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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Film Review: Host





I’m not a fan of the found-footage sub-genre in horror. In fact, I didn’t like The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity (two films famous for being ground breaking for the sub-genre). So I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy Host, since it’s a found footage movie directed solely via zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine. I’ll have to admit that Rob Savage managed to create a very suspenseful and scary movie with the limited resources he had available.

The whole premise of the movie is that a group of friends decide to engage in a séance guided by a medium through zoom. But this being a horror movie, things obviously go wrong. The first fifteen minutes you’re wondering if anything is going to happen and when, but soon strange things begin to happen and the chill-factor rises exponentially.

This film was best made to be viewed using your phone or tablet (although I used my notebook), it won’t have the same claustrophobic chilling effect on a large screen TV. I really enjoyed Host, and at only 56 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome by trying to hit the 90-minute mark, which is something many horrors should do instead of trying to fill the last 30-minutes with filler.

Host managed to make me reconsider the found-footage subgenre, and I am curious what Rob Savage will come up next now that he has scored a three-movie deal with Blumhouse. The scariest is yet to come.

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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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Throwback Thursday: The Return of the Living Dead

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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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Love or Hype? Bridge Jones’ Diary Movie

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I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of the rom-com genre. Mostly because it always creates unrealistic expectations of relationships and also of love. Real life is much more brutal, and I know many girls love watching this genre as a form of escapism. Having said that, I decided that I was going to check out a very famous rom-com from 2001, Bridge Jones’ Diary. For years I’ve heard how amazingly funny this movie is and how relatable the protagonist Bridget is. Ultimately, I decided to check it out and thought that if I wouldn’t enjoy it, at least I got to see London (my favourite city ever) for an hour and a half.

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Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is 32, and somehow in 2001 that meant she was old and heading towards spinster-ville. This thought horrified me, but I guess maybe it’s something that’s still happening now and I’ve just never worried about getting married by a certain age. Bridget is a fun character and very relatable. She’s pretty but slightly overweight (for early aughts standards), doesn’t feel appreciated at her job, and has still not managed to snag the man of her dreams, Daniel (played by a very charismatic Hugh Grant).

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However, life takes a turn for the better for Bridget and she begins to date Daniel. All seems amazingly awesome, a little too awesome till her life starts to derail yet again. I really loved the fact that Bridget, although she really yearned for a stable relationship and was head over heels in love with Daniel she still had enough self-respect to know that she deserved more than his cheating lousy ass ways.

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Renée Zellweger’s performance as Bridget Jones’ was flawless despite an initial controversy that an American actress would embody such a quintessential British heroine. Needless to say, she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance (although she didn’t win that year).

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the movie as much as I did and I can say without a doubt that this movie is well worth the hype. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s by far one of the best rom-coms out there.

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Film Review: The Hunt

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The Hunt was touted as being one of the “most controversial movies of all time.” So much so, that they halted the release of it, and even the President tweeted about it stating that it “was made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” Truth is, this movie isn’t smart enough to cause chaos or inflame anyone.

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The movie has a lazy script at best. While The Purge franchise (especially the first movie) was a smart social commentary about the rich and poor, this movie merely seems to make fun of both the “elites” and the “deplorables.”

A movie that’s supposed to poke at both sides of the political divide doesn’t really garner any discomfort, questioning, or basically any immediate reaction or gut emotion. The reason for this is because every character in the movie is a caricature of what we think a liberal or conservative is. These characters never become real people to us within the realm of the movie, and thus we can’t take them seriously nor care about their survival. When you’ve got “elite” characters screaming, “Climate change is real!” to a “deplorable,” before trying to off them, you can’t help but think that they’re both loonies.

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The controversy and hype over this movie was way more than what the movie ever merited, to be honest. You’ll leave the theatre feeling like you’re not on either side because none of those characters will resonate with real people. And none of us will care what happens to any of them. The world would be better off with all those horrible caricatures gone, and Blum House should focus on making smarter films with some real horror. There’s never a moment in the movie where you feel the ever-growing sense of dread, and even in a splatter torture film, you wish to be terrified or at least feel some kind of tension or suspense. But there’s none of that. There’s nothing. The Hut was all smoke and no roast. You’re better off watching The Purge.

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