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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bones, or: Dog Eat Dogg

Renovating an old home can be a nightmare even when your main concerns are restoring the original hardwood flooring, replacing the ugly formica countertops, or finding vintage pieces that perfectly capture a feeling of rustic country charm. But DIY-ing a home haunted by the spirit of a wrongfully murdered man that may hide a direct connection to hell in the basement? Truly a situation where home renovation…can be murder. Which is a missed opportunity for this film’s tagline IMHO, though perhaps lacking some of the dog/Snoop Dogg puns central to this week’s film.

The Film:

Bones

The Premise:

After his mysterious death in the late ’70s, the spirit of local legend Jimmy Bones returns seeking vengeance on those responsible.

The Ramble:

In a once-thriving neighborhood, drug deals go down regularly, cops patrol the streets, and a black dog terrorizes the residents. Longtime resident of the neighborhood Shotgun narrowly escapes the dog’s jaws, but witnesses the dog turn its attention on two frat boys hiding from the cops after a drug deal. Could there be something…supernatural about this dog’s appearance? That’s a definite yes.

A graffiti-ed van is parked on the street in front of a 2-story brick house with a Gothic facade.

The dog seems to operate in and close proximity to the creepiest house around (naturally): an abandoned Gothic-style house that has fallen into disrepair. When young Patrick buys the property in the hopes of transforming it into a trendy nightclub along with his siblings and bff, the group may get much more than they bargained for.

As it turns out, the last owner of the property was one Jimmy Bones, played by none other than Snoop Dogg. In 1979, he was a legend in the neighborhood, even earning a song about his tough but fair protection of his own. What went wrong to leave the house in shambles and the angry ghost of Bones in the form of a dog haunting the neighborhood?

A group of four young people crowd around a spot on the floor of a dark, dusty room.

Though Patrick and his friends remain clueless, they can sense something isn’t quite right about the house. Neighbor Pearl (Pam Grier), a psychic, conceals her connection to Jimmy Bones, warning the friends to no avail while cautioning her daughter Cynthia to keep her distance. Of course, Cynthia pays no mind, especially since she finds Patrick quite charming.

A woman with an afro and a feather boa holds hands with a man wearing a wide-brimmed fedora and pinstripe suit.

When Patrick, Bill, Tia, and unofficial member of the family Maurice announce the big news at home, it doesn’t go over well. Father and head of the household Jeremiah once lived in the very neighborhood of Jimmy Bones but has long since traded it all in for a comfortable life in the ‘burbs. Clearly disdainful of the ‘hood culture he believes has corrupted the old neighborhood, Jeremiah discourages his children from having any association with that part of town. Could Jeremiah be hiding a terrible secret related to the fall of Jimmy Bones?

Meanwhile, corrupt cop Lupovich and drug dealer Eddie Mack seem to have run the neighborhood since Bones has been out of the picture. Do they have an unsavory past to hide as they seized control?

A young man rests on a bed, eyes closed, headphones on, as shiny black hands surround him.

The moral of the story here is that the house holds a secret that no one wants to surface…especially since the body of Jimmy Bones has the power to reanimate as his vengeful spirit dog consumes flesh.

However, the only thing that becomes increasingly clear throughout our story is that Jimmy Bones will be back, and he will very definitely seek out those who did wrong. And he’s absolutely dedicated to dramatic entrances that involve maggots and fire raining from the sky.

Will anyone survive Jimmy Bones’s revenge?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Okay, there were never going to be any Oscar nominations for this film. But it’s so entertainingly pulpy and over the top, with some unexpectedly relevant commentary on Black neighborhoods with a bad reputation. Drug dealers and law enforcement earn our disdain here, but so do members of the Black community who seek middle-class respectability at the expense of their friends and neighbors.

Of course, having a cast that includes the onscreen pairing of Pam Grier and Snoop Dogg, which I never knew I needed, doesn’t hurt. Plus Katharine Isabelle gets a supporting role, and I will never complain about that.

