Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Wounds, or: Papa Roach

Usually losing a phone means a bad day for the owner, and quite possibly a new phone. However, on the off chance you’ve found a phone that’s related to demonic possession, the odds are your day isn’t going to be much better–and, in fact, it will probably be much worse. Let’s find out, shall we, in the final film of Horror Month 2019!

The Film:

Wounds

The Premise:

After a patron leaves a phone at a New Orleans bar, bartender Will begins experiencing sinister happenings.

The Ramble:

As the preppiest-looking scruffy bartender in the world, Will (Armie Hammer) works at a dive bar with some rather colorful patrons. Regular at the bar Alicia is throwing back a drink most nights along with boyfriend Jeffrey. Though Will has a live-in girlfriend attending Tulane, he has a much keener interest in Alicia’s comings and goings.

One eventful evening, a cockroach skitters across the bar–in the end, only mildly disgusting compared to what will happen that night. When a fight breaks out between bar fly Eric and a stranger, poor Eric ends up with a broken bottle to the face. Though seriously injured, both patrons clear out of the bar before the cops arrive. Also sent running are a group of underage teens who Will has taken pity on.

a man with a bloody cut on his face drinks from a beer bottle at a bar as another man stands next to him

In their haste, one of the teens leaves a phone behind. When the number receives a series of messages pleading for help from a demonic force, Will responds with annoyance, assuming the teens are playing a prank.

The next day, girlfriend Carrie discovers the phone, which now features some disturbing images and videos of people who seem to have been tortured to death. Already a strained relationship to begin with, the phone creates additional tension between the couple. Carrie suspects Will has something to hide, and Will is extremely jealous of one of Carrie’s professors.

a man and woman hold each other as they lay on the grass outside at night

While Will promises to take the phone to the police, he continues to respond to the messages received. When he finally does head to the station to hand over the evidence, Will has a vision of cockroaches pouring from the phone, tossing it out of the window, and thus destroying any proof he had of sinister happenings. None of this happens before he receives the ominous message that he has been “chosen.”

Frustrated, creeped out, and more than a little lonely, Will convinces Alicia to go out for a night of drinking. Though Will is ready to pursue a physical relationship with Alicia, both are involved with other people, and Alicia pumps the brakes. Will’s night takes a sinister turn when he receives creepy videos from Carrie. When he returns home, Carrie is in a zombie-like trance and has no recollection of anything happening. Carrie does snap out of this pretty quickly except for occasionally muttering about how we’re all just worms.

a woman sits at a small dining room table eating cereal, while a man sitting across the table looks at her

Soon after, Will begins acting more and more like an asshole: losing his temper at the bar, screaming at his boss, giving zero fucks about the poor health of bottle-to-the-face Eric, and breaking up with Carrie. Of course, when Will breaks the news to Alicia, she still wants nothing to do with him; thus, he becomes even more of a douche.

With nowhere to go, Will reunites with the injured Eric. However, instead of a welfare check, Will is fully prepared to be Eric’s new roommate for…reasons?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

“Oh, great,” I imagine Armie Hammer saying to himself upon reading the script, “one of those clever horror films in the vein of The Babadook or Jordan Peele’s films. What a brilliant career move; people love Daniel Kaluuya!”

Imagine Armie’s dismay when he ended up starring in this disappointing film, which is neither particularly clever nor overly horrific (except in all of the bad ways).

For real, I did not get this film. I found the pacing to be quite poor, as I was bored out of my skull for almost the entire run time, then surprised by a rather action-packed ending that just left me confused.

I also think virtually everyone here was miscast, though a terrible script certainly didn’t do anyone favors. Armie Hammer isn’t believable to me as a washed-up underachiever; he looks more like the kind of person who would always have family to bail him out. I could just be prejudiced against conventionally handsome blonde dudes, IDK.

To top this off, this film was set and shot in New Orleans, but there was absolutely no sense of place. I felt the film could have been shot anywhere for all of the swampy, haunted ambience we got–aka none. I thought there may be a connection between the creepy happenings of the film and Hurricane Katrina (that would be a compelling explanation, no?), but the script does not take advantage of this.

