice her and announce “We’re coming to get you!” before setting off at a glacial pace towards Mildred. Because they’re villains/idiots, they play with their food (some fireworks are set off behind Mildred, at a safe distance so she can’t be hurt), giving her plenty of time to complete her spell.

She drops the snails in the box intended for the students, and flies back to the school.

[JC: Wait. Wait wait wait wait. Those are snails?! I’m sorry, do British snails look different from American snails? Because those are not snail shells. I would expect to see hermit crabs inhabiting shells like that. I would expect those shells to wash up on the beach. Those are not the snail shells I am used to seeing, and I am therefore confused and angry. Someone please find me an “old man yells at cloud” font to express my confused anger with.] [bat: Snails differ in various parts of the States, as well as in Europe.] [Dove: I never thought snails would be the bone of contention. They look pretty normal to me.] [JC: Because Dove, who claims to be the good twin, and bat, the Devil’s Cabana Girl, demanded it in the group chat, I present to you the difference between proper snails and whatever the fuck was depicted in this movie:]

[bat: *sniffles* A THING OF BEAUTY THAT WILL INFORM GENERATIONS TO COME!]

She sneaks into the school, and runs straight into HB, who gleefully grabs her by the arm and frog-marches her away.

Behind her, Ethel sing-songs about how Mildred’s in trouble. Maud asks her what that’s all about, and Ethel, being a smug idiot, gloats about her broom. Other students appear at the sound of raised voices, and they are not happy when they realise that Ethel is the cause of their ruined Halloween celebration.

Cut to Good Cackle’s office, where HB is lobbying for expulsion without a hearing, but Good Cackle at least thinks Mildred should get her say.

Mildred tells the sorry tale, and when she mentions that Bad Cackle looks just like Good Cackle “only sort of ugly”, and when Mildred drops the name “Aggie”, Good Cackle says that it sounds like her evil twin.

They get the snails on the desk and Good Cackle wonders which one her sister is. HB savvily says that Bad Cackle can either step forward and identify herself, or remain a snail.

Good Cackle asks Mildred to change them back. Mildred isn’t sure she can. “Of course you can, dear,” Good Cackle says in a nurturing tone. After a pause, HB utters the same phrase through gritted teeth. She then adds that she’s been very hard on her, but she wouldn’t have bothered if she didn’t think Mildred had potential.

Hrmm. Yeah, no, fuck that, Millie. She’s mean, she likes being mean, and your potential is irrelevant. Some teachers just seem to find that one kid per year to destroy. (Shout out to Mrs Martin and Miss Joyce. You were even worse than my mother during my formative years. Be proud, you bastards, that’s a hell of an achievement.) [JC: Shout out as well to Miss Nishahara, my first-grade teacher, who berated me for putting a Valentine’s card inside an assignment to surprise her; forced me to repeat the word “banana” in front of the class so she could mock my accent; and repeatedly made me look like an idiot in front of the class whenever I followed her instructions too literally/not literally enough. I was six, for fuck sake. Thanks, you suck!]

Mildred successfully reverts the spell – you’d think that bit where Ethel was turned into a pig earlier was foreshadowing to her knowing how to reverse a transfiguration, but no, it’s a completely different spell. [bat: HOW DOES MAGIC WORK?] [JC: WHAT ARE THE RULES?!]

Oh good, the screaming and shrillness is back. While Bad Cackle rages about how her plans have been thwarted, her gang just shrieks and hisses and oh god, just kill them.

Uh, is nobody worried that the bad witches outnumber the good ones here? Or are HB and Good Cackle so badass that even if they try something, the good guys win? If so, how was the great plan supposed to work? I mean, objectively speaking, all Mildred has done is saved them having to travel to the school, right?

Or are we just relying on the fact that these witches, when presented an opportunity to do bad things, will just endlessly talk about the bad things they plan to do, and actually prefer howling and hissing to actual action?

In which case, has Mildred actually saved the school from anything beyond noise pollution?

Finally Good Cackle tells them to shut up. She tells Mildred to run along and get some rest. The she shouts at Bad Cackle and her gang.

Cut to Mildred lying on her bed and being awoken by Maud, who says that Mildred needs to come to the great hall. Maybe brush her hair first. [bat: MAUD IS CARRYING A GIANT FLYING FOX. HOW DOES NO ONE NOTICE THIS??] [JC: Is this her familiar? I noticed the bat, bat. Er, I noticed the flying fox, bat. Fuck, we’re having another Doctor Strangebat situation here, aren’t we?]

She walks into the great hall and the Grand Wizard is there. He instructs Mildred to come towards him, and the entire school breaks (approx. 30 kids) into cheers and applause.

The Grand Wizard gives the most assholish speech ever. The long and short of it is: Mildred is super and you all suck hairy donkey balls for not showing her respect. But not the Grand Wizard for being disgusted with her flying and fucking off to another party. That’s totally ok. BUT EVERYONE ELSE HERE NEEDS TO DIE OF SHAME, YOU HEAR ME?

Just fuck off, you creepy old nonce. [bat: Tell us how you truly feel about the Grand Wizard, Dove.] [JC: I want to yell at you for telling Tim Fucking Curry to fuck off, but I’m laughing too hard to do it.]

He announces that the rest of the day should be given as a half-holiday, which Good Cackle approves of. He then asks what she’s going to do with her half day. Mildred says she’s going to practice her flying. “Would you like to practice with me?” offers the Grand Wizard.

Mildred is delighted by this, instead of creeped out. So win!

They take off on his giant sanitary pad, and have a laugh about how she’s not the worst witch any more. Good fucking Christ, is there a witchy newsletter that gossips about students? How on earth did he know that Good Cackle called her that in the privacy of her office?

