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Liven Up Your Lockdown with These Scary Good Local Movies

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Madison Horcher and and Josh Hopkins star in Mail Order Monster, a family flick from a Las Vegas film director.

Stuck at home? Of course you are! Want to forget about the coronavirus for a while with a good movie? Of course you do! Choosing a movie made by and/or about Vegas creators is a great way to support local performers and artists who have been some of the hardest-hit by the city shutdown. In many cases, renting, buying or streaming these movies provides direct financial benefits to the locals who created them. Here are 10 recent local films you can watch on demand, whatever movie mood you might be in.

Abigail Haunting (Amazon Prime, March 27) Veteran local filmmaker Kelly Schwarze’s latest feature is a horror movie about a woman who escapes an abusive relationship by moving into her childhood home, only to discover that it’s haunted by a vengeful spirit. Schwarze’s films have gotten more polished and professional as he’s become one of the local film scene’s most prominent players, and his previous genre features Alien Domicile and Territory 8 are available on Amazon Prime and elsewhere, to prep for the release of Abigail Haunting.

Art of the Dead (Amazon Prime; Amazon digital rental and purchase) Brothers Michael and Sonny Mahal of B-movie production company Mahal Empire regularly bring C-list stars like Tara Reid and Richard Grieco to Vegas for scrappy genre productions. The Mahals’ latest, written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, features both Reid and Grieco in the story of a collection of cursed paintings that cause a wealthy family to turn murderous. The silly story showcases some undeniably cool special effects along with typical B-horror nonsense, and is perfect low-impact viewing for horror fans.

Bombshells & Dollies (digital rental and purchase on various services) The annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend has grown into one of the biggest events in Vegas, and Dan Halperin’s documentary focuses on the Miss Viva Las Vegas pin-up pageant at the 2015 festival. It’s a tribute to the vibrant culture around VLV (including the music, the cars and the fashion), and also an impressive look at how much effort goes into creating the perfect pin-up style, which mean far more to the competitors than just being aesthetically pleasing.

The Christmas Cabin (Amazon Prime) Hallmark-style holiday romances are go-to comfort viewing for many people, and local production company Quantum Arc Media created their own version with this wholesome story of a pair of dueling heirs who both lay claim to a rustic cabin in the mountains. Will work-obsessed Seth (Chad Michael Collins) leave business behind long enough to appreciate the charms of sweater-clad writer Sammi (Peyton McDavitt)? Obviously yes, but the familiar journey is part of the appeal for movies like this.

Dolly Deadly (Amazon Prime) The first feature from Vegas filmmaker Heidi Moore has built up a legitimate cult following, with Troma Entertainment (the Toxic Avenger people) backing the forthcoming sequel. Before then, you can catch up with Moore’s twisted tale about an abused young boy (played by Moore’s own son) whose dolls encourage him to take revenge on his trailer-trash family and neighbors. It draws equally from Rob Zombie and John Waters, with kaleidoscopic colors and hallucinatory sequences.

The Head (Amazon and Vimeo digital rental and purchase) Local filmmaker Michael Keene is a connoisseur of obscure cinematic trash, and his second feature is a loving tribute to the shot-on-VHS horror movies of the 1980s. Keene even shot his movie on actual VHS, in all its degraded glory, and the demented story of a man who falls in love with a homicidal mannequin head owes as much to avant-garde video art as it does to micro-budget horror.

An Irish Story: This Is My Home (digital rental and purchase on various services) Karl Nickoley’s documentary follows the grueling yet inspiring quest of Vegas-based Irish rockers the Black Donnellys (Dave Browne and Dave Rooney) to set a Guinness World Record for playing 60 gigs in 50 states in 40 days, while also meditating on the place of immigrants in America. It’s a slick, fun travelogue and a testament to the work ethic and musical abilities of the band that has been a longtime resident act at Ri Ra inside Mandalay Place.

Jezebel (Netflix) Writer, director and co-star Numa Perrier based this slice-of-life drama on her own experiences working as a cam girl in Vegas in the ’90s, and it has a refreshing authenticity about the seedy side of Vegas life. It’s not judgmental or preachy, though, instead showing the title character (confidently played by Tiffany Tenille) embracing her sexuality as she starts to feel empowered in her new profession. Living in a budget weekly motel along with her extended family, she struggles to find direction in her life, but she’s never self-pitying or helpless.

Mail Order Monster (Showtime; digital rental and purchase on various services) If you’re stuck at home with kids, this cute movie about a little girl (Madison Horcher) who builds her own best friend (more of a robot than a monster, really) could be a nice distraction for 90 minutes or so. Vegas-based director and co-writer Paulina Lagudi delivers simple lessons about bullying and dealing with loss, thanks to appealing performances from Horcher and TV veterans Josh Hopkins and Charisma Carpenter.

Weedjies: Halloweed Night (Full Moon Features; Amazon digital rental and purchase) Legendary B-horror company Full Moon (producers of the Puppet Master and Gingerdead Man franchises, among many others) recruited Vegas-based director Danny Draven to helm this stoner horror-comedy about a bunch of Gremlins-style creatures running loose at a Halloween party. The movie was shot almost entirely at the Artisan hotel, with creature design from 1313FX, the company run by Tom Devlin of Boulder City’s Monster Museum. Weedjies is light and goofy and never scary, but it has the sleazy anything-goes spirit of Full Moon’s most notorious work.

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