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‘Slay’ is Wonderful, It’s Like if ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Met ‘Too Wong Foo’

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Slay Horror Movie

Before you dismiss Slay as a gimmick, we can tell you, it is. But it’s a damn good one. 

Four drag queens are mistakenly booked at a stereotypical biker bar in the desert where they have to combat bigots…and vampires. You read that right. Think, Too Wong Foo at the Titty Twister. Even if you don’t get those references, you will still have a good time.

Before you sashay away from this Tubi offering, here is why you shouldn’t. It’s surprisingly funny and manages to have a few scary moments along the way. It’s a midnight movie at its core and if those bookings were still a thing, Slay would probably have a successful run. 

The premise is simple, again, four drag queens played by Trinity the Tuck, Heidi N Closet, Crystal Methyd, and Cara Mell find themselves at a biker bar unaware that an alpha vampire is on the loose in the woods and has already bitten one of the townsfolk. The turned man makes his way to the old roadside saloon and begins turning the patrons into the undead right in the middle of the drag show. The queens, along with the local barflies, barricade themselves inside the bar and must defend themselves against the growing hoard outside.

“Slay”

The contrast between the denim and leather of the bikers, and the ball gowns and Swarovski crystals of the queens, is a sight gag I can appreciate. During the whole ordeal, none of the queens gets out of costume or sheds their drag personas except at the beginning. You forget they have other lives outside of their costumes.

All four of the leading ladies have had their time on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, But Slay is a lot more polished than a Drag Race acting challenge, and the leads elevate the camp when called for and tone it down when necessary. It is a well-balanced scale of comedy and horror.

Trinity the Tuck is primed with one-liners and double entendres which rat-a-tat from her mouth in gleeful succession. It’s not a cringy screenplay so every joke lands naturally with a required beat and professional timing.

There is one questionable joke made by a biker about who comes from Transylvania and it isn’t the highest brow but it doesn’t feel like punching down either. 

This might be the guiltiest pleasure of the year! It’s hilarious! 

Slay

Heidi N Closet is surprisingly well cast. It’s not that it’s surprising to see she can act, it’s just most people know her from Drag Race which doesn’t allow much range. Comically she’s on fire. In one scene she flips her hair behind her ear with a large baguette and then uses it as a weapon. The garlic, you see. It’s surprises like that that make this film so charming. 

The weaker actor here is Methyd who plays the dimwitted Bella Da Boys. Her creaky performance shaves a little off the rhythm but the other ladies take up her slack so it just becomes part of the chemistry.

Slay has some great special effects too. Despite using CGI blood, none of them take you out of the element. Some great work went into this movie from everyone involved.

The vampire rules are the same, stake through the heart, sunlight., etc. But what’s really neat is when the monsters are killed, they explode into a glitter-tinted dust cloud. 

It’s just as fun and silly as any Robert Rodriguez movie with probably a quarter of his budget. 

Director Jem Garrard keeps everything going at a rapid pace. She even throws in a dramatic twist which is played with as much seriousness as a soap opera, but it does pack a punch thanks to Trinity and Cara Melle. Oh, and they manage to squeeze in a message about hate during it all. Not a smooth transition but even the lumps in this film are made of buttercream.

Another twist, handled much more delicately is better thanks to veteran actor Neil Sandilands. I’m not going to spoil anything but let’s just say there are plenty of twists and, ahem, turns, which all add to the fun. 

Robyn Scott who plays barmaid Shiela is the standout comedian here. Her lines and gusto provide the most belly laughs. There should be a special award for her performance alone.

Slay is a delicious recipe with just the right amount of camp, gore, action, and originality. It’s the best horror comedy to come along in a while.

It’s no secret that independent films have to do a lot more for less. When they are this good it’s a reminder that big studios could be doing better.

With movies like Slay, every penny counts and just because the paychecks might be smaller it doesn’t mean the final product has to be. When the talent puts this much effort into a film, they deserve more, even if that recognition comes in the form of a review. Sometimes smaller movies like Slay have hearts too big for an IMAX screen.

And that’s the tea. 

You can stream Slay on Tubi right now.

