Book Review: This Savage Song (SPOILER FREE)

Image result for this savage song

 

I’m back again with some YA spookiness for you all.

CORSAI, CORSAI, TOOTH AND CLAW

SHADOWN AND BONE WILL EAT YOU RAW.

MALCHAI, MALCHAI, SHARP AND SLY, SMILE AND BITE AND DRINK YOU DRY.

SUNAI, SUNAI, EYES LIKE COAL. SING YOU A SONG AND STEAL YOUR SOUL.

MONSTERS, MONSTERS, BIG AND SMALL.

THEY’RE GONNA COME AND EAT YOU ALL.

-Victoria Schwab

This was my first ever Victoria Schwab book!! I’ve definitely been meaning to pick her up, but you know how it is. So many books, so little time. Anyway, I will absolutely be reading more from her. Our story follows two teens in a semi-dystopian/alternate version of our own world. Some time after the Vietnam War ended, things took a darker tone here in America (I assume it’s just America? I actually don’t know for sure…). Whenever a violet act is committed against another, a monster is born. As the playground rhyme above tells us, there are three different types of monster. There are the Corsai, the Malchai (my favorite!), and the very rare, Sunai. One of the young leads is a guy named August, who happens to be a Sunai. August lives with his adoptive human family, the Flynn’s. He looks like an ordinary person, but he’s actually more like an angel of death in disguise. August longs to be “normal” and shuns his existence.

Our other main character is Kate Harker. She’s no monster; but she wishes she was. Her father is a ruthless, cunning, and powerful man. He rules over half of V-City, selling costly protection from the monsters who would rather be feasting on the citizens. The other portion of the city is Flynn territory. August’s father leads a military militia fighting the monsters free of charge to help keep the people safe, and the darkness at bay. You can see how these two are clearly on opposing sides, right?

Both start as the new kids in high school on the Harker side of things. Kate is trying to prove that she can live up to her family name. Meaning to be feared, to be brutal, and ultimately, to win her dad’s admiration. No one knows August’s true identity, and that he is attending as a spy. He’ll be watching Kate, and gathering information for his faction. It isn’t long before things start to go off the rails, and both Kate and August are thrown into the fray.

I realllllly liked this book, guys. Kate and August were both totally compelling characters to read with refreshing perspectives. The stakes felt higher than usual with these two kids. They’re both outcasts struggling to fit in, but not in the normal way you find in most YA horror books. Their problems are made even more unique by this hellish world they live in. I was really struck by the unique premise of this book, and I can’t really think of a plot device that comes close. If you can, tell me! I would love to read more stories like this. Needless to say, I look forward to the second half of this story arriving in June.

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As Above So Below- A glowing review

I had pretty high expectations for As Above So Below. The subject matter/plot is totally interesting to me, so I was going to be freakin’ upset if this movie let me down. Before you get your hopes up extremely high, I will admit this isn’t some “perfect” movie. We nerds love to nit-pick at things, including stuff we love. And I could do the same for this film, but dammit, I don’t want to. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, and I hope you do (did?) too.  Maybe you were reluctant to watch this because you scoffed and decided it was just another in a long line of “Found-Footage” horror movies. I don’t blame you there, there have been some really gawd awful movies in that style, just rudely chucked out to us like so much shark chum. However, I don’t think this movie falls into that category. This isn’t just some hastily thrown together story, I didn’t feel at least. This one has a deliberate story line. Maybe you’ve heard the synopsis. A young archaeologist and her “team” go on an expedition to the catacombs under Paris to find…treasure. She’s specifically looking for something that was her father’s life’s work, and is now her own. Okay, fine, I’ll tell you. It’s the philosopher’s stone. We know from the trailer that they find themselves in some sort of hell where demons from their past are there to haunt them. But what you may not realize is that said archaeologist (“Scarlett”)  is a fairly rad character. She’s a little obsessed with her quest, but girlfriend has her reasons. I really liked her. She’s brilliant, persistent, again a tad obsessive, brave, pretty, and has neat looking jewelry. I respect all those things. This entire story has a bit of an action-adventure vibe ala Indiana Jones. The opening scene sets the tone for that. Her team is a fun little troupe. They include Benji, who is conveniently shooting a documentary of her quest, hence how we are watching the tale unfold. Then there is George a “friend” of hers who’s a pretty adventurous and smart cookie himself. Then we have the three French people. Papillon (just don’t call him a tour guide), Souxie, and Zed. Pap and his gang are experts on navigating the catacombs and agree to “guide” the rest in return for a share of the treasure said to be with the stone. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t hate any characters in this movie. I’m not saying that each one was amazing, but I wasn’t actively rooting for any one of them to die, which is unusual. But the deaths were generally pretty good. I want to talk spoilers for those of us who’ve watched it. So, you may want to bow out here if I’ve peaked your curiosity enough to see it for yourself. And I hope you do see it if you had doubts at first. None of my horror watching friends have disliked As Above So Below (AASB?? Good) Did I mention it has shades of “The Descent”?? Cause…it does. And who doesn’t like that movie??  Anyway, I think if nothing else, you will be pleasantly surprised that AASB has more substance than you may have thought at first. Now, the rest of us are going into the spoiler catacombs below….