Even though the film is very much a tribute to campy B horror and blaxploitation, it’s truly creepy at times. There are effects that look incredibly low-budget, but there are also genuinely gross scenes with maggots and rotting flesh that are truly horrifying. Director Ernest Dickerson pulls no punches here, condemning several characters to grisly deaths and an eternity in hell.

But in a fun way?

Would my blog wife light a candle in this one’s memory or condemn it to hell for all time? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Haunt, or: Down to Clown

The last time I went through a haunted house (fine–more accurately, it was a cave), it proved to be a terrible mistake. As it turned out, the area was muddy AF and involved a steep decline, which was a challenge for my friend who was wearing an orthopedic boot at the time. I’ve been told this story lacks the kind of terror people are looking for in a horror film. Let’s test that theory and determine for ourselves whether this week’s film is truly as harrowing as my own experiences with haunted Halloween attractions.

The Film:

Haunt (2019)

The Premise:

A group of friends out for a fun night of Halloween chills get more than they bargained for in a haunted house that’s significantly more murdery than anticipated.

The Ramble:

It’s Halloween, meaning one thing for roomies Harper and Bailey and their group of friends: it’s time to do shots of spider-infused vodka in a dimly lit club. Honestly, the thought of an evening in a trendy club surrounded by youths is my personal nightmare, but the evening promises to become much more sinister.

In a booth at a club, four young women in costume pose for a selfie together.

Though Harper spends most of the evening sulking that her toxic boyfriend hasn’t texted her back, she gets into the spirit of things after meeting perhaps the embodiment of a fuckboy, backwards baseball cap included. Said fuckboy, Nathan, is actually a fairly nice dude, but comes along with his own bestie, who is a bit of a tool.

After a sufficient number of shots, the group decides to continue the evening with Halloween-themed festivities. When Harper fears a car has followed the group from the club, a series of twists and turns takes them to an all too conveniently located haunted house. Like any horror movie friends worth their salt, they ignore the possibility that it may be a horrendously bad idea to visit the creepy haunted attraction whose sudden appearance may not be entirely coincidental.

To make matters worse, many of the employees at the haunted house are eerily silent clowns who primarily just stand around wearing empty eyed masks. Even when the group has to sign a liability waiver and give up their cell phones to enter the haunted house, they remain undeterred.

A young woman with her back to the camera faces a person wearing a plastic clown mask.

Upon entering the house, there are some disturbing and oddly specific scares for the group, including a young woman apparently being tortured by a witch, a coffin that rains down spiders on the arachnophobic member of the group, and a guessing game involving body parts. However, things are dialed up to 10 when Bailey is seriously wounded with deep gashes on her arm, and a member of the group is murdered in front of them.

Adding another layer to Harper’s experience, she confesses that she grew up in a haunted house. Living with a physically abusive father terrorized her and made even relatively safe hiding places dangerous.

A young man and woman stand at the edge of a darkened tunnel, peering in.

Splitting from the group, Nathan apparently recruits an employee of the haunted house to help, but how trustworthy is this masked figure? When he gives the group a set of keys that will allow them to escape, it comes with a catch: the only way out is through a tunnel where they came in, and the group can only get through the tunnel one at a time.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, escaping the house isn’t as easy as planned. Members of the group are picked off one by one by the masked figures that supposedly work for the haunted house. Could those masks be hiding something more sinister than initially expected? Spoiler alert: YES. And what does that mean for the group’s chances of survival?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Out of curiosity, I looked this up on Rotten Tomatoes, and it currently has a 71%??? Did we watch the same movie? The comparison of growing up in an abusive household to the terror of a haunted house is interesting (if underdeveloped), but this is honestly the only thing even remotely clever in the film. Most of the scares of this film depend on gore, so it’s frequently more disgusting than frightening. To make matters worse, there were some truly bizarre choices that gave me a chuckle rather than a chill.

