Hello, friends and foes! I’m easing back into blog work by treating myself to an article about something super fun – puns. I’m a big pun fan (see: any previous post, basically) and the metalcore band Ice Nine Kills writes lyrics almost exclusively in puns and wordplay, so… I dig it.
Ice Nine Kills (sometimes stylized as INK) is a metal/heavy metal/metalcore band from Boston, Massachusetts. (We literally cannot escape the horrors of New England on this blog.) They’ve been releasing music since the mid-2000’s but didn’t see commercial success until they signed with Fearless Records in 2015. That success absolutely exploded with the 2018 release of The Silver Scream and then exploded AGAIN with the 2021 release of The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood.
At the band’s helm is Spencer Charnas, devastatingly handsome lead singer and creative director. His vision for the band and their records is crystal clear: horror, horror, horror. They’ve tackled literary greats (i.e. Stephen King, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) and film giants (Psycho, Saw, Candyman) and they’ve totally killed it. They’re scary good at what they do, from concept to production to merch design, and I’m honored to highlight some of their best (and scariest) lyrics.
Also this served as an excuse to listen to their discography and that was fun for me.
These aren’t in any particular order but I did save my personal favorite for last. Also, check out the end for some honorable mentions. If I didn’t include your favorite track or lyric, let me know in the comments or on Twitter dot com (@AllisonKrebel).
13 )Hip to Be Scared (The Silver Scream2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)
“Casually cleaving without ever grieving / but wait, let me give you my card / “That’s bone!” / there is no real me, just this dark entity / that cannot be redeemed so it’s time to say goodbye”
This track is based on the 2000 film American Psycho (which is based on a book but we’ve been over that already: http://www.littlebookblogofhorrors.com/2021/10/10-horror-movies-you-didnt-know-were-based-on-books/). The song is in the perspective of the main character, literal psychopath Patrick Bateman, as he comes to terms with his emotionless, cold-hearted and let me reiterate- psychopathic, killer tendencies. This line, as do many in the track, references an iconic scene where Bateman and other banking execs are trading business cards. The color of Bateman’s is ‘bone’, and he won’t let you forget it.
“Come drain or shine / I’ll hit your whole bloodline / Shall we tell Old Jack what he’s won? / A chopping spree around the family tree / where you can hang once all the work is done”
Our first Stephen King mention on the list, this track is inspired by the 1980 film The Shining (based on King’s 1977 novel of the same name). This song is chock-full of mentions of shining (young Danny’s mysterious supernatural ability) and axes and hotel vacancies. This particular stanza refers to the protagonist Jack’s descent into madness and subsequent attack on his wife and son with an axe. Personally I think the writer-gone-mad trope never gets old. Also, shout out to the chorus: “Welcome to your last resort, don’t overlook the past”. Get it? The Overlook Hotel? Heh…
Fun fact about this song: it features vocals from Sam Kubrick, the grandson of Stanley Kubrick, director of The Shining. The band has also played this track at the real life Overlook Hotel.
11 )Assault & Batteries (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)
“And once he’s planted his seed / you’ll know your life’s been uprooted / ’cause safety’s not guaranteed / assault and batteries included! / Stitched back together it seems / by the evil bride of his dreams / heaven help you if you hear him scream”
The signs are all there: the seed, the bride, the heartless assault of innocent consumers – it’s Good Guy Chucky! This one’s inspired by the classic 1988 horror flick Child’s Play and the CCU (Chucky Cinematic Universe). It was tough to cherry pick a single part of this song because the whole thing is just wicked hilarious. Chucky is an icon and this song totally did him and his killing spree justice.
Shout out to this line, which I quote on the daily: “Hidey-ho, bitch!”
10 ) Stabbing in the Dark (The Silver Scream, 2018)
“Where blood’s thicker than water / I’ve carved up quite a scene / With your worst fears cast on this white veneer / I’ll change the face of Halloween”
It only takes one mention of Halloween to know this banger is about Michael Meyers and the Halloween franchise, started in 1978 and spanning nearly three decades. Blood is thicker than water as Michael is on the deranged hunt for his sister Laurie through the picturesque town of Haddonfield. On Halloween night he carves up anyone he can get his hands on, all while wearing an emotionless white mask (which was made from a cast of William Shatner’s face???). I think we can all confidently say Michael Meyers’ mask is, without a doubt, the face of Halloween. Honorable mention to: “You can’t kill the boogeyman!”.. I mean, literally. How many sequels is he going to survive?
9 )The American Nightmare (The Silver Scream, 2018)
“They all think it’s just pretend / you’ll never ever sleep again / all your friends are fucking dead / you can’t turn down your own death bed”
If the creepy nursery rhyme didn’t give it away, this one’s based on Wes Craven’s 1984 classic, ANightmare on Elm Street. The song is written from the perspective of the dream-villain Freddy Krueger as he slashes his way through unsuspecting teens. I love a straight-up pun – all they want to do is sleep, but they can’t close their eyes without Krueger appearing in their dreams to gut them. Death bed, indeed. Poor Johnny Depp!
“I saw through the selfish but saw no soul / they saw through skin, they saw through bone / Out on a limb to save my city / They’re all just gears in my machine / I savor every puzzled scream / a piece of them to carry with me”
Lyrical genius has been achieved in this track based on Saw (2004) and it’s decades’ long span of sequels. The song is written (according to my calculations) from the perspective of John Kramer, AKA “Jigsaw”, the villain of the film. Kramer’s initial desire is to simply see if his victims have the will to live, not to kill them on his own. His traps are designed to push the victim to recognize the value of life – even if they have to kill someone else to survive. Puzzled screams, pieces to carry with him, very “Jigsaw” things to say. Also, OUT ON A LIMB? If you know… you know. (Poor Westley. This was surely not as you wished.)
7 )Funeral Derangements (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)
“It all began with a skid on the pavement / it ends here with funeral derangements / The flesh is living but the souls have spoiled / The wrath of God lays beneath this soil”
I’m biased in my affection for this song because Pet Sematary (both the 1989 film and 1983 Stephen King novel) is one of my favorite pieces of media of all time. But you can’t deny the absolute power in these proclamations of God’s abominations, risen from the grave when they should have just stayed buried. Sometimes, dead really is better. The protagonist of this deranged tale is Louis Creed, a young father who discovers an ancient burial ground that brings the dead back to life, as evidenced by the family cat, Church. But the living return… wrong. The souls have spoiled, leaving them nothing more than murderous shells of the people (and cat) they once were. Honorable mention to Louis’s internal debate on whether or not to bury his dead son: “still I can’t escape this struggle / driven when push comes to shovel”. Incredible.
6 )Me, Myself & Hyde (Every Trick in the Book, 2015)
“I’m the devil on your shoulder but I’ll always be your better half / we might share one body but the spine is fucking mine”
This track is from an earlier album with songs based on horrific works of literature. This one, if not evidenced by the title and mention of evil other-halves, is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s a classic for a reason; the timeless power struggle between Doctor Henry Jekyll and… himself. The good doctor found a scientific way to transform himself into an evil alter-ego, the sinister Mr. Edward Hyde, in order to indulge in his darkest desires without marring his good reputation. This track is a love-letter not just to Stevenson’s tale, but to our own inner battle between the good in us and the undeniable evil. “I’m waging war on myself / a captive casualty”. So haunting, so beautiful, so metal.
“Now Santa’s claws are out / the sinners scream and shout / I made sure the noose was yuletide tight / so much for a silent night”
Christmas and horror! This song is based on the 1984 Christmas/horror flick Silent Night, Deadly Night. Santa’s claws (get it… sandy claws) are out as traumatized, grown-up orphan Billy goes on a killing spree the night before Christmas. The film itself had a rocky start; heavily criticized for painting Santa in a negative (and murderous) light. That didn’t stop it from developing a cult following, however. Looks like Spencer Charnas is among the faithful, because he wrote this killer track about Santa’s not-so-holy night. (Also, yule-tied tight!! I don’t have to explain how amazing that is.)
