23:59 (2011) Review

Directed by: Gilbert Chan
Stars: Tedd Chan, Stella Chung, Philip Hersh

Well, it seems my military horror has continued into this Singapore-Malaysian film. Set in the 80s, this movie follows a troop of young soldiers training on one of the islands. After a night of telling ghost stories, the soldiers are faced with paranormal happenings after a mysterious death of one of their own numbers.

I really liked this film – a lot! I like the idea of how urban legends and ghost stories are exaggerated and evolved over time, taking into account new times, mental stress, and how one horror story becomes the next urban legend to be passed around.

So the film starts with a group of four or five of these young soldiers at an army camp on one of the islands in the Singapore/Malaysia area, sitting around a few candles telling a bunch of ghost stories. One is about a female soldier who hung herself after getting bullied by her fellow troop members. Another is about a Kuntilanak – a ghost of a woman who died giving birth to a still born child. And third is about a powerful medium who lived on the island in the village near the army base who gave birth during a reading – resulting in a deformed baby.

But it doesn’t stop there, even though a few of the soldiers are pale, Dragon who is telling all this goes on to talk about how if anyone dies at 23:59 – one minute before midnight, their spirit is unable to find their way to the other side and returns to their realm. He adds in other spooky stories of things happening in their bunk house, of soldiers doing the Indonesian version of an ouija board causing a spirit to enter and kill them all. 

Well, one soldier freaks out from all these tales, Tan is portrayed as a timid young man whom Dragon seems to bully around an awful lot. It gets worse when another soldier – Jeremy – childhood friends of Tan, tries to comfort Tan that ghosts don’t exist, however Tan seems convinced of spying some inhuman being outside while on patrol/guard duty one night with Chester. However, Jeremy explains that as a kid himself, his father was a con man and made him believe that he had the “Third Eye” and could see spirits, only to con other people out of their money. That seems to help Tan out as they prepare for the last long range march across the island.

While out on the march, Tan, starts to lag behind and Jeremy along with a few others (including Dragon) pause a bit to mouth off before trying to catch up with the other soldiers of their squad. Jeremy at that moment spies a woman who dropped a bag of oranges and quickly helps her, mentioning how late it is (well past dark, and raining), and tells her to be careful and to hurry home. Well, now Jeremy has lost sight of both Tan and the others. They eventually meet up, with their Sargent when they discover that Tan is still missing. 

There is a pretty impressive scene where the four soldiers with their Sargent got out to find Tan, and their flashlights all stop working at the same time and the Sargent calls out for them to do a head count – and faintly a hand is placed on the last person (Dragon), and a fain “Five” could be heard. Of course upon looking back – Dragon seeing Tan’s ghost for a split second before the image disappears in the darkness of the storm and their flashlights turn back on. Seconds later Jeremy finds Tan’s dead body, and also spies the woman he met earlier in the distance for a split second.

This is when Jeremy starts to get his “Third Eye” open. He mentions how he dreamt Tan would die the night before the march, then confesses to Chester that he had a second dream of Chester dying as well. Well… Chester get’s possessed and the army calls in a medium to cleans him of the evil spirit, which only gives Jeremy more determination to figure out what’s going on around them, and tells Chester he could be next to die. 

Well… it turns out the ghost story about the medium giving birth to a deformed child is true. Through talking to one of the villagers who works in the canteen, they realize the truth behind the legend, not only did she actually exist – both the medium and the deformed child – but that when the child grew up many of the kids in the village teased and threw rocks at her. Only later to have those children die mysteriously and the story that the deformed woman can control others in some mysterious way.

Jeremy and Chester plan to head to their Sargent to tell him what they found when a musical hum seems to put Chester in a trance and pulls him out to the wilderness. Jeremy follows, only to see some unseen force twist and crunch Chester’s body to death. Once again Jeremy sees this older woman and runs from her through the wilderness to an old abandoned home where he is faced with the full truth of how things happened.

Through a flashback, we see that the medium was dying, and not wanting to leave her daughter alone (who was also chained to the wall), poisoned her as well. We then see both ghosts of the woman and the deformed child she had to the now freaking out Jeremy. However before he could escape the house, the old woman takes possession of him and comforts her daughter’s spirit one last time, apologizing for what she did and asking for forgiveness. It’s actually a very heart felt moment.

With the vengeful spirit of the deformed child now cleanse, along with the mother’s spirit, we see Jeremy return home and have a meal with his dad’s spirit. I feel that Jeremy learned a lot in that night, not only about his own gifts which turned out to be true, but also finding forgiveness with his own relationship with his father – who died while he was away at training. 

But the movie doesn’t end there, in a fantastic move, we fast forward to the “present” with a new group of recruits and soldiers in the same barracks as before. They start to talk about how two soldiers died on the island and slept in their same bunkhouse. At this time, you see the door to their bunkhouse creak open all on it’s own.

There are so many legends and ghost stories mentioned in this movie, and the aspect of young men telling ghosts stories and believing in talismans and spirits. I really loved how they turned some vengeful ghost story into a story of misunderstanding, fear, and the brokenness of a particular woman who was deformed upon birth and being subjected to harassment not only during life, but after death as well. I don’t think we get a lot of these ghost story movies with that same sense of forgiveness at the end, something happy to know that these spirits are at peace now. Or… at least not that much? 

I highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. It’s not overtly scary, there are a few small jump scares, but just enough level of creep factor to hold your attention. Let me know what you think if you seen it!

Overlord (2018) Review

Directed by: Julius Avery
Stars: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier

I absolutely loved this movie! I remember catching sight of this on Netflix a couple of years ago and mentally putting it away as something to watch at a later time. Now I’m upset that I’ve waited two years before sitting down and watching this movie. It was fantastic, maybe more action-adventure but there is enough body horror at play here that I feel safe reviewing this for my Trick or Treat Movie Review Month.

The movie takes place in an alternate 1940s, on the eve before D-Day and follows a group of paratroopers as they take on a mission to land behind enemy lines and take out the German’s radio tower so that the air support will be there for when the ships land on the beaches.

The opening sequence is pretty good, we focus on our main protagonist Boyce who is not only a private, having joined three months prior, but pretty nervous about everything… and rightfully so as their plan gets bombed just as the troops are scheduled to jump. I have to admit that scene with him jumping out of the plane with explosions, gun fire and the like is just phenomena and really impresses the fear, confusion and terror one would have to go through in order to do that. In the end, only four survived the jump and made it to the small village where the radio tower is located at the church.

Along the way they intersect Chloe, a french young woman living in the village. She helps the troops to her house to hide out and formulate a plan of attack on the church. During that time, they are able to capture a SS officer who tried to force Chloe into sex to save her younger brother from whatever experiments that are happening at the church. Boyce is unable to stand by and just watch, thus leading to the SS’s capture. Ford – the highest one in command, then orders Boyce to find the other two who went out to scout around the church and find a way in. 

Well… Boyce’s little hop and skip through the village did not go as planned and he gets chased into a transport truck full of dead American Soldiers that heads right into the compound. My some miracle, Boyce is able to slip out and into the facility without being noticed. It is there that we get our first glimpse at the “experiments” happening underneath the church. Bodies are hanging in sac like bags from the ceiling, there’s a woman’s head and spin that’s still able to speak – asking for help, and to his surprise one of his friends from the paratrooper unit. Boyce also takes with him one of the syringes that holds this unusual red liquid. There is a brief moment were we see the doctor inject a dead body with this liquid, to which the dead body starts to take a breath before being carted away.

