Popcorn Frights was an unexpected pre-Fall horror treat in the best way imaginable! The Miami festival’s curated choices include a wide array of curiosities and subgenres. This wrap-up catalogues all the entries I have seen, and full reviews are linked where available. Read on for our full coverage!


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


I can’t seem to recall the last time a film I watched had such a great high-concept premise only to blunder it so spectacularly. The bones of a good movie are here, but Dashcam (written and directed by Christian Nilsson, not to be confused with 2021’s other similarly-titled horror film by the same name) has a hard time justifying its existence for me. For starters, about 90% of the movie consists of editing and splicing audio on a laptop. You can only keep this engaging for so long before it begins to wear thin on your nerves. The final 15 minutes or so finally break free from this limited setting—by this point, there is little reason to get invested. Politically-driven conspiracy theories movies involving government cover-ups are tricky to nail, and Dashcam is no exception to the rule.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


From the opening scene, I assumed Stoker Hills would be a fun found footage flick, possibly even meta due to its focus on the making of a horror movie. Genre legend Tony Todd lecturing a crowd of students at a film school sets the stage for everything to follow. The biggest problem is that half a great movie exists here: the found footage of the friends being pursed by a freaky creep in a hoodie who wants to torture them. The other half, two bumbling detectives as they try to piece together the narrative and answer questions for the audience, is anything but fun. The detective stuff completely flatlines the movie, and feels tacked on just to pad time. Because of the sag this facet injects into Stoker Hills, it is overall a tough one to recommend.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Convoluted, overly melodramatic, and altogether unsatisfying—each of these descriptors perfectly sums up The Accursed. The only thing that caught my attention with this one were the cultural curiosities and bizarrely specific facets to the horror. However, the horror element itself is just barely there. There’s a big mysterious “Abolishment Curse” that sets up the intrigue and dramatics of the storyline. The only problem is that the curse itself stops being interesting after a ’22 years later’ leap forward. From here, The Accursed only seems concerned with soap opera dramatics and character interplay. The Ruins did ‘killer vines’ better.


The Beta Test starts with an exciting (and horrifying) sequence where a couple dines together. “Let me leave!” the woman begs, before her man stabs her multiple times in the neck with little care, then tosses her off his balcony. The American Psycho parallels of both the lead character and the film itself are in your face from the first frame. It’s simply never able to replicate the visceral impact of the cold open. It relies on excessive sex scenes, and the occasional brutal burst of violence, to get the job done. A mysterious letter detailing an anonymous, no-strings sexual encounter acts as a bold set-up that ultimately goes nowhere. The Beta Test is too hollow to embrace the over-the-top possibilities. (Previously viewed at Tribeca)


Despite its wide array of negative reviews online, The Ex is unique and more layered than anticipated. It is hard to explain the underlying unique areas of the plot without giving away spoilers. Sure, the film has typical ghost horror elements to its narrative and not-so-scary jump scares, but it also touches upon shallowness and toxic relationships, both with friends and romantic partners. The only gripe I have is an unnecessary animal cruelty scene where the pet is solely introduced as a character to be murdered. The Ex is worth the watch if you are into tech related horror.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Full review at the link.


Val, the horror/thriller from writer/director Aaron Fradkin, has the unenviable task of moving out from under the shadow of Tim Burton’s 80’s classic, Beetlejuice. Fin (Zachary Mooren), a criminal on the run, takes refuge in an extravagant mansion occupied by “a whore” named Val (Misha Reeves). She plays a helpless victim initially, but all is not what it appears. The involvement of a crime syndicate and demonic powers throw a surprising wrench into Fin’s plans for a brief reprieve. When the strange imagery hits, Val thrives. The issue is that it takes too long to get into the meat and potatoes. Once we arrive at a talking head on a platter and mannequins coming to life in full Evil Dead mode, the movie is firing on all cylinders. I just wish the lengthy setup had taken less time to really get off the ground. Misha Reeves does her thing as Val, and steals every single scene.


Did I seriously just get Rick Rolled by a movie? We Need to Do Something, a bizarre but timely horror/thriller with an injection of dark comedy, hails from writer Max Booth III (based on his own 2020 novella, which I scooped up after finishing this crazy movie) and first-time director Sean King O’Grady. Going from strictly the first still released, one that utilizes the dark lighting of an 80s V.C. Andrews book cover, this was in my most anticipated films heading into the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint, but We Need to Do Something is significantly more bizarre and wildly outrageous than my wildest dreams. (Previously viewed at Tribeca)


Things I learned from Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror:
• You can easily sustain a full 3 hours and 14 minutes of horror doc content.
• America is scared of the past and pagans!
• Hoodoo vs. Voodoo
• There is no such thing as Indian burial grounds.
• I have tons more folk horror I need to watch.
• “O Death” will always be the best end credits song. (Previously viewed at SXSW)

Popcorn Frights for 2021 was so much fun, and took place from August 12th – 19th, 2021. My favorite new movies that debuted at the fest would have to be Superhost and Night at the Eagle Inn! I have no doubt in my mind that 2022’s crop of features will be equally as enthralling. I’ll have my popcorn ready!

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