The main problem for me is this lack of meaning and direction; there seems to be a demon threatening to take over Will and his life. Is it a manifestation of his loveless romance with Carrie? A symptom of his failure to pursue the life he wanted? A stand-in for a developing addiction to alcohol? In this film in particular, the lack of meaning simply makes Will look like your run of the mill asshole. Are you sure you’re suffering from demonic possession there, buddy, or are you just an incel who thinks the world owes you something as a mediocre white man?

I will give this film credit for an accurate representation of millennials being chased by demonic forces: we will always text a friend instead of calling for help. No one wants to get the cops involved, and absolutely no one wants to talk on the phone to a stranger.

Would my haunting blog wife buy this one a shot or conveniently “lose her phone” when it tries to call? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ouija: Origin of Evil, or: Spirit of the ’60s

I’m so happy it’s Horror Month on the blog.  Not so happy that this week’s film features incredibly creepy children, but you can’t win ’em all.  At least we’ve got some fab ’60s style to go along with it.

The Film:

Ouija: Origin of Evil

The Premise:

Evil originates.  Through a Ouija board.  In the 1960s.

The Ramble:

Alice is a 1960s mom trying to make ends meet–so what if that involves tricking people into believing their deceased relatives are communicating to them from beyond the grave?  As far as I’m concerned, Alice earns every penny as she’s put some serious creativity and intense detail into the whole endeavor.

Since the death of her husband, Alice is raising moody and extremely skeptical Lina, along with the younger Doris, who desperately wants to reconnect with her father.

One evening, Lina and her rebellious friends bust open the liquor cabinet and use a Ouija board to talk to the spirits of the dead…spooky!  Despite Lina’s eye rolling, the group is genuinely freaked out until they are interrupted by the arrival of parentals.  After a stern talking to, Alice concedes that Ouija is all the rage and decides to add it to her skill set.

Four teens sit on the floor in the dark, using their fingers to guide a Ouija board.

Meanwhile, Lina has agreed to attend the Homecoming dance with her friend Mikey.  When Mikey comes over to walk Lina to school, Alice gives him a stern talking-to and makes sure he understands how short his lifeline will be if he hurts Lina in any way.

At school, Doris is tormented by a couple of nasty little boys.  The head of their school, Father Tom, manages to earn some major points with Alice when he intervenes and cheers up Doris.  Though there seems to be something between Alice and Father Tom, it’s too bad since he’s married to the church and such.

As she practices with the Ouija board, Alice makes the rookie mistake of using the board alone and doesn’t say goodbye to the spirit.  Things get eerie when Doris begins responding to Alice’s questions from the 2nd floor of the house…creepy!  Even worse, Doris completes homework in beautiful cursive with the help of her “friend.”

A woman in a floral dress stands in a residential neighborhood, her teenage and young daughter behind her.

Though skeptical at first, Alice begins to believe Doris is able to speak to the dead when she claims her father is communicating with her, providing details Doris couldn’t possibly know on her own.  After finding a hidden stash of money and saving the house from foreclosure, Doris and her new talent prove very lucrative indeed.

However, it should surprise no one when Doris gets even more fucking creepy, using her mind to turn a bully’s mean prank against him, describing in detail to Mikey what it’s like to die by choking to death, and sewing a doll’s mouth shut to stop the voices.  Give that child over to the state, lady.

A young girl wearing a school uniform stares menacingly ahead.

After Lina brings Father Tom’s attention to letters Doris has mysteriously written in fluent Polish, the priest visits the house in the guise of connecting to his deceased wife.  What this Ouija session reveals is the frightening and rather confusing truth about who is really reaching out from the other side.

How many will still be on the side of the living by the time the credits roll?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This isn’t a bad film, but doesn’t strike me as particularly memorable.  Initially quite watchable, the amount of time spent on setting the scene becomes tedious after a while.  Even though we spend a lot of time with our main 3 characters, I still didn’t really care about what happened to any of them.

