Halloween Streaming Recommendations 2022

Halloween is rapidly approaching, which means many cinephiles & genre nerds out there are currently planning to cram in as many scary movies as they can over the next month. In that spirit, here’s a horror movie recommendation for every day in October from the Swampflix crew. Each title was positively reviewed on the blog or podcast in the past year and is currently available on a substantial streaming service. Hopefully this helps anyone looking to add some titles to their annual horror binge. Happy hauntings!

Oct 1: Scream (1996)

“Having since caught up with virtually all of its reference points in the two decades since I first saw this film as a child, the namedrops now play like adorably clever winks to the camera. In the mid-90s, however, that list was a doorway to a world of horrors I would take mental note of for future trips to the video store. It was essential.” Currently streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime.

Oct 2: Ginger Snaps (2000)

“There are plenty coming-of-age horrors in which a teen girl’s earliest experiences with menstruation & sexual desire escalate into bloodlust & supernatural mayhem: Carrie, Teeth, Raw, Jennifer’s Body, etc. This one just holds a special place in my heart for being the first I happened to see, so it’s always my first reference point when I see the pattern repeated.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Peacock, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 3: The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

“A misandrist horror classic! Plenty of 1970s women-on-the-verge psych thrillers out there where shit-heel men drive women to madness, but few are this committed to their psychosexual terror or bloody revenge.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 4: White of the Eye (1987)

“A knockoff giallo that gets lost in the American desert for a while, then emerges as a sun-dazed erotic thriller. Incredible, unwieldy stuff.” Currently streaming on Shudder, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 5: Demon Seed (1978)

“Belongs to a very special subcategory of classic horror: I saw it parodied on The Simpsons long before I saw the movie itself. I put this one off longer than most, since the premise is so sleazy, but thankfully it’s less focused on the physical act of impregnation than I feared and instead finds a kind of wretched transcendence through retro computer graphics.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 6: Hatching (2022)

“A great entry in the Puberty as Monstrous Transformation canon, along with titles like Ginger Snaps, Jennifer’s Body, Teeth, Carrie, etc. Stands out in that crowd by adding an extra layer about mothers living vicariously through their daughters in unhealthy ways. Also achieves a lot on what appears to be a limited budget, leaning into its cheapness to create the kind of plastic world you’d expect to find in a music box.” Currently streaming on Hulu.

Oct 7: Scream 2 (1997)

“It’s easy to downplay the first Scream as a Greatest Hits collection of slasher tropes, so it’s super smart for its sequel to replay exact scenes from it as the tropiest, slasheriest slasher of all time. Every clip from and reference to Stab is brilliant.” Currently streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime.

Oct 8: Cronos (1993)

“There’s an extremely 90s-specific visual warmth to this that makes it instantly familiar, recalling cultural touchstones as varied as Tales from the Crypt & Wishbone. I definitely saw it once before in the post-victory glow of Pan’s Labyrinth, but it plays like something I watched hundreds of times on VHS, or heard repeated nightly as a freaky bedtime story.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

Oct 9: Wishmaster (1997)

“Very much enjoyed this as a child who was technically too young to see it, and glad to see it mostly holds up as a dumb-fun practical gore showcase. Its quality & sensibilities are pretty standard for trashy novelty horrors of its era, but its “Careful what you wish for” evil genie setup allows its imagination to run wild from kill to kill instead of being limited to one kind of monster. Makes total sense as a Wes Craven production, since the nightmare logic of the Elm Street kills works the same way.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi and Pluto TV.

Oct 10: The Lawnmower Man (1992)

“Had a lot of fun with this but it really pushed the outer limits of how much bullshit I’m willing to put up with to indulge in the precious Outdated Vintage Tech goofballery I love to see in killer-computer genre movies. Turns out the answer is ‘way too much’.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla.

Oct 11: Monkey Shines (1988)

“Romero’s killer helper monkey-movie crawled so The Lawnmower Man could transcend time & space.” Currently streaming on Shudder, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 12: Willard (2003)

“My favorite thing about the original Willard is how uncomfortably relatable I found Willard as a character; my favorite thing about this remake is how much Crispin Glover is an absolute freak.” Currently streaming for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Oct 13: Scream 3 (2000)

“A Corman cameo??? Hell yeah. Parker Posey as comedic relief?? Right on. Jay and Silent Bob? Oh, oh no.

Just as much of a mixed bag as the second one, but it’s easy to enjoy the nesting doll effect of the Stab series as this chugs along.” Currently streaming on Paramount+ and Showtime.

Oct 14: Deadstream (2022)

“This was a constantly surprising delight, getting huge laughs out of supernaturally torturing a YouTuber smartass with a sub-Ryan Reynolds sense of humor. It effectively does for Blair Witch what Host did for Unfriended, borrowing its basic outline to stage a chaotic assemblage of over-the-top, technically impressive scare gags.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 15: Malignant (2021)

“Feels like 2021’s The Empty Man: a seemingly well-behaved mainstream horror that takes some wild creative stabs in its go-for-broke third act; both earning instant cult prestige as ‘hidden gems’ despite their robust budgets, thanks to the dysfunction of COVID era distribution. I personally found The Empty Man the more rewarding experience of that pair, but you gotta appreciate these big-budget crowd-bafflers whenever you can find them.” Currently streaming on HBO Max.