 

 

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Now entering spoiler hell.

 

 

 

 

 

So I love all the groovy, groovy stuff about magic, occultism, alchemy, Nicolas Flamel, and the philosopher’s stone. I will admit to not being an expert on any of those things, but I have a major interest in them and find them fascinating. I promise the part about liking the philosopher’s stone is not ONLY due to Harry Potter. I also think it’s great subject matter for a movie, it hasn’t been done to death for starters. Also, I am not militantly anti-remake, but I am always jazzed to see something “original” if you will that is not a remake. I liked the whole romance between Scarlett and George. It wasn’t too cheesy, it just fit well without being too forced. How about the Death Eaters who live in hell?? Those guys were something else, no? One even had a little ornate chair to sit in. Granted, it doesn’t look super ergo, but I guess this means Satan does take care of his employees to an extent. Or, how about those stone creatures? I wish there was more of them. I loved when Scarlett got violent with one too. Actually, that whole part of her being a bad ass to return the stone was fun. As I said before, I could knit-pick AASB. Analyze each choice the character made. But I don’t want to, because I had a really had a good time watching this movie. And having fun and enjoying the ride is  more important than scrutinizing details for me. Maybe I wasn’t always that way, but I am now, dammit. Anyway, I also need someone else to think the choir and the singing little church group down there was horrifying. Nay, traumatizing. That has to be real, right? Cults of people down there singing and praising in full body makeup and what not? I do believe in freedom of religion, so I think they should have at it if that is what works for them. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t freaky to the non-believers. The tension during the scene with them singing and Benjii being stuck and having a panic attack on top of Mount Femur was a high point for me. I really thought he was goner right there and then. Speaking of which, I was really surprised that we had three survivors at the end of this thing. Nice that the lil couple of lovebirds made it. And Zed too! I didn’t see Zed making it out. So to that I say, you go Zed. Way to be. You proved some of us wrong with how well you can survive a day trip to hell. Now go be a father already.

More books for horror fans…

Here are some books I’ve read recently that my fellow horror fans may dig.

Doctor Sleep-Stephen King

All hail the King. This little gem is a sequel to “The Shining.” Now we get to catch up on what the devil Danny Torrance has been up to since childhood. It wasn’t exactly happily ever after upon leaving the Overlook hotel. Dan, as he’s now known, finds himself coming to the aid of a young girl named Abra who “shines” as well. Abra and all the other children with the shine are in danger from a nasty evil cult called the True Knot. These cultists look innocent, harmless, and non threatening. Just boring “RV-ers” you pass at truck stops and campgrounds all over America. When in actuality they sustain themselves by kidnapping  psychically gifted kids and slowly torturing them in order to “drink” in the psychic, magical steam they let off upon dying. I don’t like to spoil books, so just trust me when I say this one did not disappoint me. If you’ve read the Shining you will obviously get more out of this story since it is the sequel. Duh. 😉

Mr. Mercedes-Stephen King

Why stop at one Uncle Stevie book? For those who don’t know, King is one of my favorite authors. When I was in 8th grade, we had to pick a person we considered to be our hero to make a report on. This was to be someone from pop culture or history who we didn’t know but that we greatly admired. I was the only kid to pick an author, and it was you-know-who. The love is still strong to this day! Anyway, Mr. Mercedes was a fun little departure. I tweeted the author himself upon completion that these were some of my favorite characters of his that I’ve met. Our hero is newly retired detective Bill Hodges who remains haunted by a case he never closed. A crazy bastard in a stolen Mercedes plowed into a line of people waiting to get into a job fair at the height of the recession. Said weirdo then sends Hodges a letter basically taunting him and encouraging the man to take his own life. Only Hodges uses this opening as a chance to solve the case once and for all. Along the way he picks up a rad rag-tag little team to help him. Oh, and we also get very intimately (and chillingly)  acquainted with the killer, “Mr. Mercedes” himself, Brady Hartsfield. I encourage you all to continue you King education and give this one a read!

Seed, The Bird Eater, and The Shuddering- Ania Ahlborn

I love this lady. She spins a good horror yarn, my friends. I already talked about one of her books, The Neighbors, in a previous post. All three of these books were total page turners for me. Ania has made me a loyal fan and life-long reader for certain. Seed is about a man running from a childhood filled with horror, only to find that as an adult he is far from safe from this evil he thought he escaped. In fact, the damn thing was just waiting. Trust me when I say, shit gets really creepy… The Bird Eater is about a guy named Aaron. He is another fellow who thought he was escaping childhood trauma to once again have it revisit him and making him question his own sanity in the process. Maybe you could think of it as a haunted house novel of sorts. But it is really much more than that. These two books may sound similar, but really each is quite unique. I am really cautious to give away too many plot details since neither book is particularly long.  The Shuddering may be my favorite. The scenario is the classic “cabin the woods” vibe, only Anhlborn puts her own twist on it with the terrible monsters she pits our “heroes” against, painting a great visual in my mind of these savage and blood thirsty creatures. It made me glad I don’t live in a place where it snows…

Dark Places- Gillian Flynn

God knows I loved Gone Girl.  We all did, right? I think I may have liked this one by Flynn even more. Libby Day was the sole survivor of a “Santanic Massacre” at the hands of her own brother that resulted in her whole family being murdered. Years later she’s a pretty screwed up adult who is running out of money. So when a group of true crime enthusiasts (the “Kill Club”) offer to pay her  to uncover what really happened that night, she goes for it. You see, not every one is convinced her brother Ben was actually was the killer. But digging in the past makes Libby confront the demons and secrets she never really faced until now. As the name implies, Libby has to go into some shady places. Both of the novels I’ve read by Flynn really blew me away. She really brings her characters to life in a way I don’t think all authors are able to do. Libby herself was really fantastic. I found myself getting super attached to this seemingly “unlikable” person and really rooting for her. The novel also touches upon all those cases of “Satanic Panic” murders carried out by young people, this is a topic I find really interesting so I dug that.

Anyway, please go read any or all of these books. All would be preferable. 🙂

Aftershock

As the name in implies, this movie does have an earthquake and the titular aftershocks to follow. However, mother nature’s wrath is only part of the problem here. The scarier shit is carried out by people who decide to throw out all traces of humanity when the going gets rough and the world around them (literally) crumbles. Eli Roth produced, stars in, and even gets a writing credit in this film. It was directed by Nicolas Lopez who also wrote the script along with Guillermo Amoedo. I happen to be an Eli Roth fan. He seems to be one of those polarizing figures in the horror world that everyone either loves or hates. I’ve heard the arguments pro and con so please spare me if you don’t like him 😉 I am having a tricky time writing about this without any spoilers. So let me just get this out of the way. If the premise I provided above is enough to peak your interest, then watch this movie, come on back and join the conversation. The rest of the class is reading ahead.

**Spoilers below**

Movie poster with very telling tagline!

Movie poster with a very telling tagline!

Things I liked:

– The acting. The acting was pretty darn good. I personally feel that Eli Roth and Andrea Osvart were the stand out performers. But they both had some of the richer material to work with. Andrea’s character of Monica turns out to be the final girl, which wasn’t too much of shock since she presented herself as mature and levelheaded trying to keep her party-rockin’ sister under control. Well, she will be the final girl if she survived that foreboding tsunami in the last frame of the film. But she still gets a sticker for final girl status. Shes’s a tough chick. I’d put money on her getting out alive.

– Eli Roth is the only American lead in the cast! I like that they didn’t try to shoe-horn Americans in the roles that clearly weren’t meant for them. Large chunks of dialogue aren’t in English, and no there aren’t subtitles. This is a joint Chilean and USA film! Deal with it! :p

– Ariel’s severed hand and the unintentional game of soccer it becomes involved in. Actually, I was really impressed with the effects in general. That includes when Eli’s character of Gringo becomes a melted, gooey, molten mess.

– A fine use of the Axe as a weapon. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. First we get the redemption of Pollo taking an axe to a rapist. Then Monica getting her revenge in honor of her sister. Gotta love vengeance kills, right?

Stuff I’m not sure I liked:

-I guess the first thing would have to be the rape-y bit. I feel on principle I need to state I’m not really cool with it. It’s not super graphic, nor very long. It’s not a deal breaker for me to have rape in a movie, as long as the rapist gets what is coming to them. Cause then you get to cheer at their demise.

– Gringo: you were dying under a damn cinder block, coughing up blood and clearly those thugs were not planning to help you out and let you go. Bravely, you told the two girls to hide and hence be not raped while Pollo and Monica went for help, that was your damn idea when you heard the bad dudes coming! And then you break and tell the thugs were the two girls are hiding so that they can get raped?! Dick move. I guess that was the “point” that even likable and usually good people can turn into savages. But honestly, I think that whole scene was a little weird. I mean, why would the thugs think that the girls were still around at all to the point of interrogating Gringo?? Wouldn’t they just assume that the girls/others went for help since Gringo is stuck under a chunk of cement?? It doesn’t even make sense to think they were still around. If something happens to your friend, you go for help. As far as the thugs know that means there would be three girls and one chubby man hiding nearby? I just feel that the whole set up was basically a vehicle for Gringo to crack under pressure and then turn into a crispy critter.

