Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World, or: Frenchy McFrenchface

This week’s film brings Horror Month to a close (say it isn’t so)!  In true French spirit, this film does horror with style (and is based on a true story!).

The Film:

The Most Assassinated Woman in the World

The Premise:

Paula Maxa, famous for dying onstage in every performance, may be the target of a real-life killer.

The Ramble:

Welcome to 1930s Paris, a world full of cigarettes, drama, religious zealots, and…murder?  The (in)famous Paula Maxa has the distinction of being murdered every night at the Grand Guignol Theatre, much to the dismay of a die-hard group of protestors.  Believing her violent act will yield acts of real violence, the protestors only seem to create more intrigue around the scandalous show.

You have to give credit to the theater crew for keeping things fresh–Paula’s deaths are always gruesomely staged with a disturbing amount of attention to detail.  Whether being stabbed, choked, or beheaded, the stunts always look real.  Possibly because the blood and body parts involved aren’t props but harvested from human victims…?

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On this particular evening, there are several audience members of note watching the show.  First is an older man with his young lover in a private box.  The man in question seems much more interested in Paula’s bloody death than anything his lover has to offer.  That can’t be good.

Another person of importance is a journalist, Jean, writing a story about the Grand Guignol as a den of depravity.  After the show the next night, Jean meets Paula at a bar straight out of a film noir.  He’s immediately intrigued and determined to learn more about the glamorous, aloof star.

Meanwhile, Paula is having flashbacks to her younger days, and they aren’t particularly happy memories.  These seem to be influenced in part by the awful director who is determined to drive Paula insane for some reason?  Mostly because he’s a douche?

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As Paula opens up to Jean, she reveals the tragic secret in her past she’s held onto for so many years.  She also hints that she’s ready to leave the theatre and will do so with an appropriate amount of dramatic flair.

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Unfortunately, someone else seems ready for Paula to exit, stage left, in real life.  The choice to re-create Paula’s past onstage seems rather ominous.  Like Paula’s past, will this story end in tragedy?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

More film noir than horror, this film has a wonderful aura of mystery.  The gory effects paired with the melodramatic onstage deaths are impossible to resist.  As an added bonus, the film fits in nicely with the blog collab’s unoffical subtheme:  Women Who Look Good Smoking.

However, there are a lot of elements that never feel fully fleshed out.  I expected more to happen with the religious zealots, and almost all of the character motivations are confusing.  This is the kind of film where I anticipate a clever twist, but the end is just…a very French ending indeed.  (Not in a dirty way.)

Would my blog wife resurrect this act for a grand finale or let it die IRL?  Find out here!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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 here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Patchwork, or: Women Gotta Stick Together

TGIO–Thank God It’s October,  aka the best month on the blog, and arguably the best month period.   Nothing but horror to see here.  This week brings us a modern horror-comedy inspired by Frankenstein, featuring what may be the most jarring sight of all:  a non-ginger Fred Weasley.

The Film:

Patchwork

The Premise:

Three women seek revenge after being transformed into a grotesque creature at the hands of a modern-day Frankenstein.

The Ramble:

Los Angeles:  City of Dreams.  Also city of disreputable plastic surgeons with gruesome passion projects.

Successful but aloof Jennifer spends her birthday alone at a bar only to wake up the next day as the victim of a modern-day Frankenstein experiment.  Along with bubbly sorority girl Ellie and socially awkward Madeleine, parts of Jennifer’s face and body have been used to make one perfect woman (for convenience/laziness purposes, referred to as JEM from this point on).  Unfortunately, their new body is highly scarred and traps their 3 distinct minds together.

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In spite of disagreement about what happened and exactly whose body this is, JEM work together to escape (hampered by George from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).  As they regroup at Jennifer’s apartment, JEM decide first they will unravel the truth about what happened, then work to restore each mind to her separate body.

All 3 stories seem to share the bar where Jennifer spent a miserable birthday alone, Vic’s.  Could Jennifer’s medical student friend be the surgeon gone psychotic?

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Next is a deep dive into Ellie’s memories.  The night of her abduction, Ellie was trying desperately to impress a pompous artist who clearly doesn’t make art as such an act would be much too capitalist.  Could Banksy 2.0 have been the culprit?

