A Better Man

When David Zaragoza, a recovering alcoholic, fails to convince those he hurt in his past life that his attempts to become a better man are sincere, he finds himself at the mercy of both his personal demons and a strange woman with an even stranger scar.

This screenplay is currently in-progress. Follow me on Twitter to stay up-to-date as the project develops.

Read the original rough draft/treatment of here.

Fight the Dawn is (currently) an unofficial series of short films written live on Twitch. If you would like to help bring this screenplay to life, please consider becoming a patron.


NOTE: The opening sequence set at location “HOUSE” is initially presented in the style of a 1950s, three-camera sitcom--black and white, “stage” acting, canned laughter.


A beautiful little house with a white picket fence in a beautiful little suburb. The lawn is pristine. The rose bushes lining the property award-winning. It’s all like something out of “Leave it to Beaver.”


The inside is as immaculate as the exterior. The decor simple, warm and inviting. It’s as if it were designed with a TV audience in mind.

A man dressed in a tailored three-piece suit and fedora enters. This is DAVID ZARAGOZA, man of the house.


Honey, I’m home!

CHERYL, David’s wife, appears from the kitchen. She looks like Mrs. June Cleaver in her lovely little house dress with apron combo. She’s the sweetest little house wife ever. Almost too perfect to be real.


Welcome home, Dear!

She greets him with an embrace and a kiss. And then, she pulls away. She’s just realized something.


Oh, but you’re so early! Did something happen at the office?

David laughs playfully at this.


No, I just missed you is all.

She smiles and kisses him a second time. This is the sweetest thing she’s ever heard.


Oh, David, I’ve missed you too.


(sniffing at the air)

Something smells wonderful.


That would be dinner.


But it won’t be ready for at least another hour. I’m sorry, Dear.

He rubs and pats his own belly.


I’m sure I can manage the wait.

Cheryl smiles at this.


You must be exhausted. Let’s get you nice and comfortable.

She helps David get comfortable. She takes his hat, coat, and briefcase before guiding him to his favorite chair. David pretends to not find any of this appealing.


Now, you wait right there.

She quickly disappears into the kitchen only to reappear just as quickly. She now has a beer in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

David takes these without thinking.


Thank you, Honey.

NOTE: For the remaining duration of the sequence, things take on the style of American horror movies of the 1930s.

And then...

David trembles at the mere sight of the beer in his hand. His breath shortens. He sweats bullets. He’s terrified of the beer can in his hand, but he has no earthly idea why.

Cheryl is nowhere near as concerned as David.


David? David-dear, are you all right?

David doesn’t hear this. He’s a million miles away right now.


I didn’t buy the wrong brand again, did I?

And then, he snaps out of his daze.


No. No, I, uh...just--

He stops, looks at Cheryl, sees the disappointment in her eyes, and then thinks better of it.


It’s perfect, Honey. Thank you.

She relaxes and smiles.


Oh, thank goodness.

She kisses him once more.


Now, you relax and enjoy yourself. I’ll be right back. I’ve got to run to the neighbors and borrow a few things.

She turns to leave.



She stops and turns to David.


Yes, Dear?


I love you.

She smiles a big smile at this sweet husband of hers.


I love you too.

And then, she leaves.

David looks longingly at the beer.

The BEER looks back.

And then...

David opens the beer, and drinks.

A pleasant silence.

And then...

David TRANSFORMS into something inhuman. The change is painful and violent. His body twists and turns, bends and snaps its new monstrous form. His SCREAMS fill the house.

Cheryl returns. She’s clearly heard David’s screams.


David? Dear, is everything all right?

She reaches for her husband.

A horrifying BEAST-MAN snaps around and SNARLS and DROOLS.

Cheryl YELPS in fear. And then, she’s utterly consumed by silent, abject horror.

The Beast-Man, covered in the tattered remnants of a three-piece suit, rises to its feet. It stares at and looms over Cheryl like an angry bear or gorilla.

A silence.



And then...

The Beast-Man strikes.


Cheryl’s screams echo up and down the street and all across the suburb.


The house is silent and dark.

Blood stains the walls, broken furniture, and everything in-between.

Cheryl’s tattered remains rest at the feet of the Beast-Man.

The Beast-Man stands victorious over his prey. He huffs and puffs through gore-clogged teeth. His claws drip with goo. Large, dead eyes stare off into the abyss.




A group therapy session in some small backroom. Modern Day. The really-real world.


A collection of characters, big and small, men and women and other. They sit in an intimate circle. And all eyes are on


No suit, hat, or jacket. Just a modern day mess of a man. He sits silently in his chair. His mind is somewhere else.


Earth to David.

David snaps out of his daze. He looks up and across to


a middle-aged hippie with a heart of gold and eyes that have seen some serious shit in his younger days.


You still with us, amigo?


Yeah. Yeah, sorry.


Cool. Okay.


Thank you for sharing with us, David. I know that couldn’t have been easy.

An uncomfortable silence.


So, how about a break?


The Group is scattered about the lot. They talk and smoke and play on their phones.

David stands alone, holding something up to the light.


A six-month sobriety chip. It shines in the light.

David’s not very impressed.


You should be proud of yourself.

David turns to


The old hippie stands beside David, puffing away on a vape pen. It’s as if he appeared out of thin air.


I know six months might not seem like much. But change is fuckin’ hard, man. For some of us, it’s damn near impossible. That right there...

He gestures to the COIN in David’s hand.


That’s proof you’re up to the challenge.

David laughs at this.


Doesn’t really feel like it. I’ve hurt a lot of people, Randy.

Randy processes this.


Yeah. Yeah, maybe you did. But you ain’t some monster. If you were, I don’t think you’d be here worrying so much about it. Those dreams of yours? That’s just all the guilt and regret and pain and doubt trying to drag you down. Don’t get me wrong--those feelings are really real. But you ain’t a monster unless you let yourself be one.


What if other people still see me like that? The people I hurt.


Then maybe it’s time you show them something different.

David and Randy share a moment there in the chaos of the parking lot.


Thanks, Randy.


No problemo, amigo. No problemo at all.


A bustling little college town. Traveling into and through it is like a trip back in time. The main street is lined with small dress and antique and coffee shops. At the center of it all is the town square where old couples sit on benches and watch the children play.

David makes his way through this on foot. He comes to a stop at


A small, local dive. The music and merriment and chaos pours out into the street from its always-open front doors.


stands outside the bar’s doors. He watches as people enter and leave. The sounds of the bar call to him like a siren song.


nervously fidgets with the COIN.

David takes a deep breath, holds it, and then enters the bar.


A “hipster-chic“ version of an old-town college dive joint with a luxurious speakeasy vibe.

David makes a beeline for


A bartender keeps himself busy with small tasks. This is MILES WARREN, and he’s not happy to see David.


Didn’t think we’d be seeing much of you anymore.

David saddles up.


What can I say? I’m a man who defies expectations.

David sets the COIN on the bar.


The shit is this?


Defying expectations.

Miles takes the CHIP and inspects it.


You’re on the fuckin’ wagon?


That’s right.

Miles sets the COIN back down with authority, sliding it back across to David.


I’m happy for you, David. Really, I am. But you’ve got to leave before Cheryl catches you in here.

David returns the COIN to his pocket.


Well, I hope she does. I wanted to talk with her too.


No. No chance.


I’m just asking for five minutes.


That right? Cuz I sorta remember the last time you two “talked” ended with one of you needing stitches and the other dragged away in cuffs.

David winces. He doesn’t notice he’s rubbing at his own wrists at the thought of this.


Yeah, that’s the way I remember it too.


Do you? Good. Then get to steppin’ before you’re escorted out.


Besides, you know the rules. This place is for customers only. No loitering.


Yeah, so gimme something.


Seriously? What about all this shit just now about defying expectations?


I’m not askin’ for a fuckin’ beer, Miles. Okay? Just gimme something without a lot of sugar.

An uncomfortable silence.


Fuck off. I have real customers.

Miles turns to leave.

David pulls a slip of paper from his pocket and tosses it on the bar.


Check that out.

Miles ignores this, pours several drinks, turns to David, eyes the slip of paper, and then reads it.


My name’s on here. The shit is this?


That, my friend, is a list of everyone I have ever hurt with my drinking.




(reciting from memory)

“Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible.”




Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking for.


And if she don’t want to see you?


Then, I’ll fuck off--peacefully, quietly. You’ll never see me here again. But if she does? Then I can at least try to do right by her.