There’s a shot of Bad Cackle and Delilah trying to thumb a ride to Alabama… WHY ALABAMA? [bat: Pretty sure they’d be burned at the stake in Alabama…] [JC: Nah, we didn’t burn our witches. We left that to the Europeans. We mostly hanged them. And pressed them with stones. And left them to rot in prison. But, you know. Humanely.]

*shakes head*

Oh well, that’s done.

Final Thoughts:

Ok, that was still awesome. It falls apart at the faintest poke, but I literally don’t care. The book is awesome, the movie is awesome, the howling I can live without, but overall, good fun.

I was about to say I’d love to see a remake of this with some money behind it, but I’m not sure I would. I’ve not watched any of the endlessly rebooted TV shows, and they surely had a smidge more money than this one (or, what money they had, they didn’t throw at Tim Curry).

Actually, maybe a reboot would be underwhelming for me. This has all the nostalgia feels attached, but it’s still a story for children. It’s not Potter – though it may well have been the groundwork – it’s not something that has layers for the kids and their parents. It’s just a simple story about how things will get better. If they made it bigger than that, it would probably end up like Howl’s Moving Castle. I know people love that movie, but the book was a simple story about a curse, an arrogant bastard, and a sassy girl. I hate the movie has removed the arrogance and sass, and, for that matter, the curse, in order to tell us that war is bad. I was happy with the story as it was. [JC: This is where you should worry about losing me, Dove. I love me some Howl’s Moving Castle. Then again, I’ve never read the book. I might feel differently if I had.] [bat: I have read the book AND watched the movie and I love each as the individual works they are.] [Dove: Read the book, but be aware they are two totally separate stories that just happen to have the same character names. I think you end up loving the version you consumed first. I really want to one day see the movie of the actual book.]

Grade: A+ (for nostalgia and fabulously earwormy songs)

[bat: This is still easily one of my top ten Halloween favorites and even if I watch it other times during the year, I will always watch it during October because tradition. It’s cheesy AF but it presented a radically different view from the school I knew – ironic, since I attended private and not public school – and not only that, but it was magic and it blew my child mind when I first saw it. As I grew older and realized how cheesy it was and how bad the shoe string budget was, I realized it might be akin to a no-budget video productions class project we would have made in high school, but it succeeded in making me believe magic was real and plausible as a child, so who cares. Even if the green screen effects are totally laughable they’re still practical and better then the CGI bullshit produced these days. Plus, I think Faurzia is our generational witch, she got to “be” what we all wanted, twice over.]

[JC: I never saw this as a child. Even if I had been aware of it, I never would have been allowed to watch it, because witchcraft. Witchcraft is Satanic, and not something we good Christian folk should have in our homes. Yeah, my mom was a little . . . well, sometimes I think she was written by Stephen King. At times she makes Carrie‘s mom look tame by comparison. I also wasn’t allowed to trick-or-treat or celebrate Halloween in any way after the age of five. When she caught me looking out the window longingly at some trick-or-treaters when I was eight, I got yelled at for wanting to participate in a Satanic holiday. Point is, besides bumming everyone out, I didn’t know this movie existed until I was in my twenties and going through my “hunt down and watch everything I can find that had Tim Curry in it” phase. That . . . that’s a phase we all had, isn’t it? No? Just me? Okay. Anyway, I think you have to have that childhood nostalgia in order to really enjoy this movie. I liked it fine the first time I saw it, and I like it fine now, but coming to it as an adult does a great disservice to my enjoyment of it. So many people have these fond childhood memories of watching this, and can recite the song on command, meanwhile I had to sit alone in the hall outside my classroom while the rest of the class sang Halloween songs during music class. I’m bitter, and I’m bummed I didn’t get the chance to discover and possibly love this as a child, because in all the important ways, it’s mostly wasted on me as an adult. So, to sum up, yeah. I like it okay, but wish I had the excitement of childhood nostalgia coloring my memories of it.]

[bat: We all know the star of my own personal “hunt down and watch everything I can find that has X in it” phase and it wasn’t Curry. *snort* But I agree. Stuff like this, if you didn’t find it during childhood, some of that magic is lost and that’s a bummer. I can sympathize, JC; I wasn’t allowed to watch Labyrinth because A) Bowie and B) The Dark Crystal fucked up 2-3 year old me, so my mom was like NOPE. But by the time I saw it, it didn’t impact me the way it had so many others. She also didn’t let me watch Disney’s Bambi, so finally I saw that in my early 20s and was like, what the fuck was all the fuss about? My mother just can’t handle watching animal movies, that’s all.]

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #276: Goosebumps Series 2000 #13: Return to Horrorland by R.L. Stine

Return to HorrorLand Cover by Tim Jacobus
Return to HorrorLand Cover by Tim Jacobus

Title: Goosebumps Series 2000 #13 – Return to HorrorLand, a.k.a. “Let’s Play: The Happy Tooth Game”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Long time no scream!

Summary: “There’s a food stand over there,” I said, pointing. A Horror in a purple apron leaned against a small cart.

We hurried over to it. A sign on top of the cart read: FINGERS

“Great! You got chicken fingers?” Luke asked the Horror.

She shook her head. “No. Just fingers.”

I lowered my eyes to the cart. Steam rose up. I saw a pile of fingers toasting inside. Human fingers.

“They’re pretty good with ketchup,” the Horror rasped.

Initial Thoughts

For the first time ever in Point Horror history, we’re bringing you a sponsored recap!

If you’ve been living in the U.S. or paying attention to social media you’ll know protests have broken out across the world after the Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd. [Wing: And many other people, including Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her goddamn home.] Multiple protests have begun in cities throughout the United States and the world because people have finally had enough of the pigs in blue.

I took a chance and set up a post offering fanfic commissions, recap slots on here, and liveblog slots to anyone who’s donated $25 or more to any of the protest funds, GoFundMe campaigns, or campaigns connected to Black Lives Matter.

Sailoreuterpe on tumblr sent a donation big enough to gain all three options. They originally requested I recap “One Day at HorrorLand,” but since I already covered that one last year I offered to recap its 2000 sequel.

