Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

St. Agatha, or: Hold Your Tongue

Horror-lujah (sorry not sorry), it’s Horror Month at last! We’re kicking off the best month on the Blog Collab with a classic yet underrepresented genre: nun horror. And, seriously, the nuns here are much more likely to join forces with Pinhead than feed the hungry or tend to the sick.

The Film:

St. Agatha

The Premise:

A young pregnant woman turns to a convent for help…only to discover the Sisters choose to do the Lord’s work using rather sinister methods.

The Ramble:

In 1957 Georgia, the aptly named Mary runs away to a secluded convent in the woods, of course in the creepiest, most dilapidated building imaginable.

A woman carrying a suitcase faces the exterior of a 2-story building on a foggy evening.

Pregnant with her boyfriend’s child and on the run from her abusive father, Mary has nowhere else to turn. Noticeably absent is her little brother William, with whom Mary planned to escape, as well as any cash whatsoever.

Mary receives a rather chilly welcome from Sister Paula, who cautions that the shelter provided by the convent comes with a price: Mary must leave behind all connections to her former life and take a vow of silence. Her only concern now should be the approval of Mother Superior, who is something of a piece of work.

A woman in a nun's habit looks down at a younger woman in a green dress.

Believing the world to be a place full of sinners, bars on the windows protect the Sisters from evil outside forces…or do they prevent all who live in the convent from making an escape? According to Mother Superior, pain brings you closer to God, a message that does little to soothe Mary as she hears the sounds of crying and screaming from behind locked doors.

The only friend Mary can find is her roommate Catherine, who is also pregnant. Her other roomies live in perpetual terror of the Sisters and all have plenty of horror stories about their experiences at the convent.

Meanwhile, the Sisters seem more preoccupied with earthly concerns than sticking to that vow of silence as Mother Superior sits around counting her money and preparing for a dinner with their mysterious benefactors. When Mary learns that all of the Sisters are or have at some point been pregnant, she grows even more suspicious. Add to this Mother Superior’s constant gaslighting and warning that Mary is too irresponsible to raise her own child, and this is more or less the final straw.

Nuns in habits surround a young woman who is struggling to emerge from an open coffin.

Frightened for her own well-being and the future of her child, Mary decides to make a break for it. However, when things don’t go as planned, Mary winds up in the secret underground torture basement in the convent (what–you’ve never heard of a convent with a secret torture room?). Mother Superior will never release Mary until she accepts her old life is over…and in her new life, she is now Agatha.

Who will win the battle of wills between Mary and Mother Superior?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

For a film in which almost all of the major characters have taken a vow of silence, there is a LOT of dialogue here. And while some of it is effective, a lot adds very little value to the film.

Let’s start with the unnecessarily tragic backstory of Mary, (SPOILER) involving her father’s abuse, brother’s death, and descent into poverty with her boyfriend. I’m not sure all of these details tie in well to the story, and are merely tacked on to elicit sympathy for Mary–and to help us understand why she may be so desperate that she’d willingly stay at the convent from hell.

I do certainly feel for Mary, but the creepiness of the convent is immediately apparent, and it makes no sense the number of horrific things she puts up with before thinking that maybe–just maybe–she should get the eff out.

However, the ambience is quite well done: the suspense created because of the dilapidated building in the secluded, foggy woods comes through well. And there are truly horrendous things going on inside, most of which relate to an oral fixation. The psychological terror is effective as well, with the nuns, who are demonic yet do not have any demonic special powers, very easily manipulating their victims through emotional abuse.

I will give this film credit for its ambition as well; if I interpret it as intended, the story is a major critique of the church’s abuses historically and into the present. The hierarchical structure of the church has allowed for the systemic physical, sexual, and psychological abuse of pregnant women, young children, and indigenous people in particular. Though this is a horror film, some of the tactics employed by the Sisters have been used to abuse and manipulate victims, as well as to silence them. While they claim to do the Lord’s work, the Sisters’ motives are no different from a for-profit corporation: money and power.

But, in the end, the story isn’t as well thought-out as it could have been, and its message doesn’t come across in a way that’s as clever as it thinks it is.

Would my saintly blog wife devote herself to this one or slip a special ingredient into its frosty refreshments? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Secret Obsession, or: Pics or It Didn’t Happen?

Sometimes we celebrate freaks and weirdos on the blog. At other times, we wait for them to die. In this week’s film, the latter is appropriate for our stalker, murderer, and buyer of lye in bulk.