The big twist of this film comes from seeing what’s under all of those creepy masks, but we take a really long time to get there. And the twist seems to exist for the sake of saying there was a twist rather than going anywhere particularly thrilling with the concept. I have so many more questions than answers, and almost exclusively because there was a frustrating lack of details surrounding the twist itself.

Perhaps the real issue at fault, though, is the party at the beginning of the film. For me, this is the actual nightmare here, and everything else that happens pales in comparison with a room full of 20-somethings in costumes getting shit-faced, and no corner is dark enough–nor liquor high enough proof–to truly escape from the surrounding terror.

Would my blog wife send in the clowns or, like a person who has seen any horror movie ever, destroy it like a melting clown baby ASAP? Read her review here to find out!

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!

Film Reviews

Checking out the Film: Halloween Edition

‘Tis the season to watch horror films for free from under a mountain of fleecy blankets. Is there any other way to watch a creepy movie? This is a special Halloween edition of Checking out the Film, short reviews of recent library check-outs.

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Title

Demon

Director

Marcin Wrona

Format

Streaming (Hoopla)

Review

Nothing’s more fun than a wedding, right? Wrong–in so many, many ways. Especially so when you’ve recently uncovered a body (and rapidly buried it again) on the plot of land where you’re building a house for your bride-to-be. Worse still when this land belongs to her family, so you have very literally discovered the skeletons they were hiding.

For Piotr, his wedding in small town Poland goes from bad to worse when the spirit of the deceased possesses him in this tale of a dybbuk from Jewish mythology. The concept works chillingly well as the spirit is that of a Jewish woman who mysteriously vanished from the village long ago in the late 1930s. This is very much a slow burn that could have used a bit more intrigue early on, but quite an original concept for a horror film.

Who Should Watch

People who can’t imagine anything worse than the last wedding they attended. It can always be worse.

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Title

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Director

Jack Arnold

Format

Streaming (Hoopla)

Review

It’s that time of the year for a holiday classic about a swimmer in a fish man costume. After scientists take a trip down the Amazon in search of wildlife there, they encroach on the natural habitat of a creature who hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the creature is less than stoked when the humans hang around and chuck a few spears in its direction, though it’s quite ok with essential lady assistant Kay hanging around.

I’m going to be honest–to me, this doesn’t hold up as a horror classic. It’s not even campy or melodramatic enough to be entertaining. There are just endless shots of dudes swimming around underwater, which was probably quite advanced at the time, but isn’t visually thrilling in black and white. And for all of the classic posters of Kay being abducted by the creature, she’s in its clutches for less than a minute of this film’s run time. Is that an odd complaint about a film–not enough abduction? I do appreciate the aquatic take on Frankenstein here, and the early environmental messages.

Who Should Watch

Al Gore.

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Title

Child’s Play (2019)

Director

Lars Kievberg

Format

DVD

Review

In this 21st century update of the horror franchise, Chucky is a smart doll who controls electronics and learns from the world around him. Surely nothing could go wrong when a refurbished model of the doll sits through The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and listens to pre-teen Andy talk about his hatred for his mom’s boyfriend…right? Aubrey Plaza, kindred spirit and horror star of my dreams, plays Andy’s mom, who has terrible taste in men and struggles to make ends meet. Her life is about to get much more difficult when Chucky develops a mind of his own.

While quite fun, this film feels like an extended episode of Goosebumps, but with more swearing. The concept for the update is a good one, but Chucky is never going to be as gleefully gory as in the days when he was the spirit of a serial killer trapped in the body of a doll. I honestly think some of the recent films in the Child’s Play franchise of old have been more entertaining in their willingness to embrace B-movie absurdity. Not a bad use of time, but not especially memorable.

Who Should Watch

People who can stomach a significant amount of violence against cats.