Before we begin, as a quick reminder I’m still taking slots for recaps in exchange for donations to any organizations helping Black Lives Matter. Just DM me a timestamped receipt of $25 or more over on tumblr or twitter, or you can email me at hawaiipj1959@gmail.com. I will be doing this for as long as necessary to help with the protesting.

Keep in mind I need to be able to access the work in question to recap it, and I can’t recap something that was already covered on here by other recappers.

(more…)

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #274: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #6 by Alan Grant and Barry Kitson

LOTDK Annual #6 Cover
LOTDK Annual #6 Cover

Title: Batman Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #6 – “Executioner”

Plot: Alan Grant and Barry Kitson

Script: Alan Grant

Art: Vince Giarrano

Colors: John Kalisz

Separations: Digital Chameleon

Letters: Willie Schubert

Assistant Editor: Chuck Kim

Editor: Archie Goodwin

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts

I would like to apologize because when I first chose to review this comic, I meant it in regard solely to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the government’s willingness to reopen even at the cost of peoples’ lives. With the death of George Floyd, all the protesting that has emerged in response to that and every other police brutality death, and the response of the police, this story became so much more relevant.

As a reminder I am still taking recap slots for donations of $25 or more to help with Black Lives Matter, the Yemen Crisis, the Philippines Crisis, and what’s going on with the indigenous nations in this country. You can find the information here along with a list of books that haven’t yet been recapped on Point Horror.

Time for another comic recap. I was on the fence about whether to post this here or on Nostalgic Bookshelf, but I figured Batman comics can go under horror by default.

Legends of the Dead Earth
Legends of the Dead Earth

(more…)

Posted in Other movies

Recap #272: Flatliners (1990)

Flatliners (1990)Title: Flatliners (1990)

Tagline: Some lines shouldn’t be crossed. 

Summary: Third-year medical students decide to play with life and death, “flatlining” themselves into death to explore the great beyond. But Death doesn’t like being fucked with and consequences abound.

Note: This film has a metric ton of medical terminology – which I do my best to unpack and explain – as well as dealing with several suicide(s) and/or attempts. It’s not exactly a happy film. It may be too heavy for some in the current 2020 year of the pandemic.

Initial Thoughts:

Well, here we are.

Look. Flatliners is one of my holiest of holies: a movie I almost vowed never to recap, because to recap means to pick it apart and show all its faults to the world. I know this movie is flawed as fuck. It is far from perfect. Great concept, not so amazing story execution. It is a time capsule film, staring a bunch of actors that were (unfairly?) lumped in with The Brat Pack, which meant critics could (unfairly) label it a Brat Pack movie and clobber it in reviews. “St Elmo’s Funeral” and “The Breakfast Club Dies” were actually jokes made by Sutherland in a press interview with Fangoria Magazine. Kinda sums it up, really. [Wing: I want to watch The Breakfast Club Dies, honestly.]

Yes, it does star Kevin Bacon (Earth’s mightiest hero?), Kiefer Sutherland (post-vampire, pre-Bauer), and Julia Roberts (oh well), along side one of the lesser Baldwin brothers, William [JC: Lesser? Not . . . really? Billy was a top-tier Baldwin in the 90s. Until he wasn’t. Stephen and Daniel, the true lesser Baldwins, never reached Billy and Alec’s tier.], and (Dove and I share custody of) Oliver Platt [JC: Gee, guys, save some Platt for the rest of us, huh? I’m all good as long as I can stake claim to him in Lake Placid.] [bat: Please, go ahead, I’ve only seen parts of that and I don’t remember it at all. Placid!Platt is all yours, JC!] [Dove: I feel I’ve seen that movie, but can’t remember it. He’s all yours.] [Wing: I love Lake Placid, but could not care less about Oliver Platt, so as long as I get the movie, I’ll bow out of this fight.] Out of all of those, at the time, none were true Brat Pack(ers). Bacon, maybe? To contextualize this for people not born during this particular historical period, the biggest thing to come out of this film was the engagement of Sutherland and Roberts. Literally.

(more…)

Posted in Other movies

Recap #268: Chopping Mall (1986)

Social Distance Snarking

Title: Chopping Mall (1986)

Summary: Sexy after-hours party held by employees in a goddamn mall is interrupted by murderous mall security robots. Hi-jinks ensue.

Tagline: Buy or Die  (Well, that’s… succinct.) …Half off is just the beginning! (Oh! It continued on! How… odd. For a tagline.)

Notes: Something tells me this film has become something of a cult classic and will either be very good (bad) or very bad (bad). [JC: Considering whose production company this is, it is going to be campy schlock. Because that’s what he does. (I’m not name-dropping it yet, because bat came to the realization eventually, and I actually cheered when she did.)]

Initial Thoughts

Hi and welcome to “how bat is trying to spend time during social distancing amid a global pandemic” portion of 2020. Seriously, it’s not like I really left the house a lot when there wasn’t a virus plague going around but shit is starting to get to me. It sucks being a empath. I think I need a tinfoil hat because I feel worn out.

But anyway, you’re not here for that. You’re here to read another recap about a horror movie! Distraction, yay! I’ve been looking to find some really bad horror movies that I’ve never seen and so far I’ve found some doozies. Today’s selection is 1986’s Chopping Mall!

So, somehow – this may be a theme(?) – I found another “horror comedy” but this one also has the distinction of being “sci-fi” as well. Unlike My Demon Lover this film seems to know exactly what it is – sci-fi/horror – with a dash of poorly written comedy thrown in because 1986. Er, technically, 1985.

I’ve heard about this film through Twitter and I think it’s been making the rounds on those pay-for subscription horror movie channels – apparently for sure on Shudder right now – but I only like things I have to spend hours trying to track down through moderately nefarious means. This is the age of the internet, you know. Why make it easy for myself?

