Podcast #174: Girl Asleep (2015) & Classic Twee

Welcome to Episode #174 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss the merits & miseries of twee, comparing the 2015 twee-revival comedy Girl Asleep against a grab bag of aughts-era twee classics.

00:00 Welcome

02:26 Imitation of Life (1959)
05:00 Don’t Worry Darling (2022)
08:13 Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
13:00 Triangle of Sadness (2022)
17:05 Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
21:17 Solomon King (1978)

25:18 Girl Asleep (2015)
39:02 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
55:22 Amélie (2001)
1:12:02 Garden State (2004)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Movie of the Month: A New Leaf (1971)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and we discuss it afterwards. This month Alli made Boomer, Brandon, and Britnee watch A New Leaf (1971).

Alli:  Oh, heavens! I’m so glad to finally share this movie with y’all.

Elaine May’s 1971 black comedy A New Leaf is about bachelor Henry Graham (Walter Mathau), who goes absolutely broke after squandering his fortune on his Ferrari, horses, exclusive clubs, fancy restaurants, and his impeccable art collection. After getting the idea from his butler, he decides to marry a rich woman and kill her for her money. His target is botanist Henrietta Lowell (Elaine May), who is a hopelessly clumsy, gauche, and stunted adult. As their marriage and the movie progresses, Henry takes on more and more responsibility in their household in the hopes of having the opportunity to murder Henrietta and become independently wealthy again. I like to describe this movie as the “anti romcom.” There are plenty tropes of a standard romcom with none of the actual romance: a bachelor who has never considered marrying, a meet cute featuring lots of spilt tea, an impossible deadline for the wedding, and disastrous boat trip (although this one is a disastrous canoe trip). I’d even argue that there’s a sort of “opposites attract” dynamic at play.

Except they’re not exactly opposites. Henry. Henrietta. Two sides of the same coin. They’re both adults unable to handle the day to days of adult life. For Henry, it’s because he doesn’t want to. For Henrietta, she’s just so caught up in her ferns that she’s clueless. Both are unmarried and not actively searching until now. With Henrietta getting the confidence to hang off cliffs to find her ferns and Henry learning the practical logistics of household management and taxes, they find a way to—for lack of a better term—complete each other. By the end of the movie, I find them endearing together somehow. 

What did y’all think of the movie? Do you think they belong together even if they’re not lovers and—with some obvious queer subtext—Henry has no interest whatsoever in women?

Brandon: Funnily enough, when I search for “Walter Matthau A New Leaf gay subtext”, the top Google result I’m getting is Alli’s original review of the film for Swampflix in 2016.  Considering how much online movie nerds like to read into fictional characters’ “queer coding”—intentional or otherwise—you’d think we’d be in our usual spot in the double or triple digits of results pages.  All I can really confirm is that Henry’s sexuality was on my mind throughout the film. I kept trying to pin him to a specific modern queer context every time he intimately grabbed his butler’s arm or scoffed when a country club manager expressed surprise at his sudden (financial) interest in women.  Elaine May has enjoyed some recent reappraisal as an overlooked auteur in historically macho film canons (alongside other greats like Varda, Ottinger, Wertmüller, and Campion), an effort that’s intensified even since we covered Mikey & Nicky as a Movie of the Month in 2017. So, it’s a little curious that there doesn’t seem to be much consensus on how this marriage-cynical anti-romcom could be interpreted through a queer lens.

Ultimately, I settled on both Henry and Henrietta being some form of ace.  They are both so unbothered with and oblivious to physical sexual attraction that it doesn’t even occur to them that the everyday companionship of marriage might be emotionally beneficial even if they have no desire to fuck.  The entire arc of Henry’s character here is the painfully gradual realization that he enjoys & benefits from Henrietta’s company.  That delay is, of course, comically ridiculous, since no reasonable human being could watch Elaine May nervously unravel under those gigantic glasses without immediately blurting “Marry me!” (whether or not they also want to murder her for her inheritance).  Plot-wise, the two movies A New Leaf most reminded me of were Charlie Chaplin’s against-type black comedy Monsieur Verdoux and its Ealing Studios descendent Kind Hearts and Coronets, both about the convenient financial gains of murder. The difference is those predecessors have ice-cold hearts that May’s film only pretends to emulate in its earliest stretch.  This ultimately is a very romantic movie about two absolute weirdos who belong together but don’t know how to express—or even realize—their mutual fondness in a world oblivious to their asexuality.  At least, “Walter Matthau A New Leaf asexual” leads to much more credible online resources than this unpolished, self-published blog.