The Film:

Secret Obsession

The Premise:

After an accident wipes out her memories, Jennifer returns to her life as a newlywed with her husband…or at least the man who claims to be her husband.

The Ramble:

Running in terror from an unknown assailant, Jennifer is hit by a car when she runs out onto a dark and stormy road. After being rushed to the hospital, a man who claims to be her husband arrives, waiting for news on her condition. Conveniently, everyone just believes him and never asks for proof of his identity (beyond knowing Jennifer’s name and her tattoos???).

A man sits next to a woman lying in a hospital bed, who is wearing several bandages and casts.

Meanwhile, the Allstate guy plays a detective sent to investigate Jennifer’s accident (perhaps appropriately as the face of an insurance company?). Because his daughter disappeared at the age of 10, Detective Frank is determined to solve Jennifer’s case(?). Yeah, I’m not seeing the connection either, TBH.

When it becomes clear that Jennifer’s head trauma has affected her memory, it’s up to husband Russell to fill in the gaps. Or, conveniently, for an impostor to plant a bunch of fake memories in her brain. Don’t worry, though–he has the pictures to back it up. According to Russell, he and Jennifer are newlyweds who have recently moved to a remote cabin. Her parents died a couple of years ago in a fire, and Jennifer has quit her job to start a family with Russell…leaving no connections left in the world.

After making enough progress to return home, Jennifer discovers their house is not even remotely ADA compliant and struggles to get around with a healing leg. Russell is ever so nicely willing to help her get around, carrying her up to their room while leaving her without a wheelchair.

A man carries a woman up a wooden staircase.

Discovering a witness (or something?) trying to contact Jennifer, Russell makes the obvious next move of following and killing this dude (even though I honestly don’t understand who he is or why he’s around). Of course, this leaves Russell with a body to bury…and he naturally chooses the backyard. Suspicious when she spots him digging around the garden late at night, Jennifer starts investigating.

A woman picks a lock with hairpin.

What she uncovers is a bunch of Photoshopped pictures–in fact, all of the images in their wedding album have been altered. On top of this, Jennifer has a flashback while in bed with Russell, so she pumps the brakes on rekindling their relationship. Losing his temper, Russell reveals his dark and creepy side (or, rather, yet another dark and creepy side).

When we catch up with Detective Frank, we discover that (shocker) Russell provided a fake address to the police. Frank also connects the dots on a white pick-up truck that was spotted at the scene of the accident…and security footage of Russell arriving at the hospital in a white pick-up truck. After identifying Jennifer’s back tattoo as some sort of symbol for the name Allen(?!??!?!?!), Frank is able to locate her parents’ home. Surprise surprise, the occupants of the home are no longer in this world and have been mummified or something? They didn’t have pleasant deaths is the moral of the story. (Which surely would merit, IDK, having more than ONE dude investigating this shit???)

A man in a suit sits in front of a computer, working in a police station.

As it turns out, Russell is really Jennifer’s coworker Ryan, who was obsessed with her. After years of yearning for Jennifer from afar, it’s Russell who pulls off the office romance and marries her. On the night of Jennifer’s accident, Ryan attacked the newlyweds, killing Russell and terrorizing Jennifer.

Realizing how fucking creepy her so-called husband is, Jennifer tries to leave the house, but Ryan is one step ahead of her. When Frank manages to track Ryan down, he is caught off-guard with this psycho’s signature move: whacking people in the back of the head. To be fair, it’s a pretty solid choice for a stalker and murderer.

Will Jennifer and Frank be able to take down the unhinged Ryan before he can make use of all of that lye he bought on sale?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

JFC, this film is bland and not at all suspenseful. It’s very PG-13 for a film dealing with such a horrific concept, and conveniently ignores reality whenever it moves the plot along. For example, neither the hospital nor the police seem too concerned with verifying shit like people’s names and addresses. For fuck’s sake, I have to show my ID to pick up mail–there’s no way Ryan is skating through so many offices without having to prove his identity.

I feel for Jennifer, of course, but she’s so completely devoid of personality that it’s difficult to care about her a whole lot beyond just generally taking a feminist stance against, you know, stalking and murdering people. It may have helped to get more glimpses into her life before the accident, but IDK…Jennifer was probably boring then too.

The most offensive part of this film to me is the absolute pointlessness of Frank’s story. His fictional daughter’s kidnapping has nothing to do with this case, and it’s a major stretch to connect these two events. If you follow the thriller formula, Frank’s daughter should have been murdered by Ryan or at the very least Frank should have known Jennifer in some way. Beyond that, Frank is just a cop doing his job, and that doesn’t make for a good story.