Just watch the trailer:

Okay, trailer lies. No one broke into the mall. And it gives way too much away. For fun, I’ve invited JC to join me with commentary. This is not just because she confessed to peeking at my post as I was writing it but because I think I mentioned this film quite a while ago and she replied to my tweet about it. Maybe I’m misremembering but anyway. It’s fun to bring a new victim friend along for a recap ride! [JC: I have no memory of a Twitter convo about this, but it’s completely possible. My memory is very unpredictably hit-or-miss when it comes to conversations. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for the last couple of years, ever since I listened to the How Did This Get Made podcast episode about it (which I was going to link, but it is unfortunately behind the paywall right now. Boo.). I never got around to it until bat gave me the incentive with the offer to comment on her recap of it. Which I had peeked at long enough to determine what she was working on next. I mean, it was labeled “[redacted recap]”! How could I resist seeing what it was!] [Wing: I’m pretty sure there was a Twitter convo, because the movie’s been sitting on my list of things to watch so I can comment and up until y’all talked about it, I hadn’t even heard of it. I can’t say I was missing out. Mostly.

Note from the future: Apparently I mixed up two different twitter conversations about movies to recap, so I have rudely inserted myself into this recap, but since I didn’t learn this until after all my comments, well, I’m here! Enjoy surprise!Wing.]

Geez. I guess it’s time to spend an arm and a leg. Let’s go Chopping!

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #267: Goosebumps Series 2000 #19: Return to Ghost Camp by R.L. Stine

Return to Ghost Camp Cover by Tim Jacobus
Return to Ghost Camp Cover by Tim Jacobus

Title: Goosebumps Series 2000 #19 – Return to Ghost Camp, a.k.a. “Everybody Loves Ari”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Another summer. Another spirit.

Summary: A big yellow bus roared to a stop in front of our house.

The bus doors opened.

“Going to Camp Full Moon?” the driver snarled.

I raised my eyes to his face – and screamed.

His face was red and swollen – and covered with fleas. Angry, dark blotches swelled on his forehead – raw, fresh flea bites, dripping with yellow gunk.

Initial Thoughts

Okay so I busted my ass to get this recap done in time for the first full moon of summer, but I regret I didn’t start sooner.

“Return to Ghost Camp” is the second sequel from the Goosebumps Series 2000 books, but unlike “Return to HorrorLand” this is NOT a direct sequel. We’re not returning to Camp Spirit Moon and we don’t find out what’s been happening in the lives of Harry and Alex Altman since “Ghost Camp.” And the protagonist in question, Dustin, is kinda a step down from the chemistry Harry and Alex had. I know, I know, I was disappointed too when I found out after first reading this book. I purchased it knowing nothing about the plot beyond the title.

However, while “Return to Ghost Camp” isn’t as great as its predecessor, it has its own merits. Our big villain is almost as mysterious as the previous antagonists and there’s a lot to interpret from its ending. And I must say Jacobus’ cover is probably one of the best he’s done for the 2000 books, eschewing the delightful humor of the original “Ghost Camp” to give us a rather creepy looking ghost.

[Wing: Camp Full Moon. That cover ghost looks like a partially-transformed werewolf ghost. WELL I HAVE HOPE.]

(more…)

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #247: Tales For The Midnight Hour by J.B. Stamper Part Two

Tales for the Midnight Hour Original Cover
Tales for the Midnight Hour Original Cover

Title: Tales For The Midnight Hour

Author: Judith Bauer “J.B.” Stamper

Cover Artist: ???

Summary: N/A

Initial Thoughts

My original plan to cover the second half of this book was to have the recap finished during the summer, preferably August to go alongside “Escape from Vampire Park,” and yet again I was delayed. I’m trying to use November as a catch-up month to finish a few things before December so I can focus on more holiday related recaps.

Looking back I have to say I’m more fond of the stories in the book’s first half, and the only story in this section I favor is “Phobia.” Amusingly, the last tale sets up an ongoing theme Stamper reused for the next three collections featuring the same cast of campers even though the stories aren’t connected by anything else. [Wing: Okay, using the same cast is interesting. I look forward to seeing those stories if we can track down copies.]

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #240: Graveyard School Final 2 Countdown: #20 – Creature Teacher by Tom B. Stone

Creature Teacher Cover by Mark Nagata
Creature Teacher Cover by Mark Nagata

Title: Graveyard School #20 – “Creature Teacher,” a.k.a. “The One Where Nola Thacker Apologizes For ‘Let’s Scare The Teacher To Death'”

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Summary: A for Awesome. B. for Beautiful. C for Cool. D for… DEAD!

She’s so sweet. So nice. So different from the other monstrous teachers at Graveyard School. Everyone likes Ms. King, the substitute teacher. Even Bentley – who doesn’t like any teacher. But one day Bentley discovers something about Ms. King. Something awful. Something scary. And now he might have to stay after school. Forever!

Initial Thoughts

It’s back to school time and we’ve returned to the hallowed halls of Graveyard School after a four month summer break. Here we are with the penultimate “Graveyard School” recap and I’m still not over the departure of Jordie Flanders-DON’T LOOK AT ME.

This is the only other book in the series you could consider a sort of sequel, even though it’s not a direct follow-up to Bent’s previous time as the protagonist. It does deliberately mention the events of “Let’s Scare The Teacher To Death” but not enough to spoil the twist for those who hadn’t read it.

Despite Jordie’s prominent role in the last book, she’s nowhere to be found in here. That sort of makes sense if we’re considering she’s been keeping her distance from Bent and no longer wants anything to do with him. However, Thacker does her best to sort of give Bent… CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. He’s nowhere near as frustrating as he was in book #8, and whether or not this was Thacker consciously realizing he was too unlikable or accidental, I don’t know.

However, this is the only time you could legitimately call Dr. Morthouse the villain of the story. While she’s always lurked as a threatening background presence, she’s never flat out been the direct antagonist before this one.

