Sigh. Let me get the dumb jokes out of the way so I can get to the review:
A horror movie named MEN in the year of our lord 2022 – too easy
I mean the film not the gender HURRRRRRR
Gotta talk about the low-hanging fruit HURRRRRR
It gave me all the Rory Kinnear I ever wanted and more – SO MUCH MORE
I’d scrumble Geoffrey’s apples (well, maybe not his)
There! I had more but I’m tired. Note: I might not be at the top of my game right now with this viewing and review – I might revisit the movie in a few months to see what occurs then.
Anyway -Let me clear something further up – I didn’t hate MEN. I enjoyed it! I will own it when it’s available for purchase! I’ll break down what it did right and wrong in full later, but what you should understand now is that I am NOT hating on MEN.
MEN’s ad campaign set high expectations: there were blurbs like ‘GAME CHANGER!’, high marks from the Onion AV Club and other respectable review sources. I was expecting the film to do for discussions about the patriarchy what Jordan Peele’s GET OUT did for discussions about racism. Instead, it avoided that discussion and settled for being stylish and posing more questions than it answered.
There’s room for film that provokes conversation; it is refreshing to talk through concepts with other filmgoers, thereby expanding an otherwise solitary enjoyment to a group one. A24 does this time and time again, making (pleasant, sane) discourse all but necessary for their works. But MEN pushed right past that and brushed perilously close to incoherence.
There’s definitely more to come concerning this world, and more short stories will be posted as well.
Monday saw the posting of the last chapter of the Virago Podcast – so what’s next for readers and fans of Adelaide, Neville, Winston, and Gordon?
Virago will be available in print and E-Book format from Amazon.
Virago episodes will be uploaded to Spotify, where they will be more easily accessible. I’m going to clean up the files (remove those creepy ‘mouth noises’ I sometimes make from having a dry throat) and convert them to .mp3 format. Also, there will be artwork.
The Secret Wilderness podcast will begin, eventually, and is Adelaide’s backstory, which she has been dithering about sharing with anyone and begins to share with Allan in the last chapter. I wrote TSW first, but as the world expanded it seemed better suited as a prequel since Virago appealed to a wider audience. It’s a much smaller story with more horror flavor. Fans of movies like The VVitch and books like The Company of Wolves will find a lot to like.
I don’t have a start date for The Secret Wilderness chosen yet, but I quite like the Spring/Autumn schedule of this year – I know common-held belief for creators is that I should keep posting content or risk losing the audience, that people demand constant content, content content content, but I’m not on that schedule. And these aren’t stories you blow through in a weekend and never read again. When I find something I really like, I spend time on it. I re-read, re-watch, explore fandom, discuss with friends, etc. Also, I have a full time job and a life outside of writing, so as much as I’d like to just write all day, I can’t.
Also, that will mean more time for revising Barghest, the third book in the series. It’s completed, but it needs some work.
So! There’s definitely more to come concerning this world, and more short stories will be posted as well.
In the meantime, I’m making a resolution to focus more on actual writing – the podcast has been fun but without the writing, there’s nothing to share. I’m resolved to spend less time On the Couch, the gravity well toward which I drift so I can watch movies/TV while knitting.
So for now – I want to hear from you! I’m open to observations and suggestions for improvement! Please like, share, subscribe, and let me know what you’re thinking about the story overall, or just say hello!
In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive with SPOILERS behind the cut.
To paraphrase someone paraphrasing Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… unless it’s an 80 foot phallus symbolizing man’s hubristic attempt to navigate the tempestuous deeps of the sea and therefore also the human subconscious.
Let’s dive in!
The Lighthouse (2019) is a historical thriller/horror film by the writer/director team of Robert and Max Eggers, fresh off their success of 2016’s jolly lighthearted romp, The VVitch. If you haven’t seen The VVItch please know I just made a joke and with the exception of Black Phillip, it is neither lighthearted nor jolly. The Eggerses have already cemented their reputation as masters of subverting horror tropes with The VVitch, and The Lighthouse delivers more of the same, yet different. Magnificent costumes, an eerie score, and some soon-to-be legendary performances all combine to make an instant classic.
From the very opening scene, the film establishes itself with an aspect ratio of 1:19.1, which means the image is square. Filmed with a variety of cameras and lenses, including 35mm and some antique equipment dating back to 1918, the resultant effect is distinctive. There was even a little sign on the way into the theater stating, more or less, ‘Yes it is supposed to be that way please don’t tell us there’s something wrong with it.’ Between the peculiar aspect ratio, the black and white photography, stark compositions, and claustrophobic but vivid angles, it feels almost as if you’re watching some brilliant throwback from the dawn of cinema, the age where so many cinematic horror traditions were founded. Another reason I was reminded of that age was Pattinson’s performance, as his wide eyes and shaggy hair reminded me of Conrad Veidt in the immortal Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The story is fairly straightforward: Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson, sporting a more than passing 19th century Maine accent) has found work for the United States Lighthouse Service and is being dropped off to join Tom Wake (Willem Dafoe, genetically engineered to play this role; if he doesn’t go full Hemingway in the next 10 years we will have failed as a civilization).