I do love a period drama, though, and the ’60s details are absolutely gorgeous.  Doris is ridiculously creepy, but it’s not enough to hold the film together.

Would my blog wife’s spirit possess this one or search for a more worthy host elsewhere?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Veronica, or: Smells Like Teen Spirits

As an absolute garbage month this year, September can go die in a dumpster fire as far as I’m concerned.  Praise be to all that is unholy it’s once again the most wonderful time of the year:  the month of October, Halloween, and…uh, Mean Girls Day?  You know what that means for the blog:  horror, horror, horror.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Film:

Veronica (2017)

The Premise:

After a Ouija board session gone wrong, 15-year-old Veronica must keep her younger siblings safe and send the demon she accidentally summoned back where it came from.

The Ramble:

The following events are based on a real police report filed in 1991 Madrid, as our film cautions us right out of the gate.  Oooooooooh, spooky!

Though Veronica is just 15 and still in braces, she is the main caretaker for her 3 younger siblings.  Since Veronica’s father died, her mother works long night shifts at a bar, leaving Veronica to get her siblings up and ready for school.  Some days go better than others, depending on Veronica’s alarm clock and the level of her siblings’ brattiness.

The Catholic school Veronica and her siblings attend is all abuzz about the upcoming solar eclipse.  Ominously, Veronica and her friends plan to contact her father using a Ouija board while the rest of the school views the eclipse.  And of course they have to call upon spirits in the creepiest space ever that for some reason is easily accessible to pretty much anyone who can climb down a few metal rungs and is not considered a safety hazard???

I’ve got to say, this made me so nostalgic for the days of actually using giant hulking reference books–for example, The Great Encyclopedia of the Occult consulted in the film.

three teenage girls surrounded by candles hold their fingers to a Ouija board

However, nothing else about the teens’ Ouija experience is as fun as occult reference materials when, instead of reaching the spirit of Veronica’s father, they summon a malevolent demon.  As the board breaks, book catches fire, and the lights flicker off, Veronica seems to be possessed.  When she lies on the floor whispering to herself, then suddenly sits up and screams, all bets are off.  Veronica’s friends are well and truly freaked the fuck out.

At home, things don’t get much better.  Veronica seems to have episodes of being possessed, and both sees and hears a presence in their apartment at different times.  The lights flicker, doors slam open and shut, the TV turns on by itself.  When Veronica gives her brother a bath, the faucet mysteriously turns on with scalding water, giving him burns on his body.

The next day at school, Veronica has a conversation with an elderly blind nun known as Sister Death, who also happens to be a chain smoker.  The Sister warns her there is a presence with her that she must send back from whence it came.  Veronica is also tasked with keeping her siblings safe from the demon she inadvertently summoned.

a blind nun smokes a cigarette in a dark basement

Veronica gets serious about using pagan symbols to protect her siblings and insists all 4 camp out together in the living room that night.  Riled up about demons in the house, the children are terrified when their mother comes home and demands to know what is going on.  Of course Veronica gets a stern lecture because parents just don’t understand.

Determined to be rid of the demon, Veronica tries to enlist the help of her friends in summoning it and sending it away.  Still traumatized by their Ouija session gone wrong, Veronica’s friends refuse to go near the board ever again.

a teenage girl stands with her younger siblings, holding up a cross

Still intending to stick with her plan, Veronica decides she will send the demon back with the help of her younger siblings.  And of course things go horribly, horribly wrong from there, resulting in the infamous real life police report.

What terrors in the report could have traumatized the lead detective on the case and spawned rumors that the house is haunted?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out!  Or I guess you could Google it.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The premise here is decent and not your formulaic teens who shouldn’t have fucked with a Ouija board horror.  Veronica has depth and is quite sympathetic as a protagonist who wants to connect with her father, later transformed into fierce older sister and protector of her siblings.

However, this just isn’t particularly scary.  There seems to be a checklist of cliche signs of a  demonic possession this film is determined to cross off.  Honestly, the creepiest scene for me was one where Veronica dreams her siblings are attacking and eating her…but we’ve all been there, right?

