Review: ‘Smiley Face Killers,’ starring Ronen Rubinstein, Crispin Glover and Mia Serafino

March 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ronen Rubenstein and Mia Serafino in “Smiley Face Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Smiley Face Killers”

Directed by Tim Hunter 

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed California city, the horror flick “Smiley Face” killers features an all-white cast of characters, most of whom portray middle-class college students, and a few portraying vicious serial killers.

Culture Clash: A young man who’s a soccer player at his university is being stalked by serial killers in a van.

Culture Audience: “Smiley Face Killers” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching bottom-of-the-barrel horror films that are boring and use a misleading gimmick to get people’s attention.

Crispin Glover in “Smiley Face Killers” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

The first thing that people should know about the horrendously dumb “Smiley Face Killers” is that this movie actually has nothing to do with the real-life Smiley Face Killers theory. It’s a theory that’s mentioned in the movie’s prologue: Since 1997, more than 150 young men across U.S. college campuses have drowned under suspicious circumstances. Because symbols of smiley faces were spray-painted at the scenes where many of the bodies were found, numerous people have come to believe that these deaths were caused by a serial killer or serial killers who use the smiley face as their signature.

One of the worst things about “Smiley Face Killers” (and there are many terrible things about this movie) is that it’s just a substandard slasher flick that has nothing to do with mysterious drownings. The people who are killed in the movie are stabbed and/or bludgeoned to death in ways that have been seen before in hundreds of other horror movies. Therefore, the “Smiley Face Killers” filmmakers (including director Tim Hunter and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis) not only deliberately made this time-wasting film very misleading but they also failed to deliver anything original or suspenseful in the movie.

The movie begins with a gratuitously violent scene of a goat, pig and dog being murdered by an unknown person whom viewers can assume is the story’s main killer. The next scene takes place in Santa Cruz, California, on September 23, 2016. A young man walks to his car in an empty parking lot at night. A white van drives up next to him, he’s kidnapped, and then his dead body is shown discarded outside on some rocks near the California coast.

The next scene takes place in Santa Clarita California, on March 14, 2017. It’s night and a young man is on a sidewalk and talking on his phone to a female friend as he walks several feet behind some of of his pals. They all look like they’re headed to a party or some other place to hang out together. And then, the same mysterious white van appears, pulls up next to the guy on the phone, and you know the rest.

Next, viewers are introduced to the movie’s protagonist Jake Graham (played by Ronen Rubenstein), an undergraduate student in his junior year at the fictional California University in an unnamed city. (Woodbury University in Burbank, California, was used for the movie’s campus scenes.) Jake is first seen doing laps in the school’s swimming pool. Does this mean that his swimming skills will come in handy at some point in the story? No.

Jake’s main sport at the school is actually soccer. Jake and his teammate/best friend Adam (played by Garrett Coffey) are two of the better players on the university’s soccer team They also like to party. After Jake finishes his swimming exercises, Jake and Adam are seen in an outdoor eating area. Adam asks Jake if he got the “E,” as in Ecstasy.

Jake says yes, but the drug dealer was “quite the weirdo,” and Jake is having second thoughts about doing Ecstasy. He tells Adam: “I don’t know how smart it is taking E on a Friday night when the next morning we have soccer practice.” Jake says he doesn’t even feel like going to the party that he and Adam planned to attend that night. Adam replies, “Come on, we’re not getting wasted. We’re just doing a little mellow E.”

Of course, Jake changes his mind and goes to the party, because every slasher movie with college-age people has to have the obligatory scene of people partying while a killer is on the loose. And then there are also the expected sex scenes. In “Smiley Face Killers,” the sex isn’t as explicit as it is are in other slasher flicks, because Jake has “performance issues.” Jake goes over to the student house where his girlfriend Keren (played by Mia Serafino) lives, they go to her room to have sex, but things don’t happen the way they want.

And because of Jake’s “performance issues,” it’s here that viewers find out that he’s on the antidepressant Nardil. Jake’s mental illness is never fully explained in the movie, such when he was diagnosed, if he has other psychiatric issues besides depression, and how it all affects his life. In the end, it doesn’t make a difference in this idiotic film, because the killer on the loose isn’t asking for people’s medical histories.

“Smiley Face Killers” wastes a lot of time with a dull storyline about problems in Jake and Keren’s relationship. Keren is upset because Jake has told her that he’s stopped taking his medication, and then he reluctantly tells her he’ll start taking his meds again. Jake is upset because he’s found out that Keren still keeps in friendly contact with her most recent ex-boyfriend Rob (played by Cody Simpson), who might want to get back together with Keren. Viewers will be upset the more time they spend watching this movie because most of it is a monotonous slog.

Throughout the movie, viewers see that the mysterious white van has been driving around campus near places where Jake is, but Jake is oblivious until one night the van starts following him while he’s on his bicycle. He’s able to lose the van, but this dimwit isn’t on alert and doesn’t do anything to protect himself. You already know that there will be another time when he’s going to see that white van again. And when he does, his reaction is one of the worst things about this annoyingly bad movie.

Jake gets other clues that he’s being stalked. He starts getting random text messages that say variations of “The water is calling you.” He immediately assumes that it’s a prank that Rob is playing on him. Rob vehemently denies it when Jake accuses him. That leads to Rob and Jake having a predictable argument.

Jake starts to wonder if someone really is out to get him. Keren thinks that Jake’s mental health is deteriorating because he might or might not be telling the truth about taking his medication. While all of this is going on, Adam still expects Jake to party as if they don’t have a care in the world.

Jake shares a house with a 30-year-old grad student named Devon Holmes (played by Daniel Colvin). One day, Jake comes home and finds a strange map in his bedroom. The map has smiley faces drawn up and down the coast of California. Jake assumes the map belongs to Devon, and he’s slightly annoyed that his housemate would leave this map in his room. And not long after that, the murder spree happens on and near the college campus.

It’s not a spoiler (since it’s in the movie’s title) to say that there’s more than one killer involved. It’s obvious from the first 10 minutes that the killers are the same people who are in that white van. Crispin Glover portrays the mute and unnamed leader of this murderous team. This creepy killer is the one who’s most likely to step out of the van and slaughter someone. The only spoilers for this type of mindless movie is to reveal who dies and who doesn’t.

“Smiley Face Killers” is one of those horror flicks filled with people who are good-looking in a way that’s unrealistic of what most real California college students would look like. It’s the type of movie where there’s no diversity, and all the college students with speaking roles look like physically attractive actors instead of real college students. And the people in these student roles seem to have been chosen more for their looks than their acting skills, because the acting in the movie is unbelievably bad.

It’s also one of those movies that embodies everything that people ridicule in repellently awful horror flicks. Everything is extremely predictable, the violence is mind-numbing, and the people who are being chased in the movie make very dumb decisions. “Smiley Face Killers” is an example of a reprehensible movie that tries to cash in on real-life tragedies. But even in this ripoff movie, the filmmakers couldn’t even get the details right of what happened in the real deaths that are believed to be part of the Smiley Face Killers theory. The only mystery about the film is why the producers wasted their money to get this worthless junk made.

Lionsgate released “Smiley Face Killers” on digital and VOD on December 4, 2020. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 8, 2020.

Review: ‘Paranormal Prison,’ starring Todd Haberkorn, Paris Warner, Don Shanks, Corynn Treadwell, Easton Lay and Brian Telestai

February 20, 2021

by Carla Hay

Todd Haberkorn in “Paranormal Prison” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Paranormal Prison”

Directed by Brian Jagger

Culture Representation: Taking place in Boise, Idaho, the horror flick “Paranormal Prison” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and one Native American) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A group of YouTube paranormal investigators, who are led by a cynical skeptic, visit an abandoned prison that is supposedly haunted.

Culture Audience: “Paranormal Prison” will appeal primarily to people who will watch any horror movie, no matter how terrible or boring it is.

Corynn Treadwell and Paris Warner in “Paranormal Prison” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Horror movies have a reputation for being extremely derivative because so many of them recycle the same ideas that dozens of other horror flicks have already done. Slasher flicks have a maniac on the loose. Ghost stories have a group of people trapped somewhere with a spirit that’s supposed to be terrifying. And so, with originality not usually being a characteristic of a lot of horror movies, these movies should at least have some level of suspense and plenty of scares. Unfortunately, “Paranormal Prison” (directed by Brian Jagger) fails on every level of what makes a good horror movie.

“Paranormal Prison” looks like a student film that was made without any experienced filmmakers giving much-needed suggestions on all the improvements that should have been made to this embarrassing dud. This 70-minute movie is a terrible bore that, at best, should have been a short film instead. If you want to watch a feature-length movie where almost everything except for the last 15 minutes consists of people monotonously walking and talking in what’s supposed to be an abandoned prison, then go ahead and waste your time watching “Paranormal Prison.”

“Paranormal Prison” borrows heavily from the “Paranormal Activity” concept, including repeatedly using screens that show icons for recording activity and battery life, to replicate video recordings from the camera-operating perspective. The very thin plot of “Paranormal Prison” is that four paranormal investigators go to an unnamed abandoned prison in Boise, Idaho, to find out if the stories are true about the prison being haunted. The investigators are all in their 20s, except for their leader, who’s in his 30s. They are the staffers for a YouTube channel called The Skeptic & The Scientist, whose purpose is to debunk paranormal activity stories.

The four people on this excursion are:

  • Matthew (played by Todd Haberkorn), also known as The Skeptic, who’s the group’s cocky and obnoxious leader. Matthew is financing the YouTube channel with his trust fund money. He constantly likes to tell the other people on the team that they have to do what he says because he’s paying for everything.
  • Sara (played by Paris Warner), also known as The Scientist, is a self-described “tech geek.” She has invented a paranormal detection device that she will test for the first time in the abandoned prison.
  • Ashley (played by Coryn Treadwell), the channel’s sound technician, is a military veteran who joined the paranormal group after experiencing a personal tragedy that she talks about in the movie.
  • Jacob (played by Brian Telestai), the channel’s camera operator, is romantically involved with Ashley, even though his boss Matthew has a romantic interest in her too.

Matthew and Sara are the co-hosts of The Skeptic & The Scientist. Matthew doesn’t believe in ghosts, while Sara is open to the idea of ghosts existing if there is scientific proof. Even though Matthew and Sara co-host the channel, he never lets her or anyone else forget that he’s in charge. Because Matthew doesn’t believe that spirits exist, he doubts the effectiveness of Sara’s invention, which she calls a syncotron kinetic energy testing computer.

The abandoned prison that these paranormal investigators will be visiting was shut down in 1973, after its last big prison riot. The prison had a section for men and a section for women. According to a montage of local citizens being interviewed in grainy video footage, there was a government cover-up of a 1939 riot at the prison, where three prison guards were killed during this riot. Ever since the prison was permanently closed, it’s become known as a haunted site, and tours are given to the public.

The prison is said to be haunted by serial killer Mary Beth Flake, a local heiress from the early 1900s who was convicted of murdering several people (including her husband) because they were opposed to her suffragette activities for women’s right to vote. The abandoned prison also has an eerie reputation because people who make any recordings inside the prison find out after they leave the prison that their recordings are blank. The prison is about to be torn down and condominiums built in its place.

The Skeptic & The Scientist team members are the last people who’ve gotten a permit to film inside the prison before the building will be demolished. The four paranormal investigators go to the prison and are greeted by an assigned park ranger whose last name is Shtog (played by Easton Lay), and he gives them a guided tour of the run-down facilities. This begins the long-winded majority of this tedious movie, where it’s nothing but all five of them going from room to room while filming and talking. They’re supposed to be the only people in the prison . But are they really? The crew sets up some surveillance equipment, and not much happens for most of the story.