Boomer: I’m also going to throw my hat into the ring for Henry being asexual. There’s that scene right around the 25-minute mark where Bosley from Charlie’s Angels tries to fob Henry off on a water skier at some social event, and, when the two are alone in the night, she attempts to remove her bathing suit top and Henry bleats in terror: “No! Don’t let them out!” I laughed quite a lot at the delivery, but there’s something so bone-deep terrified in that line read that doesn’t say “gay,” to me, it says “completely and abjectly terrified at the very prospect of sex in any form.” It’s also the first time that we’ve seen Henry hit an emotional peak; he’s mostly just gruffly irascible and impatient, but he never hits a boiling point and instead stays in a low, simmering annoyance. The closest he comes before this moment to showing a positive emotion is when he surveys his favorite lunch restaurant and speaks, not to the handsome waiter but to the dining area itself, as if he is a lover bidding a final farewell. “Desire” only exists to Henry insofar as he can only tolerate the finest that life has to offer. 

To be honest, at first this felt like it was going to make me hate this viewing experience. When Henry’s attorney, Beckett, is finally able to make contact with him in order to tell him that he’s used up all of his (vast, incomprehensibly vast) funds, it follows closely on the heels of a scene in which Henry is about to go gallivanting around the skies in a fighter plane, and he doesn’t even seem like he’s having a very good time doing it. But even with all that rich assholery, it’s impossible not to love Walter Matthau in anything that he’s in; even when he’s a total jerk, you can’t help but be charmed by him and his curmudgeonliness. By the time he was wistfully bidding farewell to all of the cultural hallmarks of excessive wealth, I hadn’t come to like him necessarily, but I wasn’t taking delight in laughing at his downfall either. When it comes down to it, he’s ultimately very good with the household finances and starts plugging up holes in Henrietta’s estate budget immediately, which immediately stops her unscrupulous family lawyer from continuing to leech from her. That was the first scene where I really liked Henry, and it carried through the rest of the film. 

Britnee: I really enjoyed this! It’s the asexual “romcom” that I didn’t I needed. A New Leaf is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a while. It reminded me of one of my favorite films of all time, What’s Up, Doc?. Both came out in the early 70s and are so comically chaotic. Walter Matthau’s performance as Henry, the spoiled middle aged man-child, completely blew me away. I’d only previously seen him in the Grumpy Old Men movies, Dennis the Menace, and Cactus Flower. He somehow looks like he’s been 70 years old forever. What a face! His emotionless delivery of back-to-back sassy lines had me howling. The scene where a child walks in on him while he’s getting dressed for the wedding is one of the best. When he yells at her to get out and repeats “I won’t have her touching my things!”, I saw so much of myself in his character. It’s very “psychobiddy,” even coming from a 50 year-old man.

I also have to mention how impressive Elaine May is. To manage such a brilliant film as her directorial debut while starring in it herself is such a major accomplishment. I’m ashamed to not have known of this sooner. This is why Movie of the Month is so great! Also, I’m dying to try one of Henrietta’s Malaga Coolers. Not only has May made her mark in the film industry, she’s also made it into the world of fragrance, as the Demeter fragrance line has a perfume based on the beverage. I’ll have to get one for my purse!

Like Boomer and Brandon, I also picked up on the asexuality of the main characters. It made sense for Henry, but I had to think a little more to figure out Henrietta. She was more into Henry than he was into her (obviously), but she was more interested in the companionship Henry offered than anything sexual or romantic. They both remind me of these old neighbors I had many moons ago. They would sit on their shared porch and nag each other constantly, but they hung out every day and appreciated each other in their own weird way. 