Another silence.

Miles returns to the list to David.


One drink. Five minutes.




Cheryl’s on her lunch. I’ll let her know you’re here when she gets back in.


Thanks, Miles. And I swear, you don’t have anything to worry about.


Yeah, it ain’t me I’m worried about.

Miles walks off.

David eyes the crowd and plays it cool. He watches the other patrons talk and laugh and cheer on their favorite team on the TV.

And then...

His attention seizes on the drinks in their hands, and then to the assorted bottles behind the bar.

The bottles stare right back.

David fishes the COIN from his pocket again and clutches at it like a rosary.


A CROWD OF BAR PATRONS gather and huddle close, drawn to the warmth of the deck torches. Cigarettes in one hand, drinks in the other. The flames dance and flicker on the stainless steel, washing everything in a soft glow.

TARZAN, an alpha male-type dressed in khakis and a polo shirt two sizes too small, approaches JANE, a pretty young thing.

Tarzan not so good with words. Tarzan let muscles speak for him.

Jane likes what Tarzan’s muscles have to say. She feels the veiny masses that are Tarzan’s arms and laughs in that way young ladies are want to do when they’re trying to flatter young men.


watches this from a distant table as he nurses a can of Red Bull. His attention split between Tarzan, Jane, and the bar’s PATIO DOOR.

And then...


Tarzan stands there with his meaty paw wrapped around Jane’s willowy arm. Jane desperately tries to free herself. And everyone but David seems to be doing their damnedest to ignore this.


Step-off, will ya? Jesus, just step the fuck off!


Cut the bullshit. Flaunting your tits like that, feeling up my guns the way you are? There’s no need to be such a fucking tease.


Look familiar?

David turns to find a stunning but exhausted woman beside him. This is the real CHERYL, a woman who embodies the old adage, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

Cheryl seats herself. Close, but only close enough.


Was I really that bad?


Not always.


But often enough.


We all have our demons.


Yeah? And what was yours?


What can I say? I liked the bad boys.


Something about the way a man just took whatever he wanted from me...

(back to reality)

Stupid me, though. Took a few visits to the ER to learn when enough was enough.




That’s my name. So, what’s your game? Miles says you’ve found Jesus, or some shit. You want to make it right between me, you, and the Lord. That about it?

David nods.


Yeah, something like that.


You moving back to town?


No. Got myself a room at The Castaway Inn. But only for one night. Just long enough to talk about us.


Okay, us--you and me? That’s long over with. Let’s make that very clear right now.


Look, I’m going to be straight with you. Maybe God and Jesus forgive you, but I don’t think I can. Maybe that’s a little fucked up, or whatever. I dunno. It’s not like I want to feel this way. I just do.


Cheryl, you have every right to hate me.


I don’t hate you, David. Not anymore.

She sighs.


Look, I had a lot of time to think about you and me and all the messed up shit we did to each other when I was laid up in a hospital bed. Honestly? Between all the booze and pain killers, I don’t remember too much of that night. But I do still kinda remember my sister yelling at me, calling me a stupid piece of pussy for sticking with you for so long. All while the nurse stapled my head shut.


I’m sorry.


Me too.

David reaches for her hand. Cheryl reflexively pulls it back, as if burned by fire.

An uncomfortable silence.


I know there’s nothing that I can do or say to make up for all the awful shit I’ve done. Not to you, or anyone else. I don’t like the man that I was when I was still drinking. I don’t think I really like the man I am now. Not yet. But I am sorry. And I am trying to be a better man. I guess I just wanted you to know that.


That’s beautiful, David. I mean it. Did you stand in the mirror when you practiced that?




We’re done here, David.


Cheryl, please.


That shit might go over a bit better with some of the other people on that little list of yours. But it don’t do much for me. I know you, David. I know it wasn’t the fucking drinking that made you act like such a piece of shit. Okay? That was all you. It always was.

She shows the scar on her head, a pale zig-zag void of hair.


You see this? You did this, David. The staples, the scar, the cracked rib. It wasn’t the drinking of the drugs. This shit was all you. So, you want to come in here and give me a little speech to help you sleep better at night? That’s fine. I hope you can one of these days. But if you think that you can make things right between us? That ship fucking sailed off into the sunset a very long time ago.

He reaches for her.


I didn’t mean--

She swats his hand away. Hard. Loud.



Don’t fucking touch me!

The whole place goes silent. All eyes are on David and Cheryl. Even Tarzan and Jane are left in stunned silence.


I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that. How’s about I get back to work, and you crawl back to whatever urine-soaked hellhole you came out of, okay?


Yeah. Okay.

David stands and walks away, leaving the COIN behind on the table.


Take some fuckin’ responsibility for once, David..

Cheryl watches David hop the patio fence and disappear into the night.

And then...

She looks at the COIN atop the table. She takes it, looks at it, and then sighs a frustrated sigh.


Why do you have to be such an asshole?

She heads back into the bar.


A corner liquor store just around the corner from THE BAR.


A not entirely empty corner store. The CLERK does his best to not look too bored between customers.

David stares at the BEER cooler.

The WALL OF BEER stares back.

And then...

David gets the feeling someone is watching him. He turns to


stares at David. Her skin is deathly pale. She wears a long jacket and a scarf wrapped tight around her face. Her dark, unkempt hair flows over her.

David stares back, then behind himself, and then back at the Woman.

She’s still there. Still staring.


Yeah, okay. Fuck this.

He reaches into the cooler, picks his poison, and then heads for


The Clerk rings David up.

David stands there, staring at the BEER.

The BEER stares back.

The CLERK stares at David.


Hey, uh, cash, debit, or credit?

David snaps out of it.


Yeah. Just, uh--just forget about it.

David walks away, stops, then turns to the Clerk.


Oh, you might want to keep an eye on the chick with the scarf back there.


Back by the cooler.

The Clerk looks BACK THERE.


She’s not lookin’ so good.

There’s nobody BACK THERE.

The Clerk looks back to

David is already out the door.


The town is a sea of bodies and rivers of cars flowing here and there. COUPLES walk arm in arm to and from their favorite restaurants and bars. GROUPS of friends and family flock together.

David walks aimlessly among this, alone, sober, and empty handed. The WOMAN from the LIQUOR STORE lingers close by. Close, but never too close. A shape in David’s peripheral. Always present, but never seen.


The edge of town, far from the bustling chaos of the shops and bars. Here, the shops are closed. Streets are darker. Traffic is nonexistent.

David walks through the still darkness. The Woman follows close behind.


Green lights turn red.

David stops at the corner, and waits.

And then...


David turns back and sees how absolutely alone he is. Not a soul in sight in every direction.

And then, he turns back to the


Red lights turn green. “DON’T WALK” turns to “WALK.”

David steps forward.

And then...

The same NOISE.

David turns to see


stands beneath a street light, staring at David. Her body is a twisted, broken mess. Half her face masked in shadow. The other half covered in a CRIMSON MASK, blood running down and dripping from her chin.

An uncomfortable silence.


Hey. You need help, or somethin’, Lady?

The Woman says nothing. She only stumbles and shuffles awkwardly toward David.

David takes a step back.


Hey. Hey, are you okay?

Again, the Woman says nothing. She only stutter steps and stumbles closer and closer.

David steps back, again and again.

She takes a step, he takes a step back.

David reaches the curb, nearly stumbles off, and catches himself.

The Woman pushes forward.

David stands on the curb like a man on the edge of a cliff, unsure if he should stand his ground or jump.

She gets close. Too close.

And then...

She stops.

David looks at the Woman.

The Woman looks back at him with dead eyes.



He thinks about this, and then gestures down the way.


That way?

And then...

She goes THAT WAY.

Green lights turn red.

The Woman stops at the corner, waiting.

David watches this.

Red lights turn green.

The Woman stutter-steps and stumbles her way across the street and down THAT WAY.

David watches her disappear down THAT WAY.

Green lights turn red.

David stands alone in still silence, waiting.

Red lights turn green.

David steps forward into the intersection.

SHRIEKING. Distant, but growing closer way too fast.

David stops dead in his tracks and turns to


is coming right for him. A shape in the distance getting closer and closer. A walk turns into a sprint. The sprint turns into an animal-like dash.

David can’t even process what he’s seeing.

And then, the Woman leaps through the INTERSECTION and pounces on David.

And then...