During this tour, Shtog tells them more details about Mary Beth Flake, whose photo is shown several times in the movie, as if it’s supposed to be scary. The local folklore about Mary Beth Flake (played by Amanda Fitch, because you already know that this movie will show her as a ghost) is that she is always associated with four roses. There’s a bushel of four roses growing year-round outside the prison that are supposedly kept alive because of the spirit of Mary Beth Flake. And the local legend is that if any of the four roses start to go away, that means trouble is coming.

Over the years, people who had ghost sightings at the prison reported smelling roses before they saw the ghost. The four roses are there when the team arrives at the prison. But it should come as no surprise that one of the four roses has gone missing while these visitors are inside the building. Sara is the first to notice the missing rose. She becomes frightened and asks the other people who has the flower. The other people there deny that they took the rose.

During the tour, the investigators see a large male mannequin lying on a bed in a prison cell. Shtog explains that the mannequin is of a real-life prisoner named Black Wolf, a Native American who was incarcerated during the same time as Mary Beth Flake. According to Shtog, she hated Black Wolf because he wasn’t white, and the two became mortal enemies. Predictably, Black Wolf (played by Don Shanks) is more than a mannequin in this movie.

During the long stretch of time when not much happens in the movie, there are some very weak attempts to bring some scares, by showing glimpses of shadows. Matthew mouths off a lot and becomes more and more irritating as the story goes on. Sara’s invention is supposed to work by showing a green light if it detects humans and a blue light if it detects a paranormal entity. But it’s questionable if they really need this invention because these paranormal investigators still get ambushed. And there’s at least one predictable “fake scare” scene in the movie.

“Paranormal Prison” director Jagger wrote the movie’s screenplay with Randall Reese, and it’s their first feature film. This lack of experience shows in the worst ways. “Paranormal Prison” is an example of a badly made movie that’s ruined by unnecessary filler. And certain details that should have been intriguing, such as the story about the four roses associated with Mary Beth Flake, end up being irrelevant to the movie’s conclusion.

The acting performances in this movie range from mediocre to downright awful. The filmmakers deserve some credit for not having sexist horror clichés of making the male characters the smartest ones who always come to the rescue of “weaker” female characters. In “Paranormal Prison,” the female characters are more intelligent than the male characters. But that’s not saying much when all the movie’s characters are stuck with forgettable dialogue, and the acting just isn’t very good at all. And because almost the entire film takes place inside a run-down building, there’s nothing impressive about the movie’s production design.

The last 15 minutes of “Paranormal Prison” are rushed, with scares and chase scenes crammed in, almost as afterthoughts. And a backstory is quickly introduced to explain why the prison is haunted. But these plot developments are too little, too late. “Paranormal Prison” is an apt title because viewers unlucky enough to watch this entire movie will feel like they’re trapped in a jail cell of unnaturally horrible and repetitive boredom.

Gravitas Ventures released “Paranormal Prison” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on February 19, 2021.

Review: ‘The Sinners’ (2021), starring Kaitlyn Bernard, Brenna Coates, Brenna Llewellyn, Aleks Paunovic, Lochlyn Munro, Michael Eklund and Tahmoh Penikett

February 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Brenna Llewellyn, Natalie Malaika, Keilani Elizabeth Rose, Jasmine Randhawa, Kaitlyn Bernard, Brenna Coates and Carly Fawcett in “The Sinners.” (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

“The Sinners” (2021)

Directed by Courtney Paige

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed North American city, the horror flick “The Sinners” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few people of color) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: In a conservative Christian town, seven teenage girls form a cult-like clique where they each represent the seven deadly sins, and then members of the group start getting murdered.

Culture Audience: “The Sinners” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in independent horror films that are suspenseful and make the most out of their low budgets.

A scene from “The Sinners.” Pictured in front row, from left to right: Carly Fawcett, Kaitlyn Bernard and Natalie Malaika. Pictured in second row, from left to right: Jasmine Randhawa, Keilani Elizabeth Rose, Brenna Coates and Brenna Llewellyn. (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

Before anyone dismisses “The Sinners” as just another horror movie where a bunch of teenagers get murdered, consider that it skillfully takes on religious bigotry and sexual oppression while balancing it with an intriguing mystery, gruesome horror and even some touches of comedy. It’s not an easy balancing act, but “The Sinners” mostly succeeds in being a memorable independent horror film in a sea of mindless slasher flicks.

“The Sinners” is the feature-film directorial debut of Courtney Paige, who wrote the screenplay with Erin Hazlehurst and Madison Smith. Paige is also an actress, which might explain why the casting is better than most low-budget movies of this type. Some of the acting is amateurish, but the dynamics between the actors look more authentic and natural than a lot of horror movies that could care less about character development or chemistry between the actors.

The story of “The Sinners” centers on a clique of seven girls who are classmates in their last year at a Christian high school in an unnamed city in North America. (The movie was actually filmed in Paige’s Canadian hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia.) These teenagers call themselves The Sins, and they have each assigned themselves to represent one of the seven deadly sins. They are:

  • Grace Carver (played by Kaitlyn Bernard), the group’s assertive blonde leader, represents the sin of lust. It’s ironic because Grace, who is the child of a strict pastor, is a virgin, but she has a secret love that’s considered taboo in her religion.
  • Tori Davidson (played by Brenna Coates), who sometimes dresses as an emo or Goth, represents the sin of wrath. She’s the tough-talking rebel of the group, and she’s in a secretive romance with Grace.
  • Katie Hamilton (played by Keilani Elizabeth Rose), who is very spoiled and materialistic, represents the sin of greed. She likes to make others feel inferior by bragging about what her wealth can buy her.
  • Molly McIvor (played by Carli Fawcett), a compulsive eater, represents the sin of gluttony. She is very self-conscious about her looks because she’s not as thin as the other girls in the group.
  • Robyn Pearce (played by Natalie Malaika), a passive follower, represents the sin of sloth. She wants to go to a good college but is too lazy to study, so she cheats instead.
  • Stacey Rodgers (played by Jasmine Randhawa), who often compares herself to other people, represents the sin of envy. Her loyalty depends on what she can get out of it.
  • Aubrey Miller (played by Brenna Llewellyn), a quiet redhead who becomes a target for the others’ bullying, represents the sin of pride. The other members of the Sins turn on Aubrey when Grace decides that Aubrey is a snitch.

Aubrey is the narrator of the movie, which opens with a scene of Aubrey being kidnapped but the other Sins, who are wearing masks. This kidnapping ends up being the catalyst for much of the the horror that happens in the last third of the film, when certain members of the Sins are murdered, one by one. This isn’t a slasher film where the murderer is revealed from the beginning. There are several people who could be suspects.

Out of all the members of the Sins, Grace is the one whose home life is shown the most. She lives with her parents and three siblings in a very oppressive and religious home ruled over by her father Pastor Dean Carver (played by Tahmoh Penikett), who demands that everything has to be done his way. Grace’s mother Brenda Carver (played by Loretta Walsh) is passive, but she has compassion and often acts as a peacemaker when Dean and Grace get into arguments.

Grace’s older sister Hannah (played by Karis Cameron) sometimes shares Grace’s tendency to be sarcastic and rebellious. By contrast, their younger teenage brother Luke Carver (played by Maxwell Haynes) wants to be the family’s “goody-two-shoes” child and is ready to tattle on Grace and Hannah to their father if he sees them doing anything wrong. The youngest child in the family is a baby boy, who’s briefly seen in the movie and whose name is not mentioned.

At the beginning of the movie, Grace has broken up with a fellow student named Kit Anderson (played by Dylan Playfair), who is still pining for Grace because he keeps calling her and trying to get back together with her. Some of the students, including the other members of the Sins, are aware that Grace and Tori are more than friends. However, Kit is in denial that Grace could be a member of the LGBTQ community and ignores the rumors that are swirling about Grace’s sexuality.

Grace and Tori have to keep their romance a secret, because they go to a religious high school (where all the students wear uniforms and have classes where they study the Bible) and they live in a very conservative Christian community. Tori and Grace canoodle in bathroom stalls at school, and their study sessions in Grace’s bedroom have some snuggling and kissing. Grace’s pastor father doesn’t really approve of Tori, who’s the type of student who will get sent to the principal’s office for blurting out impatiently in class: “Jesus, are you done?”

Grace’s father also doesn’t really approve of Grace’s part-time after-school job working at a flower stand called Andy’s Flower Stream. The business, which operates out of an Airstream trailer, is owned by a bohemian type named Andy Lund (played by James Neate), who’s a laid-back and friendly boss. Andy lives in the trailer with his hippie-ish girlfriend Summer Dobson (played by Jen Araki), who encourages Grace to walk in bare feet and feel “love and light.”

In a voiceover, Aubrey says about Summer, who used to be Aubrey’s babysitter: “I always had a creepy feeling about her. You know the people who always claim ‘light and love and positive.’ Well, they’re usually the most broken.” But the person Aubrey dislikes the most is Tori, because she thinks Tori is a hateful bully.

The top law enforcement official in town is Sherriff Fred Middleton (played by Aleks Paunovic), who provides some of the movie’s comic relief because he tries to be imposing but he’s really kind of a goofball. He’s first seen in the movie when he shows up in the empty classroom where his wife Maggie Middleton (played by Elysia Rotaru) is a teacher at the high school. (Maggie is also Andy’s sister.)

Maggie walks in the classroom and tells Fred, as she unbuttons her blouse, that they have nine minutes before the students arrive for the next class. Fred and Maggie, who’ve been trying to start a family, end up having quickie sex in the classroom. It’s played for laughs because Aubrey, who sees Fred leave the classroom and guesses what he had been doing there, asks him what he has on his collar. He quickly looks to see if a stain is there (there isn’t) and figures out that Aubrey was just trying to embarrass him when she tells him that she tried to go into the classroom but the door was locked.

Aubrey keeps a journal of her innermost thoughts. And all hell breaks loose when Tori and Kathy steal Aubrey’s journal. Certain incidents lead the other Sins to believe that Aubrey has been snitching on them. And when they find out what Aubrey has to say about them in the journal, their suspicions seem to be confirmed.

First, they lure Aubrey into a “study group” session which turns out to be an excuse to harass and haze her. Then, they kidnap Aubrey and take her to a remote wooded area, where things spiral out of control, but Aubrey manages to escape and goes missing. And then, other members of the Sins start to disappear and are brutally murdered.

Sheriff Middleton and his Deputy Douglas Sanders (played by Taylor St. Pierre) end up clashing with the higher-level government detectives who are sent to investigate the murders. The outside investigators are Detective Zankowski (played Michael Eklund) and Detective O’Ryan (played by Lochlyn Munro), who treat the sheriff and the deputy like incompetent yokels. Middleton and Sanders think that they’re being undermined by arrogant big-city types who don’t know the community. Meanwhile, as these two factions have their power struggle, more of the Sins get killed.

“The Sinners” makes great use of cinematography by Stirling Bancroft to create an atmosphere of foreboding beneath the pristine and orderly exterior of this suburban community. (There’s a recurring image of a rose stuck in the mouth of dead girl that’s particularly striking. It’s probably why the move was originally titled “The Color Rose.”) The movie’s production design and costume design are well-done, given the film’s small budget. And the whodunit aspect of the mystery is not as predictable as viewers might think it is.

There’s only one scene in the movie that seems awkward and out-of-place. It involves Grace having a secret occult meeting with two women and one man who look at least 10 years older than she is. It’s never explained how a sheltered preacher’s kid like Grace came to find these people or how long she’s known them. And the scene ends up being irrelevant, given what happens at the end of the movie.

The actresses who portray the seven Sins are convincing as a pack of “mean girls” who are “frenemies,” with their loyalty to each other always in question. As Tori, Coates stands out with having the most realistic acting and also the most obviously complicated character. On the one hand, Tori is exactly the type of bully that Aubrey despises. On the other hand, Tori has a very tough-but-tender side to her that’s loving with Grace and very protective of her. Their secret romance adds another layer of terror and anxiety in the story, since the unforgiving homophobia in their community makes Grace and Tori afraid to be open about the true nature of their relationship.