I absolutely loved Sister Death and her doom and gloom warnings–even if they are too little too late.  If we get a prequel about her, I will be on that so fast.

Would my blog wife summon this one again or send it back ASAP?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Jennifer’s Body, or: Would You Hold It Against Me? (Sorry/Not Sorry)

High school month continues, which I promise will feature at least one cheesy throwback teen rom-com.  Prepare yourself, Christa.  For now, teen horror comedies abound!

The Film:

Jennifer’s Body

Where to Watch:

Figure it out

The Premise:

A high school teen’s best friend experiences a transformation into a bloodthirsty demon, causing a rift to develop between the two.

The Uncondensed Version:

Memorably, Amanda Seyfried tells us “Hell is a teenage girl.”  No argument here—except perhaps hell is being a teenage girl.

In the present, Amanda aka Needy has been institutionalized for reasons as yet unknown.  All we know is she has amassed a fan following that sends her letters, and she frequently has to be placed in solitary confinement for her violent outbursts.

A teen wearing glasses with long blonde hair faces the camera, unsmiling.
Oddly, images this week from the Jennifer’s Body Wiki.  For real.

Before all of this, though, Needy was just an ordinary nerd whose BFF was gorgeous cheerleader Jennifer.  They have a somewhat uneven friendship, as Needy has to constantly overanalyze what she’ll wear so she looks cool but not better than Jennifer.  Needy’s boyfriend Chip notices the weird connection between the 2 girls and the way Needy follows everything she says.

A teen holds fingers up to her lips, facing another teen girl.
It’s science that you’re more likely to do things pretty people ask of you.  Or something.

Jennifer and Needy go to pretty much a dive to see a band led by Goth Adam Brody (say what).  Though Jennifer jokes about becoming a groupie, at some point she seems to become literally hypnotized by the band.  Also a fire breaks out, which the girls manage to escape, but others are not so lucky.  The band appears to do nothing to help and, in fact, seems pretty set on getting Jen into their van.  Obv Needy has a very bad feeling about this, but she can’t dissuade Jen from getting into the van.

Is this the last of Jen?  Of course not.  Just when Needy thinks she must be gone for good, Jen shows up at her house, looking all scary and blood-soaked.  She eats a chicken, vomits blood and needles, and leaves.

Two teens crouch in the dark in front of an open refrigerator; the girl nearest the fridge has food wrappers around her and is covered in blood.
Just another girls’ night…

The next day at school, Jen returns and is completely normal by all appearances.  However, it becomes clear pretty early on that she hungers for flesh.  Specifically, she’s pretty intent on murdering and disemboweling high school boys.

Needy becomes increasingly disturbed until Jen finally crosses the line by murdering Needy’s Goth friend Colin.  Jen does explain that on the night of the fire the band members sacrificed her to Satan in an effort to make it big as an indie band, instilling in her a thirst for blood.

After doing some trusty library research, Needy discovers how to destroy demons and warns him the dance will be a feast for the band and Jen.  Chip, of course, doesn’t believe her and only cares that he’s already bought the corsage and everything.

A teen in a school's library furrows her brow as she reads a book.
School libraries:  an unexpected hotbed of occult research.

You know for certain some Carrie­-level shit is going down at prom.

The Critique:

Better than expected in the beginning with slightly more depth than the average teen horror comedy.  I thought this could either be the greatest or a complete disaster, with no room in between.  I wouldn’t call this a great film, but it was entertaining and surprisingly feminist(ish).

There is quite a bit of exploration concerning friendship between high school girls and the darkness that can creep into those relationships.  It doesn’t work as well as Ginger Snaps, though, and frequently feels like a watered-down version of that film albeit with demons instead of werewolves.

Being a teen movie, stereotypes abound regarding each of the cliques.  Stereotypes aside, this is one of the more realistic approaches to high school dynamics I can think of—Needy has friends in many different cliques rather than being friends only with nerds.