As for Madeleine, she was drinking alone at Vic’s until a D-list celebrity decided to join her.  Though quiet and awkward, Madeleine asks Mr. I-Have-a-Drink-Named-After-Me back to her place.  Could this self-important pseudo-celeb have a dark hobby?  (Spoiler:  no.  Madeleine actually has a rather impressive collection of body parts in her fridge…)

I should note that as JEM narrow down their list of suspects, they are taking the process of elimination to an extreme and killing off the dudes they encounter.  Few tears are shed as these are men who have been emotionally manipulative, creepy AF, or just so goddamn annoying.

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We also get the love story no one asked for when Madeleine and Ellie decide Fred Weasley (or whatever the fuck his character’s name is in this film) is their type–or at least is there and available.  This plot point unintentionally brings up an interesting philosophical discussion about consent–if one body houses more than one consciousness, how many have to agree for it to be consent?  Yet another good reason to never try to Frankenstein people.

Philosophical questions aside, who is responsible for JEM’s transformation and how will they rain bloody vengeance down upon his head?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Even though the second half of this film is an absolute mess, I just can’t resist the first part.  The premise of the film is so fun:  mix one of my favorite literary classics with gory horror, social commentary, and ladies working together to get shit done.  Though the characterization of the 3 women isn’t always the most fleshed out, the scenes where they bond and begin to conspire are delightful.  I unexpectedly liked Ellie a lot; even though she is the sorority girl stereotype, Ellie is no mean girl and shows vulnerability that really resonates for me.

Unfortunately, the film tries unsuccessfully to make a statement amidst a completely incoherent plot.  It’s fruitless to expect to achieve the so-called perfect body, women gotta stick together, revenge is actually quite fulfilling–what the actual fuck is the message here???  Perhaps most unforgivably of all, it dangles the satisfying idea of a female serial killer targeting egomaniacs only to rip this away from us with a, er, clever twist.

I also really hate that Madeleine’s history of mental illness is brought up as something of an explanation for her violent behavior and (spoiler/not really a spoiler) obsession with having the perfect body.  Equating mental health with violence is problematic AF.  Furthermore, women feeling like shit about their bodies can be related to and exacerbated by mental illness–but it’s also very much an issue of social conditioning and, IDK, LIVING IN THIS WORLD.

And, of course, the tacked-on romance with a mediocre non-ginger Weasley just isn’t wanted or needed.  I don’t want to see women hook up with boring heteronormative white dudes; I want to see them stab the fuck out of people (preferably men).

I have to say, however, the first part of the film did bring me a lot of joy.

Did my blog wife get attached to this one or would she saw off her own arm to get away from it?  Find out 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Night of the Living Deb, or: Horror? Comedy?

The last film of Horror Month is upon us with perhaps the most dubious of all horror subgenres:  the horror comedy.  It has brought the Blog Collab memorable highs (Grabbers, Housebound, 3-Headed Shark Attack) and devastating lows (All Cheerleaders Die, Ghost Shark).  Which one will it be this time around?

The Film:

Night of the Living Deb

The Premise:

The zombie apocalypse is unleashed on Portland, ME, giving the titular Deb the opportunity she’s been waiting for to meet cute guys and eat froyo.

The Ramble:

It’s Independence Day in Portland…an important day historically for the US to fight off aliens and other hostile non-human life forms.  Deb and her bff Ruby are out drinking with the rest of the town in honor of the 4th.  Because nothing sounds like a better time in the summer than crowding in an enclosed space with a bunch of sweaty strangers.

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’90s game strong.

Ruby encourages Deb to go talk to Ryan, a guy she’s been scoping out all evening.  As soon as Deb works up the courage to flirt really badly with Ryan, his fiancée Stacy interrupts and picks a fight with him.  Apparently Ryan is none too keen to work for and inherit the rather shady family business, thus securing their financial future.  After the fight, Deb and Ryan hook up, which he immediately regrets.

The next day, Deb leaves Ryan’s apartment without fanfare.  Both soon realize that this won’t be a typical 4th as Deb witnesses children feeding on the flesh of their parents and the barista attacks Ryan at his local coffee shop.

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The commute was…murder…

 

Overhearing on the radio that Portland is under a state of emergency, Deb and Ryan team up to find their families.  Ryan’s family is in the city, and Deb’s mother has retired to Virginia Beach.

First, the two check in on Ruby at the Christmas store where she works.  Sadly, Ruby has been zombified, and Deb vows to end her miserable existence.  However, she’s unable to follow through with her plan and instead traps Ruby in the trunk of her car until scientists develop a cure.

