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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Advertisements
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

1.png

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.

5.png

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.

3.png

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

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?

1

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.

4

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.

6

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 here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Final Girl, or: You and Me Baby Ain’t Nothin’ But Mammals

This week’s film is chosen with my Blog Wife in mind.  Not only is she on record as one of the coolest people I know, but she has a segment on her blog dedicated to final girls in horror.  What could be more appropriate for this week than a film taking its cues from the badass final girls we know and love?  (Assuming we continue to exist in a world where the Mega Shark vs. Mecha Margaret [The Foxy Merkins] franchise has yet to materialize.)

The Film:

Final Girl

The Premise:

A teen girl trained to kill targets a group of boys who like to reenact “The Most Dangerous Game” with the girls in their small town.

The Ramble:

After the death of her parents, 5-year-old Veronica is adopted(?) for the purposes of mini assassin training.  Her trainer, William, has lost his wife and child in an extremely vague murder, leading to his, er, brilliant plan of killing a group of 17-year-old boys 12 years later.

1.png
Nice view, if you can stand all of the assholes.

The training for Veronica is oddly specific, from killing people with her bare hands (since guns run out of bullets) and running through the woods until she can no longer feel her feet.  After all of this time with William as her only human connection, Veronica is rather in love with him (in a super gross Stockholm syndrome kind of way).

After seriously 12 years of training, William deems Veronica ready for a test.  She lures a man into the bathroom of a sort of Western themed restaurant(?) and manages to knock him out.  This is an exhibit of (1) the general cop-out feeling that is watching this movie—surely the first test would be actually killing someone and (2) unintentional evidence of the creepy nature of Veronica and William’s relationship—random older man hits on Veronica = unacceptable, but relationship with William = ok because she knows him and he knows how to rock the stubble?

3.png
Creepy pseudo-romantic relationship or perfume ad?

To be completely ready, Veronica also has to undergo a test where she’s injected with a drug that will reveal the truth/show her greatest fear.  As it turns out, her greatest fear is William murdering her.  Pretty fucking twisted.

Having passed all of the tests, Veronica is finally ready for her, uh, mission?  William instructs her to gather information on a group of 17-year-old boys who hunt and kill the girls in their high school.  Somehow, no one is suspicious about all of these girls going missing or about the number of times a girl has gone out with these guys only to never return.

Veronica buys a milkshake at the local diner for Jennifer, who is dating one of the psycho teens.  I actually really liked the bonding scene between these two characters, even though it’s all about boy problems and Jennifer delivers one of the most cringeworthy lines of dialogue in the entire film (and there are a lot):  “I’m a 17-year-old girl…of course it’s boy-related.”  I could feel myself losing years from my life during that moment.

4.png
We were going to try to pass the Bechdel test, but who gives a fuck.

After learning valuable(?) information about her targets that she pretty much already knew, Veronica meets up with the ringleader and scores a date.  There are a few scenes giving the boys a bit of personality, which pisses me off, largely because the female characters like Jennifer get no time whatsoever for character development.  Like the only thing we know about her is she likes milkshakes and is dating a psycho.

5.png
I drink your milkshake…

Veronica meets up with the Fucked Up Four and starts things out with a rather sinister game of truth or dare in the woods.  Our ringleader tells this really psychotic story about a rabbit and eventually says the line “We’re all just animals,” thus ruining any chance I had of taking this movie seriously.  It’s really difficult to take anything seriously when you have the Bloodhound Gang stuck in your head.

I think it will surprise no one to learn some pretty grisly deaths follow without a ton of suspense about who the final girl is in this film.

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

I would’ve gone with 2 PPHs because this film wasn’t the worse ever, but the relationship between Veronica and William pissed me off so much.  It’s creepy for William to have raised Veronica and then potentially pursue a romantic relationship with her.  Plus she’s 17, which may be the age of consent but is young enough to still be creepy AF.  It’s also uncomfortable that William keeps putting her through tests to prove she’s worthy of being alive; the parallels to what men do in toxic relationships are too real.  Let’s not even touch on the major Stockholm syndrome at play in all of this or we’ll be here for a long fucking time.

