Film Review: His House (2020)

Heart-punching horror is a hard one to watch. Especially when so much of it is grounded in real events. And so begins His House, a horror film set in modern England that follows a couple from South Sudan, Bol (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), who have just gained a house and some small amount of freedom outside of the detention centre for refugees. They’re to get less than £80 a week (total), are not allowed to work to supplement this income, are not allowed to have parties or even have candles in their home. And the home they are given, even before you realise that it’s haunted, is filled with bugs, rubbish and the door is not even hanging in there.

The treatment of refugees is front and centre in this film and is utterly depressing and haunting. One of the rare nice moments happens when a local member of a church gives Bol a box of food and supplies, but few of their neighbours are kind and welcoming. And, very quickly, the problems with the house multiply and the unexplained horrors add to the couple’s already tough predicament.

This is a very important commentary about the hurdles and discrimination refugees face wrapped up in a horror story that focuses as much on the reality of immigration as on the paranormal.

Show Review: Truth Seekers (2020)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are two of the most popular choices for comedians in my house. I have seen Paul so many times at this point that I can quote it backwards and forwards. (And yes, you should watch it!) So imagine my partner’s and my delight when Truth Seekers was announced. And it’s every bit as awesome as I’d hoped!

The eight episode first season follows Gus, an internet repair man and amateur ghost hunter, and Elton John, the newest hire at the company, as the pair wind up falling headfirst into the paranormal on their first call. Simon Pegg plays their boss Dave; there’s also Helen, Elton’s sister who suffers from agoraphobia, and Astrid, the girl with all the ghosts. Richard, Gus’ father, is played by Malcolm McDowell, and I loooooove his character. Oh my gosh, he’s a scene stealer and I’m so here for his character!

What I love about this show is that it’s simple, sweet and good fun. It’s classic Frost & Pegg, and I watched half of it before conceding that a break might be warranted so that I didn’t watch the entire series in one sitting. If you like ghosts, comedies and some wholesome spookiness, definitely check this one out!

Film Review: Final Destination (2000)

Ah, a classic horror at this point. I feel like everyone of my generation saw this one growing up. It’s definitely one of the most memorable and has some big names: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Seann William Scott, etc.

The film follows a group teens after they manage to cheat death. It all starts when the group are getting ready to head to Paris for a school trip. Alex, the leader character, has a horrible nightmare where everyone dies and after freaking out, is escorted off the plane. A few other students are taken off with him and are forced to stay behind, along with one of their teachers. Turns out, Alex was completely right. And no one is comfortable with the implication.

Carter, who has a chip on his shoulder about Alex’s entire existence, it seems, blames him for getting them into trouble and for having the dream and then for being right. Carter even confronts him later at the funeral. Some students, like Billy, are convinced Alex is psychic and ask him questions about the future. The teacher, too, is freaked out by his vision and is cruel to Alex for having the premonition. Slowly, though, the survivors realise that they aren’t safe and didn’t escape.

Overall, this is a film that will make you walk on egg shells for the rest of your life and, as a result, it makes for a solid horror movie. Everything will make you jump and start after you watch this!

Did anyone else watch this growing up? Favourite childhood spooky movie?

Film Review: The Skeleton Key (2005)

I’m a huge fan of Southern Gothic as a genre, although I actually only learned today that the name for the genre started out as an insult. Ellen Glasgow was criticising Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner and labelled them as ‘Southern Gothic’ and the name stuck. This was in 1935. But I really like the tone of Southern Gothic literature and cinema. True Blood (2008) and The Gift (2000) are the first things that usually spring to mind when I think of the genre, although I feel like Justified (2010) has some Southern Gothic vibes. If there’s such a thing as Modern Western Gothic, I’d put Justified in that category!

Continuing on with my October horror movie marathon, I picked up The Skeleton Key. The film follows a hospice nurse who quits her job because she finds that not enough people care about the patients, and takes a month-long job in the bayou at an old plantation house, caring for the ailing owner. She’s brought in by the estate agent, much to the wife’s frustration, but decides to stick it out.

Things are instantly eventful. There are no mirrors in the house, leading to a sense of foreboding, and the old man seems to be trying to communicate with Caroline, the nurse. As time goes on, more and more strange things start to happen. And then Violet, the wife, tells Caroline about the house’s history and the horrible things done by the previous owners.

You can see where this is going.

I’m not sure that angle really worked for me. It just made me really sad. Plantations hold devastating histories and having that incorporated into the storyline left me gloomy. I did think the actors did a good job, and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming, but overall this movie wasn’t for me.

October Recommendations

October is probably my favourite month of the year. I love the themes, the bite in the air and the scented candles. Everything is orange and yellow and red, everyone’s wearing jumpers and scarves, and things seem quieter, calmer. So I wanted to compile some of the things I associate with October into one place. And because I think this is a season that blends cosiness with spookiness well, these recs are very varied!

