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!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Holy Camp, or: I-E-I Will Always Love You

This week gives us a much-needed break from full-frontal scenes depicting the male (and female) anatomy, which is a feat unto itself.  Add Whitney Houston musical numbers, strong female friendships, and lesbian themes, and we’ve got…well, a film premise constructed from our dreams, essentially.

The Film:

Holy Camp! (La llamada)

The Premise:

Teen bffs at a religious summer camp must contend with secret parties, the crushing of their dreams, visits from an unexpectedly glittery God, and attractive nuns.

The Ramble:

Maria and Susana are besties for life reluctantly spending the summer at a religious camp for teens.  While initially planning to sneak out and party every night, Maria has lost interest in their schemes.  As it turns out, she has been meeting someone else at night–God.  And he seems to be a huge fan of Whitney Houston.

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This is your vision of God too, right?

After refusing to participate in a weekend canoe trip, Maria and Susana are effectively under house arrest with novice nun Milagros.  Though she tries to be stern, Milagros is too kind to be angry and bonds with Susana over their love of music.  Hmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps Milagros has a secret past as the lead singer of a band…

Milagros isn’t the only one keeping a secret.  Susana, upset about the newfound distance between the two friends, accuses Maria of leaving her hanging.  Maria, on the other hand, thinks it’s time to grow up and forget about their dream to become a world-famous girl band.

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Bestie love.

Meanwhile, Sister Bernarda is convinced she has the perfect solution for reining the girls in:  music.  Though Milagros appreciates the thought, she finds Sr. Bernarda’s taste in music…a bit dated.  This leads to perhaps the finest nun-centric musical number since The Sound of Music.

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No caption needed.

Still on the outs with her bff, Maria, confides in Sr. Bernarda that God speaks to her through the songs of Whitney Houston.  Sr. Bernarda is less than understanding initially, but does eventually believe and support Maria.  With the help of the Sister, Maria learns to pray so she can understand God’s message but keeps her newfound faith a secret.

Susana is also keeping her feelings a secret.  When she sees Milagros dress up and sing into a hairbrush, reminiscing about her days as a singer, Susana develops a bit of a crush.  But does Milagros have a clue?

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Right on, Mary.

Though now armed with the power of prayer, Maria feels farther than ever from God when he laughs at her efforts and walks away.  She becomes despondent after this until Susana finally visits her and the two make up.  Susana confesses to Milagros that she’s in love with her, leaving the novice stunned.

How will the two best friends heal their relationship with the ones they love?  And might it perhaps involve a choreographed glitter-suffused dance number?

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Without hesitation.

I feel bad now about some of the other films I haven’t given a full 5 stars that probably deserved it.  This one definitely deserves it as it’s so fucking joyous and refreshing in so many ways.  All 4 of our leading characters are women, one of whom is rather aged.  Though she’s a bit out of touch, she is a respected and compassionate while remaining remarkably free of judgment.  The ladies of this film support each other so much, and I support that support.

The way love is explored is powerful:  spiritual love, the love between friends, and romantic love.  Both Maria and Susana express their love for each other by being true to themselves and honest with each other.  I also like the message about religion even as a completely non-religious person.  The way the faithful choose to worship is their decision–music is just as valid as prayer.

If this is what church had been like when I was growing up, you can be pretty damn sure my ass would’ve been in the pews about 3,000x more.

Was Christa singing the gospel of this film or did she convert to another immediately?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Silent Night, Deadly Night, or: Axe Santa a Question

One of the best months on the blog, and we’re off with a bang—or, rather, quite a few swings of the axe and several stabs.  Once again, the month of December is brought to you by Christmas horror and the occasional made-for-tv Hallmark cheese tray.

The Film:

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The Premise:

Witnessing the murder of your parents may result in your transformation into Batman…or a serial killer who dresses as Santa.

The Ramble:

Christmas Eve, 1971.  And so our troubles begin.  It’s certainly going to be a memorable Christmas for Billy, who is off with his family to visit his grandfather.  The catch is dear old granddad is in a psychiatric ward, and seems to have been in a vegetative state for many years.  Conveniently, he becomes lucid for just long enough to traumatize Billy about the nature of Santa Claus as a vindictive old asshole who punishes bad children.  Upsetting, but not insurmountable, yeah?

Give it 5 minutes.

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Enjoy this moment while it lasts, Billy.

After leaving the psychiatric care facility, Billy’s parents notice a man dressed as Santa whose car has broken down on the road.  In the spirit of Christmas, the family pulls over to help Santa, which turns out to be a serious mistake.  This Santa is an armed robber who proceeds to murder the entire family.  Billy and his younger brother, Jimmy, manage to survive albeit with deep psychological damage.

Things are going to get better from here on out for Billy, you might think.  Though raised in an orphanage by nuns, one of the sisters recognizes his trauma and tries to help him.  She realizes Christmas is a major trigger for Billy, who suffers from PTSD after witnessing the murder of his parents.

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We need to talk about mullets.

Unfortunately, Mother Superior is less than sympathetic and decides to take a page from the how-to guide for raising a child who has experienced trauma in the way most likely to yield a disturbed, troubled adult destined to become a serial killer.  She hits Billy with a belt after he joins the other children for playtime outside without permission, ties him to the bed when he has horrible nightmares, and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap at Christmas.

In spite of this, Billy grows up to be a relatively mild-mannered, polite young man as evidenced by a very ‘80s inspired montage.  He gets a job working in a toy store, which he enjoys but can only end in terrible tragedy once December rolls around.  Noticing a change in Billy, his supervisor sensitively yells at him about being triggered by Christmas and pushes him to do better.  Oh, sir.  You’re not going to live for much longer, are you?

Inevitably, Billy is forced to play the role of Santa for children who visit the store, and is approximately as comfortable with this role as I would be, i.e.  not at all.  Already close to the breaking point, Billy completely loses it when his supervisor kisses and then assaults Billy’s coworker crush.  No one at the store has a particularly great time at the Christmas party.

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Pictured above:  A terrifying monster destined to haunt your dreams…and a serial killer Santa.

After ruining the staff Christmas party, Billy decides to spread holiday cheer elsewhere in increasingly gruesome ways.  To his credit, he does leave the family cat alone.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his final confrontation is with Mother Superior.  Who will make it to the New Year’s party in time to become the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop murderer?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

First off, there are a lot of gaping plot holes that are incredibly distracting.  Like, after finding a kid wandering through the woods near a murder scene, no one thought counseling might be a good idea???  And did no one think it would be helpful for the nuns to know about Billy’s incredibly disturbing childhood trauma?

Beyond the plot holes, there is way too much time spent on Billy’s horrific childhood for this to be a satisfying slasher.  At the end, I was just sad after seeing Billy’s continuous victimization throughout his life.  It’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for him when we know a great deal about the trauma he suffered at the hands of the murderer and the sadistic Mother Superior.

Overall, it’s like a less successful version of Psycho with way more boobs.

Would Christa sit on this one’s lap or string it up with some Christmas lights?  Find out here!