The two then try to escape the facility and find a way through a drainage system that leads them out into the nearby wilderness where they eventually meet up with the others and Boyce does his best, but failed, to explain what he saw in the facility. Either that or Ford just doesn’t care as he’s more focused on their mission to destroy the radio tower. 

However, the seriousness of what Boyce discovered comes into light when the SS officer manages to break free and shoots one of their own. They all try to comfort the dying soldier as he died, but Boyce couldn’t just do nothing and stabs the man with the syringe. Well… we now know for sure what this drug does – raises the dead! But of course there is side affects. Well… not let’s eat your brain side affects… more super soldier style with the tendency to break their own neck, become more violent, and even harder to kill.

That scene was amazing. My jaw was just hanging open! 

Anyways, the SS officer manages to slip out during the distraction, grabbing Chloe’s younger brother along the way. There’s a shoot out, revealing to everyone that the soldiers are indeed in town. They manage to injure the SS officer, and kill all of the other Nazis that had arrived. Seeing they have to move, they make a quick plan with the remaining American soldiers, splitting up to not only take down the radio tower, but to also rescue Chloe’s brother and destroy the lab underground.

That’s our climax set up, and it delivers. I have to say that Chloe is an amazing character, strong in so many ways. When they re-enter the facility and head towards the radio tower first, Chloe’s like – ah no, I’m finding my brother! – And heads off on her own.

From here we get a look into some of the locked cells, as Chloe manages to surprise a guard and lead him to where she thought her brother is being kept. Instead it was a ploy, and he opens a locked cell and get’s grabbed. Chloe, with Boyce helping out at the last minute manages to help her find her brother when they part ways again. This time, whatever was in the cell is loose and goes after Chloe. Once again, we get this amazing woman standing up and being as strong as she could ever be. In the end she pulls out a flame thrower and destroys the creature once and for all before fleeing the church and facility.

Now, let’s step back to the SS officer, well… he’s been shot multiple times, including the face. Returning to the lab, he takes not 1, but 2 of these syringes. So… we know he’s lurking around and he makes his appearance on Ford who’s setting up the charges to blow the radio tower up. There’s an epic showdown that takes place with Boyce returning once more to help where he can before Ford is forced to take one of the syringes himself.

In the end, they are able to slow the SS officer down enough for Boyce to finish set the time in the radio tower for the charges. However, Ford locks the gate between them, preferring to die with the rest of the experiments the Nazis were doing, lighting the fuse for the labs himself. Our boy Boyce is then forced to finish the mission alone, setting the last of the fuses and running for his life as the lab, church and radio tower collapses in a rage of fire and explosions!

We are then reunited with Chloe, her brother, and the rest of the American soldiers as they finish off any remaining german troops in the village. The next scene is all of them listening to the radio, announcing D-Day’s victory. The town is now under ally control and when asked by the new commanding officer if they need to dig under the church – Boyce lies and tells them nothing of the lab or the experiments.

Once again, this movie does fall more under an action movie, but I loved the way they re-invented a super solider syrum with that of zombies. They aren’t technically zombies that you may think of, which is unique, but still terrifying only that it is now extremely hard to kill these creatures. A bullet to the brain isn’t affective. The only things that seem to do it, is either destroying the head entirely, or by fire. Still, it was a great movie and I think under-recognized. I highly recommend this movie if you like action movies, alternate history, or light horror. 

The Tingler (1959) Review

Directed by: William Castle
Stars: Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge & Judith Evelyn

Every October I try to watch a classic horror movie of some type. Thankfully we have access to TCM and they do put on quite a lineup during the month of October. Last year it was Godzilla movies, this year it was a mix bag. I think I missed a couple the I wanted to see, but I’m glad we were able to record this classic gem – the Tingler! Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for any Vincent Price movies, so of course I was going to watch this one. I have also heard a few reviews on it and after watching it myself, can agree that it does have some good scenes and I can understand why it is considered a camp classic.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not scary – or not anymore. However, there are some very decent scenes in here and with the fad of “Percepto”, it probably was pretty scary when it first came out. Percepto – if you haven’t heard of it – seems to have been a fad of setting up certain chairs in the theatre with buzzers and the like to help encourage the audience to scream when necessary and build the fear in the theatre. I’m not sure how successful it was, and given it’s more of a camp classic than a true horror classic, probably not that much.

But, let’s get on with the review. The movie starts with an introduction by William Castle himself, explaining the “Percepto” aspects of the movie and encouraging people to scream if they feel fear as it could “save your life”. I’m sure it was meant to put people on edge and prepare them to the essence of the movie they are about to watch. However, as I noted, it doesn’t seem to translate anymore to a modern movie watcher, especially watching the movies at home.

Anyways, we are then flooded with heads of people screaming until we focus on one figure and his body come into view. A man on death row is lead to the electric chair, screaming in fear all the way. Afterwards we are introduced to Price’s character – Dr. Warren Chapin. The medical examiner and scientist looking into the aspect of fear and its affects on people. He does the autopsy on the now dead criminal and is introduced to the dead man’s brother in law – Oliver Higgins who needs to sign off and is responsible for the body afterwards. It is during their brief exchange over the autopsy that they bring up Chapin’s scientific exploration and it is Higgins who puts a name to the sensation or force as – The Tingler. There is a brief mention of the dead man’s spin being cracked and that it is not related to the death by electrocution, only to feed Chapin’s theory of there being another force in the body when someone is frightened.

With everything signed off and completed, Higgins requires a ride home, and Chapin complies. We learn that Higgins and his wife own and operate a silent film theatre that still puts on shows. We also learn that Mrs. Higgins is deaf and mute. It is only when Chapin accidently cuts himself with the saucer and blood is shown that we see that Mrs. Higgins is unable to scream. We watch her body go rigid before she faints. Thankfully Chapin is a doctor and is able to help Mrs. Higgins, however he leaves with the thought of what affects fear could have on a person who is unable to scream and let that agony out?

So we follow Chapin back to his house, and learn of a bit more drama happening there. His wife is unhappy with their marriage and seems to be out with other guys, while his sister in law is head over heals in love with Chapin’s assistant. However, the wife has all the power of money and Chapin’s assistant is pretty much broke, and the two lovers are stuck unsure if they would ever be able to marry. It’s only when the two lovebirds leave for dinner and Chapin waits up for his wife to return home that we see how much of a “b*tch” she is. Chapin however plays that to his advantage and shoots her with a blank. While unconscious he takes multiple x-rays of her spine before waking her up. It’s also important to note that he doesn’t protect her in any ways… so three x-rays on a woman with no protection… yeah….

This even seemed to put his wife in a bit more friendly mood towards her sister and her boyfriend, while Chapin got what he wanted, visual proof that something emerges when someone fears fear along the spine. However, it doesn’t last for long as screaming seems to disintegrate it. 