Gilmore Girls (2000), without a doubt. This has been a childhood favourite of mine for years, but whenever I think of autumn and fall, I think of Lorelei and Rory. Everything about Stars Hollow is cosy and cute, the colours are so vibrant and the town so festive. Definitely a fall favourite! I also really find the small town theme very cosy, so following this theme, allow me to also recommend Virgin River (2019) and Hart of Dixie (2011).

The Exorcist (2016) is another show to watch this month, for sure. I really loved the storylines and everyone should give it a go. It got cancelled after two seasons, but it ends on a good note that isn’t utterly frustrating or cliffhangery. Some other really good shows are: Bates Motel (2013), Slasher: The Executioner (2016) and Zone Blanch (2017). Unfortunately, I think Zone Blanch was cancelled, too, but gosh if it wasn’t amazing noir-misty-mystery.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) has amazing Hallowe’en episodes and they’re basically classics by this point: people turning into their costumes, a haunted house that becomes real, Giles and his costumes, Dawn getting into trouble. Stranger Things (2016) is also definitely going to enter the realm of classics someday.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is probably one of the top October recs. I want to actually watch The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) soon, which I haven’t seen yet, but I really love the movie Sleepy Hollow (1999). I also recommend It Follows (2014), which is so eerie, I can’t even describe. It’s all filmed on site in Detroit, which was really cool. Some other more classic recs are: Practical Magic (1998), Hocus Pocus (1993), Scream (1996), The Addams Family (1991) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012).

I recently watched The Skeleton Key (2005), which follows a young nurse when she goes to tend to an aged couple on an old plantation in Louisiana. She quickly discovers that not everything is as it seems and there’s something else in the house. It’s an interesting addition to the Southern Gothic genre, although I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. The cast is great, though!

Other general horror movies for you to peruse, if you’re in the mood: Christine (1983), Friday the 13th (2009), #Alive (2020), The Possession (2012) and It (2017). I also have some horror-comedy recs here. Horror-comedy is one of my favourite subgenres and I wish there were more in the category!

Candles! I love candles. They’re absolutely one of the best things about fall and winter. I mean, I have candles year round, but the best scents come out around this time: pumpkin, spice, ginger, apple, cinnamon. All smells I associate with autumn and all are pretty much guaranteed to put me in a festive mood.

The clothes! I’m not a summer clothes kind of lady. I prefer jeans, boots, jumpers, scarves and knit hats. I definitely prefer the cold weather, too, but I also just think the styles are so much better. Fall styles > summer styles, for real. I got a new coat and scarf recently (on sale!) and love wearing them when I go out. I’m not much for short sleeves, to be honest.

As for reads, I think Pumpkinheads (2019) definitely picks up the spirit of the season! Such an adorable comic/graphic novel, honestly. I also absolutely loved The Monsters We Deserve (2019). Like, really truly loved it. I finally got to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), which I reviewed here and can wholeheartedly recommend it. Of course there’s the always relevant The Exorcist (1971), Dracula (1897) and Frankenstein (1818). The Witches (1983) is another classic.

General horror reads: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1973), Everything’s Fine (2020), Anything Resembling Love (2020), Eyes I Dare Not Meet in Dreams (2017), Selfies (2014), These Deathless Bones (2017), A Forest, or a Tree (2019), Lullaby for a Lost World (2016), A Gift of Magic (1972), Gallows Hill (1997), The Third Eye (1984), Killing Mr Griffin (1990), Stranger With my Face (1990), Down a Dark Hall (1975), and Summer of Fear (1976).

And, of course, Hallowe’en, or All Hallows’ Eve, or Samhain. I have a huge fascination with history, especially the history of religions and holidays. And I am fascinated by Pagan and Celtic history. I was never much into the trick or treating aspect of the modern holiday, although the few times I went as a kid were good fun. But I’ve always loved the atmosphere of the time, the idea of a thinning between the worlds.

Annnnd that’s all I can think of for now. What do you love during October?

Film Review: Friday the 13th (2009)

I’m definitely not a fan of gore-horror. And yet for some reason I’ve still seen a good number of them? I don’t know. I’m easily grossed out and scared, but sometimes I’m also in the mood for an over the top kind of flick. So today I decided to rewatch Friday the 13th (2009). I’m not really into the franchise (again, I like my horror spooky, not gore-y), but I like the casting of this film: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker and Ryan Hanson are all fantastic, so I sort of endure the gore.