The “closure” that Jennifer gets at the end (and Frank for that matter) is absolute garbage too. I wanted a more badass ending for her, but we were never going to get that. This is the ending of a TV movie that doesn’t lean into its trashiness–and all I ask from a TV movie is for it to embrace its own nonsense.

Would my 100% real and unedited blog wife follow this one to the ends of the earth or push it in front of a fast-moving vehicle? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Peelers, or: Unaccompanied Miners

Good news, everyone–we’re getting back to our roots again this week! Though you may want to reserve your judgment on whether to celebrate that occasion: especially when this week’s film features zombies, rather thoughtless yet incredibly problematic racism, and so much vomit.

The Film:

Peelers

The Premise:

A zombie plague breaks out in a strip club mid-lap dance.

The Ramble:

In a hospital room, a nurse prepares a dose of medicine for a gruesomely bloody patient. The patient suddenly sits up, vomiting profusely–and then violently attacking a nurse. Psychotic break or…first sign of a zombie apocalypse? Zombie apocalypse. It’s a zombie apocalypse, everyone.

Cut to a strip club, where most of the action of our film takes place…in all possible ways. There are several ladies with different personas: the cutesy baby act, the martial arts stuntwoman, and the new girl with a schoolgirl thing going on. Unfortunately, it’s the club’s last night, as its owner Blue Jean (seriously) is selling the place to (and I quote) a “fucking beanbag” who will probably tear the place down.

A woman lit in pink onstage wears a schoolgirl outfit with short plaid skirt and high knee socks, clutching a book to her chest.

In one of many incredibly cringey moments, a group of Mexican-American men arrive at the club, one of whom has a nasty-looking leg wound. So yeah…this is a good reason to have more diverse writers in Hollywood because otherwise you end up with a group of Mexican-Americans starting the zombie apocalypse by carrying their disease into a largely white establishment and spreading the plague to them. (And at one point, a character killing off one of the group who has gone full zombie says, “Adiós, motherfucker.”) And NO ONE thought this was problematic AF.

A man with an extremely pale face bleeds profusely from empty eye sockets.

Since the group of Mexican-Americans seem to be miners straight out of the 1950s, they were excavating with pick-axes when they struck oil. …Or so they believed. The foul-smelling liquid erupts, causing an accident that injures at least one of the party and dooms them all.

A group of four men with headlamps talk under a tent set up in a mine.

The zombies in this film are characterized by gross open wounds, copious amounts of vomiting, and psychotic knife attacks. As the body count rises, the few remaining in the club search for a way out. Will anyone make it out alive? Will any viewers of this film care?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This actually isn’t a bad premise for a horror film–I imagined something like Coyote Ugly with zombies (and a LeAnn Rimes number in the mix certainly wouldn’t have hurt). Instead we got this empty slasher with even emptier character and plot development.

There is so little that actually makes sense here, even for a B zombie horror (B is with a generous curve). I admittedly get way too hung up on details, but it made zero sense to me that there’s a new girl starting at the strip club…on its closing night? And she’s one of the first characters to die–what is even the point of her???

The vision of mining also fails to have any grounding in reality. The group of Mexican-Americans working the mine seem to be the only ones there with no one overseeing operations. There might be an implication they own the mine; I can’t think of any other reason they would be so thrilled at the prospect of encountering oil. Also their most advanced technology for mining seems to be the pick-axe. I’ve got news for you, fellas. There are a lot of options that will make your mining operation less of a terrifying death trap, as well as way more efficient.

Speaking of things that are stupidly old-fashioned: the gender roles in this movie. JFC, the gender roles. The men here take on the leadership roles, while most of the women freak out and cry. Blue Jean is somewhat of a badass, but one of the men tells her with his DYING WORDS that she’s always such a guy and should sometimes be a girl. 😑 What a fucking shame that dude died.

Would my blog wife stay for a private dance with this one or aim her projectile vomit in its general direction? Read her review here to find out!

Activism, Life Rants

Bad Dreams

This week brought to you by vivid dreams about drowning in water parks and having incredibly detailed screaming fights with members of my family (admittedly the latter isn’t always an invention of my unconscious).

Among other things, last week’s shitshow of a Supreme Court hearing has really gotten under my skin.  Accompanied by a sense of doom ahead of November’s midterm elections, this hasn’t been great for my psyche (or the tension headaches that lie in wait when they can sense I’m feeling overwhelmed).