A BUS pulls up. It’s doors open with a WHOOSH. The BUS DRIVER, a hefty man too old for this shit, looks out at


The two are wrapped around each other, on top of one another. Are they drunk and at each other’s throats, or in desperate need of a room?


Getting on?

David looks at the Bus Driver, then to the Woman, and then back to the Bus Driver.


No. Just catching our breath. Thanks, though.

A silence.

And then...

The Bus Driver closes the doors and rolls out.

David watches the Bus disappear down the road.





I bet you say that to all the boys.

He tries to move, but can’t. She’s got him pinned down. And she’s dead weight.


Shit. Sorry. Okay, I can’t--hold up a sec.

David struggles free. He helps the Woman up and over to a


They sit together. She struggles to stay upright. He holds her up and in place.


A’ight. So what were you saying?

She mutters again.


You gotta speak up, lady. I don’t hear too good anymore on account of my tinnitus. Too many late nights at the bars standing by the jukebox. Ya feel me?

The Woman goes limps.



David catches her and holds her upright.

She looks up to him. Her dark hair and scarf obscure everything but her eyes.




He pretends to take in the night sky.


It is a nice night, ain’t it?

David turns back to the Woman.

The Woman’s clothes are fashionable but stained. Her skin is covered in thick scars. She bleeds from a nasty-looking wound along her hairline.


So, uh, I’d love to soak up the ambiance a little more--really, I would. But I--

She touches his face with an outreached hand. He instantly goes calm.

They share a moment.

And then...

The Woman lurches forward and vomits.


Fucking--you’re pretty fucked up, aren’t you, Lady?

The Woman looks up at David. Fresh vomit and drool runs thick down and through her scarf. Chunks of something are caught in her hair.


Am I beautiful?

David looks at the hot mess in front of him.


Yeah, sure.

He helps her upright again.


So you got yourself a name, beautiful?

A drunken beat.



David processes everything. And then...


Can I buy you a drink, Tien?


Found Footage 3D

*31 Nights of Horror (#15) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the found-footage horror flick about the making of a found-footage horror flick, Found Footage 3D!

Carter Roy and Alena von Storheim are Derek and Amy, a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie about a married couple on the outs producing a found-footage horror movie.

What we see, however, is all told from the perspective of Chris O’Brien’s Mark, who also happens to be Derek’s brother in charge of documenting the making of the movie-within-a-movie…and who also happens to be very much in love with his brother’s would-be ex-wife.

And what plays out is exactly what you might expect in the umpteenth Blair Witch Project knockoff that is Found Footage 3D.


The debut feature film by writer-director Steven DeGennaro, Found Footage 3D is incredibly impressive for someone with far more experience on the audio side of productions. And it’s a much better movie than one with such an uncreative premise and name has any right to be.

Aside from some solid audio work, the visuals are spot on, the film is well paced, and the characters are fairly layered if not all equally interesting.

In fact, a few questionable moments not withstanding, the performances are all spot-on. Scott Allen Perry in particular, as audio-guy Carl, steals the show with both his performance and a number of great lines.

(The audio-guy writing the movie gives the audio-guy all the best lines and small scenes. Isn’t that neat?)


Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D suffers greatly from being utterly predictable in regards to its story and plot. Because if you’ve seen the Blair Witch or any of its many other blatant knock-offs, you’ll know exactly how this all plays out, from start to finish.

DeGennaro presents some great characters, pulls out great performances from his actors, and has written some solid dialog for them. But the movie they’re in isn’t as smart or clever as it thinks it is. And it’s almost cynical levels of self-awareness–as funny as some of the jokes are–can’t compensate for or mask just how boring and predictable everything else is. The characters and humor are the best aspect of the material, and it all deserves to be in a much more inspired, original movie.


Now, that having been said…

Found Footage 3D is still a surprisingly fun, enjoyable watch. It’s a bit predictable to the point of annoyance at times. And the meta-humor is simultaneously unnecessary and a saving grace of what could have otherwise been a very well produced but otherwise insipid found-footage horror movie. But it’s not hard to sit through and enjoy on some level, even if you are going to figure out how everything plays out far ahead of schedule.

The movie is boring only because it’s so unoriginal. But the overall quality of everything else–the directing, the acting–really does make up for a lot. Not everything, but just enough.

If you’re a fan of found-footage horror movies or if something more fun than it is fresh is fine with you, then Found Footage 3D is certainly worth CHILLING with.

The House by the Cemetery

*31 Nights of Horror (#14) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the third and final entry in Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” Trilogy, The House by the Cemetery!

When the Boyle family moves to a quaint New England town, the last thing they expected to find were graves in the basement of the new house. But just when they thought that was the only dark secret haunting their home, a series of mysterious, grisly murders begin in The House by the Cemetery.


The House by the Cemetery, by horror icon Lucio Fulci, is the third and final movie in his unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy.

And the short of it is that The House by the Cemetery is not much more than a typical haunted house movie. There is some dark, sinister force haunting the new home of an unsuspecting family. A number of people die grisly deaths. And instead of running at the first sign of trouble, the family sticks around until the bitter, confusing end.

The House by the Cemetery is the most intimate yet least stylized movie in Fulci’s unofficial trilogy of films. There’s little in the way of that Italian horror flair present in Fulci’s other movies. The music is loud and omnipresent, but is easily forgettable. There’s not much in the way of special effects or interesting lighting and framing. The story is easily the most straightforward and functional from start to finish. But it’s also the least interesting. Whereas City of the Living Dead and The Beyond played with big, wild ideas, The Last House on the Cemetery really is a by-the-numbers haunted house movie.

This isn’t to say that the movie is necessarily bad or unenjoyable. Or that it’s forgettable. Instead, it’s simply and plainly uninspired. In fact, the only thing that could have possibly made this movie even more cliche and unoriginal would be if it started on a dark and stormy night.


The movie is certainly strange enough. It’s certainly a decent viewing in and of itself. And the focus on a small family of three rather than an entire town or multiple groups of people is a welcomed change of pace.

But, in the end, The House by the Cemetery feels incredibly safe, especially in comparison to Fulci’s own filmography. And while safe isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s never a good thing either. Especially when fans have so many more options available to them.

So if for no other reason than there are far too many better, creative movies you can choose to watch in it’s place (even if they’re not quite as well-made), The House by the Cemetery is, unfortunately, a NO CHILL.

Blood Harvest

*31 Nights of Horror (#13) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at the uncomfortably bad slasher movie featuring Tiny Tim, Blood Harvest (aka Nightmare).

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

Itonia Salchek stars as Jill, a young woman returning to her small, rural hometown only to discover her family missing, their house in ruins, and their once sleepy little town at the mercy of a serial killer in Blood Harvest.

Blood Harvest, from Bill Rebane, is a movie most notable for featuring Tiny Tim as Mervo the Clown. There is nothing else worth noting about Blood Harvest. Not really. It is so frustratingly benign. It’s bad for sure. But there is nothing to be mad about, even after having wasted 90 minutes of my life with it.

This is a movie that doesn’t hide how bad it is. The director doesn’t care to direct. The actors never act. Tiny Tim is the only sign of human life on camera.

Even the most uncomfortable to watch rape scene–a very matter-of-fact, entirely nonjudgmental rape scene with no attempt to artsy-it-up or sexualize it. None if seemed to register any sort of emotion. The actors simply looked bored. It’s uncomfortable in how uncomfortable it isn’t.

I just don’t care. The movie starts showcasing how much it just doesn’t care. It signals you to turn it off and ask for a refund.

To speak ill of the movie outright would be as if to proclaim a school play as some no-budget, unprofessional tripe. It’s acute, harmless little thing that’s meant to be enjoyed as a testament to how anyone can get a film made, no matter how talentless everyone involved in the production truly were. You watch it in support of those involved, but you’re not going to ruin their evening by criticizing. It’s their night, not yours.

I suspect there’s some small minority of horror fans out there, perhaps even some deranged completionist who wants to watch this movie from beginning to end. And in that case, please, by all means please do.

But for anyone looking for anything more than background noise–or that lone wolf hardcore Tiny Tim fan–Blood Harvest is a NO CHILL.

The Beyond

*31 Nights of Horror (#12) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian horror classic, The Beyond (the second entry in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy)!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

Catriona MacColl is Liza, a young woman who has recently inherited an old hotel in the heart of New Orleans. But as she attempts to restore the hotel and carry on its legacy, a frightening series of events soon reveals that the hotel was built atop the gates of Hell. And the gate, of course, is now wide open in The Beyond.