I think Jason is probably one of the scariest film villains of all time. Like, I have absolutely no desire to watch Freddy V Jason. I am a wimp. But I previously watched this one when it first came out because I was watching Supernatural at the time and I made a point of watching all of Jensen Ackles’ and Jared Padelecki’s filmography. I also watched My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009) right around the same time. And it’s funny that I’m so scared of horror given that Supernatural was my favourite show of all time when I was younger. But I suppose half the fun of watching a horror movie/show is scaring yourself. And this one is certainly frightening!

What I like about Friday the 13th (2009) is Clay’s determination to find his sister. I really like those kinds of characters. I didn’t care much for any of the other characters apart from Clay, Jenna and Whitney, but they’re in the majority of the film and bring good characterisation to an otherwise nonstop gore fest, which is a plus.

I’m not sure if this made me inclined to see the original, but if you like terrifying movies with lots of screaming, this might be up your alley. I’m mostly just glad I watched it during the day time and not while staying at a cabin by the lake.

Film Review: Christine (1983)

I’m one of the many who watches more spooky things in the month of October. I get in the odd mood for horror, but usually I watch the bulk of them in October. I’ve also been trying to watch more classic movies just in general. I’d heard about Christine before, and I know of John Carpenter’s other films, but I never got around to this one. I also didn’t realise it was by Stephen King until after, so that’s a fail on my part. For anyone who’s a fan of vintage cars and classic horror, this one is definitely worth a go.

Some spoilers herein

The film follows Arnie, a high-schooler who is frequently bullied. He’s best friends with Dennis and the pair of them face off against the bullies together. Arnie and his mum have a complicated relationship that only worsens when he impulsively decides to buy ‘Christine’, a vintage 1958 Plymouth Fury. Little does anyone know – except the seller – that the car has a dark history.

Arnie fixes Christine up and soon the car is in pristine condition, but Arnie starts to change as time progresses. He starts getting more confident, bolder. He also starts getting meaner and more violent. Any word against his car sets him off. Things only worsen when he starts to date Leigh. Christine seems almost … jealous. (Yep.)

After Leigh almost dies, she blames Christine and parts ways with Arnie, who won’t hear a word about it. Leigh turns to Dennis, who’s also starting to have his concerns about the car, and the pair decide they have to do something about it.

The soundtrack in this film was excellent, so that has to be mentioned first. Old horror really had a knack for those soundtracks. The CGI is fantastic – I was really impressed by the car fixing itself scenes – and the film relies on soundtrack, atmosphere and surprise more than loud screams, like so many others.

My one biggest nitpick is the standing in the centre of the road. There are WAY TOO MANY scenes where the characters could go literally in any other direction and yet they do not move out of the car’s path. One scene in particular keeps panning out from Leigh as she just … stands there, staring at the car, not moving. For. Ages. Gurl, I get that you’re scared, but move out of the fucking way! Oh my gosh. My partner and I kept looking from the screen, to each other, to the screen, to each other, and still Leigh did not move. It made no sense. Why wouldn’t you move?! The car isn’t even barrelling at her. It’s literally creeping towards her and she watches it. All I could think of is that scene in How I Met Your Mother where Barney is learning how to drive and doesn’t turn the wheel. (Also that scene in Bob’s Burgers where Tina’s learning to drive, but now I’m just wildly off topic …)

That said, overall it’s a really solid film and I’m definitely going to try and watch more John Carpenter soon.

Also, Dennis stole this whole movie. Four for you, Dennis. You go, Dennis!

A Glimpse into the Gothic

Gothic as a genre is something that’s always intrigued me. I love the idea of dark, spooky manors, of mysteries that lurk beneath, of fog and shadows and whispers. Of course, being named after a Gothic novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) – probably has something to do with it, but I’m always wanting more. Give me the ghostly, the haunted, the mysterious, and bring it dressed in pale colours, windswept and chilling. Bring it in gorgeous architecture, in castles and manors, in forests and fields and by the sea, with grey skies and constant rains.

The first novel I ever remember properly encountering and identifying as ‘Gothic’ was Northanger Abbey (1871) by Jane Austen. Then there’s Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra (1909), which are probably some of the most well known classics. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) is on my list, although I haven’t read it yet. I’ve always known the peripheries of this story, but don’t actually know the finer points of the story, so I’d like to read it properly soon. Actually, add Dracula (1897) to that list as well because even though I’m familiar with the names of Count Dracula, Mina, Harker and Van Helsing, and the ins and outs of vampire lore, I haven’t actually read the novel itself. I’ve started it, but never delved in. Must fix this! Carmilla (1872) and Frankenstein (1818), too. For those who don’t know, Frankenstein is considered the first science fiction novel by many! And I adore Mary Shelly and studied her mother Mary Wollstonecraft for college, so I really must read the whole darn thing at some point. I also want to properly read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) as I love Oscar Wilde and I’ve seen the adaptation (2009) with Ben Barnes. I very much recommend that one, by the way!

