Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, or: I Left and Entered This World Covered in Blood

Appropriately, we’re wrapping up more-or-less sophisticated scary month on Halloween with an extremely atmospheric haunted house story.  The title is truly excellent and the actress from my favorite adaptation of Jane Eyre stars.  Sometimes I feel the filmmakers have bugged my brain.

The Film:

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

Beginning with a suitably creepy narration, this film is atmospheric AF—no one really owns a house where a death happened; they’re just borrowing it from its ghosts.

Lilly is a nurse who tells us she is 28 but will never be 29.  She is a hospice nurse working for a new patient, Iris Blum.  Blum is a writer of classic horror novels in the style of Shirley Jackson.  Lilly has never read any of these, finding even a few pages much too scary for her tastes.

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I have nothing to add except this shot is beautiful and I would live in this house, ghost or no.

It’s honestly kind of a miracle Lilly has made it to 28 as a functioning adult as she seems to be afraid of virtually everything.  She’s really creeped out spending the first night alone with Ms. Blum and calls a friend for comfort.  I’m not sure when this is set, but the tv has an antenna, and the only phone option is a landline, which rather ominously flies out of her hand while she’s speaking.  There are also some mysterious thumps coming from upstairs.

When Ms. Blum wakes up in the middle of the night, Lilly puts her back to bed.  Confused, Ms. Blum refers to her as Polly, which Lilly shrugs off…until it happens again and again.  Who the actual fuck is Polly? she wonders, but probably with nicer, Midwestern language.

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Poker faces.

Lilly doesn’t expect Ms. Blum to live for long, but 11 months later, she’s still going strong.  The estate agent checks in to make sure all is well, and Lilly asks if the wall that has mysteriously sprouted mold could be fixed.  He’s not sure the estate will approve the expense, but he does helpfully explain the mystery of Polly, a character from Blum’s novel The Lady in the Walls.

The novel is notable for its lack of horrific ending—to stay true to the premise of Polly telling her story to the narrator, we never know exactly what happens to Polly.  However, it is hinted that she met a rather grisly end before staying even one night in the house with her husband in the 1800s.  Polly tells us she left the world the same way she entered it:  wearing nothing but blood (that line, man).

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See also:  wearing a hat (sorry/not sorry–too much 30 Rock).

As Lilly learns more about Polly’s fate, she also begins seeing things to upset the pristine world she has created.  Dedicated to cleanliness, she almost always wears white, but marks begin to spread on her clothes and body like spots of mold.  Following the mold leads her to a box of letters that reveal a haunting truth.

Lilly does finally get a glimpse of Polly…but really wishes she hadn’t.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Atmosphere, people.  The filmmakers crush the hell out of the atmosphere on this one.  Coincidentally, I discovered the writer/director is none other than the son of Anthony Perkins, and he has the damning first name Osgood.  All coming together now, isn’t it?

But anyway, atmosphere check.  Creepiness check.  Gorgeous cinematography check.  However, what annoys me here is complete lack of explanation.  Any time it seems we’ll dive deeper into character motivations and backstories, we jump back out of the water immediately (to take the diving metaphor further than strictly necessary).  I know that’s the goddamn point of this ghost story—we are, after all, only borrowing the story.   But I still wanted to understand the characters much better than I did because I can sense they would have had fascinating backstories.

I saw a review about this film that said something about this being the most faithful adaptation of a Shirley Jackson novel without actually being based on a Shirley Jackson movie.  I could see that, especially considering Lilly’s voice as a narrator, and the masterful creation of suspense.  Very little happened, but I found myself holding my breath through most of the film.  All I know is I’m seriously ready for the film adaptation of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, ok?  Listening, Osgood Perkins?

Is Christa the Pretty Impressed Thing That Lives in the House or the Pretty Nonplussed?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Nightbreed, or: Button Eyes Will Haunt Your Dreams

I was excited about this hidden Clive Barker classic, which fits in perfectly with our theme this month.  Turns out there’s a reason this is a fairly obscure Clive Barker film.  It’s definitely no Hellraiser, but it’s so very Clive Barker-y.