The Beyond, from iconic horror director Lucio Fulci, is the second movie in the unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And, as might be expected, it suffers greatly from middle-child syndrome.

City of the Living Dead dealt with the dead rising from the grave, starting as a small-scale series of events and turning into a large-scale uprising. The House by the Cemetery is, at its core, an intimate tale of a family living in a haunted house.

The Beyond, meanwhile, is a series of loosely connected stories. Each story follows one of several group of characters who all have some connection to a hotel that rests above a literal gate of hell.


Unfortunately, none of the many different roads the movie follows feels grand nor intimate. They all just sort of drift about in the middle.

We never spend enough time with the woman who owns the hotel nor the family of the man who initially dies at it. Nor do we get to see the sheer scale of the chaos surrounding any of this. And as result, aside from some key special effects shots, nothing about The Beyond is all that interesting. The story and the characters are just sort of there. There’s never enough tension or drama. Things just sort of happen but hardly ever build to anything.

And the strange thing is that everything that plays out is fascinating in concept. I just never felt like I cared about any of it. 87 minutes is just not enough time to show us everything that plays out in the movie and make us care.

A two hour movie might have been able to pull that off, it might have been able to flesh out everything just enough to give some sort of meaning to it all. Or it might have been squandered on simply following even more characters and even more half-hearted stories.

But all we have is this 87-minute movie that overwhelms and underwhelms in almost equal measure.


This is one of those rare instances where I want to somehow defend my loving of the movie strictly for the concept alone. The actual movie itself isn’t very good because it feels half
there. But what’s there is still an enjoyable if not necessarily fun watch.

And as a result The Beyond is certainly worth CHILLING with. Just don’t be so sure you’ll feel that way immediately after having done so.


*31 Nights of Horror (#11) | 2017*

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of the Video Store With No Name, aka The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at Italian sci-fi horror flick, Contamination!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a transport ship carrying otherworldly cargo arrives in New York–its crew somehow mysteriously dead–it’ll take a government agent and a local police officer to get to the heart of this deadly mystery in Contamination.

Contamination, from writer-director Luigi Cozzi, is a fairly odd bit of sci-fi horror. The movie itself is fairly innocuous. In fact, it’s largely forgettable.

It’s a sci-fi movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering a science-fiction narrative. It’s a horror movie that isn’t all that interested in delivering on scares or even a general sense of dread or uneasiness. And unlike many other Italian horror films of the era, it’s not very stylish outside a few key shots.

Though like many Italian horror movies, Contamination doesn’t have so much a story as it does a paper-thin plot that rationalizes a series of loosely connected scenes that play out in a longer, slower fashion than necessary.


That said, Cozzi’s slow-burn mystery that actually unfolds in its entirety is a much welcome change of pace from the non-mysteries that plague Italian horror films.

The mystery of the alien cargo–which is incredibly ridiculous in presentation, danger, and purpose–is at the heart of the movie. The movie opens with it, the main characters focus on it, and it keeps the movie trotting slowly but steadily forward until the main characters–and us, the audience–get the answers we’ve been searching and waiting for.

Now, stating that a movie has a respectable purpose and direction seems like faint praise–and in most cases, it would be. But in the style and genre that Contamination belongs to, such things are a rarity. And, as a result, such a clear, well-developed framework is much appreciated.

The movie does, unfortunately, steer into territory worn-out even by 1980, reducing even its few redeeming factors to token alterations to a tired formula.

There’s the one man, one woman pair of leads forced to solve a mysterious threat that sort of unfolds and solves itself. The rare use of special effects is highlighted with odd, questionable stylistic choices, such as extended slow-motion shots. And, of course, the barely there story abruptly concludes with little sense of closure.

But if Contamination‘s real issues can be boiled down to just one glaring fault, it’d be that the movie is simply not that interesting. The premise it sets up–this deadly alien threat that literally just appears seemingly out of nowhere and casually makes its way into one of the most densely populated cities in the world–is incredibly interesting. There’s a lot of dread and paranoia to cultivate. There’s plenty of mileage to get out of this–either in the small scale or the large.

But Cozzi didn’t seem to have much left in the tank after he got through with the premise and inciting incident. Because no one in this movie seems concerned or scared, even in the face of death. There’s no tension. There’s no real emotion to find in the movie whatsoever.

Bad acting, bad dialog, and suspect direction are a prolific aspect of Italian horror. It often provides a lot of the charm in such movies. But, in the case of Contamination, it’s simply flat across the board. It’s as if no one, Cozzi included, cared about the final results.

It really feels as if everyone involved with the movie were satisfied with phoning in a day’s work–all day, every day. And it’s a shame, because there’s a good core to be found at the heart of Contamination. But unless you’re running low on options, you’d be fine skipping this one.

Contamination is a NO CHILL

Night of the Creeps

31 Nights of Horror (#10) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at 80s teen comedy turned retro monster movie, Night of the Creeps!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When slug-like alien parasites are accidentally unleashed on small-town America, it’ll be up to some plucky college kids and a heroic cop to save the world in Night of the Creeps.


Night of the Creeps is brought to us by writer-director Fred Dekker–who many might know better for his work on yet another cult-classic, The Monster Squad.

And much like The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps takes classic horror staples like aliens and zombies and sets them loose in small-town America with a more light-hearted twist. The movie never takes itself too seriously. This is very much an 80s version of matinee sci-fi b-films from the 1950s. In fact, the movie initially opens in the 1950s before quickly jumping ahead thirty years. The college kids are very much the sort of bright, stereotypical go-getters found in those earlier movies. The police officer is an unfaltering hero of the people. And the monsters are never, ever intended to seriously disturb so much as they’re intend to illicit a cheap, but fun scare. The slug-like creatures are very unsettling and will be sure to cause many to squirm in their seats as they wriggle about, in and out of their victims.

Simply put, Night of the Creeps is likely what we would have got if John Hughes had written and directed a horror movie. It’s Weird Science meets Them!


But, despite being a well-written, well-directed, and well-acted bit of comedy and horror, the movie’s light-hearted tone and material is likely to leave some fans rather disappointed.

Because if you want something much more scary than it is funny, Night of the Creeps is not the movie for you. There’s some certainly great effects on display and some creatively violent moments to be found. But it is not looking to give anyone nightmares so much as it is eager to offer you a fun time.

Horror is an incredibly flexible approach to material more so than it is an easily defined genre. There are key elements and twists that can be added to any story to turn even a teen comedy into a horror movie.

And it’s this variety found in horror stories that provide us–and especially those who might not normally like horror movies– such fun experiences as Night of the Creeps. Because for every scare the movie sacrifices, it more than makes up for it in jokes, gags, and simply playing about with a classic style and staple of American cinema.

And it never passes up an opportunity to do either. Because while many similar movies might do different, Night of the Creeps paces itself like few others. It’s never too long before there’s another joke or monster popping about on screen. The characters constantly have something to stay and do. There’s no wasted time or effort.


This isn’t to say the movie is somehow flawless, because it’s not. As fun as the movie is, it’s not nearly as memorable as many other comedic horror films of that era. Its jokes are about as cutting or as clever as its scares are intense. The overall experience is fairly mild, fairly safe.

But for a movie that’s very much taking up the legacy of horror movies that were intended to be fairly mild, fairly safe, isn’t that sort of the point? And in that case, doesn’t that make it a great continuation of that legacy?

Now, whether you answer yes or no to these questions will determine the mileage you’ll get from Night of the Creeps.

But in either case: if you are looking for a good time with a bit of a morbid twist, be sure to CHILL with Night of the Creeps.


31 Nights of Horror (#9) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at underappreciated 80s comedy horror flick, House!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

Haunted by the disappearance of his son and his memories of Vietnam, a struggling writer moves into his childhood home following the untimely death of his aunt. But as he attempts to use this as an opportunity to work on his latest novel, this would-be Stephen King will also have to face some very real personal demons in House.


House, from director Steve Miner, is–despite the rather bleak and grim subject matter–actually more comedy than it is horror.

Not too much time ever goes by without some visual gag or joke being thrown at an unsuspecting audience. But, at the same time, not too many minutes pass without some eerie
ghoul looking to give William Katt’s Roger (or the audience) a good scare.

Quite frankly, given the the subject matter on display, it’s likely that House benefits by leaning on comedy more than anything else. If Miner had taken a more straightforward approach to the script, the final result might have been unbearably depressing.

