Film Review: Amulet

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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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Out Now: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Volume 4 Book 2

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I’m proud to announce that Running Wild Anthology of Stories is finally out! What’s exciting is that the story I co-wrote with Erica Ruhe (fellow Inkblotter), “Fragile Fruit,” is one of the many thrilling stories you will find in this anthology.

For a quick recap, Marietta who left Sicily after she refuses to marry her rapist has to return when she receives a phone call from her sister informing her that their mother is on her death bed. Marietta is afraid to return to Maletto, after all, she had left the small Sicilian town being shunned as an immoral woman and whore for refusing to marry the man that raped her. Will Marietta finally make peace with her demons or will they simply overtake her this time around?

Excerpt from, “Fragile Fruit” –

“Where are we?” Jane asked, tugging at her mother’s hand.
Marietta didn’t readily answer her. The suffocating stares of all the women sitting behind their closed glass doors or windows, whispering under their breaths, played in her mind. She knew what they thought of her. But it didn’t make things any easier.
The last time Marietta had walked these cobblestone streets, it had been the summer of 1968. Every radio newscaster only spoke of the revolts in Paris. What had started as a student protest had soon turned into a national protest as millions of people went on strike and the streets were in an uproar. Soon, similar upheaval bled into northern Italy. Newspapers spilled ink on the infamous protests in Sessantotto. While, across the pond in America, women were discovering their independence, stretching feminine expectations and demanding respect. But none of that was happening in Maletto. Sicily was trapped in amber, remaining dreadfully the same. The town and traditions were impervious to change.
“Mommy!” Jane yanked her hand again and, this time, Marietta was forced to acknowledge her daughter.
“This is where I was born,” she said.
“Really? You weren’t born where I was born?” Her big innocent eyes looked up at her with curiosity. She sniffed at the fresh run of mucus from the cold air.
Marietta shook her head. “No, Mommy came from far, far away.”
“Like a princess!” Jane beamed, little teeth on display.
Marietta didn’t reply as she approached her home. Her heart pounded with trepidation, thinking back to the last time she had been here. Of how her mother wailed and shook her head at the tragedy.
No, no, no.
No.
How much had that “no” been worth?
The sound of sweeping had stopped. Marietta clutched the cornicello at her neck and looked behind them. The small poppet was in her coat pocket, giving her a false sense of security. An old woman stood on her stoop and glared at the two. She gripped the broom like a guard with a spear. Marietta shivered. She pushed the noisy door open and hustled Jane inside. Scattered salt crunched under their boots, covering the tile floor of the foyer like a sprinkling of snow.

Purchase the anthology on Amazon!

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Poetry: The Lessons We’re Taught

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Men are taught to take what they please

Women are taught to relinquish their treasures with a smile.

It’s why women mistake brutality for love

And men believe a woman’s body is for them

to seize without consequences.

***

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Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Leggett

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We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive wives mad with jealousy.

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Order on Amazon

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $13.59 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

No one speaks of the grace year.  It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.
Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Grade: A

Review:

This novel is touted to be a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies, although to be honest the majority of the book has more of a Lord of the Flies vibe. This novel is mostly about survival and dealing with a group of adolescents. Once the girls in this dystopian society reach the age of 16, they’re sent off to live on their own on an island for a year, dubbed “The Grace Year,” in order to rid themselves of their womanly seductive magic and return as submissive, meek wives for the men in the county.

Tierney’s tale is a highly harrowing and very addictive one. Even in places where the pacing seemed to slow down, it was still interesting. The Grace Year girls not only have to survive four seasons out on a remote island on their own, but must also survive being hunted by poachers as prey, and each other (the girls turn on each other pretty quick not even a few weeks upon arrival). This story is a fascinating one because we see the lengths that girls will go to in order to survive and adapt to a new setting and society. All the girls look to Kiersten who is the alpha female of the group. Unfortunately for Tierney, Kiersten detests her for various reasons and will do anything to alienate her from the group. Some of the punishments they inflict on each other are both brutal and violent.

I really enjoyed this book because it showed the determination that prevails to survive the worst, even when all hope is lost. And ultimately, even in a tale of brutality and discord, you can find some kernels of light and sisterhood. My only complaint is that I would’ve liked more info about the community that the girls lived in. The county didn’t have electricity, nor did it seem modern. And I couldn’t gauge if the people who lived there were in a cult of some kind and made up stories of how life beyond the county was terrible to keep everyone within their walls, or if it was true that life beyond the county was awful.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys survival type books with a feminist edge.

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

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Throwback Thursday: TLC – No Scrubs

no scrubs

When the single NO SCRUBS came out twenty years ago (February 2, 1999), TLC was the best-selling girl group in the world and fierce feminists at a time when the music world was suddenly getting overrun with Lolita-esque divas like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

I chose this song for my Throwback Thursday because when the song came out I loved the message it promoted. For the first time, you had women who were confident enough to say, “NO.” No, they didn’t want a man who had no ambitions and was a deadbeat parasite. And if you think that this message wasn’t bold, you’re gravely mistaken. For centuries women have been groomed to always say, “Yes,” that stating a “NO,” loud and clear, for women to actually have standards of which men could pursue them, this was a big deal.

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Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes were known for being bold, independent, and outspoken young women. They were no damsels in distress, these women were ambitious and hardworking and didn’t expect anything less from their men. This song actually had men questions themselves for the first time, ask themselves if they fit the “scrub” list or not. Ironically, usually, the men who did fit the “scrub” list were the ones who got the most upset over the song.