Though the relationship between Needy and Jen is well-defined, the other characters fall flat.  Chris Pratt makes a brief appearance, and JK Simmons with hair is in this (which is weird).  Chip gets quite a lot of screen time, which is unfortunate as he’s a pretty forgettable character and I gave zero fucks about him.  Plus I feel Chip is an acceptable name only for a chipmunk.  Or, like, a Chippendales dancer.

Not destined to be a classic, but not a terrible way to spend an hour and a half either.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Is Christa BFFs with this one or would she slowly rip out its intestines, Satan possession or no?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ava’s Possessions, or: How to Lose Fiends and Alienate People

This week continues the B horror movie trend, but we shake things up slightly by switching from creatures to possessions.  Next week we shake things up even more when Christa and I are ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC.

The Film:

Ava’s Possessions

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A woman tries to get her life back on track as she recovers from a demonic possession.

The Uncondensed Version:

We first meet Ava shortly after a demon leaves her; she has spent the past month doing violent, depraved, awful things with no memory of them.

The film sets up demonic possession as sort of a form of drug addiction in the way it damages its victims and hurts the people around them.  As with a newly sober addict, Ava’s family and friends don’t understand her well and even cast a bit of blame her way for getting possessed I the first place.  They try to understand what it was like for Ava, but end up asking really insensitive questions like “What are you going to do about picking up the pieces of your life?”

A woman sits in a chair holding her hand to her forehead. Two martinis stand on the table in front of her.
The face I make too when someone asks what I’m doing with my life.

Additional complications:  Ava is facing major charges that could come along with serious prison time.  The only alternative is to go through the Spirit Possession Anonymous program and agree to stick to it.  Through SPA, Ava is able to share the name of her demon and learn about all of the crimes she committed, men she slept with, and ears she chewed.  We also discover the demon was always accompanied by a drum so, understandably, drums are something of a trigger for Ava.

Somewhat counterintuitively, the SPA method prepares its participants to be possessed again when equipped with the resources to expel their demons.  This seems to be accomplished mostly by making funny faces in the mirror, beating the shit out of dummies, fighting with dolls, and popping balloons.  It looks like possibly the most fun form of rehab ever.

a man with a serious expression stands amid a group of people holding mirrors to their faces
I’ve already mastered this step of the SPA program…

Things are going pretty well for Ava, all things considered, until she takes a sudden downward spiral and loses faith in the SPA program.  In a decision she regrets almost immediately, Ava helps her friend perform a black magic ritual during which she’ll be possessed.  I’ll be honest and tell you I wasn’t paying the most attention ever to this part of the film because I suddenly felt really sleepy but wanted to power through it and keep watching.

two women wearing dark robes sit in a magic circle on a rooftop
Even witchcraft looks delightful in this film.  But I’d probably say that regardless.

So anyway…this is majorly against the principles of SPA, which I should think goes without saying.  Ava is kicked out and now must seek help elsewhere or face prison.

Before she can leave, though, Ava realizes someone is trying to kill her.  I think you’ll know almost immediately who it is based on general shadiness, but lest I ruin the surprise for you, I’ll stop right here.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really enjoyed watching this and am happy to say it was a completely new take on the possession story for me.  It reminded me a bit of Fido, the alternate history zombie rom-com, in its blending of genres, realistic approach to extraordinary happenings, and really quite fun approach to horror.

That being said, the film is a bit uneven as the latter half becomes sort of a gritty film noir, which is a jarring transition.  Or possibly I just have a pitch black sense of humor as I found the beginning of the film quite funny in the way it subverted expectations and drew the parallels between being a recovering addict and victim of demonic possession.

Also the love interest was so boring I didn’t even mention him or care about at all.  But that’s true with most men, isn’t it?

Did this film make Christa embrace her inner demon or would she rather expel it from her memory?  Find out by reading her review here!

Film Reviews

Evil Dead, or: The Terror of Horrible Jewelry

The Film:

The Evil Dead

Where to Watch:

Overdrive, Hoopla, Youtube (I would encourage you to watch using your library’s Overdrive or Hoopla services, but their streaming usually frustrates me. Youtube all the way.)

The Premise:

Five college students in this campy horror classic.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

I’ve been neglecting Evil Dead for a while, mostly because it’s not on Netflix (and I am, at my core, an incredibly lazy being).