“The Sinners” is definitely not a horror classic on the level of director David Fincher’s 1995 film “Seven,” another macabre thriller with the seven deadly sins as its theme. As far as slasher films go, “The Sinners” can be considered slightly better than most. And it’s also a promising feature directorial debut for Paige, who shows she has a knack for telling a gripping horror story in a way that can capture people’s interest from beginning to end.

Brainstorm Media released “The Sinners” on digital and VOD on February 19, 2021.

Review: ‘Saint Maud,’ starring Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle

February 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

Morfydd Clark in “Saint Maud” (Photo courtesy of A24)

“Saint Maud”

Directed by Rose Glass

Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed city in England, the horror film “Saint Maud” features a predominantly white cast (with a few black people and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and upper-middle-class.

Culture Clash: A hospice nurse in her 20s is convinced that she can communicate with God, but her religious beliefs sometimes conflict with other people.

Culture Audience: “Saint Maud” will appeal primarily to viewers who like “slow burn” horror films that leave a lot that’s open to interpretation.

Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle in “Saint Maud” (Photo courtesy of A24)

There’s never any question that something is very wrong with the mental state of the title character in the psychological horror movie “Saint Maud.” The problem is that Maud doesn’t see anything wrong with herself, as long as she’s getting all the guidance she needs from the deity that she thinks is in communication with her. “Saint Maud” (the feature-film debut of writer/director Rose Glass) is a haunting story about the fine line between religious fanaticism and losing touch with reality. Throughout this well-acted film, Maud often blurs those lines, sometimes to devastating effects.

“Saint Maud,” which takes place in an unnamed city in England, never reveals how or why Maud (played by Morfydd Clark) became obsessed with Christianity and the idea that she can communicate with God. The main things that viewers find out about Maud is that she’s a woman in her 20s who works as a hospice nurse, a profession she’s had for about a year. She previously worked in a hospital, where a terrible incident happened that was related to Maud having a mental breakdown. This breakdown isn’t shown in the movie, but it’s discussed by Maud and a former co-worker named Joy (played by Lily Knight), who knows some things about Maud that Maud doesn’t want other people to find out.

Maud lives a solitary life in her sparsely furnished studio apartment, where she spends most of her free time praying, reading the Bible, and engaging in other religious practices. She has a shrine that includes a crucifix of Jesus Christ and illustrations of saints and other holy people. Much of “Saint Maud” is narrated with her voiceovers, where she usually sounds meek and soft-spoken. But all is not tranquil in Maud’s world.

This chaos is clear from the movie’s opening scene, when viewers first see Maud: She looks crazy and almost like she’s in a trance. And she’s crouched on a bathroom floor with blood on her face and hands. The movie eventually shows what led her to get to this horrifying point. Until then, viewers of “Saint Maud” get taken on a ride of her slow descent into pure madness.

Near the beginning of the movie, Maud is shown as the caretaker a wheelchair-bound patient named Amanda Köhl, a former dancer/choreographer, whom Maud describes in a voiceover as “a minor celebrity.” Amanda, who is in her 50s, lives alone and has no children. There are vague references to Amanda’s past as a bon vivant with an active social life. But now, Amanda is struggling to cope with the reality that she’s dying, she can’t dance anymore, and she’s even losing her hair because of the cancer. That doesn’t stop Amanda from being somewhat of a chainsmoker.

Maud explains in a voiceover that she doesn’t care for creative types because they tend to be very self-involved. In that respect, Amanda fits that description. But it’s obvious that Amanda’s moodiness and difficult attitude has a lot to do with the pain and trauma of having stage 4 lymphoma of the spinal cord. Amanda lives in a village by the sea, in the type of Gothic mansion that’s often see in horror movies. Even though Amanda could be isolated, she welcomes having visitors.

And that’s a problem for Maud, who thinks it’s best for Amanda to live the type of quiet and hermit-like life that Maud has when she’s in her own home. Even though Maud hasn’t been taking care of Amanda for very long, Maud shows a very possessive and manipulative side in how she handles her relationship with Amanda. Maud acts inappropriately jealous when Amanda has visitors who show a sexual interest in Amanda.

One of these visitors is named Richard (played by Marcus Hutton), who dotes on Amanda and around the same age as she is. Richard used to be one of Amanda’s suitors. It’s clear that Richard still has feelings for Amanda, but there’s no romance between them. In fact, Amanda is somewhat rude to him and at one point tells Richard: “Don’t be an idiot.” When he leaves, Amanda tells Maud that Richard is a “pompous asshole,” and Amanda makes a snide comment about Richard’s hair plugs.

The other visitor is more problematic for Maud because Amanda is very fond of this person. Her name is Carol (played by Lily Frazer), who’s about 25 years younger than Amanda. When Carol comes over to visit, and she and Amanda are heard laughing in Amanda’s bedroom, Maud spies on them and sees that Amanda and Carol are lovers. It isn’t long before Maud comes up with a scheme to try to get Carol out of Amanda’s life.

Maud isn’t as uptight as she first appears to be, because there’s a scene in a bar where a very different Maud emerges. She’s literally got her hair down, she’s drinking beer, and looking for some sexual company. One night at the bar, she meets a man (played by Jonathan Milshaw), they exchange looks, and the next thing you know, she’s giving him a hand job in the bathroom. They don’t even bother to find out each other’s names.

And then on the same night, she goes home with another man (played by Turlough Convery) and has sex with him. What’s the name of the man who’s this one-night stand? Christian. Oh, the irony. During their sexual encounter, Maud starts to hallucinate, she has a little bit of freak-out, and Christian tries to calm her down, just so he can keep having sex with her.

Back in Amanda’s home, Maud projects an image of being very religious and modest, almost like a nun. Amanda even jokes that Maude could be Amanda’s “savior.” Amanda senses that Maud is a born-again Christian or a recent convert. Maud confirms that she’s recently become a devout Christian when Amanda asks her about Maud’s spirituality. And when Maud confides in Amanda that she can feel God’s presence, Amanda says she can feel it too. But is Amanda telling the truth or just playing along as a way to amuse herself?

“Saint Maud” is one of those movies where there’s an unreliable narrator, and what might be seen on screen could be a hallucination. As the story goes on, there are scenes of Maud in literal agony and ecstasy as she gets deeper into her religious obsession. Sometimes she pants heavily and writhes on the floor as if she’s in an orgasmic state. Sometimes she engages in some self-harm that might be too hard to watch for people who get easily squeamish.

Clark gives a memorable performance as the tortured Maud, who tries to appear “normal” on the outside, but is falling apart on the inside. Ehle gives a more straightforward performance as Amanda, who has a cruel streak but who also admits her flaws and tries to make amends when she can. It’s obvious from the beginning of the movie that things are not going to end well, but viewers will be curious to see how bad things get.

“Saint Maud” has its gory moments, but most of the movie’s horror has more to do with losing one’s grip on sanity rather than any violent acts that might be in the movie. Glass shows a lot of promise as a director who can tell an intriguing story. Where the movie falls short is in leaving questions unanswered about Maud’s background to give some context of what led her to this point in her life.

There was that incident in her hospital job, but it’s never explained if she discovered religion on her own or was taught. There’s no mention of Maud having any family, friends or love interests. There’s no sense of what kind of upbringing she had or how long she’s had issues with mental health. A little backstory for Maud would’ve gone a long way with this movie.

However, what will keep people interested is the fascinating range of emotions that Maud shows in her present life. She’s one of those “quiet people” whose rage comes out in flashes, from her face distortions when she’s alone, to how she lashes out when things don’t go her way. The visual effects in the movie are used sparingly, but when they’re in the movie, they make an impact.

Some viewers might be surprised by how long it takes before any real violence happens in “Saint Maud.” That would be missing the point of this horror film. This isn’t a dumb slasher flick with a killer on the loose. Sometimes the most terrifying things can happen in the trappings of a sick mind.

A24 released “Saint Maud” in select U.S. cinemas on January 29, 2021. Epix will premiere the movie on February 12, 2021. “Saint Maud” was released in Europe and Canada in 2020.

Review: ‘The Village in the Woods,’ starring Beth Park, Robert Vernon, Sidney Kean, Richard Hope, Therese Bradley, Timothy Harker and Chloe Bailey

February 10, 2021

by Carla Hay

Beth Park in “The Village in the Woods” (Photo courtesy of 4Digital Media)

“The Village in the Woods”

Directed by Raine McCormack

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of England, the horror flick “The Village in the Woods” features an all-white cast representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A husband and a wife are stranded in the woods and arrive at a hotel, where some very strange things start to happen to them.

Culture Audience: “The Village in the Woods” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching forgettable and badly written low-budget horror films.

Robert Vernon, Richard Hope, Therese Bradley, Timothy Harker and Chloe Bailey in “The Village in the Woods” (Photo courtesy of 4Digital Media)

Getting trapped in the woods has become such a horror cliché that any movie with this concept should deliver something that’s truly unique and entertaining. Unfortunately, “The Village in the Woods” doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the hundreds of other horror flicks that are based on a concept that people are trapped somewhere by evil forces. The movie’s cinematography, production design and music are all very solid, but “The Village in the Woods” can’t overcome its sloppily written screenplay, uneven pacing and some very wooden acting.

“The Village in the Woods” (directed by Raine McCormack, who co-wrote the screenplay with John Hoernschemeyer) begins with a married couple driving through the woods at night, somewhere in England. (The movie never names the city, but “The Village in the Woods” was actually was filmed in several locations: East Sussex, Kent and Somerset.) The woods are dense with trees and fog. And just as you would expect to happen in a horror movie, the couple’s car runs out of gas.

The spouses are named Jason (played by Robert Vernon) and Rebecca (played by Beth Park), who both look like they’re in their 30s. And they’re annoyed by the inconvenience of their car not working. But then again, when you’re in a horror movie and you run out of gas in a sinister-looking forest at night, it’s probably your fault. It can’t be blamed on any evil entities that might be waiting for you. And, of course, in a movie like this, cell phones can’t get a signal. Jason and Rebecca decide to sleep in the car and wait until the morning to get help.

The next morning, Rebecca and Jason walk through the woods until they find a large, shabby-looking Victorian-style hotel called the Harbour Inn, which looks like it’s seen better days. In a foreshadowing to come of their opposite points of view, Jason calls the hotel “brilliant,” while Rebecca calls it a “dump.” They decide to go into the hotel anyway and see if they can get help.

From the get-go, Rebecca is uncomfortable with the surroundings and wants to leave as quickly as possible. She gets even more freaked out when she spots an elderly man lurking nearby, as she and Jason walk toward the hotel. Just as soon as she sees this man, he disappears.

Before Jason and Rebecca even set foot at the front door, they are greeted outside by a middle-aged woman named Maddy (played by Therese Bradley), who immediately recognizes Rebecca and greets her warmly, by exclaiming, “Rebecca, we’ve been expecting you!” Rebecca seems a little caught off guard, as if she doesn’t recognize Maddy, but she pretends that she does.

Maddy immediately notices that Rebecca is wearing a turquoise ring. Maddy asks Rebecca if Kit gave her the ring, and Rebecca says yes. Maddy then adds, “I remember her wearing it.” Meanwhile, viewers are thinking, “Who is Kit? Where is this story going?”

Rebecca mentions the strange man that she saw. Maddy says that Rebecca and Jason shouldn’t pay attention to him, because he’s just an eccentric widower named Arthur (played by Sidney Kean), who lives at the hotel. Maddy explains that Arthur moved there after his wife died, “and we’ve been trying to get rid of him ever since.”

