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213. Black Christmas – Christmas 2020 (-#75)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Doctor Bernice Murphy and Joey Keogh, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Sophia Takal’s Black Christmas.

As Christmas settles on Hawthorne College, something more unpleasant is in the air. A series of attacks on female students suggests that a killer is loose on campus, but the young members of the Mu Kappa Epsilon sorority begin to suspect that there is something far more toxic at work.

At time of recording, it was ranked 75th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Fantasy Island

What, exactly, is the point of the Blumhouse reboot of Fantasy Island?

To be fair, Blumhouse are a studio with a varied track record. They have produced some of the most interesting and compelling mainstream horror movies of the past few decades, including films like Get Out and The Invisible Man. They have also produced a fair amount of cynical schlock, such as Truth or Dare. There are also a number of films that seem to exist in the middle ground between those two extremes, like The Hunt or Black Christmas. It’s certainly a more varied approach than the standard horror films that heralded the studio’s arrival, like Insidious or Sinister.

Palming it off.

Jason Blum is a shrewd producer, and there’s a sense in looking at the studio’s output of trying to balance competing artistic and commercial demands. Blum tends to keep budgets under control, but he also seems to offset the riskier and more ambitious projects with generic crowd-pleasing fare. Fantasy Island would seem to belong in that category, but exactly what crowd is it intended to please? Watching Fantasy Island is a strange experience, and not just because of the multitude of structural and storytelling problems.

On a more basic level: who exactly is this movie for?

Can’t stick the island-ing.

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Into the Dark: New Year, New You (Review)

Into the Dark is the new anthology series from Blumhouse.

A horror anthology series seemed inevitable. There is a rich tradition of television series built around using the anthology format to tell horror stories; The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Tales from the Crypt. More than that, recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of anthology television. This is most obvious in the seasonal anthology structure of series like American Crime Story or American Horror Story, but is also reflected in the popularity and success of series like Black Mirror or Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

New year is the perfect time for… don’t make me say it

Horror is particularly suited to the anthology format. After all, having regular characters in a familiar setting tends to dilute both the suspense and the dread that runs through so much horror. The anthology format allows for a variety of characters, locations, formats and themes. Beyond that, Into the Dark is built around ninety-minute episodes, meaning that the series functions as an anthology of holiday-themed horror stories all telling self-contained tales.

Into the Dark is an effective reminder of just how much the medium of television has changed in recent years. Is Into the Dark best thought of as a television series or six feature films? The episodes are released online at Hulu. Unlike other net-native series Into the Dark eschews both the “all at once” binge model favoured by Netflix and the “one week at a time” approach that defines network television. Episodes are released when appropriate, rather than adhering to a rigid structure. It is an illustration of how fluid media is at the moment.

Pushed to the edge.

As the title implies, New Year, New You is the New Year entry in the series. Pooka! had been released for Christmas earlier in the month. New Year, New You is anchored in the themes of the holiday, in the ideas of renewal and reinvention. This is an interesting and audacious approach for a horror story to take. Certainly, New Year is a holiday that does not lend itself to horror as readily as Halloween or even Thanksgiving, and lacks the heightened irony of building a horror story around Christmas.

Perhaps accounting for this, New Year, New You leans heavily into dark comedy. The film does not work entirely consistently, effectively transitioning between three separate modes of horror within its ninety-minute runtime. There is very little novel or innovative to be found structurally in New Year, New You, which blazes through the familiar horror movie clichés with little in the way of insight or energy. There are moments when New Year, New You works rather well, particularly as it embraces absurdity in its third act. However, it is just too unfocused and uneven.

Deal with it.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #43!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast! A somewhat abridged edition this week, due to time constraints.

This week, I join Jay Coyle and Grace Duffy to discuss the week in film. As usual, we talk about the top ten and the new releases, as well as what we’ve watched this week. In this episode, Jay discusses continues his disaster movie marathon with Volcano and the questionable inclusion of Cliffhanger. Varda Season continues apace. Meanwhile, Grace gets into the Christmas spirit and walks us through some highlights of her binge of research into Netflix’s Christmas films.

The news this week is abridged, but there’s a brief discussion of the passing of Stan Lee and the awards given out by Irish Film London before the Irish Film Festival London.

The top ten:

  1. Hurricane (Squadron 303)
  2. Goosebumps II: Haunted Halloween
  3. Overlord
  4. Johnny English Strikes Again
  5. Smallfoot
  6. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  7. Widows
  8. A Star is Born
  9. Bohemian Rhapsody
  10. The Grinch

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.