Because despite the movie’s more often than not lighthearted tone, House covers things like suicide, child abduction, divorce, and even war-induced PTSD. It never makes light of any of this, fortunately. Instead, Miner chooses to use both comedy and horror as a way to present
such serious material in a more digestible manner.

Just when it seems the movie is going to get too serious– with Katt’s soldier-turned-horror novelist left to stew in his isolation, depression, and seemingly endless amount of guilt–Miner inserts some much needed levity. Sometimes this comes in the form of TV’s George Wendt popping over for an awkward bit of neighborly snooping. Other times it comes in the form of some incredible monster designs.


And it’s because the movie is a comedy that the monsters and other bits of horror manage to work so well. In a more straight-faced horror movie, the special effects in House–as well done as they might be–might not have worked. Their use is minimal. And the budget was clearly tight.

But, most of all, it would have been lost on an audience watching a Vietnam vet slowly fall apart as everything good in his life is taken away from him. The very real, grounded horror story playing out on screen would have totally overshadowed what amounts to some creepy looking foam rubber.

Overall, Miner manages a beautiful balancing act. The comedy makes the very real horror digestible and allows the fictional stuff flourish. The real horror adds some much needed gravitas to a genre that is often far allowed to be shallow. And the fun horror stuff helps visualize the internal struggle going on in our lead character.

Half the time you’ll likely be laughing. The rest of the time you’ll be fidgeting uncomfortably in your seat. But the entire time you’ll be cheering on our beaten-but-not-broken hero.

And, in the end, you’ll be glad you chose to CHILL with House.


31 Nights of Horror (#8) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at 80s cult-classic monster movie, C.H.U.D.!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a strange series of disappearances and attacks being plaguing a small corner of New York City, it’ll take the unlikely team of a photographer, a lone police officer, and the manager of a local homeless shelter to get to the bottom of this mystery in C.H.U.D.


C.H.U.D., from director Douglas Cheek, is a relatively well-known cult hit from 1984. But for many whose local video store didn’t have the best collection of horror on VHS–or perhaps you simply didn’t grow up in a time when video stores were still a thing–it might be likely that C.H.U.D., which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, is flying low on your radar. If it manages even so much a blip, that is.

And if I were to guess as to why C.H.U.D. has remained a notable if under-watched bit of 80s horror, it might be because the movie itself is fairly uninterested in standing out too much.


For example, the movie is neither outright scary nor outright comical. The violence and gore and combined screen time of the titular monsters is fairly limited. Despite being an R-rated movie, C.H.U.D. is fairly light on swears, violence, or much of anything else.

But what the movie does excel at is giving us a fairly basic but compelling story and mystery along with relatable, interesting characters.

The late John Heard is perfect in the role of the well-meaning yet somewhat pretentious photographer, George–a man who has no qualms with taking a commercial gig to pay the bills… but who also won’t stop complaining about the vapid cynicism of commercial marketing while he does it.

Daniel Stern shines in his somewhat mellow, subdued take on the sincerely selfless manager of a local homeless shelter, AJ Shepherd, who is more commonly known by his nickname “The Reverend.”

For many, Stern is more likely to conjure up images of his roles as Marv from the Home Alone movies or any of his other more animated performances. But while The Reverend is an integral part of the film, his personality is very humble and reserved. And with such a role–and in such a movie–subtlety and nuance can easily be mistaken for, quite simply and quite often, flat.

Fortunately, Stern uses this as a chance to highlight his ability to get a lot of mileage out of even the most low-key role.

And veteran actor Christopher Curry rounds out our leads in the role of Captain Bosch, a police officer who suspects his wife is among the missing. Curry nails the balancing act of, frightened, desperate husband and professional stoicism. His Bosch is a man doing all he can to maintain his composure in light of a horrifying situation. And never does he comes across as a loose canon waging a one-man war, which is far too often the go-to take on such roles.


That said, these more nuanced, layered choices in what is, at it’s heart, a monster movie might be the movie’s own undoing.

Nothing about C.H.U.D. outside its promise of some freaky looking monsters screams “horror movie.” Despite us the audience knowing full well that monsters are clearly living under the streets of New York, the movie is more focused on having its characters slowly unravel the mystery of it all. And this emphasis on the human side of the equation means that there’s little time for monsters or scares. It’s a horror movie doing what so few horror movies ever risk attempting: it tells a real story.

But, again, this emphasis on story and characters comes at a cost. And that cost is the heavy reduction of what most people might expect or want from a horror movie. It’s not really scary. It’s not really violent. And the monsters are smartly kept to key scenes, which also means the amount of special effects is also minimized.

So if you’re looking for a more traditional or typical horror movie, CHUD is not going to be for you.

But if you are looking for a fun, enjoyable movie that also happens to be about dangers creatures lurking underground, then you definitely need to take the time to CHILL with C.H.U.D.


31 Nights of Horror (#7) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at classic giallo film, Demons!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a group of people are invited to a free screening of a mysterious new horror movie, they soon discover themselves in for the fright of their lives when everything that happens in the movie also happens to them in Demons.


Directed by Lamberto Bava and written by horror icon Dario Argento, Demons is yet another Italian giallo film that presents a highly stylized audio-visual experience with very little substance.

Because while the premise of a movie-within-a-movie unleashing a private Hell on our main cast of characters sounds like a lot of fun, like an opportunity to do something different–something a little insightful regarding the movie-going experience, perhaps–there’s simply little done with that premise or these characters.

In fact, all that’s really done with the premise is using it to explain why zombie-like demons are suddenly unleashed on a literal captive audience. Once that finally gets going, that’s all we get for the next hour.

And it really does take some 25 minutes for the movie to get started. The first half-hour is mostly comprised of long, static shots of people in the subway, walking down hallways, and, eventually, gathering in a local movie theater. We meet our core group of would-be victims, yes, but we’re not given much of anything interesting to look out, hear, or experience. It’s framed nice. And the music is that classic, catchy, moody sound you’d expect from these sorts of movies.

But none of that makes up for the fact that there’s no real story to speak of–only this stretched out series of moments that eventually lead to a non-ending. The characters simply prattle on and scream at each other until the next one dies. And then, once the movie finally decides it’s all out of ideas, the credits roll.


But while it would be easy to dismiss the movie entirely as one that’s “all sizzle and no steak”, it has to be made clear that the giallo-style is cranked up high. The sheer amount of “sizzle” almost entirely makes up for the distinct lack of “steak” present in Demons. Almost.

Little is done with the premise or the titular demons themselves, yes. But they do have a fascinating look that is brought to life by incredible make-up design. And a number of the violent, stylized death scenes they’re always present for make great use of some creative practical effects.

Even the unnatural acting and line-delivery of the human characters bring to life what could have otherwise been some of the worst dialog ever written.

Of course, all the fantastic and bizarre lighting and violence and monster make-up in the world doesn’t fully make-up for a lack of pacing, purpose, or anything remotely resembling good acting. But, when done right, as Bava does in Demons, it makes for one hell of a viewing experience.

Demons is a definite CHILL.

The Bees

31 Nights of Horror (#6) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at the campy and literal b-movie, The Bees!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

As Africanized killer bees spread across South America, American corporations are desperate to make the best of a bad situation by selling the bees’ honey and royal jelly for a premium price.

But when the bees get loose, spreading and mutating across the entire United States, humanity will have to unite if anyone wishes to come out of all this alive in The Bees.


Written and directed by Alfred Zacarias and starring prolific genre actor John Saxon, The Bees is one of the best bad movies you will ever see.

From its atrocious acting, nonsensical plot, painful attempts at action and stunts, and the least convincing special effects this side of an Ed Wood feature, nothing about The Bees should work. It certainly doesn’t do the movie any favors knowing that, in 2017–nearly 40-years after the release of the movie–the decades-long fear of the Killer Bee has, for the most part, proven to be largely unfounded.

And yet there’s something about The Bees that, despite its worst efforts, allows it to be so unwittingly entertaining. The sheer absurdity of every bad line or inept scene of what’s supposed to be terror or the numerous prolonged, hammy fits of conversation makes for a great movie to sit back, take in, and laugh at with a group of friends.

Now, to be clear, this isn’t necessarily a redeeming aspect of the film itself. The movie is bad from top to bottom. Even Saxon’s usually reliable, quality performance gets lost in the flood of stupid dialog, bad ideas, and poor execution.


