Series Review: Firefly Lane

Recently, I was asked to view an advanced screening of Firefly Lane, the newest series to hit Netflix in February, based off of the New York Times best-selling author Kristin Hannah’s 2008 novel of the same name. I purposely didn’t read a plot summary before diving in, but I did decide to watch it based off of the fact that Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy fame and early aughts rom-com queen) and Sarah Chalke (Scrubs and Rick & Morty) star as the two best friends, Tully Hart and Kate Mularkey.

The show is split in three time frames, present 2007, past 1982, and childhood past 1974. The show, like the novel, shows the spanning of a 30-years-old friendship between two best friends who first met at the pivotal age of 14 when living on the same street, Firefly Lane.

Tully Hart has always been ambitious and beautiful, the stark contrast of Kate Mularkey who’s intelligent but mousy. The two have always envied the life of the other. Tully envies Kate’s family, while Kate envies Tully’s beauty and charisma.

I only got to view the first two episodes, but episode one shows us meeting the protagonists at their lowest points. Tully is a successful talkshow host but is worried that her beauty is diminishing and feels like her talent is wasted on the talkshow, while Kate is trying to deal with a divorce and trying to navigate work again after being out of the workforce for the past fourteen years.

FIREFLY LANE (L to R) ALI SKOVBYE as YOUNG TULLY and ROAN CURTIS as YOUNG KATE in episode 102 of FIREFLY LANE. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

Both actresses excel in their roles and compliment one another. My favourite aspect about this show is the enduring friendship between the two protagonists and how even the possibility of a love triangle doesn’t seem to derail how they feel about each other. If anything, this series focuses on how maybe your soulmate is your best friend and not your romantic partner, and that the greatest love story you’ll ever live is the one you have with your childhood best friend. At a time when women are always seen competing against one another on shows or movies, this is refreshing. Again, I’ve only viewed the first two episodes, so I ope that they continue on this course and don’t derail into the normal tropes that I despise about female friendships.

One of the moments I loved best about the show is when Tully, noticing that Kate is feeling frumpy, decides to swap dresses with her so that her best friend can feel beautiful in a more attention-seeking dress. Or when Tully is speaking with Kate’s daughter, and Kate’s daughter is complaining about her mom and calls her a bitch and Tully stops her and says, “Hey, don’t talk about my best friend like that. Your mom is nice, she was nice at 14 and no one is nice at that age.”

If you’re someone who loves friendship stories, I think you’re really going to love this series and you should definitely check it out.

*Thank you to Netflix for advance screening!

Watch Firefly Lane starting February 3, Netflix.

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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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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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Film Review: Antebellum

The past never stays in the past…..

I went into watching this film with a bit of misguidance, as I was convinced that the movie was based off of Octavia E. Butler’s novel, Kindred. In Butler’s novel, the protagonist Dana, a writer, time travels from her present in Los Angeles, to a slavery era Maryland. Antebellum, much like Butler’s novel, depicts the protagonist Veronica to also be a writer and who also finds herself living during the slavery era South (Louisiana in this case). The plots are very similar, that it’s a honest mistake that I thought Antebellum was an adaptation of Butler’s novel.

The movie’s twist, though, is much more chilling than time travel. And that’s all I can say without landing in the *spoilers* realm.

First of all, let me say what I liked about this movie, because I was left with very conflicting feelings. This was Janelle Monae’s first lead role, and to say that she rocked it, is an understatement. Her performance was very emotional and you can’t help but to root for her character, Veronica (but who is also referred to as Eden by the slave owners). I also loved seeing Gabourey Sidibe being her sassy classy self in the role of Veronica’s best friend, Bridget. I would’ve loved to have seen more scenes with her, as she’s always been a favourite of mine since AHS:Coven. The third standout role went to Jena Malone. I’ve always liked her and she’s always proved to be very talented, but lately, she’s really upping her game in these new villainous roles. In Neon Demon she was absolutely evil, but here in Antebellum she isn’t only evil, but incredibly chilling. I kid you not, anytime she was in a scene she managed to create more unease in the viewer and feeling of anxiousness than if a typical Hollywood monster or Boogie man had been in her place. Yes, I’m totally saying that Jena Malone will scare the fuck out of you more than Michael Meyers ever could.