Now comes the really horrific part of the movie. Chapin is unable to produce the fear required in himself to have this “Tingler” removed, so instead heads back over to the Higgins to check on Mrs. Higgins health. I’m not sure if there was an alterer reason, or if Chapin was just a kind doctor wanting to do a follow up. Either way he gives Mrs. Higgins a sedative to help her sleep (as it seems she hasn’t been able to do so for a few days). He then gives Mr. Higgins a prescription for sleeping pills.  We next see Mrs. Higgins awake and start to either hallucinate, or as we later learn get scared to death by her husband. He appears with masks on his head, knife in hand, chasing her throughout their apartment. In the bathroom we see blood appear out of the taps and in the tub. 

Now, keep in mind this is a black and white movie, however the blood is red as red can be. That to me must have been very impressive at the time. 

Anyways, Mrs. Higgins dies of fright, and Mr. Higgins takes her to Chapin for help. There’s another great scene of him pronouncing her dead and putting a cloth over her, and while the two talk of next steps, the figure on the bed lifts up rigidly before dropping back down. Chapin asks for permission to take out the Tingler, which he gets and we see a centipede like creature emerge from the body. I have to admit, it was disturbing to see that being removed. We only get to see it through a curtain, but it is still creepy. Not to mention, this tingler is still alive!

Now we believe Chapin has all he needs for his papers and conference, however after a few days of experiments, its clear this thing is much more dangerous than anticipated. For starters, Chapin’s wife tries to kill him by drugging his drink and letting the tingler loose in the room with him. It almost succeeded before the wife’s sister arrives back home and screams loud enough for the tingler to let loose of its hold around Chapin’s neck. From there Chapin learns it is indestructible, he is unable to destroy the thing. His only hope is to return the tingler to the host body and hope that it will die with its original host. 

I don’t quite understand the logic, but it’s a movie. 

However, as Chapin tries to call the funeral home, he quickly discovers that Higgins never reported his wife’s death or took her body to the funeral home. Chapin rushes to the Higgins’ apartment and discovers that it was Mr. Higgins who killed his wife through fear. As they argue, the Tingler, kept in a cage bursts itself out and heads down through the walls and into the theatre below.

So this is the part of the film that did not age well at all. There is a movie playing at the time with a reasonably full theatre of people and eventually the Tingler is noticed and screaming begins. The screen – our screen – goes black and we hear Vincent Price’s voice try to calm the theatre down. We next see that the Tingler has made it’s way to the projection booth and once more we get a black screen and this time Vincent Price is encouraging everyone to scream for their lives, that screaming is the only way to kill it.

I mean… I hope it got some great reactions from the audience when it first came out, but by today’s standards it doesn’t hold up at all. 

There’s not much of an ending to this movie. We see Mr. Higgins appear back in his apartment to collect the rest of his belongs to flee when the body of Mrs. Higgins seems to move of it’s own accord. I believe the Tingler had found its way back to its host. From there we see Mr. Higgins scream as the movie ends.

The theme or philosophy behind the film of fear having some affect on the body, either physical or psychological I think is quite genius. I’m sure this idea of fear is nothing new, but having it but into a sci-fi horror movie makes it interesting. Part of me wonders if this idea could be brought back in some way? I’m also disappointed that very little happens with Chapin’s wife. Basically after trying to kill her husband she packs up and leaves town. Chapin is unworried by it, but she tried to kill him??? To me that’s a dropped ball in the script. 

In the end, it wasn’t a horrible movie, it kept my attention and the Tingler creature was pretty interesting, and a little terrifying. It’s a product of its time and like I said before can understand the camp cult following it must have. Let me know if you ever seen this movie and your own thoughts towards it.

Goedam Ep. 7 & 8

Episode 7: Threshold 

When someone tells you not to remove some sacred and spiritual object, it’s best to listen. In Episode 7 of Goedam titled Threshold, we see what could happen when you go against a warning.

The episode starts with a family scene, with a worried and somewhat overprotective mother. Basically her son trips over the threshold step to his room and his two parents immediately coddle him to prevent him from making some sort of big meltdown as the son and mother are about to leave to visit a grandmother. Before leaving, the wife/mother tells her husband to not remove the talismans overtop of the doorways. We notice there is a yellow talisman over each doorway of the apartment. The husband tries to make light of the situation, obviously of a modern mind who believes the talismans are useless. Yet the wife is insistent, mentioning the disappearance/death of a student and cop nearby. In the end the husband promises his wife that he won’t touch or remove the talismans before his family leaves.

So day one of being left alone, the husband notices a tuff of black hair coming out of the threshold of the doorway to his room and when he yanked it out a scream echos around the room. I thought there would be more to the female scream sound, but I must have mist the importance of this small scene.

One night, when the husband returns home after work, completely and utterly drunk, he notices the yellow talisman over the doorway to his room has partially fallen off. Like the idiot he is, he pulls the talisman off and crumples it off before falling onto his bed, desperate for sleep.

Well, as expected, by taking off the talisman he has just opened himself up to whatever evil spirit that has been lurking around his apartment. We see severed body parts start to emerge, under the bed, from the ceiling, under the dresser… a foot here, a hand there… a pile of blood pooling out around the threshold of the doorway. Eventually drops of blood wake the husband up just as a hand lands on the floor near him. Upon looking up, he spies the figure these body parts are making…. A skinless humanoid creature with no eyes.

Well, the husband tries to get away, but it’s pretty useless now as the creature follows him out of the bedroom before cornering him in the hallway before the hand comes down and collides with the husband’s head with a splat of blood. Our next scene is of the husband’s dead body in a pool of his blood with the now blood stained crumbled talisman next to him.

I have to admit the creature is pretty terrifying, but given how much of an idiot the husband is for removing the talisman… I say he got what he deserved. 

Episode 8: Birth

Okay… this one was just unusual and freaky! We start the episode with some text that explains some old rituals of shamans from Yeommae using young children… or rather kidnapping children. They starve the children until they are weak and then kill them, using their spirits to help with their work. I’m not sure how true these dangerous and creepy rituals actually are, but it sounds very horrific.

So, while we get this slight background, we see a female shaman bring a bowl of mush down to a cell were a young and very thin child grabs the bowl from the opening. The shaman leaves and we see her do some sort of prayer ritual to find the date. There are images of spells, on a table that she shuffles through, as with newspapers articles about a missing young girl of the age of 9. She gets her date and we are next taken back to the cell were the shaman enters with food on a plater. She then leads the child into a large clay pot where she murders it with a symbolic sword.

The camera angle from that of the POV of the child during this scene only unnerves me more! Then, after the dark deed is done, the shaman seems to contort her body as something seems to try to take possession of her body. From there we see the cell door close.

I’m not sure what all that is supposed to symbolize, but in the following scenes we start to see that this shaman doesn’t seem to have the strength to keep this child’s spirit at bay. While dealing with a customer (who wants her husband dead instead of getting a divorce), the shaman’s facial features contort in odd ways as she struggles to maintain control. We also notice the same clay pot is hidden behind her under what I assume to be an alter.

What pushes the spirit over the edge is when the mother of the missing girl visits the shaman in search for answers, even if it’s just the location of the body. Well, it seems the girl’s spirit responds to this, snuffing out candles and making it more difficult for the shaman to maintain her composure. Eventually the shaman kicks the woman out.

That night, well it seems the spirit can no longer remain still. It takes over the shaman, who is not strong enough to control the spirit and we suddenly get a nice little “Alien” sequence as a baby’s scream can be heard, and a face is pressed up against the woman’s stomach. Eventually the spirit burst forth, killing the shaman in the process.