Oct 16: The Seventh Curse (1986)

“I normally don’t vibe with Indiana Jones-style international swashbuckling at all, but this Hong Kong action mind-melter hits the exact level of bonkers mayhem I need to get past that genre bias. Overflowing with imagination, irreverence, explosive brutality, and shameless copyright violations in every scene. Far preferable to any actual Indiana Jones film, even if it would not exist without their influence.” Currently streaming on for free (with ads) on Crackle & Plex.

Oct 17: Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968)

“Presented as an alien-invasion creature feature, but really more of an anything-goes descent into chaos in which “the whole world’s gone insane” (mostly as an anti-war metaphor). One of those constantly surprising low-budget novelties where it feels like absolutely anything can happen at any time, while most of the actual imagery between the special effects shots is just a handful of characters debating a plan of action in a single room.” Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel.

Oct 18: Mad God (2022)

“Both a for-its-own-sake immersion in scatological mayhem & an oddly touching reflection on the creative process, the indifference of time, and the cruelty of everything. It’s meticulously designed to either delight or irritate, so count me among the awed freaks who never wanted the nightmare to end.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 19: Viy (1967)

“The five-minute stretch that makes good on its long-teased witchcraft & devilry—boosted by an importation of Silent Era special effects into a 1960s filmmaking aesthetics—should leave an intense impression on your psyche that overpowers any minor qualms with its build-up. This is a quick, oddly lighthearted folk-horror curio with a fascinating historical context and an eagerness to wow the audience in its tension-relieving climax.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 20: Lisa and the Devil (1973)

“Besides the gorgeous, lustrous cinematography, I will forever treasure this as the only film I know of with a haunted European villa and a haunted plane. I would 1000% watch Lisa descend further into madness in a surreal plane-centric sequel.” Currently streaming on Shudder, or for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy.

Oct 21: The Wailing (2016)

“Expands the rage-virus horror of 28 Days Later into opposing directions of operatic crescendo & goofball slapstick, refusing to be tethered to any one specific meaning or tone and finding abject terror in that ambiguity. An ideal vision of what mainstream horror would routinely look & feel like in a better world.” Currently streaming on Shudder, Peacock, for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 22: The Medium (2021)

“In the abstract, a found-footage update to The Exorcist for the 2020s sounds like it would be tedious at best, but this manages to feel freshly upsetting & emotionally engaged while never drifting outside those genre boundaries. Big-scale blockbuster horror on a scrappy indie budget.” Currently streaming on Shudder.

Oct 23: Scream 4 (2011)

“A good argument that this series only thrives with breathing room. The first is still the best, with at least two decades of slasher tradition to catalog and pull apart. 2 & 3 felt thin & rushed by comparison, then this one snaps the whole thing back into shape with another full decade of horror trends to riff on.” Currently streaming on Paramount+, Starz, for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 24: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

“A delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their school’s misogynist football team. Much, much better than its reputation & promotional material suggest, but maybe still dead last on the list of films of its ilk worth prioritizing before you get to it: Heathers, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Ginger Snaps, The Craft, Jennifer’s Body, Sugar & Spice, Jawbreaker, Teeth, Buffy, etc.” Currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 25: A Cat in the Brain (1990)

“Really fun, chaotic self-reflection on how the brutality of the horror genre is often flippantly overlooked by cheap-thrill seekers but still takes a toll on our psyches (of which I’m just as guilty as Fulci). Feels like a crude precursor to what Wes Craven would soon be working through in A New Nightmare & Scream, except that it doubles as a Greatest Hits montage of Fulci’s recycled gore gags.” Currently streaming on for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 26: The Visitor (1979)

“The greatest sports movie of all time, by which I mean it only briefly pretends to be interested in basketball before indulging in a chaotic mix of aliens, killer birds, and Satanic blood cults (with a little gymnastics & ice-dancing tossed in for balance).” Currently streaming on Shudder, for free (with a library membership) on Kanopy & Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 27: Lifeforce (1985)

“It would have been more than enough for the soul-sucking nudist space vampires to turn Earthlings into exploding dust zombies & blood sacks, but what really made me fall in love is how they start the process by hypnotizing their victims with intense horniness. I’m always a sucker for supernatural erotic menace, so 5 stars; instant fav.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 28: Return of the Living Dead (1985)

“I need to stop thinking of Dan O’Bannon as the nerd who wrote Alien and start thinking of him as the absolute madman who somehow made Return of the Living Dead & Lifeforce in the same year; two deranged gems I should’ve sought out a lot sooner.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime, for free (with a library membership) on Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 29: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)

“Besides its obvious charms as a ribald horror comedy about witchcraft & titties, it’s also an expert demonstration of kayfabe in action. Elvira never breaks character, gets billed “as herself”, and continues to work her job as a B-horror hostess even as she gets tangled up in a one-woman war against small-minded small towners.” Currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Hoopla, or for free (with ads) on Tubi.

Oct 30: Scream (2022)

Stab has become a cultural phenomenon in Scream‘s world, and that world has now entered the era of The Snyder Cut, wherein groups of fanboys feel that the media belongs to them, so they want to course correct back to the ‘original concept; by enacting a new series of murders in Woodsboro to inspire the Stab franchise to return to its roots. It’s not as clever as ‘movies made us do it,’ but it’s just as cohesive.” Currently streaming on Paramount+.

Oct 31: WNUF Halloween Special (2013) & The Great Satan (2019) Double Feature

WNUF Halloween Special does a great job in remaining authentic to local 1980s TV broadcasts, but smartly sets its spooky news show in a fantasy world where only a couple commercials are miserably repeated every ad break instead of all of them.

