Film Review: Gretel & Hansel

Oz Perkins has quickly become one of my favourite directors. Son of the late horror icon Anthony Hopkins, I first came to know of Oz Perkins when I watched The Blackcoat’s Daughter, one of my recent favourite horrors of the past few years.

So when I saw that he was going to tackle a fairytale, I was intrigued. The winning point for this film is that it’s incredibly atmospheric. From the very first scene you’re sucked into the world of the film and feel immersed in its Gothic forest wonder. Gretel is portrayed by Sophia Lillis who has been showing her acting chops in IT and also the miniseries Sharp Objects, and even in this role she doesn’t disappoint.

Personally, I love that we got to know more about the witch in question that lives in the woods. In the fairytale, we never really got a sense of who she was other than a hideous lady that cooked up children to eat them. Not that she doesn’t do this in this film, but we also get more of a backstory.

In a way, the film is very feminist as it proves that Gretel wasn’t willing to work for a nobleman who seemed more interested in her maidenhood than her abilities to clean and launder. I also liked that the witch wasn’t seen as particularly evil at first, because she was teaching Gretel many skills and looked at her as a possible stand in for a daughter figure. In a way, she was happy to share her power with her and to help Gretel nurture her own power.

But what really makes this film unforgettable isn’t all the feminist messages (there are many and it’s cool) but for the enchanting yet terrifying images. There’s something about the witch’s house that compels you to enter but also once you’re inside, you can’t help but feel like something is terribly amiss despite the tasty banquets that seem to appear on the table at all hours of the day.

Watch this film for its rich photography and if you’ve ever wanted a little more depth analysis of the Grimm fairytale, Hansel and Gretel.

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Film Review: The Dark & the Wicked

Being cooped up at a home with no signs of theatres opening up, I’ve had to rely on streaming services to watch any new movies that I would’ve watched on the silverscreen. That being said, this film kept coming up time and time again as being the creepiest horror of 2020, so of course I had to see if that statement were true.

The Dark and the Wicked starts out with a feeling of dread, and that feeling never subsides, it actually continues to escalate to a horrifying crescendo. The beginning scenes have the mother chopping up a bunch of veggies with a cleaver, and if you’ve ever feared that using a cleaver in a horror means you’ll end up losing some digits, well this film delivers on that fear in spades.

The premise of the movie is quite simple, two estranged siblings return home when they find out their father is on his death bed. The mother keeps telling them to leave, and the siblings feeling guilty for having pretty much abandoned their parents, don’t leave, not seeing her request as the warning it truly is. A strange nefarious entity has been plaguing their home and their parents, but the brother and sister don’t acknowledge its existence until it’s too late.

This movie delivered on the creepy atmosphere and jump scares, but if you’re looking for answers, you won’t receive any. We never know why the parents were targeted, except for a tiny hint where the father’s caretaker tells the sister that love is how you keep evil away alluding that evil managed to take hold of their parents because they lacked their children’s love. But you never learn how the siblings could redeem themselves and rid themselves of this evil, because this film offers no such comfort. Basically everyone is doomed from the very beginning.

It doesn’t bother me that the film didn’t have a neat little resolution, because some things can’t be undone.

Check this one out if you love creepy, visceral horror.

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Book Review: Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

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Release Date: January 26, 2021

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

All Bram wanted was to disappear–from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.

But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew–and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.

The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.

The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.

Grade: A-

Review:

I’ll be honest, I was tempted to DNF this book because it was sort of slow moving and it wasn’t really compelling until 40% in the book and then BAM did the novel really shift its gears and started to become unputdownable! I love the book Rebecca and this book was advertised as a retelling of sorts loaded with snowy creepiness and mystery. I must say that I started to like the protagonist Bram way better once we got a chance to really know her better. I really couldn’t tell where the story was going and that’s good! I like the element of surprise and figuring things out alongside the protagonist.

I love that we as readers, just like the protagonist, are wary of all the characters we encounter, because it gives you this feeling that nothing is sacred and you can’t trust anyone. I must say that I really enjoyed this book a lot and am glad that I went against my initial feelings to put it down, and decided to give it a chance.

This book is ideal for readers who love twisty thriller/mysteries or Gothic influenced thrillers with unrealible side characters.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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COMING SOON! Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

I’m very proud to announce that another Women in Horror Anthology will be coming out next month! This is the third Women in Horror Anthology that I’ve edited, but the first one that I’ve edited with fellow Inkblotter Erica Ruhe, so it may have a different feel than the others (since we both selected stories and agreed which ones would make the cut).