The Film:

Nightbreed

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

???  A young man seeks out Midian, a world that haunts his dreams, while a serial killer with button eyes commits a string of seemingly random murders.

The Uncondensed Version:

Aaron is a troubled soul, haunted by terrifying nightmares that have become better with the help of a psychologist, Dr. Decker.  I think it’s worth noting that Aaron is majorly channeling Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing through all of this, leather jacket and casually swept back hair included.

Meanwhile, a killer in a mask with creepy button eyes seems to be targeting families at random.  Aaron’s sessions with Decker come back to bite him since some of the terrible dreams he had involved very specific houses and faces…those of the killer’s victims! Could Aaron somehow be the murderer without even knowing?

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That just cannot be a very practical mask for slashing people.

 

Decker gives Aaron some mystery pills (which turn out to be hallucinogens), which leads him to show up at the bar where his girlfriend Lori is singing a pretty terrible song about codependency.  He ends up in the hospital after walking directly into the path of a semi.  At the hospital, Aaron meets a man referencing Midian, a place he becomes determined to find.  Unfortunately, before he reveals the secret location of Midian, he stabs himself in the face and tears his own scalp off.

This gives Aaron a chance to escape the police and his psychologist, fleeing to a graveyard that just happens to be (you guessed it) the secret location of Midian.  Night falls and he is confronted by inhabitants of Midian, who threaten him with death and also bite him.  Though Aaron escapes these creatures, he is shot by the police when Decker erroneously tells them Aaron is armed.

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Having a few friends around for dinner…

Lori is devastated and keeps seeing ghost Aaron everywhere.  She’s convinced he’s still alive or at least believes there are extremely shady circumstances surrounding his death.  I (very wrongly) believed she was going to investigate the graveyard with the Julia of this film, Sheryl, who she meets in a women’s bathroom at a bar.  God, she’s fucking fabulous but, alas, not long for this world.

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I didn’t get a good shot of it, but Sheryl is wearing AN ALL-DENIM OUTFIT here.

Meanwhile, Aaron is in Midian, joining the titular Nightbreed in a somewhat bizarre ritual.  The Nightbreed are an ancient group of shapeshifters, driven mostly to extinction as a result of relentless persecution throughout history.  Most of the Nightbreed are pretty pleased about Aaron’s status as one of them, with the exception of the guy who bit Aaron and his spiky conspirator/girlfriend.

Lori is determined to find Aaron, and receives some unexpected help from one of the Nightbreed after saving her child.

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Ok, but you get the Patrick Swayze vibe here, right?

Surprising no one, Decker is the button face killer, targeting the last of the Nightbreed for some reason or another.  He goes after Lori, which draws Aaron out of hiding.

Aaron is eventually arrested again, and it turns out the sheriff is a complete dickbag (but the police force here is mostly made up of assholes who do absolutely nothing to help seriously injured Nightbreed).  It just gets way more convoluted from here, and ultimately comes down to a battle between cops and demons (or whatever the fuck the Nightbreed are.  Shapeshifters, fine).

The battle goes on forever and has a somewhat shocking twist at the end.  Sort of.  If you actually care about any of the characters by then.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Look, I kept watching this and I genuinely did want to know where this was all heading.  There’s just way too much going on for any of the characters to be interesting or for any of this to be coherent, frankly.

It’s quite an ambitious film on many levels and (could be completely off on this) I saw the Nightbreed as a representation of LGBT people, especially in the wake of the AIDS crisis.  It can’t be a mistake that Decker is a psychologist and tries to vilify and kill Aaron as part of this “other” group of people who have been persecuted throughout history.  The police are complicit in this, as is organized religion to a certain degree.  Aaron has to make sacrifices in order to embrace his identity, and he still can’t go out during the day or ever return to the life he had before.