4 )A Rash Decision (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021)
“But the truth hits like a truck / all bottled up / so hard to swallow now that it spreads so quickly”
It was SO HARD to choose a line from this song! It’s inspired by horror icon Eli Roth’s directorial debut Cabin Fever (2002), starring Rider Strong from Boy Meets World (which made it 100x more scary in my opinion.) As so many good horror stories begin, a group of dumb college kids head into the wilderness for a relaxing weekend of sun, booze, and skin-eating blood infection. Turns out, the river (the water supply for the nearby town) has been infected with a disease that turns sufferers into rashy, bloody, flesh-dripping time bombs. The protagonist, Paul, tries in vain to save his friends and, ultimately, himself. This line is in reference to the end of the movie (so, spoiler alert) where a truck full of bottled, infected river water is driving away to be sold, potentially infecting countless others with this terrible disease. The perfect not-so-happy ending for an early 2000’s horror classic.
3 )The World in My Hands (The Silver Scream, 2018)
“He made the cut but she deserves a better man / I won’t rust like the liars and letterman / hedge my bets ’cause it can’t hurt to pretend / until the end”
This track is inspired by my favorite Tim Burton movie, Edward Scissorhands (1990). The film is a tragedy at its core – a man who can feel but not touch, an unreachable girl who can never be with him, a town that just doesn’t understand the struggle of being different (having scissors for hands). This song picks apart Edward’s pain, how he feels like he’ll never measure up to Kim’s letterman jacket-wearing boyfriend. Also evidenced here: “It cuts deep ’cause our hearts are still attached / a deadly touch spreads an itch that can’t be scratched”. The yearning, the pain, the horror! I’m not going to explain why “hedge my bets” is so perfect but it really, really is.
2 )The Plot Sickens (Every Trick in the Book, 2015)
“Sixteen souls left in the cold / to be alive is a miracle / it all comes down to flesh and bone / it’s hard to swallow the unthinkable”
Okay – judging by this line alone, you might think this song is alluding to the horrors of The Donner Party (book review of Alma Katsu’s The Hunger, coming soon!). It’s actually based on Piers Paul Read’s 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors (or rather, it’s based on the true events that inspired the book). The true horror story, not unlike that of The Donner Party, follows the survivors of a plane crash. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed in the middle of the Andes mountains on October 13th, 1972. The flight was chartered by an Uruguayan rugby team. Those who managed to survive the two month ordeal did so by… well, you read the lyric. It’s a fascinating and horrific story of brotherhood and survival, a true terror of the real world. If this type of story interests you, check out Showtime’s original series Yellowjackets (Season One review coming soon!), about a field hockey team that meets a very similar fate.
“You know what makes me smile? / Devoured juveniles / Their innards tangled in my twisted grin / chuckled so hard I choked / call it an inside joke / they say that laughter’s the best medicine”
I mean, come ON. This track is based on Stephen King’s It and the subsequent films. Pennywise, a killer alien that takes the form of a clown, lives in the sewers of Derry, Maine. He terrorizes a group of childhood friends by preying on their greatest fears. 27 years later, guess who’s back, back again? It’s Pennywise, come to scare the (now grown-up) kids all over again. The song itself is a masterpiece of theatrical, big-band metal (which is definitely a thing) that showcases Pennywise the Dancing Clown’s penchant for eating children, piece by piece. “Just like Georgie / it’s all out of hand”. Groovy.
“Left to die under the sun / the hive never spared anyone / how ’bout a hand for the honey bees? / hooked on the creed of their colony” Farewell II Flesh (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). The urban legend of Candyman (1992) follows the story of the son of a slave left to die by a lynch mob, right hand cut off and body smeared with honey that led to his death by bees. This whole track is depressing, lyrical genius.
“Now you’ll choke on your words / swallow this” Ex Mørtis (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). Ash Williams of The Evil Dead (1981) is known for his killer one-liners, and “swallow this” is no exception.
“‘Cause on this trip there are no survivors / and in this club your life don’t mean Scheiße” Würst Vacation (The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, 2021). We can thank Eli Roth for the Hostel franchise that inspired this gruesome track. A sadistic club of killers who purchase tourists to maim and kill. Upon first listen I thought it was about Human Centipede because of the line “kiss your ass goodbye”… if you know, you know.
“Bitch I’ll leave your body on the cutting room floor / all bets are off / I just buried Drew Barrymore” Your Number’s Up (The Silver Scream, 2018) A gracious nod to Barrymore’s brutal slaying in Wes Craven’s 1996 classic Scream. The line really speaks for itself.
Movies/Shows IWant Ice Nine Kills to Write Songs About
The Blair Witch Project, Apostle, The Haunting of Hill House, Corpse Bride, & Midnight Mass
Where to Find More Ice Nine Kills
Well, there you have it. This piece was so fun to put together and I hope you enjoyed the puns and lyrical mastery of Ice Nine Kills. I’m stoked to be back to blogging and excited to share what’s next!
And, as always… Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.
Alternate title: 6 horror movies with mixed reviews that might actually be good
We all love a good hidden gem. Those movies that haven’t sold out theaters or won Oscars, films that haven’t hit the front page of Netflix, and great scares you can introduce to your friends. Every now and then it’s nice to be the one who saw the movie “before it was cool”.
I’ve compiled a list of 6 movies that I think flew under the radar. They’re weird little diamonds in the rough I found while watching Chiller TV after school (or while I was skipping school) back in the day. Strange films I’ve come across in the darkest recesses of off-brand streaming services. They all deserve a little more time in the sun, and I’m happy to be the one to bring them to the light.
And if you have seen these films, let me know one of your undiscovered favorites in the comments.
1) Death and Cremation (2010)
So many great things to be said for this creepy little movie. One of my favorites discovered via Chiller TV (rest in peace, forever in our hearts) and absolutely worth checking out if you want a story about death and, you guessed it, cremation.
Crematorium owner and operator Stan (played by the horror legend Brad Dourif – you may know him as Chucky from the Child’s Play series, Billy Bibbit from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Sheriff Lee Brackett in Rob Zombie’s Halloween) doesn’t care about making money or living a lavish lifestyle. All he wants to do is burn bodies in peace… and if he burns some problematic people along the way, that’s good too. Goth teen outcast Jarod (played by the incredible Jeremy Sumpter of Peter Pan and Friday Night Lights fame) seeks a part time job at Stan’s crematorium. While working together to provide a final service to the dead, they both have a hard time dealing with the pesky living.
It’s a fun watch with a good amount of violence and little gore. It was met with positive reviews upon release but never won any awards. Except my award for favorite movie to watch while skipping school.
2) We Are What We Are (2013)
This is an obscure streaming site favorite. It’s a remake of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name and certainly worth checking out if you like a slow build-up of atmospheric, small-town vibes and loads of religious trauma.
The Parkers are a reclusive religious family in what appears to be rural Appalachia. When Mrs. Parker suffers a medical emergency and dies, her daughters Rose and Iris are tasked with handling her less-than-pleasant duties in regard to their religion and the sacrifices made on behalf of their beliefs. When human remains wash up on the banks of the river, the town doctor starts to investigate – could the washed up bones belong to his long-missing daughter? And why did Mrs. Parker really die? The autopsy pointed to Parkinson’s, but now he’s not so sure. Perhaps something in the Parkers’ diet might point him to the answer…
There’s a bit of a slow build up that leads to a great twist. The ending is pretty brutal and tends to get the brunt of negative reviews; like Michael O’Sullivan at The Washington Post calling it, “predictable and gross”. But in that delightful, horror movie way. The film premiered at Sundance in 2013 and features some relatively unknown actors. Head to your local sketchy streaming site to check it out ASAP. Reminds me in many ways of Ania Ahlborn’s horror novel Brother. You can read my review of Ahlborn’s Appalachian horror here: http://www.littlebookblogofhorrors.com/2021/10/book-review-brother-by-ania-ahlborn/.