I have temporarily overcome my laziness since I’ve been promising one of my favorite people I would review this movie for months, if not years. So let’s do this.

The movie begins with the ultimate horror movie cliché: 5 college students spending a weekend in a secluded cabin where they can party in peace. Though they narrowly escape being hit by a truck and falling into a ravine on the broken-down bridge of doom, they refuse to turn back before reaching the creepy, abandoned cabin.

a young man stands outside of a small cabin with boarded-up windows in the woods
All in all, a great place to spend a weekend.

Later that evening, the floor boards start banging, and a trap door leading to the basement opens. One of the two guys (not Ash) who is sort of an asshole goes into the basement BY HIMSELF to investigate. Ash follows, and the asshole guy in plaid just sort of fucks with him. I want him to DIE. They discover guns and mysterious occult objects in the basement, including an account of the owner’s excavation of these objects at a burial site (H.P. Lovecraft was probably the uncredited screenwriter). As the two play the recording of the Book of the Dead, all of these ominous occurrences start happening, like the ground smoking and turning red.

However, everyone just keeps calm and carries on as usual. Ash gives his girlfriend a (beautiful?) magnifying glass necklace. It’s the thought that counts, I guess?

close-up of a necklace that looks like a magnifying glass
The most horrifying image from the movie. A truly terrible piece of jewelry that Ash’s girlfriend has to pretend is beautiful.

Basically everyone starts making out except for the lonely headscarf girl who is the fifth wheel. She wanders outside by herself into the woods. Maybe you’re aware of the weird tree rape scene that happens at this point. If not, consider yourself warned. It’s creepy. It’s unnecessary. Even the director agrees. So no judgment if you fast-forward.

The headscarf girl runs back to the cabin, and Ash opens the door just in time. Ash begins to drive her into town, but the bridge has been destroyed. At this point, headscarf girl has a teeeeeeeeeeensy (major) breakdown. She returns to the cabin with Ash, but suddenly becomes demonically possessed and stabs Ash’s girlfriend, Linda, with a pencil. It’s actually kind of disgusting in an over-the-top way. The others manage to lock possessed headscarf girl in the basement, where she keeps taunting them from the trapdoor.

Meanwhile, the asshole guy’s girlfriend is standing RIGHT in front of the window when something breaks in and possesses her. She attacks her boyfriend, who throws her onto the fire and stabs her. She starts spewing white paint(?) and, as she is STILL not dead, they chop off her head with an ax and bury her.

a man uses his thumbs to push in the eyes of a zombie, who is covered in very thick, fake blood
Perhaps as a consequence of watching too much Star Trek, I didn’t think the special effects were all that bad.

The asshole guy then decides to leave even though Linda can’t walk. He dies not long after (thank GOD).

Linda, now possessed, attacks Ash, who stabs her and prepares to cut her body into pieces (the only way to prevent her from reanimating). But then he sees that god awful necklace and decides to just bury her. NOT A GOOD IDEA. Headscarf girl escapes from the trapdoor as Linda rises from the grave and attacks Ash. AGAIN. He decapitates her with a shovel and fights her headless corpse with a lot of reasonably disgusting blood/milk-vomiting special effects (again—could just be the Star Trek talking).

It’s now Ash’s turn to have a bit of a meltdown until his possessed friends attack him again. He manages to get the Book of the Dead and burn it, so all of the demons turn into sort of Play-Doh/cottage cheese piles, which then erupt into blood and insects.

The sun is rising as Ash leaves the cabin, but the sinister wind starts up and blows through the cabin and out the front door after him. Suddenly, Ash turns around and screams, setting up the scene for Evil Dead 2.

The Critique:

My friend B is always right, and I should accept this. Biggest criticism is that I’m still really creeped out by the tree scene, and not in an it’s-fun-to-be-scared kind of way. Overall, solidly entertaining and just disgusting enough to be satisfying.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads (I know, I know…4/5 is becoming my default.  I will utterly destroy a film in my next review.   I swear it.)