– I really liked Ariel and it was a bummer to see him plummet to his death! Still, it was actually more upsetting to see that hobo run off with the purse that had his hand in it. Ouch. Low blow.

– There is no doubt we could sit here and debate all about the “message” of this movie which pretty much states that humans are evil and will turn on each other before helping someone else. <–And yes, there are time in the movie when people are good and helpful. But the tagline of the movie is, “The only thing more terrifying than Mother nature is human nature.” I personally chose to just let the filmmakers tell the story and present their viewpoint. I don’t really like to debate philosophical matters. But if that’s your thing then I’m sure you will have lots to talk about with your like minded people.

Grade: B+. It was good! I’m glad that I watched it! There were things about it that made it better than the average movie. 

The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh: Every time a bell rings….

Thank you netflix for putting indie horror films out there at easy access for the masses. I had heard a little buzz about this movie, so I was excited to get a chance to watch it. When it was over, I pondered it all for a minute and then decided I liked it. Just like, not love. Upon doing a little research I realized it was director/writer Rodrigo Gudino’s first full-length film! This made me appreciate and LIKE it even more. Now, Gudino is no lazy horror filmmaker. He is actually the president and founding editor of the iconic horror magazine, Rue Morgue. The fact that this guy really seems to know and understand our little horror community made me feel like I was in good hands. Kinda like, “I’m not only the president-I’m also a member!”

The movie is a nice slow burn with plenty of atmosphere. No shaky camera found footage (which I often like, but I know many don’t), and a nice haunted feel. Which makes sense as it’s a ghost story….or is it? The story centers around Leon, an antiques dealer. He has this bad-ass style going on, I dug it enough. Leon estranged himself from his mother and now must go back to his childhood home where she still lived and settle her affairs. His mother (voiced by Vanessa Redgrave, no less!) actually narrates the opening and provides a little back story about their drifting apart and how Leon never fully dealt with his father’s suicide. Leon also seems to have some other issues involving a failed marriage/relationship. As Leon journeys through the house he starts to feel his mother’s ghost is still around and trying to communicate…especially by messing with angel statues. That would freak me out.

The Leigh house is sort of my dream home. It’s packed with religious icons, those angel statues, dolls, antiques, artifacts, creepy cross-stitch hangings….I mean, where do I sign?? I also really liked how we never “see” any other characters in person besides Leon. It just gave me this sense of loneliness. Everything is just subtle and I found myself trying to figure out what was going on, what would be happening next, etc. It had a nice original touch. And for a first full length film, I enjoyed it.  I want to give this one a grade, but I have one **SPOILER** I am dying to talk about cause it was my FAVORITE part of the film. So, let me wrap this up.

Grade: B <– Above average!! 🙂 Looking forward to more from Gudino!

 

Rosalind would have liked this little lady/fellow. I'm not sure what it is.

Rosalind would have liked this little lady/fellow. I’m not sure what it is.

 

 

**SPOILER**

My favorite part of the movie? Um, the freakin cult of Angel worship!!!! I haven’t gotten to review many cult movies here, but I am totally fascinated by cults. So when Leon finds that crazy home VHS tape depicting all the old people at a church ceremony with the significantly younger preacher ranting and raving to his congregation?! I was seriously digging that. AND then we see the church is actually IN the damn house???!! Pretty rad. I also like the weirdo twin dudes. Very effective.  I wouldn’t say the movie ties together in a perfect package at the end. But I did like the “twist” ending and the general subtle nature of the movie.

Insidious 2: No Darth Maul demon but that’s okay

You may have read my review of Insidious Part 1 wherein I unabashedly share how much I love that movie. Not surprisingly, I had huge expectations for Chapter 2. Though it didn’t make my heart sing like its predecessor, the sequel was fantastic. James Wan and Leigh Whannel obviously took a lot of pride and care in crafting another excellent horror movie for us fans.

The film starts off immediately after the first chapter ends. Meaning all the actors/character we know and love are back. Impressively, the two little boys look exactly the same as they did in the first go around. Obviously, time was of the essence in making this movie. We all know I was happy to see the familiar faces especially Barbara Hershey (I’m thinking of being her when I grow up.) Sorry if you haven’t seen this first one yet, but the trailers make it obvious that the spirit realm isn’t done with the Lambert family. In fact, when dad Josh (Patrick Wilson) returned from “the further” to rescue son Dalton (Ty Simpkins), he brought SOMETHING eviiiiiil back with him. That’s the basic plot.  Please consider yourself  **SPOILER** warned from this point on. And what the hell is wrong with you if you haven’t seen these movies yet? Get on it! :p

Let me run down the stuff I loved about this one. I like doing this in bullet points for those of us with short attention spans: 