3) My Soul to Take (2010)
Another Chiller TV gem directed by none other than Wes Craven – you know, just the guy that did Nightmare on Elm Street. This film is generally considered to be Craven’s biggest failure, with no success whatsoever at the box office and poor ratings on several film rating websites. Don’t let the critics fool you, however; there is a lot to love about this strange little film. At least watch the opening sequence of Abel Plenkov – a serial killer dubbed the Riverton Ripper with multiple personalities – killing his pregnant wife and several others before eventually disappearing. Sixteen years later, the Riverton Seven (all born the night Plenkov died and alleged to have pieces of his multiple souls within them) gather for an annual “killing” of a puppet of the Riverton Ripper. Shy outcast Bug (played by Max Thieriot of Bates Motel fame) is selected to complete the “killing” but ultimately fails to destroy the puppet due to police intervention. When the Riverton Seven are killed one by one, they can’t help but blame Bug’s unsuccessful sacrifice. Is the Riverton Ripper at it again? Or is it one of the Seven, possessed by his deadly soul?
You have to admit this sounds like the coolest YA horror novel of all time. If this was made as a Netflix original series it would absolutely blow up. Why did it flop upon release? Well, it came out at the same time as the Facebook biopic The Social Network, so that might have something to do with it. Oh yeah, and it released in the dreaded 2010s 3D. Maybe people were expecting another Elm Street and not this departure lacking in killer dream sequences. Either way, it’s worth checking out for the masterful opening sequence and the turkey vulture scene. If you know, you know.
4) Last Shift (2014)
Unlike the last entry, this film has relatively good reviews across multiple platforms – it even has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes! So, what gives? Why hasn’t anyone heard of it?
Rookie police officer Jessica Loren (played by Juliana Harkavy from The Walking Dead and Arrow) takes her first assignment; the last shift at a police station before it is permanently closed. At first, the shift is boring. After all, it’s a desolate police station, mostly empty of contents and completely devoid of other people… right? Strange noises ring through the empty halls and rooms – knocking, screaming, the occasional laughter of a young woman. Furniture appears to be moving on its own, driving Loren to points of frustrated confusion. Eventually Loren learns that a famous cult akin to the Manson Family committed a group suicide in the police station after being apprehended; a fact that was covered up by police, as it was reported the group was killed in their residence. Loren calls her superior and begs to be relieved of her post, but… well, spoilers.
This movie is just so, so good. It’s intimate, filmed on a small set with great emphasis on the sound and scares. The paranormal activity in the station is delightfully demonic and the mystery of the deceased cult unravels into a grisly and unforgettable finale. Tubi is the place to go for this one – or Amazon Prime Video if you’re feeling fancy.
5) Clown (2014)
Everyone’s terrified of clowns. I think we can thank Stephen King for that. This film, produced by a host of big names including horror giant Eli Roth, capitalizes on the horrors of, well, clowns.
Kent McCoy is a real estate agent and family man who just wants to throw a birthday party for his son. The clown he hired can’t make the party, but as luck would have it, Kent finds an old clown costume in the basement of a home he’s selling and takes it upon himself to be the birthday party clown. Note to self: don’t put on the clown costume you find in a creepy basement. McCoy soon realizes that he can’t take the costume off. Not only that, but he’s experiencing strange hungers and urges. He contacts the costume’s previous owner and discovers the skin and hair of the costume are crafted from the flesh of an ancient Icelandic clown demon that has now fused with McCoy’s physical frame. There are ways to get rid of the demon and take off the costume, but none of them are without a little bloodshed. And one of them involves a Chuck E. Cheese’s.
So this is basically a grown up version of R.L. Stine’s The Haunted Mask but with way more murder and clown demons. Eli Roth actually referred to the film as a version of The Fly, which also makes sense, but you know I can’t pass up a Goosebumps reference. It has pretty scattered reviews, with some critics citing strange pacing and boring build-up as downfalls while others praise the humorous elements befitting of a demonic, killer clown. There are some really interesting ideas here that might have been explored a bit strangely but, hey, at least they were explored. Run, don’t walk to your local sketchy streaming site and behold the killer clownery of your dreams.
6) Shelter [Alternative title: 6 Souls] (2010)
This film is the definition of underrated. It’s well-acted, short on the jump scares, and rife with suspense and true psychological torment. It was released in the UK and other countries as Shelter, later taking on the title of 6 Souls when released in the United States for a limited theatrical release in 2013. It features powerhouse performances by well-known actors like Julianne Moore (you don’t need an example because she’s been in dozens upon dozens of films, but I loved her on 30 Rock) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Velvet Goldmine and Vikings).
Dr. Harding (played by Moore) is a psychologist tasked with studying Adam (played by Meyer), a young man suspected to have dissociative identity disorder. Dr. Harding soon realizes Adam’s personalities are those of real people who have passed away under various circumstances – none of them good. One of these personalities leads Dr. Harding down a rabbit hole of blood sacrifices and Appalachian granny magic (what’s with me and Appalachian horror? I don’t know). Religious trauma abounds as faithless souls become simple playthings to those who can control – and consume – them.
All in all, this film is virtually overlooked and I’m not happy about it. The tale is intelligent and suspenseful and rife with the horrors of possession, Appalachian granny magic (stay tuned for this feature article, coming soon!), and unexplainable psychiatric conditions. This one is tough to find but if you can dig it up on the web somewhere, give it a chance. It’ll be worth it for Meyers’ performance alone.
There you have it, friends and foes. A handful of horror films that I think deserve some attention. It seems like most box-office horror films are remakes or continuations of beloved classics – not that I’m complaining. I loved Halloween Kills. But sometimes it’s nice to explore paths less traveled and dig up some under-appreciated gems.
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.
In an effort to celebrate spooky season and to reconnect with our favorite childhood frights, let’s revisit the classic Scooby-Doo animated films. These films were a staple in my Halloween movie rotation as a kid. Let’s take a walk down a memory lane lined with witches, warlocks, and werecats (oh my!).
The sprawling Scooby-Doo franchise began as a cartoon in 1969, called Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The show was created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears for Hanna-Barbera Productions. It follows meddling kids Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Shaggy Rogers, solving supernatural mysteries in their trusty van, the Mystery Machine, along with their doggy pal, Scooby Doo (short for Scoobert Doobert). In 2013, TV Guide named the cartoon as the 5th greatest cartoon of all time. A rank well-deserved, that’s for certain. And we can’t forget about the 2002 live-action masterpiece of a remake, Scooby-Doo, starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini. The well-loved live action remake got a sequel in 2004, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
The live action films aren’t included in this list, as evidenced by the title. I’ve also left out the television movies and television specials; like the 1988 classic Ghoul School. Although they’ve been omitted from this list, we don’t love them any less.
5. Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase (2001)
Don’t be mad that this is at the bottom of the list – at least it made the top five. A virtual creature called “The Phantom Virus” emerges from a new video game based on the adventures of the Mystery Inc. gang. The gang is transported into the game and must defeat 10 dangerous levels by finding boxes of the dog treats, Scooby Snacks. The best parts of this film are the cameos made by classic Scooby villains like the Creeper, the Tar Monster, and Old Iron Face. I’ve ranked it fifth on the list because it didn’t strike me as scary when I watched it as a kid – I mean, the monster isn’t even real. This one might not strike a chord with kids who aren’t into tech or video games. The main song (every Scooby movie has a main, karaoke-worthy song) “Hello Cyberdream” pales in comparison to some of the big hitters later on this list. All that being said, it’s still a fun take on the Mystery Inc. gang, bringing their 70’s style into the 21st century.
4. Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire (2003)
I was surprised to find in my research that Scooby fans aren’t as familiar with this totally tubular installment of the gang’s misadventures. The Mystery Inc. kids head to Australia for vacation. Goth girl-band The Hex Girls (recurring characters in the Scooby franchise, originating in the film Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost) are playing a music festival at a place called Vampire Rock. The previous year, a band called Wildwind performed at the festival and went missing – presumably turned into vampires by a local vampire called the Yowie Yahoo. The gang enters the music festival as a band to lure the Yowie Yahoo from the caves of Vampire Rock in the hopes of finding out just what – or who – he really is. It’s so cool to see The Hex Girls again, and the music in this one is top notch early 2000’s rock (I mean, it does take place at a music festival). As the most recent film on this list, it’s also the first to have the newer animation style of the What’s New, Scooby-Doo? television series. Stylistically, it is much brighter than its predecessors. But don’t let that fool you – it’s just as spooky.
3. Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders (2000)
The Mystery Inc. gang stumbles upon aliens while driving through Roswell, New Mexico (who would have thought!?). Shaggy and Scooby are abducted by aliens and later awaken in the middle of the desert while the rest of the kids are stranded at a creepy roadside diner full of alien skeptics – and even more alien believers. In the desert, Shaggy and Scooby meet Crystal and her dog, Amber, and immediately fall in love. The gang must solve the mystery and government conspiracy that is Area 51, and potential life on other planets. No spoilers, but this one actually shocked me when the truth was revealed – and it still hits as an adult. The flower-child montage of Shaggy and Crystal, Scooby and Amber falling in love is an adorable jaunt through a colorful 70’s aesthetic. And there’s a jackaloupe! This film is the last installment in the franchise to feature Mary Kay Bergman as the voice of Daphne before her death, and it is lovingly dedicated to her memory.
2. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
The gang investigates an allegedly haunted bayou island in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are reunited after a hiatus, having become disenchanted by their constant run-ins with masked bad guys rather than real, supernatural monsters. Ghosts and zombies abound in this colorful ride through the American bayou south as the gang sets out to solve a 200 year old mystery steeped in gumbo, voodoo, and… werecats. The soundtrack on this one is killer, with acts like Third Eye Blind and Skycycle on the original tracks. The main song, Terror Time Again, is an instant classic that will get you in the Halloween spirit – and in the mood to run around the bayou away from some terrifying monsters. There’s also a sequel that was released in 2019, which I didn’t know about until doing research for this article. It premiered at San Diego Comic Con and can now be found everywhere digitally and on DVD.
1. Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
Obviously at the top of this list, this film follows the gang on their travels to the fictional New England town of Oakhaven (think off-brand Salem, Massachusetts) after being invited by horror writer Ben Ravencroft. They have to solve the mystery of accused witch Sarah Ravencroft, who was executed by the Puritans in 1657. Ben, Sarah’s descendant, claims Sarah was an innocent wiccan, using her powers for healing rather than evil witchcraft. The gang soon realizes they’re in for more than just a Halloween festival and some tasty treats when it becomes clear the witches didn’t all stay in 1657… Ruh-roh. Also in this film we meet The Hex Girls, the greatest fictional band of all time. This is the perfect Halloween movie for young and old witches, warlocks, and wiccans alike. It made little Allison want to be a horror writer and a witch… halfway there.
I hope this article helped you reconnect with where your horror fixation might have started. Whether it was Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, or the Scooby-Doo cinematic universe, it’s always nice to pay homage to the frights that started it all.
Well, I didn’t know they were based on books, anyway.
I hate articles that start like “YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS THING! LET ME EXPLAIN IT TO YOU!” Because, when the reader does know, the title and information come across as so condescending. That being said, I thought it would be fun to write one of those articles but be really honest about it. I found 10 horror movies that I really didn’t know were based off books that maybe, just maybe, you didn’t know, either.
There aren’t any Stephen King books on here, because we already know the chokehold his stories have on horror film.
1. In The Tall Grass (2019)
Okay, I lied. This one is based on Stephen King and Joe Hill’s 2012 novella of the same name. To be fair, I didn’t know this was a King-related production when I watched it on Netflix. It honestly didn’t even feel like one. It was beautifully filmed, twisted and mysterious, and criminally underrated. It stars Harrison Gilbertson, Laysla De Oliveira, and Patrick Wilson (you know, the guy from all The Conjuring movies).
The film does have some criticism, most being that it had limited source material that felt stretched a bit too thin. I don’t necessarily agree, but that could just be because I didn’t know it was a novella and just thought it was a rad horror movie with weird pacing. It was nominated for Best Streaming Premier at the 2020 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards but lost to a film called The Perfection. I’d recommend checking it out if you like time-warping, bloody, cult and alien-related horror. Oh yeah, and cursed fields of really tall grass.
2. The Ritual (2017)
This one is a British horror film based on Adam Nevill’s 2011 novel of the same name. It follows a group of four friends taking a short-cut (never a good idea) through the forests of northern Sweden. They’re hiking in the memory of their friend who was killed in a tragic attack. If you love forest horror, creepy abandoned cabins, and cults that worship the ancient beasts of the woods, then this one might be for you. It’s a love story to atmospheric horror, low on jump scares but high on stunning cinematography, honest and moving acting, and the terror of being totally lost and off the grid. I get anxious when my cell phone has less than 50% battery, so needless to say this would not be a horror film I would survive.
The film stars Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival but was sold to Netflix for streaming shortly thereafter. The novel won the 2012 August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Definitely worth a watch, and a read.
3. The Wicker Man (1973)
I could write an entire article on the horror that was the 2006 Nicholas Cage version of this movie, but I am choosing not to for my sanity and for yours. The 1973 version was inspired by David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual. A policeman travels to an isolated island in search of a missing girl, only to find a colony of former Christians practicing a form of Celtic paganism involving sacrifices and other horrors. Film magazine Cinefantastique described this film as “The Citizen Kane of horror movies”. If that’s true, then the Nicholas Cage version is any Adam Sandler movie made after 1999.
There’s a sequel to the novel called The Wicca Woman that was published in 2014. Not sure why the books were published nearly fifty years apart, but I think they’re both worth a read if you’re interested in the origins of this famous (and infamous) film.
4. Jaws (1975)
I have seen Jaws probably 25 times, and I had no idea it was based on a book until researching for this article. We’re all familiar with the horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss. . It was the highest-grossing film until the release of Star Wars in 1977. It tells the story of a small Massachusetts beach town that is terrorized by a man-eating great white shark.
Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks and sold millions of copies worldwide. The movie focused solely on the shark and the three men hunting it and omitted the majority of Benchley’s subplots. That didn’t hurt the film’s success, however. The sequels are a horror story for another day… Of course, the literary elite will explain that it’s not about the shark, it’s about the greed of capitalism and how the rich will sacrifice the lives of the poor in order to make a quick buck.
5.The Exorcist (1973)
I guess I did know this one was based on a book, but I didn’t know until embarrassingly late in life. William Peter Blatty wrote the novel in 1971 of the same name detailing the demonic possession of a little girl named Regan and the priests who are charged with performing her exorcism. You already know I love exorcisms and possession. This film is actually one of the first horror films I ever watched. Regan and I were the same age, which both terrified and fascinated me as a budding horror fan. How could my parents forbid me to watch a movie if myself and the main character were the same age??
Blatty also wrote the screenplay for the film, earning him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Aspects of the novel were actually inspired by a real life exorcism performed in 1949 of a young boy in Maryland. I guess it’s true that the most terrifying stories are based in reality.
6. The Amityville Horror (1979)
Speaking of stories based in reality, this is one of the first wildly successful horror franchises based on a “true story”. Of course, this claim has led to decades of controversy and lawsuits debating how “true” it really is. Still, it’s terrifying nonetheless. The novel of the same name was written by Jay Anson in 1977 and was reported to be based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family of Amityville, New York. According to the book, the Lutz family moved into a haunted house and claimed to be terrorized by evil left behind after a murder took place in the home one year prior.
The first Amityville film was released in 1979, and there have been dozens released since. The most famous remake of the 1979 original might be the 2005 version starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. None of the films since then have been particularly exciting, as they all pretty much chronicle the same series of events in pretty much the same exact way. It would be interesting to have a film more about the controversy surrounding the book – like how the book falsely claimed the home was built on a spiritual site of the local Shinnecock Indians, or how everyone who’s owned the house after the Lutz family have reported no problems at all (other than morbidly curious horror fans stopping to take photos).