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Title

Hereditary

Director

Ari Aster

Format

Streaming (Kanopy)

Review

Following the death of her emotionally abusive mother, Annie’s life begins to unravel in unexpected ways. After a horrific accident, Annie’s worst nightmare comes true: she behaves more and more like her mother. Seeking to connect with the dead, Annie turns to a kindly member of her support group who claims to speak with her deceased grandson regularly. When she manages to communicate with spirits, it’s unclear whether Annie is experiencing an otherworldly power or the same delusions that tortured her mother.

As noted many times, Toni Collette gives a brilliant, genuinely chilling performance here; in fact, I don’t think you can fault any of the performances. The disturbing images and experiences of the characters match the film’s ambitious messages about the curse of genetics and family inheritance. Though I find the end to be a bit too clever in its attempt at a dramatic twist, the conclusion has a horrific sensation of inevitability. Truly one of the good ones.

Who Should Watch

People who have ever considered having children of their own. Rethink this IMMEDIATELY.

What horrors have you witnessed this month? Ideally on film, but feel free to share your truth.

Header photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Cleaning Lady, or: I Want to Kill You and Wear Your Skin Like a Dress

Another (Halloween) week, another horror film! This one brought to you by ridiculous standards for beauty and overly involved toxic friendships.

The Film:

The Cleaning Lady

The Premise:

A cleaning lady becomes obsessed with her employer, going way overboard with the additional free services no one asked for.

The Ramble:

Scrubbing floors, clearing bathtub drains, blending live rats into a puree…it’s all in a day’s work when you’re a cleaning lady. It’s clear from the get-go that Shelly is a deeply disturbed woman; as they say, watch out for the quiet ones.

Meanwhile, love addict Alice is troubled by her relationship with boyfriend Michael, who is married with a child of his own. Though Michael promises Alice a lovely vacation in Italy, he fails to come through on his promises, and sponsor Miranda encourages Alice to get serious about ending things (again).

A man sits in bed, a woman leaning against him and smiling.

After hiring maintenance worker Shelly under the table to do some cleaning around her apartment, Alice sees an opportunity for a beautiful new friendship to develop. During the day, Alice’s at-home spa and makeover business keeps her busy; in the evening, Alice begins to depend on Shelly to prevent her from contacting Michael.

Shelly is an extremely quiet woman who keeps to herself. Self-conscious about terrible burns on her face, she usually avoids all relationships. Perhaps it’s no surprise when the attention-starved Shelly immediately latches onto Alice with a certain degree of intensity.

A well-dressed blonde woman stands in a kitchen, talking to a dark-haired woman in grungy clothes and a baseball cap.

As it turns out, Shelly has a rather disturbing backstory that explains her twisted behavior. Her mother’s money making techniques were incredibly warped during young Shelly’s childhood–though Shelly certainly finds a way to exact her revenge.

Very quickly, Shelly becomes the friend always pushing Alice to be a better version of herself; in fact, Shelly believes Alice is mere steps away from perfection. Shelly pressures Alice to give up smoking and stay firm in her commitment not to get back together with Michael.

A woman reclines in bed, drinking a cup of tea, while a woman in grungy clothes sits next to her.

Meanwhile, Alice gives Shelly a makeover, even donating a brightly colored dress to wear. This is a big mistake, as Shelly realizes her potential to become more like Alice–including making a mold of her face after she falls into chloroform-induced sleep, thus giving new meaning to a girls’ night in with face masks.

When Alice inevitably reunites with Michael, a distraught Shelly snaps. Witnessing the night out is Michael’s wife Helen, who follows her husband’s car to a creepily remote location. Will Helen arrive in time to help her husband’s mistress–and will she even want to help once she discovers Alice’s identity?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Shelly is truly a chilling character whose reactions, though extreme, feel plausible. She embodies the Hollywood (and societal) obsession with perfection, especially in her quest to change and control Alice. In contrast to the external beauty that fascinates Shelly, some of the things she does are absolutely vile and bloodily grotesque. I do applaud the film’s ability to be genuinely disturbing without relying solely on gore to shock viewers (though there’s also plenty of that to go around).