I’ve always been a fan of stories where love goes wrong, because a part of me is a huge romantic and the other part of me is hugely attracted to the sinister so this embraces both things very well.

An artist soon discovers how dangerous it is to paint her muse.

A young boy finds out how deadly a birthday wish can be.

A young woman plagued by nightmares will find out what they really mean with deadly consequences.

A woman visits her sister only to discover of her new macabre hobby.

These and many other stories make up the twisted world of TAINTED LOVE, a collection that exalts and explores the many ways love can go wrong, may it be romantic relationships, friendships, or familial bonds, sometimes, love can become deadly or scary. Here you have fourteen chilling tales of love and the wounds it leaves, sometimes metaphorical sometimes literal. Love kills, and these authors expertly wield the knife in this anthology that you don’t want to miss!

These are the short stories you will find in the anthology:

When The Mask Drops by Hillary Lyon

Vanitas by Azzurra Nox & Erica Ruhe

The Wait by Kathleen Halecki

They Want to Talk by Rachel Bolton

Chronic Chills by Hudson Wilding

Make A (Death) Wish by Melissa Burkley

The Flagship by Phoebe Jane Johnson

Of Guys and Dolls by Stella B. James

Prey by Erin Lee

Sleep by Marie Anderson

Hunter’s Moon by Marnie Azzarelli

Unborn by Alexandra Bay

Unfinished Business by Joni Chng

My Lady Bathory by Mandy Burkhead

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY!!!

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Film Review: The Craft – Legacy

Growing up a teen in the very late 90’s, The Craft soon came my go-to movie about female empowerment and awesome style, and obviously, just like everyone else, I loved Fairuza Balk’s character Nancy Downs. Having said, it’s obvious that any sequel wouldn’t have done the original justice without the other witches from the first film, especially since Fairuza Balk’s reprisal of Nancy Downs only lasts a mere handful of seconds at the very end of the movie.

I like the protagonist Lily, but I’m not so enamoured by the rest of the coven who come across as watered-down Sabrina-esque witches than holding the true trauma, hardships, and pathos the witches Nancy, Bonnie, Sarah, and Rochelle from the first film. The biggest mistake is that we never got a chance to know much about the new coven or if they were facing any hardships or why they were outcasts. There was just no heart and honestly, that made caring about them less likely.

I was surprised to see that a women had directed the movie seeing that since Carrie came onscreen, many have used menstruation as a form of shame for teenage girls, and quite honestly I AM OVER IT. The first day of school has Lily unexpectedly bleed through her jeans (although honestly any woman with a vagina can assure you that Lily would’ve been the first to notice something was amiss before the students chuckled their mockery had her mishap). We need to stop correlating menstruation with shame, and it needs to stop being depicted as a source of bullying. For a movie that shoved woke soundbites every three seconds, you would’ve thought the director wouldn’t have gone into this tropey territory.

Whoever wrote the script must’ve seen Magnolia on repeat and then decide it’d be a good idea to reprise Tom Cruise’s character as a motivational speaker in the form of David Duchovny, and although I am a fan of Duchovny, his character raised more questions that left us wondering, how does he know about Manon, and did he steal Nancy’s powers from her? And since he seemed to target Lily specifically for her power, did he know who she was prior to him hooking up with her adopted mother? The movie didn’t explain any of this.

Instead, what we got was a witch movie that seemed less like The Craft and more like an episode of Charmed, injected with lots of 90’s trends mixed with Euphoria makeup moments. Honestly, the only good thing about the movie was them casting a trans actress to actually portray a trans girl. As a homage or sequel, the movie bombed, and as a standalone witch movie, the film barely delved into the rich history of paganism, witchcraft, or Wicca.

The Craft truly explored the perils of power and greed. Not to mention, accurately depicting the pain of being a real outcast and how deeply traumatizing it is to be betrayed by your close friends. The Craft: Legacy aspired to be so many things, but ultimately fell flat on its face. To put it simple, it was a mediocre film.

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Book Review: Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Scribner

Price: $14.40 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Grade: A-

Review:

This book had Under the Skin vibes, and that was exactly why I chose to read it. If you can’t handle brutal acts of violence, then this book won’t be for you. But if you love dystopian societies then you may want to check this one out. We’re introduced to Marcos, who’s in the business of slaughtering humans ever since a virus has contaminated all the animals and can no longer provide humans the protein they once did. In fact, in this new world, all animals have been destroyed, and the world is silent. Marcos is still reeling from his son’s death, and only continues to work at the slaughterhouse because it’s what he’s best at, and needs the money to keep his dad who’s afflicted with dementia in a retirement home. But, he’s never consumed the new “special meat” himself. In fact, when he’s gifted a female head (as humans that are raised to be livestock are called), he begins to see her humanity.