Now, I know the movie was directed by an interracial gay couple, so theoretically both guys could’ve been capable of giving characters of both races (black and white) a more nuanced edge to their characters. But sometimes, they failed. As much as I love Gabourey Sidibe, her character Bridget was very stereotypical “loud Black woman.” Which isn’t bad per se, but in a movie that heavily deals with racism, then showing stereotypical Black characters we’ve seen again and again in both film and novels, wasn’t a bit of a let down. My second issue with the film is that yes, it’s a horror movie, but the horror portrayed in the film was mostly based around Black suffering, pain, and traumas, and to parade that pain for entertainment purposes without a true message or call to action at the end, well, then it just leaves you feeling uneasy (especially when the images of violence are very disturbing).

Overall, the film could’ve been better executed and I would’ve liked the world building surrounding the plot to have been more so, because once the twist takes place, then you’re left questioning the motives and actions of everyone involved.

Watch this movie if you want, I checked it out because I was curious and because I erroneously thought it was based on Butler’s novel.

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Top Ten Body Horror Films

Body horror is one my of favorite sub-genres. There’s nothing more terrifying than something unexplainable happening to your body whether it’s caused by supernatural elements, a disease, or someone’s distorted mind, something that causes a physical change in our bodies that we’re unable to control is always horrifying. Sure, films like The Human Centipede exalt the extremely gory aspect of body horror, but what is the change is more subtle, such as in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Both are equally scary. Many times, body horror movies are also presented as coming of age, because adolescents are already going through so many changes they cannot control, so what best way to explore coming into your own than to also throw some creepy body change you wouldn’t normally expect? Jennifer’s Body explored some of those themes. I’ve decided to share some of my favorite body horror movies below.

All of them pose the question: What do you do when your own body has turned against you?

BLUE MY MIND

Mia, a 15-year-old, is facing an overwhelming transformation. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than her.

TEETH

Dawn (Jess Weixler) is an active member of her high-school chastity club but, when she meets Tobey (Hale Appleman), nature takes its course, and the pair answer the call. They suddenly learn she is a living example of the vagina dentata myth, when the encounter takes a grisly turn.

TUSK

A U.S. podcaster (Justin Long) ventures into the Canadian wilderness to interview an old man (Michael Parks) who has an extraordinary past, and the American learns the man has a dark secret involving a walrus.

THE FLY

When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to him, a housefly slips in during the process, leading to a merger of man and insect. Initially, Brundle appears to have undergone a successful teleportation, but the fly’s cells begin to take over his body. As he becomes increasingly fly-like, Brundle’s girlfriend (Geena Davis) is horrified as the person she once loved deteriorates into a monster.

CONTRACTED

A young woman (Najarra Townsend) begins bleeding, shedding maggots and hallucinating after a stranger date rapes her at a party.

POSSESSOR

Tasya Vos, an elite, corporate assassin, takes control of other people’s bodies using brain-implant technology to execute high-profile targets.

GINGER SNAPS

The story of two outcast sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), in the mindless suburban town of Bailey Downs. On the night of Ginger’s first period, she is savagely attacked by a wild creature. Ginger’s wounds miraculously heal but something is not quite right. Now Brigitte must save her sister and save herself.

AMULET

Terror strikes when a former soldier takes a job to help a young woman and her housebound mother.

THE RUINS

Amy (Jena Malone), Stacy (Laura Ramsey), Jeff (Jonathan Tucker) and Eric (Shawn Ashmore) look for fun during a sunny holiday in Mexico, but they get much more than that after visiting an archaeological dig in the jungle. Carnivorous vines try to ensnare the friends in their tendrils, forcing the group to fight for survival.