7. Candyman (1992)
Another novel adaptation that I had absolutely no idea about. I don’t blame myself. This film is based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden from his horror anthology collection Books of Blood (1984), about a grad school student studying urban legends and folklore. And the movie was only made because the director Bernard Rose had a chance run-in with Barker, where Barker eventually agreed to license the rights. The original film starred Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, and Xander Berkeley. There were two sequels, released in 1995 and 1999 which were not met with the same critical acclaim as the first.
Never fear, for an actually good direct sequel was released just this year, in August of 2021! It’s written by Jordan Peele (a true pioneer of evolving modern horror) and directed by Nia DaCosta. Though it’s the fourth film in the series, it’s a direct sequel to the 1992 oroginal. It stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Teyonah Parris. If you’re looking to get into the Candyman franchise, start with Barker’s short and work your way through the films (yes, even the crappy sequels. That’s part of the fun.)
8. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Did you know this cult classic was based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 novel of the same name? Well, loosely based. It’s actually a Young Adult novel that was regarded at the time of publication as well written and cleverly mysterious. Criticism included calling the novel’s plotting basic, which (in my opinion) is pretty standard in the Young Adult genre. It follows a group of high school friends who are being tormented by an anonymous person who, you guessed it, knows what they did last summer.
The film starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. I mean, come on. Talk about a stacked cast. The film was a departure from much of the inspirational material, as the novel isn’t really a slasher and doesn’t feature the graphic deaths of several characters. Duncan herself was pretty critical of the film, stating that she was actually “appalled” that her story was turned into a slasher film. Despite the author’s poor reviews, the film went on to have two sequels, one in 1998 and one in 2006. Not too shabby.
9. Hellraiser (1987)
And I was worried about too much Stephen King – turns out, I should have been worried about Clive Barker all along. I’m not a huge fan of the Hellraiser franchise in general, but I was fascinated to know that it, too, was inspired by a Clive Barker novella (The Hellbound Heart, 1986). The film serves as Barker’s directorial debut. The plot is basically about this group of beings called Cenobites who cannot tell the difference between pain and pleasure. You might know the leader of the Cenobites, played by Doug Bradley, as “Pinhead”. The original film was met with mixed criticism, but was followed by NINE sequels, so… I guess criticism doesn’t really matter.
The film was initially given an X rating, so Barker had to cut multiple scenes to get it down to an R. Cut scenes included a hammer murder, a naked murder, exposed entrails, and a closeup of an exploded head. Gnarly. Apparently the source material is just as gory and visceral, as is much of Barker’s work. The novella also has two sequels and several spinoffs to check out, if you’re interested. Barker uses a lot of the same horrors throughout his different tales, so you might spot a Cenobite or two across his massive bibliography.
10. American Psycho (2000)
Here’s another one I’m a little embarrassed about. Bret Easton Ellis published the novel of the same name in 1991, telling the story of Patrick Bateman, a serial killer by night and investment banker by day. The novel was wildly successful when it released, though controversial. Ellis himself claimed everyone thought the book was going to end his career. And if the morbidly curious reader didn’t go absolutely nuts over it when it came out, it just might have. American Psycho is the 53rd most banned and challenged book in the U.S. between 1990 and 1999, and sales were restricted in Germany and Australia due to potentially harmful subject matter. Feminist activist Gloria Steinem vehemently opposed the book due to its portrayal of violence against women. Coincidentally, Steinem is the stepmother of actor Christian Bale.
The same Christian Bale who portrayed Patrick Bateman in the 2000 film adaptation! The film was marketed as a dark but comedic film. It starred Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe and Reese Witherspoon. It premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival where it was alleged to be “the next Fight Club” (that came out in 1999, also based on a novel). Upon its theatrical release, the film was met with positive reviews by most major outlets. There was even a straight-to-video spin-off made (aptly titled American Psycho 2) that no one watched. The novel is certainly worth the read, if only to figure out what all the fuss was about when it came out.
Well, there you have it. Ten horror films I didn’t know were based on books. Did you already know any of these? Good for you.
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.
A priest, a skeptic, and a forensic psychologist walk into an exorcism…
If you haven’t seen Evil, you’re missing out. It’s perfect for fans of the following; religious trauma, police procedurals, night terrors, demonic possession, and a batshit crazy battle between “good” and, well, evil. It should come as no surprise to Little Book Blog locals that I’m so into this show – the demonic possession trope truly has me in a chokehold. And, with this one, bonus points for debunking it. Well… sort of. But we’ll get into that.
Evil premiered on CBS in September of 2019, which feels like a decade ago after the Hell that was 2020. This year, it was added to Netflix, and I got my grubby little hands on it and fell in love. Unfortunately, as of 10/1/21, it’s no longer available on Netflix, but you can watch Season 1 and Season 2 (new episode every Sunday) on Paramount+. I recommend getting the free trial and binging over a long weekend because there’s not much else on there worth watching. And I must have some good karma, because it got renewed for a third season.
The show follows a great ensemble of characters investigating supernatural occurrences for the Catholic Church. Basically, they’re attempting to determine if these supernatural happenings are genuine demonic possessions, miracles sent from Heaven, or just your run-of-the-mill psychosis or physical abnormality. It’s a mix of the classic “monster of the week” format with intricate, ongoing subplots.
David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) is a former journalist studying to be a Catholic priest. While undergoing his priesthood training, he’s working as an assessor for his superiors. He takes drugs to see God, but he’s still not sure if it’s the Man Upstairs or just his own, drug-induced visions of Hell.
Dr. Kristen Bouchard (played by Katja Herbers) is a forensic psychologist who is hired by David to be a part of the assessment team. She doesn’t believe in religion or demonic possession, but there are things she sees that push her perception of science and reality to the breaking point.
Ben Shakir (played by Aasif Mandvi) is the comic relief and technical expert. He’s Hell-bent on providing scientific explanations for every supernatural situation they assess.
The team’s main adversary is Dr. Leland Townsend (played by Michael Merson). He’s a forensic psychologist too – a direct rival of Kristen – and a self-professed expert in the occult. He influences others to commit evil acts and takes pride in hurting all members of the team but particularly David, as he wishes to derail his path to priesthood.
SPOILERS AHEAD! READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL!
Let’s do an episode by episode recap, so we can all be up to speed on what the Hell we just watched. If you haven’t watched yet and are just into reading spoilers… I guess that’s okay too.
EPISODE ONE: “Genesis 1”
In the first ever episode, we meet Dr. Kristen Bouchard while she’s working as a forensic psychologist for the DA’s office and testifying in the murder trial of a man named Orson LeRoux. Orson claims to have been demonically possessed during the time of his heinous crimes and, therefore, not at fault. Then, Kristen is rather dramatically fired by the DA’s office and takes a temporary position with David Acosta, aspiring priest, in order to determine whether or not Orson is *actually* possessed by a demon.
During an interview, LeRoux taunts Kristen with personal information about her life that she has shared with no one but her therapist. She investigates how LeRoux got this information, only to discover that her therapy notes were stolen by none other than – DUN DUN DUN – Leland Townsend. Kristen deduces that Leland is the one telling LeRoux to act possessed in an attempt to get away with murder. In the end, Kristen decides to permanently join David’s team of assessors.
The first episode falls into a trap I think a lot of first episodes fall into – so many subplots, so little time! Kristen has a bad relationship with her carefree mother (not to mention four young daughters and a husband who is gone for six months out of the year climbing Everest!) and is plagued by a sleep paralysis demon named George (who is actually hilarious). David is tempted by lustful feelings despite his desire to become a priest (aka, celibate) AND he is desperately trying to see visions of God, as he has in the past. We don’t learn a lot about Ben right away but you can tell from the beginning that he’s going to be the best character on the show. The cool thing about this trap, however, is that Evil kind of pulls it off. All the little pieces moving around each other in this demonic (or not??) circle just waiting to come together for an eventual reveal feels intricate, but not confusing, right from the jump.