Meanwhile, Alice is perhaps undeserving of the ordeals she experiences at Shelly’s hands, but she is certainly not a flawless character. Let’s not forget that the relationship between the two main characters is possible only because of Alice’s willingness to take advantage of Shelly’s situation. Alice wants a cleaning lady without having to do the work of finding or paying one on the books. In fact, the situation is risky for Shelly as she openly admits her supervisor wants her to perform maintenance–not do cleaning work. However, Alice treats Shelly a bit like her charity project to make herself feel like a good person.

Overall, the film has some interesting messages about privilege, unreasonable beauty standards, and the monsters created in our quest for perfection. However, I’m still puzzling over what just happened in this film, and would’ve liked the creepiness to unfold more slowly, like a…death’s-head moth emerging from a cocoon?

Would my (almost) perfect blog wife make a face mask of this one or blend it into a fine purée? Read her review here to find out!

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!

Film Reviews

Thelma, or: Ha Det Bra 2018

Wrapping up this non-Collab month has turned into creepy horror with lesbian themes–perfect as this is exactly the kind of thing that happens organically as part of the blog collab.  This week’s film takes us from the humid streets of Brazil to the frigid landscape of Norway.

The Film:

Thelma

The Premise:

After moving to an Oslo university from small-town Norway, the titular Thelma begins to experience seizures that come with an ominous twist.

The Ramble:

As a child, Thelma’s father takes her out hunting in the woods that surround their small Norwegian hometown.  It isn’t long before family bonding time becomes sinister as Thelma’s father points out a deer…then turns to raise the rifle at the back of his daughter’s head.  Why? Just wait approximately 119 minutes and you’ll find out.

in a snowy landscape, a man follows the gesture of a young girl wearing pink pajamas

12 years later, Thelma finds university life in Oslo jarring after years of small-town, religious upbringing.  Thelma sees her parents as stern but loving even though she has memories of her hand being held over an open flame and is afraid of uttering “Jesus Satan” lest she offend the rather Old Testament God of her parents.

Thelma keeps to herself and spends many of her days studying quietly in the library.  That is, until the day she is sitting next to gorgeous fellow student Anja one moment and in the midst of a seizure the next.  Thelma keeps her medical issues a secret from her parents, though she gives doctors access to her medical records as they try to find the cause of her seizures.

a young woman in hospital clothes levitates in a minimalist room

Despite the challenges piling up for Thelma, she does manage to befriend Anja.  However, Thelma finds it rather unsettling when she seems to telepathically summon Anja over in the middle of the night and almost takes out several rows of theatergoers with her mind.  When the two share a romantic moment, Thelma panics and immediately severs ties with Anja.

two young women sit side-by-side as part of an audience in a theater

Thelma joins a gospel choir, goes to parties with a boy, and pretty much tries to pray the gay away.  As Thelma suffers another seizure under observation, Anja suddenly disappears. The psychiatrist diagnoses Thelma with non-epileptic seizures, which are physical manifestations of her mental suppression.  No shit, dude.

As the memories flood back about the disappearance of her younger brother, Thelma realizes she caused Anja to vanish.  Returning home to ensure she doesn’t hurt anyone else, Thelma confesses all to her parents. Her parents are oddly nonplussed and agree to help rid her of the seizures and their unintended consequences.  Things start off on the wrong foot after Thelma’s parents lace her tea with a sedative–a pretty severe breach of teatime etiquette.

a man sits with a teenage girl in a dimly lit room

Is history repeating itself all over again?  And will Thelma manage to satisfyingly Carrie her horrible parents before they brainwash her completely?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a slow burn, and I really wish this hadn’t been marketed as a horror film.  Though it is haunting, the story is driven by its coming of age plotline and family drama rather than the supernatural elements.