The Great Satan doubles as both an unrelenting flood of metal-as-fuck vintage ephemera and as a sickening overview of Christian America’s moral rot, especially in the Satanic Panic era. If you can stomach a little edgelord pranksterism, it’s wonderfully fucked up.

Together, they make the perfect Halloween Night VHS nostalgia mind-melter.

WNUF Halloween Special is currently streaming on Shudder, and The Great Satan is currently streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi.

-The Swampflix Crew

Lagniappe Podcast: Wishmaster (1997)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss the evil-djinn special effects horror Wishmaster (1997).

00:00 Welcome

04:28 Barbarian (2022)
10:25 Arabesque (1966)
12:20 Dagon (2001)
14:44 Even the Wind is Afraid (1968)
16:45 Tubi
23:33 Hellraiser (1987)
31:35 Pearl (2022)
36:30 The Silent Twins (2022)

40:25 Wishmaster (1997)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

I am once again living without a car.  It hasn’t been a traumatic life adjustment or anything, but it has limited how much of the city I can conveniently access without it feeling like an epic journey.  It’s also made me realize, once again, how few legitimate movie theaters are currently operating in New Orleans proper.  Ever since most theatrical screenings were exported to the Metairie movie palaces in the 1990s, there have been precious few cinemas operating in the actual city.  I can only name three currently running, and if you’re biking & bussing around the center of town, only two of those are easily accessible; most nights for me, the original uptown location of The Prytania might as well be on another planet.  So, in these dark days when the ludicrously cheap AMC A-List subscription service is miles of interstate out of reach, I am relying heavily on the programmers at The Broad & The Prytania at Canal Place to keep me air conditioned & entertained.  Thankfully, they do a kickass job.

In particular, I’ve been loving the repertory programming at The Canal Place Prytania in recent months.  The Rene Brunet Classic Movie series at their uptown location is the closest thing this city has to a solid rep scene, so it’s been cool to see that NOLA TCM energy flow downriver to their new outpost.  If anything, the downtown location has been much hipper in its curation, including the Wildwood series—a “weekly celebration of daring cinema”—and, more recently, a month-long program of anime classics branded “Anime Theatre.”  I had just caught up with Akira and Cowboy Bebop: The Movie in the few months before the Anime Theatre series started running, and I very much wish I had held out to catch them for the first time on the big screen.  I just never would have assumed the opportunity would present itself so conveniently (except maybe as a glitchy Fathom Events stream out in the suburbs).  Luckily, though, there was still one major blind spot that series could fill for me: the 1995 cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell, which was a real treat to see projected big & loud with a fired-up audience of downtown weirdos.

It’s a stain on my honor that I watched the live-action Scarlett Johansson remake of Ghost in the Shell years before seeking out its animated ancestor.  Worse yet, I apparently enjoyed that remake at the time, faintly praising it as “Blade Runner-runoff eye candy” with “a deliriously vapid sci-fi action plot.”  In retrospect, I’m surprised to see how much of that Blade Runner DNA flows through the original film’s synthetic veins.  I assumed the live-action version borrowed a lot of Ridley Scott’s neon-noir imagery as lazy shorthand, but it turns out the anime version of Ghost in the Shell sets a lot of its own moody, “What is humanity anyway?” introspection on the same neon-lit, rain-slicked streets of future-Tokyo.  There’s plenty of RoboCop influence at play here too, not only in the ultraviolence exacted by Ghost in the Shell‘s cyborg law enforcement leads, but also in the first-person POV framing of those cyborgs booting up in a cold, blue world.  The movie was plenty influential in its own time too, to the point where you could argue that The Matrix was actually its first live-action remake – right down to its green towers of binary code.  Watching Ghost in the Shell for the first time felt like finding a crucial, missing piece of a larger genre puzzle.  It helped contextualize other genre works I already love by fitting them into an infinite continuum of sci-fi visual language.

It’s also just gorgeous.  This is brain-hacking cinema of the highest order, much more low-key & philosophical than I expected based on its most lurid imagery.  Yes, these badass cyborg women strip down into flesh-tone body suits before digitally cloaking themselves in reflective pixels, but they look amazing doing it, blurring humanity & technology in the medium itself.  Ghost in the Shell was at the forefront of mixing digital animation with traditional hand-drawn cells, conjuring a new, glitchy spectacle out of their interplay where most future productions would only see cost-saving measures.  It’s through those digi animation experiments where the film manages to feel like its own weird thing despite all the convenient comparisons swirling around it.  The future-world body horror of seemingly human parts opening in segments to reveal the fabricated machinery inside is mirrored in the human/machine hybrid of the film’s animation.  It’s a tension in technique still echoed in contemporary anime, whether thoughtfully in films like Belle or lazily in films like Fireworks.

If I’m not spending much time recapping the themes or plot details of Ghost in the Shell, it’s because I assume most cinema obsessives have already seen it.  This was a behind-the-times educational experience for me, which is pretty much how I always feel when watching classic anime.  The only relatively unique aspect of my Ghost in the Shell experience was the opportunity to see it projected big & loud, thanks to the downtown Prytania.  It was the closing film in their Anime Theatre series, but their kickass repertory programming is marching on into spooky season with their upcoming line-up of Kill-O-Rama double-features, pictured below. In a city with a relatively small cinema exhibition scene, that kind of thoughtful, adventurous curation is invaluable.

