I don’t really know how to intro these posts anymore. “This is a film we’ve watched, here’s what I thought” is about the gist of it.
This week’s choice by Jill though is very special, I’ll give it that.Continue reading “Nanny review”
Film, books and general fuckery
I don’t really know how to intro these posts anymore. “This is a film we’ve watched, here’s what I thought” is about the gist of it.
This week’s choice by Jill though is very special, I’ll give it that.Continue reading “Nanny review”
Jill and I are always partial to a witchy tale and have covered more than a few in our time. This week’s film is no exception, with very pleasing results, by way of not so pleasant subject matter, including sexual assault, ageing out of a chosen career and having to socialise against our will.
With that in mind, heavy TRIGGER WARNINGS for assault, which is implied rather than overtly explained, but it’s horrific nonetheless.Continue reading “She Will review”
This week we examine obsessive friendship, spur of the moment hair colour changes and social media presence with this tasty little morsel.
Covering the main topics of life, NBD.Continue reading “Sissy review”
I’ve lost track of where we are theme wise this month – in a free for all free fall I think – which isn’t a bad thing in the lead up to Horror season.
This week we attend Victor Hugo’s funeral, smoke cigarettes in tiny bars and suffer massive injustice in an institute for the mentally insane. Take a drink every time a doctor diagnoses hysteria.Continue reading “The Mad Women’s Ball review”
Following a two week hiatus – in which Jill flew to Germany and Iceland, and I went to Margate – we’re back with a Free For All before all out horror kicks in for October. While it was nice to have a break, I have to admit my weekend did feel suspiciouly light without the ritual of settling down to our homework.
Anyway, it was my pick this week and I regretted it almost immediately, which sucks a bit but is also… verrrrry in keeping with the overall tone and vibe of our blogs.
Here we go!
The universe has a favour to ask
After a breakup, Wes ends up at a remote rest stop. He finds himself locked inside the bathroom with a mysterious figure speaking from an adjacent stall. Soon Wes realizes he is involved in a situation more terrible than he could imagine.
Genre: Horror, Thriller ∙ IMDB user rating: 5.5
My score: 1/5 ∙ Runtime: 79 mins
Poor Wes is clearly heartbroken and on the run from his relationship woes. Pulling into a rest stop in his little car full of belongings, he cuts a desperate figure. We’ve all been there, am I right? After an awkward exchange with a homeless lady, Wes decides to get himself good and fucked up with a pity party for one in the public BBQ area. Burning all memory of his ex Brenda in the fire pit, Wes can’t resist keeping just one photograph because well, she was different from all the rest, right?
The next morning our one man broken hearts club stumbles into the bathroom block to violently puke up last night’s excess. Here he starts a conversation with a disembodied voice coming from another stall and since that voice belongs to J.K. Simmons, who can blame him? Except, well this chat takes a turn when a) Wes tries to peek through a gloryhole to see who he’s speaking to, and b) hears the whole sorry tale of why Ghatanothoa (the name to accompany the dulcet tones) is there in the first place. To be honest, it all gets very convoluted but might be one of the film’s few strengths – it’s nuts.
The gist is this: Ghat – an ancient God – is a tool created by his father for the sole purpose of destroying humanity. Imprisoned by his other children to stop this wicked plan, Ghat’s father hasn’t been able to make good on his plan – until now. Ghat for his part has developed a fondness for humans and doesn’t want anything to do with part its destruction any more, hence him hiding out in a piss-stained road-side gloryhole for the foreseeable.
He tells Wes that in order to permanently hide, he/it/they must transcend into the ethereal plane – and can only do that if its physical form is satisfied by a mortal, via the gloryhole.
When Ghat asks Wes to be said mortal for “reasons”, he assumes the worst. Must he perform a humiliating sex act on the unknown entity to save the world? And what does annihilation really look like anyway? Ghat removes Wes’ precious memories of Brenda as a little taster of what’s to come if he doesn’t muck in – will it be enough?