That being said, there needed to be a Julia in this who was just unapologetically and fantastically evil.  A good old-fashioned shoulder pad never hurts either.  Decker is close to this role, but with very little exploration of his motivations, he just doesn’t hold a candle to Julia.

This may also be one of the tamest R movies I’ve seen?  Ok, there are boobs, but they are the least sexualized boobs I’ve ever seen except maybe in a morgue scene.  The face ripping part was gross, but there was nothing else I can remember being quite as gross/gory.  However, this could be a sad reflection of my own desensitization.  The f bomb is thrown around a few times, but by no means is this The Departed.  Visual effects are somewhat dated, but pretty flipping creative at times.

Would Christa bite this and make it one of our own or send it back to hell (wrong Clive Barker film)?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Tenant, or: Please Don’t Make Poles Talk About Feelings

This is easily our classiest horror-themed month for the Blog Collab, so of course we’re working in a…classic…Polanski film?

The Film:

The Tenant

Where to Watch:

Reasonably challenging to find (at least for free)–good luck!

The Uncondensed Version:

Trelkovsky is a Pole looking for an apartment in Paris.  He asks the concierge to show him the apartment, but she is rather unwelcoming and initially dismissive until bribed.  Her dog isn’t any friendlier and tries to bite him in a scene reminiscent of The Pink Panther Strikes Again (which coincidentally[?] was released the same year).

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“Does your dog bite?”

The concierge reveals the previous tenant threw herself out of the window, and shows Trelkovsky the glass that needs to be repaired below.  She rather cryptically explains that the previous tenant isn’t dead, but won’t be returning to the apartment and laughs rather sinisterly.  There is also no bathroom in the apartment.  Even so, apartments are hard to come by in Paris, so Trelkovsky eagerly snatches the place up (I can relate even in Dayton).

Out of curiosity, Trelkovsky tracks down the previous tenant in the hospital, Simone Choule.  Simone has just woken from a coma and is in a full body cast, but it doesn’t stop her from producing absolutely horrific screams when she sees Trelkovsky, her friend Stella, or perhaps all of the above.

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So much ’70s chic happening in this still.

Perhaps to seem a bit less of a creep, Trelkovsky pretends to be a friend of Simone’s, which gets him a drink and a semi-drunken grope at the movies with Stella.

Trelkovsky invites a few people over to celebrate his new place and in general goes about having a normal life, but there is a vague sense that all is not well when increasingly surreal incidents begin happening.  First, he finds a human tooth in a hole in the wall.  Then, he is confronted by a woman and her young daughter about a noise complaint he allegedly made about them.  In turn, he is on the receiving end of several noise complaints.  He also sees people just silently standing unmoving in the toilet for hours.

Further complications arise when one of Simone’s friends visits the apartment and reveals he was in love with her.  Once he starts crying, he can’t stop and (like a true Pole), Trelkovsky becomes incredibly uncomfortable in the face of emotions.

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I’ve seen 127 Hours…there’s only one way this can end.

The turning point seems to be when Trelkovsky’s apartment is robbed and, rather than looking out for him, the neighbors and landlord continue to harangue him about how much noise he makes.  Trelkovsky, quite patient up to this point, becomes irritable, paranoid, and quite unhinged.

It just gets more confusing when he is asked to sign a petition complaining about tenants he has never met, buys a wig, slaps a random child (I mean, who hasn’t had that impulse?), and witnesses a very strange ritual in the streets.  As he unravels completely, Trelkovsky insists that “they” drove Simone to suicide, and they are trying to do the same with him.  I say this rhetorically but also in hopes of an answer—what the actual fuck is going on with this film?

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I walk around with a baguette since I am stereotypical French landlord.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

If this weren’t for the blog, I probably would’ve given up on this one.  It’s a solid 2 hours and only gets more incomprehensible as the time goes on.