  • The humor. We know these beloved film makers always throw us some comic relief. Well done comic relief in horror is something of an art all on it’s own. The comedy is delivered in the form of the returning characters of Specs and Tucker. I guess you’d call them paranormal investigators/technicians to the endearing clairvoyant Elise.  These two guys have awesome chemistry together and were seriously my second favorite part of this movie.
  • My first favorite part: There is one little scare that was so subtle it made this little horror nerd want to weep. Okay here it is- when Renai Lambert is on the phone and is nonchalantly walking from room to room. Our director set it up perfectly. There is a spectral creepy ghost lady just sitting there. No fanfare, no music, no indication, nothing. Just BOOM there she is sitting calmly out of focus in the background. This was not the only phenomenal scare, but it was my personal favorite. I get all jazzed just thinking about it. *sigh* 
  • The corpses under the sheets in the Crane house. Such a brilliant use of not over-showing the creepiness to the audience. Often what your imagination fills in is even worse. However, the mold is a good indication of what was happening under there. Oh, and the rotted hands. Nasty.
  • The way the two films flowed together so perfectly. It really was Chapters 1&2. I loved how Josh basically time travels back into the first movie to a very familiar scene where the front door and alarm was mysteriously going off. Well, now we know what that was all about.
  • The very end. I liked that the crack team of Elise, Specs and Tucker are still out helping people. This was a classy set up for further movies. We’ve been told James Wan won’t be involved. I strongly hope that whoever picks of the torch for more movies treats this franchise and it’s audience with respect. A high bar has been raised!
  • I could probably go on about this movie. But I think y’all get the drift. I liked it.

Okay, I had one big gripe with the movie. Really, this is the only thing that irked me.

  • The character of the mother of Parker Crane. She’s referred to as Mother Mortis at one point. Let’s just call her Ma. Turns out it was Ma drifting around the Lambert family compound misplacing the baby and whispering creepily. Ma has that distinctive look of a James Wan character, which I like. However, I feel like they really cranked up her performance to borderline melodrama. Everything from her exaggerated appearance, to her voice and mannerisms is really not subtle. Now, I’ve told myself that she probably “seemed” that way because it was through the filter of her damaged son Parker’s memories. I also think they decided to keep her on the cartoon-y side because the emotional, verbal, and physical abuse she’s inflicting on little Parker/”Marilyn” is fucking disturbing. I’m not a parent (nor planning to be one) but it’s hard for many people to watch any sort of violence towards kids. It’s important to the story as a whole in this case to show the relationship between Ma and Parker. Maybe they decided that by taking Ma in such a flamboyant direction it would keep us away from Precious style parental abuse. What we end up is more Mommy Dearest. I guess I’ll take it.

Well, that’s it! I hope you guys liked Chapter 2 as much as I did. I got some feedback to grade/rate movies. Until I figure out a system I like more, I’m going to go with the standard A+ through F system.

Insidous 2 Grade: A

 

insidious-2-movie

 

You’re Next

YoureNextNew1Upon seeing the trailer for Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, you can deduce a view things:

1. Home invasion genre

2. Looks violent

3. Awesome opaque animal masked killers

All three of these points are definitely true, but those are just the tip of the fun ice berg that is this movie. If you’re a fan of Mr. Wingard and writer Simon Barrett you know they always have a few tricks of their sleeves.  I feel like these guys really know what’s up when it comes to crafting a quality horror movie (like V/H/S, which both worked on) that strikes a cord with die-hard horror fans. I love watching these movies made by genre enthusiasts. Now obviously they’re in the same class as some other relatively “new” filmmakers too. There is so much talent out there that totally get what us fanatics want to see. So, when it comes to these guys,  I am totally drinking their kool-aid and will watch anything they’re involved in at this point.

I also have to point out that the opening sequence of the movie is awesome. Horror movies need to have a spectacular opening sequence. I am getting pickier about this in my old age. It doesn’t need to be flashy or violent, but I am really looking for it to hook me and reel me in. Also, I love how both behind the scenes and on the screen You’re Next is packed with horror favorite actors and technicians. I was geeking out hardcore.

There are some tricks and twists in this movie. If I wanted to really break the thing down and talk spoilers, I could. Because there are some really unexpected little turns here and there. But to be honest there is only one spoiler-ish thing that I wanted to touch on here today with you. In fact, I knew about this one element before seeing the movie. I have no clue if this is a spoiler or not.  So, you’ve been warned.  **SPOILER??** I really appreciated them resurrecting the concept of the Final Girl. There are still movies made with this archetypal character. But I feel like You’re Next really celebrates that concept. Sharni Vincent gives a wonderful performance as Erin. Erin is having the first meet the fam visit with her professor-turned boyfriend’s parents, siblings and their spouses. (Side note-I love when slasher have a big-ish cast. C’mon, we need people to kill off! That’s the point! ) Anyway, when the masked weirdos start to terrorize and kill (RIP Tariq) the party, Erin steps up. She really takes charge. Right away she’s shouting orders and making plans to try and get a handle on the situation. This comes as a shock to every one including her man-friend who all know nothing of her un–traditional and bad-ass upbringing. Erin gets pretty banged up during this movie. Yet she doesn’t back down. And, she can rig up some pretty insanely sick traps and weapons ala Home Alone’s Kevin McCalister. Erin is a girl after my own heart. She slices, she dices, she makes you wanna root for her, and most importantly, she doesn’t disappoint.

