Lunar Cycle - October 2022

Since I don’t have as much time to write longer reviews than I used to, I figured I would just post shorter reviews for horror/cult films that I feel deserve your attention.


Directed By: David Bruckner

Starring: Odessa A’zion, Jamie Clayton, Adam Faison, Drew Starkey, Brandon Flynn, Aoife Hinds, Goran Visnjic

Genre: Horror/Slasher/Demons

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: A young woman struggling with addiction comes into possession of an ancient puzzle box, unaware that its purpose is to summon the Cenobites, a group of sadistic supernatural beings from another dimension.



- The updated Cenobite designs. Instead of the usual leather S&M attire, their suits are nothing but their mutilated skin. It was a welcome change for this reboot.

- Despite having big shoes to fill, Jamie Clayton was excellent as the new Pinhead [or The Priest]. She came across as very menacing and added her own flair and personality to a popular role.

- All the actors were solid - especially Odessa A'zion as the lead [Riley] and Drew Starkey as Trevor [Riley's boyfriend].

- I didn't mind the slasher elements. Resembling A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie at times, I enjoyed the angle of having to sacrifice a certain amount of people to the Lament Configuration to gain some sort of wish/power.

- David Bruckner's direction was good and the cinematography by Eli Born is beautiful and polished. It's nice to see filmmakers caring about making a good HELLRAISER film again.


- The film is too tame for a HELLRAISER film. Off-screen deaths? Sex barely a factor? For a movie about demons focused on pleasure and pain, this film was really lacking in that department.

- Good actors but under-written roles for character archetypes I barely cared about. Besides the two leads and the Cenobites, the other characters were just fodder to me. No Kirsty, Julia or Frank to be found here.


A good reboot that will hopefully play it less safe in the next installment, HELLRAISER (2022) is the best installment since 1988’s HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II. But that isn’t saying a whole lot. Still, it’s nice that after 30 years, someone actually took the time to make a watchable installment in this troubled franchise.

TERRIFIER 2 (2022)

Directed By: Damien Leone

Starring: Lauren LaVera, David Howard Thornton, Elliott Fullam, Samantha Scaffidi, Casey Hartnett, Casey Hartnett 

Genre: Horror/Slasher

Running Time: 138 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (8 out of 10)

Plot: After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to Miles County where he must hunt down and destroy a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night. As the body count rises, the siblings fight to stay alive while uncovering the true nature of Art’s evil intent.



- The gore - oh, the gore! If you thought the first TERRIFIER was super gory, this sequel tops it in every way. Decapitations, heads being used as candy bowls, head explosions, mutilated bodies and so on. Just a brutal film in the violence department.

- David Howard Thornton and Lauren LaVera are really solid in their roles of Art the Clown and Final Girl Sienna. Thornton is creepier than ever as the villain, especially as we get to look into his mental state. He’s captivating to watch in every scene he’s in, just with a simple smile. LaVera is a great Final Girl who comes across as smart, sassy and tough. I’d love to see more of her in the future because she definitely has star potential.

- I liked the addition of a lore for Art the Clown. Unlike the first film where there was really nothing to the character, this sequel adds a ton and makes Art super interesting. We get to look into his mind to see what makes him tick, while the protagonists seem to have a strange connection to the clown that adds a creepy layer on to why he appears to be targeting them. I love slashers that have an actual story to chew on.

- Damien Leone’s direction is more confident than it was in the first TERRIFIER. A lot of shots show a ton of style. The brutal murder sequences are choreographed super well. The sets and locations are infused with strange editing and lighting choices that create a bleak mood and atmosphere. And for much of the long runtime, I thought the movie had a nice pace going for it. Leone stepped up his game with this one.


- The two-hour-plus run time isn’t necessary for this sequel. No slasher should be over two hours, especially when it loses steam like TERRIFIER 2. There are moments where the film could have ended, and it just felt like it kept going and going until we reached a strange mid-credits sequence that really needs to be explained in the third film. This is a homage to an 80s slasher movie, not THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

- A lot of the acting from the supporting characters was cheesy and a bit over-the-top to take seriously. I’m guessing Leone was going for 80s B-movie acting? I would have been down with that if your lead actress wasn’t performing her role in a serious manner. Some of the reactions to things by some of the performers felt either wooden or just unintentionally comical. It’s fun to watch, but the tone becomes uneven because of it.

