Monster Mash: Televisual and Vaginal Body Horror in ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Videodrome’

October is finally upon us! It’s the time for cozy sweaters, making everything taste like pumpkin and, most importantly, horror films. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to decide what to watch, and if you are anything like me, one is never enough. That is why, for each week in the month of October, Much Ado About Cinema’s Monster Mash series is providing you with a double feature program and delving into why and how they go together like fava beans and a nice Chianti.

For our second Monster Mash, we’re delving into the power of television told through vaginals body horror in the horror classics Poltergeist and Videodrome.

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‘The Curse of Buckout Road’ is An Ambitious Debut Feature About The Power of Myth

Every town has an urban legend. In my hometown, there was the Goatman, hills where your car would get pushed uphill by ghosts, crybaby bridge, and much more. For director Matthew Currie Holmes, his hometown legend is Buckout Road, located in Westchester County of upstate New York State. It is rumored to be the most haunted road in the U.S., so of course, Holmes had to make a horror movie about it. His debut feature film, The Curse of Buckout Road, takes a few of the tales associated with the haunted road and weaves them into a horror movie perfect for lovers of urban legend.

Aaron Powell (Evan Ross) has traveled back to his small hometown to visit his grandfather and local psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Powell (Danny Glover). While trying to get back into a routine, Aaron realizes something horrible is happening around town and it seems to be linked to the cursed Buckout Road. Three college students, Cleo (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and twins Derek (Jim Watson) and Erik (Kyle Mac), did a class project on the road and how its stories are just stories. But, after being plagued by horrific nightmares that center on Buckout Road, they fear they’ve been cursed by whatever haunts their town. They must all band together to figure out if they can defeat whatever forces lurk on Buckout Road.

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TIFF ‘19: ‘Pelican Blood’ Is A Disturbing Examination of What a Mother Will Do For Her Child

What would you do for your newly-adopted daughter? Give her the best education possible? Address her behavioral problems head-on? Take lactation medication to breastfeed her so she feels closer to you? Yes, all this happens and more in Katrin Gebbe’s film, Pelican Blood, a disturbing look at the depths a mother will go to prove her love for her (adopted) child.

Wiebke (Nina Hoss) is a horse trainer who, in the film, is focused on getting horses ready to be a part of the police force. She and her daughter Nicolina (Adelia-Constance Giovanni Ocleppo) live a peaceful and idyllic life surrounded by animals. But the family dynamic shifts when Wiebke decides to adopt another daughter, a five-year-old girl from Bulgaria named Raya (Katerina Lipovska). While everything seems great at first, Raya slowly reveals her violent and aggressive side, symptoms of an attachment disorder that makes her dangerous. She tries to set the house on fire, threatens to kill Wiebke and Nicolina, and bullies all of her classmates relentlessly. Wiebke must figure out a solution to keep her other daughter and herself safe.

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TIFF ‘19: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘The Truth’ is Well-Acted But Emotionally Light

In 2018, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda devastated audiences with his film, Shoplifters, a story about found family and the bonds that hold them together. Kore-eda, in general, is known for his emotional films that feel like punches to the gut. His latest film, however, delivers less emotional impact. The Truth is his first English language film and while it is well-acted, it is less accessible than his previous work.

Famous actress Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) has just realized her memoirs detailing her life as a performer and a mother. Her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) arrives in France from the U.S. with her husband Hank (Ethan Hawke) and daughter Charlotte (Clémentine Grenier) to celebrate the book’s release and finally get a chance to read it. Upon opening the book, Lumir finds it riddled with lies and half-truths. They bicker and argue about it over a period of weeks while Fabienne shoots her latest film, a sci-fi feature starring a budding young actress.

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TIFF ‘19: Teen Romance Meets Climate Change in ‘Weathering With You’

In the follow-up to his wildly successful animated film, Your Name, Makoto Shinkai has written another whimsical teen romance in Weathering With You. It is about a boy and a girl who meet in a rain-filled Tokyo, where the weather has become wildly unpredictable. While his message about climate change is questionable at best, Shinkai still crafts a beautiful story about young love, found family, and struggling to discover who you truly are.

Hodaka Morishima is a 16-year-old high school student who has run away from home in pursuit of a better, less stifled life in Tokyo. However, he soon discovers that life in the big city isn’t so easy. As he goes days without eating, he tirelessly applies for jobs. He finally gets one as an office assistant as a local publishing company, run by a man and his one reporter. Hodaka copy edits, answers emails, cooks meals, everything one could possibly fathom. Then, he starts helping with a story about sunshine girls, or girls who are blessed with the ability to stop the rain.

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TIFF ’19: ‘Murmur’ Is A Search For Love In The Form Of Senior Rescue Dogs

With a long puff on an e-cigarette, we meet Donna, a woman with a love of red wine and not much else. But beneath the cloud of vapor and bottles of alcohol lies a deeply sad person who is searching for some larger purpose. Shot like a documentary with a careful and thoughtful gaze, Heather Young’s directorial debut Murmur is a gorgeous, yet heart-breaking, film about addiction, loneliness, and trying to feel loved. 

Donna (Shan MacDonald) is a recovering alcoholic who was recently convicted of driving while drunk. She is ordered to complete community service, which she does at a local animal shelter. There, she finds joy in motherless kittens and sad senior dogs. As she scrubs their cages and files down their toys’ sharp edges, she is able to feel useful; she can finally take care of something and feel loved in return. She particularly connects with a sick dog named Charlie who has a slew of medical conditions including a heart murmur. Donna believes she can give him the best life possible in his remaining months. But, once she gets a taste of being a caretaker, it spirals into another addiction that bleeds into her need for alcohol. She brings home cats, dogs, hamsters, and fish until her home is covered in pets. 

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TIFF ‘19: ‘Sea Fever’ Director Neasa Hardiman and Actor Hermione Corfield Talk Eco Thrillers, Red Heads, and the Use of Body Horror

Sea Fever is a parasitic environmental horror about what waits for us beneath the waves. It follows a PhD candidate Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) who would rather study specimens in a lab rather than interact with people. However, she is sent out on a fishing boat for field research, only to come upon a massive unknown creature. She must help the crew understand the beast and figure out a way to escape its grasp.

Neasa Hardiman, who wrote and directed the film, is known for her work on dramas such as Happy Valley and Jessica Jones. So why did she decide to pivot to the terrifying seas? I was able to speak with her and Corfield during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival to learn more about Sea Fever and what it was like to research and film on a fishing vessel.

Note: interview has been edited for clarity

Mary Beth McAndrews: I absolutely loved Sea Fever, it is a film very much up my alley. My first question for you, Neasa, is why did you want to do the ocean?

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