Sharni-Vinson-in-Youre-Next-2011-Movie-Image-2-650x432

The Conjuring: Conjuring up a little love in my cold heart

the-conjuring-poster1

This poster is rad.

Forgive me while I totally give into the hype surrounding this movie. I can’t help it, I could deny that I totally enjoyed this movie. I could write cynical things about the faults of the movie but I don’t really want to. In my humble opinion, none of the little faults are deal breakers or anything that stuck with me in such a way that I feel the need to “warn” you about it. No, I just want to enjoy and nerd out a little bit.

Let’s tip the hat briefly to James Wan for directing this film. He’s great, right? It doesn’t matter if he writes, directs, produces, or some combination of those. I will even be seeing The seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious because he’s directing it. (In case you were wondering, I dropped out after we drifted off to Tokyo a few F&F movies ago.) When a film is really good, its due to an awesome director, writer, actors, technicians, everything is just coming together. And for the most part, I feel like that magic little soup happened here. The Conjuring was written by Carey and Chad Hayes. Twin brothers and screen writing dynamic duo. I wasn’t too familiar with their repertoire. According to IMBD we have them to thank for the remake of House of Wax and several episodes of Bay Watch, AND Bay Watch Nights.  None of those titles are relevant to this movie. But there, it is.

You will know from either the trailers or opening credits that this whole thing is based on a real event. The Warren’s are a well known husband and wife team of paranormal investigators/demonologists. Lorraine Warren’s superpower is being a gifted clairvoyant. Ed Warren has the ability to rock a mean gray flannel suit. (Just kidding. I got nothing but love for Ed). Anyway, they come to the aid of the Perron clan. The Perron’s and their tribe of daughters live in an extremely old house that is haunted infested with evil. And now the game is afoot to help this lovable family before it’s too late.

For your convenience, I am going to list my favorite parts. This will contain SPOILERS…I think. Just in case, read it after you’ve seen the movie. And, please do go see it! I feel it’s not to be missed if you’re a horror fan.

the-conjuring-dolls

Can I please have both?? I will give them a good home.

A few of my favorite things….

– The opening! Duh! It features one of my most favorite dolls I have ever seen in a movie. Annabelle 🙂 Needless to say, I want her for my creepy-ass doll collection I cultivate. I have seen that the IRL doll was actually a Raggedy Ann. I love me some RA, but this Annabelle was 10x’s more interesting. The opening scene just sort of hits the ground running and I loved that. Clearly, this was foreshadowing the something in the overall plot to come, but I really admire the way they laid that out. Of course it was then followed by…

– The title! It was yellow and looked perfectly retro. I was instantly put at “ease” by this! It was like watching one of my old, favorite classics. I hope you felt the same.

– The story is set in 1971, and EVERY little detail of this movie looked totally vintage. The costumes, the props, the set and so forth was on point without looking corny. I am a costuming geek and I always appreciate attention to detail in clothing.

– The damn movie was actually scary. I can’t remember a movie freaking me out like this in recent memory. The first/biggest thing that got me was the notion of “something” non-living pulling your leg while you are asleep in order to both wake you and  scare the beejeesus out of you. I am one of those who often sleep with one or both feet above the blankets at night. And the thought of something grabbing my leg like this has crossed my mind before.

– I love that this movie really scared a lot of people. There was actually screaming and jumping in the theater! I think that is fantastic. EVERY scary movie should have that reaction from their audience members. Personally, I didn’t scream. But I’m not much of a shriek-er in theaters. However, friends of mine who are also non shriek-ers in general were not immune to this movie and did actually scream. Some did it multiple times. Y’all know who you are 🙂

–  Next is the strong female leads. Lorraine and Carolyn Perron (Vera Farmiga & Lili Taylor). Both fabulous actresses and the glue holding the movie together in many ways.

– The very sparse amount of  seeing the demons/ghosts/creatures. True, we get a few good glimpses here and there, but mostly we are treated to just little teasing winks of things. Like the two distinct images of a dirty nightgown and creepy freakin’ legs just “hanging” there?? Did I ever mention that hangings is one of my favorite scary images?? Like that brief moment in The Sixth Sense when those poor people are dangling in the school. I hate it and I can’t even really describe why. *Shudder* . This movie got that so right for me.