What this spirit baby is… I have no clue! Our last scene is the death of the mother from a nearby tree which appears half dead.

Like many of the other in this anthology, I feel like I’m missing out on some prominent cultural references. However, that being said, these episodes were terrific to watch. I loved the quality and getting a nice inside peak into urban legends and ghost stories from other cultures and regions. If you like nice, quick and short scares, this series I highly recommend. If anyone out there has any insights to some of the questions or references mentioned that I missed that would clarify some of these stories, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Goedam Ep. 5 & 6 Review

Episode 5: Red Shoes

I’m back again with more episodes of Goedam! As much as I enjoyed the series so far, I have to say that Episode 5 fell pretty flat for me. It didn’t have the connection as most of the others. The horror or urban legend of it, also seemed a bit “meh” to me. 

So, as I’m learning while watching these episodes, that many are connected to each other. This is another ‘school’ urban legend and takes place in the same school as episode 1, and I think episode 4 as well. We know for sure this is linked to episode 1, as the desk with the white rose and the death of the first ‘honour’ student is in the background. However, we are focusing on another girl within the class who seems disturbed or guilty. Other girls around them talk about their dead classmate, and how she jumped out in front of truck and got severed. 

As class ends for the day, this student we’re focusing on – Hye-Su – leaves a chat group on her phone that seems to be a place where the girls bullied the now dead Jin-Gyeong. That’s where I think the guilty feelings come from as Hye-Su texts their teacher to return to the classroom where she wants to talk and probably come clean about what could have lead Jin-Gyeong to her death.

The teacher arrives, (wearing the red shoes), and the first note we have that something is off is when she tries to turn on the lights to no avail. (C’mon people, if you can’t turn on the lights, don’t go in!). Anyways, the teacher tries to comfort Hye-Su, claiming it is not her fault that Jin-Gyeong died, however, we hear a splat sound as the teacher sets a hand on the desk. That’s when we notice the blood soaked student. The blood dripping on the desk and down around her legs. 

This part I needed to look up, as I didn’t understand the horror on the teachers face… I assumed it was because of the disheveled appearance of Hye-Su… but it sounds like really, as the girl lifts her head, it isn’t Hye-Su at all, but Jin-Gyeong who then says that Hey-Su’s legs aren’t working for her properly and she wants to switch.

Slowly, like agonizingly slowly, Jin-Gyeong lifts herself up by her arms onto the desk. Splitting from the waist down, leaving the legs to fall aside as she then hobbles to the teacher who lets out a final scream before the scene is cut and we see Jin-Gyeong hobble down the hallway with the teacher’s lower half. 

Like I said, it didn’t seem to do much for me on the horror or scary side. I feel that some of these stories are linked and are purposefully shown out of order. I don’t know why… but I think if I actually sat down and watched them all together I might be able to grasp more of what the bigger picture is behind these school themed urban legends.

As for the splitting of the body… man that was disturbing. More disturbing was the way Jin-Gyeong walked down the hallway with one foot completely bent over. But, one more, it just didn’t captivate me.

Episode 6: Dimension

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy… this might be my favourite episode yet! Only because this is one particular urban legend that I’m actually aware of. This episode titled “Dimension” actually focus on the elevator game that seemed to have become very popular over in Asia. The only reason why I know about this is because of the unusual and unsolved case of the death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel in 2013. Many theorize that she was playing this elevator game just before she died. Also, I want to thank “And That’s Why We Drink Podcast” who did an episode on this urban legend too.

So, the story opens with a camera footage from an elevator where a student is seen talking to someone invisible on screen before getting his head bashed in. We are then introduced to our detective who arrives on the scene to investigate. There is a body found in the elevator, but it doesn’t seem to belong to the missing male student as shown in the video. Yet, this body is not only covered in blood, but looks very skeletal… with clothing ripped and clawed off, and as if something tore away at the skin. Very disturbing!

The detective gets a notification that the missing student had just posted instructions to the elevator game on how to use an elevator to go to another dimension. Now, don’t ask me, but for some strange reason our detective decides to give the game a try. I’m sure it’s somewhat logical to figure out what the kid experienced to find out where he went or what happened to him. Still… to do it alone, without telling anyone… 

Anyways, he follows the instructions, pressing four or five buttons at once then stopping at particular floors, first one being the second floor, the second being the tenth floor, then the fourth. So at first, nothing seems off. The doors open at the second floor, and he sees the big number “2” there. Same with the tenth. It is only when he starts to go back down that something freaky happens. There is a black void before it quickly disappears and a second pair of elevator doors open and he stares at himself.

The two detectives are both flabbergasted and seemingly paralyzed when faced with an unknown as the elevator doors close once again. However, before the detective could hit the next floor button, a hand comes out of nowhere and presses on for him.

When the doors open again, we see that the detective is not alone, but a woman is also standing in the elevator with him. Her body turned against him, her head bent down and hair covering her face. She mutters that she wants him to hit the first floor button for her. 

Our detective is taken aback by the sudden appearance of the woman, and doesn’t do much of anything. Only when she starts to head out of the elevator that he makes a noise to her, to which she stops and stays in the elevator, mentions that he can hear her before letting out a odd high pitch sound that renders our detective helpless. The woman then turns to face him and we see a twisted face with a black eye as she starts to slam the detective’s head into the elevator wall, over and over again. 

The camera footage in the elevator only captures the detective’s head moving and not the woman at all. 

We end on another strange note. We seem to be suddenly transported back to the start of the crime scene where we first met our detective. His partner mentions how the body in the elevator seems to be wearing similar clothes as our detective. The man shoves it off, telling his partner not to jinx him, as we pan out to see the disturbing skeletal body from earlier.

If that’s not enough, we then cut to two school girls who get in an elevator preparing to play the elevator game themselves.

This episodes was fantastic! I loved everything about it. I though they did a great job in playing with the idea of dimensional travel and time distortion too! 

Mara (2018) Review

Directed By: Clive Tonge
Stars: Olga Kurylenko, Craig Conway, and Rosie Fellner

The synopsis of this movie was the real reason I decided to watch this movie. Basically it is about a criminal psychologist named Kate Fuller who helps detectives investigate the death of a man/husband, who everyone else believes the wife is the culprit. However, this movie is much deeper than that and soon Kate herself is caught up in a supernatural terror.

To start with, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. The description is vague but intriguing, something that mixes a mystery up with something paranormal, though even that wasn’t clear until part way through the film. If I had known this was a movie about sleep paralysis causing death… I may not have watched it just before going to bed. I will say that I did have a very hard time sleeping last night.

I also want to add that there are some amazing creep factors and jump scares in this movie. At one moment I was almost screaming my head off, making enough sounds that my husband had to come up from the basement to see if I was alright. It was just a little body horror, but it’s been a while since I had to actually close my eyes and burry my head in my hands at a movie scene.

The plot, as mentioned above, starts off pretty straight forward. Kate is brought into a case where the husband (and father), died in his bed. The agonizing twisted and contorted body is still horrific just thinking about it. The detectives are set to close the case on the wife/mother, who is rocking back and forth in the corner of the living room, not responding to anyone. Kate is required to figure out if the wife needs to go to a psych ward or regular jail. Through talking to the daughter, who is also traumatized from the events, Kate is given the name “Mara” as the one responsible for her father’s death – but little else. The wife, however, is nuts and also mentions the sleep demon named Mara as the one who killed her husband, and who is now after her.

