Film Review: Fear Street 1994 & 1978

Growing up I was a HUGE fan of R.L. Stine’s books, in particular the Fear Street series. Basically, those books were my crack and I bought at least three books a month. So when Netflix announced that they were gonna come out with three Fear Street inspired films, I knew that I was going to check it out.

From the very beginning 1994 opens with a very Scream-esque sequence – a recognizable actress is first chased and then stabbed to death by a guy dressed in a black cloak and skull mask. I didn’t mind the heavy handed reference because the inside of a mall after hours was definitely creepy. However, I was soon annoyed by the following scene where the protagonist is listening to the radio and Garbage’s “Only Happy When It Rains” in 1994, when the song came out in September of 1995. That aside, the film’s soundtrack was completely awesome if you’re a lover of 90’s music.

I loved the look of the movie and feeling like I was reliving my high school days, but what didn’t work for me was the fact it simply had too much going on. What I mean is, you have killers, ghosts, and zombies. ALL AT ONCE. It’s just too over the top.

Meanwhile, 1978 was very reminiscent of Friday the 13th franchise with the setting of a summer camp and a possessed killer that wields an ax and wears a burlap sack as a mask (which if you’re a fan of Jason Vorhees you know that he used to wear that as a mask long before he donned a hockey mask). Just like 1994, 1978 had a killer soundtrack (lots of Bowie, and lots of Bowie references, my heart was full). But what made this film superior to 1994 was that it had better fleshed out characters, and I was more invested in these characters than I was in the previous film. Not to mention that this installment mostly focused on ONE possessed killer rather than have a smorgasbord of all things spooky.

FEAR STREET PART 2: 1978 – Cr: Netflix © 2021

I’m really looking forward to the third and final film, 1666. I truly hope that the film is based off of R.L. Stine’s origin saga, The Betrayal, The Secret, and The Burning because those books were truly top notch for MG and it really explained by Fear Street became so cursed (I’m looking at you Goode!).

Let me know if you’ve checked these films out or any of the books when you were young! I’d love to talk more about all things Fear Street!

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Series Review: Them – Covenant

Them is receiving many comparisons to Jordan Peele’s US – but the only thing that the two have in common is a similar poster and a black family dealing with a brutal home invasion. Where Jordan Peele managed to both horrify and crack the audience up – Them only manages to make us feel uncomfortable as we witness all the horrific acts of violence that white characters bestow upon the black characters throughout the duration of the series.

Them is closer to the film Antebellum than US – in depicting black trauma and suffering with no slices of comic relief. Them follows the Emorys relocating from North Carolina after a traumatic event – to Compton, California in the 1950’s. Each character not only has to deal with real horror (overt racism and past PTSD) but also with evil supernatural forces.

The series is a non-stop violent marathon, and even for seasoned horror viewers like myself who has enjoyed watching Hostel a billion times – doesn’t prepare you for the sick dread feeling you’ll experience if you choose to watch Them. Personally, I would’ve liked some moments of levity in between all the violence. I would’ve liked to have gotten to know each of the Emorys in a way that wasn’t entirely focused on their trauma and suffering. Even when Lucky was at Hazel’s home and seemed to be having fun, suddenly she was reminded of the traumatic event that caused them to move – or I would’ve liked to see Ruby triumph when she upstaged her white classmates with her knowledge, rather than be brutally mocked and humiliated.

I wanted the Emorys to have little triumphs in the midst of darkness. Instead – what we’re left with after viewing ten episodes is feeling utterly exhausted and haunted and yes, a little traumatized. Horror should scare us – but it should also entertain. Where Them falls short is that we’re well aware of the real life horrors of racism, we haven’t been able to look away ever since there were some high profile incidents in the past year.

Some Black reviewers question who the series was written for since they don’t feel like it was written with them in mind. If Little Marvin wanted to depict the evils of the white man, then he did a superb job. But after all the horror, a bit of levity and triumph would’ve been the balm we needed.

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Love or Hype: My So-Called Life

It’s 1994 and all my teen mags bleed My So-Called Life – from giving tips n how to mimic Rayanne Graff’s (A.J. Langer) iconic bohemian grunge chic style to swooning over Jordan Catalano’s (Jared Leto) puppy dog eyes, and lusting over Angela Chase’s (Claire Danes) crimson locks and trendy flannels. It seemed like everyone was talking about this cult show that only lasted for one season, and yet since I was living in Italy at the time, this show never made it across the pond. So when I saw that Hulu finally had the show, I decided to dive in and see if I had missed something truly amazing. Spoiler alert: I did.

The show introduces us to a very young Claire Danes as Angela Chase. Watching the show, I was reminded as to how much I was taken by Danes’ charm and how much she emulated the awkward teen years so well. The winning point of this show is that it shows real teen dynamics and the characters spoke like real teens, which means that they don’t always have amazing come backs and rather mumble or take awhile to find the right words, such as like in real life. In other words, this show doesn’t feel scripted as far as the dialogue goes.

For the two weeks that I spent to watch this show, I really emerged myself in the late 90’s and the nostalgia for that time really hit me like a two ton truck. It was fun to be a part of Angela’s life. Although the real scene stealer was Rayanne (and rightfully so), I couldn’t help but really loved Ricky Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). He was an openly gay character who had pearls of wisdom when it came to love, although he never found love in the course of the show. Although everyone was gaga for Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto), I couldn’t see why since for a good portion of the show he barely speaks and when he does he doesn’t say anything too charming. But towards the end of the show Jordan got more airtime and I actually liked him more after he and Angela broke up than prior.

The real understated heart of the show was Angela’s mom Patty (Bess Armstrong) who truly loved her family and husband and yet no one gave her the time of day, same as Angela’s young sister Danielle (Lisa Wilhoit) who actually wasn’t as annoying as everyone acted like she was. The one character I wasn’t crazy for was Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersail). He was the typical awkward, nerdy fake nice guy who most likely grew up to be an incel. He was the one who came up with the rumor that Angela and Jordan had slept together, only because he was jealous that his love for Angela was unrequited.

To say that I loved this show is an understatement. The show really captures real life teens with real life problems. Often times, teen shows show teens that are very rich and very beautiful (think The OC, Gossip Girl and Beverly Hills 90210), while My So-Called Life depicted the typical teen, meaning that a lot of times you saw Angela wearing clothes from previous episodes in different ways, much like a real teen would do, or styling your hair the way a real teen would, not having amazing blowouts or impeccable makeup. This show was very authentic and hit a nerve. It’s too bad that we never got a chance to see Angela and her friends evolve and grow, instead they remain trapped in amber in that idyllic 90’s moment that everyone will always cherish.

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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.

amulet3

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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