Oh, and perhaps the most pressing question of all: if this isn’t random, and Ghat chose Wes for a reason – what is that reason? Turns out the old adage “like attracts like” applies across species and time and God knows what else, that’s all I’m saying.
“Your genitals are of no significance.”
“Well, you don’t have to be mean about it!”
This film is fucking stupid and I did not enjoy it. However, having pondered it a little deeper I do think it has some merits, not many but some. I’ll start with the positives:
What I didn’t like:
In all seriousness, this isn’t a bad film – it just wasn’t for me. At times I found it boring or a bit up its own arse – and it all gets so over the top I couldn’t be bothered with it. This may be on me in some parts as my husband sold it to me as a Mandy/Color Out of Space inspired sci-fi.
There are similarities of course but this isn’t fit to shine those film’s shoes and definitely runs out of steam early on. Maybe you’ll disagree, it certainly has mixed reviews online, with some people absolutely loving it.
Angry Women Month rages on and feels particularly appropriate set against the backdrop of the Great British Heatwave, which is making me furious and sleepy in equal measure. I know our summers generally last around two weeks total but I hate the sun and summer more than anything and I cannot wait for it to rain.
Anyway, a murderous rampage in the company of Alice Lowe (of the excellent Sightseers) is just what the doctor ordered. I do feel this has set the bar very high for my next choice so we can sign off July with a bang.
Widow Ruth is seven months pregnant when, believing herself to be guided by her unborn baby, she embarks on a homicidal rampage, dispatching anyone who stands in her way.
Director: Alice Lowe
Starring: Alice Lowe, Dan Renton Skinner, Kayvan Novak
Genre: Horror, Comedy ∙ IMDB user rating: 5.9
My score: 4.5/5 ∙ Runtime: 88 mins
Following the death of her partner in a horrific climbing accident, heavily pregnant Ruth is – understandably – having a hard time of it. Imagining the fetus is cheering her on to seek vengeance for his murder, Ruth finds herself putting everything except bloody murder on the back burner.
One by one she seeks out members of Matt’s climbing team, lead by instructor Tom, who she blames the most. But will she gain the closure she seeks for herself and her unborn child once she’s done? I think we all know how a life lived solely for vengeance pans out, at least from the films we’re explored before.
On Ruth’s Kill Bill-esque list are businesswoman Ella (Kate Dickie), oafish pig DJ Dan (Tom Davis), caustic Len (Gemma Whelan), Zac (Tom Meeten) and Tom. The film begins though with the first death of exotic pet dealer Mr Zabek (Dan Renton Skinner), who also has some responsibility.
Systematically knocking off her enemies isn’t her only worry either, baby’s arrival is just around the corner and Ruth is struggling with that too. Wary of her midwife (Jo Hartley), who adopts a no-nonsense (and annoying approach), she’s put off immediately when the woman fails to read Ruth’s file and asks her where her hubby is.
When forced to dispose of somebody not on the list, only then does Ruth start to question her passion project. Will the difference of opinion distance her from her child? And is closure really even a possibility?
A few home truths during a conversation with Tom, who isn’t quite the monster she’s been picturing seem to signal a turn in our pro/antagonist – will she put it all to bed before it’s too late?
This is so far up my street, I’ve watched this film more times than I can remember since its release in 2016. I was excited to revisit for the blog and also to see how Jill feels about it.
Of course the subject matter is devastating and we explore many aspects of the grief process but it is also very funny at times. All the characters are horribly flawed which I appreciate and that includes Ruth, though she’s someone you really want to see come out on top.
I think Lowe does a good job of turning the notion of the mad hormonal woman on its head and challenges us to feel sympathy for the alleged killers at the same time, despite how heinous most of them are.
Tom’s decision to cut Matt’s rope to save the rest of the group was an impossible one and will probably haunt the rest of his life, so does he deserve more punishment? I think the idea of having someone to blame is a very real one.