[Wing: I’M NOT READY FOR THIS TO END. #resurrectgraveyardschool2019]

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #237: Graveyard School Final 3 Countdown: #25 – Escape from Vampire Park by Tom B. Stone

Graveyard School #25: Escape from Vampire Park Cover by Mark Nagata
Graveyard School #25: Escape from Vampire Park Cover by Mark Nagata

Title: Graveyard School #25 – Escape from Vampire Park, a.k.a. “#judedelucalovesjordieflandersSHUTUP”

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Summary: Take A Ride In The Tunnel Of Blood…

Cover your eyes. Scream your brains out. It’s the scariest ride in the whole amusement park. But brave Nathan isn’t afraid. He knows the ride is one big fake. Except now he’s about to find out how the Tunnel of Blood got its name. He’s about to stop laughing and start screaming. Too late, Nate.

The worst ride of your life has just begun.

Initial Thoughts

We’re down to three and the last summer book before we return to the hallowed halls of Graveyard School. But returning after such a long absence is none other than my favorite, Jordie “The Human Computer” Flanders.

Interestingly, as you could tell from the summary Jordie is not the main character. That role’s taken by newbie Nathan, who had never been mentioned as a member of the sixth grade class until now. Yet Jordie is still the one who does most of the investigating into the creepy things at Vampire Park, and Nathan’s targeted mainly because people think he and Jordie are friends. It works in a way because, since Jordie’s the co-protagonist, we get to see someone else react to her Jordie-isms.

Along the way, we also realize (for those of us who know what happened in “Camp Dracula“) that Jeep Holmes and his family are apparently REALLY bad at their jobs.

So join me as we say goodbye to Jordie.

[Wing: I’m not ready for this series to end. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not. But I am excited to see Jordie again.]

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #235: Goosebumps Series 2000 #8: Fright Camp by R.L. Stine

Fright Camp Cover by Tim Jacobus
Fright Camp Cover by Tim Jacobus

Title: Goosebumps Series 2000 #8 – “Fright Camp,” a.k.a. “Return of the Go-carts from the Evil Kingdom!”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Cover Tagline: Where the wild things are… out of control!

Ad Tagline: You’re not going to play baseball.

You’re not going to go swimming.

You’re going to get scared!

Summary:

I lowered my head and started to swim slowly, steadily out to the white, floating platform. I was four or five strokes away from it when I felt something wrap around my ankle.

At first, I thought it was a piece of seaweed.

But then I felt it grip me. I thrashed the water with both hands.

“Let go-!”

But the hard, bony hand held on, tugging me, tugging me underwater.

Initial Thoughts

So for this summer I picked one GYG book, a G2000 book, and an original Goosebumps book to review alongside the Graveyard School recaps.

I wouldn’t say “Fright Camp” is one of my favorites but I’m definitely fond of it. It’s one of the oldest of the 2000 books I own, which I acquired from a friend of my brother’s way back when we still lived in the basement apartment of the house.

I enjoy “Fright Camp” for the same reason I enjoy “Shocker on Shock Street” and “One Day at Horrorland,” the world building. There are a number of horror movies mentioned in this book and they’re all fucking ridiculous and I love them all.

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #234: Graveyard School Final Four Countdown: #24 – Scream Around The Campfire by Tom B. Stone

Scream Around the Campfire Cover by Mark Nagata
Scream Around the Campfire Cover by Mark Nagata

Title: Graveyard School #24 – Scream Around The Campfire, a.k.a. “I Heard The Bigfoot Call My Name”

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Summary: Who Is The Happy Camper From The Dark Side?

Alex wishes he had stayed home this summer. He hates camp. He hates the goofy songs. He hates the gross food. But most of all, he hates the creepy campfire stories. Is he the only one who notices that they’ve been coming true? And will he be able to stop whoever it is before he becomes just another marshmallow on the campfire of life?

Initial Thoughts

Four, repeat, we are down to FOUR books left before the series is over and we are once again leaving the confines of Grove Hill. This is the second of the two summer camp books and Thacker manages to avoid doing a total retread of “Camp Dracula.”

When I first heard of this particular entry back in 2004, my interest got peaked at the discovery the main character was none other than Alex Lee. Alex being the protagonist of the first “Graveyard School” book I read, I was eager to see what he would do in his next protagonist role. However, upon reading said book for the first time…

Guys I gotta level with you, this book is rather strange. Mainly, it’s the reveal behind what is causing the different campfire stories to come to life. But Thacker also includes a couple of unique ghost stories shared by the campers, although we see a retread of the infamous “Hook” urban legend.

At the very least, one thing to enjoy is the return of Alex’s pragmatic moral backbone and how he doesn’t strive to be some perfect angel yet is openly disgusted when other people are being hurt.

Also, the supporting character is named Garth which I fucking love because one of my favorite comic characters of all time is named Garth.

[Wing: No idea how the book is going to come across, but I love that book blurb up there. It sounds GREAT and makes me want to go to summer camp again.]

(more…)

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #226: Short And Shivery by Robert D. San Souci – Part 3

GHOUL evening, boils and goops
It’s like if Tim Burton hosted an international buffet

Title: Short & Shivery a.k.a. “The Wide World of Horror”

Author/Editor/Reteller: Robert D. San Souci

Illustrator: Katherine Coville

Summary: Everyone loves a spooky story. Don’t you?

Welcome to a chilling world of hair-raising tales! The thirty stories in this book were gathered from around the world, selected for their ghastly details and terrifying twists. Come inside and meet the young miller’s daughter in “The Robber Bridegroom,” who may have discovered too late that she has been betrothed to a madman; the dancing skeleton who returns from the dead to haunt the friend who betrayed him in life; the Golem, who tires of serving his greedy master and suddenly turns evil; and intriguing characters in stories from the Brothers Grimm, Washington Irving, and other world-famous authors. But before you settle down in your cozy reading chair, check behind you… and keep all the lights on!