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Movie Reviews

‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’ is Packed with Cryptid Tales [Movie Review]

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The Skinwalkers Werewolves

As a longtime werewolf enthusiast, I’m immediately drawn to anything featuring the word “werewolf”. Adding Skinwalkers into the mix? Now, you’ve truly captured my interest. Needless to say, I was thrilled to check out Small Town Monsters’ new documentary ‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’. Below is the synopsis:

“Across the four corners of the American Southwest, there is said to exist an ancient, supernatural evil that preys on the fear of its victims to gain greater power. Now, witnesses lift the veil on the most terrifying encounters with modern-day werewolves ever heard. These stories intertwine legends of upright canids with hellhounds, poltergeists, and even the mythical Skinwalker, promising true terror.”

The Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2

Centered around shapeshifting and told through firsthand accounts from the Southwest, the film brims with chilling stories. (Note: iHorror has not independently verified any claims made in the film.) These narratives are the heart of the film’s entertainment value. Despite the mostly basic backdrops and transitions—notably lacking in special effects—the film maintains a steady pace, thanks largely to its focus on witness accounts.

While the documentary lacks concrete evidence to support the tales, it remains a captivating watch, especially for cryptid enthusiasts. Skeptics may not be converted, but the stories are intriguing.

After watching, am I convinced? Not entirely. Did it make me question my reality for a while? Absolutely. And isn’t that, after all, part of the fun?

‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’ is now available on VOD and Digital HD, with Blu-ray and DVD formats offered exclusively by Small Town Monsters.

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Review: Is There ‘No Way Up’ For This Shark Film?

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A flock of birds flies into the jet engine of a commercial airliner making it crash into the ocean with only a handful of survivors tasked with escaping the sinking plane while also enduring depleting oxygen and nasty sharks in No Way Up. But does this low-budget film rise above its shopworn monster trope or sink beneath the weight of its shoestring budget?

First, this film obviously isn’t on the level of another popular survival film, Society of the Snow, but surprisingly it isn’t Sharknado either. You can tell a lot of good direction went into making it and its stars are up for the task. The histrionics are kept at a bare minimum and unfortunately the same can be said about the suspense. That isn’t to say that No Way Up is a limp noodle, there is plenty here to keep you watching until the end, even if the last two minutes is offensive to your suspension of disbelief.

Let’s start with the good. No Way Up has plenty of good acting, especially from its lead Sophie McIntosh who plays Ava, a rich governor’s daughter with a heart of gold. Inside, she is struggling with the memory of her mother’s drowning and is never far from her overprotective older bodyguard Brandon played with nannyish diligence by Colm Meaney. McIntosh doesn’t reduce herself to the size of a B-movie, she is fully committed and gives a strong performance even if the material is trodden.

No Way Up

Another standout is Grace Nettle playing the 12-year-old Rosa who is traveling with her grandparents Hank (James Caroll Jordan) and Mardy (Phyllis Logan). Nettle doesn’t reduce her character to a delicate tween. She’s scared yes, but she also has some input and pretty good advice about surviving the situation.

Will Attenborough plays the unfiltered Kyle who I imagine was there for comic relief, but the young actor never successfully tempers his meanness with nuance, therefore he just comes across as a die-cut archetypical asshole inserted to complete the diverse ensemble.

Rounding out the cast is Manuel Pacific who plays Danilo the flight attendant who is the mark of Kyle’s homophobic aggressions. That whole interaction feels a bit outdated, but again Attenborough hasn’t fleshed out his character well enough to warrant any.

No Way Up

Continuing on with what is good in the film are the special effects. The plane crash scene, as they always are, is terrifying and realistic. Director Claudio Fäh has spared no expense in that department. You have seen it all before, but here, since you know they are crashing into the Pacific it’s more tense and when the plane hits the water you’ll wonder how they did it.

As for the sharks they are equally impressive. It’s hard to tell if they used live ones. There are no hints of CGI, no uncanny valley to speak of and the fish are genuinely threatening, although they don’t get the screentime you might be expecting.

Now with the bad. No Way Up is a great idea on paper, but the reality is something like this couldn’t happen in real life, especially with a jumbo jet crashing into the Pacific Ocean at such a fast speed. And even though the director has successfully made it seem like it could happen, there are so many factors that just don’t make sense when you think about it. Underwater air pressure is the first to come to mind.