Jason tells Maddy that they need some gas for the car, and she willingly obliges by giving them some petrol in a can. However, when Jason puts the gas in the car, it still cannot start. And so, Jason and Rebecca go back to the hotel to figure out what to do next. Rebecca isn’t thrilled about being stuck there, while Jason is more willing to go with the flow and figure things out as they go along.

The movie slowly goes downhill from there. And by slowly, that includes the sluggish pace and the stilted way that many of the actors speak, with awkward pauses. It’s not the worst acting in the world, but better actors would have at least made this movie more engaging to watch. As Rebecca, Park is the actor in the cast who’s the most convincing, but that’s not saying much because the movie isn’t written very well, in terms of plot or dialogue.

One of the biggest flaws of “The Village in the Woods” is how the screenplay introduces plot developments and then leaves them dangling. For starters, Jason and Rebecca don’t even try to find any phones once they’re in the hotel. A hotel that doesn’t have phones is something that would be noticed right away by people who are stranded and their cell phones aren’t working. It’s a big plot hole. The hotel also doesn’t have electricity, which would be a major hassle for Jason and Rebecca, but they don’t even mention these inconveniences.

And in the beginning of the story, Jason and Rebecca appear to have the intent of getting gas for their car and going on their merry way after they leave the hotel. The movie doesn’t mention what their final destination plans are, but it’s made clear that they didn’t intend to stay at the hotel. In fact, the first few scenes of the movie make it seem as if Rebecca and Jason got lost and were not looking for the hotel but “stumbled” upon it by chance.

But then, the story takes an abrupt turn when it’s shown that Rebecca and Jason actually did plan to be at the hotel because they’re con artists who are after some money. They really did run out of gas for their car though. It’s never explained who Rebecca and Jason are supposed to get the money from, but Jason insists that staying at the hotel is the only way they can get the money.

Their con game is never fully detailed except that someone in this couple is impersonating a supposed heir to a fortune. It’s easy to figure out who the imposter is even before it’s revealed that this impersonation is going on, but this con-artist couple doesn’t seem to have any real plan on how to get the inheritance. It’s all just a vague smokescreen so the entire movie can have Jason and Rebecca stuck in this hotel in the woods.

Maddy keeps talking about inviting all of the villagers over to the hotel for a welcome party for Jason and Rebecca. You’d think that when someone says “all of the villagers,” that would be mean a crowd. Wrong. It turns out all of the other villagers consist of just three other people, who all appear to be in their 50s and 60s. This is a low-budget movie, but it’s still a bit of a stretch to have only four people as the entire number of residents of a village.

One of the other villagers is Charles (played by Richard Hope), who seems to be a friendly type. Charles is also Maddy’s lover, as Richard finds out when he overhears Maddy and Charles having sex in a room at the hotel. The village population is rounded out by Vince (played by Timothy Harker) and Anna (played by Chloe Bailey), who also appear to be a couple. All of the villagers have fake smiles and creepy stares so it’s obvious that they’re not as nice as they first appear to be.

“The Village in the Woods” drags on for too long with scenes that show Rebecca becoming increasingly desperate to leave the hotel, while Jason insists on staying. Arthur is a hermit who loiters around the hotel and provides some of the inevitable jump scares when Rebecca turns around and sees that Arthur has been staring at her. Can Arthur be trusted? The movie makes it too easy to figure out early on who the villains are.

There are some flashbacks to a witchy woman named Jenny (played by Katie Alexander Thom) and how she factors into the story. By the time she shows up at the hotel, some secrets have been revealed. And what happens at the movie’s conclusion (which is too rushed) will surprise very few people. The ending seems hastily cobbled together, in contrast to most of the movie that slowly crawls along with not much happening.

Given its low budget, “The Village in the Woods” makes very good use of location, since the atmosphere throughout the film is definitely spooky, as is the cinematography by Jamie Hobbis and Berndt Wiese. Writer/director McCormack, who also wrote the movie’s chilling music, did a competent but not outstanding job with Oral Norrie Ottey on the film editing.

The movie’s visual effects are adequate and not an embarrassment. The filmmakers overdid it on the fog effects though. There’s more fog in this movie than a concert festival with Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark on the bill.

With all of these technical elements working cohesively, it’s unfortunate that “The Village in the Woods” did nothing unique or imaginative with the movie’s forgettable story. There are too many over-used clichés in the plot, and the character development is non-existent. During the course of the movie, viewers learn almost nothing about Jason and Rebecca except that they’re con artists and Rebecca wants to be a mother.

Horror movies should not just be about the scares. Viewers have to be invested enough in the characters to care about what happens to them. And it’s hard to care when the characters are as vague and hollow as they are in “The Village in the Woods.”

4Digital Media released “The Village in the Woods” in the U.S. on digital, VOD and DVD on January 19, 2021. The movie was originally released in the U.K. in 2019.

Review: ‘Cactus Jack,’ starring R. Michael Gull and Samson Kay

February 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

R. Michael Gull in “Cactus Jack” (Photo courtesy of Cactus Jack Film LLC)

“Cactus Jack”

Directed by Chris Thornton and Jay Thornton

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2016 in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “Cactus Jack” features an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An angry white supremacist lets a documentarian into his life and then inflicts terror on the filmmaker.

Culture Audience: “Cactus Jack” will appeal primarily to people who think it’s entertaining to watch a feature-length film with a flimsy plot and non-stop hate speech.

Samson Kay in “Cactus Jack” (Photo courtesy of Cactus Jack Film LLC)

The horror film “Cactus Jack” attempts to have raw social commentary about the evils of racism by making the story’s villain an angry white supremacist. The problem is that the movie—written and directed by brothers Chris Thornton and Jay Thornton—didn’t do enough with this concept to make it worthy of a feature-length film. What should have been a short film is stretched into a movie where about 70% of it is nothing but a white supremacist character spewing hate speech non-stop.

The ranting by the movie’s title character, who’s nicknamed himself Cactus Jack (played by R. Michael Gull), becomes extremely repetitive and boring, and it shows an appalling lack of imagination. This Cactus Jack character is not to be confused with the real-life WWE wrestling star Cactus Jack. It isn’t until the last 20 minutes of this approximately 80-minute “found footage” film that the plot switches to have some horror action. But then, it’s too late to save this monotonous and ultimately pointless movie.

Chris and Jay Thornton made this director statement in the “Cactus Jack” production notes: “Philosophically, ‘Cactus Jack’ is intended as an extremely relevant, thematic zeitgeist treatise and meditation on media and manipulation and on the violence we are capable of once hate hijacks the human mind. It’s an exploration of generational hate, the hubris of the spectator, and, ultimately, an explosive exposé on the institutional hate, racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and propaganda endemic in the United States of America.”

That all sounds very lofty-minded, but the actual results in “Cactus Jack” are that the movie is less concerned with giving thought-provoking insights into bigotry and more concerned with constantly regurgitating the unhinged ramblings of someone who’s a bigoted idiot. “Cactus Jack” is not the noble film it pretends to be. Just like mindless slasher flicks that glorify violence with as many murders as possible, “Cactus Jack” is really just a showcase to glorify how much disgusting hate speech can be crammed into this movie.

If there’s a small percentage of people who watch “Cactus Jack” and think this movie is entertaining or enjoyable, they are most likely the type of people who are not automatically hated by white supremacists. People are more likely to give the repulsive hate speech in this movie a “pass” as entertaining if this hate speech isn’t something that a white supremacist would say about them. However, in the context of this movie, the hate speech doesn’t further the plot. It’s just a time-wasting gimmick.

The real name of the racist character in the movie is never revealed, but he calls himself Cactus Jack later in the story, when his hate-filled rants go viral and he gets some Internet fame. It’s unknown if this racist character or this movie’s filmmakers were aware that Cactus Jack is also the name of the record label owned by African American rapper Travis Scott. Oh, the irony.

The movie’s very simplistic plot is that Cactus Jack is a middle-aged white supremacist loser, who’s unemployed and lives with his widowed mother in an unnamed U.S. city. And he deliberately hasn’t left the house’s basement for the last six months. “Cactus Jack” was actually filmed in Milwaukee. Not that it makes a difference, because almost the entire movie takes place in the basement.

The movie takes place in 2016, before and after the U.S. presidential election. Cactus Jack, who believes in starting a race war, makes it clear that he’s a Donald Trump supporter. At the beginning of the movie, Cactus Jack is being interviewed by an amateur filmmaker named Chris Sandberg (played by Samson Kay), who wants to make a documentary about Cactus Jack.

Chris isn’t seen on camera very often for the first two-thirds of the movie, but he can be heard talking when he isn’t on camera. Chris found out about Cactus Jack because their mothers go to the same church. Chris’ parents are divorced and he doesn’t seem to have much contact with his father. This wannabe filmmaker is intrigued by the idea of someone who has refused to leave a house basement for months. Chris wants to know how Cactus Jack is able to live this way.

Because so much of the movie is about Cactus Jack’s non-stop ranting, Chris can barely get in any words while he’s interviewing Cactus Jack for the movie. Chris’ first meeting with Cactus Jack is Chris’ way of finding out if this demented racist is really as bad as he heard about from his mother. And to Chris’ fascination and horror, Cactus Jack is even worse than he imagined.

How does Cactus Jack make money? He says he gets money through cryptocurrency, and he hints that he’s involved in illegal activities. How does he eat? He has the basement stockpiled with enough non-perishable food, like an extreme survivalist. The basement has a kitchen, a bathroom and a bed. Cactus Jack says he’s never had to leave the basement for the past six months, but that’s questionable, since he’s not exactly an upstanding, trustworthy person.

Cactus Jack despises anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual Christian male. His putrid and repetitive monologues are basically different ways of expressing the same hateful things. And he says this is the reason why he wants to live like a hermit: “Why would I want to live out there? I’ve got everything I need right here. I’m my own man. I know how to exist and thrive without aid.”

Anyone can see that he’s shut himself off from other people because he probably can’t handle being in the real world. Because in the real world, there are people of all races, genders and religions who are better off and happier than bigots who let their lives be poisoned and consumed by hate. It’s a reality that he obviously doesn’t want to accept.

After an intense session with Cactus Jack, Chris films himself as he’s parked his car, and he’s practically giddy over all the controversial content that he’s filmed for the documentary. Chris literally pants about Cactus Jack: “He’s serious. He’s mining the real, raw shit … There’s something there that we need to learn. We need to all hear from him. There’s some disconnect there. If we can just find it, now’s the time to get in there.”

And the salivating continues, as Chris says: “This guy is pure hate. It’s like the drug of hate, and if we can figure out how he’s getting high off of it, maybe we can start pulling that shit out … It’s like a science project.” Chris will soon come to regret trusting Cactus Jack.

The misogyny of Cactus Jack is most evident in how much he despises his mother, who is never seen on camera because she remains upstairs. (She can’t stand him either.) His racist rants are occasionally interrupted when he and his mother yell at each other. Based on what Cactus Jack says, his mother (voiced by Linda Cieslik) is a retired teacher, and she has physical ailments that often leave her bedridden.

And he has a lot of resentment toward his mother because he thinks his dead father should have left the house to him, not to her. Cactus Jack tells Chris that he owns the house and lets his mother live there. But it’s obvious that Cactus Jack is lying, because if he really owned the house, he wouldn’t be living in the basement. Cactus Jack also hates his mother so much that he probably would’ve kicked her out of the house if he really owned it.

The mother doesn’t hold back on how much she detests her son. In one of their vicious verbal arguments, she calls him a “fucking loser,” a “pathetic lowlife” and a “disgusting coward.” She then screams, “I hated you since the moment you were born! I wish you were stillborn!”