I don’t have anything to add on the Kavanaugh hearings and the composure of Dr. Blasey Ford that hasn’t been said by others much more eloquently:  here, here, and here to name a few.  But (geographically) closer to home another disturbing political development has been on my mind.

This weekend saw my alma mater, Kent State, unwillingly become a rallying place for ahem, “grassroots” gun rights activists very much sponsored by extremist right-wing groups.

Coverage of the event is detailed by the student news site, Kent Wired:  http://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_998c22ac-c597-11e8-a33d-bf61db148c4d.html

If the name Kent State is familiar to you, it’s likely because of the infamous Kent State shootings of 1970 in which members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War, fatally wounding 4.  As a place of historic importance, the area where the shootings occurred looks almost identical to its appearance in the 1970s, and there is a center on campus dedicated solely to educating students and visitors about the tragedy.

Of course I take issue with the idea that more guns are needed on college campuses in light of the number of students who have opened fire on their classmates in recent years.  And of course I take issue with the idea that the so-called Constitutional right to bear arms should receive so much coverage when the growing number of college students who are homeless or regularly go without enough food are much more pressing concerns for anyone in higher ed.

But honestly it’s most concerning to me that some of the protest signs suggested the Kent State shootings could have been prevented if the victims had been armed.  I understand this type of statement is meant to provoke outrage rather than make sense, but to me nonviolent protest is an integral part of democracy and the identity of the United States.  Civil disobedience is a value to strive for rather than scorn–whether or not those participating in acts of civil disobedience receive civil treatment in return.  I find it disturbing on a fundamental level that the appropriate response to threats of violence seems to be more threats of violence.

If there’s one silver lining here in a very troubling story, it’s that many students on campus expressed opposition or annoyance in response to the protestors.  Students rallied with signs and chants, forming a human wall to prevent the march from proceeding across campus.  As a librarian, my favorite response was one student’s sign indicating outrage that the library was closed as a safety precaution.  Image is on Twitter:

 

Stay golden, library sign boy.

Featured image by Michael Weidner on Unsplash
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Love, or: Full-Frontal Male Misogyny

In the history of the Blog Collab, there have been only a handful of films so hated that Christa and I cannot contain our rage about them.  This is one of those films.

The Film:

Gaspar Noé’s Love

The Premise:

An awful garbage human being reflects on how he fucked things up with the so-called love of his life.

The Ramble:

Our film begins ever so tastefully in the middle of a 3-minute full-frontal sex scene.  If this is the kind of thing you’re into, good news–you’ll see so many endless, gratuitous sex scenes with all of the nudity.  All of it.

As it turns out, the scene depicts our protagonist and resident misogynist Murphy with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Electra.  In the present, Murphy’s memories of her are all he has.  Murphy is unhappily married to a woman named Omi with whom he shares a young son (named Gaspar, JFC).  As the film opens, Murphy learns that Electra is missing and quite possibly dead.

A man sits on the edge of a bed, head in hands. Behind him, a woman holds a toddler.
Can’t…contain…douchebaggery…much longer…

Let’s just pause to appreciate the nature of Murphy’s marriage and the almost superhuman amount of self-pity he feels.  He’d definitely be top pick for Marvel’s Improbably Self-Pitying Misogynist Man.  Murphy believes his wife, Omi, deliberately became pregnant to trap him.  He regularly thinks shit like “I’m sick of this bitch.  Take care of the baby and leave me alone,” “I’m married because of a broken condom,” and “I hope she doesn’t make my son gay.”  What a catch.

As Murphy reflects on his present, he becomes lost in memories of his past with Electra and–lucky for us–details the tragic story of how their relationship unraveled.  When Electra and Murphy meet at a party, he is a film student who wants to make movies out of “blood, sperm, and tears.”  He’s the obnoxious film guy who gets indignant when Electra admits she hasn’t seen 2001.  Give it a rest, bro.

Electra is a struggling artist with a drug problem and a complicated relationship with her parents.  Despite their issues, Electra and Murphy fall into a passionate relationship with an absolutely unnecessary number of sex scenes.  The two believe they will start a family and be together forever because their love is so twu.

A man and woman lean close together over a table in a Japanese restaurant.
Yet another reason to be grossed out by PDA.