Of course, this song wouldn’t have been the same without Hype Williams amazing futuristic music video, especially in an age where music videos could make or break a career (this was back in the day when MTV still predominantly only aired music videos on their channel). Hype Williams at the time was considered to be one of the best music video directors around with his bold colours, anime style sequences, and notorious for his fish-eye view which distorted the image in central focus. In his vision, Chilli, T-Boz, and Left-Eye were futuristic warriors that could be both sexy but ferocious, in other words, they were fierce.

The video went on to win the MTV Video Music Award for that year, beating out the all-male competition of boy bands like Backstreet Boys and Nsync at their career highs, which was no small feat.

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Listening to this song twenty years later only emphasizes how much this message is still relevant today. Not that long ago when just idly chatting with my boyfriend in the car, he said he couldn’t understand my need for all this ambition, that he’d still love me even if I were a slob who’d spend all day at home and wait for him to return and he said something along the lines of, “Wouldn’t you love me still the same way if I were like that?” And I replied, “Look, as TLC taught me, I don’t want no scrub. I’d never date someone with no ambition or dreams to be better.” Probably not the kind of response he was relying on (after all, most men would hope that women are “romantic” enough to like them even at their worst), but it’s the truth.

I expect a lot from myself and would never dream of being someone who’s just looking for a way to get out of work to stay at home. So for anyone to think that I’d expect less of them just because out of romantic notions is kind of absurd. TLC taught many girls the power to say no, and that’s a lesson that many of us took to heart. I know I did.

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6 Feminist Horror Movies

Horror movies aren’t always generous to women. Usually, women in horror movies are depicted as the victims, and if they aren’t such, they’re usually the final girls who survived (only barely) to a number of acts of violence. But there are some horror movies that turn the tables and have the women be in charge. These women aren’t weak. These women aren’t victims. These women are dangerous and make the men in the movies quake in their shoes.

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Dawn goes from cursed to strong in Teeth

Teeth (2007)

Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler) looks like your typical teenager on the outside. She’s a spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group and is an all around good girl. But when one of the boy’s from her abstinence group tries to assault her, she soon finds out that she’s not like all the other girls. In fact, her vagina has teeth, the infamous “vagina dentata.” At first, Dawn sees her teethed vagina as a curse, but before the movie ends, she realizes that her curse is actually her strength and how no man will ever take advantage of her again.

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Sometimes being a teen girl can be a bloodbath as Ginger soon finds out.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

In Bailey Downs, a rash of dog killings have been occurring. Two teenage sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) are obsessed with death and take macabre photos depicting various deaths. On the night of Ginger’s first period, she is attacked by seems to be a rapid oversized dog. The creature wounds and bites Ginger, and her sister rescues her. In the days that follow, Ginger’s wounds heal quickly. But the fast healing wounds isn’t the only change that takes place in her. Soon she undergoes both physical and mental transformations. Ginger begins to act aggressively, as hair grows from her wounds, heavily menstruates, and eventually grows a tail. This film juxtaposes the act of becoming a woman with becoming a werewolf.

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Jennifer shows her rapists that they messed with the wrong girl.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Despite the movie being controversial for depicting a 30-minute gang rape, but the fact that the protagonist Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) decides to execute revenge towards her rapists is what makes this movie, not your usual horror film. Jennifer kills her rapists in the most savage ways, allowing any rape victim to feel somewhat vindicated in seeing a victim rise above her abuse and take charge.

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The Girl shows no mercy to abusive men. 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

A young girl (Sheila Vand) wearing a chador stalks the streets at night. She seduces men who were known to be abusive towards women and brutally kills them. This progressive Iranian movie directed by Ana Lily Amirpour gave the world a feminist vampire that was much needed in the horror genre.

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Eli isn’t your typical little girl. She can kick your ass or kill you. 

Let The Right One In (2008)

In this chilling snow infested film, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a young Scandinavian boy who is constantly bullied at school. But when he befriends Eli (Lina Leandersson) he begins to feel uplifted by this new friend. But Eli isn’t like all the other girls. She doesn’t suffer the cold (as she’s able to walk barefoot in the snow) and tells Oskar to stand up to his bullies and if he can’t do it, she will. Oskar soon finds out that Eli is actually quite strong because she’s a vampire. And when the bullies decide to attack Oskar once again, he soon finds out just how ruthless his friend and crush can really be.

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Asami looks disarming but she’s brutal to the men she encounters.

Audition (1999)

“Where are all the good girls?” Aoyama’s friend asks him. Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a widow who is planning on remarrying, but he doesn’t know how to meet young women. So Aoyama and his friend devise a plan where they decide to pretend that they’re auditioning young women for a movie when in reality it’s just a way for Aoyama to meet women in a safe environment. He is quickly enchanted by the delicate beauty of Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). But Asami harbors a dark secret, a former abused child, she has grown up to take revenge on men by maiming and dismembering them through hideous forms of torture. This movie will make men think twice about lying to a woman.

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Upcoming Books: Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists

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I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER is going to be included in the upcoming anthology Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists (coming out October 2019). This anthology is put together by award-winning badass authors, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, and Kate Karyus Quinn.

Here’s a little teaser of what my story is about:

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER by Azzurra Nox

Puberty comes with many changes, but after being bitten by a mysterious animal in the forest, Dilay finds out that some changes may just give her a certain edge she didn’t have before.

Until then, support me and the amazing authors that are going to be included in this awesome anthology by stopping by the Kickstarter Page for it (even if you can’t contribute monetarily, forward the link on your social media so we can spread the word!).

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