– Okay, there are definitely more moments. But those are the ones that really stand out for me. I am really proud of myself because I was very positive in this review and I think I got my point across. And yet, I want to be snarky for just one moment. I’m sorry, it’s just in my nature. Here are a couple of things I wasn’t keen on:

-If I had to take issue with anything in the film, the major thing would be the climax/near ending scenes. I didn’t like the mob of angry birds and all that ruckus and fanfare. I just really appreciate when scares are kinda subtle and “realistic.” And when the whole wrath of God  Satan comes raining down, it just makes me sigh.

-I’m also not a big fan of demonstrative outpourings of emotion. And the whole end-battle when Carolyn is sobbing through the possession struggle and then we have Lorraine yelling encouraging things to get her home girl through it, it just didn’t work for me. I know I sound completely contradictory because mere sentences ago I praised how much I loved these ladies. But I can’t pretend I liked all the emotional turmoil. Perhaps I am a robot and such sentiments are beyond me. Oh, and I think they handled it as best they could, but that little girl would have gone through some trauma after her mother did some crazy ass shit such as kidnapping her and her sister. Mummy then tried to stab the youngest child to death whilst she looked like rotten apple head doll due to possession. So, I guess that makes it “okay” since  it wasn’t really her?? Yet right after the fight, the family shambles into the sunlight, mom’s face clears up, and she gives a very sincere and tearful apology. So, I guess it’s all good? Hmm. I don’t know how else they could have handled closing that scene, but I wasn’t a big fan of what we got.

Even with a few complaints I still have all kinds of love for this movie. I liked the actual closing A LOT too. Seeing them put the music box in their museum (memo to self: must go to there), and then basically heading off to the next case. I loved that. Regardless of if you believe in anything paranormal, or even if the Warrens were legit in what they claimed to do, it was a great ending note. They say through the whole movie that God brought them together to help people, so that’s what they aim to do! I hear rumors of a sequel. Count me in.

Greystone Park: Looks like Downton Abbey in Hell

Greystone-Park-poster

Perhaps the title there is a bit misleading. Nothing about this movie is really at all like the fantastic BBC show. However, the building itself looks like Downton Abbey. Well, maybe only a little. I think what I’m trying to say is it’s a big, sprawling, old building.  Oh! It’s also a real place. A former real-life psychiatric hospital, just as the movie tells us. Now that I cleared that up, let’s press on. This is low budget type of movie I found at times both fun and atrocious. I mean that as a compliment because I was really entertained by this little film. Allow me to introduce Sean Stone. Sean stars in, directs, and co-wrote this film along with fellow writer/star Alex Wraith. Sean looks like Maroon 5’s Adam Levine if didn’t have that emaciated thing going on. Oh, he also happens to be the son of acclaimed director Oliver Stone. His dear ole mum and dad even have small roles in the film. The third lead character is a girl named Antonella. All the leads use both their IRL names as their character names too, which is convenient for our purposes today. But, it also makes things kind of fun in a real/not real, could-this-be-based-on-actual-events territory. Sean seems like the level headed type, I daresay even a bit boring. Alex is impulsive, scattered and a smidgen cray-cray. Antonella is obsessed with Medusa. She also has a tendency to swing back and forth in various scenes from talking a big game about going into an abandoned mental hospital, and then freaking the fuck out in others and constantly repeat silly phrases such as, ” I have to leave here, I can’t be in THIS room any more!” Forgive the paraphrasing. So what are these kids doing here? The three are making a documentary of sorts about the titular location, Greystone Park. Now in ruins, it once was a mental hospital known for using extreme methods (electroshock therapy, etc) on their patients. There was an infamous client there called Billy Lasher who could still be hanging around in an un-dead sense. In fact, the whole place is reportedly haunted and has a way of messing with the minds of those who go exploring within the building.

So this movie has one of those opening sequences that always remind me of music videos. Kind of flashy, jumpy, cut scenes, all black and white creepy images, you get the idea. So, imagine my surprise when the pacing of the thing suddenly slowed down to a crawl. Everyone knows I enjoy a good slow-burner, but this was getting silly. When I was really feeling the drag, stuff got interesting. There starts to be subtle little clues in the background of shots, I love that kind of thing. And then Alex is acting more crazy. Not just reckless, but obsessive.

Let me digress from one moment to talk about an issue dear to my heart. I happen to be doll collector. And I love a creepy doll. We get some good doll spooky-ness here. Future film makers, please don’t over use the doll tactic. At the point of abuse you run the risk of alienating the doll collecting community. That is all.

At the climax of this movie, things take a turn for the  better. The characters are just spiraling into madness, and it’s great fun to watch. The scary stuff is cranking up and getting more interesting. And then, there is THAT scene. It is somewhat random, and not eluded to or explained, but I freakin’ loved it. After the break below I will go into some detail for those who don’t mind a spoiler.

