Film Review: A Place Among the Dead

Fans of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer will forever remember Juliette Landau as Drusilla, the willowy, unhinged cockney vampire who named the stars and played rough with her dollies. The thing about playing a vampire on screen is that, after a few decades, the performer is no longer able to reprise that role convincingly. No amount of Hollywood self-care truly stops the aging process (Paul Rudd, notwithstanding). But Landau comes as close as she can to revisiting Drusilla in her writing/directing debut, A Place Among the Dead. Landau plays Jules, a fictionalized version of herself, who becomes immersed in investigating a string of murders which may or may not have been committed by a vampire. Landau (and, thus, Jules) uses her Hollywood connections to collect testimonials from vampire-adjacent celebrities. These interviews punctuate the true crime documentary she’s crafting about the killer. A Place Among the Dead is an ultra-meta exploration on the ways in which pop culture glamorizes death and destruction whilst trading youth and beauty as currency. The daughter of actors Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, Landau seasons the brew with a dash of Old Hollywood pathos…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Flytrap


Boxing Helena meets Under the Skin with a Twilight Zone after-taste, in Stephen David Brooks’ micro-budget 2016 black sci-fi comedy, Flytrap. Jeremy Crutchley (TVs The Blacklist) stars as James Pond, a British ex-pat and astronomy professor whose car inexplicably breaks down in the deep ‘burbs on his way to his new job at UCLA. For some reason, his cell also stops working. At a loss, he reluctantly knocks on the door of the only person who seems home in the area. A comely but odd woman named Mary Ann (Ina-Alice Kopp) invites him in with a glass of wine ready at the ready. But her aggressive hospitality soon turns sinister when James realizes he can’t leave.

At first, Mary Ann claims she’s alone but it’s not long before James meets her roommates, Gilligan (Jonah Blechman, This Boy’s Life) and the Skipper. When James snarkily inquires about Ginger, Mary Ann tells him straight-faced that the Skipper dealt with her when she tried to leave. At this point, James starts to suspect that he may have fallen into some sort of death cult in the midst of their final countdown. All of the fearless crew are stoic, stiff, and dead-eyed. They clearly have some sort of agenda, and it ain’t making a radio out of a coconut.

Brooks’ script is not particularly strong, but Flytrap captivates thanks to a game cast. Kopp is especially adept at maintaining an other-worldly presence. Crutchley projects an affably pompous demeanor as he bumbles his way through his strange captivity. No one has ever looked more threatening in a Hawaiian shirt than Jonah Blechman.

One cast member who gets the short shrift is Billy “Sly” Williams as James’ friend and colleague, Rondell. He mostly stares perplexedly at his phone whilst attempting to reach James. Tragically, no one else calls Rondell during the days James is missing, as evidenced by one shot of his empty incoming call records.

Brooks doesn’t do much to develop his characters but the 80-minute film is heavy on plot and James’ captors are strange and sinister enough to hold one’s attention. We don’t know what these people are capable of, but their threat feels limitless. Likewise, we don’t know James well enough to guess at the parameters of his self-preservation. He claims to be a gentle, non-violent type but there are times he appears to be unraveling under duress.

Flytrap had a brief festival tour in 2016 and is now available on VOD at Amazon and Tubi among other services.

Paid in Puke S4E5: The Farewell

On this episode, we’re talking about Lulu Wang’s 2019 film, The Farewell, which is “based on a real lie” and stars Awkwafina. What are the ethics of lying to your family? Is there any such thing as a “good” lie? What if it’s a stranger you will never see again? 

On the Lunchtime Poll, we reveal lies we have told our family. 

Paid in Puke will take a brief, mid-season break and return on December 1st, 2020. 