Could a better overall movie have been made from the idea of a naturally dangerous but beneficial creature like the bee gaining the desire to attack and kill off humanity? Yes, very much so. And whether or not its sister movie, The Swarm, is that movie is entirely up for debate.

But I don’t think a more entertaining movie could ever come from it.

Because it’s in the stylized, passionate failing that is The Bees that provides such a fun experience. A good story with passable acting would have, perhaps, resulted in a much more dull, too-serious for its own good final product. The movie’s inherent message of “man destroying the environment for the sake of profit” certainly would have come across as far too preachy.

If nothing else, The Bees stands as a testament to the sheer amount of entertainment to be had so long as filmmakers have the necessary creativity and passion to overcome a lack of budget or inherent talent.

So should you and your friends find yourself in the need of a good laugh more than a good scare, The Bees is definitely the movie you should CHILL with and laugh at.

Zombie Holocaust

31 Nights of Horror (#5) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at giallo zombie flick, Zombie Holocaust!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

After several bodies are desecrated and several patients are killed in their beds, a group of doctors and journalists head for the East Indies to uncover the truth behind this recent string of cannibalistic behavior in Zombie Holocaust.


Zombie Holocaust, from director Marino Girolami, is somewhat of a mystery to me. Despite sharing so many traits found in other giallo-styled films, Zombie Holocaust seems to lack whatever “I don’t know what” that allows those other movies to succeed in raw entertainment in spite of their numerous issues.

The acting, the dialog, the story, and the pacing are, at best, subpar. And at worst, they’re abysmal. But this is fairly common in the genre. It’s very much a matter of style over substance. Saturated colors. Odd, comic book-like framing and lighting. Melodramatic, on-the-nose dialog and performances. And a singular, focused hook or gimmick.

And Zombie Holocaust does indeed capture the stylistic flair of the genre. Everything on screen pops in the style’s distinct manner. There’s an inherent pulp feel to everything, with characters looking and talking like they popped out of an old horror magazine or comic book. The film’s color pallet is largely desaturated until something of dramatic importance is on screen, at which point key colors are heavily saturated. The lighting will even go from natural or over-lit to hyperstylized, with swashes of greens and reds and dark, ominous shadows falling across shots.

The movie even features a fairly barebones, predictable hook. Cannibals appear in a major, modern city. A small group of people with a death wish make it their business to venture
into the wildness halfway around the world for answers regarding the cannibals. And, once on some isolated island, everything goes wrong for everyone involved, and they have to survive somehow.

It’s a simple, basic premise and structure. But it’s one that’s worked across dozens and dozens of films.


So what is it exactly that leaves Zombie Holocaust feeling like a pale imitation?

Well, the only thing I didn’t feel with Zombie Holocaust that I feel with many other giallo films is this sense that, in spite of the film’s small budget, the director had the creativity to keep things interesting and popping off the screen often enough.

So much of the movie is waiting for something to happen–blood, violence, a cheap scare, or even some odd, gratuitous sex.

But even the gratuitous sexual content is so lifeless. There is more than one extended sequence where we see Alexandra Delli Colli’s Lori stripping or getting dressed or simply walking around naked. But none of it comes across as particularly titillating. There’s no sense of voyeurism to any of it. There’s nothing outright sexual about what we see, despite that clearly being the only reason it’s there.

And that sort of lacking is there when it comes to the effects and the scares. The titular zombies don’t really look all that interesting. At times, they even look like they’re wearing a cheap mask purchased at a corner drug store. The blood and violence are there, but none of it feels like its meant to entertain us. It’s simply there because it has to be there.

Perhaps it’s Girolami’s framing. Perhaps its the soundtrack, which never really seems to hit quite the right note. But whatever it is, there’s simply something that doesn’t feel authentic about Zombie Holocaust. And when there are so many other better representations of the giallo style–even if only barely–I can only suggest that you avoid this one without a second thought.

Zombie Holocaust, while not an entirely unwatchable film, is a firm NO CHILL.

Nightmare City

31 Nights of Horror (#4) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at giallo horror flick, Nightmare City!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a plane makes an emergency landing, it soon unleashes its cargo of blood-thirty, irradiated mutants upon the world in Nightmare City.


Brought to us by director Umberto Lenzi, Nightmare City is yet another zombie-not-a-zombie movie. Its monsters, for the most part, look and act like any other George Romero-styled zombies. They feast on living people. They multiply by infecting those they injure but fail to kill. And these creatures can only be killed with a bullet to the brain.

Like Romero’s films, the creatures are never called zombies. But unlike those movies, the creatures in Nightmare City are not the living dead. They’re people altered through radiation. They can use complex tools and weapons. They can even operate vehicles.

And the reason I mention all this is because despite having such incredibly dangerous monsters, not much is really done with them.

The vast majority of the film is spent highlighting a location–an airport, a TV studio, a house–and then unleashing this army of mutants on unsuspecting victims. They bite, claw, stab, and shoot everyone in their path until no one is left alive. Wash, rinse, repeat.

But then why make the monsters so functionally human only to utilize them like any other stereotypical ghoul?

OH, **** YOU

And this really does highlight the issue plaguing Nightmare City. Despite such a great twist on a common idea readily abused by the giallo subgenre of horror, Lenzi and company didn’t bother to do anything with it. There’s nothing unique or creative done with any of the movie’s otherwise creative ideas.

The monsters are more than a mindless horde driven by their desire for human blood. The main character is a TV news reporter constantly at odds with his producer over ethics in journalism. And this character’s wife is a prominent doctor at a major hospital.

So why is the wife nothing more than a character in need of being saved? Why is nothing made of this conflict of a reporter trying to warn the public of a very real, very deadly threat in the face of a government cover-up? Why are these bloodthirsty, violent people capable of devising and executing a tactical strike against all of humanity still used like little more than bread-dead zombies?

The cheesy violence, music, and performances fans might expect of the giallo style is present. And there’s plenty of fun to be had with such things.

But between a refusal to do anything different with all the great ideas present in the material and an incredibly lazy and insulting ending, even the most dedicated horror fan would be better off watching any of the other more experimental movies available in the genre.

Unless you’ve already burned through the rest of back-catalog of horror movies, City of Nightmares is a NO CHILL.

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman

31 Nights of Horror (#3) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, he looks at Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman, based on the Japanese urban legend!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When an earthquake suddenly shakes up a small Japanese suburb, the locals are not only given a brief fright but a sleeping evil is also stirred from its slumber, eager to once again haunt and kill whoever crosses its path in Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman.


Brought to us by prolific horror director, Koji Shiraishi, Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman–also known by its Japanese title, Kuchisake-onna–is arguably one of the most frustratingly bad movies–horror or otherwise–to be released in the past decade.

The barely-there acting, sloppy framing and cutting, pacing so slow even snails would take great offense in a direct comparison, nonsensical logic and rules, and a distinct lack of scares and violence and blood and gore. There is simply nothing done right in this movie.

In fact, the only thing more confusing and frustrating than watching Carved is to learn that, upon its initial release, the movie was actively praised by a number of outlets, including Variety magazine.

Now, there’s certainly something interesting to be derived from its premise, one rooted in the titular Kuchisake-onna, which is a fairly modern urban legend about a malicious spirit that plays a violent and often deadly game with its victims. But Shiraishi does everything he possibly can to forcibly declaw and defang the entire premise.


The movie not only looks like it was shot and edited for TV, but the acting and action is so bad that, at one point, there is a long, oddly framed shot of the Kuchisake-onna kicking a girl like a sack of potatoes.

And it’s not some swift, hard-hitting soccer kick to a frightened, hurt individual. Instead, it’s a small, lazy poke with a foot followed by a cartoonish thud and a wholly unconvincing grunt of what is supposed to be pain. And this shot just lingers and repeats for a good 30-60 seconds before the actress just stops and slowly moves on to her next mark.

Everything in this movie is downplayed to the point that you might mistake what you’re watching for an extended, sequential series of outtakes or rehearsals. The actors deliver their dialog with all the emotion of a corpse, as if they’re reading their lines for the very first time. The lighting is flat and as lifeless as the performances. And none of this even begins to touch upon how contrived the plot is. For as basic as it is–a wicked woman dies only for her evil spirit to be woken in the present day to continue her unmotivated killings–Shiraishi just strings together a number of loosely connected scenes and characters. There is no attempt to make us care about even the most innocent of victims. No effort put into scaring us. No concept of how logic works into the supernatural aspect of the monster–she simply does something new every now and again and we’re given heavy-handed exposition explaining everything.