Deb and Ryan do make it to his family’s house, where his father, brother, and fiancée are gathered.  As it turns out, Ryan’s father may have played a role in the zombie outbreak, caused by contaminated city water.

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Road trip!  To celebrate your family NOT killing us with contaminated water.

Things get really fucked up from here on out, as Ryan’s brother, who is in love with Stacy confronts her and then lets her die by zombie attack.  Deb has decided to leave after she hears suspicious sounds from Ryan and Stacy’s room.  Once she reaches a certain checkpoint, she realizes Portland is now the equivalent of the Hotel California–she’s not allowed to leave, even with the influential connection to Ryan’s family.  The state has decided to cover up the outbreak, which would’ve sounded more far-fetched to me around 5 years ago or so.

With Ruby’s help, Deb manages to escape with Ryan and enact an admittedly rather brilliant plan.  But is it too late to save their lives or for Deb to (eye roll) fulfill her dreams?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I initially liked Deb, but it wasn’t even halfway through the film that my opinion reversed dramatically.  Her awkwardness is endearing until it feels like it tries too hard, though I do love her rather ’90s inspired wardrobe complete with jelly sandals and a scrunchie.  She’s a hastily constructed character at best, jumping from supposed lifelong dream to another, whether it’s finding love or becoming a news anchor.

The worst, however, are the men (of course).  Ryan’s entire fucking family must be a bunch of sociopaths because (1).  His father caused the goddamn zombie apocalypse in Portland and coasts by pretty easily without consequence (perhaps the most realistic element of this film), (2).  His brother is really trigger happy and lets Stacy, a woman he claims to love, get eaten by zombies, (3).  Ryan has no reaction to Stacy’s death AT ALL and lies to her about what happened with Deb.  Also, can I point out that Ruby just sort of wanders off into the woods, never to be heard from again?

Considering how horrible 90% of the characters in this film are, the way the zombie apocalypse is played off as a joke in order to wrap things up happily is infuriating.  The happy ending (oops, spoiler?) doesn’t feel earned, and I hope Ruby comes back to town to burn it all down.

Would Christa save this one in the trunk or put it out of its misery ASAP?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

A Dark Song, or: Angels & Demons

As much as this month is about trashy horror, it wouldn’t be complete without a moody slow burner about dealing with grief through a countryside retreat to practice occult rituals.  With a man who is essentially an extremely ginger Paul Giamatti.

The Film:

A Dark Song

The Premise:

A woman hires an occultist to perform a ritual allowing her to communicate with her murdered son.

The Ramble:

Sophia has been mourning her son’s unsolved murder for a long time (understandably) and finally decides to do something about it.  Her solution?  Occult ritual to summon a guardian angel that will grant her a request.  Though she claims the request will be to speak with her child one ore time, does Sophia have ulterior motives?  Spoiler alert:  yes.

The occultist she meets with is Joseph, who has had a 1 in 3 success rate, which I guess isn’t too shabby in the occult world?  In order to complete the ritual, Sophia will have to follow Joseph’s instructions without question, some of which are pretty gnarly.  Joseph initially turns down her request, even for a shitload of money, but decides to take on the ritual when she convinces him her motives are pure.

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The film’s original pitch as a road trip comedy was less successful…

Joseph explains the ritual is basically a journey (I guess he’s a New Age occultist) in which they’ll travel through 5 circles, invoking the angel at all stages.  Most likely, the angel will materialize after the 4th or 5th step.  Of course, there are also really horrific tasks along the way for purification.  Sophia has to do things like shave Joseph’s body (what), spend hours to days reciting from one of the dark magic books (obv I totally know a lot about this kind of thing…) without food or sleep, drinking stemless wine glasses of Joseph’s blood, and getting naked in front of him so he can “purify” himself (gross gross gross).

There are some signs that the rituals are working like birds hitting the window and Sophia hearing her son’s voice speaking to her.  However, after a while, it becomes clear that they’re really not getting the intended results from all of the blood drinking and…uh, emergence of other bodily fluids.  As it turns out, Sophia’s real motive is to rain down vengeance on the teens who killed her son in a pseudo-occult ritual (and were never caught).  Joseph says it’s fine as a motive, but lying about it was distinctly not ok.