- There are some story elements that really needed to be explained. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the film left me with more questions than answers - especially concerning the relationship between Art the Clown and the protagonists. It made the narrative feel unfinished, although this could possibly be explained in the next installment. But honestly, the answers should have been revealed within its own movie.


TERRIFIER 2 is light years better than the 2016 original. There’s actually an interesting story this time around with decent characters you want to root for, the gore is more brutal than ever, solid lead performances and really great direction by Damien Leone. Despite a lack of substance and lingering questions to certain subplots, cheesy acting and a run time that isn’t justified to be over two hours long, TERRIFIER 2 is one of the better and more fun horror films of 2022. Considering my indifference to the first film, this was a genuine surprise for the better. I look forward to seeing where this franchise goes next because we need more fun slashers like this one in our lives.

THEY/THEM (2022)

Directed By: John Logan

Starring: Theo Germaine, Kevin Bacon, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston, Boone Platt

Genre: Horror/Thriller/Slasher

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Score: 1 Howl Outta 4 (3 out of 10)

Plot: Campers at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp endure unsettling psychological techniques while the campsite is stalked by a mysterious killer.



- Kevin Bacon and some of the other actors. It’s nice to see Bacon returning to his campsite horror roots, considering his first major horror role was in 1980’s FRIDAY THE 13TH. He always plays a great villain, and he makes the most of his twisted role as a therapist at a gay conversion camp. Other actors, like Theo Germaine and Austin Crute, also make an impression as the teen victims at this camp.

- The picture looks nice. It’s a Blumhouse vehicle, so of course the cinematography is very good. I think more could have been done with the location, but it’s a nicely polished movie.

- THEY/THEM has a great concept. There should be more movies catered to the LGBTQ+ community and the idea of a conversion camp is horrifying on so many levels. There’s no need for a slasher villain when you have poor teens being put through things that are supposed to “make them normal”. The film does touch on some of those things as the counselors get more vicious with their daily exercises. Unfortunately…


- THEY/THEM has a bad execution. For a film with commentary on how terrible gay conversion camps are, the film barely does anything with that idea. We get a scene with shock therapy. We get uncomfortable scenes in a regular therapy session with counselors belittling the campers. But other than that, not much is done because the film is trying to be a slasher movie too. About that…

- The film is a terrible slasher movie. We get one kill in the opening. And then we have to wait about an hour or so until some slashing goes on. Not only are the murder sequences done off-screen [lame], but the slasher aspect doesn’t help THEY/THEM at all besides giving the film a bit of action and motivation. If you’re not going to bother with any stalking and slashing in your slasher movie, then you’re doing it wrong. Besides, the gay conversion stuff is the real horror and they wasted potential on that as well.

- What was John Logan thinking? While Logan has written some great movies like GLADIATOR, SWEENEY TODD and SKYFALL, his direction leaves a lot to be desired. As an openly gay filmmaker, you would think he would probably be more careful with this type of movie more than most. But Logan plays it too safely and would rather focus on stereotypes and being hateful towards the community rather than providing a thoughtful commentary on the evils of these camps hurting people who have nothing wrong with them. I see that Logan wanted to make his own version of GET OUT here, but the film doesn’t have anything really to say, And when it does, it’s confusing and kind of insulting at times. Even the slasher portion is weak because it’s a whodunit with just one suspect. How does that work?? What a waste of potential.

- That P!nk musical moment. I love P!nk. I enjoy her song “F*cking Perfect”. And I was okay with the young actors singing the first couple of lines of the song as a way to bond. But then they just kept going like it was an episode of Glee - and not a good episode either. This was really cringe. I pretty much checked out at that point.