Initial Thoughts

We’ve finally reached the end of the first “Short And Shivery” collection after six long months. In August I’ll start a recap for the second book.

Luckily this book’s got three different water-related tales to fit in with my June theme, and luckily for YOU Wing we’ve finally reached the werewolf story. UNluckily for you this is also the portion with the giant spider story. Sorry. [Wing: Werewolf outweighs giant spider, mostly. Though: WHY IS IT ALWAYS GIANT SPIDERS? I just had to talk someone out of doing it as a decoration at work this fall, too.]

[Wing: Editing to add a link to this great comment from Sarah about the golem story in this recap, the use of mythology versus theology versus folk tale (her suggestion and the best one) and the history of the golem as a response to anti-semitism. I really appreciate her taking the time to share her perspective and want to highlight it.]

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #225: Give Yourself Goosebumps Special Edition #8: Weekend at Poison Lake by R.L. Stine

Weekend at Poison Lake Cover by Craig White
Weekend at Poison Lake Cover by Craig White

Title: Give Yourself Goosebumps Special Edition #8 – Weekend at Poison Lake, a.k.a. “Aliens and Jewel Thieves and Moss-Men OH MY!”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Craig White

Summary: Come On In – The Water’s Slime!

It’s the weekend and your family’s vacationing at an awesome lake. The water’s cool, clear and downright deadly!

Rumor has it this lake is filled with poison! Or are those aliens? And what’s that nasty smell? Better pick a lucky number to help you out, or this nature trip could really go wild! If you pick the right number you’ll be chillin’ on the beach without a care. But if your number’s unlucky, you’ll come face-to-face with evil jewel hunters, ice-cream-craving aliens, and all sorts of freaky wildlife!

The choice is yours in this scary GOOSEBUMPS adventure that’s packed with over 20 super-spooky endings!

Initial Thoughts

Since “Chicken Chicken” hasn’t been finished yet that means two Goosebumps recaps as well as two Graveyard School recaps this month. This is going with June’s water theme.

“Poison Lake” was the last of the GYG Special Edition books and from what I’ve read it’s one of the most loathed. I can sort of understand why yet I do love this one.

THE BAD: The whole “Lucky Number” shtick this book employs is extremely frustrating in figuring out a proper path to take. See, the numbers aren’t really “Lucky” because you’re just as likely to die from using the number to determine a choice than if you’d voted not to use it at all. And yet when you get the bad endings from not using the number, the book mocks you for it. Hell, it’ll mock you even if it doesn’t immediately lead to death by asking why you don’t want to utilize it.

THE GOOD: The four stories Stine’s crafted are incredibly endearing, and are totally independent of one another. Once you pick a path, you’re stuck on it. Which actually made recapping this much easier. My favorites are “The Missing Jewels” story and “The Moss-Man” story, the former because of the presence of competent adults and the latter because Stine’s able to create real tension and a dreamy atmosphere similar to “The Ghost Next Door.”

Also I love the monster on the cover despite its lack of appearance in the actual stories.

Poison Lake Monster by Jesus Marquez
Poison Lake Monster by Jesus Marquez

THE OTHER BAD: We get a return performance of, UGH, Jude as the main character. God he sucks.

(more…)

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #221: Detective Comics #49: Clayface Walks Again!

Detective_Comics_49
Detective Comics 49 Cover

Title: Detective Comics #49 – “Clayface Walks Again!”

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Bob Kane

Inkers: Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos

Letterer: George Roussos

Editor: Whitney Ellsworth

Initial Thoughts

Last year I reviewed Detective Comics #40 as part of my attempt to freshen the air in May since I spent all of April 2018 talking about my best friend’s death in my recaps.

Honestly I’m still not sure it did much to help.

Anyway, I figured it’d make since to review the follow-up story in May 2019.

Detective Comics #40 was the debut of Basil Karlo, the first Batman villain to call himself Clayface. Rather than being a shapeshifter as most people know the later Clayfaces to be, Karlo was a famous horror actor driven over the edge when one of his old movies was being remade and he wasn’t asked to star in it. Donning the guise of Clayface, one of his previous characters, Karlo tried to kill off the cast of the remake but was stopped by Batman and Robin.

I mentioned Karlo has all the earmarks of a prototypical slasher movie killer, so it’s especially fitting the follow-up story feels like a typical slasher sequel. Karlo’s back and out for revenge against the people who thwarted him, Batman and Robin. He also wants to kill Julie Madison, the actress who survived his previous killing spree and thus serves the role of the prototypical Final Girl. Out of all the Batman love interests, Julie’s remained my favorite and it’s disappointing this story was her final appearance in the Golden Age Batman stories.

(more…)

Posted in Child's Play Movies

Recap #220: Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Child's Play 3 (1991)
Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Title: Child’s Play 3

Director: Jack Bender

Released: August 30, 1991 (US)

Tagline: Look who’s stalking

Description: It’s been years since Chucky, the doll with the soul and the voice (Brad Dourif) of a psychopathic killer, was apparently destroyed in a fire at a doll factory. Now Chucky’s manufacturer is remaking the same line of toys with the old, still haunted materials. This resurrects Chucky, who goes after Andy (Justin Whalin), his former owner, who now attends military school. Chucky slashes his way through a string of grotesque murders as Andy tries to stop the homicidal doll and the spirit within it. (From Google movies)

Initial Thoughts


Welcome back to Dove and my Child’s Play recaps! (You can find our other recaps in the series here or here.)