SPLINTER

When their plans for a nature trip go awry, Polly Watt (Jill Wagner) and boyfriend Seth Belzer (Paulo Costanzo) decide to check into a motel. On their way, they’re carjacked and kidnapped by low-rent crooks Dennis Farell (Shea Whigham) and Lacey Belisle (Rachel Krebs), who take the victims and their SUV to a nearby gas station. Along the way, they encounter an increasingly terrifying horde of parasites, and if any of them intend to survive, they’ll have to outsmart the deadly organisms.

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Film Review: Amulet

amulet

Romola Garai is my spirit animal when it comes to writing because the wild, vindictive story she weaves in Amulet is one that I could’ve easily penned myself. Maybe it’s because I write feminist horror, but I found myself knowing exactly what direction the film was going in and to figure out exactly what dark secrets the protagonist Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) was withholding the whole time.

Amulet is Garai’s directorial debut, but audiences have seen her onscreen many times mostly in period dramas like Atonement, The Crimson Petal and the White, Emma, or on TV with the short-lived The Hour, although American audiences know her mostly for having been wooed by Diego Luna in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Having been a fan of Garai as an actress I’ve seen her demonstrate a lot of range and in a perfect world, she would be embodying June in The Handmaid’s Tale because I think she would be perfect. But I digress.

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The film begins with Tomaz, a philosophy reading soldier guarding an outpost in the middle of the woods. At some point, he uncovers a strange looking amulet, that horror aficionados can easily envision it being a harbinger of bad omen. And ultimately, the amulet in question does bring bad luck, especially for Tomaz.

Flash forward to the present and now Tomaz is homeless living somewhere on the streets of London. A nun (Imelda Staunton) discovers him and soon gives him a new place of employment in exchange for food and a room free of charge. The gesture could almost seem lifesaving if the home Tomaz is asked to live in weren’t a decrepit looking slaughterhouse ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or if we didn’t find out that Sister Claire pressed the issue for him to remain at the home to help a young woman, Madga (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother, by withholding the wad of money he had been religiously saving up from odd jobs.

From the very get-go, we know this arrangement is bad. And I’m particularly suspicious of the food that’s served, maybe because the young woman who prepares it never seems to take a bite herself of the huge chunks of meat.

The film is a slow burn horror ala Hereditary with its own interesting mythology surrounding it. But there’s enough creep factor to keep the viewer feeling rightly unsettled. Kudos to Garai for using albino bats in the most terrifying manner possible. The setting and style evoke feelings of dread and you can’t help but draw parallels with the Grimm Fairytale, Red Riding Hood, because we’ve always been taught from a very young age that the woods are never safe for girls of all ages.

This film isn’t for the faint of heart and will surely leave a lot of men feeling very uncomfortable. And for that alone, I applaud it.

Amulet dares to press the issue that “moving on” simply isn’t possible depending on the severity of the crime. And for that reason, the wrongdoer has to pay for their sins in the most horrific ways. If there’s one thing that I walked away from this viewing is that Garai doesn’t want us to forgive and forget. Rather she wishes for us to remember, and enact sweet, sweet revenge.

Amulet can be found to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and Google. Check out the trailer here.

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6 Awesome Movies to Celebrate Pride Month

I know it’s almost the end of the month but with so many going around lately (gesturing to the world), it was kind of hard to keep up with everything and remain sane. However, I do wish to acknowledge Pride Month and here are some of my favourite movies to celebrate pride! So grab your popcorn and get ready to ride an emotional rollercoaster.

rocketman

ROCKETMAN

A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.

MOONLIGHT

MOONLIGHT

A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.

TANGERINE

TANGERINE

A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.

BOYERASED

BOY ERASED

The son of a Baptist preacher unwillingly participates in a church-supported gay conversion program after being forcibly outed to his parents.