This book can be triggering for some people (especially if you hate violence directed towards animals and can’t stomach descriptions of people eating humans). I enjoyed the book (although enjoyed probably isn’t the right term cause that’s going to make me sound like a sociopath), but I did like that the author pushed boundaries and made you question what exactly makes us decide that certain animals are deemed worthy of consuming and which ones are considered worth saving.

This is a brutal book, read it if you can deal with violence and triggering events, or you enjoyed Under the Skin.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Scribner for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Happy New Year & 2021 Goals

Although 2020 will definitely go under as one of the toughest years all of us had to live through in our lifetimes (and that’s saying a lot living in a post 9/11 world and economic meltdown of 2008 in which most of us are still trying to recover from). But for some creatives this year of solitude has somehow ignited a fire. And although I haven’t been in lockdown due to my job’s office being open throughout the whole pandemic, I suppose the possible threat to my own mortality and desire to hide away in a daydreams is what has turned out to be one of the most prolific years for me in terms of my writing.

What I accomplished in 2020

*Released Strange Girls: Women in Horror in February

*Some Kind of Monster will be published in Unburied 2021

*Baby Teeth was published in Midnight in the Pentagram for Silver Shamrock Publishing

*One for the Money, Two for the Show appeared in the Crystal Lake Publishing contest Summer 2020

*Boys of Summer will be published in 2021

*Fragile Fruit was published in Running Wild Stories in June 2020, and was also nominated for a Pushcart Award Prize 2020

*Lost Girls Go Everywhere: Poetry & Prose was released in October 2020

*Silent Ivy Hotel made the final Top Ten cut for a short story contest (still waiting for final results)

*I wrote over 15 new short stories

*I began writing a screenplay Terror! about the French Revolution

2021 Goals

*Complete my screenplay Terror!

*Complete my horror novella I Want Candy

*Finish editing Girl that You Fear for the nth time

*Read at least 50 books (I read only 46 this yr)

*Release Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology on February 16, 2021

*Be more active on Instagram (create more content)

*Maybe put together a collection of my short stories

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR?

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Top Ten Books I Read in 2020

I should begin this by stating that this isn’t a list of books that were released in 2020, but books that I read in 2020 and enjoyed, which goes to say that some may have been released before this year, during this year, and some will be released next year. Having stated that, WHEW! I’ve survived 2020, thankfully, still healthy and somewhat mentally intact, although I must admit that finding solace in books and my writing has been a saving grace for me. This book list are the Top Ten Books I loved reading this year, and as you can tell the titles span across genres. Many of these titles I reviewed so this post will be filled with lots of links if you’re interested in learning more about them!

ONE. THE LIVING DEAD BY GEORGE A. ROMERO & DANIEL KRAUS

This was my absolute favourite book of the year! And not because it was about zombies or had horrific gore (it had both) but mostly because of the humanity and characters I found in this novel that I haven’t found in other books before. I loved everything about this book, and am saddened that George A. Romero passed away before he could see it in print.

TWO. TIGERS NOT DAUGHTERS BY SAMANTHA MABRY

I love, love, loved the Torres sisters! The book had the vibes of The Virgin Suicides but with a ghostly slant to it. I can’t recommend this book enough. I was lucky enough that I not only read an early ARC of this book, but the publishers then sent me a hardcover copy.

THREE. OPEN BOOK BY JESSICA SIMPSON

I’m not a fan of Jessica’s music, nor was I a fan of her reality show on MTV, The Newly Weds, however, I do enjoy Jessica as a clothes designer, and now after reading the book, even as a person. If you’re going to read a celebrity biography, I totally recommend this one, especially if you were a teen in the late 90’s since she talks about all the celebrities that were en vogue back then. Spoiler alert: John Mayer has always been a jerk.

FOUR. THE VINYL UNDERGROUND BY ROB RUFUS

This is another book that had a TON of soul. The setting is during the Vietnam War and now, in modern times we know how futile that war is so the fact that our protagonist has already lost a brother to the war and he himself may be drafted too, makes the reader feel this sense of unease throughout the whole novel. I loved the friendships in this book, they were credible and filled with so much heart.

FIVE. SURVIVOR SONG BY PAUL TREMBLAY

In a year where we’re still battling with a pandemic, Temblay’s novel about a virus may not seem like the best book to read in 2020. However, what’s amusing is seeing that the way he thought some humans and politicians would react to a pandemic, were a little too spot on at times.

SIX. THE BLACK KIDS BY CHRISTINA HAMMONDS REED

The year is early 90’s during the Rodney King riots. In 2020, it would’ve thought that such things would’ve been past us, however, after George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests and invigorated the Black Lives Matter movement, you soon feel like some things haven’t quite become past yet, and are still our present and must be dealt with.

SEVEN. THE PROJECT BY COURTNEY SUMMERS

A survivor of trauma collides paths with an enigmatic and charismatic cult leader, and soon neither of their lives will ever be the same again. This book will tear you apart.

EIGHT. INTO THE FOREST AND ALL THE WAY THROUGH BY CYNTHIA PELAYO

If you’re a fan of true crime, then you might want to pick up this poetry collection where each poem is dedicated to a girl that has gone missing. Some of these girls have been missing for more than forty years while others have recently gone missing. Reader take caution, this book will gut you open.

NINE. DARLING ROSE GOLD BY STEPHANIE WROBEL

If you loved The Act, that chronicled the life of Gypsy Rose, then you’re going to love this novel. A mother and daughter with a conflicted relationship, mirrors the one depicted in The Act, only on steroids. It’s a fun ride.

TEN. UNBOXED BY BRIANA MORGAN

A v-logger gets tempted by the dark web, only to find out that the mystery box he has ordered will bring about sinister things. A fast-paced fun read!

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Farewell, Daria

On November 26, 2020, acclaimed horror actress, Daria Nicolodi passed away. I wanted to write a tribute to her, and originally, this tribute shouldn’t have come after her death. A couple of months ago, after exchanging a few tweets with Daria, she started following me on Twitter. I was planning on writing a feature about her for The Inkblotters to appear during February 2021 for Women in Horror Month which would’ve included an interview with the beautiful and enigmatic actress. However, in November she passed away and not only did we lose an amazing actress and voice for the horror genre, but I felt like I also lost an almost friend.

Daria was an avid reader and trailblazing feminist and I found myself talking to her about books on many occasions. She was also very intelligent and a creative in her own right, despite the fact that many have always sidelined her as Dario Argento’s sidekick. What some people may not know is that it wasn’t Argento who came up with the plot for the internationally successful cult film Suspiria, but Daria herself. She helped Argento pen the script for the film after she told him that her grandmother had been sent to a very prestigious boarding school, only to find out that Black Magic was practiced there, and thus the students were then sent back home. Inspired by both by the anecdote and their extensive travels throughout Europe, the duo decided to write a script together. In fact, Suspiria initially, was written to feature young girls, and not teenagers. But the fact that producers didn’t want to invest in a movie about little girls getting killed, the couple decided to make them older. But both Daria and Argento never revised the script’s dialogue, which is why sometimes the characters in the movie sound too childish for their ages. Suspiria is often dubbed to be Argento’s masterpiece, and he’s often praised for it, but few know or praise the real mastermind behind the film’s plot and that’s a tragedy.

Not only did Daria have starring roles in many of Dario Argento’s best films, she also helped change the face of horror forever. She was the one to suggest to Argento to use the band Goblin to score Profondo Rosso, which would later thrive in the scores for Suspiria, Dawn of the Dead, and Beyond the Darkness among others.

Italian horror isn’t known to be kind to its female characters, but Daria revolutionized the way we’d ever see females in horror ever again. She had a disarming charm, sex appeal, and intelligence to her that she quickly captivated audiences. It’s easy to think about the males of horror when we think about the masters of horror, but to deny Daria Nicolodi’s contributions to horror is to deny a whole revolution. She innovated the horror genre in ways others that have come after her haven’t been able to do.

Getting to know her on a personal level this past year was both illuminating and gratifying. This is why her death hit me hard and why I found it difficult to find the words to write about her. These words aren’t perfect, far from it, but I’m hoping that it will inspire you to want to watch her films because she’s got the presence of a true star. From her big sultry eyes to her beautiful smile, anytime Daria’s onscreen you know that you won’t be able to look beyond her because she is the focal point, no matter what horrors are happening.

Farewell, Daria, maybe in another lifetime our friendship will have the time to blossom, but I’m grateful for the seedling that I received because to know you was to know a true star. You are missed.

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Poetry: Unwanted Memories

Photo by Fillipe Gomes on Pexels.com

I removed your mark from my skin,

They gave me pills to forget.

I begged the stars to stop

spelling your name

But they’re cruel,

So I blinded myself instead.

There’s peace in darkness.

**

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Lost Girls Go Everywhere: Poetry & Prose on Amazon!

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