It’s difficult to see William as any better than the psychotic 17 year olds we’re supposed to hate, honestly.  He subjects Veronica to horrendous treatment and plays mind games, even if he considers it for her own good.  It’s unclear how killing these dudes has anything to do with the murder of William’s wife and child as well; I don’t think we’re in a Michael Myers situation where they killed someone at the age of 5.  This film accepts the weird logic that targeting bad people for murder makes you a good person…but does it?

By the end, I was really rooting for Veronica to kill William and fully embrace the concept of the final girl.  Take a wild guess about whether I was disappointed (yet again).

Would Christa buy this one a shake or take an axe to it?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, or: Lute Duet

I’m sad and astonished to report we’re close to wrapping up the best month on the blog.  This week brings us more horror with the unintentional bonus theme of (mis)handling mental health.  But let’s be honest—that’s every month on this blog.

The Film:

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

The Premise:

Upon moving to a creepy house in the country, a woman’s dark hallucinations return, disrupting her connection to reality.

The Ramble:

After mysteriously moving to a small, rural town, Jessica is ready to put the past behind her.  She’s arrived in town rather ominously in a hearse, along with her husband and also…some random guy who just lives with them?  Like I tried really hard to figure out why he was there being the awkward live-in third wheel but that remains unclear.

1.png
Cemeteries are pretty cool, though.

So anyway…Jessica alludes vaguely to her visions and time in the hospital, but is more than happy to leave all of that behind.  It seems eerie visions aren’t entirely in the past, though, when she sees a ghostly figure of a woman in a graveyard.  To avoid any unwanted questions, Jessica keeps this particular sighting quiet, convincing herself she didn’t really see anything.  That always works out well in horror, right…?

To make things worse, the group takes a ferry over to the house, aka the old Brookfield place.  The man who runs the ferry tells them sinisterly they’ll be on the other side soon after hearing where they’re heading.  Ooooooooh, double meanings!

Upon arriving at the house, Jessica and the others discover they aren’t quite alone.  A woman named Emily has been living in the abandoned house and, feeling a kinship with her, Jessica invites her to stay.  She sort of regrets this immediately when Emily and Jessica’s husband, Duncan, share an uncomfortable lute duet filled with sexual tension.

2.png
Nice…lute?

Meanwhile, Jessica is seeing more and more dark visions, including seeing blood, hearing voices, and encountering a dead body floating in the nearby pond.  The small town vibe is rather eerie as well—the approximately 4 dudes who live in town seem set on being really standoffish and uninviting.  The one somewhat friendly face in town is the antiques dealer, who is quick to reveal the sad story of a local woman who drowned and now haunts the town and/or may be a vampire (begging the question of whether you can be both a vampire and a ghost simultaneously).

4.png
TBH, I was expecting this to become a scene from IDFAHITWA as soon as the antique shop came into play.  Sadly, it did not.

As Jessica sees increasingly disturbing images, Emily is more and more sinister, and Duncan acts even sleazier, Jessica begins to question what is real, desperate to convince herself she’s imagining everything.  Who will make it to the other side, as it were?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s not especially scary as a horror film, but it does set up an atmosphere of paranoia very effectively and tackles mental health quite well.  Jessica seeing things no one else can see and constantly second-guessing herself and the voices in her head is so real.

I really enjoyed Emily as a character/chaotic force of nature while simultaneously feeling a lot of sympathy for Jessica.  The men in this film could’ve just spontaneously combusted and it would have been fine with me; they were quite bland characters.

Ha, though some of the, er, suspenseful music is hilarious and does take away from the drama of it all at times.  It makes me wonder if all of the intense music post-Dark Knight will be laughable in a few years and take people out of the scene immediately.

Did this one scare Christa to death or would she hop onto a ferry in search of something better?  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?

10.png
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.

2.png
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.

8.png
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!