Lagniappe

Britnee: Renee Taylor (Sharon) is fabulous for her entire four minutes of screentime. That waterski scene is comedy gold. The character played like a younger version of her famous role in The Nanny (Fran’s mother, Sylvia Fine), which makes me wonder if that’s her true personality or just a character she’s developed. Either way, I’m so thankful for her existence. 

Alli: I’m also fascinated by the Malaga Coolers. All a quick google search on them brings up is this movie, so it was obviously the worst imaginable offense against wine snobs she could invent, which I love. BUT I actually have tried this beverage. Once, as an adult, I went to my grandma’s house, and she busted out the Mogen David and soda to whip some up.  It was … not great, as you would expect.

The Malaga Cooler: the drink of awkward botanists and crazy Grandmas everywhere. (RIP my grandma, who died this year. She was quite a lady.)

Boomer: So after having to drive my friend’s car back from the Halloween party last weekend because someone forgot to eat before drinking, I took my own car out for a midnight drive to get some fast food. Unfortunately, after passing the Whataburger because the line was insurmountable and getting halfway to Jack-in-the-Box, my check engine light came on, so I turned around and went straight home. After going to the AutoZone first thing the next morning for their free diagnostic, it turned out that there was an issue with my catalytic converter. You see, I had carbon buildup… on my valves. The man at the store asked if I took mostly small, short trips (I do), and apparently I, like Henry, simply don’t take my car out for enough long drives to “clear the throat” of my car, as it were. As a non-car-guy, I didn’t realize that this was what was happening with Henry’s car as well; I just let that whole scene float past me in the stream. Luckily, I went and got it checked out quickly enough that the AutoZone employee was able to recommend something called Cataclean, which you pour into your tank and it clears out all the carbon (from the valves). I’m happy to say that, four days later, my check engine light has gone off! (Not sponsored.) So this is my advice to all of you out there in readerland: if you take a bunch of short drives, like I do, then get you some of this stuff and use if before it becomes a problem. And if your check engine light comes on, don’t ignore it; get it checked out right away. The life you save could be your own (car’s). 

Brandon: Having now seen all four of Elaine May’s feature films, I find myself struggling with the question of whether or not she’s a “great” director.  She certainly makes great films.  Even the worst of her catalog, the misunderstood anti-comedy Ishtar, deserves more attention and praise than it gets.  At the same time, each of those movies was delivered over-schedule & over-budget, so it’s not like she was especially adept at managing her shoots.  This relatively laidback, low-budget debut stretched 40 days past its shooting schedule, with an entire hour of extraneous bits & bobs that the studio edited out of the final product despite May’s protests that it needed to be a three-hour romcom to work.  If she had delivered A New Leaf on-time, on-budget, and properly trimmed, it would’ve been considered a huge hit instead of just breaking even, and she might’ve had an easier time fighting for her cut of similarly troubled productions like Mikey & Nicky down the line.  Instead, she toiled away in the background writing screenplays for some of the most beloved Hollywood comedies of all time, poor thing.

I suppose Elaine May is a great director in the only way that should matter to audiences: her movies are sharply funny & uniquely entertaining.  How she manages time & money is more of an issue for Hollywood executives to worry about; they’ve certainly invested a lot more financial capital on projects with a lot less cultural value than May’s four modest bangers.  I only really bring up the question here to note that her management of the practical & financial aspects of filmmaking is remarkably similar to the disastrous, hands-off way she runs her inherited estate as Henrietta in A New Leaf, adorably so.

Next month: Britnee presents Peyton Place (1957)

-The Swampflix Crew

Podcast #172: Body Parts (1991) & Surgical Horror

Welcome to the Swampflix Podcast Halloween Special. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of horror movies about evil surgeons, starting with the major studio body horror Body Parts (1991).