The detectives are satisfied that the wife is not only guilty but crazy and want to close the case. Kate however feel responsible and that there is more at play, however as much as she tries to keep her promise to the daughter, she has to send the wife/mother to the psych ward for her own safety. 

That’s when Kate gets her first sleep paralysis. It’s a very disturbing and creepy scene as you see Kate in bed and the heavy impression as she sinks into the mattress and struggles to breath. We then start to see a person in shadow hovering near Kate’s bed. Most of the time the shadow leaves just as Kate overcomes the paralysis. However, it’s enough for Kate to pursue this “Mara” mystery further.

Her sleuthing leads her to Dougie, and a support group of fellow suffers of sleep paralysis, many sharing the same experience, the same mysterious figure they all call “Mara”. The doctor leading the group is grounded in science, however Dougie takes a more paranoid stance, putting the victims of Mara in stages, through blood shot eyes. He then turns to Kate to help figure out how to stop Mara before it’s too late. By then, Kate has also been marked and Mara is visiting her more often and more forcefully.

In the end, Kate is able to find the connection on what brougt Mara into their world, and who she targets. In the end, it turns out that Mara targets those who feel guilty. The Husband and Wife from the beginning of the movie were both guilty of different things, the husband had an affair, and the wife was wanting a divorce. Dougie feels guilt over the innocent he killed in Iraq, while Kate experiences guilt for breaking promise to the daughter from the beginning. 

How do you stop guilt? That to me is what made this movie more powerful than I ever imagined. In other supernatural and paranormal films, usually our hero finds a weakness or something to exploit of the ghost to free them of the haunting. Not so in this case. Guilt is a very personal experience and even if someone forgives you, that may not relieve the guilt you personally feel. Which makes the ending to this movie so powerful.

You see the daughter, was also experiencing Mara, as she felt guilt for telling Kate what she saw, knowing that was what put her mom in the psyche ward, and later leading to her death. Kate then has to race to the daughter’s bed, to try and extinguish the guilt the young girl feels before Mara takes her as another victim. 

But still, there is very little one can do to stop a demon like this. 

Of course, a horror movie isn’t a horror movie without one last jump scare at the end. We are given a false sense of hope and optimism with Kate surviving the night… when reality she was dreaming with Mara waiting in the wing to end her life once and for all. It’s very much like a “Drag Me to Hell” ending, which is refreshing as our “Final Girl” is taken down by her own continuous guilt over destroying the relationship between mother and daughter. 

This is a great movie, much better than I thought it would be. The disturbing visuals of Mara and her contorted body, the sound of cracking bones as she move is haunting! Really terrifying! Not to mention the premise of sleep paralysis is absolutely real, though I’m glad to say that I highly doubt it leads to death. Still, the legends and lore pulled out in this movie is somewhat true as many thought it was caused by demons. 

What really bothered me in the movie was the casualness of the detective. I mean… the husband was contorted! His head twisted around! Yet they are just content to blame the wife, who has nowhere near the strength to do such a thing. I think the movie could have been more intriguing if the detective actually did their job and supported Kate in alternate reasons for the unusual deaths. It’s a small detail, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I think I’ve seen way too many episodes of CSI.

In the end, this is a great movie that I fully recommend to anyone who wants an unsettling, creepy and mystery horror movie. Just… maybe don’t watch late at night just before going to sleep.

Hereditary (2018) Review

Directed by: Ari Aster
Stars: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, and Gabriel Byrne

This is another movie, like Insidious Chapter 2, that I was hesitant to watch given the trailers, comments and reviews that I have already  heard of it. But, once again, I’m so glad that I did. This movie was powerful and deep… and just like many of my favourite scary movies has an awesome supernatural twist at the end. It was still very complicated in parts and I did look up some explanations to the ending of the film. I definitely understand the heavy themes of grief and even guilt in the movie and how that can affect a person’s mind. But it also gave me so many questions – especially about Annie’s past.

The movie starts with the death of Annie’s mother. We see the obituary in the opening scene before getting a pan shot of Annie’s workshop where she makes miniatures. To me, the creepiest part is all the miniatures of the house she had made and how odd the camera angels and viewpoints were when we’d zoom in on part of the miniature house and find ourselves in our next scene with people walking in and out. Many times I’d watch the scene, not sure if I was looking at the actual house or another part of the minuter – just really zoomed in. Then there is the house itself, with so many twists and turns, hallways and rooms at the end of hallways that felt odd.

Anyways, during the funeral and afterwards we start to see some disfunction within Annie’s family. Of course, being that her mother just died, I can understand a few layers of discontent going on within the family unit. There’s Annie’s husband who is trying to be the thread that connects the family together, Peter, the eldest who seems like a typical moody teenager who likes to smoke weed, and then Charlie… the daughter who seems to always be standing back and watching things unfold around her. 

At first it’s just a family trying to go back to their regular routine after their loss. However, it’s only when Annie joins a grief support group do we get insight into her troubled past, and troubled relationship with her mother. I mean, that once scene had me with my jaw dropped wondering what did she just say. Annie talks about her father dying when she was an infant, her mother having dementia, and her older brother being schizophrenic who dies claiming their mother was trying “to put other people” into him. That’s just too weird of a past!

But, things don’t end there… no it gets so much worst after that. Peter is invited to a house party, but lies and says its some school event. Annie then insists he takes Charlie with him. Charlie doesn’t want to go either, but is yet again forced to by Annie for whatever reason. I really don’t understand this forcefulness, but it happens and Charlie is left alone at this party full of people she doesn’t know while Peter is off getting high with a girl he has a crush on. That’s when Charlie, who is allergic to peanuts goes into shock after the same knife used to cut pecans is used to cut the cake she eats. She finds Peter who rushes her to the hospital… but while speeding sees some dead animal in the middle of the road and swerves to miss it, only to have Charlie who put her head out the window to get some air to have her head completely knocked off by a telephone pole. I don’t know what’s worse… the fact that it was just an accident, or Peter’s reaction to it – which was to go home and into bed, shocked and dazed and just completely out of his mind. It’s only when we hear Annie’s howl the next morning that we realize he didn’t even remove the body from the car.

That scene just yanked on my heart strings. The grief that Annie displays is absolutely devastating. From there on, whatever tensions or distances that was happening in the family unit only intensifies. 

Annie meets up with Joan, a woman from the grief support group and we hear even more devastating things that has happened in her past. She talks to Joan about how she used to sleepwalk, and one night, while sleepwalking she doused both Peter and Charlie (when they still shared a room), and herself with pain thinner and had a lit match in her hand when she woke up. Peter woke up at the same time and from there, the two have never been able to see eye to eye. I personally could get it from Peter, waking up to see your mother about to kill you in your sleep. I’m more surprised that no help was given Annie in that moment.

This is also when a few supernatural things start to happen.  Peter starts to experience some visions/hallucinations that are reminisce of Charlie’s peanut shock at the part, not to mention also hearing the “cluck” sound Charlie always made with her tongue and mouth. There is even a scene with the family attempting a meal together in which the tension between Annie and Peter is so thick that it boils over into Annie yelling at Peter for what he did. It was more that Peter hadn’t even said sorry about the accident, which is all she wanted to hear. Even then, in that moment of pure agony of Annie’s little meltdown, Peter does nothing to help, but flips it around on her, saying that it Charlie didn’t even want to go to the party but it was her who forced her to tag along. 