-Brandon Ledet

Quick Takes: Film Festival Runoff

It’s Film Festival Season right now.  If you’re on the level of industry press who get flown around the world, that means you’re dragging your corpse from screening to screening at high-profile fests like Venice, Tribeca, and TIFF, then pretending in your late-night hotel room tweets & podcasts that you’re fully awake and spring-loaded with the hottest takes as you drift into a brief nap before the cycle starts again.  And if you’re an amateur movie nerd like me, you’re taking those delirious dispatches from Film Industry Hell as holy gospel, making notes on what movies to look out for much, much further down the distribution path.  The problem is a lot of the smaller, weirder titles highlighted in those reports from the ground can take years to reach local screens, if they ever arrive at all.  After years of attentive podcast listening, I have serial killer conspiracy theorist notebooks full of scribbled-down titles of movies that functionally do not exist, hoping that something as wonderfully bizarre as an Aline, a Double Lover, or a Diamantino might eventually make it my way.  It often pays off!  But it’s a madman’s hobby.

I was thinking about this private film fest ritual in recent weeks, listening to festival recaps on podcasts like Film Comment & The Last Thing I Saw while still searching for titles they covered years ago on my weekly trips to JustWatch.  And I happened to catch a few of those festival runoff titles in recent weeks: low-budget movies that were briefly highlighted in their festival runs while higher-profile awards seekers premiered in much brighter spotlights at the same venues.  I’ve covered local fests like NOFF & Overlook for Swampflix before, but I can’t afford to be the first online with the freshest takes on titles out of Sundance & Telluride that will be widely available in the nation’s multiplexes just a few weeks later.  Instead, here are a few quick reviews of smaller-profile indies that premiered at festivals long ago, but just recently got wide distribution.

The Silent Twins

The newest film from The Lure‘s Agnieszka Smoczyńska has enjoyed the quickest turnaround of the festival titles highlighted here, premiering at Cannes just this Spring.  That kind of rushed-to-market release usually means a film is vying for Awards Season prestige, but The Silent Twins is too thorny & too fanciful to be mistaken for a crowd-pleaser.  Its titular Welsh sisters, June & Jennifer Gibbons, were mutually obsessed to the point of total reclusiveness in real life, refusing to communicate to anyone but each other in their own hushed, made-up language.  Smoczyńska uses their personal diaries & surviving scraps of creative writing as inspiration to imagine what their inner world might have been like, since there isn’t much to depict in their near-catatonic external life as the only Black family in their Welsh neighborhood.  From the outside looking in, this is a grim, by-the-numbers historical drama.  On the inside, it’s a rich fantasyscape that often takes the shape of a grotesque stop-motion music video.

There’s a bizarre mismatch between auteur & genre here, like watching Lynne Ramsay direct Oscar Bait.  Smoczyńska is unlikely to ever make another killer-mermaid disco musical, though, so it’s at least cool to see her directing high-profile work with a hint of commercial appeal.  The (mostly British) audience who know the Gibbons sisters as a from-the-headlines human interest story have been frustrated with the film’s self-indulgent style and historical inaccuracies, while fans of The Lure will be frustrated that it doesn’t break from reality more frequently & more harshly.  Neither side of that divide can walk away 100% happy, but there’s some great tension between its Wikipedia Biopic genre template and its insular, high-style dream logic. And who knows, maybe it’ll make waves at the BAFTAs before it otherwise fades away forever.

Tahara

The road to wide distribution has been much longer for the microbudget coming-of-age drama Tahara, which first premiered at Slamdance, TIFF, and Outfest way back in 2020.  This is, of course, the 77min, darkly humorous queer meltdown drama in which Rachel Sennott makes bagels and makes out as an agent of chaos at a Jewish funeral.  No, not that one, the other one.  Tahara was shot in the moment between when Shiva Baby was just a proof-of-concept short film and when its feature-length version became a critical darling at SXSW & TIFF, earning a spot on many publication’s Best of 2021 lists.  Tahara can only suffer by comparison, then, since it’s not as searingly intense nor as robustly funded as Shiva Baby, which puts Sennott’s electric screen presence to much more attention-grabbing use.  By the time Bodies Bodies Bodies hit theaters this summer, though, she proved herself to be a legitimate, once-in-a-generation star, which makes the first feature she shot worth a look no matter how redundant its surface details seem.

Oddly enough, Tahara shares more in common with The Silent Twins, stylistically, than it does with Shiva Baby.  Sennott stars alongside Madeline Grey DeFreece as a pair of high school BFFs who are so mutually obsessed that they can almost communicate telepathically, chatting in a private body language that director Olivia Pearce helpfully translates into on-screen subtitles.  When Sennott’s bratty partygirl hedonist pressures her more bookish bestie into making out for LOLs at a classmate’s funeral, her friend catches feelings and the film slips into Silent Twins-style stop-motion fantasy.  However, their interpersonal drama is extremely low stakes in comparison to Smoczyńska’s film, or even Shiva Baby, really.  Mostly, this is a charming indie comedy that scores a lot of nervous laughter off the social tension of Sennott causing self-involved havoc in a buttoned-up funeral setting.  It’s the exact kind of movie you’d expect to see at a local film fest and hold onto as an “I knew them when” badge of honor as the breakout performer moved onto bigger & better things.  Only, Sennott’s rise to fame was much quicker than the movie’s roll-out.