0:00 Welcome

01:51 Fascination (1979)
04:20 See for Me (2022)
09:05 Blood Sick Psychosis (2022)
12:40 The Night Porter (1974)

16:44 Body Parts (1991)
33:45 The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)
46:33 Scalpel (1977)
59:25 The Skin I Live In (2011)

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

-The Podcast Crew

Podcast #171: Fight for Your Life (1977) & Video Nasties

Welcome to Episode #171 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of horror films banned by British censors on the infamous “Video Nasties” list, starting with the racial-tensions home invasion thriller Fight for Your Life (1977)

00:00 Welcome

01:15 Twister (1996)
07:15 The Other Side of the Underneath (1972)
12:45 Sissy (2022)
14:45 Deadstream (2022)
17:00 Medusa (2022)
19:40 Evilspeak (1981)

23:21 Video nasties
34:45 Fight for Your Life (1977)
49:45 Don’t Look in the Basement (1973)
1:15:20 Flesh for Frankenstein (1974)
1:28:50 The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #170: The Plumber (1979) & Evil Professionals

Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of horror films about evil professionals who terrorize on the job, starting with Peter Weir’s made-for-TV domestic thriller The Plumber (1979).

0:00 Welcome

01:30 The Peanut Butter Solution (1985)
06:38 Kalifornia (1993)
10:45 Eyes Without a Face (1960)
12:30 Desert Hearts (1985)
14:15 Smile (2022)
17:40 Intimidation (1960)
20:35 Monkeybone (2001)

27:34 The Plumber (1979)
51:51 Dr. Giggles (1992)
1:05:23 Ice Cream Man (1995)
1:18:55 One Hour Photo (2002)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Movie of the Month: Stepmonster (1993)

Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before, and we discuss it afterwards. This month Boomer made Alli, Brandon, and Britnee watch Stepmonster (1993).

Boomer: Did you ever have one of those movies that’s stored so far down in the back of your brain that it just haunts you? I don’t know how old I was the first time I saw Stepmonster. I know that it was on TV, the Disney Channel specifically, and that it must have been during one of their free preview weekends. With this having a 1993 release date, I’m going to peg it at 1994/1995, when I was (I’m going to date myself here) seven. I think if I were even marginally older, this movie would never have lodged itself so deeply in my brain. There were countless tiny images from this movie lodged in my brain that I knew originated here: the guy from the Michael Bay Aaron Burr milk PSA running a comic book store, our young protagonist standing in a demolished living room holding a bat, that super cool monster and what she looked like in a wedding dress, and (most distinctly for some reason) Alan Thicke playing the violin. There were even other images that, if I imagine my child mind as a kind of filing cabinet, had fallen out of the Stepmonster file and gotten stuck in the back of the drawer, summoned up very occasionally by an unexpected mental misfire and with no real idea of their origin: a goldfish skeleton being spat out of a jewelry box, John “Gomez Addams” Astin dressed as a priest and smoking, a woman falling downstairs in her wedding dress, and what I guess we could call “the PG-13 Body Double sequence.” It’s also the movie that prompted me to ask my mother what “phlegm” was. For years, I couldn’t track this movie down. It was out of print, didn’t seem to have held any interest for any library in any place I lived, and never showed up on the shelves of any Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul that I frequented. Three years ago, the Alamo Drafthouse on S. Lamar was hosting a VHS swap meet, and there it was: Stepmonster. As someone who was a VHS apologist and hobbyist for a long time but one who only ever built his collection out of thrift store finds and hanging around dying rental stores like a carrion bird in the last days of the independents, I paid the most I had paid for a cassette after 2003: a whopping $5. “It’s rare,” the man behind the folding table had said. And I knew he was right. 

And then it sat in my collection. I knew it would make its way to Movie of the Month one day. After all, this movie was all but lost media, right? Out of print, out of sight, out of mind. I just had to wait until my month fell during spooky season, and in 2022, it was finally time. Vexed to nightmare, this rough beast’s hour has come round at last. I only hope it was worth it. 