However, I do love the very moody tone and the use of Thelma’s seizures to represent the suppression of her romantic feelings for Anja and her power as she becomes an adult independent from her parents.

After this review, I’ll most likely sign off until 2019.  See you when the Blog Collab returns for year 4?!?!?!?!?!!?  I can’t promise Christmas ’19 will be a festive one on the blog, but I can say quite confidently that we won’t serve you any tea containing sedatives without your consent.

Cheers to the dumpster fire that was 2018 being (nearly) over.

Film Reviews

Good Manners, or: Werewolf-ful Christmas Time

This month is all about taking a break.  My incredibly wise blog wife at A Voluptuous Mind suggested we take a step back from the Collab and focus on getting through the holidays.  Considering I can’t even get stoked about Christmas horror this year, this is perhaps the single greatest decision of our partnership.

No surprises here–I have still been watching seasonally inappropriate films all the damn time.  So I don’t get too rusty on my film blogging, I’ll still post a couple of reviews this month.

First up is a delightful film from Brazil featuring interracial lesbian romance, designer boots, and werewolves.

The Film:

Good Manners

The Premise:

Hired as a nanny for a wealthy pregnant woman, Clara discovers secrets about the baby as well as her employer’s wild nighttime activities.

The Ramble:

Though she started a nursing program, Clara was unable to complete her training due to money woes.  Cash-strapped and behind on her rent, she is desperate to land a job working as nanny for Ana, a wealthy pregnant woman–so desperate that Clara fabricates previous experience and references.  Luckily, starting that nursing program comes in handy as she helps Ana through painful stomach pangs.

a pregnant woman lies propped up on a bed, another woman sitting next to her and smiling

Until the baby is born, Clara will take care of Ana, keeping her company as family and friends are nowhere to be found.  What happened to leave Ana so isolated?

On her birthday, Ana lets loose and tells the truth about her pregnancy–though she was engaged, the baby’s father was not her fiancé.  Scandalous! Not only is Ana’s baby the product of a one-night stand, he is the child of a werewolf father?! We’ve all been there, right?

Shortly after this revelation, Clara discovers Ana has a sleepwalking problem…and is also a werewolf.  Having fallen in love with Ana, Clara helps her even after she witnesses her murder and eat a feral cat. She breaks the news to Ana gently since all of her werewolf behavior happens as if in a trance, and the two ladies experiment with old remedies.

a woman with dilated pupils looks ahead, her mouth and chin smeared with fresh blood

With Ana’s due date rapidly approaching, she feels increasing amounts of pain.  When the baby is born in pretty much the most horrific way possible, Clara is out tracking down pine nuts to satisfy Ana’s cravings.  When she returns, Clara finds a horrific scene, complete with newborn werewolf baby Joel. Though she tries to ditch the baby by the side of the road, Clara ultimately can’t leave behind her only remaining connection to Ana.

Fastforward several years and Clara is now a nurse celebrating her adopted son’s birthday.  Joel never craves sweets and isn’t allowed to eat meat, so he seems to subsist on bread alone.  Not a shabby existence, IMHO.

a smiling woman holds hands with a boy as they walk down a street

During a full moon, Joel sleeps in the so-called “little room,” which is essentially a dungeon.  Clara tucks him in at night and chains Joel to the wall so he can’t hurt himself or anyone else.

Their usual routine is disrupted when Joel begins to question things, chafing against the literal and figurative restraints Clara places on his life.  Already angry that he’s not allowed to go to a dance, Joel is furious when he discovers Clara’s story about finding him abandoned as a baby is a lie. When he finds clues that he believes will lead him to his father, Joel and his bff decide to track him down at the mall.  Things of course go horribly wrong when the two friends are locked in the mall overnight.

two young boys in a darkened store look around nervously

After tragedy strikes, how will Clara’s friends and neighbors react as they begin to connect the dots?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Let’s start with the criticism: this feels like 2 separate films as the tone in the Clara/Ana narrative is very different from the Clara/Joel part. I would have liked to see these stories woven together more effectively rather than watch 2 halves of the film that in some ways don’t feel related. Since this clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes, there’s a lot here that could have been condensed to help the story flow.