That being said, the first episode is also the most boring. It paints the picture as a courtroom procedural that it’s totally not. Sure, it’s spooky with George the sleep paralysis demon and Leland’s…. everything, but it’s nothing compared to what comes next. And maybe that’s for the best. So it won’t scare anyone away before you can get fully sucked in.
EPISODE TWO: “177 Minutes”
A girl named Naomi miraculously comes back to life after her autopsy begins. Yep, right after the scalpel starts slicing, she’s suddenly awake. David and friends are called in to determine if she was revived under miraculous circumstances. There’s video of the autopsy room that shows an image of a woman’s face – a woman who died in the hospital at the same time as Naomi’s revival. Ben (yay, Ben!) debunks the image as possible digital manipulation. This is never confirmed, however, and we’re left to wonder if it was digital or divine intervention. In terms of the actual revival of Naomi after death, David eventually discovers that she was never actually dead. Racist practices among hospital staff resulted in Naomi being pronounced dead thirty minutes too early (thirty minutes less time spent saving her life, as opposed to a white patient). Meanwhile, one of Kristen’s four daughters starts seeing George in her dreams, too. Together, Kristen and her daughter determine that George is a character from a scary movie, and therefore not real, and he can’t hurt them. Or… can he?
We also learn in this episode that Kristen’s old job at the DA’s office has been taken by none other than – DUN DUN DUN – Leland Townsend.
I personally love the “monster of the week” format. Episode one was Orson LeRoux, episode two is Naomi. The show doesn’t spoon-feed you any time of divine message, either. In fact, two-thirds of the Catholic Church’s assessment team don’t even believe in God, miracles, or demons. With the ambiguity of the image of the dead patient in the autopsy room, you’re left to wonder if, perhaps, the spirit did have a hand at reviving Naomi, or if David’s discovery of a wrongful pronunciation of death is to blame.
The racial messaging in the show isn’t spoon-fed, either. It’s blatant right away that the show will pull no punches, and not shy away from the fact that David is a minority, both in real life and in the Catholic Church (especially in the priesthood). It’s woven right into the story and diverse cast of characters as another level of horror.
I was partially invested by the end of the second episode. The main three – Kristen, David, and Ben – work so well together. And it HAS to be noted just how creepy Leland Townsend is. Every time he’s in a scene I get the creeps. Michael Merson also played the creepiest character in Lost, so, I’m not surprised. But the biggest creeps are yet to come.
EPISODE THREE: “3 Stars”
The monster of the week this time is… a Broadway producer? Sounds random, but stay with me on this. It is alleged that the producer sold his soul to a demon named Joe (what a lame name for a demon) so he would win a Tony Award. Ben and Kristen immediately attempt to debunk it, and think they have succeeded when they reveal the producer’s personal assistant (like an Alexa or Google Home) was hacked by an anonymous tormentor. The assessor team is eventually able to track down the disgruntled IT Tech that hacked the device to torment the producer… but are unable to figure out how “Joe” the demon hacked into Ben’s personal assistant at home. After turning a corner from his mental breakdown and seemingly getting back to normal, the Broadway producer gets an email stating “Hell is only half full…” and subsequently commits suicide by jumping out of his NYC office window.
On the Leland front (which is only getting more bizarre), Kristen finds out he is overturning her ruling on an old case, which could send an innocent young boy to prison for life. She secretly records him admitting all these heinous things about himself, how he’s evil and wants the boy to go to prison, but the recording is corrupted. Ben (yay, Ben!) uses deepfake technology to remake the recording, nailing Leland and getting him fired from the case.
Okay. By episode three, things are really heating up. The subplots are rolling forward, the monster of the week was increasingly bizarre – like why was Ben being pulled into it? Who emailed the producer about Hell? Why did he kill himself when he seemed to be getting better?? And David started taking drugs to see God again, and he’s now convinced God is pointing him toward a random neighborhood in Queens. Also, I was like 100% sure by this point that Leland is a demon. I mean, come on. He’s totally creepy, admitted to wanting to watch the world burn, and the recording of his voice was all screwed up because of his demonic weirdness. Ben said he might have had some type of scrambling device on him at the time of the recording… but I blame the demon.
Also by this point it’s pretty clear that there’s some type of bigger picture at play. Sure, each “monster of the week” is either demonic or miraculous, but the undercurrent of the show is that EVERYTHING could be demonic or miraculous. And, if that’s true, then EVERYTHING is connected. We just don’t know how… yet.
EPISODE FOUR: “Rose390“
The assessors are assigned to help the McCrystal family determine if their young son Eric is possessed by a demon. Kristen, being a forensic psychologist still, officially declares Eric a budding psychopath. Eric bonds with David, and despite Kristen’s evaluation of psychopathy, David tells Eric to pray to God, and ask God for the things he wants most in life. Eric shows improvement, but upon David’s next visit, Eric has attempted to drown his infant sister. David saves the infant just in time. The Church orders an emergency exorcism (is that a real thing?) but, when the assessors arrive, Eric is “missing”. It’s heavily implied that his parents killed him, having had enough of his demonic ways.
Meanwhile (see what I mean about subplots?), Kristen’s mom Sheryl bought Kristen’s kids VR headsets. There’s a game already downloaded into them about a possessed little girl. In the game, they meet an online player named Rose390. Ben (whom the girls call Ben the Magnificent, which is adorable) tries to remove the game, but is unable to do so. Kristen throws the VR headsets away as a result.
FINALLY, a scary episode! Something about the VR game was totally terrifying to me. Especially that creepy little girl calling herself Rose390, trying to get Kristen’s kids to open up some portal in a Ouija Board. Even Ben the tech genius couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t un-download the creepy game (and the game was CREEPY – spiders and demonic images and monsters). And he couldn’t figure out who Rose390 was, though he assumed it was a predator (real or demonic, who can say?).
And don’t even get me started on the McCrystals. Sure, it’s *technically* an ambiguous ending, and you don’t know for certain if they killed Eric or not… but it’s implied. In the background of the scene when David and Kristen and the exorcist arrive at the home, you can hear Mr. McCrystal arguing with a cop about there being blood on the floor, and they didn’t hurt Eric, he’s just missing. Mrs. McCrystal tearfully tells Kristen that she had to do what she had to do to protect her family and infant daughter, and Kristen would do the same. Would she though?
This was the first episode to truly marry the terrifying and the heartbreaking, bringing an ounce of humanity into the weirdness of demonic possession. Ben and Kristen’s skepticism is in stark contrast to David’s belief that Eric needed to seek guidance from God, and it’s really tragic that they’re saddled with the guilt of being unable to save Eric from whatever fate he suffered – whether through God or otherwise.
EPISODE FIVE: “October 31st”
The assessment team is called to investigate and perform an exorcism on a possessed (or schizophrenic) woman named Caroline. David and Kristen butt heads because David believes Caroline can be cured via God’s love and an exorcism, while Kristen believes Caroline is being tortured and needs medical care (aka not an exorcism but a real doctor). David’s exorcism eventually cures Caroline and she expels the demon from her body (or does she?). Meanwhile, Ben is a guest star on a Ghost Adventures type show and it’s absolutely hilarious to watch him debunk every scary thing that happens.
Kristen’s daughters are celebrating Halloween with a sleepover party. A girl named Brenda is invited, despite no one at the sleepover liking her. Brenda is wearing a mask and doesn’t take it off during the duration of the sleepover. Brenda coaxes the girls to the nearby graveyard, where they begin to bury Kristen’s youngest daughter alive. Kristen arrives before anyone is hurt, and it is revealed that the real Brenda stayed home – and no one knows the identity of the little girl in the mask who disappears into the night.
And last but not least (subplots, oh my!) Leland seduces Kristen’s mom!