Mother Schmuckers

It’s shameful to admit, but the film from this batch I was most looking forward to was the one most devoid of best-of-the-year potential, awards season prestige, or even basic artistic merit.  The Belgian buddy comedy Mother Schmuckers premiered at Sundance in 2021 to total critical indifference, despite its most juvenile efforts to provoke.  The 70min novelty gross-out revisits the tipping point when the Farrelley Brothers converted the John Waters gross-out comedy into mainstream crowd pleasers, choosing instead to upset & offend.  It’s Dumb & Dumber for the Pink Flamingos crowd, both a revolting abomination and a revolting delight.  I can’t recommend it in good conscience, but I also won’t pretend I didn’t enjoy it.

Real-life brothers Harpo and Lenny Guit star as fictional idiot brothers who torment anyone & everyone unfortunate enough to know them, as if they were performing hype house YouTube pranks that no one is around to film.  Mother Schmuckers opens with the titular schmucks cooking feces in the family frying pan, then offering it to their incensed mother until she pukes onto the camera lens, providing a slimy green backdrop for the title card.  Kicked out of the house and left in charge of the most valued member of the family—their mother’s dog—they get into endless bad-taste shenanigans, ranging from murder to bestiality to necrophiliac prostitution . . . all while searching for an easy meal.  The film indulges in a little visual flair to lighten up the severity of these stunts, dabbling in color blind dog-cam POV, vintage picture-in-picture inserts, and Jackass-style found footage camcorder textures.  This is not another fantasy-prone-siblings-shunned-by-a-cruel-world heartbreaker like The Silent Twins, though.  It’s trash; it knows it’s trash; and any festival programming it would’ve been smart to bury it in the midnight slot where only the most delirious trash scavengers would stumble across it.  All that said, I laughed a lot while watching it, which I believe qualifies it as a success.  I’m also in total amazement that it scored American distribution, given how many higher-minded films never make it past the festival circuit.

-Brandon Ledet

Bonus Features: All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

Our current Movie of the Month, 2013’s All Cheerleaders Die, is a delightfully vapid, shockingly cruel horror comedy about undead cheerleaders seeking supernatural revenge on their high school’s misogynist football team.  It opens with faux-documentary footage that anthropologizes the cheerleaders’ social rituals as queen-bitch rulers of the school.  Our outsider-goth protagonist intends to infiltrate, expose, and tear down the institution of popular-girl supremacy by joining the squad and sabotaging them from the inside.  Only, once she makes the squad she finds it to be an unexpected, heartfelt bonding experience . . . especially after they’re murdered by the school’s meathead jocks, then rise from the grave to avenge their own deaths.

All Cheerleaders Die is a tonally chaotic mix of campy bitch-sesh dialogue, disturbing jabs of misogynist violence, high-femme lesbianism, vintage zombie gore, and supernatural goofballery involving magic crystals & spells.  Its shocking ultraviolence strikes a sharp contrast against the bubbly cheer squad social setting, touching on a long tradition of playfully violent cheerleader thrillers like Jennifer’s Body, Sugar & Spice, Satan’s Cheerleaders, and the list goes on.  To that end, here are a few recommended titles if you enjoyed our Movie of the Month and want to see more bubbly, morbid films about the deadly art of high school cheerleading.

Cheerleader Camp (1988)

All Cheerleaders Die’s greatest strength is its more-is-more ethos. It’s a shamelessly silly film that’s fearless about piling on more supernatural mayhem than it can possibly manage atop what easily could have been a simple undead-cheerleaders premise.  You can find more of that over-extended hot-mess novelty in the 80s sex-comedy slasher Cheerleader CampCheerleader Camp relocates the Porky’s sex comedy to Camp Crystal Lake, breaking up the usual rhythms of the summer camp slasher with frat boy gags involving locker room snooping & old-biddy crossdressing in an endless desperation to see cheerleaders topless.  Then, it goes the extra mile with some cheap-o surrealism in sub-Elm Street nightmare sequences starring various school mascots and razor-sharp pom-poms.  Like All Cheerleaders Die, it’s light-hearted, boneheaded novelty trash that reaches a kind of vapid transcendence in its overly complicated genre mashups.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

If the meathead Reaganite antics of Cheerleader Camp are an instant turn-off, you’re much likelier to feel at home with the bubbly, Valley Girl cuteness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The original Buffy film is basically Clueless before Clueless, if Clueless were a Hammer Horror.  Kristy Swanson stars as a mallrat cheerleader who’s recruited for her true calling as the modern Van Helsing.  Suddenly her priorities shift from determining which shopping mall multiplex has the best popcorn to learning how to drive stakes into vampires’ hearts without breaking a nail.  I never fully understood the appeal of the Buffy TV show, but the movie was a childhood favorite and remains a total delight.  It’s the exact kind of giggly, high-femme horror comedy that would be a hit at the same baby-goth sleepovers as All Cheerleaders Die, if either film got the respect they both deserve.

The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993)

All Cheerleaders Die may belong to a tradition of theatrically released cheerleader horrors, but most deadly cheerleader movies are made-for-TV.  Lifetime, in particular, is overflowing with titles like Cheer for Your Life, Deadly Cheers, Dying to Be a Cheerleader, Death of a Cheerleader, and Pom Poms and Payback, releasing cheerleader thrillers with the same rate most channels release made-for-TV Christmas movies.  The very best straight-to-TV cheerleader thriller I’ve ever seen was made for HBO in the 90s, though.