However, spoiler alert: overall this is a beautiful film that I really enjoyed. The lead, Isabél Zuaa, is incredible as Clara. Though her character is fairly quiet, she is extremely expressive in her loving but painful relationships with Ana and Joel.

The relationship between Clara and Ana, though unlikely, feels genuine. Their bittersweet story is emotional without being manipulative. It’s quite refreshing how little men matter here (we give zero fucks about Ana’s father, fiancé, or baby daddy); we are firmly planted in woman world.

Moral of the story:  I. Am. Here. For. A.  Werewolf. Film.

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

Selfie from Hell, or: Horror Hodge-Podge

After a summer hiatus of nearly a month(!), we are back in the swing of things.  Appropriately, we mark our return to the blog collab with bad, low-budget horror.

The Film:

Selfie from Hell

The Premise:

Julia is a Youtube star, Instagram influencer, and all-around social media sensation.  That is, until she takes a selfie…FROM HELL.

The Ramble:

Ready to get away from it all and spend some time bonding with her cousin Hannah, social media pro Julia is ready to chill.  After Hannah picks her up from the airport, Julia becomes mysteriously panicked at the mention of her boyfriend, and even more freaked out at the suggestion of taking a selfie.  What gives?  Has her selfie-ing awakened a demonic presence that is now stalking her?  Seems like the logical conclusion, eh?

two young women sit in a car, one holding a cell phone as the other reaches for it

Before Julia has even had the chance to enjoy a nice cuppa at Hannah’s house, she senses something is wrong and begins to selfie.  In selfie mode, she manages to get a glimpse of a dark shadowy figure behind her…creeeeeeeeeepy!

Julia’s fun is cut short when she collapses suddenly, falling ill with what seems to be a very high fever.  Despite her condition, Julia appears to keep texting Hannah eerie messages and voice recordings.  Putting on her sleuthing cap, Hannah digs up some articles and disturbing images that reveal Julia’s death…?  In her final Youtube vid, Julia warns others not to view 13 selfies under any circumstances.

a young woman sits at an outside table, holding a cell phone

After becoming convinced someone else is in the house, Hannah brings her online hacker friend, Trevor, into the loop.  With Trevor’s help, Hannah manages to lurk around on the dark web, searching for the site with 13 selfies.  When she stumbles across the 13 selfies she’s absolutely not supposed to watch, guess what she immediately does.  Hannah also manages to give away all of her personal information to a cyberstalker, who insists he’s the only one who can help her.

a young man and woman in a dark room lean over a cell phone

Shocker–it turns out creepy internet lurker also has very dark connections to a demonic selfie monster.  Will Hannah live to selfie another day?

The Rating:

1.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Even though this was an objectively terrible, nonsensical film, I just can’t be bothered to give it 1 PPH.  I didn’t hate it, it was just very meh.  And you know what they say about the opposite of love as indifference.

There is virtually no set up to kick off this film, so it’s very hard to care about the characters or even remember their names.  We do get some super vague backstory about Hannah’s mom dying a year ago, and Julia being there in her hour of need…but so what?  I was hoping there would be some kind of connection to the horror elements Hannah and Julia faced, but this film just wasn’t organized enough for that.

I found this to be a bit of a horror genre mash-up–we had the house intruder trope, demonic possession, torture porn, psychotic kidnapper.  None of these were done particularly well, though there were some creepy dimly-lit house scenes and sinister selfies.

Would Christa pull a duck face and selfie with this one or crop it out of her profile pic?  Find out by reading her review here!