Another scary episode! This one was bursting with Halloween creeps – especially in the scenes involving Kristen’s daughters and that spooky little freak, Brenda. The kids hold up flashlights and tell scary stories and it’s endlessly charming – and endlessly creepy. Especially because in the end, we never find out who “Brenda” really was. It was such a campy ghost story for the kids that left me scared and wanting more. I’d watch a Brenda spinoff.
Ben’s appearance on the ghost hunting show was absolutely hilarious. Much needed between the scenes of Caroline’s gruesome exorcism and David and Kristen arguing about the dangers of demons and schizophrenia. This is the first episode where David’s faith and Kristen’s lack thereof have come to a head, and it was actually quiet disturbing to watch them argue after several episodes of being great teammates despite their differences in beliefs. And Leland seducing Sheryl left my jaw hanging open. Does he know who she is? She doesn’t know who he is, and she certainly doesn’t know that he’s evil (and in my opinion, demonic).
EPISODE SIX: “Let x = 9”
A Chinese daycare worker named Grace is allegedly a prophet, speaking of things only outlined by a 500 year old codex describing the end of the world. The Church pressures David into pronouncing Grace a false prophet, because it the codex and her predictions are correct, the world will come to a burning end. Grace is eventually deported by ICE, but not before giving David a final drawing of the missing piece of the codex.
Sheryl invites Leland over for dinner at Kristen’s house. Kristen takes him into the backyard and slices into his throat, demanding he leave and never return. She tries to convince her mother that Leland is evil, but Sheryl writes Kristen’s warning off as anger and jealousy.
It’s weird, because this episode is critical and pivotal to multiple plots, but it was probably my least favorite of them all. The thing about the codex is cool, and it’s revealing more of that major conspiracy/underlying demons that I mentioned before. But it was rather anti-climactic with Grace being deported and David and team wondering what the codex actually represents – besides the end of the world, that is. It’s a giant map of shapes and illustrations in connected circles, and apparently no one has ever been able to decode it. So, we’ll see. Overall, it was pretty boring compared to the insanity of last week. Kristen slicing Leland’s throat was totally badass, though.
And the whole Sheryl and Leland thing is so crazy! Sheryl is definitely a loose cannon, but I found it so ridiculous that she didn’t listen to her daughter’s warnings. Even when Kristen played Sheryl the deepfaked recording of Leland saying horrible things about being evil, Sheryl didn’t care. I think Leland’s demonic energy is drawing her in.
EPISODE SEVEN: “Vatican III”
Leland is mentoring a young man named Sebastian, an incel (involuntary celibate) that’s angry at women and the world in general. Leland is convincing Sebastian to take physical and violent action against women, and women-centered organizations. Meanwhile, a woman named Bridget confesses to multiple murders of young men during her exorcism. David and Kristen are at odds once more as they try to determine whether Bridget is a possessed killer or a victim of a mental illness.
It is eventually revealed that Bridget is not the killer – her doting husband is. The exorcism and possession were an elaborate ruse conducted by the pair to cover up for the fact that the husband has been on a killing spree, collecting trophies from each of his young victims and hiding them within the home. David discovers the trophies and apprehends the husband.
The team is granted access by the Vatican to view the entire 500 year old codex. They sneak pictures with Kristen’s cell phone and discover it is a hierarchy if demons on Earth, each with their own sigil. David recognizes one as an artistic signature used by his father.
More politics. Honestly, the portrayal of the incel culture on the internet was one of the most terrifying aspects of this episode. As always, the exorcism was gruesome (think vomit, demonic voices, bodily harm, broken bones, etc.) and the tension between David and Kristen was palpable.
But, you’re telling me that this codex has been around for 500 years and only just now, a wannabe priest, a skeptic, and a psychologist randomly solve it? I mean, I’m glad they did, and I’m not surprised it was something to do with demons (where’s Leland’s picture on there??) but I just think it’s convenient that it took them all of 15 minutes to discover something 500 years of study couldn’t do. There’s a total atmospheric dread though – dread of what Leland is grooming Sebastian into, dread about the codex and end of the world, and dread about this new hierarchy of demons… and if that means demons *are* real, after all.
EPISODE EIGHT: “2 Fathers”
David and Kristen visit David’s father’s farm/art studio/compound in upstate New York, only to find that he’s remarried a young bride and has a baby on the way. David confronts his father, Leon, about using the demon sigil in his artwork and his father claims it grants him clarity. While at a party at Leon’s home, David and Kristen both drink punch laced with hallucinogenics, giving them visions. Kristen watches Leon’s young wife give birth to a ghoul in a cornfield, while David meets the ghost of a slave. The sigil Leon uses in his artwork is the brand of a slave owner. This enrages David, but he makes peace with the fact that he and his father must endure the pain of their family’s history in their own ways.
DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE GHOUL IN THE CORNFIELD! I was shocked, I was disgusted, I was dismayed. I was horrified. And I was totally into it. The absolute absurdity of a woman giving birth to this being (way bigger than a baby, mind you) that looks like a mix of Benjamin Button and Predator right before Kristen’s eyes, then Kristen goes home and laughs it off because she was “hallucinating” is just so disturbing and hilarious. And it’s ambiguous – was it a ghoul? Did it actually happen? What the actual Hell?
And once again, the show gracefully includes racial discussions and the pain of David’s family heritage. Likening a slave owner’s brand to a demonic sigil is fitting and poignant. Sometimes, demons are right before our eyes. It’s also a welcome shift in pace to watch David go through something so profoundly emotional and personal. Week after week, he and the team watch people go through the worst time in their life (I mean, demonic possession would probably be close to my worst day ever) and we don’t get constant insight into their own battles with good and evil. My favorite episode, by far. Not just because the show has officially begun it’s bizarre descent into demonic madness, but because we’re learning more about the characters and their own personal Hell.
EPISODE NINE: “Exorcism Part 2”
David and the Church are being sued by Caroline (remember her from episode Five?) for botching her exorcism. A Church lawyer, sister of David’s deceased girlfriend, defends David as the prosecution reveals his history of drug-related legal offenses and arrests. Kristen convinces both parties that the medical care Caroline received after her exorcism is the real reason for her failing health, not the exorcism itself.
Meanwhile, Leland continues to coach Sebastian and introduce him to other members of the incel community. They are planning to execute an act of gun violence upon an all-women’s gym, and then a prayer group at a local church – the church where David leads a prayer group on that very night. Sebastian accidentally shoots himself while posing in the mirror with the guns Leland provided him with.
Kind of a boring recap, but not a boring episode. It’s a fascinating legal and moral argument about the negative effects an exorcism can have on the body – even if it worked at expelling the “demon”. The exorcisms have always been portrayed as gruesome, bloody affairs for all involved, taxing both physically and mentally. I wasn’t surprised when Caroline wanted to sue the church for the exorcism. Kristen setting aside her differences to make good with David and blame the medicine Caroline received afterward for the woman’s failing mental health was an interesting take. It’s clear that Kristen and David’s relationship is more important to both of them than their individual beliefs. It does, however, make me wonder how far Kristen is willing to blur the lines between truth and a lie.
Sebastian shooting himself in the head accidentally was another jaw-dropping moment. Right at the end of the episode, and the credits play in silence as his blood spreads across the floor. It’s gut-wrenching, because he was becoming the worst of the worst – a violent man, hateful of women, and easily manipulated by others (like Leland) who shared his disgusting beliefs. To watch him get his brains blown out by his own hand was… almost satisfying, if only to know that he wouldn’t be able to shoot up the gym or the church. That being said, the horror only continues when the camera cuts to Leland, at first upset at the loss of his protege, then comforted by the influx of incel videos he was able to watch afterward. An unnerving, sinking feeling that there will always be another mind for Leland to manipulate. There will always be evil.