What I do like about this one is the commentary on city life and living amongst strangers.  Trelkovsky tries to keep to himself as advised, but he is still on the receiving end of noise complaints and interference from nosy neighbors.  There is an absurdity to the entire situation—no matter how quietly he lives, his neighbors find fault and want him to essentially cease to exist.  The landlord suggests he wear slippers, and the police even intervene when they receive multiple noise complaints about Trelkovsky.

Ironically, everyone (including those dispensing unwanted advice) tells Trelkovsky to mind his own business to solve his neighbor problems.  (And we all remember how well that worked for Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.)  This further antagonizes him, making him even more isolated and paranoid.

The ending reminds me so much of Rosemary’s Baby, with Trelkovsky becoming cornered and trapped just as much as Rosemary by dark and perhaps evil forces (Rosemary’s Baby is so much better, though).  As with every Roman Polanski movie, this just sort of makes me want to watch Chinatown again.  Or maybe I should just…leave it (sorry [no, I’m not]).

Would Christa have a drink and uncomfortable cry with this film or start a petition to get this one out of her neighborhood?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging

Berberian Sound Studio, or: The Equestrian Vortex

Another week, another disturbing exploration of the depths of human depravity.  And for once I’m not talking about the election.

The Film:

Berberian Sound Studio

The Premise (I love the Wikipedia summary for this):

British sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones) arrives at the Berberian film studio in Italy to work on what he believes is a film about horses.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our somewhat surreal film begins as Gilderoy arrives in Italy to work on the sound effects for an Italian movie, The Equestrian Vortex.  After checking in at the recording studio, hejust wants reimbursement for his plane ticket, but fails to get a clear answer about which department handles that.  Worse news is that no one seems to have received a paycheck for months.  He’s even more confused as everyone speaks Italian around him in both reality and in the film he’s working on.

Contrary to what the title leads him to believe, this is not a nice movie about horses, but a horror.  (Can I just say Equestrian Vortex would be a great horror movie that could be the next Sharknado?)  Of course, the director claims it’s not a horror and is extremely offended at the mere suggestion.  But it’s horror.

The director, Santini, is rather easygoing and constantly smiling, hiding something sinister as it turns out.  The man determined to finish the film and put in the work is the producer, who is not an especially charming boss.  Perhaps the only reasonably nice character in all of this is Silvia, one of the actresses.  She does provide several ominous warnings to Gilderoy, who of course ignores them.

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“Hillary and Obama stole my microphone and took it to Kenya and now it’s broken.”

I still don’t understand what the equestrian vortex is, but the gist of the film is that witches have risen from the grave to torture and kill girls at a riding school.  At one point, the girls find the witches’ decaying bodies in the poultry tunnel, which I don’t understand outside of a slaughterhouse context.

To create the sound effects, there is so much screaming.  So.  Much.  Screaming.  We also see vegetables being dropped, melons chopped, juice blended—it’s not good to be produce in this film.  It’s actually quite fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at film sound effects.  I can’t think of any other movies about movies that focus so much on sound.

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So many heads of lettuce had to die to make this movie.

The increasingly disturbing plot of the film Gilderoy is working on parallels his frustration and mistreatment.  He very much wants to quit, especially as Santini emphatically declares he hates the exploitation of women in his film but must tell the story.  What a crock.  The highly artistic and intellectual film requires the witches to be stabbed, drowned, and stuck in the vagina with a red hot poker.

There’s also an extremely odd scene in which Santini feeds Gilderoy a grape and tells him to swallow the seed.  Er…?

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Trust me, there’s absolutely no subtext involved with this scene.

Gilderoy becomes very disturbed by screaming/crying sounds he hears at night.  He finds Silvia one night, who warns him about Santini, and reveals that he harassed and sexually assaulted her on set.  Finally fed up, she promises to destroy what he loves most and show him the real meaning of a curse.