To recap, this movie is a little rough. It has that look and feel of a beginning filmmaker(s). But that isn’t a bad thing. Everybody has to start somewhere. And these early movies can be kind of fearless. I couldn’t help but root for it. And even though it had it’s low points (some cliche dialogue and characters, oddly slow pacing here and there), it also had good things going for it. I didn’t shut it off after 20 minutes so that means I was entertained.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

This goat is not metal. But he is fabulous and relevant to this movie. Kinda.

Spoiler: I wanna chat about that scene in the movie that got me all juiced. In case you couldn’t tell, it’s the scene in the church room. The boys are looking at what they think is Antonella dancing all hippy-ish at the front of the pulpit. The boys exchange some funny dialogue full of self referential humor, which was great. The ruined church has turned into this super creepy black, Santanic-seeming mass. There are these goat-masked/puppet things set up around the pulpit as if addressing their congregation of demons and just being scary while she dances about for them all grotesquely! When Sean gets brave enough to try to approach and lure Antonella out, the dancer turns around to reveal she’s not Antonella at all! Well, if she is she’s some kind of evil demon albino version of herself. Nothing leading up to this point seemed to indicate a Satanic black mass was eminent. It was random. But that means it was unexpected. Plus it was twisted and fun.

The Thing: I just love it. I regret nothing.

I had the most awesome opportunity the other day. I have this really cool husband, I like him a lot. However, he wasn’t exactly a horror fan until we started dating. In fact, he had only seen (and was subsequently traumatized) by “The Exorcist” as a lad. As a horror-holic this has actually worked in my favor. I get to watch a ton of classic horror movies with him and vicariously remember how amazing they were the first time I saw them when I was younger. Not to put him on blast, but I was a little surprised that he had never seen John Carpenter’s “The Thing” since he is a legit Sci Fi fan. So, we watched it the other day and no shock here, he loved it. I was pleasantly surprised that I loved it as much  more than I had the first time I had seen it.

“The Thing” was made in 1982 and directed by horror master John Carpenter. I am not referring to 1951’s “The Thing From Another World”, just to be clear. The Carpenter version stars the always sickeningly cool Kurt Russel, Wilford Brimely, and Keith David to name a few. The film takes place at a remote research center in the Antarctic where a group of scientists (and the hard working crew who keeps the place running) discover that there was something sinister and alien living frozen under the snow until some Norwegians sprung it loose. Specifically, this alien crawls up into a living organism and takes it over. I should mention that the hijacking process is not a pleasant one. However, those around “the thing” don’t really have a way of knowing that their former friend or coworker is being ridden by this parasite.

I admit that as someone who really hearts horror movies, I have a slight tendency to applaud and call many films I love “classic”. However, this one really is classic. I dare say, a masterpiece. Here is what I find truly inspiring about this movie: it was made 30+ years ago, and it still REALLY holds up. There is only a tiny, tiny bit of cheeziness to the special effects. And I do mean tiny. Think like, the size of one of those slivers of almonds you put on a salad sort of tiny. Remember kids, this is before the time of fancy CGI! And it really still looks great. The alien/thing itself is just so gross. It’s gooey, bloody, pus-filed, and I just feel like it probably smells weird. Oh, and that horrid screeching sound it makes?!! That is just good. Not to mention the whole story is just this tension building, and building upon itself. The Thing is desperate to survive, and it could be in anyone. The suspicion, the paranoia, it just escalates! And then like the characters themselves, we in the audience don’t know who to trust anymore either. Well done!

Oh, I want to talk about the ending. So, just scroll down for spoilers. In case you’re jumping off here though, let me just close by saying please go watch “The Thing.” If you don’t like it, you suck and have no taste. Haha-kidding….kinda. 😉 In all seriousness, my love for this film was just rekindled and I was so overwhelmingly impressed by that. I hope you feel the same.

Oh Jay-sus take the wheel-I can't even handle this picture right now...

Oh Jay-sus take the wheel-I can’t even handle this picture right now…

 

 

 

 

That Spoiler Part: The ending. I know there is much to be said (and has been said) about it. I adore the ambiguous ending. It’s how Carpenter wanted it to be, open to interpretation. My own personal opinion: Childs is the thing, not MacReady/Kurt Russel. My main evidence to support my theory is the fact that you can’t see Child’s breathe out there in the frozen cold…but you can see MacReady’s. And there is such attention paid to the fact that you can only see one of them breathing. Regardless of who you feel is the thing, you can’t deny the power of those two actors in that final scene. Such subtext and knowing in the lines they speak to each other. One of them is determined to save the world if he can, the other is bringing the apocalypse to Earth. Well played sirs; well played indeed.