The Lighthouse stands on a godforsaken, storm-washed rock infested with stroppy seabirds. The remote environment has already claimed one life, as Winslow is replacing a young man who went mad, claiming mermaids were singing to him. From the moment he arrives, Wake rides Winslow to get to work, quickly establishing a nautically flavored pecking order. Winslow is soon given almost more work than he can humanly do, and resentment blooms between the two men. The sonorous blast of a foghorn, noticeable early on and which should be jarring, inures itself and becomes no more remarkable than gulls crying or waves crashing. Wake gives Winslow task after task and insists they be done to his exacting standard, but the one thing Winslow is forbidden from servicing is The Light.
As the story winds out, it challenges the audience to read between the obvious threads: Is Wake real? Is Winslow? What really happened to the previous employee? How much of Wake’s Old Salt routine is an act, if any? What the hell is up between him and The Light?
Although Winslow manages the punishing routine well enough during his month-long assignment, a bad storm strands him on the island and he, already starting to unravel, comes straight off the spool. But anyone who’s watched the trailer knows that; the real treat is seeing it happen, how, and why. Viewers quickly realize that mysteries abound within Winslow, too.
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, and the other voices of early 20th century Weird fiction will find plenty to love, as well as the dialogue, which was inspired by both Shakespeare and Herman Mellville. I will say that when the film comes out for home release I will appreciate the subtitles, as I sometimes couldn’t understand the dialogue and certainly missed crucial plot info. Fans of season 1 of The Terror, would also greatly appreciate the film and its depiction of 19th century nautical life.
In Theaters Now entries give insight on films currently in theaters. There is a brief review, followed by a deeper dive WITH SPOILERS behind the cut.
As an experience, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is a delightfully creepy tale. Based on the legendary book series illustrated by someone who very probably hated children and wanted them to lose sleep, the film creates a narrative out of the otherwise disparate and well-loved stories. The Wendigo (my fave!), The Big Toe, and a few others I’ll refrain from mentioning are present. The story structure is simple: taking place in Halloween 1968, some kids who trespass into a local haunted house and steal a book of ghost stories that belonged to the local crazy lady must deal with the aftermath. The book’s stories, written in blood, almost always kill the protagonist, and there are both old stories and new ones that appear as events unfold. There are haunted houses, creepy music boxes, mental hospitals, a jerk bully, and all the classic fare.
I would recommend the film for fans of horror, the original book series, and people looking for a thrill. But I stress: just because it’s rated PG-13 doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for children. One family had a 4-year-old present, and while he was chattering away before the movie, I hope his lapse into silence was because he fell asleep and not into a state of paralytic horror. Bad Parenting Decision, Random Family.
Although the movie is a delightful and terrifying romp, it didn’t have the emotional depth I was hoping for. I mention this because when Guillermo Del Toro’s name is attached to something, I expect an emotional payoff. André Øvredal directed the film and I know he knows how to tell an emotional story because he made The Trollhunter. That isn’t to say the movie isn’t worth seeing, but if you’re looking for Deep Meaning Subtext as I did, you’ll leaving feeling a bit let down.
For more in-depth discussion involving spoilers, dive below the cut!
People Eating Together entries discuss that age-old tradition of people coming together to tear each other apart — Cannibalism! So settle in, maybe grab some coffee or a snack(!), and let’s explore this last social taboo together – because you can’t practice cannibalism alone.
Sometime in about the year 2007, while bored at my job at a children’s textbook publisher, I fell down a Wikihole about cannibalism. In between reading about Sawney Beane and Jeffrey Dahmer, I ran across the Franklin Expedition, which is to Canadian history what the Donner Party is to American. The article was fascinating enough, so imagine my excitement bordering on hysteria when I reread the article in 2017 to find that AMC was making a TV show about it. I loved the show, and immediately listened to the novel on which it’s based. There are significant differences which I’ll go into in the spoilers section of the review, but for now let’s focus on reviewing the show.
(Note: The Terror is planned as a historical horror anthology. Season 1 deals with the lost Franklin expedition (with supernatural elements) and is based on Dan Simmons book of the same name, but season 2 will be about life in a Japanese interment camp in the US during the Korean war, and stars George Takei at the head of a predominantly Japanese-American cast. After the high bar set with season 1, I’m eagerly looking forward to season 2.)