I can’t help but feel overly sad towards the father in this family. He is desperately trying to keep the family unit alive while it’s crumbling around him. 

At this point, Annie trying to push forward and continue with her work on these miniatures – which get a little grotesque when she does on of the accident that killed her daughter. She meets up with Joan again who tells her that she went to a medium who helped her connect with her dead grandson. Joan than pulls Annie into her home again, and shows her what she mans as they do a seance on the kitchen table. This isn’t just some ouija board either, just a glass and some sort of spell that she has to recite before hand. Well, a hole lot supernatural events happen in that room that freak Annie out. Joan, however, wouldn’t let her leave without taking the candle and the instructions of the ritual with her. 

At first, we assume Annie’s not going to do it, but she has this vision at night where she thought she saw Charlie enter Peter’s room. There the two have an even worse exchange in which Annie lets slip that she didn’t even want to have Peter in the first place. That she was scared and even tried to miscarry him. The scene gets all bonkers when the two yell and cry at each other, dripping wet, and Annie lights a match and they go up in flames. It is a dream/vision after all, but it was enough for Annie to start the ritual and wake up Peter and her husband for it.

More crazy supernatural things happen during this seance. Enough to permanently scare Peter’s psyche, which causes more hallucinations and other odd events to happen to Peter at school whenever he’s awake, to the point where it seems he’s being possessed.

Annie is also start to loose her mind, believing Charlie is still there with them, or something else entirely. She starts to finally look into some of her mother’s possessions to find Joan a major part of her mother’s life. Not to mention that her mother seems to be part of a cult. Upon investigating the attic, she finds a body of what looks like her deceased mother, but without her head. Fearing her family is in danger, she tries to get her husband to destroy their daughter’s drawing book, as it continues to create drawings on its own of Peter with his eyes crossed out. Annie also claims she can’t do it because the last time she tried, she caught fire when the book did. But her husband refuses, instead saying that she’s sick and needs help. Annie in her frustration grabs the sketch book and tosses it into the fire and immediately her husband is hot up in flames.

Basically at this point, all hell breaks loose. Peter wakes up to a dark and seemingly empty house, but all the time feeling like something is watching him. We see Annie in a dark blur pass around him as he searches the house for his parents, discovering his dad by the fireplace. Annie appears and chases him through the house and up into the attic where he is met with some of the most disturbing scenes. He sees the outline of the body that used to be there, then a sawing sound. Looking over his shoulder he sees Annie hanging from the rafters sawing her own head off. Not able to take any more, Peter jumps out through the window in the attic.

Now this is the part where I get so confused. We see a light go into what I can only assume is Peter’s dead or at least unconscious and damaged body/mind. Peter then wakes up and sees the headless body of his mother fly up into the treehouse, not to mention several naked people lingering on the fringes of the property. He follows the body up to the treehouse where there are more strangers knelt down towards the one end of the treehouse. There he sees a statue with Charlie’s head on it and the beaded bodies of his mother, father and grandmother knelt at its feet. That’s when we get the final reveal of the movie. 

I’m going to leave it there… because it’s such an odd and ominous ending that to explain that last bit feels like I’m cheating anyone who hasn’t watch the movie yet. Besides the supernatural essence behind the film, there are multiple symbols and odd behaviour to go along with the creepy undertones of the movie. What’s strange is that as much as it was very creepy and nerve wrecking to watch, it wasn’t all together terrifying or scary in a traditional sense. 

I can now understand why people talk about this movie so much. It is a different and new style of psychological horror for the new generation. This movie can still work when you take away the supernatural elements, because at its core you have a troubled family dealing with loss and a history of mental illness that can skew and distort what reality is. There were several times throughout the movie that I wasn’t sure if what was happening real, or imaginary. A mental mirage of wanting to see someone who is gone forever, or a real ghost. It plays on that dividing line for much of the movie until just after halfway when Annie starts her own seance. 

After watching Hereditary, I am looking forward to watching Midsommar and see where horror films are going to lean now that these movies are out and affecting us on a very different level.

Fantasy Island (2020) Review

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Stars: Michael Pena, Maggie Q, Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Portia Doubleday, Jimmy O. Yang, Ryan Hansen, and Michael Rooker

I’m a bit hesitant to include this pick in my spooky movie review series, however it is labeled as a supernatural horror, though I really would throw it more into a thriller than a horror. Yet, there were a good number of jump scares and me mumbling “no… no… no…” a few times. But I wasn’t terrified by it. 

I’ve been interested in this movie since the trailer first came out, though like the wuss I can be, avoided going to the theatres to see it and waited for it to come on my streaming platform. It is a Blumhouse movie which I’ve noticed more and more recently as being part of a new wave of horror and supernatural movies being released. I faintly remember the TV show this is sort of based on/prequel to, but obviously this has a much darker and twister take to it. Still, I came away really enjoying this movie and loving the twists and turns it made. It might be a little predictable to some, but it’s still good entertainment.

So, the movie starts strangely with a kidnapping on the island. We see a blonde haired woman trying to get to the telephone in Mr. Roarke office, desperately asking for help before masked men arrive and take her away. We quickly cut to the beach and island scene in daytime as a woman – Julia – runs to Mr. Roake’s desk describing that the plane is coming, and along with it their new group of guests. There is no sign of some sort of struggle or trauma, and we get a picturesque scene of tranquility if not a little mysterious.

We are now introduced to our main characters, Gwen, Patrick, Melanie, and two brothers JD & Brax. We learn each have won a contest to come to the Island and have their fantasy come true. Roake makes it clear of the rules early off, one fantasy per a guest, and all fantasy must reach their final conclusion and warns the guests that your fantasy may not play out as you think it should. From there, Melanie, Patrick and Gwen are shown to their rooms told their fantasy will start the following day, while JD & Brax are taken to their fantasy right away. A separate villa full of woman, guys, booze, pot and the lavish lifestyle.

The next morning Gwen is taken to Roake’s office as they talk about her fantasy – all based on a short questionnaire each were asked to fill out. Her’s was quite simply a do-over. At first, Gwen talks about being in a dark place five years ago and meeting the man whom she loved but eventually turned down because of past trauma. She regretted her choice as she always wanted a child and a loving family. Lo and behold, she enters a door and finds herself face to face with the same scenario where her boyfriend from five years ago proposed to her. It being as real as before.

Next comes Melanie’s fantasy. Quite simply, she wants revenge against a high school bully who tormented her through her teenage years to the point that her own self confidence was completely shattered. She is given instructions to use the elevator and go down to the floor without a number. (The button in the symbol of the snake). There in some sub basement she finds a control room and behind a one way mirror is her tormentor Sloane, all tied up and helpless. The buttons at Melanie’s disposal puts torture on Sloane, from electric shocks, to water being dumped on her head. At first, Melanie believes this to be fake, holographic images or the like… but she soon discovers it’s not.

Finally. There is Patrick. The son of an army hero, Patrick always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and enlist, but was held back. Instead he choose to be a police officer but was put behind a desk. His fantasy is based on the desire to be part of the military, be on a mission, and feel a bit of that thrill and possibly be the type of hero like his father.