The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom is the scrappy little sister of headlines-riffing black comedies like Serial Mom, To Die For, and Drop Dead Gorgeous.  It can’t quite compete with those 5-star classics, but Holly Hunter is deliciously vicious as the titular cheerleader-murdering mom.  She tears through small-town rubes like an overgrown child pageant queen gone feral.  It’s the exact kind of novelty I was looking for when I watched the much more mundane Denise Richards Lifetime thrillers Killer Cheer Mom and The Secret Lives of Cheerleaders earlier this year, so I’m recommending it as the only title you need to understand the artistry of the made-for-TV cheerleader thriller sungenre.

-Brandon Ledet

Podcast #169: Willow (1988) & Fairy Tales

Welcome to Episode #169 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of fantasy films & fairy tales, starting with the 1988 Warwick Davis star-maker Willow.

00:00 Welcome

02:25 Vengeance (2022)
09:20 Barbarian (2022)
12:50 Seconds (1966)
17:05 Ghost in the Shell (1995)

22:05 Willow (1988)
44:30 The Singing Ringing Tree (1957)
1:02:17 Gretel & Hansel (2020)
1:17:17 Belle (2022)

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– The Podcast Crew

The Fog (1980)

I first saw John Carpenter’s cosmic body horror The Thing in the midnight slot at The Prytania.  I loved the film, but struggled to stay awake during the final third, fighting a losing battle against its low-key, matter-of-fact tone and unrushed pacing.  A few years later, I’m a few years older and struggled to stay awake at a 7pm screening of John Carpenter’s The Fog at The Broad.  I appreciated the opportunity to see a proper projection of a beloved genre classic, but that novelty wasn’t enough to keep my eyes from being magnetically drawn to the top of my skull.  Immediately after my screening of The Fog, I biked home to rent the film VOD and rewatch the last half-hour to make sure I didn’t take a “long blink” through anything vital.  I did the same the morning after that midnight screening of The Thing in 2015, “re”watching the back half of the film over a cup of coffee.

I don’t believe the drowsiness of The Fog‘s mood & pacing is a detriment, no more than I believe The Thing is anything less than a 5-star classic.  The Fog just happens to be one of those low-budget horrors that’s so moody & dreamlike that it leaves you both riveted and halfway asleep – joining the likes of Carnival of Souls, Messiah of Evil, and its seaside sister film The Living Skeleton.  The prologue is a campfire horror story about a drowned ship’s crew who haunt the land as ghosts, proving ahead of time that you can condense this 90min film’s plot into just 5 minutes of dialogue.  So, what does Carpenter fill the other 85 minutes of dead air with?  As the children would say, just vibes.  The titular fog is a glowing, sentient force of nature that slowly creeps onto the screen, inviting some glowing-eyed ghost friends along for the ride.  It is the most literal interpretation of “atmospheric horror” around, surviving on pure mood and eerie weather until supernatural mayhem is unleashed in the go-for-broke finale . . . if you’re awake to witness it.

Most of what makes this film of interest to modern audiences is its horror icon bonafides.  Carpenter may be working on a scrappy budget here, but he puts his glowing-eyed monsters to a much more ambitious, ethereal effect than their subterranean brethren in C.H.U.D.. That’s why he’s the best.  Give the man a kitchen knife & a store-bought William Shatner mask, and he’ll inspire decades of copycats in a subgenre of its own.  The Fog never really took off in the same way as Halloween, but there are plenty of Carpenter regulars around to give it a similar classic-horror pedigree: producer Debra Hill, scream queen Jamie Leigh Curtis, her screamier-queenier mother Janet Leigh, town drunk Tom Atkins, etc.  Adrienne Barbeau is a particular highlight among those collaborators, playing the coolest local radio D.J. around, talking her small seaside town through the ghastliest night of their lives in the smoothest tones possible.

The Fog is far from Carpenter’s flashiest work.  It doesn’t have the impossible body contortions of The Thing, the pro-wrestling caricatures of They Live, nor the psychedelic rug-pulls of In the Mouth of Madness.  Besides the icy synths of Carpenter’s score and the calming, laid-back cool of Barbeau’s performance, there isn’t much to recommend here as the artistic pinnacle of anyone’s career.  It’s got plenty mood & craftiness to spare, though, achieving a wonderfully vivid nightmare vibe on a community theatre budget.  Even if you stay awake & alert the entire runtime, it’s easy to question whether you slipped into a dream halfway through.

-Brandon Ledet

The Search for This Year’s Malignant

When reviewing James Wan’s twisty crowd-baffler Malignant, I contextualized it as 2021’s The Empty Man: a seemingly well-behaved mainstream horror that takes some wild creative stabs in its go-for-broke third act, earning instant cult prestige as a “hidden gem” despite its robust budget, thanks to the dysfunction of COVID-era film distribution.  A year later, it’s clear that Malignant has fully eclipsed its 2020 equivalent.  The Empty Man no longer exists at all in the public consciousness (a thematically appropriate fate for the film, at least), while Gabriel of Malignant fame is the closest we’ve gotten to crowning a modern horror icon since Bill Skarsgård dragged up clown make-up in chapter one of IT.  It’s not enough that horror nerds & Twitter bots were sharing one-year anniversary posts commemorating Gabriel’s jail-cell debut in Malignant; they’re also now searching for “this year’s Malignant” in other films.  Within weeks of each other, I saw two different 2022 horrors described as “this year’s Malignant,” which is further confirmation that Gabriel still lurks in the backs of people’s minds (har, har).  Having now seen both contenders for the prestigious title of “this year’s Malignant,” I do think there’s a clear winner in the pair, even if I have lingering questions about what that honorific even means.