The entire segment with DJ Dan is perfect, particularly when his elderly mum appears, and I loved Gemma Whelan’s appearance as Len, who’s the only one to really fight back. I don’t really have any criticism, everything about it is a bit of me, from the long shots and framing to the amazing cast.
Again I think this brand of humour is my absolute favourite and I need more from Alice Lowe STAT. Directly into my veins.
Our Free For All theme sees us enter mermaid territory this week with a Swiss coming-of-age body horror – which frankly couldn’t be more up our street.
I feel not much more is needed by way of intro so let’s have at it right away, yeah?
An outwardly normal teenage girl faces overwhelming body transformations that put the very nature of her existence into question.
Director: Lisa Brühlmann
Starring: Luna Wedler, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror ∙ IMDB user rating: 6.1
My score: 4/5 ∙ Runtime: 97 mins
15-year-old Mia Weber (Wedler) is new to Zurich, having moved there with her family when dad took a new job. As she settles into her new school things look a little shaky to start, but take a turn when she gets involved with a circle of girls, lead by Gianna (Holthuizen).
The girls are advanced for their years, experimenting freely with drugs, sex and minor misdemeanors, like shoplifting – and as such are considered problem teens. Keen to fit in, Mia takes to these activities like a duck to water. This pulls her further away from her parents but she argues most violently with her mother.
At the same time, Mia notices her toes have started fusing together as if webbed. Her doctor is baffled about what could cause this as the condition is congenital, not something that appears in just a few weeks. This isn’t the only change she’s experiencing: she starts craving water with heaps of salt in it – and also eats two of her mother’s pet goldfish, which does not go down well.
Or rather, they do, which is the problem.
These changes, which are clearly more than just puberty based, add to the general woe of Mia’s life. Noticing there are no pictures of her mother pregnant with her – and that she bears no resemblance to her parents – she vows to find out the truth. Meanwhile, the partying between friends gets more excessive and Mia becomes sexually active – though there’s an undertone to her friendship with Gianna that suggests they could be more.
Her body transformation also picks up speed as her lower half grows scaly and she develops what looks suspiciously like gills. Freaking out but also doing what any self-respecting teenager would do – hiding it – she keeps on swimming. But following a traumatic party situation, Mia finds herself caught between a (sea) rock and a hard place (land).
What will become of this poor girl, all her wants, needs and dreams?
I loved this and not just because it’s a mermaid tale. It looks beautiful, and the practical effects and horror elements are very simple yet effective. They’re also subtle and while the final reveal is no secret, its not given away too easily or too soon, which helps build tension.
All the performances are very naturalistic but it’s our leading lady that carries it. Wedler is mesmerising, commanding the screen and securing my sympathy right away, even when acting like your typical teenage nightmare. I also enjoy the chemistry between Mia and Gianna, which reminds me of the blurred lines between love and something more from my own adolescent friendships.
Maybe it’s a little flimsy on narrative but in fairness this is a rumination on growing up so I don’t think it needs extra action. The fantasy elements are a metaphor for the alienation we feel as we evolve from child to adult and also captures the horror and fear of inevitable body change (and general life) perfectly.
The ending is bittersweet but matches the opening well, alluding to something deeper in Mia’s future. Man, how I wished I was a mermaid as a kid. In reality, or at least as showcased by Blue My Mind, this comes with its own set of icks and probably isn’t really my cup of tea.
Interesting fact: Hellbender is also a type of salamander.
Another interesting fact: this week’s film is a family affair, filmed in lockdown while most of us were rewatching our favourite shows and refreshing the news feeds every eight seconds (just me?). That – it my eyes – makes it a little bit special – and maybe more forgiving about the sometimes shoddy SFX.
But is it any good? Read on pals for the truth. If you dare.
Growing up is Hell.
A lonely teen discovers her family’s ties to witchcraft.
Director(s): Zelda Adams, John Adams, Toby Poser
Starring: Lulu Adams, Toby Poser, