Gravid With Decay: Issue #3
This is Gravid With Decay, a short
biweekly-ish monthly newsletter by John Tolva about all things horror.
Bit of a longer gap than intended since the last dispatch as I was the last person standing in a home full of virus and other ailments. A final guy, if you will. Here’s what I’ve been up to.
Fist of Jesus has some fun with Christianity’s obsession with the undead by pitting the Son of Man (and his trusty sidekick Judas) against hordes of zombie Judeans, Roman centurions, and cowboys (!?) after the Lazarus miracle goes awry. It’s way over the top, borderline slapstick, but you can’t help giggling. The main weapon used to dispatch the living dead? Fish, of course, as Jesus can make as many as he needs. Thrown fish, slapped fish, boned fish, swordfish. Just a delightful, bloody mess. Amen.
How am I only just hearing about 1999’s Virus? It’s basically: What if Y2L hysteria but robots? Crazy good cast including grande dame Jamie Lee Curtis, William Baldwin, and Donald Sutherland as a wonderfully ornery sea captain. A space cloud of something infects the systems of the Russian Mir station which then beams its nasty payload down to a research ship in the middle of an ocean (at the edge of a hurricane, naturally) which then proceeds to commandeer everything digital on the ship. Robots build other robots which exterminate humans and incorporate their fleshy spare parts in the little building exercise. Humans, you see, are the virus. It’s all pretty cliche these days (and apparently Jamie Lee hates this movie passionately), but I found it quite fun and suitably twisty. Just at the dawn of the Internet but before we knew that the year 2000 wouldn’t kill us all and before we’d given up completely on cool practical effects, it’s a nice gory time capsule. Recommend.
13 Fanboy is a great idea done poorly: What if the actual machete-fodder actresses from the lengthy Friday the 13th series were stalked by a deranged horror-lover in real life? Deborah Voorhees (no seriously that’s her real name), whose death in the fifth installment is beloved, writes, directs, and plays herself in this film that’s essentially a reunion of minor characters from the Jason oeuvre. Some male characters and stunt men too. Corey Feldman has a role, but, unlike everyone else, he’s not playing himself (nor is he playing Tommy Jarvis), furthering the confusion. You’re never quite sure who is who — and pretty consistently reminded why these folks only had a couple lines in the actual films — but it’s a decent play on the anxiety that must low-level pervade horror conventions. Imagine if you had to sign autographs all day while welcoming cosplayers dressed to kill, some with disturbing amounts of knowledge about you and your career. If you’re a Friday completist — or an aspiring deranged fanboy — this one’s for you.
You should watch Son. On one level, it’s a terrifying look at what a mom will do to protect her child. But it’s also about the parental dread that one’s child might be a dangerous mistake. Andi Matichak, granddaughter Strode in the Halloween retcon sequels, gets the lead here with strong support from Emile Hirsch. It’s a simple movie in some ways but effectively creepy.
Ever stay in a rental home where the presence of the owner, though not physically there, was just too much? Superhost continues a trend of Airbnb-inspired creeps started with 2020’s The Rental. The tension that powers these films is how unsettling it is to live in someone else’s space that is neither as deliberately sterile as a hotel room, nor as welcoming as someone’s actual home. In this film, a couple of too-eager vloggers (“don’t forget to like and subscribe!”) enjoy a surveilled getaway only to discover that their host, played perfectly by Gracie Gillam, is a lunatic. It’s an easy watch and, hey, Barbara Crampton shows up!
I watched the The Cabrini-Green housing project being torn down every day as I passed on the L train. But ours is still a world that makes monsters out of Black victims. The central conceit of the Candyman sequel’s legend — the consequences of speaking the name of what we fear — has long been a rallying cry for those seeking justice too. Here they are, of course, intertwined. Which is what you’d expect from Jordan Peele, who produced and co-wrote the update. Colman Domingo rather steals this show, in my opinion, but then I think he steals everything he’s in. Definite recommend.
I’m a sucker for hotel-based terror, so I wanted Night At The Eagle Inn to be as cool as 1408. I mean, how many horror movies do you know that are shot in Vermont? It’s just not a great film. Then again, at 70 minutes, it’s somewhat painless to decide for yourself.
A film about Black Friday shopping madness seems at least a decade late to the party. Do people still mob stores the day after Thanksgiving? But it stars Bruce Campbell, so … gave it a watch. Sorta The Mist meets Dawn of the Dead with the inevitable campiness that Campbell brings, even if he’s supposed to be unlikeable in this. Uneven but with a budget-busting boss creature at the end, it’s decent party horror.
Have you noticed horror stylings or tropes in movies that are not really horror? The NY Times asks the inverse question “When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie?” I’ve heard the term “horror-adjacent” a bunch recently. Kinda sums up livin’ in a way. Keep it adjacent.
If you enjoy this little communique, please send to a friend or post about it. Always nice to spread the dread. Until next time …