It’s good to point out that by now we are starting to get sneak peaks that the island isn’t quite ‘right’. There is the dripping of black water here and there, as well as each of the guest is seeing a ghostly and haunting vision of a burnt body of a young man. Then there is Damon, a private investigator sent to the island to investigate the odd things that happen on it. We see him lurking around on the fringes of the opening act, taking notes and watching each of the new guests.

From here, given everyone is off in their own fantasies, the dark twists of the island starts to come out in different ways. First, Melanie realizes that Sloane is the real Sloane, and a man with a stapled mouth whom Melanie recognize as her horrible therapist is jacked up and about to kill Sloane. Melanie uses the buttons to knock the doctor out and rescue Sloane as they start running off into the woods. Patrick is taken hostage by a group of American G.I.s and he comes face to face with his father as if he was sent back in time. Before answers could be found, they are shot at, and Patrick gets grazed by a real bullet. The levity of the situation and his fantasy finally falls on him. As for the brothers, they are suddenly attacked and taken hostage by a group of drug dealers.

Gwen, however seems to have the perfect fantasy. However… she is still unhappy and believes she is unworthy of this happiness. She realizes this wasn’t the re-do she wanted, but that she had caused a fire in her apartment that resulted in her upstairs neighbour to die. That has sat on her shoulders for years and she realizes her re-do was to try and safe her neighbour Nick. Through some tough negotiation with Roake, she finally gets the re-do she needs.

There’s a lot of things that happens to everyone. Damon reduces Melanie and Sloane and shows them the crystal in this cave system that is the power of the island and how if that is destroyed the dark twisted fantasy’s of them all will cease to exist. However, they don’t destroy it there and then, instead Damon gives them a way to get off the island, a number of a pilot and plane that would come and take them away. JD also dies in the shoot out with the drug dealers. 

Gwen does her best to try and save Nick in her new fantasy, and even asks for help. She realizes that both JD and Brax lived in her apartment building too and that Nick was their roommate. Patrick was the first police officer at the scene and when Gwen explains someone is trapped above her apartment were the fire has engulfed the entire room, he does nothing, because he is really a coward. Gwen returns and once more tries to find something to kick and break down Nick’s door, but to no avail and is brought out of the fantasy by Julia. 

At this point, Gwen is understanding that this isn’t their fantasies, but they are all part of someone else’s. Everyone collides back in the main villa of the island, demanding help from Roake who is unable to do it, given the rules. The plane arrives and the group runs to the dock, only to see it being shot out of the sky. The drug dealers have arrived. Melanie explains about the cave and the crystal and that if they destroy that, everything will stop. So they all head to the cave, and as much as they try to stick together, as it is a maze down there, they end up getting separated. 

This is probably the most tense scene of the movie. This is where everyone’s nightmares come to past. Brax finds a copy of JD who blames everything on him, given their parents loved JD more than Brax. Gwen finds her daughter killing her husband saying that she doesn’t deserve them after what she did and she sees Nick come towards her. Sloane is faced with her cruel teenage self, something she is trying to put behind her. While Patrick… well he gets stabbed multiple times by the traitor in the group.

I don’t feel like giving away the ending. It’s still a new movie and I really liked the final twist and don’t want to spoil it for others. I will say that I wasn’t expecting it and despite the horrors of the island, it made me tear up at the very end. 

I’m curious if there would be a sequel to it, or if it’s even possible given that the rules get changed in that final twist. Either way, Blumhouse dark take on an old tv show paid off, in my opinion. I feel this is how reboots should work, take the original concept then try something new with it. For this movie, it asks the question, if your fantasy could really come true… what would happen if the person asking for the fantasy wants death and revenge? I do recommend this movie to pretty much everyone. It’s not overly scary or gory. It’s more suspenseful than anything else, so even the more queasy people out there could get into this movie.

Insidious Chapter 2 – Review

Directed by: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, and Lin Shaye

This is one of the films I’ve been most hesitant to review. I watched the first Insidious movie a few years ago and it really terrified me. As much as I still enjoyed the movie afterwards and loved the effects and jump scares, I remembered that bit of terror I felt and was hesitant to continue on with the series. However, part of this challenge for me is to push past that initial fear of watching something that could really, really scare and disturb me, and face it head on. And, typical, after watching Chapter 2, I didn’t feel as if it was as scary as I thought it’ll be. This tends to happen a lot. From whatever I’ve heard or seen through trailers, I get it in my mind certain movies are just beyond my level of fear factor I could take in the movie. Only to be proven after watching it, that it wasn’t that bad and I enjoyed the ride. I’m also glad after these movies that I did watch it.

Insidious Chapter 2 is one of these films. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m constantly lured towards the haunting and ghost genre of horror movies. So I knew I’d tackle the film franchise eventually. In this movie, it takes place directly after the first one. Another reason why I’ve been struggling to watch it. The first movie ended on such a cliffhanger that I had to know what was going to happen next.

A quick recap of Insidious – Chapter 1: The Lambert family is having issues with their son and their house. Their son seems to be leaving his body when he sleeps and attacking ghosts to the house, hoping to take advantage of the unoccupied body. The family seeks help from an old family friend Elise, who informs the parents that the father – Josh had the same thing happen to him and that she hypnotized him to prevent him from leaving his body again. Elise lifts the hypnotism and sends Josh into the spirit world to locate their son’s spirit and bring it back to his body. Josh is successful… but the movie ends when we realize it is not Josh who returns to his body, but the spirit of the old woman in a black dress that has been the main ghost haunting the family. Seriously the movie ends there with the woman, in Josh’s body who attacks Elise.

So, yeah, big cliffhanger there!

Chapter 2 opens a little differently. It instead goes back to when Josh was a kid and Elise was brought in to help the situation out. They film the interview she had with Josh with an odd interaction with Josh while in a trance talking to someone behind him and pointing a way towards something. The scene ends quickly after that with what we assume is the closing off and forgetting of his gifts. We are then brought back to the present with the wife – Rose – being interviewed at the police station and we learn that Elise has died from the attack.

While the police are now investigating Elise’s death, the Lambert family moves back into Josh’s mother’s home… and the same house where he had his first paranormal experiences. And, well, to no one’s surprise, the haunting continues. Not just that, but Josh starts to act differently. Wanting to to ignore everything, even subtly threatening his own mother to stay quite about her experiences – for Rose’s sake. 

But Josh’s mother – Lorraine – isn’t having it. She tackles the problem head on, returning to Elise’s house and talking to her two assistants to figure out why the hauntings are still happening and realizing something isn’t right with Josh. That’s when they bring in Carl, the other investigator and psychic that came to help Josh when he was a child. Together the four track down what happened all those years ago to a patient Lorraine helped look after while she was a nurse at a hospital named Parker. From there we discover more about this woman in black spirit, that she s actually Parker in disguise due to a traumatic upbringing but he hands of his crazy mom. Parker turned into a serial killer named “The Bride in Black”. They also discover his desire to take over another body, and that in order to stop him, they must stop the ghost if his mother.

The group devices a plan to subdue the spirit that has taken a hold of Josh. Unfortunately that sort of goes sideways real fast. Carl and the two assistants are knocked out, while Josh lures his mother and Rose back to the house to deal with them, aka kill them. Carl wakes up in the spirit world where Josh is waiting. We learn he is the one haunting the place, trying to reach is family to tell them the truth of his situation. They both agree they need to find Elise and head out into the darkness.