Orphan: First Kill was the first movie I saw described as “this year’s Malignant” online. It turned out to be a premature declaration.  Having to live up to both the shock & awe of Gabriel’s reveal and the perverse discomforts of the original Orphan‘s third-act meltdown is too much pressure for this kind of straight-to-streaming schlock, which is ultimately too cheap & too subdued to amount to much of anything.  The workman director behind The Boy & Brahms: The Boy II just can’t match the stylishness or trashiness of a James Wan or a Jaume Collet-Serra. William Brent Bell works in a muted Lifetime color palette & melodramatic register that First Kill never really breaks free from.  Worse yet, the film’s “shocking” twist is telegraphed all over Julia Styles’s face within the first few scenes, which takes it out of contention for “this year’s Malignant” before it even gets cooking.  Thankfully, Orphan: First Kill doesn’t save its twist for the third act, allowing Styles to square off against little orphan Esther on her own bonkers terms well before the end credits.  The second half of First Kill is some deliciously absurd, post-Lifetime domestic horror, and it never stops being bizarre to watch a now-adult Isabelle Fuhrman reprise her role as the forever-young Esther, Colin Robinson style.  Since the “first” in the title is super misleading, as Esther has already killed before this movie starts, I’d gladly watch Fuhrman return for another, earlier prequel as the same loveable, pint-sized killer in 13 years.  Orphan: First Kill is a delightful, slight horror novelty.  It’s just not this year’s Malignant.

The case for Zach Cregger’s debut feature Barbarian is much stronger.  While Orphan: First Kill suffers the disadvantage of having to out-twist its already plenty twisty predecessor, Barbarian is coming in fresh as a new work with no expectations hanging over the audience.  All most critics will say about the film is that it’s a fun ride and it’s best to go in completely unspoiled, which certainly sounds very Malignanty to me.  I won’t touch the details of the plot out of respect for maintaining that mystique.  All I can say, then, is that it’s a very fragmented work, one that makes total sense in the context of Cregger’s sketch comedy background.  Like with all sketch comedy, not every segment exploring its Evil Airbnb Subdungeon setting is entirely successful (with Justin Long’s storyline being a particular mood-killer).  Overall, though, it’s some fun, fucked-up Discomfort Horror that Malignantizes the post-torture porn cruelty of titles like Don’t Breathe into something new & exciting.  It also has the best end-credits needle drop since You Were Never Really Here, leaving the audience in a perversely upbeat mood despite the Hell we just squirmed through.  It’s not a great film but, frankly, neither was Malignant.  The important thing is that it’s eccentric enough in its twists & turns to land a few “what-the-fuck” jaw-drops as its cursed Airbnb reveals all its gnarly secrets.  That’s what makes it this year’s Malignant, a “hidden gem” of a mainstream horror that’s pulling typically non-adventurous audiences into some deeply fucked up, perversely playful subdungeons. It’s incredibly cool that something this bizarre was #1 at the box office its opening weekend.

As for next year’s Malignant?  My hope is that by then something so freshly upsetting & bizarre will make this honorific obsolete, and we won’t have to hand out the award ever again.

-Brandon Ledet

Lagniappe Podcast: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

For this lagniappe episode of the podcast, Boomer, Brandon, and Alli discuss Adrian Lyne’s post-Vietnam War psych horror Jacob’s Ladder (1990).

00:00 Welcome

02:36 Power of the Dog (2021)
06:00 Vampires (1998)
07:30 The Fog (1980)
11:35 Funny Pages (2022)
16:20 The Hobbit: A Long-Expected Autopsy (2018)
19:10 Victoria & Abdul (2017)
22:45 Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
25:50 A Serious Man (2009)

33:30 Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

You can stay up to date with our podcast through SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcherTuneIn, or by following the links on this page.

-The Lagniappe Podcast Crew

Physical Media Mafia

When Warner Brothers cancelled the release of their upcoming Batgirl film in post-production and then started scraping HBO Max exclusives from their servers last month, there was a lot of “I told you so” gloating from physical media collectors online.  I have a lot of admiration for the physical media freaks out there with endless towers of hideous plastic snap cases lining their home library walls.  Even if most of those movies just collect dust, unwatched, there’s an archivist’s spirit to that kind of obsessive collecting & cataloging that really does feel like an act of defiance, even if a consumerist one.  Charging monthly subscription fees for behind-a-paywall access to movies & TV shows that can be wiped from servers at any minute is a truly anti-democratic, anti-art distribution model, and I’ve got a lot of respect for collectors who are building personal libraries to combat that exclusivity & intangibility.  At the same time, I do not understand how most amateurs can afford the hobby. 