EPISODE TEN: “7 Swans A Singin'”
A group of girls at a Catholic school can’t stop singing or humming a particular melody. Ben and Kristen discover the song is originally from an internet cartoon about Santa being high on marijuana, and was later used in the background of a popular influencer’s viral video. Ben determines the song transmits a secret message to those under the age of 16, telling them to commit suicide. The team confronts the influencer and she blames her producer. She later goes to her producer for help, who is none other than – DUN DUN DUN – Leland Townsend!
Meanwhile, Sheryl tells one of Kristen’s daughter’s to deal with a school bully with violence, perpetuating Leland’s beliefs. David goes to confession at church and is stabbed in the chest on his way out, his phone just out of reach.
This show really finds such interesting ways to interject the current world – and current evils – into this realm of demons and miracles. I never would have thought they would be uncovering demonic messaging in an influencer’s viral makeup tutorial, but they did (actually, Ben the Magnificent did). On top of the demonic messaging is the general horror of influencers in general, and how negatively they impact the minds and body image of young people (young women and girls in particular).
This episode in particular confirms my idea that Leland is behind all of this! I don’t know how, but I think I know why – serving the Devil, obviously. He’s using every tactic he can to watch the world burn… even it it’s including subliminal messaging in a random video jingle. And I can’t imagine waiting for next week to see what happens to David. I mean, obviously the show wasn’t going to kill him off, but what happens? Does he go to Heaven? Does he finally see God again? Or… does he go to Hell?
Luckily, I watched this on Netflix, so I didn’t have to wait.
EPISODE ELEVEN: “Room 320”
David is in the hospital following his attack. He learns from his roommate that the attending nurse, Nurse Bloch, is an angel of death that targets black patients and collects their hospital wristbands as trophies. David tries several times to escape, but fails. He sees horrifying visions of patients being killed and dragged away through the halls of the hospital. In a dream (or was it?) he receives a warning from the prophet Grace (from episode six) to remember Matthew 13:25 (“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left”).
Meanwhile, Kristen and Ben work together to find out who stabbed David. They come to the conclusion that it is a man named Ghana, who David once performed an exorcism on. Ghana also happens to be Rose390 from the VR headset game. Ben creates an avatar in the game and goes head-to-head with Ghana (or, Rose390) until they can triangulate his location and send the police to apprehend him.
Kristen visits David in the hospital and outsmarts Nurse Bloch to save him. They are not able to catch Nurse Bloch in time and she disappears, leaving behind a locker full of hospital wristbands.
Holy crap. This episode is so terrifying, especially if you’re into medical horror/hospital horror, etc. I’m actually not a fan of medical horror, like when patients are drugged and at the mercy of evil hospital personnel, but this episode scared me to my core. Watching David be tortured physically and mentally by this Nurse Ratched wannabe was absolutely jarring – he’s the large, tall, strong and sensible man that we’ve seen throughout the season, reduced to dragging his beaten and bloody body across the hospital floor in a desperate attempt to survive.
What’s the significance of Matthew 13:25? Well, I think Grace said this to David to get him to realize that while he was drugged and unconscious, Nurse Bloch was torturing and killing other black patients. And, in general, don’t sleep on evil and the Devil, because they’re everywhere. Even when you should feel most safe.
The reveal of Rose390 being a former exorcism client of David’s is fascinating, and yet again makes me think Leland is involved in this, somehow. He’s connected to everyone who’s getting exorcised or exhibiting demonic behavior… I just don’t know HOW yet, but I know it’s true.
EPISODE TWELVE: “Justice x 2”
The DA calls Kristen back to court in an attempt to stop Leland from overturning LeRoux’s conviction, freeing the killer back into society. When Kristen is called to the stand, she is forced to admit that she taunted LeRoux during her psychological assessment of him, and his conviction is then overturned. When Leland approaches Kristen to gloat, she confronts him with all the research she has done about him – he is not the Devil, he is a loser who moved from his small town and changed his name and left behind an unsatisfied ex-wife and nothing else. He is nothing but a loser, and he will never be stronger than she is.
Meanwhile, David responds to a call from a woman pleading for spiritual guidance, only to be taken prisoner by her. She is also holding an African comedian captive, claiming he had something to do with the brutal slaughter of her friends and family back in Africa. The woman kills the comedian but lets David go after she turns herself in to the police, claiming she did it for justice, and she’d do it again.
At the end of the episode, Leland is meeting with his demon therapist, discussing their plans on how to deal with Kristen.
The episode features David and the comedian being held captive pretty heavily, as that’s this episode’s “monster of the week”, so to speak. I wish there was more about LeRoux’s case, and the reality of his conviction being overturned and what that means for his wife and Kristen and everyone else who helped put him behind bars. I do have to say, though, Kristen’s confrontation of Leland was absolutely badass. It was so satisfying to watch him flounder as she ripped into him, calling him a loser (though it did give me flashbacks to the kids in It defeating Pennywise. “You’re just a clown!”).
That being said, David’s captivity is brutal and terrifying. The woman is at the brink of a full psychotic break as she’s convinced herself the comedian was involved in the slaughter of her friends and family. Eventually, the comedian admits to what the woman is accusing him of – but we don’t know if he really did it, or he’s just admitting to it to try and get away. The woman kills him anyway, and that’s the most terrifying part of all. She begged him to admit it, and when he did, she shot him in the head.
It definitely feels like we’re winding up to the end of the season with this episode, especially in regard to Kristen and Leland’s showdown. Something big is looming on the horizon as all of these demons are being unearthed along with the hierarchy of the codex. And I was just DYING to find out what.
EPISODE THIRTEEN: “Book 27”
LeRoux uses his freedom to harass Kristen and threaten her daughters. Leland proposes to Sheryl. When Sheryl announces the new to Kristen, Kristen forbids her mother from being in her house, or around the kids, until she breaks it off with Leland and realizes he is no good.
David and the assessors are called to review a pregnant woman’s fear that one of her babies is possessed in utero. When the second twin mysteriously vanishes in the womb, David suggests an exorcism be performed, but the surviving baby is born before they have the chance. The children were conceived at RSM Fertility. David and the team dig into the fertility clinic and discover links to families they worked with previously (remember Eric? Yeah, he was an RSM baby). They also discover that the clinic is a front for the demonic hierarchy, and whoever is involved is corrupting the fetuses to create a generation of humans easily influenced by the Devil. One of Kristen’s daughters was conceived with the help of the fertility clinic.
At the end of the episode, Kristen holds a crucifix in her hand. It burns her. Oh, yeah, and she gets a call that LeRoux was bludgeoned to death.
Season finales are hard. You want the loose ends to be tied up, but you also want new loose ends to be created so there’s something to look forward to in Season 2. This finale didn’t tie up ANYTHING. It created a whole slew of mysteries for the assessors to tackle: what’s going on at the fertility clinic? Why is Leland trying to corrupt a generation of people? And is Kristen a demon, now? What the actual Hell? You can tell there was already a Season 2 approved, because if there wasn’t, this would be the worst cliffhanger a show has ever ended on, ever. Did Kristen kill LeRoux??
The idea of the fertility clinic being used to create a generation of humans extra-susceptible to sin and evil is actually terrifying. To use eugenics for such a nefarious purpose (eugenics is already nefarious, but you know what I mean) is such a genius plan on the part of Leland and the people (or demons?) he’s working for. So what does that mean for Kristen’s daughter? I wonder how she’ll be influenced by demons, and evil in general.
Overall, I think the finale was a beautiful culmination of the evil we have seen across the whole of the series. It’s pretty clear that the demons and mysteries have had effects on all three of the assessors, but profoundly Kristen – she’s become more tough, headstrong, and she’s being burned by the crucifix. I think she caught Leland’s demon… or, something like that. I don’t know if possession is contagious.
Well, if you stuck around until the end of this article… thanks. I’m hoping to have my recap and review of Season 2 up next week! So, stick around for that, too.
Reader beware, you’re in for a scare! Or, not. Trick-or-treat, after all.
Images are used Pursuant to 17 U.S. Code § 107 under the “fair use” defense. All images are copyrighted by show creators Robert King & Michael King and CBS Studios.