Here’s the plot breakdown for our readers at home, accounting for the lack of widespread availability: Todd (Billy Corben) is a normal kid with an active imagination: he hates violin lessons, spends maybe too much time reading comics, and loves baseball. He’s at the age where it’s common to butt heads with your parents, but he’s having a particularly hard time with his father, George (Alan Thicke). George is an architect whose rationalistic, detail-oriented nature is reflected in his inability to fully communicate with his son, and an inability to disguise his frustration with his progeny’s fantasies and impatience for Todd to grow out of what he thinks is a phase. Truthfully, he spends an awful lot of time policing his son’s reading habits and taking away his comics, and not nearly enough time making sure Todd isn’t being a peeping little pervert vis-a-vis his spying on teenaged neighbor Wendy (Ami Dolenz). When Todd’s mother, Abby (Molly Cheek), goes missing in the woods, George seems to waste no time in getting remarried, as a mere six months later, he’s engaged to the titular stepmonster, Denise (MotM alum Robin Riker), a lovely woman for whom George was building a woodland cabin when Abby went missing. The immediately suspicious Todd sets out to find out what Denise is about, and although he immediately discovers that she’s a “tropopkin,” a scaly comic book monster, he’s unable to convince anyone else of this and is forced to set out to break up his dad’s engagement before the two get married on the summer solstice. 

This is a movie that is clearly an attempt by producer Roger Corman to horn in on some of that sweet cash that his old frenemy Charles Band was making via his sub-Full Moon family imprint Moonbeam, famous for Prehysteria and Magic in the Mirror. The difference is that, despite the general melange of filth of a regular Charles Band production, those Moonbeam films are still kid-friendly, and the two I named are rated PG and G respectively. But that Corman sleaze just doesn’t wash off, and you can see it in the way that Stepmonster misses the mark with both its PG-13 rating (making it only recommended for viewers who are older than the protagonist in a film that can only really appeal to kids just a little younger) and its Pit-like choice of having our lead be a peeping tom, through whom the audience is presumably supposed to vicariously live. It’s a weird, unmistakably Corman touch. When Todd’s grandfather (George Gaynes, of Altered States and Police Academy) first says the word “horny” at the breakfast table and then recites the old adage about buying the cow, I was surprised that this was something that the Disney Channel used to air, and was only further dumbfounded by just how many times Todd aims his telescope at Wendy’s window. It makes for a tonally bizarre viewing, as the attempts to make this appeal to adults just make you a bit discomfited. The film still bothers to do some clever things, like having the father and his bride-to-be hammering that real estate sign on the inside of the literal white picket fence (because she’s not really intending to sell the house anyway, just eating the family and retreating back to her cave). One could try to argue that this was aiming for a slightly older demographic than middle schoolers, but this is completely undercut by the fact that the mother is discovered alive and well at the end, for a laughably happy ending. 

What did y’all think? Devoid of any nostalgia factor, what were your thoughts? Is Todd too creepy to root for? Is George too dumb to live? Do we love Denise? 

Brandon: No matter what rating the MPAA slapped on this thing, this psychosexual id horror is clearly aimed directly at kids.  It’s very much of the Troll 2 & The Pit variety in that way, complete with the “tropopkins” standing in for The Pit‘s “tra-la-logs”.  I also noted that this feels like Corman trespassing on Charles Band’s territory, so we appear to be on the exact same page this round.  There’s a rhythm to Corman’s classic drive-in creature features that carries over here, briefly revealing the (step)monster in an early attack and then steadily doling out “kills” (kidnappings, really) throughout the rest of the runtime to maintain the audience’s attention.  Otherwise, this is pure Moonbeam; all that’s missing is a dinky Casio score from Charles’s brother, Richard Band.  That doesn’t mean it’s too generic to be unique, though.  Denise’s monster design reads as a human-sized variation of the Gremlins knockoffs that VHS schlockmeisters were making in this era (Ghoulies in Band’s case, Munchies in Corman’s), but by the time she’s running around in her wedding gown the movie does achieve a kids-horror novelty all of its own.  I’m not surprised to hear it wormed its way into its pint-sized audience’s subconscious through that kind of imagery, even if it has plenty of direct echos in Band & Corman’s respective catalogs.

What I am surprised to hear is that this aired on The Disney Channel.  I’ve only watched exactly one Disney Channel Original Movie in my lifetime (Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century), but from what I’ve observed of that channel’s programming from afar, it’s usually severely asexual, presenting an entire universe hostile to the vaguest suggestion of sex.  While little Todd isn’t quite as creepy as Jamie in The Pit, he is preoccupied with sex, to the point where the movie is just as much about his sexual curiosity as it is about fears of step-parental intruders.  Beyond Todd’s inappropriate sexual fascination with his teenage babysitter neighbor, the movie is also weirdly hung up on the consummation of his dad’s marriage to Denise – something Denise is delaying until their wedding night as part of a full-moon blood ritual.  I have to assume it’s that exact sexual undercurrent that landed the film its ludicrous PG-13 rating, since the monster attacks are relatively tame in their suspense & gore.  Or maybe it was Todd’s passionate line-delivery of “Eat my shorts, you bloodsucking, bat-faced witch!” that pushed it over the line.  Either way, I love that Corman and Band (and, in this case, special guest producer Fred Olen Ray) were making these inappropriate-for-children kids’ movies in the VHS era, and there’s something especially delicious about one of them sneaking its way onto the squeaky-clean Disney Channel lineup.

Alli: I started out thinking, okay, this is just one of those bizarre PG movies that came out, had some really weird scenes that stick in your mind, and disappeared into the ether. Then, I nearly choked on my drink as the grandpa said the word “horny”. This film immediately dips right into creepy 80s sex humor (despite it’s 90s release date), going from 0-100 in very little time. Sure, there was already Denise emerging out of the woods in that tight dress with no bra, but it was fairly tame before that “horny” line. A good ol’ family horror comedy romp. 

With that in mind, once we got to Todd being a peeping Tom and photographing Wendy without her knowledge, and the grandpa letting it happen, I definitely lost some sympathy for the kid and his family. Not that I was really backing Denise either. Sure, she’s cool, using her sexuality as a weapon to ensnare this clueless, uptight man in order to make more tropopkins and then eat him and his weasel son, but I just wasn’t into her whole “Let’s get the kid labeled as crazy” attitude. The real heroes in this story are Phlegm and Wendy! Wow, I love them so much. Corey Feldman steals the show as the goofy bad boy Phlegm, while Wendy has got everything under control. I kept expecting Phlegm to be more of a key character than he was, like maybe he had a rare comic book issue that would save the day. Still, it was at least nice that his band’s equipment was part of the scheme that saves this undeserving family in the end. Likewise, Wendy does not receive enough credit as the hero of the story: digging through the trash, sticking by the kid even after his creepy photos, and giving said creepy kid rides all over town. 

Even with the creepy main character and his bizarrely messed up family that only consists of his dad, his dad’s in-laws, and a monster, I thought this movie was a lot of fun. Like Boomer said, there are images that are going to stick with me for a long time, especially the tropokin in the wedding dress (so great) and the kid standing on top of a Marshall stack swinging a baseball bat at a bat monster. I was definitely on its sense of humor’s wavelength. I’m so glad Boomer found this rare media and could share it with us.

Britnee: When we make our Movie of the Month selections, Brandon is very diligent with ensuring that no one (other than the Swampie presenting) has watched the selected film. When asked if I ever watched Stepmonster, I was 110% sure I hadn’t. However, once Alan Thicke hit the screen, 15 years of suppressed memories were unleashed. I was immediately reminded of a goldfish skeleton being spit out of a box . . . I had seen this movie before! But I honestly remembered only fragmented images without being able to identify any sort of plot or characters, so it’s like I watched it for the first time. The Movie of the Month tradition is still going strong!

Funky children’s films from the late 80s/early 90s are sort of my jam. The crappy effects, nonsensical plots, and adult themed humor is a perfect combination. Trash for kids! I love how there’s been mention of Prehysteria and Magic in the Mirror in the conversation because those are absolutely fantastic films that are in the same realm as Stepmonster (the ultimate Band, Nicolaou, Corman trio). Needless to say, I thought this movie was a blast! Dad and Grandpa were such strange goobers who I found to be hilarious. They’re sort of these stereotypical “all-American” characters that say and do weird things that caught me off guard (like the aforementioned “We all get horny, Georgey Boy.”). However, the true star of this show was Denise. She’s the closest to a human version of Greta the Gremlin that we will ever get and great at being the perfect evil stepmother/tropopkin. All of those witty remarks and monster transitions are so good. My favorite scene is when Denise transitions into her true tropopkin form while chatting with the psychiatrist (Edie McClurg!).