It gets more surreal from here, and I don’t want to ruin the plot completely, most of which happens in the last 15 or so minutes of the film anyway.  One of the big questions of this movie is can you create exploitative art without yourself becoming exploitative?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is pretty light on plot, but extremely atmospheric.  There’s a mood of anxiety and confusion that becomes increasingly present as the film goes on, as well as a number of WTF scenes.  As soon as Silvia reveals the director’s harassment, the film begins to make a bit more sense–at least in one interpretation.

There is so much screaming in this film, which is so uncomfortable but which all of our characters become virtually immune to.  The “Silenzio” flashes in red repeatedly during recording, but it also serves as a reminder to the cast and crew to shut up and stop complaining.  This works when thinking about the women harassed in this movie and could more broadly speak to the film industry as a whole.

I am still scratching my head over some of the scenes in this movie (including a short film about the South Downs), and biggest complain is I hoped there was going to be an actual witch and really wanted Silvia to put an actual curse on some dudes.

Would Christa ride this one through an equestrian vortex or smash it like a melon creating a murder sound effect?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Silenced, or: Ghost Super Soldiers

October in blogland at last!  You already know this month’s theme.  We’re into hauntings, unexplained disturbances, and creepiness in general, aka Paranormal Blogtivity (admittedly a title that needs work).

The Film:

The Silenced

The Premise:

Disappearances and creepy goings-on plague a Korean girls’ school conveniently in the middle of nowhere.

The Uncondensed Version:

Bit of background:  it’s Japanese-occupied Korea, just before the outbreak of WWII.  As it goes with empires, everyone wants to go to Japan since it can provide a better education and more opportunities for young people.  This is especially true for the girls in this film, who are competing for one of two coveted spots to go to Tokyo for school.

Shizuko is a transfer student to a school that is also a sanitorium(?) in the Korean countryside that seems to specialize in embroidery and vaulting.  Seriously, they are in a traditional classroom once in this entire movie.  Though Shizuko is very ill, she starts to get better with the help of the headmistress and some very experimental treatments.  She also makes a friend, Yeon-deok, and develops romantic feelings for her.

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You know what they say about girls who know their way around embroidery cherry blossoms… (Actually, I have no idea what that even means)

Meanwhile, all kinds of creepy shit keeps happening.  There are events that seem to be tied to a ghost or some other supernatural presence—girls choking, seemingly victims of possession, and becoming very violent.  Petty high school things also happen as one girl in particular seems to have it in for Shizuko and does crazy shit like leave a dying bird in her locker and spreading rumors that she has TB.  In part, they’re uncomfortable because a girl named Shizuko disappeared before this new girl with the same name arrived.  Spooky, eh?  Sort of?

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Mandatory staring at hands in horror scene.

As Shizuko recovers, she becomes inhumanely strong, which is bad news for the girls bullying her.  You’d better believe she’ll get her Carrie moment.  What kind of medical experimentation is really going on with these girls?  And what’s up with the nearby Japanese army base?  Super sketchy shit, guys.  Super.  Sketchy.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Really brief plot summary reflects my inability to follow this very easily.  The chronology is confusing as fuck, and I never quite knew what the intent of this film is.  It begins as a ghost story, but shifts rather abruptly to a story about medical experimentation.  Make up your goddamn mind—is this a ghost story?  Forbidden schoolgirl romance?  Conspiracy?  Sociopolitical commentary?  Please pick one or two themes and develop them further.

This had a lot of promise at the beginning, and there were elements that were a bit like Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language films.  There’s even a really beautiful but despicable character who you are just waiting to see die violently.

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THE WORST.

The problem is that there’s no emotional resonance, which is a pretty terrible crime for a film that deals thematically with coming of age, first love, abuse, and the devastation of war.  I can’t say any of the characters felt especially three-dimensional or interesting.

I’m not crazy about revenge films, but this one may have been better off with that focus as the last 10 mins were so fucking badass.

Not a terrible film, but somewhat aimless and confusing.

Did Christa think this one made a miraculous discovery or would she rather it simply disappeared?  Find out here!