Now, objectively this is the worst movie of the “original” three (23% Rotten Tomatoes; 5.1 IMDb), but it has a special place in my heart. It was the first Chucky movie I ever saw, recorded one night on a VHS tape that also had A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 5 on it. I had asked my dad to record one of those movies for me (I think it was Nightmare 5, because I remember the TV station was showing them out of order), and rather than program a recording time, my dad put the tape in, hit record, and let it record until the end of the six-hour tape. So I ended up with the two Freddy movies, with Child’s Play 3 in between them. And about 5-10 minutes of . . . something else at the end of the tape. The tape ended before that movie reached the opening credits, so it shall forever remain a mystery. (It might have been Halloween 2.)

I know Dove has something she wants to say about the controversy this movie caused in the UK because of some little shithead murderers, so I’ll let her get to that here if she feels like it, and then we’ll jump into the recap. Dove?

[Dove: If you’re in the UK and you were into horror movies in the 90s, then this film will be forever linked with the murder of James Bulger a month before his third birthday by two ten-year-old boys. At the time, our gobshite tabloids and Mary Whitehouse decided to push an agenda of trying to ban “video nasties”, by tastelessly cashing in on the brutal murder of a toddler. Even though it was a tenuous link (one of the murderers’ fathers had rented it, and it was never established whether either of the boys had ever seen it), the tabloids had a field day telling everyone that horror movies were to blame, due to some similarities. For me, this movie will always be attached to that horrible crime, even though I don’t believe it was a contributing factor – or if it was, it was at the bottom of a long list that started with far uglier things than a mediocre slasher movie. Also, people gave me the side-eye when I reported that I was only a year or two older than the murderers, I had rented the movie around the same time, and somehow I managed to not kill anyone.

I know this has nothing to do with the movie, but it feels a bit weird to recap it without mentioning the controversy that was attached – however feebly – to it.]

(more…)

Posted in Graveyard School recaps

Recap #218: Graveyard School #16: Don’t Tell Mummy by Tom B. Stone

Graveyard School #16 - Don't Tell Mummy
Graveyard School #16 – Don’t Tell Mummy Cover by Mark Nagata

Title: Graveyard School #16 – Don’t Tell Mummy, a.k.a. “Morton Explains It All”

Author: Tom B. Stone, a.k.a. Nola Thacker, a.k.a. D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Summary: Please Don’t Feed The Mummies…

Take a Graveyard School class trip to the museum with Park and his friends. Sneak away from the others. Rattle the dinosaur bones. Jump out and say “Boo!” to the museum guard. Play a little hide-and-seek. But whatever you do, don’t go near the mummies. One of those mummies isn’t wrapped right, as Park found out just before he disappeared…

Initial Thoughts

Now we’ve reached a real treat in the Graveyard School franchise, and while it’s not one of my all time favorites I can understand why it’s so great. In this book, we’re introduced to one-shot character Morton who might be the franchise’s Ensemble Darkhorse. How do I know this?

I can say I was the person who created the Graveyard School wikipedia page AND the TV Tropes page, but some time later some person added entries and tropes pertaining to Morton. I know it wasn’t me, and it amazes me that Morton had some fans out there despite how obscure this wonderful series is. But it’s easy to see why because Morton’s awesome. She’s sarcastic and take charge and doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit.

Come everyone, come with me as we appreciate Morton.

Oh and Wing get ready for a surprise appearance from someone we haven’t seen since 2017.

[Wing: I love the sound of Morton, and I already wish she wasn’t just a one-shot.]

(more…)

Posted in Other Recaps

Recap #217: Short And Shivery by Robert D. San Souci – Part 2

GHOUL evening, boils and goops
It’s like if Tim Burton hosted an international buffet

Title: Short & Shivery a.k.a. “The Wide World of Horror”

Author/Editor/Reteller: Robert D. San Souci

Illustrator: Katherine Coville

Summary: Everyone loves a spooky story. Don’t you?

Welcome to a chilling world of hair-raising tales! The thirty stories in this book were gathered from around the world, selected for their ghastly details and terrifying twists. Come inside and meet the young miller’s daughter in “The Robber Bridegroom,” who may have discovered too late that she has been betrothed to a madman; the dancing skeleton who returns from the dead to haunt the friend who betrayed him in life; the Golem, who tires of serving his greedy master and suddenly turns evil; and intriguing characters in stories from the Brothers Grimm, Washington Irving, and other world-famous authors. But before you settle down in your cozy reading chair, check behind you… and keep all the lights on!

Initial Thoughts

Here’s the second of the three installments for the first “Short & Shivery” collection by Robert D. San Souci. Unfortunately Wing we still haven’t reached the werewolves yet, but we DO have a vampire story and one of my favorite monsters of all time, the Nuckelavee.

(more…)

Posted in Other movies

Recap #215: Death Machine (1994)

deathmachinecover
Definitely not Freddy vs. Terminator 2

 

Title: Death Machine

Released: 1995

Director: Stephen Norrington

Tagline: It feeds on your fear

Description: Chaank Armaments is experimenting with the ultimate fighting machine which is part human – part machine. So far, the Hardman project has been unreliable and has killed a number of innocent people. The genius behind this project is Jack who lives in a world of models, toys and magazines. When he is fired by Cale for killing a few corporate officers, he unleashes the ultimate killing machine called the ‘Warbeast’ against Cale and those who would help her.

Note: Recently, Dove (of the Nostalgic Bookshelf recapping empire) asked me to watch one of her favorite “bad” movies, Necromentia, and comment on her recap of it, with the offer of doing the same for me. We just about had my pick nailed down, when I actually watched Necromentia, and decided that everything I had previously considered was much too tame and mainstream. I can’t top Necromentia‘s sheer WTF-ness, but you know what I can do? I can give you a bizarre over-the-top rip off of every late 80s/early 90s action/horror/sci-fi movie ever made, starring Brad Dourif at his most scenery-chewing, with a script that was apparently written by someone who has never spoken to another human being in their life. Yes, that is what I can do. (When I told Dove about this movie, she told me I “had her at Brad Dourif.” Now that she’s actually watched it, I hope we’re still friends.)