As for more modern stories, I really want to check out Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and can’t wait to get enough time to actually sit down and read it. I’m also curious about Other Words for Smoke by (2019) Sarah Maria Griffin.

There are also a great many wonderful Gothic films and shows worth checking out. I loved Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Underworld (2003) when they first came out, both bringing a bit of action and horror into the genre. And when The Haunting of Hill House (2018) – based on the book by Shirley Jackson (1959) – first came out, I was immediately intrigued. Of course, I wasn’t able to start it straight away due to a busy schedule, but I loved the look of it. (I’ve since started it and it’s great.) The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) and other stories, dives right in with a woman telling a spooky tale from the 1980s in England and I’m already on episode three. I’m loving the aesthetics. I’m used to Gothic settings in the 1880s, and seeing it set in the 1980s is a great contrast. I love me some old-timey spookiness, but it’s great to see other decades enter the genre. Crimson Peak (2015) was particularly gruesome, but engrossing all the same. Guillermo del Toro is always good and his signature style really comes through in this one. The cast is also amazing! If you haven’t seen this one yet, I definitely recommend it. Be warned, though, things are twisty in this one! And then of course, Penny Dreadful (2014), which was cancelled much too soon.

I also really like Southern Gothic, which needs more love! True Blood (2008) is a great example, and I really enjoyed the show. When I think of Southern Gothic, the introduction to that show is the first thing that springs to mind. Winter’s Bone (2010) and Mudbound (2017) are also well worth a watch. The Gift (2000), is truly traumatising from what I remember, but it definitely fits the bill of a Southern Gothic! I also watched The Devil All the Time (2020) a couple of weeks ago and it was intense, but definitely engrossing. Justified (2010) could also probably be added to this list, but it’s more Western procedural in my mind. The show is based on Elmore Leonard’s books and it’s one of my top favourite series of all time either way, so if you haven’t seen it, you totally should! The cast is stellar.

There’s so many more books, films and shows that belong on this list, so this is by no means exhaustive!

Do you like Gothic – or a subgenre of Gothic – fiction or romance? Any recommendations? I’d love to know!

Film Review: Krampus (2015)

I love comedy-horror and for some reason, in the middle of July, I decided to watch Krampus. At eight am, on a Sunday morning. Because sure, why ever not?

Krampus follows the Engel family on Christmas Eve when their relatives come over for holiday dinner. (The rudeness of the guests sparked a long discussion with my partner about how silly it is to subject yourself to a rotten holiday, but I digress.) My heart broke for little Max, who desperately wants to believe in Santa Claus and who writes a letter to the North Pole, wishing for good things for his family. His cousins find the letter and ridicule him at the dinner table. That no one stepped in really, really annoyed me. Only his sister came to his aid.

Terribly upset, Max rips up his letter to Santa and throws it out the window. Cue the dark and stormy night~

The next morning, a blizzard has struck the neighbourhood, the electricity is out and everyone’s trapped inside. When Beth, Max’s older sister, goes out to check on her boyfriend, the horror really sets in. And so begins a gruesome Christmas where the family must work together to survive Krampus and his gingerbread men and deadly demon toys. The gingerbread men were definitely a highlight! Think Shrek but make it Chucky.

The casting of this one was absolutely on point. Adam Scott and Toni Collette lead the film and are as wonderful as always. I feel like Adam Scott should do more horror-comedy. (He was great in Little Evil, too!) Emjay Anthony did a brilliant job as young Max, and Allison Tolman and David Koechner made a great duo even if the characters could be frustrating.

If you love comedy-horror, definitely check this one out! Although it’s probably better not to watch it on Christmas 😉

The Joys of Horror Comedy

I feel like a genre there isn’t enough of is horror-comedy. And there are some winners out there! I watched three delightful ones today: Extra Ordinary (2019), Little Evil (2017) and Beetlejuice (1988). And I can wholeheartedly recommend them all!

Extra Ordinary follows a driving instructor with a Talent for the supernatural who gets roped into helping a man rid his house of his wife’s spirit. The spirit will go so far as to dictate what shirt he can and can’t wear, how much toast he should eat, or where the plates need to go into the dishwasher. Honestly, it’s hilarious.

Little Evil is about a man with a stepson who takes pranks to an extra level – to the point where the father starts to wonder if he’s actually evil. The opening scene is the wife having to dig her husband out of the ground because the stepson buried him. Adam Scott is honestly a gem in this! I laughed so much.

Beetlejuice is a classic Tim Burton! I remember, vaguely, seeing it as a child, but I couldn’t remember anything about it other than Winona Ryder was in it. I totally forget it had Alec Baldwin! It also has Catherine O’Hara and watching it so soon after finishing Schitt’s Creek gave me the giggles. She’s a star!

Anyone else love horror-comedy? I’d love some recommendations!