THEY/THEM is a film that had so much potential to be something important for the LGBTQ+ horror community with its conversion camp concept, while adding a slasher element to it considering Kevin Bacon was starring in the film. Unfortunately, the commentary is a confusing mess that probably does more harm than good. The film is only really a slasher for the last 15 minutes, with no real tension or suspense leading to the murder sequences. We have random musical moments that almost made me want to stop watching [I hope they paid you well, P!nk]. The best I can say about THEY/THEM is that the film looks nice and most of the acting is fine [especially Kevin Bacon]. Stick with HELLBENT for a good LGBTQ+ slasher and BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER for a great film that involves the perils of conversion therapy. The most clever thing about THEY/THEM is unfortunately its title.


Directed By: Scott Derrickson

Starring: Mason Thames, Ethan Hawke, Madeleine McGraw, Jeremy Davies, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, James Randsone

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: Finney Shaw, a shy but clever 13-year-old boy, is abducted by a sadistic killer and trapped in a soundproof basement where screaming is of little use. When a disconnected phone on the wall begins to ring, Finney discovers that he can hear the voices of the killer’s previous victims. And they are dead set on making sure that what happened to them doesn’t happen to Finney.



- The lead actors carried this movie. Child actors could be hit-or-miss when it comes to horror films, but Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw were fantastic as two siblings who live in an abusive household and soon have to deal with The Grabber. Thames is convincing as a shy kid who has to learn to fend for himself to get out of a dangerous situation. McGraw is even better as the worried sister who uses her dreams to see what’s going on in order to save her brother and other children who may be targeted. Add Ethan Hawke in a small, yet really creepy role as the Grabber and you got yourself some great acting that will keep you invested from beginning to end.

- Scott Derrickson’s direction was pretty solid throughout. Best known for his work on 2012’s SINISTER and 2016’s DOCTOR STRANGE, his work on THE BLACK PHONE isn’t as strong or as stylish as those two movies. But the 70s aesthetic works throughout and the supernatural elements involving the phone calls and the psychic dreams add a nice level of tension and suspense to this thriller. I thought Derrickson did a good job bringing Joe Hill’s short story to life.

- I thought Joe Hill’s story was adapted quite well. The main characters are fleshed out enough for us to understand them. The situation is brought to life in a tense and creepy way. I liked how the film was less of a horror movie and more of a police procedural at times - as well as a strange coming-of-age story for Finney, who takes the lessons of the Grabber’s previous victims in order to have a fighting chance of surviving. Some might feel the film was too long considering Hill’s story is pretty short and to the point. But I never felt like it dragged a ton and thought the material was handled well. 

- I love The Grabber’s creepy mask. If you ever needed a mask to put some fear into people during the Halloween season, that’s definitely a choice. I thought it added some creepy personality to The Grabber when he would be quiet to intimidate Finney.


- The film needed a bit more backstory. I felt things happened and none of them were really explained. Why are the phone calls supernatural? Why can Finney and The Grabber hear them? Why is the sister a psychic like her late mother? Why was Finney chosen by the previous victims to be the one to stop The Grabber? How did The Grabber’s brother, who was living with him, not realize what was going on until it was too late? Sometimes it’s better not to know these things, but I feel since this isn’t a movie meant to create a franchise, some of these answers would have been appreciated.

- THE BLACK PHONE isn’t really a scary film. It has some creepy moments here and there, but it’s not a movie that will terrify people. I think it’s because we barely see The Grabber a whole lot and we’re more focused on Finney learning from the children before him how to escape his ordeal. I never really felt Finney’s fear, despite his desperation and frustration over how to get out of this situation. More of that would have added some much needed power to this film.


One of the better horror film releases of 2022, THE BLACK PHONE is carried by solid lead performances to create a creepy thriller involving a masked kidnapper and a cunning child who receives help from the afterlife to escape the kidnapper’s clutches. While Ethan Hawke isn’t in the film a whole lot, his presence as The Grabber can put a chill down your spine through his performance and use of a killer mask that will most likely gain a cult following for years to come. But it’s the work of child actors Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw who bring the heart to the film, portraying siblings who are caught in the Grabber’s web from different angles. SINISTER’s Scott Derrickson does a nice job adapting Joe Hill’s short story and capturing a creepy 70s aesthetic, while keeping his style simple to let the story and the performances be the focus. Do I wish the film was scarier? Yes. Do I wish certain plot devices [especially some of the supernatural aspects] were explained and developed better? Absolutely. But for what it is, THE BLACK PHONE is worth making a call for.