Little by little, Chris finds out more about Cactus Jack’s family background. Cactus Jack’s father was a heavy drinker, whom this bitter son describes as “weak” because “he always liked to take the easy way out … My old man ran from everything.” It should come as no surprise when it’s revealed how Cactus Jack’s father died.

Eventually, Cactus Jack shows Chris a trunk filled with a secret stash that was owned by Cactus Jack’s father, who (not surprisingly) was a hardcore racist too. In the trunk are an Abraham Lincoln mask, Nazi memorabilia and weapons. And because this is a horror movie, of course what’s in the trunk will be used by Cactus Jack.

Chris films Cactus Jack calling talk radio stations to spread his racist rhetoric. Cactus Jack uses aliases when he does these on-air rants. It’s just another way that the movie drags out the hate speech without much purpose but to fill up time. During their first few meetings, Chris didn’t tell Cactus Jack his last name. But when Cactus Jack asks what Chris’ last name is, and Chris hesitantly says his last name is Sandberg, that’s when Cactus Jack starts to wonder if Chris is Jewish.

Chris is occasionally nervous around Cactus Jack, but Chris is essentially an enabler who seems more concerned about exploiting Cactus Jack’s hate for the documentary rather than stopping the hate. It’s what this entire movie does too, because it reeks of exploitation to cash in on controversy from extreme racism. Even though Cactus Jack keeps telling Chris that he’s planning to commit violent acts and Chris knows about Cactus Jack’s stockpile of weapons, Chris doesn’t seem concerned about warning law enforcement about Cactus Jack’s plans because he wants to keep filming Cactus Jack for the documentary.

It isn’t until Chris’ life is in danger that he finally sees how destructive Cactus Jack can be. Whatever Chris does after that is really just for his own self-preservation, not because he cares about fighting bigotry and preventing violent racism. It’s why this movie has no real heroes, which is probably what the filmmakers intended while trying to pretend this movie is a “thematic zeitgeist treatise.”

Cactus Jack ends up imprisoning and torturing Chris. (This isn’t spoiler information because it’s in the movie’s trailer.) What happens next is easily predictable, because a “found footage” horror movie almost always means that someone is going to end up dead. The last third of the movie tries to rush in some horror suspense, but even that gets almost as repetitive as the racist rants that stink up the movie.

“Cactus Jack” is edited almost like a music video, with a lot of quick cuts, especially during the torture scenes. This editing technique is distracting and annoying for a movie of this subject matter. The cinematography and production design are nothing special. And the acting is mediocre, although Gull is much more convincing in his role as this angry bigot than Kay is in his role as an enabling filmmaker who gets in way over his head.

People who make exploitative and gimmicky movies about racism like “Cactus Jack” often like to say, “Oh, look at this horrible racism. We’re shining a light on how bad racism can be.” But it’s an intent that doesn’t ring true if the people who make these movies don’t practice what they preach and can’t be bothered to have a racially diverse filmmaking team.

Racism comes in different forms. It can be aggressive (like the type that Cactus Jack has) or it can be subtle, like the type of racism that filmmakers have when they make a movie about racism and then they have all sorts of weak excuses for why they don’t work with a diverse group of people. People who enjoy this movie the most have to take a good look at their own lives and see if they’re not that much different from the horrible bigot in this movie, based how diverse (or not) they choose their social circles to be in the real world, not online.

It’s a hypocrisy that needs to be examined, but hypocrites often deny they’re part of the problem, and they’re too busy pointing fingers at the obvious racists. It’s too bad that “Cactus Jack” took a lazy, obvious and ultimately ineffectual approach to the societal poison that is racism. And just like the title character, what this movie has to say just adds up to hateful garbage.

Prickly Pear Productions and Rosa Entertainment released “Cactus Jack” on Vimeo on Demand on January 22, 2021.

Review: ‘His House,’ starring Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù and Wunmi Mosaku

January 28, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù in “His House” (Photo by Aidan Monaghan/Netflix)

“His House”

Directed by Remi Weekes

Some language in Sudanese with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in England and in South Sudan, the horror flick “His House” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white and Latino people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A refugee husband and wife flee from war-torn South Sudan to England but find a different kind of horror in their new home.

Culture Audience: “His House” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in horror movies that are more about dark psychological issues and society oppressions than bloody gore.

Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù and Wunmi Mosaku in “His House” (Photo by Aidan Monaghan/Netflix)

At first, the horror movie “His House” might appear to be a standard horror flick about a haunted house. There’s the surface-level plot that is common in movies with haunted house movies : A married couple moves into a new home, which is plagued by spirits that cause terror. But “His House” (the feature-film debut of writer/director Remi Weekes) delves much deeper than just the protagonists’ usual dilemma about what to do about the ghosts. It’s also a blistering meditation on trauma, both self-inflicted and that which is imposed by society.

In the beginning of “His House,” married couple Bol Majur (played by Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) and Rial Majur (played by Wunmi Mosaku) are shown fleeing their native South Sudan by boat with other war refugees. They land in an unnamed part of England, but are quickly detained by immigration authorities. Bol and Rial are told by a condescending immigration official Mark Essworth (played by Matt Smith) that they will be freed from detention under certain conditions. “This is bail … not citizenship,” Mark tells the couple.

In exchange for their freedom, Bol and Rial are placed in a run-down housing development, where they are assigned a nearly empty house that’s also in a state of disrepair. The U.K. government has also assigned jobs to Bol and Rial, as a condition for the couple not to be deported. Living in the house comes with strict government rules: No guests, no smoking and no candles.

Mark tells Bol and Rial that they should feel lucky because this house is much larger than what the government gives to an undocumented immigrant couple. Rial is immediately suspicious. “Why are we so special?” she asks Mark. He replies, “You must’ve hit the jackpot.”

Bol and Rial try to make the best of the situation by looking at this new chapter in their lives with a positive attitude. Rial comments, “We will be new here.” Bol adds, “Born again.” However, it’s hard to overlook that the one-bedroom house is such a dump. It’s dirty, the wallpaper and paint are peeling, and the house’s electrical connections don’t always seem to work properly.

During the couple’s first night in the house, it becomes immediately apparent that things aren’t quite right there. Bol hears the sound of someone humming and then rustling sounds. And then, a bat flies through a hole in the wall after he sees a vision of Rial on the floor.

The area around the house is desolate and bleak. The neighbors keep to themselves, and so do Bol and Rial. The movie gives a slight feeling of disorientation when Bol visits a barber and asks him if they’re in London. And the barber gives a strange answer: “Why not?”

As time goes on, Bol and then Rial start to see frightening visions of people in the house. Sometimes the people appear to be hiding between the walls, while other times the people appear in the same rooms. During one startling incident, Bol finds behind peeling wallpaper that there’s a long rope attached to seaweed. He then sees a blonde girl doll, which a mysterious hand then quickly grabs and pulls back into the abyss.

Bol and Rial are terrified to tell people what they’re seeing in the house, because they don’t want to risk looking like crazy immigrants. If they report the house as haunted, they could be even more at risk for being deported. And they can’t move from the house, as per government rules that Bol and Ral agreed to, in order to avoid being deported. The best that Bol and Rial can do is report that the house is experiencing electrical problems, with the hope that government officials who come to inspect can possibly find the root of the problem.

As part of their government-sanctioned asylum, Bol and Rial get medical checkups. During Rial’s visit with a doctor, she explains why she has unusual marks on her body: While in South Sudan, she marked herself with the signs of both warring tribes so that she wouldn’t get killed. The idea was to confuse any possible captors about which was her real tribe. Later in the story, it’s revealed that before fleeing to England, Rial watched her entire family in South Sudan get murdered during a brutal massacre.

The rest of “Our House” gradually uncovers more layers to the story, and the details won’t be revealed in this review. However, it’s enough to say that there’s a family curse and a dead daughter that have a lot do with why Bol and Rial might be haunted by the spirits who inhabit the house. And certain characters aren’t necessarily who they first appear to be.

“His House” also has the added depth of being an immigrant story of people who are in a foreign country that they both admire and fear. In movies about haunted houses, the people being plagued by these ghosts are usually there of their own free will and won’t move because they’ve got too much invested financially in staying in the house. “His House” flips that typical narrative by making it a movie about people essentially forced to live in a haunted house, on orders of a government. This immigrant couple was seeking freedom in another country, but the irony is that in this new country, this husband and wife have essentially held captive by a government which is controlling their lives.

The movie is also about how trauma can be its own kind of prison. At various points in the story, viewers are left to wonder what might be “real” and what might be a hallucination. And as the visions get more threatening and oppressive, Bo and Rial have different ways of handling everything. “His House” plays guessing games about who might be more mentally unbalanced: Bo or Rial?

“His House” writer/director Weekes brings a “slow burn” terror to the story that has enough scares to make it a genuine horror movie. The movie does not get bogged down in too much bloody gore, which is the direction that many other movies of this type might go. Even though the house is dilapidated, Weekes brings almost a stylish gloom to the atmosphere when the ghosts appear.

“His House” is also not a typical haunted house movie where, one by one, people get killed in the house, because the Majurs are very much isolated in their new home. Dìrísù and Mosaku turn in admirable performances, especially when more of this couple’s background is revealed. The movie’s acting is effective, but the story’s real impact comes from the lingering feeling that people can move to different places, but they can’t really escape from emotional baggage.

Netflix premiered “His House” on October 30, 2020.

Review: ‘Hunter Hunter,’ starring Camille Sullivan, Devon Sawa, Summer H. Howell and Nick Stahl

January 24, 2021

by Carla Hay

Camille Sullivan in “Hunter Hunter” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

“Hunter Hunter”

Directed by Shawn Linden

Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed rural area of Canada, the horror flick “Hunter Hunter” features a predominantly white cast of characters (and one indigenous person) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A husband, wife and their 12-year-old daughter, who live together in a remote area, have to deal with a suspected killer wolf and encounter some surprises.

Culture Audience: “Hunter Hunter” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in “slow burn” horror films that have unexpected twists.

Devon Sawa and Summer H. Howell in “Hunter Hunter” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

The horror flick “Hunter Hunter” has a relatively small cast, but the movie is big on gradually building suspense, which culminates in a shocking and very gruesome ending. This is not a movie for people who get easily squeamish at the sight of blood. But if you can tolerate blood-drenched scenes in a movie, then “Hunter Hunter” might make you curious enough to see what’s going to happen in the movie’s much-talked-about ending.

Written and directed by Shawn Linden, “Hunter Hunter” starts off as more of a psychological thriller before it turns into a gorefest. And it takes a long time (the first third of the movie) before any real action takes place. It’s a “slow burn” movie that might trick viewers into thinking that it’s going to be a predictable horror flick. It’s not a typical horror film, but the ending of the movie has such an abrupt switch in tone that it’s a climax that will no doubt confuse or anger some viewers.

“Hunter Hunter” takes place in an unnamed remote, wooded area of Canada, where a family of three people live in a modest wood house and get most of their food from hunting or growing food on their land. (The movie was actually filmed in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Alberta.) Joseph “Joe” Mersault (played by Devon Sawa) and his wife Anne (played by Camille Sullivan) live as quiet recluses with their homeschooled 12-year-old daughter Renee (played by Summer H. Howell), who is a very inquisitive and perceptive child. The family has also has a male dog named Tova.

Although the Mersaults live in a very primitive way (they don’t have electricity or phone service), they aren’t completely cut off from the world. They have a truck, which is the main way that they can make money for their fur trappings or get any needed help. Joe and Anne mostly have contact with the nearest general store, where they drive to get supplies and sell fur or other animal products.

This farming season hasn’t been a good one for the family. The harsh winter weather has yielded a smaller number of crops than usual. And money is tight. When Anne goes to the general store, she doesn’t have enough cash to buy what she needs. She offers to do a trade deal with the store’s manager, but it’s still not enough to get all the items that she wants.