Now, this next scene is a little trippy. They are lead to Josh’s house, and somewhat back in time? There we get to relive a scene from the first movie, when a spirit was harassing their baby daughter. Josh’s spirit is able to make the distraction from the first movie, kicking the door in and setting off the alarm to get at the spirit. It is Elise who banishes the evil spirit away. Regrouped with her, she knows what they have to do, but first they have to find the house where Parker’s mother lives in order to destroy her memory from Parker’s mind. But Josh forgets where that is, and so they decide to go ask the younger Josh.

I’m not sure what they are getting at, maybe that as a spirit time has no foundation or meaning and thus a spirit could shift and move through periods of time without knowing? Anyways, with younger Josh leading the way, pointing where they should go, Elise, Carl and older Josh are able to locate the home of Parker and his mother. It takes some effort but eventually they are able to take out the mother, thus ending Parker’s enraged and unrestful spirit. 

Elise tells them to hurry back to their bodies, as the house they are in starts to crumble. However, now surrounded in darkness, Carl and Josh learn they are lost, that is until Josh’s son appears and leads them back to their house and bodies.

Finally the Lambert family has peace and quiet. However, the movie isn’t quite over yet. We pick up later with the two assistants arriving at a new house with a new family inside. Elise is there, in spirit form and they learn there is a woman in a wheelchair in the house… that she may not be the right soul in the right body. 

Again, the movie is very suspenseful, and full of creepy scenes. But what I enjoyed the most was the slow burning mystery surrounding the woman in black from the first movie. There’s even a “Shinning” moment in the film that made my laugh a bit. I also think it was interesting that the hauntings they experienced were mostly from Josh himself, trying to get their attention instead of something darker or evil. That’s not to say there isn’t a dark malevolent spirit lurking around. Parker’s crazy mother is also in around both in the Lambert house and Parker’s house. 

In the end, this was a great movie and I feel foolish for putting it off for so long. I’m looking forward to the rest of the movies in the franchise and curious where the story will lead next.

American Horror Story: Season 1 – Review

Created by Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk

This has been on my “must see” list for a number of years. I will admit, when this first came out back in 2011 I was hesitant and a little worried that it might be a little too scary for me… despite me liking the idea. I did eventually try to start watching the series a few years later, but didn’t get very far. Since then, trying to find the series to watch on streaming devices wasn’t easy and I wasn’t in the mood to pay for it off iTunes. Low and behold, the Plex account my husband and I are using suddenly had  American Horror Story appear. This was my chance to finally sit down and at least finish the first season and hopefully binge the rest of the entire collection.

That’s one reason why I haven’t posted in the last couple of days, filling my days up with episodes from American Horror Story made it a little difficult to tackle movies later in the evening. Now that I finished season 1, I hope to be able to get back into my grove of a review each day.

So, let’s talk about the first season of American Horror Story, or as I believe it is revered to as “The Murder House”. If you are one of the few who haven’t heard of this series, each season is a stand alone anthology. Where season one deals with a troubled family moving into a haunted house, other seasons centre on an Insane Asylum, a Freak Show, and a Witch’s Coven – amongst others… there’s nine seasons in total. 

So, we have this old victorian house built in the heyday of Hollywood. We learn in the first episode that a doctor to the stars built the house for his wife, but met an untimely end. Even the previous owners of the house – a gay couple – have also died in the house. As the season progresses, we slowly discover new tidbits of the house, the past inhabitants and their tragic ends, not to mention that anyone who dies in the house is cursed to remain as a ghost.

So the Harmons are the family we follow as they move into the house. However, they are not the sweet, wholesome family. Ben (the husband and father), was recently caught cheating on his wife, Vivian. Vivian recently had a miscarriage and dealing with a cheating husband on her hands. Their daughter Violet is attracted to the macabre and darkness. Ben is also a therapist and sets up a corner of the house as an office to treat patients at home to be closer to his wife and daughter and try to help mend the broken relationships.

Like I mentioned before, it takes the full season to learn the history of the ghosts that reside in the house. A few of which take up Ben’s therapy to try and help themselves. Then there is their next door neighbour Constance and her daughter Abby, who neither really understands personal space all that well. 

Episode one really sets up the events that unravel throughout the season. Vivian and Ben have heated angry sex during one of their arguments. Later that night, Ben is put in a trance by one of the ghosts and wonders off, seconds later Vivian is visited by someone she assumes to be Ben wearing a black latex sex outfit that obscures the face and has another session of rough sex. Well… it turns out she becomes pregnant after that day and we don’t get much more of a closing to this storyline until the last half of the season. 

Violet on the other end never wanted to move from Boston to L.A., and is struggling with bullies at her new school. One of her father’s patient, a teenager boy named Tate offers to help, scaring one of the girls by leading her down into the basement where both the bully and Violet have a vision of Tate switching into another evil spirit of an old woman with a horrid toothy mouth. From there, Violet starts to build a relationship with Tate while at the same time getting more glimpses into the dark history of the house.

Ben, well he seems to have the most going on.  The girl he had an affair with continues to harass him, even pulling him back to Boston when she reveals she is also pregnant. However, when Ben gets the news that three strangers had invaded and held his family captive back in L.A., he rushes out of her while she prepared to have an abortion. She later comes back, actually surprising Ben in L.A., and confesses she didn’t go through with the abortion and is still obsessed with him and wants to run away together. She’s a bit crazy, that only gets worse when Ben accidently kills her and buries her in the back yard only to have her ghost now roam the house causing much more mayhem!

Then there is Constance, and her own history with the house – as she had lived in it twice on separate occasions and with different husbands. There is also the fact that is revealed that Tate is her son, and the house has several other ghosts of her dead children lurking around. 

All in all, there are some amazing creepy and suspenseful scenes in this TV show. There were several episodes that had me pulling up the blankets to my nose. What surprised me the most with the season was how they chose to end it. 

Spoiler! All the Harmons end up dying in the house. Violet overdosed on sleeping pills. Vivian died during childbirth. Ben, alone with the one remaining baby that lived is confronted by his mistress’s ghost one last time and is killed by her by behind hung off the second floor balcony. You would think that would be the end… but the show continues on with the new family that ends up moving into their house. However, unlike with them, the Harmons along with a few others who are more peaceful spirits and want the violent cycle to end, scare the new family on their first night to make sure nobody else ends up dying on the property again.

It’s an interesting and strangely peaceful ending for the Harmons. They start as a family at each others throats, but ends with a joy that they are finally at peace with each other, and although dead and stuck in this purgatory, still continue life whatever life they could in contentment. 

So… as for the second twin born by Vivian… well that turns out to be the son of Tate, of which Constance has chosen to raise herself. Yup, we’ve got a ghost conceiving a child. If that’s not odd and weird enough, we’re introduced to the storyline that this child is actually the anti-christ. The finally scene of the season has Constance returning home only to find the nanny dead in her grandson’s room, with her grandson now three years old, giddy and proud of himself for his kill.

All together this was a very creepy series, but not as scary as I feared it would be. It has completely compelled me to continue watching the next seasons. In particular I’m very interested in the third season which is the Coven season with Kathy Bates. I’m also curious to know if this anti-christ story arc would be revisited in the later seasons. I look forward to this and would love to hear what your thoughts are on the show. Did anyone watch this? Do you have any theories on the ending? Feel free to comment below!