Directed By: Andrew Semans

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone, Tim Roth

Genre: Thriller/Horror/Drama

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Score: 3 Howls Outta 4 (7 out of 10)

Plot: A woman’s carefully constructed life is upended when an unwelcome shadow from her past returns, forcing her to confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades.



- The two lead performances are fantastic. Rebecca Hall is a force of nature as Margaret, a woman who lives a mechanical and routine life until a man from her past destroys that once he returns in her life. Hall portrays a woman so in control of her own life that she slowly peels back those layers to reveal that she never was in control in the first place. Her performance grows more manic as the film moves along and her long monologue in the middle of the film where she reveals her truth is just wonderfully recited. It’s honestly a masterclass of trauma portrayed on screen. On the other hand, Tim Roth’s subtlety as David brings an eeriness to the film, displaying power just with a single look or a soft-spoken voice that rings louder than any yell. These two are wonderful as they play off the other, making them the reason to watch RESURRECTION

- The depiction of abuse is realistically displayed. From Margaret counseling interns about abusive relationships, to herself losing grip on reality as she spills her secret abusive past, RESURRECTION doesn’t hide how trauma can affect people. David’s presence alone upsets Margaret, telling us how powerful he is as a character without a single word. David doesn’t do anything, making Margaret lose control of herself and do rash things to make sure her control is maintained. This alienates her daughter. This pushes away a married co-worker she’s been having an affair with, who actually cares about her. It makes us wonder whether Margaret is being over-the-top and losing her mind, or if David really is this evil person who has done her tons of emotional harm. And when David gives Margaret simple commands to teach her “kindness”, which Margaret succumbs to out of habit, it shows that even the simplest of things can be abusive. Things reach a really weird and chilling climax, showing us that trauma can always be triggered no matter how much we try to control our lives away from the past.

- I enjoyed Andrew Semans’ simple direction. RESURRECTION is not a stylish film, but it’s a nice looking one with a pace that intensifies as Margaret loses control of herself. The edits get a bit crazier. Shots seem to be repeated to show this never ending cycle Margaret has put herself on. Tim Roth is always shot in a way that displays power. Rebecca Hall’s shot scales tend to get smaller and smaller, letting her blend more into the background before the climax. For the man’s second feature film, it’s some good stuff.


- I’m not sure how I feel about the film’s final act. While RESURRECTION does get a bit crazy in terms of what David’s motivations are with Margaret [won’t spoil it here], I felt the conclusion to the film was really jarring compared to everything that came before it. For a movie that was pretty grounded for most of its run time, going the David Lynch/David Cronenberg/Darren Aronofsky route wasn’t something I was expecting. I suspect it didn’t hit me as hard due to not having any past experience with abuse nor the struggle of being a parent. But it just left me confused as to what I was supposed to get out of the very end of the film. Maybe I have to watch it a few times to get a true interpretation on the things that happen in the final moments. I respect the storytelling, but I’m not sure if I connected to it other than feeling weird about it.


While the final act jarred me quite a bit, to the point that I’m still trying to figure out what I saw and what it actually means, I felt RESURRECTION was a good psychological thriller that handled the trauma of abuse quite well. Through Andrew Semans’ direction that starts out simple but intensifies as certain characters start to lose control of their situation, we see through his eyes that trauma isn’t something one can control or hide once triggered by an outside force that will quietly help you fester in it and do you harm. The lead performances by Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth are excellent. Going from mechanical and routine to chaotic and frantic, Hall’s portrayal of trauma is a masterclass in acting. Roth’s quiet menace has to also be applauded, as he does a lot with a simple look or soft-spoken dialogue that’s not as quiet as it seems. The Lynch/Cronenberg/Aronofsky type of ending left me a bit odd considering how grounded everything else was prior to it, but maybe it’ll require another watch or two to really feel the effects of its message. That being said, definitely seek this one out on Shudder if you have the time for a slow, psychological burn.

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