Christmas

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Review: Secret Santa

Published May 10, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Secret Santa

Some people like a little self referential humor in their horror films. Others like a little bit of Eugene O’Neill. As evidenced by Secret Santa, the talented folks at Skeleton Crew like a bit of both. This explosive horror comedy takes place on Christmas Day with one of the most dysfunctional, purely enjoyable families that you’ll ever meet…and the results are predictably (and, often, not so predictably) bloody.

With good reason, April is reluctantly bringing her boyfriend Ty home for the holidays. Her mother, Shari, is an arch diva. Her sister, Penny, is a resentful malcontent. On the other side of the sexes, her stepbrother, Jackson, is a little too touchy feely while her father, Leonard, is persona non grata around the premises. Soon, though, April is dealing with more than just tense talk and frayed emotions between meal courses. Someone on the premises is determined that things get real during this visit…real bloody, that is. Thus, the typical family battles now have a body count…a big one.

Secret Santa ShariSmarting from the way their work was transformed on the big budget Texas Chainsaw 3D, screenwriters Adam Marcus (Jason Goes to Hell) and Debra Sullivan work with relatable menace here. Everyone (with any kind of familial issue) will be able to recognize themselves in one awkward moment or another as the proceedings unfold. Thankfully, the script is also high on laughs and gruesome kills. Totally devoting themselves to the project, Marcus also directs the proceedings with pure joy. Sullivan, meanwhile, rings every note out of the self centered Shari. Hers is a delicious performance, worthy of applause from that master of diva characterizations, Tennessee Williams. In fact, that literary savant would have surely found his creative juices flowing if he had been lucky enough to see her work in this.

The cast, as a whole, is particularly good, though. Importantly, A Leslie Kies simply radiates as April, bringing heart, truth and fury to the role. She is matched, note for note, by her co-stars.

But what truly marks Secret Santa as something special is its diversity and inclusiveness. Marcus and Sullivan provide roles for women of body types and age ranges that are generally ignored here. Their cast is also racially and culturally diverse. In Kyle, enthusiastically and sensitively played by Drew Lynch, they also help create one of the most unique and interesting gay characters to ever be featured in a horror film. Sweet natured with a hesitant stutter, Kyle grows, immeasurably, throughout the film. Hiding his sexuality at first, by the film’s end he is out and proud and able to produce the film’s sweetest and truest moments with a determined grace. Here’s hoping, as the spectrum of the terror community grows ever more fluid, that Marcus and Sullivan will lead the way to more projects such as this one. It’s the horror future that all fans truly deserve. …and I’m sure that, in whatever universe they may be floating in now, Williams and O’Neill would totally (bloody) agree. Secret Santa Kyle

More information on Secret Santa, which is currently hitting a variety of festivals and film events, is available at https://www.facebook.com/secretsantathemovie/.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sally Field

Published December 24, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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Before performing matriarchal duties on Sunday night melodramas…before the Academy Award wins, the diverse Sally Field logged in some final girl duties in the 1972 made for television Christmas horror Home for the Holidays. Here, Field was joined by a powerhouse cast – Julie Harris, Jill Haworth, Eleanor Parker and Jessica Walter – and, nicely, came out ahead of the curve against the film’s tempest tossed, pitchfork yielding maniac.sally field lp 2

Of course media fetishists know that, at the beginning of her career, Field essayed a couple short lived, yet iconic characters – Gidget and The Flying Nun. Interestingly, while playing the sky bound Sister Bertrille, she even released an album, Sally Field, Star of The Flying Nun. Supposedly aiming for the heights of Julie Andrews, this offering actually lands in that sweet, silly fun spot of most celebrity recordings. Although, wouldn’t be nice if it was true that we always got braver as our voices grew louder?

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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To All a Goodnight

Published December 25, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

 

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Years before the catty, ultra privileged collegiates of Fox’s Scream Queens faced down a red devil or two, the well-to-do sorority sisters of the 1980 winter slasher epic To All a Goodnight encountered a nearly unbeatable crimson killer of their own.

With shadings of everything from Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, perhaps the highest regarded holiday horror outing, to Friday the 13th, with the character of Leia, played here with arched theatricality by Judith Bridges, resembling Laura Bartram’s Brenda from Sean Cunningham’s much more imitated piece, To All a Goodnight definitely has a horror pedigree of its own. The solo full length directing credit of David Hess, best known to terror scholars from his twisted performances in Last House on the Left and others, this piece was also written by The Incredible Melting Man’s Alex Rebar and features a winsome and sensitive final girl in actress Jennifer Runyon, who would go on to appear in the mega-popular Ghostbusters and the Roger Corman produced cult classic Carnosaur.taagn-1

Here Rebar and Hess begin things in familiar territory. The film opens as a young woman, being chased by a bevy of cackling classmates, takes a fatal tumble off a balcony. The action then flash forwards to a handful of coeds who are staying in their rooms at the Calvin Finishing School for Girls over the Christmas holidays, two years later. Of course, most of the girls are up to no good and they soon drug their caretaker in order to welcome a bevy of boys, who have, unusually, arrived on a nearby field via a private airplane. Over the next two days, amid games of romantic roulette, most of the laughing partiers are done away with by a revenge fueled figure in a Santa costume. The ending, which prefigures Wes Craven’s Scream, reveals the possibility of more than one culprit and a very, very distraught, but still very, very alive heroine.

As much as it embraces the expected tropes, though, the film is done in a bit by its pacing. Many scenes feature the cast sitting around, chatting, or wandering, tentatively, throughout the house or across the property. There are some talented, but less than magnetic performers, many of whom would never work again, on display here, as well. But some of this oddness works in the piece’s favor and one can even grow affectionate over seemingly random incidents like the visit of an antagonistic neighborhood woman, who disappears after her first scene and has no relevance to the plot whatsoever. Those who love the idea of festive figures in compromising positions will find much to enjoy here, as well, as the Santa(s) eradicate with stealth, if not originality. taagn-3

Meanwhile, the pairing of the adorable Runyon and Forrest Swanson, as her nerdy yet protective beau, is sweet, with the duo’s energy being almost identically echoed, a few years later, by Kelli Maroney and Tony O’Dell in Chopping Mall. Still, it is Runyon, as a solo entity, who commands most of the attention and focus here. Even in her first major role, her star power is obvious and, after all these years, she is still the main reason to watch this enjoyable if flawed excursion into tinselly fright.

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Until the next time – Happiest of HorrorDaze and SWEET love and pink GRUE , Big Gay Horror Fan!

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