To make matters worse, there are signs that there’s a wolf on the loose that’s been eating the rabbits, racoons and other animals that the family depends on for meat. While out hunting, Joe and Renee find a racoon’s paw in a trap, with the paw showing signs that the rest of the body was chewed off.

When Anne is at the general store, she notices a real-estate flyer on the bulletin board. The flyer is advertising a house for sale in the suburban city of Kearney. Anne takes the flyer. Astute viewers will also notice that the bulletin board also has a missing-person flyer for a brunette woman in her 30s named Lynne Petit.

While the family is having dinner, the topic of the nuisance wolf comes up. Anne and Joe suspect it’s the same elusive wolf that they’ve been trying to catch for a while. (The movie never goes into details of how Anne and Joe have been trying to get the wolf.)

Joe says of the wolf: “Something’s bringing it back. Either it’s food or it’s a female. If I could figure out what it’s attracted to, I could bait it.” Anne says, “It’s attracted to us. I already know. We’re a steady food supply.”

Whatever is attracting the wolf, Joe makes it clear that he wants to be the only one to handle trapping the wolf. He insists that it’s too dangerous for Anne and Renee. However, Renee persistently begs to tag along with her father, until he eventually relents later in the story. Joe teaches Renee how to look for signs of wolves and bears, how to lay animal traps, and how to skin animals. He also instructs Renee that if she ever encounters a wild animal that can kill humans, she should not run but instead she should calmly walk away.

Anne shows Joe the real-estate flyer for the house in Kearney and mentions that it might be a good idea to buy the home. Joe thinks it’s a crazy idea, since they can barely afford to feed themselves. Anne is insistent that they at least think about moving to a more modern home in a more populated area.

Sensing that they’re going to have an argument about this topic, Joe asks Renee to temporarily leave the table so he can Anne can have the rest of their conversation in private. It’s a tense discussion that Joe really doesn’t want to have. But in order to avoid a major argument, he tells Renee that he’ll at least think about moving, and they can discuss it later.

In another scene in the movie, it’s revealed that Joe and Anne use to have a modern life somewhere else, and it was entirely Joe’s idea to move in a remote area, where they could live off of the land. Anne is really starting to regret that decision. She also thinks that Renee should be raised in an environment where Renee can be around other children.

Anne says to Joe: “It feels like the world has left us behind. There isn’t another generation left.” Joe replies, “There is if we make one. Nothing pushes us out of our life. Not even you.” Anne says the only reason why she chose the life they’re living now is because she chose Joe.

This marital friction is later put on the backburner when strange things start happening. While looking to trap the wolf in the woods, Joe makes a horrifying discovery, which won’t be described in this review, but it’s something that most people would immediately report to police. Oddly, Joe does not tell anyone what he found. When he goes home, he pretends that everything is normal.

And then, the family dog Tova goes missing. Renee is very upset and fears that the wolf might have killed the dog. Anne suspects the same thing, which is why she won’t let Renee accompany her when looking for the Tova in the woods. When Anne goes to look for the dog, she makes a discovery that she also keeps a secret.

Later, Joe goes in the woods again to look for the wolf. And he doesn’t come back when he was expected. After waiting several hours and there’s still no sign of Joe, Anne goes out in the woods to look for him. She can’t find him.

A worried Anne then goes to the nearest place of authority to get help: the Municipal Conservation Department, which mostly responds to complaints about wild animals on people’s property and takes care of cleaning up any roadkill. The two employees on duty are named Barthes (played by Gabriel Daniels) and Lucy (played by Lauren Cochrane), who are both in their 30s.

Barthes and Lucy have a wisecracking banter with each other. They like to sarcastically tease each other with mild insults. But underneath the joking, it’s clear that these co-workers respect each other in a platonic way. When Anne shows up to report that Joe has been missing, she’s disappointed and frustrated when Barthes tells her that there’s nothing that this department can do because the Marsaults live on federal land, which is out of the department’s jurisdiction.

This is where there’s a noticeable plot hole in “Hunter Hunter,” because most worried spouses would then find out which authorities would handle this missing-person case and file the missing-person report there. But Anne doesn’t do that. She just goes home and continues to look for Joe in the woods. She might have been reluctant to go to other authorities because Barthes questioned if the Marsault family had a right to live on federal land, and Anne had a defensive reaction to that line of questioning.

One night, Anne hears some noises coming from the woods. She thinks it might be Joe calling for help, so she takes a risk and goes outside to find out who or what is causing these noises. Instead of finding Joe, she finds an unknown man with an injured leg. He’s barely conscious.

Anne doesn’t hesitate to help this stranger. She brings him into her house and treats the bleeding gash on his leg while he’s passed out. When he regains consciousness, it’s revealed that his name is Lou (played by Nick Stahl), and he says he’s a photographer who foolishly got lost in the woods. It seems as if his legs got tangled in some thorny bushes. When Anne asks Lou if he saw anyone fitting her husband’s description, he says no.

Anne tells Lou that she can drive him to the nearest hospital because he needs professional medical care. Anne mentions that she has limited medical supplies and she doesn’t want his wound to get infected. However, Lou is very reluctant to go to the hospital. Renee wonders why Anne is going to all this trouble to help a stranger, and Anne tells her that it’s what good people are supposed to do. But will this act of kindness be a mistake?

“Hunter Hunter” keeps people guessing on whether or not there’s a supernatural element to the story. Viewers won’t get a clear answer until the last third of the film, where most of the horror takes place. Linden’s twist-filled writing and direction make “Hunter Hunter” a true mystery where the clues aren’t obvious, but they make sense in hindsight to viewers who are really paying attention.

The cast members all do good jobs with their performances, but Sullivan is the clear standout. It’s not just because she has the most screen time, but it’s mainly because her Anne character goes through a metamorphosis from being a dutiful wife to taking charge of the household once her husband goes missing. Because of something extreme that happens at the end of the movie, some viewers will have trouble reconciling it with the rest of the story. However, it’s clear that “Hunter Hunter” doesn’t want to offer easy answers on issues relating to morality or death.

IFC Films/IFC Midnight released “Hunter Hunter” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 18, 2020.

Review: ‘Bloody Hell,’ starring Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer, Meg Fraser and Ashlee Lollback

January 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ben O’Toole in “Bloody Hell” (Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective)

“Bloody Hell”

Directed by Alister Grierson

Some language in Finnish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Helsinki, Finland, and Boise, Idaho, the darkly comedic horror film “Bloody Hell” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: An American ex-con, who spent eight years in prison for manslaughter, vacations in Helsinki, Finland, where he is kidnapped by a murderous family.

Culture Audience: “Bloody Hell” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in horror movies that have dark humor, but the comedy falls flat in this gruesome and predictable film.

David Hill and Meg Fraser in “Bloody Hell” (Photo courtesy of The Horror Collective)

It’s not easy to mix offbeat humor with horror. And that’s why there are very few horror comedies that can truly be considered classics. “Bloody Hell” tries very hard to be an eccentric-minded horror movie, but the comedy is weak and the horror is just gory but not very scary at all. Directed by Alister Grierson, “Bloody Hell” fares better visually than it does with the movie’s mediocre acting and the movie’s screenplay (written by Robert Benjamin), which has a lot of terrible dialogue and hollow characters.

The central character in “Bloody Hell” is Rex Coen (played by Ben O’Toole), an American in his early 30s who lives in Boise, Idaho. Throughout this 93-minute movie, there is absolutely nothing revealed about Rex’s background before this one pivotal moment in his life: One day, Rex goes into a bank called the Sawtooth County Credit Union, with the intention of flirting with a bank teller named Madeleine “Maddy” Augustine (played by Ashlee Lollback), whom he’s apparently had a crush on for quite some time.

What starts out as a fairly uneventful bank visit descends into mayhem when four masked and armed robbers with shotguns burst into the bank and take everyone hostage. The bank customers are ordered to stay on the ground, while the employees are ordered to get the cash that the robbers want. The four robbers (played by Ryan Tarran, Scott George, Daniel Weaver and Brad McMurray) are each wearing a terrifying mask: a demon, a werewolf, a lizard and a gorilla.

Just by chance, one of the women who’s crouched near Rex happens to have her purse open, and he sees that she has a pistol inside her purse. The expression on Rex’s face tells viewers that if the purse was closer, he would make a move and take the gun and try to be a hero and save everyone. And what do you know: When the robbers order the customers to throw their wallets and purses at them, this woman’s purse flies through the air and happens to land right in Rex’s lap.

He ends up taking the gun and has a shootout with the armed robbers, even though he’s outnumbered and outgunned. Rex corners one of the robbers in a room and shoots him, but a stray bullet accidentally kills a woman named Angela Reynolds (played by Oakley Kwon), who had been hiding in a nearby closet. Rex ends up being convicted of manslaughter for her death.

Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to this bank robbery and Rex’s trial. Giving this information in bits and pieces doesn’t serve the story very well because it still doesn’t reveal much information about Rex. At Rex’s trial, the overzealous prosecutor (played by Charles Allen) shouts when he declares of Rex’s reckless actions during the bank robbery: “This wasn’t self-defense! This was madness!”

Rex is sentenced to eight years in prison. And when he gets out of prison, he’s surprised when he goes into a grocery store to see that his prison release is on the cover of a tabloid magazine. He’s also recognized by strangers every time he goes out in public. People, including paparazzi, want to take his picture. Some people treat him like a folk hero, while other people treat him like a repulsive criminal.

One of the worst things about “Bloody Hell” is that Rex hallucinates having an alter ego, which is supposed to represents his conscience. Therefore, there are many scenes in the movie where he has conversations with an avatar that looks exactly like Rex. The idea itself isn’t bad, but the dialogue is mostly drab and witless.

“Bloody Hell” also repeats an annoying gimmick of Rex having fantasies of things happening, but it’s presented as ‘”real” in the movie until it’s revealed that it was all in Rex’s imagination. For example, in a scene that takes place shortly after Rex gets out of prison, he’s eating at a diner by himself while some paparazzi are inside the diner taking photos of him. In frustration, Rex gets up and overturns the table. But it’s quickly shown that this angry outburst was all in his head.

Rex meets up with a bartender friend named Pete (played by Joshua Brennan), who has held some of Rex’s possessions for safekeeping while Rex was in prison. One of the items that Pete has is Rex’s passport. Having Rex meet up with a friend would be an opportunity for the filmmakers to give more insight into the type of life that Rex had before the bank robbery. But it’s a missed opportunity because it’s a very bland and boring scene that reveals almost nothing about Rex except that he wants his passport.

Rex seems unaware of how divisive his notoriety is with the public, until Pete tells him that it’s because the public doesn’t seem to know the whole story of what happened during the bank robbery. Pete says to Rex, “In some versions of the story, you’re the Dark Knight. In others, you’re the Joker.”

Rex needs his passport because he’s decided to take a getaway vacation to Helsinki, Finland. Why? Because when he was in prison, he had a world map in his prison cell, and when he threw spitballs at the map, the spitballs kept landing on Finland. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

While in the airport waiting area to go to Finland, Rex notices a middle-aged man and woman who are seated together behind Rex and are staring at him. He doesn’t think much of it, because it’s not unusual for people to stare at him or approach him when he’s in public. But suddenly, another man whom Rex has never seen before sits down next to Rex and warns Rex that the man and the woman are out to get Rex.

Rex assumes this is just another crazy person who’s approached him, so he also doesn’t take this warning seriously. But sure enough, when he arrives in Helsinki, his rideshare driver suddenly puts on a gas mask, fills the car with an unidentified gas, making Rex pass out. The poorly written movie never explains how this kidnapping was coordinated so perfectly.