Lagniappe

Britnee: The tropopkin makeup effects are incredible. Makeup effects artist, Gabe Bartalos, has made his mark on many classics, such as FrankenhookerLeprechaunTim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, and you guessed it, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. He’s definitely up there with Swampflix’s favorite special effects master, Screaming Mad George.

Alli: The grandpa is such a weird person. He dislikes so many decisions his son-in-law makes but backs them anyway. He tells his grandson about tropopkins but doesn’t seem to be the source of the kid’s love for comics, since he’s never taken him to the comic book store before. Also, he played major league baseball? I don’t normally like to nitpick or search for plot holes, but he really is a true enigma. 

Brandon: I really liked the choice of presenting the tropopkins as “real life” creatures from the pages of Todd’s EC horror comics.  Corman & company obviously routed most of the budget to Denise’s creature design, so it was smart to borrow some on-the-cheap visual style from classic horror comics to give the movie some life between her effects shots.  Besides, it reminded me a lot of the EC horror stylings of Tales from the Crypt & Creepshow, which were the exact kind of age-inappropriate media I was sneaking past my parents’ censorship as a kid.

For anyone who’s desperate to watch Stepmonster but isn’t close enough friends with Boomer to borrow his personal VHS copy, there’s currently a low-quality scan of the film uploaded to YouTube in glorious 480p (courtesy of user myx360games, a true champion of cinema).

Boomer: I spent a truly inordinate amount of time trying to figure out exactly when Stepmonster would have aired on Disney Channel. One would think that old TV listings would be the easiest thing in the world to find, but as it turns out, not so much (unless you’re going to go down to the library and dig through microfiche). I couldn’t find any dates or any Disney Channel schedules from the likely years at all. However, while we’re here, I wanted to go ahead and speak out in favor of this great video from YouTube channel Yesterworld, which provides a pretty good rundown on the history of the channel, including some great historiography of the “free preview” years. YouTube channel Pop Arena, as part of their ongoing project to chart the show-by-show history of Nickelodeon (after five years, they’re up to 1990), did a great video about Nickelodeon precursor Qube that happens to function as a great delineation about the creation of cable television as well; it can be found here and is a great companion piece to the video above. 

Next month: Alli presents A New Leaf (1971)

-The Swampflix Crew

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 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, The Criterion Channel, 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 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, Showtime, 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 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, Peacock, 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 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 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, for free (with a library membership) on 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 Showtime.

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

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)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #168: Scream (1996 – 2022)

Welcome to Episode #168 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, and Britnee ease into spooky season with a discussion of the meta-slasher franchise Scream.

00:00 Welcome
00:56 Breathless (1983)
05:57 Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (1981)
09:50 The Burning Bed (1980)
12:45 Orphan: First Kill (2022)

16:08 Scream (1996)
33:13 Screams 2 – 5 (1997 – 2022)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew

Podcast #167: Hillary’s America (2016) & Political Propaganda

Welcome to Episode #167 of The Swampflix Podcast. For this episode, Brandon, James, Britnee, and Hanna discuss a grab bag of political propaganda films, starting with Dinesh D’Souza’s anti-Democrat screed Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016).

00:00 Welcome

02:00 Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
06:23 Switch (1991)
11:11 Jurassic World: Dominion (2022)
14:00 Inu-Oh (2022)
17:30 A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

23:15 Hillary’s America (2016)
51:15 Hail Satan? (2019)
1:10:30 What the Health (2017)
1:31:05 It Is Not the Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives (1971)

You can stay up to date with our podcast by subscribing on SoundCloudSpotifyiTunesStitcher, or TuneIn.

– The Podcast Crew