Film Review: The Mothman Legacy

Fans of Cryptozoology will find much to enjoy about Seth Breedlove’s latest documentary film, The Mothman Legacy. This film marks his second dive into the pervasive Mothman myth (Mothmyth? Mythman?). The first was 2017’s The Mothman of Point Pleasant, which focused on the accounts of a group of children on one fateful bus trip. Breedlove returns to the West Virginia town which remains the epicenter of Mothman sightings and mythology, and is also home to the world’s premiere museum on the subject. Breedlove interviews “eyewitnesses”, and the family behind the museum who have their own chilling encounter stories.

There are indeed many similarities between accounts, including height (it’s always said to be at least 6 feet tall), vast wingspan (between 10 and 20 feet), and glowing red eyes. It always leaves by shooting straight up into the air at a high speed. More troubling, every person who reports an encounter, also tells of a personal tragedy occurring weeks, or sometimes just days later. Is the Mothman a harbinger of doom, like the Banshee of Celtic lore? As one of the interviewees wisely states, “An absence of evidence doesn’t necessarily indicate evidence of absence.”…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Paid in Puke S4E4: Us

On today’s episode, we have a million theories about the allegorical nature of Jordan Peele’s 2019 horror film, Us, starring Lupita N’Yongo. 

Is it about classism? Capitalism? The failed American Dream? Performative activism? Yes. And so much more. Peele stuns with his super tight scripts and narrative mirroring. ALL of the performers absolutely destroy playing two parts EACH. This movie is so good, ya’ll. Watch it right now if you haven’t already. 

On the Lunchtime Poll, we reveal our “Tethered Tells”. What do we do a little differently that would expose us possible underworld doppelgängers? 

Paid in Puke S4E3: Sweetheart

On today’s episode, we’re taking a deep dive into J.D. Dillard’s Blumhouse Creature Feature, Sweetheart, starring Kiersey Clemons (Antebellum). Clemons destroys as a woman trapped on an island with a Shape of Water-adjacent monster who doesn’t seem to want to make out at all. 

In the spirit of the film, we recorded this episode in Cristina’s back yard with plenty of ambient sound to set the scene, and lots of cameos from Cristina’s dog, Lily, who DOES seem to want to make out with Amy. On the Lunchtime Poll, we reveal our island survival skills (or lacktherof). 

Film Review: Fully Realized Humans

After I had my first baby, I remember thinking that I’d wished people had been more forthcoming with me about what to expect. There are so many ugly surprises along the way to parenthood. Instead, it was a lot of “it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love.” But Joshua Leonard’s (The Lie) latest directorial outing, Fully Realized Humans, shows what happens when friends who are indoctrinated into parenthood decide to be brutally honest with the parents-to-be. Turns out, it might be better to discover the horrors for yourself.

Starring Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) and an actually eight-months-pregnant Jess Weixler (Teeth), the film explores what happens when brutal honesty sends the impending parents, Jackie and Elliot, into a sort of mid-pregnancy crisis in an attempt to work out all their shit before their baby arrives. In other words, they want to become “fully realized humans” in order to raise their offspring in a functional environment.

It all starts at a hipster co-ed baby shower, where Jackie and Elliot’s friends follow up gift-opening with a whole lot of opinionated oversharing. You should breast feed, but you shouldn’t tell people they need to breast feed. You should co-sleep but you also should never co-sleep, and don’t even worry about that because you won’t sleep at all. You’ll be too busy worry about crib death. Be ready with a birth plan but know that your birth plan is useless and prepare yourself for having your nethers torn from stem to stern. “But you guys are gonna kill it,” they say, as Jackie and Elliot struggle to catch their breath…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail!