Rex wakes up in a dungeon-like room, with his hands tied above him. And to his horror, he sees that his right leg has been amputated at the knee. And that’s when he finds out that he’s been captured by a sadistic Finnish family whose thrill is hunting humans, killing them, and eating them. The middle-aged man and woman who were staring at Rex at the airport are the family’s unnamed married patriarch (played by Matthew Sunderland) and matriarch (played by Caroline Craig), who oversee these horrendous murders.

This husband and wife have five children. The four oldest children are in their 20s: identical twin sons Gael and Gideon (played by Travis Jeffrey); son Pati (played by Caleb Enoka); and daughter Ali (played by Meg Fraser). The couple’s youngest child Olli (played by David Hill) is about 6 or 7 years old.

The parents and their adult sons are the ones who are the most involved in the killings. Ali refuses to kill anyone, so she’s kept in a cage. She’s only let out of the cage to do household chores and to help take care of Olli. Ali has to read Olli bedtime stories where he’s taught that it’s fun to hunt Americans and kill them.

A flashback in the beginning of the movie shows that Ali tried to run away from home when she was a teenager (played by Jessi Robertson), but the twins and her father caught her in the woods and took her back home. As for Pati, he’s supposedly so fearsome that the family only brings him out when they’re ready to scare their victims the most.

During Rex’s capture, Ali is kept in a cage in the same room. Ali tells Rex: “I like you. My family is insane, but you can’t kill them.” It’s very easy to see where the movie is going to from there, given Rex’s tendency to want to be a hero in an “against all odds” situation.

The problem with “Bloody Hell” is that even if the filmmakers wanted to have a very predictable ending, they could’ve made the movie more interesting to watch along the way, but they didn’t bother to do much to make this movie fully engaging. The conversations in this movie have no real spark or innovation. The personalities of these characters are almost non-existent. Rex is written as someone who’s supposed to be a wise-cracking, adventuresome type, but he comes across as tedious with a dumb sense of humor.

As for the action and horror scenes, they’re not very impressive and are extremely derivative of better-made horror flicks about people who are kidnapped and tortured, such as 2004’s “Saw.” Unfortunately, “Bloody Hell” does not have any real terror or surprises that a movie like “Saw” was able to convey. The visual effects in Bloody Hell” that show the “look-alike characters” (Rex and his alter ego; the same actor playing twins) are adequately done. But the horror in the movie is extremely formulaic and shows no imagination.

“Bloody Hell” has the very overused, unoriginal and outdated horror trope of a “damsel in distress” (Ali), whose only purpose in the movie is to be a pretty girl who’s not very smart and who needs a brave man to rescue her and be her obvious love interest. Today’s horror movie audiences have become bored with these stereotypes, as evidenced by the horror movies that make the most money these days. And if a comedic horror movie is geared toward an adult audience, based on all the bloody violence in it, that movie better have humor that adults can appreciate, not the childish and dull comedy that makes “Bloody Hell” a bloody bore.

The Horror Collective released “Bloody Hell” in select U.S. cinemas and drive-in theaters and on digital and VOD on January 14, 2021. The movie’s release date on Blu-ray and DVD was January 19, 2021.

2021 Critics Choice Super Awards: ‘Lovecraft Country,’ ‘Palm Springs’ are the top nominees

November 19, 2020

Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett and Michael K. Williams in “Lovecraft Country” (Photo by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO)

The following is a press release from The CW:

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) announced today the nominees for the inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards, a special event honoring the most popular, fan-obsessed genres across both television and movies, including Superhero, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror, Action and Animation. The winners will be revealed in a special television presentation, which will be produced remotely following COVID safety protocols, hosted by writer/director/podcaster Kevin Smith and actress/writer Dani Fernandez. The ceremony will air on The CW Network on Sunday, January 10, 2021 (8:00-10:00pm ET/PT) and will stream the next day for free on The CW App and

The Critics Choice Association will also present the Legacy Award to the “Star Trek” franchise, recognizing the cultural impact it has had across multiple decades while continuing to appeal to and grow its loyal fanbase with new stories and characters. “Star Trek” icon Patrick Stewart, and “Star Trek: Discovery” trailblazer Sonequa Martin-Green will personally accept this special honor, which comes as the franchise celebrates its 55th anniversary.

Hulu and NEON’s “Palm Springs” leads this year’s film nominees, with a total of five including Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie, Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie for Andy Samberg, Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie and Best Villain in a Movie for J.K. Simmons, and Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie for Cristin Milioti. Several films followed close behind with four nominations including “Birds of Prey” (Warner Bros.), “Freaky” (Universal), “Onward” (Disney+), “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Paramount), “The Hunt” (Universal), “The Old Guard” (Netflix), and “The Willoughbys” (Netflix).

“Lovecraft Country” (HBO) received the most television nominations, with a total of six possible wins, including Best Horror Series, Best Actor in a Horror Series for Jonathan Majors, Best Actor in a Horror Series for Michael K. Williams, Best Actress in a Horror Series for Wunmi Mosaku, Best Actress in a Horror Series for Jurnee Smollett, and Best Villain in a Series for Abbey Lee. Amazon’s “The Boys” received five nominations including Best Superhero Series, Best Actor in a Superhero Series and Best Villain in a Series for Antony Starr, Best Actor in a Superhero Series for Karl Urban, and Best Actress in a Superhero Series for Aya Cash.

Several performers received recognition for both their film and television work. Hilary Swank was nominated for Best Actress in an Action Movie and Best Villain in a Movie for “The Hunt” (Universal), as well as Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series for “Away” (Netflix), making her the most nominated individual. Maya Rudolph was nominated for Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie for “The Willoughbys” (Netflix) as well as Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series for “Big Mouth” (Netflix). Jurnee Smollett was nominated for Actress in a Superhero Movie for “Birds of Prey” (Warner Bros.) and Best Actress in a Horror Series for “Lovecraft Country” (HBO).

“What a celebration this is going to be!” said Critics Choice Association CEO Joey Berlin. “We are so pleased to be spotlighting the brilliant work of so many artists who bring to life some of the most engaging and beloved movies and television series! We are certain that Kevin and Dani will serve as tremendous hosts, who, as fans themselves, will bring energy and enthusiasm to the stage, as we honor these genres that so often go overlooked and underappreciated.”

The inaugural Critics Choice Super Awards show will be produced by Bob Bain Productions. The CCA is represented by Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig.

Follow the Critics Choice Super Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards.

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA)

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 400 television, radio and online critics and entertainment reporters. It was organized last year with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the blurring of the distinctions between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit:

About The CW

The CW Television Network, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS, launched in 2006. The CW is a multiplatform network that broadcasts a six-night 12-hour primetime lineup, Sunday through Friday and streams its ad-supported content, free, without login or authentication on and The CW app which is available on every major OTT platform. In daytime, The CW broadcasts a Monday through Friday afternoon block, and a three-hour Saturday morning kids block. The CW’s digital network, CW Seed, launched in 2013, and offers beloved limited-run series, as well as past seasons of recent fan-favorite television shows. For more information about the network and its programming, visit


Bad Boys for Life (Sony)
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Extraction (Netflix)
Greyhound (Apple TV+)
The Hunt (Universal)
Mulan (Disney+)
The Outpost (Screen Media)
Tenet (Warner Bros.)

Tom Hanks – Greyhound (Apple TV+)
Chris Hemsworth – Extraction (Netflix)
Caleb Landry Jones – The Outpost (Screen Media)
Delroy Lindo – Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Will Smith – Bad Boys for Life (Sony)
John David Washington – Tenet (Warner Bros)

Betty Gilpin – The Hunt (Universal)
Yifei Liu – Mulan (Disney+)
Blake Lively – The Rhythm Section (Paramount)
Iliza Shlesinger – Spenser Confidential (Netflix)
Hilary Swank – The Hunt (Universal)

Onward (Disney/Pixar)
Over the Moon (Netflix)
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix)
Soul (Disney+)
The Willoughbys (Netflix)
Wolfwalkers (Apple/GKIDS)

Jamie Foxx – Soul (Disney+)
Will Forte – The Willoughbys (Netflix)
Tom Holland – Onward (Disney/Pixar)
John Krasinski – Animal Crackers (Netflix)
Chris Pratt – Onward (Disney/Pixar)
Sam Rockwell – The One and Only Ivan (Disney+)

Tina Fey – Soul (Disney+)
Honor Kneafsey – Wolfwalkers (Apple / GKIDS)
Maya Rudolph – The Willoughbys (Netflix)
Phillipa Soo – Over the Moon (Netflix)
Octavia Spencer – Onward (Disney/Pixar)
Eva Whittaker – Wolfwalkers (Apple / GKIDS)

Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.)
The Old Guard (Netflix)
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (Disney+)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
Superman: Man of Tomorrow (Warner Bros. Animation)

Skylar Astin – Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (Disney+)
Jim Carrey – Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
Chiwetel Ejiofor – The Old Guard (Netflix)
Ewan McGregor – Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.)
Ben Schwartz – Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)

Kiki Layne – The Old Guard (Netflix)
Peyton Elizabeth Lee – Secret Society of Second-Born Royals (Disney+)
Margot Robbie – Birds of Prey (Warner Bros)
Jurnee Smollett – Birds of Prey (Warner Bros)
Charlize Theron – The Old Guard (Netflix)

Freaky (Universal)
The Invisible Man (Universal)
Relic (IFC Films)
The Rental (IFC Films)
Sputnik (IFC Films)

Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù – His House (Netflix)
Pyotr Fyodorov – Sputnik (IFC Films)
Michiel Huisman – The Other Lamb (IFC Films)
Dan Stevens – The Rental (IFC Films)
Vince Vaughn – Freaky (Universal)

Haley Bennett – Swallow (IFC Films)
Angela Bettis – 12 Hour Shift (Magnet Releasing)
Elisabeth Moss – The Invisible Man (Universal)
Kathryn Newton – Freaky (Universal)
Sheila Vand – The Rental (IFC Films)

Love and Monsters (Paramount)
Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon)
Possessor (Neon)
Synchronic (Well Go USA)
The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios)

Christopher Abbott – Possessor (Neon)
Jake Horowitz – The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios)
Anthony Mackie – Synchronic (Well Go USA)
Andy Samberg – Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon)
J.K. Simmons – Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon)

Ally Ioannides – Synchronic (Well Go USA)
Katherine Langford – Spontaneous (Paramount)
Sierra McCormick – The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios)
Cristin Milioti – Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon)
Andrea Riseborough – Possessor (Neon)

Jim Carrey – Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
Kathryn Newton – Freaky (Universal)
Martin Short and Jane Krakowski – The Willoughbys (Netflix)
J.K. Simmons – Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon)
Hilary Swank – The Hunt (Universal)

* Superhero categories also include Comic Book and Video Game Inspired Movies


12 Hour Shift (Magnet Releasing) – 1
Best Actress in a Horror Movie – Angela Bettis

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix) – 1
Best Animated Movie

Animal Crackers (Netflix) – 1
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – John Krasinski

Bad Boys for Life (Sony) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – Will Smith

Birds of Prey (Warner Bros.) – 4
Best Superhero Movie
Best Actor in a Superhero Movie – Ewan McGregor
Best Actress in a Superhero Movie – Margot Robbie
Best Actress in a Superhero Movie – Jurnee Smollett

Da 5 Bloods (Netflix) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – Delroy Lindo

Extraction (Netflix) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – Chris Hemsworth

Freaky (Universal) – 4
Best Horror Movie
Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Vince Vaughn
Best Actress in a Horror Movie – Kathryn Newton
Best Villain in a Movie – Kathryn Newton

Greyhound (Apple TV+) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – Tom Hanks

His House (Netflix) – 1
Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Sope Dìrísù

Love and Monsters (Paramount) – 1
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie

Mulan (Disney+) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actress in an Action Movie – Yifei Liu

Onward (Disney/Pixar) – 4
Best Animated Movie
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – Tom Holland
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – Chris Pratt
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Octavia Spencer