It also lacks a cinematic polish. It has this straight-to-video feel, but the effects are so good that you can’t help but feel the cinematography, especially inside the plane should have been slightly elevated. But I’m being pedantic, No Way Up is a good time.

The ending doesn’t quite live up to the film’s potential and you will be questioning the limits of the human respiratory system, but again, that’s nitpicking.

Overall, No Way Up is a great way to spend an evening watching a survival horror movie with the family. There are some bloody images, but nothing too bad, and the shark scenes can be mildly intense. It is rated R on the low end.

No Way Up might not be the “next great shark” movie, but it is a thrilling drama that rises above the other chum so easily thrown into the waters of Hollywood thanks to the dedication of its stars and believable special effects.

No Way Up is now available to rent on digital platforms.

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TADFF: ‘Founders Day’ is a Sly Cynical Slasher [Movie Review]

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Founders Day

The horror genre is inherently socio-political. For every zombie film there’s a theme of social unrest; with each monster or mayhem there’s an exploration of our cultural fears. Even the slasher subgenre isn’t immune, with meditations on gender politics, morality, and (quite often) sexuality. With Founders Day, brothers Erik and Carson Bloomquist take the political leanings of horror and make them far more literal.

Short clip from Founders Day

In Founders Day, a small town is shaken by a series of ominous killings in the days leading up to a heated mayoral election. As accusations fly and the threat of a masked killer darkens every street corner, the residents must race to uncover the truth before fear consumes the town.

The film stars Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why), Emilia McCarthy (SkyMed), Naomi Grace (NCIS), Olivia Nikkanen (The Society), Amy Hargreaves (Homeland), Catherine Curtin (Stranger Things), Jayce Bartok (SubUrbia), and William Russ (Boy Meets World). The cast are all very strong in their roles, with particular praise to the two smarmy politicians, played by Hargreaves and Bartok. 

As a Zoomer-facing horror film, Founders Day feels heavily inspired by the 90s teen horror cycle. There’s a wide cast of characters (each a very specific and easily identifiable “type”), some sexy brooding pop music, slashtacular violence, and a whodunnit mystery that pulls the pace. But there’s a lot going on inside the engine; a strong “this social structure is bullshit” energy makes certain scenes all the more relevant. 

One scene shows a feuding protest mob drop their signs to fight over who gets to comfort and protect a queer woman of colour (each claiming “she’s with us”). Another shows a politician attempting to rile up their constituents with an impassioned speech, calling them to storm the town in an offensive defense. Even the diametrically opposed mayoral candidates wear their allegiances on their sleeve (a vote for “change” versus a vote for “consistency”). There’s a whole overarching theme of popularity and profiting from tragedy. It’s not subtle, but dammit it works. 

Behind the commentary is director/co-writer/actor Erik Bloomquist, a two-time New England Emmy Award Winner (Outstanding Writer and Director for The Cobblestone Corridor) and former Top 200 Director on HBO’s Project Greenlight. His work on this film is slasher-horror  comprehensive; from tense single-take shots and excessive violence to a potentially iconic killer’s weapon and costume (that cleverly incorporates the Sock and Buskin comedy/tragedy mask).

Founders Day offers the basic necessities of the slasher subgenre (including some well-timed comedic delivery) while poking a middle finger at political institutions. It presents unflattering commentary on both sides of the fence, suggesting less “right versus left” ideology and more “burn it all down and start over” cynicism. It’s a surprisingly effective inspiration. 

If political horror isn’t for you, that’s… fine, but there’s some bad news. Horror is commentary. Horror is a reflection of our anxieties; it’s a reaction to politics, economy, tension, and history. It’s a counterculture that acts as a mirror on culture, and it’s meant to engage and challenge. 

Films like Night of the Living Dead, Soft and Quiet, and The Purge franchise present a biting commentary on the damaging effects of strong politics; Founders Day cynically reflects on the absurd theatre of these politics. It’s poignant that the suggested target audience for this film is the next generation of voters and leaders. Through all the slashing, stabbing, and screaming, it’s a powerful way to promote change. 

Founders Day played as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. For more on the politics of horror, read about Mia Goth defending the genre.

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