BOYS

BOYS DON’T CRY

A young man named Brandon Teena navigates love, life, and being transgender in rural Nebraska.

HEDWIG

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

A transgender punk-rock girl from East Berlin tours the U.S. with her band as she tells her life story and follows the former lover/band-mate who stole her songs.

BONUS DOCUMENTARY

MARSHA

THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON

Victoria Cruz investigates the mysterious 1992 death of black gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson. Using archival interviews with Johnson, and new interviews with Johnson’s family, friends and fellow activists.

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Throwback Thursday: The Return of the Living Dead

zombie1

Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of a Global Pandemic, or maybe because my version of comfort movies is to turn towards horror, but whatever the case may be, the first thing I did whilst under stress from Covid-19 mid-March was to rewatch The Return of the Living Dead. Even as a young child, I always found zombies to be far more comical than scary. Then again, my tune may change if I suddenly were to find myself in an actual zombie apocalypse.

As always, this movie provided the very much needed comical relief that I was seeking but didn’t know how much I was craving. We watch as a group of teenagers have to deal with the undead when a strange acid rain pours upon their small town. The first hing I noticed while rewatching was that as a kid, I never thought these actors were too old to portray real teenagers, but now looking at it with fresh eyes, I can’t help but realize how much those actors resemble me in age than any teens I’ve ever seen.

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Apart from that, the movie is one hell of a fun ride. We get half-body skeleton ladies that reveal the real reason why zombies must devour brains and who can’t help but find the half cut pup horridly adorable? And if you’re anyone with a pulse with a penchant for goth girls, you’re going to simply adore a certain famous grave yard dance scene. Why is the redhead Trash dancing naked? Who knows! But it sure is hot and entertaining to watch!

zombie3

There are many other hilarious instances. This movie doesn’t take itself seriously and wants YOU to not take it seriously either. Instead, it wants you to lean back and enjoy the decaying fun. After all, when you look at this way, sure there’s a Global Pandemic, but things could be worse, we could be fighting actual zombies right about now. And I don’t know about you, I still kinda want to keep my brains.

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Film Review: Bethany

bethany

Bethany wasn’t the usual jump-scare horror nor did it have any sort of boogie man so to speak. What I liked about Bethany is that true life trauma intermingled with a sense of dread. Claire (Stephanie Estes) is haunted by past childhood traumas that she endured at the hands of her cold, unfeeling mother (Shannon Doherty) who placed physical beauty above all. Young Claire is forced to compete in beauty pageants against her will and to obsess over her appearance, and somehow all this stress on physical perfection causes a terrible rift between mother and daughter.

Bethany-23

But after the passing of her estranged mother, Claire inherits her childhood home and decides to return to live there with her husband Aaron (Zack Ward). I’m still unsure why someone with such terrible PTSD linked to that particular house would want to return let alone start LIVING in said home, but the couple does just that. Unsurprisingly, Claire begins to be haunted by her past in more ways than one.

You see, as a child, she had an imaginary friend called Bethany that would speak to her from the wall. Was the friend real or had she always been a little crazy? These are the questions that surface throughout the course of this movie. There’s a creeping dread that follows the viewer and characters throughout the whole movie and I like it because it makes you question everything. You know that bad things are going to happen, but are those things merely imagined or are they really happening?

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Bethany is one trippy movie, taking you on this rollercoaster of black emotions. What is real? What is imagined? This is a slow burn horror where everything comes to a head when the climax is finally reached and the twist revealed. I was satisfied by the ending, but then again, I’ve always been a sucker for creepy dolls, childhood traumas, and flirting with schizophrenia. The film combines psychological suspense with the supernatural and the twisty reveal is one that many wouldn’t have seen coming.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you will enjoy this movie as it has many things that horror junkies love such as: an old house, creepy dolls, and strange objects protruding from one’s flesh.

bethany3

Check it out, you’re in for a dark thrilling ride.

*Thank you to the director James Cullen Bressack for the free viewing of this movie for an honest review.

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