Film Review: Baby Frankenstein

Jon YonKondy (Don Quixote) directs this uneven family horror comedy. Despite the deceptive poster art which implies an evil, bloodthirsty titular protagonist, there’s nothing truly horrific in this film apart from some of the dialogue. Instead, it’s a very old school Nickelodeon/Disney-style affair with a group of unknown actors committing whole hog to a flimsy story that is nonetheless a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Kim (Eileen Rosen) has just moved to a neighborhood with her teenage son, Lance (Ian Barling). Kim’s boor of a boyfriend, Ken (Patrick McCartney), helps her move in. But before the truck is fully empty, Ken has stormed the neighboring porch and the inhabitants, John (Mike Rutkoski, who penned the script) and Truth (Cora Savage), a girl around Lance’s age. Lance isn’t in the house long before he discovers a locked door and immediately sets about finding the bolt cutters. What he finds in the corner of the basement is a pint-sized Frankenstein’s Monster-esque creature (Rance Nix) with a glass dome covering a visible brain. This bi-pedal creature is really more like Toddler Frankenstein than baby, with shocking blue eyes and the ability to get into trouble if you’re not watching him. He can’t speak at first, so Lance starts calling him Little Dude. Soon, Truth finds out about him and becomes invested in his safety when they realize a besuited man (Andre Gower, The Monster Squad) from the clandestine Lundquist Industries, is offering $50K the return of what they call “The Asset”. The man tells Ken and his mustachioed army buddy that they are looking for an escaped convict. But when Ken spots Little Dude, he jumps to the conclusion that what they’re actually chasing is a Chupacabra. And he’s determined to reap the reward by any means necessary.

Lance, Truth, and Little Dude (or Baby, as Truth calls him), find themselves on the run, but it’s not so dire that they can’t stop to take a bowling montage break at the alley where Truth works, or go Trick or Treating. Fortunately, it’s close enough to Halloween, that no one seems to questions Little Dude’s appearance, and just assumes he’s a child in a (really excellent) costume. In fact, the only people afraid of Little Dude are the established bad guys who want to profit off of him. Everyone else is instantly charmed. He never gets angry or hurts anyone. Not even when a pushy neighbor forces him to sing for a treat and them gives him an apple for his trouble. It’s reminiscent of the heart-warming aspects of Harry and the Hendersons and E.T. (complete with a nod to the candy-munching extra-terrestrial when he dresses as a classic sheet ghost for Halloween). The kids are wholesome enough to recall the teen romance of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Lance’s mom also goes on an extremely chaste date with Truth’s dad. It’s only slightly tainted by the fact that John tells Lance he hopes to “bump uglies” with Kim before the night is out.

YonKondy takes the soundtrack a little too far, with what seems like wall-to-wall bar rock when he’s not overutilizing Little Dude’s plunky piano theme. There’s some strange exploration of toxic masculinity with Ken that might incite some awkward conversations for the parents of younger viewers. Kids also aren’t going to pick up on the brief Blue Velvet reference. But there’s no blood or violence that isn’t akin to dinner theater fight choreography. If you have 83 minutes to kill with your family, there are worse ways to spend them.

Paid in Puke S4E2: Antebellum

On this episode, we puzzle over the myriad negative critical response to this highly-anticipated social justice horror debut from writer/director team, Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz (Bush + Renz). 2020’s Antebellum stars the singular force of nature that is Janelle Monáe, as well as a killer comedic turn from Gabourey Sidibe. (Baxter apologizes for repeatedly mispronouncing Gabby’s surname, but we got the corrective drop in there and she’s got it now).

We take a break from the heavy convo about rampant racism for a fun Lunchtime Poll inspired by Gabby’s takedown of a would-be suitor. And Amy’s eldest child, Logan (they/them), returns in Keggers with Kids.  

Paid in Puke S4E1: Jezebel

On our Series 4 premiere, we discuss Numa Perrier’s stunning 2019 debut, Jezebel, starring Tiffany Tenille and Numa herself! We have a lot of love for this semi-autobiographical tale of a young woman helping her struggling family play the bills by taking a job in the burgeoning Cam Girl industry of the late nineteen-hundred-and-nineties. Tenille plays a young Numa-proxy coming of age under the tutelage of her older sister, Sabrina (played by Perrier). Perrier describes it as a love story between sisters, and we love any story that depicts sex work as work with an emotional and physical toll. 

Also, one of our segments get a long-overdue re-branding and we reveal our Cam Girl names in the Lunchtime Poll.