The strangest thing of it all is how Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is every bit as dull and harmless of a movie as the number of comics and various internet stories based on the urban legend are legitimately spooky and unsettling. And I would highly suggest you seek out such comics and stories–readily and legitimately available online for free–than to spend even ten minutes with this movie.

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a firm NO CHILL.

Body Melt

31 Nights of Horror (#2) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, he comes across Australian comedic horror flick, Body Melt!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.

When a concerned employee of a shady pharmaceutical company attempts to reveal that an entire Australian suburb has been used as guinea pigs, he’s not only swiftly and violently silenced but the residents of Pebbles Court soon discover that their free dietary supplement pills have some seriously gruesome side-effects in Body Melt.


Body Melt, from director and co-writer Philip Brophy, is a delightfully crazed b-film that you would be forgiven for mistaking for one of Troma’s insane creations. The blood and body horror frequently comes by the barrel. The characters are colorful caricatures, with every actor’s performance cranked up to 10. And the movie floors it from the outset and doesn’t ease up on the gas until it crosses the finish line.

However, the path it takes to get there is quite literally all over the place.

Despite the film selling itself as something detailing the gruesome outcome of secret tests done on unsuspecting suburbanites, there’s very little time actually spent in the suburbs.

In fact, much of the movie takes place on either a remote farm in the Australian outback or a high-end spa that secretly doubles as the laboratory for the aforementioned and comically evil pharmaceutical company.

The movie also never spends too much time with a single character, with Brophy instead electing to jump from one to the next in fairly quick fashion, making the movie feel like a series of loosely connected vignettes.

And, to be fair, this works very much in favor of Body Melt. We get to know characters just enough before the movie goes about killing them off in creative, unsettling ways. No punches are pulled. No one is safe. And no stone is left unturned, as the movie hands out bits and pieces of backstory for the whole thing without ever bringing the movie to anything resembling a slow crawl.

It’s a high-energy, frantic experience. But it’s only one that masquerades as a mess rather than actually being one.


Now, as fun as the movie is from start to finish, it must also be said that this one isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended. There are a number of disturbing images–as colorful and wacky as they may be at times–that, among other unsettling things, occasionally involve children.

But for those who can embrace the no-holds barred nature of a comedic horror film that aims to entertain and push limits–and certainly more so than to simply shock and offend–then Body Melt is easily worth CHILLING with.


31 Nights of Horror (#1) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico stepped out of The Last Video Store on Earth in search of some late-night scares. But he still took the time to record his review of Rob Zombie’s 31 using his smartphone.

Needless to say, the footage he sent us is about as shaky as the movie’s premise.

When a van full of carnies find themselves stopped dead in their tracks one evening, they’re not only confused and upset but brutally assaulted, kidnapped, and ultimately forced to
compete in a deadly, twisted game of survival in 31.


Written and directed by Rob Zombie, 31 is easily his worst movie to date. In fact, as an admitted fan of Zombie’s work, including his controversial and divisive handling of the
Halloween franchise, I would say it’s his only outright bad movie.

The movie’s troubles are abundant as they are surprising. For a man who built his filmography on stylish, brutal, and highly disturbing visuals mixed with a strong in-your-face cast of colorful characters–including monstrous villains so memorable that he once dedicated an entire film that presented them as the unlikely heroes of the piece. For a filmmaker like that, it’s utterly shocking to discover 31 lacks almost everything that made Zombie’s work so interesting.


Starting with just the basic premise, 31 rehashes the setup of House of 1000 Corpses, with a van full of fairly bland, unsuspecting characters beset upon by a group of violent nut jobs in the middle of nowhere.

But unlike that movie, 31 doesn’t have the colorful Captain Spalding or his equally colorful family of misfits. Instead, we get an uncharacteristically lifeless performance from Malcolm MacDowell as some mysterious overseer of a vague game of survival. Our main cast is chained up, given numbers, and then sent through an uninspired death maze where they’re chased down by a series of homicidal maniacs with colorful names and outfits but wholly uninteresting personalities.

In fact, if it weren’t for character actor Richard Brake’s outstanding performance as the crazed “Doom-Head”, it’s likely the whole thing would be utterly forgettable.

Unfortunately, Brake’s appearance is fairly limited. He appears at the very beginning only to then be relegated mostly to the movie’s third and final act.

Why Zombie kept the closest thing he had to a memorable character and performance on the sidelines for most of the movie instead of focusing on this sadistic, captivating lunatic is beyond me. But it’s yet another sign that Zombie had little more than a sliver of an idea before he rushed this one into production.


There’s no story to speak of. The visuals are lacking his distinct flair. There’s not even much of anything that shows these characters as carnies–they’re just a group of weird misfits talking in a cramped a van for some 20 minutes before the movie actually gets going.

Overall, the movie is a great premise executed without anything that made Zombie’s previous works standout so well. Worse, 31 feels like someone’s bad impersonation of Rob Zombie.

And so, in the end, 31 is not only a disappointing dud, but a definite NO CHILL.

Death Note

On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Death Note!

When a high school student discovers a strange notebook with the power to kill anyone whose name he writes in it, he’ll quickly discover that playing God isn’t everything he expected it to be in Death Note.


Death Note, from director Adam Wingard, is the latest live-action adaptation of the hit comic and animated TV from Japan. But for all the interesting and smart choices made in the adaptation process, there’s several more bad ones that make it into the final movie.

Now there are already plenty of arguments being made on every blog, vlog, podcast, and Twitter account for how the movie fails to directly convert the source material to screen. But like with every adaptation, especially of such dense, lengthy material, a direct translation would never work as a feature film. It’s not just impractical but madness to even attempt to do so. Instead, it’s about taking what truly mattered in the original and trying to make it work in a new format, style, and run time.

And in that regard, the movie does succeed. Mostly.


Nat Wolff stars as Light Turner, a troubled but bright high school student who comes to hold the titular Death Note, meets the spirit of death who normally owns it, and then uses it to wage a one-man war on whoever he perceives as well-deserving of divine justice.

And along the way he meets, falls for, and partners with a lovely girl named Mia who shares his view on the world. And the two inevitably play a game of cat-and-mouse with the mysterious, super-genius detective known as L whose sole goal in life is to bring Light to justice.

The details of how this plays out–of the characters and their setting–are changed. That much is clear simply by watching the movie’s trailer. This is an American adaptation set in America with American actors.

But the overall movie does play out in a similar manner as the comic and TV series. If you’ve seen one, you know what to generally expect in the other.


In fact, the movie’s greatest success is in streamlining and simplifying the conflict for the better.

The Light seen in the comic and TV series is wholly unrelatable as a character. He’s a handsome, charming super-genius from a fairly well-off, prominent family. And he has no arc, as he’s already knee-deep in his own God complex. He’s a despicable, blood-thirsty narcissist with little regard for human life who only gets worse as the series drags on.

The Light in Wingard’s movie, however, is a more believable, troubled young man from a middle-class household. His use of the Death Note is more in line with what a bullied, angry but mostly good person would do. He sees himself as a hero righting the injustices of evil men.

That said, this Light isn’t perfect either. Because like the superheroes he idolizes, this Light suffers the lesson of what happens to those who don’t use their great power responsibly. Internal and external forces drive him to darker, more aggressive places. Especially as L grows closer to discovering his true identity.

And, thankfully, this war of morals and ethics between Light and L is not stretched on hour after hour to the point of losing any dramatic weight or purpose.

And it should also be made clear that the performances from both Lakeith Stanfield as L and Willem Dafoe’s vocal performance as Ryuk, the spirit of death constantly lurking in the shadows, are delightful. The rest of the cast fail to keep up, but are otherwise serviceable.


That all having been said, Wingard’s adaptation suffers from two glaring issues: pacing and staying true to the constantly shifting tone of the original–this serious but simultaneously not at all serious thriller.

Like the original, this movie approaches heavy, serious material with a number of wholly dead-serious scenes only for such things to be frequently ruined by some desire to be cool and stylish.

Now levity and humor are fine, and even necessary at times. But there’s a balance that has to be maintained. A decision has to be made where the movie is either a serious one with moments of levity…or a more stylish, fun movie with key moments of dramatic weight. Very rarely can you ride that fine line and succeed.

Death Note–both Wingard’s movie and the original series– suffers for thinking it can ride that line. I know there are fans of the original series, and there’s plenty there to enjoy. I’m not denying that or arguing against it. However, I stand by the idea that the series is enjoyed more by the ideas presented in it rather than the actual quality of the final product.