[Dove: I watched this movie when Raven (my husband) was out. When he came back, he asked how I liked the movie. My response was, “It was exactly what I deserved after Necromentia.” (Yes, JC and I are still friends.)]

Initial Thoughts


Full disclosure: I love me some Brad Dourif. This is one of those movies that I’m pretty sure only hardcore Dourif fans and people who watch every sci-fi/horror/action movie that comes out have seen. I know Dourif is the entire reason I watched it years and years ago, and I really didn’t like it all that much the first time around. Shocked? Then I gave it another shot and really liked it on every subsequent viewing. (I also hated Fargo on first viewing. My first impressions are very subject to change.) Oh sure, it’s pretty terrible, but there’s something mesmerizing about it. It might be the obvious lack of fucks the filmmakers had to give. The character names alone – nearly everyone is named after a famous director. It’s gleefully egregious. Or, to use one of Dove’s terms, it’s eye-poking. But gleefully so. No fucks to give. I have no defense for this movie; I love its stupid dumb ass. The best description I can give is that it’s like if William Gibson (the cyberpunk author, not the playwright) wrote Die Hard, then Robocop hate-fucked it while Universal Soldier jerked off in the corner.

There are I think four different versions with four different running times. I believe the one I’m recapping is the 111 minute long director’s cut. As far as I can tell, the only difference between this one and the one I rented the fuck out of in the late 90s/early 2000s is one extra backstory scene and a few references to that backstory. It’s not actually important to the story, but I’m glad it’s there because it is so over-the-top ridiculous that I’d be sad if I didn’t get to mock it.

[Dove: I tried to watch the 111 minute version, but I started to go into the future, because the constantly-moving background was giving me a real headache. I watched the 122 minute version. Though by the time I swapped over, I had missed those minutes. They happen all before the first 19 minutes of the copy JC watched. I have not yet gone back to watch them.][JC: As far as I can tell, no official 122 minute version exists, so I’m curious what was going on in that version.]

(more…)

Posted in Movie Recaps, Other movies

Recap #214: Necromentia (2009)

Necromentia (2009)
Necromentia (2009)

Title: Necromentia (2009)

Tagline: Hell awaits the foolish

Summary: Inspired by the work of Clive Barker, Necromentia tells the story of what happens when you meddle with superstition and try to cross into another dimension using the powers of a Ouija board.

Hagen has a dead wife and believes he can bring her back to life. Travis is a man who lost his brother and wants to join him in the afterlife, and Morbius has been betrayed by those he loves and wants to come back from the dead to take revenge. A strange man only known as Mr Skinny protects the secrets of the powerful Ouija board, as all cross the gateways of hell to fulfil their own purpose, facing the hideous monstrosities that reside there as they go.

The above was copy typed from the back of the DVD box. It’s pretty much accurate. It’s also nothing like what happens in the movie. It’s odd that it’s exactly right but so misleading.

Trigger Warnings: Murder, suicide, self-harm, torture, necrophilia, flashing lights, terrible dialogue. [JC: Not making light of trigger warnings, but I’m greatly amused by “terrible dialogue” being right up there with “necrophilia.”]

Notes: I love this movie. I’m not even sorry. I was talking to JC, of Oh God Why?! Nostalgia, and we were talking about our favourite terrible movies. I asked her if she’d like to comment on my recap, because it would be great to see the reaction of someone who’s never seen this movie before (which, as far as I can tell, is anyone who is not me, or did not act in this movie). She said yes. I told her I’d return the favour, so who knows how she’ll feel about this movie and what I’ll end up watching as my penance. [JC: I watched this on YouTube with a watermark in the upper corner and Spanish subtitles at the bottom. So, if nothing else, I at least brushed up on some conversational torture-related Spanish, although I don’t foresee using it much. Except maybe “Hey, I’m not the one fucking a corpse.” I can see that one coming in handy.]

This movie is fucking weird.

Final note: I recapped this in vague detail back in 2011 for my own personal site. The recap has since gone offline, but if you think you’ve read any part of this recap before, don’t worry, I’m only plagiarising myself. Also, thank you, one person, for reading it. That site really didn’t get much traffic.

(more…)

Posted in Goosebumps Recaps

Recap #203: Goosebumps #61: I Live In Your Basement! by R.L. Stine

It’s Very David Lynch

Title: Goosebumps #61 – I Live In Your Basement! a.k.a. “Egg Yolkeo’s Revenge”

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Talk about a MONSTER nightmare!

Summary: He’s Got The Basement Blues!

“Don’t do this! Watch out for that!” Marco’s mom thinks the whole world is a danger zone. She won’t even let Marco play softball.

But Marco just wants to have fun. So he sneaks off to a game. And that’s when it happens. He gets hit in the head with a baseball bat.

Now things are getting really fuzzy. Really scary. Because when Marco gets home he gets the strangest call. From someone who says he lives in Marco’s basement…

Initial Thoughts

I promised someone on tumblr I would do a recap of this book come November. I just hope they’re still on the site after tumblr deleted all those blogs. INCLUDING MINE.

(UPDATE: My blog has been restored, although who knows what’ll happen after December 17th.)

This is one of most diverse entries in the original series, and serves as the penultimate volume before #62 and the end of the run. Troy Steele on “Blogger Beware” claimed this, alongside the two that preceded it (Werewolf Skin, The Haunted School) felt like last minute strokes of genius for Stine. And I agree with him.

Of course, I kind of wish Stine had saved some of that genius for “Monster Blood IV” which is such a clusterfuck.

“I Live In Your Basement” is bizarre, confusing, and rather endearing. It depends upon a more primal fear yet at the same time a rather unexpected fear. This idea that there is a total stranger living inside your home but you have no way to prove it. Coupled with the fact the main character is having a hard time keeping track of what’s real and what’s not due to the aforementioned stranger and his head injury.

BUT DON’T WORRY this isn’t a split personality thing.

(more…)