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Lying is impure, but cigarettes are fine.

For the ritual to work now, Joseph insists Sophia must be purified, which means nearly drowning her in a cold bath in the middle of the night.

After Sophia’s near-death experience, she’s angry with their lack of progress and lashes out at Joseph.  Things escalate rather quickly in ways that aren’t wonderful for Joseph.  After Sophia tries to leave the house, she discovers she can’t… and of course things get really sinister from here on out.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The eerie ambiance is perfect and burns so slowly, leading to a suspenseful ending.  Not a lot of horror can do what this film does.  However (as always), men ruined it for me.   I had trouble getting around Joseph being an asshole for 95% of his screen time.  Sophia isn’t necessarily the most likeable character ever, but she’s easier to understand and feel sympathy for.  The last 30 minutes or so of this are pure perfection, though, and  (SPOILER) blissfully Joseph-free (sorry, dude).

Would Christa complete an occult ritual with this one or let it drown in the bathtub? Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Cult of Chucky, or: Toy Story 7

The best month on the blog continues with a somewhat less…artistic film?  Unless you consider fake blood and slow-mo glass shattering to be fine artistry.

The Film:

Cult of Chucky

The Premise:

This feels redundant.

The Ramble:

Rather cringey and ill-timed opening conversation about guns aside, what you expect from this film is exactly what you get.  The serial killer-possessed doll is back (yet again) for mayhem and murder.  The first few minutes more or less catch us up to speed with the story so far, which is helpful for me as a viewer who has occasionally seen bits and pieces of the films (except in the way it pervades horror pop culture [is that a thing?]).

Andy, now an adult, has been haunted by Chucky since childhood.  It seems all of the years of murder/psychological warfare have made Andy a bit twisted, as he now keeps Chucky’s head in a safe and brings it out on wild nights to torture it a bit.  Let’s not get into the moral dilemma of this scenario, ok?

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Just another Friday night at home…

Meanwhile, another survivor of Chucky’s madness is suffering quite a bit herself.  Nica is a patient in a high security psychiatric hospital after allegedly going on a murder spree and blaming it all on Chucky.  She has MS and rolls around in a wheelchair (possibly the only horror heroine to do so?!??!).

After gaining better control over her delusions, Nica will move to a medium security facility that’s appropriately ominous.  Even though the nurse Carlos says he’s just doing a job, he seems to be fond of Nica and leaves her a gift of chewing gum.

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What other facility could better promote positive mental health?

The others in the hospital include a woman who claims to be a ghost, a man with multiple personalities, a woman who smothered her own child, and an arsonist who instantly dislikes Nica.  Everyone seems to know about Nica’s dodgy past, which seems like a major ethical violation…but that’s really the least of the psychiatrist’s offenses.

Things are going along, eh, reasonably well, until the ghost lady tells Nica that her niece isn’t doing well…and that Chucky is coming.  For some stupid fucking reason, the psychiatrist decides to bring out a Chucky doll as an exercise, which the patient missing her child instantly claims as her own.   Yeah, about .25 seconds later he’s wielding a knife.

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Still a better super team than the Avengers.

From this point, of course, the bodies start piling up.  And so do the Chucky dolls–in addition to the creepy Chucky head chilling with Andy, there are two dolls in the hospital.

Oh, also, Jennifer Tilly, Chucky’s girlfriend, has adopted Nica’s niece for whatever reason.  Mostly to torture Nica.

At a later point, the psychiatrist tries hypnosis with Nica and reveals what a goddamn sleaze he is.  Will Nica escape both the psychiatrist and Chucky?

And will Andy ever make it to the hospital?  I kind of forgot about him–did you?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is so much fun it’s hard not to like.  The plot avoids going in the direction you expect, and I appreciate the almost complete lack of romance in this (really expected a Nica/Andy hookup and was pleasantly surprised that this didn’t happen).  Most of the characters are really fun to watch and have at least some emotional depth.  The ending manages to surprise and makes the ride even more fun.

It’s also incredibly satisfying to watch a certain wannabe Freud finally fucking die (spoiler/not really a spoiler because you know it’s coming).

Note to filmmakers:  if your horror is set in a psych ward, odds of me liking it increase exponentially.  Also the representation of several of the psychological disorders here was not the worst (I mean, for a horror film).

Would Christa lock this one away or unleash its madness upon the world?  Find out here!