In fact, I would say this movie only magnifies the existing issues in the source material. The movie’s pacing is so quick and it’s material is so dense that there’s no time for anything to sink in. But at the same time, the characters are all about as “deep” as they’ve ever been presented. The drama is about as well-built. The tension is about as thick. That’s to say, of course, none of this is very good at all.

The point here is that in all iterations, the focus is always on showcasing certain scenes, certain beats or interactions. To relay some basic idea. But there’s little effort put into making any of it mean anything.

The movie–clocking in at about an hour and forty minutes–is far too eager to rush through its material to even consider slowing down long enough for anything to register. At the same time, the original comic and TV series both stretch the material painfully thin. The events in them are so drawn out– and in this very soap opera-like manner–that such things are diluted to the point of losing any impact.


The movie is not very good. That much is clear. But it’s a fairly true-enough adaptation that’s also fun in a guilty pleasure sort of way. And it’s likely fans of the franchise are going to be the only ones worked up by it in either direction.

Most other people–who will greatly outnumber fans of the property–are either going to be mildly pleased by it or generally nonplussed by what is ultimately a benign, forgettable movie.

Could it have been done better? Yes. Would it have come at the cost of more cuts and changes? Yes. But this is true of the original as much as this adaptation.

And with all that in mind: despite its faults and the unfair demands and expectations of the franchise’s fans, those looking for a quick, stylish jaunt into the bizarre would do just fine electing to CHILL with Death Note.

The Midnight After

On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the strange Hong Kong comedy-horror flick, The Midnight After.

On a night just like tonight, a colorful group of strangers come together on a long bus ride home. But when they come out the other side of a long tunnel, they’ll find that the world has become a much stranger, deadlier place…in The Midnight After.


The Midnight After, from director Fruit Chan, is a comedy-horror experience straight from Hong Kong and proud of it. But, more importantly, it’s also an experience unlike anything else you’ve seen.

The movie happily dances that dangerous tightrope between full-blown horror movie and comedy. The story is engaging. The concept, terrifying. And the imagery is a morbid delight.

More so, the strange grabbag of stereotypes that we watch suffer are easy to love, laugh at, and be scared for. The overacting and scene-chewing is intentional and feels at home in a movie where the conflict is so sudden and over-the-top. Everything is turned up to 10, and the movie is all the better for doing so.


That said, The Midnight After is a clear example of how the journey can also be the destination.

Given the movie’s origins as a web-novel published in pieces on an internet forum, it’s not surprising to see it struggle with basic things like pacing and structure. There’s little in the way of a plot. Scenes just sort of carry on at their own leisure. And characters bicker constantly for the sake of bickering.

But somehow it all works. The characters and their interactions with one another is the focus here. The strange circumstances and the way they’re tortured–or the way they torture each other–is an excuse for the character stuff to happen. The characters are what bring the comedy. They’re the reason why we’ll care whenever something frightening happens on screen.

And even if you aren’t familiar with the language or culture–which may be likely given it’s Hong Kong setting and production–the performances still come across as golden. None of the characters feel under-served or without purpose. They have clear desires and goals. And the fact that you’ll be rooting for a good chunk of them to survive despite some of the things they say and do? That’s a fun, fresh change of pace for these sorts of movies.


The language barrier is sure to prove an issue for some. And Chan’s predilection for depicting small-scale Hong Kong life and culture could prove to be too much culture shock for even those who are fine with reading subtitles. But should you find it in you to give a The Midnight After a fair shot, you will thank yourself afterward.

Fun, creative, and without a dull moment, The Midnight After is definitely a BIG CHILL.


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at supernatural horror movie, Demonic.

When a group of friends attempt to summon the spirits of the ghosts that haunt not only a house but also one of their own…they’ll leave only a confused police officer behind to piece together the tragic mystery surrounding all of their deaths…in Demonic.


Demonic, from writer-director Will Canon, is a terrible movie. It is filled with terrible actors reciting terrible dialog directed in a terrible manner. It is, without question, an 83-minute waste of time.

When the movie isn’t giving us the boring build-up to the least interesting seance gone wrong ever, it’s also trying to tell it’s own sequel. In it, Frank Grillo’s Detective Lewis is trying to solve the gruesome murder of several young men and women. And it jumps back and forth so frequently between the two stories, that the movie never manages to build up any momentum or some semblance of emotional investment in either.

Worse, the movie never makes so much as an attempt to be clever. It never dares to be different. And that means those involved either had no clue what they doing or they were fully aware of the terrible movie they were smugly serving up to audiences.

And in either case, I will not tolerate a movie that blatantly flaunts its distinct lack of quality or respect for its audience. A bad movie is a bad movie–no one sets out to make one. But people are prone to equating confidence with quality. And they are most definitely prone to making a quick buck.

It is a sincere hope that nobody else will waste their time by watching this error in judgment after hearing that Demonic is a big, fat NO CHILL.

The Number 23

On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the unfortunately sloppy and underappreciated (but stylish) Jim Carrey thriller, The Number 23.

Jim Carrey is Walter Sparrow, an animal control officer who finds his entire life turned upside after his wife, Agatha–played here by Virginia Madsen–shows him a novel that shares more than a passing resemblance to his own life.

But as this obsession with the book continues to grow, Walter slips further and further into the darkest corner of his own mind…in The Number 23.


The Number 23, from director Joel Schumacher, is a very strange mess of a movie.

On the one hand, the movie is tonally and stylistically all over the place. The performances shift back and forth between naturalistic and melodramatic. The movie starts off as a fairly grounded look at one man’s decent into obsession and madness before becoming this stylized pulp mystery before then turning into a Gothic horror story. It’s hard to pin it down as this serious, dark story or a comedic throwback to classic genre pieces and storytelling conventions.

But on the other hand, there’s still this very engaging story of one man losing his tentative grasp on reality and sanity woven throughout this mess.


Now unfortunately, that story is the one told in the book Walter obsesses over rather than the one we see play out in full with Walter himself. The book is a pulp detective story in which a detective by the name of Fingerling becomes obsessed with the number 23 after he meets a woman already driven mad by it. And, soon enough, this book not only drives Walter mad but also convinces him that the book is actually a murder confession from the author.

And while the detective story would work fine enough on its own, it’s the story that inspired this novel-within a-movie that’s the best thing going–this dark, twisted story of a cursed love that consumes everyone involved, driving them full-speed into madness and death. This is exactly what the movie should have been focused on from beginning to end.

Yes, it’s a bit derivative. But its inspirations are the sorts of stories written by men like Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft. The sorts found in old magazines and radio programs popular sixty or seventy years ago.

This may not have necessarily earned the movie any awards, of course. But it’s the sort of grim yet somewhat campy genre piece Schumacher clearly wanted to make.

The majority of the movie actually presented to us is, instead, a fairly dull one. It feels like filler that exists simply to pad out the runtime of two shorter, better films. Connective tissue between the atrophied meat of the movie.


And, sadly, the performances suffer somewhat. Carrey and company can often be seen, to speak in more theatrical terms, “playing to the back of the house.” They speak in melodramatic tones and with exaggerated gesticulations. But each time, it’s in the style and degree of a scene’s given style or tone.

Again, the general look and vibe of the movie changes changes throughout. But the acting does this as well.

If it’s Walter speaking with his concerned wife, it plays out in the surreal styles of a traditional Hollywood thriller. Carrey and Madsen will speak in quick fits of emotionally-charged shouting as tense, sharp notes of a violin shriek behind them.

But if it’s Walter picturing himself as Fingerling, playing out the story as he reads it, the characters speak in slow, punctuated speech. Their words and tone and inflection conjuring up images of a dark office and a smoking hot blonde lit only by her cigarette. The brass section playing a sensual, alluring tune.


If the movie is anything, it’s consistent in its inconsistencies. But, again, this doesn’t mean the movie is somehow bad. Uneven and a hot mess of plots, styles, and tones? Yes, of course. But when it’s good, it’s kind of great. Nothing innovative, but it is especially fresh in a time where stories like it are long out of fashion.

As a general rule, I would definitely suggest you CHILL with The Number 23. However, it must be made clear that your millage will vary. And the extent of this will be determined by your interests in classic pulp magazines and radio serials–in Gothic tales where the allure lies in being made witness to inner-demons slowly consuming a man from head-to-toe.