I heavily rely on physical media to keep my movie-nerd lifestyle affordable, but not in the way the loudest, proudest collectors do.  If I dropped $30 to $50 on every new Blu-ray release I wanted to own, it would financially devastate me in a matter of weeks, especially in our current boom of genre-focused boutique labels specifically designed to drain my bank account in particular.  Instead, I regularly borrow DVDs of new releases (and podcast homework titles) from the New Orleans Public Library, which is a surprisingly dependable, easily accessible resource.  When I do collect movies, I’m usually scooping up a handful of DVDs at a local thrift store, watching them once, and selling them back to a second-hand media shop for store credit so I can “buy” something I actually want to own.  This ritual isn’t in defiance of the streaming service subscription model, exactly.  It’s more in defiance of our failing local infrastructure.  I can power my home with solar panels during a hurricane outage, but I can’t power the regional cable company, which sometimes means I’m bored with no internet connection for a full week and only my thrift store DVDs to keep me entertained — let’s say about once a year, somewhere in the June to November range.

There doesn’t even need to be a hurricane for that stockpile to come in handy.  I arrived home from a sweaty bus ride a few weeks ago to an unexplained neighborhood-wide internet outage, courtesy of Cox Cable.  One cancelled podcast recording later, I had nothing to keep myself occupied with except the thrift store DVDs collecting dust in my watchpile.  So, I scraped together the best double feature I could out of that meager library, settling on a pair of quirky crime pictures about women at the outskirts of the Long Island mafia.  I doubt many film programmers have paired Jonathan Demme’s beloved 1988 crime-world comedy Married to the Mob with anonymous workman director David Anspaugh’s 2002 restaurant melodrama WiseGirls, mostly because I doubt many people even know that WiseGirls exists.  It’s the exact kind of movie you find on a Goodwill DVD shelf and then watch when the internet’s down on an otherwise excruciatingly boring evening.  And in that context, it ain’t half bad.

WiseGirls stars Mira Sorvino as a med school dropout who takes a minimum-wage job waiting tables at a mobster’s restaurant in her hometown on Long Island.  There, she finds life-changing friendship with her two fellow waitresses, played by the much more charismatic Mariah Carey & Melora Walters.  It’s a bizarrely serious drama, especially given how fun & flirty the marketing makes it appear.  The women deal with the same sexist bullshit most waitresses suffer — pinched, groped, berated, infantilized, and slapped while they’re just trying to run a plate of spaghetti to table 7.  Working for a mobster restauranteur adds some extra challenges on top of that industry-standard misogyny, though, like so much freshly grated parmesan.  Sorvino cleans bullet wounds, dodges assassination, and is pressured into distributing heroin via tin-foil takeout swans.  It’s perfectly cromulent for a drama that premiered at Sundance then went straight to Cinemax. The only real surprise is how very great Mariah Carey is in this otherwise very mediocre movie.  Rival chanteuse JLo had to wait 16 years for Hustlers to complete her post-Gigli redemption arc. In contrast, Carey redeemed herself with an effortlessly charming, entirely naturalistic performance just one year after Glitter.  It’s a shame not enough people saw WiseGirls to come to her defense while those wounds were still fresh, and most of the press wasn’t about her performance but instead focused on a behind-the-scenes fight where she hurled a saltshaker at Mira Sorvino’s head.  Given how much Glitter lingers as a time-capsule punchline of the early aughts, maybe WiseGirls would’ve had more of a lasting impact if Carey was a disaster in it.  Too bad she’s really good.

The cast for Demme’s Married to the Mob is in no need of redemption or reclamation.  Michelle Pfeiffer stars the reluctant wife of a mobster, who uses her husband’s unexpected assassination as an excuse to flee the Family.  Pfeiffer is joined by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt, Matthew Modine, and Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis in a full-charm offensive.  Behind the camera, Demme is joined by regular collaborators like cinematographer Tak Fujimoto & musician David Byrne, with Colleen Atwood on costumes and a cool-kid soundtrack featuring artists like The Pixies, The Feelies, Deb Harry, The Tom Tom Club, New Order, and Sinéad O’Connor while they were all still at their hippest.  All the prestige & pedigree missing from WiseGirls is overflowing out of this mainstream mafia comedy, which is somehow both much sillier and much more violent.  It feels like the exact ideal people are nostalgic for when they complain that mainstream comedies have lost their sense of visual style, punching up its goofball humor with vivid colors & complex camera moves. I can’t quite match the soaring enthusiasm of its loudest champions, but it looks great, everyone’s super charming in it, and Pfeiffer gets to wear cute outfits, which is more than enough for this type of broad comedy.  Its competency & sterling reputation can make it less interesting to pick apart than the aughts-era relic WiseGirls, but it’s undeniably the more thoughtful, better crafted movie about women who have to cater to & skirt around the macho mobsters of Long Island.  It’s also cute that the better respected movie of that pair is the one that features Modine & Platt as cops who dress in a series of Gene Parmesan-level disguises to spy on the mob.

You’d think that after Lorraine Bracco & Debi Mazar were so electrically entertaining in GoodFellas, these women-centered mafia stories would be less of a novelty, but WiseGirls & Married to the Mob still feel relatively rare in their choice of POV.  It was double bill that came together through happenstance, but they had plenty in common, including restaurants’ function as a meat market for mobster mistresses and cocktails tossed in those mobsters’ faces when they cross a line.  My solidarity with true physical media collectors is another happenstance.  While proper collectors are preparing for a pop media apocalypse where personal libraries and torrent sites will be the only way to access most films, I’m just trying to get by on a limited budget in a region with a crumbling infrastructure.  I’m mostly getting my DVDs & Blu-rays through libraries & thrift stores, not online distribution hubs like Amazon or Diabolik, but I very much appreciate that there are true collectors out there saving cinema & footing the bill.  I am but the WiseGirls to their Married to the Mob.

-Brandon Ledet