Unfortunately, cracks begin to show quite quickly in this relationship (and not just ass cracks).  Electra’s ex, Noé (eye roll), has a successful gallery whose position to help her makes Murphy super jealous.  As the couple fights more and more, they go to extreme measures to save their relationship.  Naturally, this includes a visit to a gross underground sex club (I almost vomited when I thought about people having to clean this place), hiring a trans sex worker, and a threesome with a pretty young neighbor, Omi…aka Murphy’s future wife.

A dark-haired woman reclines in bed between a man and a blonde woman, smiling.
A rare moment of fully-clothedness.

What happened to drive the final nail in the coffin?  And will Electra ever be seen again?  Does anyone give a shit?

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, the only thing worse than seeing Murphy’s dick so many times that it stops looking real is hearing this douchebag’s internal monologue throughout the film.  I have absolutely no sympathy for this dude’s existential angst as everything bad that’s happened to him is his own fucking fault yet he still doesn’t learn to treat women better.

Just for fun, a selection of Murphy’s internal thoughts:

“A dick has only one purpose:  to fuck.”  (Dicks fuck assholes.)

“Men understand each other; we have respect for each other.”

“I’m not a slave to pussy.  Pussy is pussy.”

The nature of Murphy and Electra’s relationship is also horrific.  This film should’ve just been called Sex or Fucking because what they share is not love.  The two spend an insufferable amount of time talking about what a great couple they are, but they’re actually the worst.

Only watch this one if you want to watch a porno while insisting to your friends at a party that this is true art.

Would Christa have a self-pitying wallow with this one or cover it quickly with a towel (and/or kill it with fire)?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Wetlands, or: Yes, That’s a Euphemism

So happy to be back to Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab 2015 after a short break!

This week’s film is Christa’s pick, Wetlands. Click here for her post. Or don’t. I don’t really have the authority to tell you how to live.

I’m shaking up the format a teensy bit and just letting my thoughts flow because that’s what I’ve been doing anyway, right? At times way more freely than you ever wanted them to.

The Film:

Wetlands

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

I really love the Netflix summary for this one. “She’s lewd, and her hygiene habits are…unconventional. Shaving a personal area becomes a blessing in disguise.”

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film follows Helen, German teen with hemorrhoids, a fairly dysfunctional relationship with her parents, and a very sexually curious mind. She also rocks the tomboy/pseudo-grunge look, successfully achieving the much desired appearance of giving zero fucks without looking homeless unlike uh…this blogger.

a teenage girl wearing a baggy sweater and messy hairstyle stands outside
Not fair.

I’m going to stop right here and warn you that Helen is a fantastic character and it’s really fun to see her grow…but this movie is gross. It’s really, really gross. Like one of her acts of rebellion against her mother’s obsession with personal hygiene is to rub herself on absolutely filthy public toilet seats. I mean, public restrooms don’t really bother me, but there are multiple times that one scene from Trainspotting seems tame.

So anyway…when our film opens, Helen’s main interest (besides sex) is getting her divorced parents back together. She quickly makes friends with her new neighbor, Corinna, even though she’ s convinced her mom will decide to move the family soon.

Helen gets an unexpected opportunity to get her parents together when she has a shaving accident that really hurts to think about. I can’t, you guys. It happens when she gives her ass a shave. I need to move on from this topic.

As a result of her injury, Helen needs surgery and an extended hospital stay. It’s not all bad as she has a sexy nurse taking care of her. Seriously, he looks like a fucking Backstreet Boy.

close up of a man with blonde hair wearing white scrubs
Backstreet’s back, alright?

The point here is that Helen tries repeatedly to get her parents to the hospital at the same time, but they refuse to cooperate. She hangs out with the nurse a lot and tries to shock him with the story of this time she went to a brothel and had sex with a prostitute.

To be honest, the plot kind of fell apart at this point with a lot of flashforward/flashback, a pretty insane drug trip, and scenes that attempted to out-gross each other.

If you decide to watch this film, I think you will be watching at least partially for the shock value, so I will say no more. Suffice it to say there’s a reason Helen acts the way she does.

close up of a middle-aged woman speaking to her daughter, telling her "Don't trust anybody. Not even your parents."
REALLY, THOUGH.

And you should do yourself a favor and not eat pizza while you watch this movie.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because I wish I had been half as cool as Helen as a teen. The plot structure is…loose, and many scenes are not for the faint hearted. Sperm pizza, you guys. Sorry, I did spoil it. I CAN’T CARRY THE WEIGHT OF THAT SCENE BY MYSELF.

See if Christa handled it better by reading her post here!