Pappadeux? More like “Pappa-no.”

When being “better than Red Lobster” is still a low bar

Every year, we go out for my father-in-law’s birthday — usually to Red Lobster because he’s a fan of crab legs. And every year, without fail, the food I order at Red Lobster either leaves me cradling the toilet or straddling it. Maybe I have a weak stomach. Perhaps seafood just isn’t my bag.

I don’t know.

This year, I got a reprieve, or so I thought. The family collectively decided to go to Pappadeux instead of Red Lobster. As we pulled into the parking lot, I could see it was packed. Yet, there was no wait to be seated because the restaurant itself is the size of a mall food court. I was immediately apprehensive, however, because the interior of the restaurant looked suspiciously like Red Lobster. The murky lobster tank, strip club lighting and overdressed waiters – it was all there.

And the menu was enormous. My experience with surf and turf at Red Lobster steered me away from the $45 version here (there’s only so much gristle I can handle in a steak I’m not preparing myself) and toward the Pappadeux Platter, a sampler containing every kind of fish the restaurant serves, but deep-fried.

They might as well have brought it in a wheelbarrow. Piled high on a white plate, and resting on a bed of fries, was the most unappetizing array of fish I had ever seen. Fried to a light brown but, luckily, devoid of visible oil, the Pappadeux Platter does for seafood what Chik-fil-a does for garbage-tier cuts of chicken: mask it in just enough breading to make it palatable.

I was not taken to Flavortown. I did not savor every bite. Really, I ate just enough bland, breaded fish to ensure I wouldn’t need to go sneaking off to Nadia’s Jack-o-Lantern full of candy she’s not allowed to eat. The last insult was the bill. My wife’s family loves Red Lobster, and they left Pappadeux disappointed. You have to mine really deep into the pits of mediocrity to charge more than Red Lobster, yet serve inferior food.

At least I haven’t felt the first signs of food poisoning — yet.

The Editor

31 Days of Horror, Day 31

As the opening credits of the The Editor started rolling, I had to do a double take. Did Italian directors suddenly decide to make trashy giallos again? Then, Paz de la Huerta’s name popped on screen.

Ugh, another homage to a dormant subgenre, I thought. But as the hammy dialogue, gratuitous nudity and gelatin red blood started flying, hope sprang forth. When the whole idea of this being a meta-giallo (e.g. an Italian-style slasher movie within a movie), I was even more excited. Finally, I could have my trash and enjoy some horror, too.

But my enthusiasm was short lived because The Editor is less “movie with cohesive plot” and more “series of vignettes that repeat the nudity/violence/meta-humor beats until the horse is beaten so badly it becomes glue without a trip to the factory, where they make the glue.

This exercise in tedium goes on for about 90 minutes. Then the movie (mercifully, failingly, finally) ends. And so does our annual month of horror. Thankfully.

 

The Visit

31 Days of Horror, Day 29

For a period of about five years, roughly around the turn of the century, M. Night Shyamalan was the shit. The Sixth Sense practically wrote the book on the whole plot-twist-you-did-not-see-coming thing. Then, Unbreakable came out, and it was the superhero origin story we didn’t know we needed. And maybe I was just at the right age, but there was something about Signs that genuinely terrified me.

Then, in 2004, The Village happened, and for the first time people saw the whole twist thing for what it really was – a gimmick to cover up holes in a threadbare story. I mean, really, no one from the outside world every stumbled upon the village? No one inside the village ever thought, “Gee, it’s kind of weird that there are monsters wandering outside the village, but they never bother to come into our homes at night and murder us all?” Continue reading

Residue

31 Days of Horror, Day 28

So, I’m not going to actually review Residue because I didn’t finish it. While it showed promise at the beginning — the main character, a hard-boiled detective, dies at the hands of an evil book, and the rest of the movie is the story of how he found said book – at no point were expectations subverted.

It’s Chekov’s Gun, except we start the movie already knowing that the gun went off and someone died, which is basically the narrative equivalent of popping one off right as the foreplay’s getting started. You know you’re in trouble when the movie is only 80 minutes long, yet the director thinks it’s a good idea to devote screen time to the protagonist’s strained relationship with his daughter. He’s just discovered that she’s a lesbian, and he’s being all weird about it.

I don’t know. I disappeared into the bathroom about an hour into the movie because the narrative was a rambling mess, there were very little horror elements to speak of and it seemed as if the director was trying to check off as many noir cliches as possible before wrapping his movie up in the exact way the viewer is told the movie will end. No pivot. No fakeout. No surprises.

At least I got a lot web surfing done in the bathroom. So I have that going for me.

The New Daughter

31 Days of Horror, Day 27

(Full disclosure: I tapped out of this dumpster fire at about the 70-minute mark. It’s entirely possible that the ending redeemed everything that preceded it, but I highly doubt it.)

Old burial mounds?
And who cast Kevin Costner?
Poor man’s Poltergeist.

 

Final Shift

31 Days of Horror, Day 26

In Final Shift, not to be confused with Last Watch, End of Watch or other movies about cops doing cop things, a rookie police officer (Juliana Harkavy) works the last shift at a defunct precinct. Soon, things start going bump in the night. Then, Satanic cultists do, too. But is Officer Loren really seeing these things, or is it just a case of the first day jitters?

Man, I’ve said it countless times, but it just isn’t enough for a horror movie to scare me any more. Yes, Final Shift has some great set pieces. Sure, a few of the jump scares got me – when I wasn’t succumbing to the coziness of my Slanket and drifting off to sleep. But at the end of the day, this movie has nothing to say. Continue reading

When Animals Dream

When Animals Dream

31 Days of Horror, Day 25

In When Animals Dream, a girl’s transformation into a werewolf serves as an allegory for the patriarchy and its suppression of female sexuality. Hmm. Where have I seen that before?

’Member Ginger Snaps?
This movie’s kind of like that,
except slow and dull.

A Dark Song

31 Days of Horror, Day 24

Whoa — three good movies in a row? Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? Whatever it is, I’ll take it. A Dark Song is the directorial debut of Liam Gavin, but at no point did it feel like the work of a freshman filmmaker. Moody, meditative and foreboding, the film unfolds like a fever dream that may or may not give way to a wakeful peace.

Sophia (Catherine Walker), grieving the death of her son, hires an occultist named Jonathan (Steve Oram) under the pretenses of aiding her in contacting the deceased. And she’s rented a creepy house in the Welsh countryside for the purposes of conducting whatever dark magic is needed to allow her to speak with her son. But is she being truthful about her motives? And is Jonathan really who he says he is?  Continue reading

The Devil’s Candy

31 Days of Horror, Day 22

The sophomore effort from Sean Byrne, the dude who directed The Loved Ones (which, surprisingly, I liked), The Devil’s Candy imagines that maybe, just maybe, metal really is the devil’s music. Featuring Ethan Embry in a wig and fake tattoos, as well as the woman from Girls who was briefly in a relationship with Adam, this movie is a textbook example of when restraint is more terrifying than all-out gore. Continue reading