Over the Moon (Netflix) – 2
Best Animated Movie
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Phillipa Soo

Palm Springs (Hulu and Neon) – 5
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Andy Samberg
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – J.K. Simmons
Best Villain in a Movie – J.K. Simmons
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Cristin Milioti

Possessor (Neon) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Christopher Abbott
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Andrea Riseborough

Relic (IFC Films) – 1
Best Horror Movie

Secret Society of Second Born Royals (Disney+) – 3
Best Superhero Movie
Best Actor in a Superhero Movie – Skylar Astin
Best Actress in a Superhero Movie – Peyton Elizabeth Lee

Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount) – 4
Best Superhero Movie
Best Actor in a Superhero Movie – Jim Carrey
Best Actor in a Superhero Movie – Ben Schwartz
Best Villain in a Movie – Jim Carrey

Soul (Disney+) – 3
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – Jamie Foxx
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Tina Fey
Best Animated Movie

Spenser Confidential (Netflix) – 1
Best Actress in an Action Movie – Iliza Shlesinger

Spontaneous (Paramount) – 1
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Katherine Langford

Sputnik (IFC Films) – 2
Best Horror Movie
Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Pyotr Fyodorov

Superman: Man of Tomorrow (Warner Bros. Animation) – 1
Best Superhero Movie

Swallow (IFC Films) – 1
Best Actress in a Horror Movie – Haley Bennett

Synchronic (Well Go USA) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Anthony Mackie
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Ally Ioannides

Tenet (Warner Bros) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – John David Washington

The Hunt (Universal) – 4
Best Action Movie
Best Actress in an Action Movie – Betty Gilpin
Best Actress in an Action Movie – Hilary Swank
Best Villain in a Movie – Hilary Swank

The Invisible Man (Universal) – 2
Best Horror Movie
Best Actress in a Horror Movie – Elisabeth Moss

The Old Guard (Netflix) – 4
Best Superhero Movie
Best Actor in a Superhero Movie – Chiwetel Ejiofor
Best Actress in a Superhero Movie – Kiki Layne
Best Actress in a Superhero Movie – Charlize Theron

The One and Only Ivan (Disney+) – 1
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – Sam Rockwell

The Other Lamb (IFC Films) – 1
Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Michiel Huisman

The Outpost (Screen Media) – 2
Best Action Movie
Best Actor in an Action Movie – Caleb Landry Jones

The Rental (IFC Films) – 3
Best Horror Movie
Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Dan Stevens
Best Actress in a Horror Movie – Sheila Vand

The Rhythm Section (Paramount) – 1
Best Actress in an Action Movie – Blake Lively

The Vast of Night (Amazon Studios) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Jake Horowitz
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie – Sierra McCormick

The Willoughbys (Netflix) – 4
Best Animated Movie
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Movie – Will Forte
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Maya Rudolph
Best Villain in a Movie – Martin Short and Jane Krakowski

Wolfwalkers (Apple/GKIDS) – 3
Best Animated Movie
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Honor Kneafsey
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie – Eva Whittaker


9-1-1 (Fox)
Hanna (Amazon)
Hunters (Amazon)
S.W.A.T. (CBS)
Vikings (History)
Warrior (Cinemax)

Daveed Diggs – Snowpiercer (TNT)
Andrew Koji – Warrior (Cinemax)
Logan Lerman – Hunters (Amazon)
Alexander Ludwig – Vikings (History)
Shemar Moore – S.W.A.T. (CBS)
Al Pacino – Hunters (Amazon)

Angela Bassett – 9-1-1 (Fox)
Jennifer Connelly – Snowpiercer (TNT)
Esme Creed-Miles – Hanna (Amazon)
Mireille Enos – Hanna (Amazon)
Katheryn Winnick – Vikings (History)
Alison Wright – Snowpiercer (TNT)

Archer (FXX)
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Big Mouth (Netflix)
Central Park (Apple TV+)
Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)

Will Arnett – BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
H. Jon Benjamin – Archer (FXX)
Nick Kroll – Big Mouth (Netflix)
John Mulaney – Big Mouth (Netflix)
Jack Quaid – Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)
Justin Roiland – Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
J.B. Smoove – Harley Quinn (HBO Max)

Kaley Cuoco – Harley Quinn (HBO Max)
Tawny Newsome – Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)
Maya Rudolph – Big Mouth (Netflix)
Amy Sedaris – BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Aisha Tyler – Archer (FXX)
Jessica Walter – Archer (FXX)

The Boys (Amazon)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (The CW)
Doom Patrol (DC Universe and HBO Max)
The Flash (The CW)
Lucifer (Netflix)
The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)

Jon Cryer – Supergirl (The CW)
Tom Ellis – Lucifer (Netflix)
Grant Gustin – The Flash (The CW)
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)
Karl Urban – The Boys (Amazon)
Cress Williams – Black Lightning (The CW)

Melissa Benoist – Supergirl (The CW)
Aya Cash – The Boys (Amazon)
Diane Guerrero – Doom Patrol (DC Universe and HBO Max)
Elizabeth Marvel – Helstrom (Hulu)
Lili Reinhart – Riverdale (The CW)
Cobie Smulders – Stumptown (ABC)

Evil (CBS)
The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Lovecraft Country (HBO)
The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Supernatural (The CW)
The Walking Dead (AMC)

Jensen Ackles – Supernatural (The CW)
Mike Colter – Evil (CBS)
Michael Emerson – Evil (CBS)
Jonathan Majors – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Ben Mendelsohn – The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Jared Padalecki – Supernatural (The CW)
Michael K. Williams – Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Natalie Dormer – Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (Showtime)
Cynthia Erivo – The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television)
Katja Herbers – Evil (CBS)
T’Nia Miller – The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Wunmi Mosaku – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Victoria Pedretti – The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)
Jurnee Smollett – Lovecraft Country (HBO)

The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Outlander (Starz)
Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)
Upload (Amazon)
What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

Robbie Amell – Upload (Amazon)
Travis Fimmel – Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Sam Heughan – Outlander (Starz)
Kayvan Novak – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Pedro Pascal – The Mandalorian (Disney+)
Nick Offerman – Devs (FX on Hulu)
Patrick Stewart – Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

Caitriona Balfe – Outlander (Starz)
Amanda Collin – Raised by Wolves (HBO Max)
Natasia Demetriou – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
Sonequa Martin-Green – Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
Thandie Newton – Westworld (HBO)
Hilary Swank – Away (Netflix)
Jodie Whittaker – Doctor Who (BBC America)

Tom Ellis – Lucifer (Netflix)
Abbey Lee – Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Samantha Morton – The Walking Dead (AMC)
Sarah Paulson – Ratched (Netflix)
Antony Starr – The Boys (Amazon)
Finn Wittrock – Ratched (Netflix)

* Superhero categories also include Comic Book and Video Game Inspired Series


9-1-1 (Fox) – 2
Best Action Series
Best Actress in an Action Series – Angela Bassett

Archer (FXX) – 4
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – H. Jon Benjamin
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Aisha Tyler
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Jessica Walter

Away (Netflix) – 1
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Hilary Swank

Big Mouth (Netflix) – 4
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – Nick Kroll
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – John Mulaney
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Maya Rudolph

Black Lightning (The CW) – 1
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Cress Williams

BoJack Horseman (Netflix) – 3
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – Will Arnett
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Amy Sedaris

Central Park (Apple TV+) – 1
Best Animated Series

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (The CW) – 1
Best Superhero Series

Devs (FX on Hulu) – 1
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Nick Offerman

Doctor Who (BBC America) – 1
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Jodie Whittaker

Doom Patrol (DC Universe and HBO Max) – 2
Best Superhero Series
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Diane Guerrero

Evil (CBS) – 4
Best Horror Series
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Mike Colter
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Michael Emerson
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Katja Herbers

Hanna (Amazon) – 3
Best Action Series
Best Actress in an Action Series – Esme Creed-Miles
Best Actress in an Action Series – Mireille Enos

Harley Quinn (HBO Max) – 3
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – J.B. Smoove
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Kaley Cuoco

Helstrom (Hulu) – 1
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Elizabeth Marvel

Hunters (Amazon) – 3
Best Action Series
Best Actor in an Action Series – Logan Lerman
Best Actor in an Action Series – Al Pacino

Lovecraft Country (HBO) – 6
Best Horror Series
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Jonathan Majors
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Michael K. Williams
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Wunmi Mosaku
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Jurnee Smollett
Best Villain in a Series – Abbey Lee

Lucifer (Netflix) – 3
Best Superhero Series
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Tom Ellis
Best Villain in a Series – Tom Ellis

Outlander (Starz) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Sam Heughan
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Caitriona Balfe

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (Showtime) – 1
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Natalie Dormer

Raised by Wolves (HBO Max) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Travis Fimmel
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Amanda Collin

Ratched (Netflix) – 2
Best Villain in a Series – Sarah Paulson
Best Villain in a Series – Finn Wittrock

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim) – 2
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – Justin Rolland

Riverdale (The CW) – 1
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Lili Reinhart

S.W.A.T. (CBS) – 2
Best Action Series
Best Actor in an Action Series – Shemar Moore

Snowpiercer (TNT) – 3
Best Actor in an Action Series – Daveed Diggs
Best Actress in an Action Series – Jennifer Connelly
Best Actress in an Action Series – Alison Wright

Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access) – 2
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Sonequa Martin-Green

Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access) – 3
Best Animated Series
Best Voice Actor in an Animated Series – Jack Quaid
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series – Tawny Newsome

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access) – 2
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Patrick Stewart

Stumptown (ABC) – 1
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Cobie Smulders

Supergirl (The CW) – 2
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Jon Cryer
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Melissa Benoist

Supernatural (The CW) – 3
Best Horror Series
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Jensen Ackles
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Jared Padalecki

The Boys (Amazon) – 5
Best Superhero Series
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Antony Starr
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Karl Urban
Best Actress in a Superhero Series – Aya Cash
Best Villain in a Series – Antony Starr

The Flash (The CW) – 2
Best Superhero Series
Best Actor in a Superhero Series – Grant Gustin

The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix) – 3
Best Horror Series
Best Actress in a Horror Series – T’Nia Miller
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Victoria Pedretti

The Mandalorian (Disney+) – 2
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Pedro Pascal

The Outsider (HBO and MRC Television) – 3
Best Horror Series
Best Actor in a Horror Series – Ben Mendelsohn
Best Actress in a Horror Series – Cynthia Erivo

The Umbrella Academy (Netflix) – 1
Best Superhero Series

The Walking Dead (AMC) – 2
Best Horror Series
Best Villain in a Series – Samantha Morton

Upload (Amazon) – 2
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Robbie Amell

Vikings (History) – 3
Best Action Series
Best Actor in an Action Series – Alexander Ludwig
Best Actress in an Action Series – Katheryn Winnick

Warrior (Cinemax) – 2
Best Action Series
Best Actor in an Action Series – Andrew Koji

Westworld (HBO) – 1
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Thandie Newton

What We Do in the Shadows (FX) – 3
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series
Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Kayvan Novak
Best Actress in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Natasia Demetriou


Netflix – 35
HBO / HBO Max / DC Universe and HBO Max – 18
Amazon / Amazon Studios – 16
Disney+ – 15
CBS / CBS All Access – 13
The CW – 10
Universal – 10
FX / FXX / FX on Hulu – 8
IFC Films – 8
NEON – 8
Paramount – 7
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros. Animation – 7
Apple TV+ / Apple/GKIDS – 6
Hulu – 6
History – 3
MRC Television – 3
Starz – 3
TNT – 3
Well Go USA – 3
Adult Swim – 2
AMC – 2
Cinemax – 2
Fox – 2
Screen Media – 2
Sony / Sony Pictures – 2
ABC – 1
BBC America – 1
Magnet Releasing – 1
Showtime – 1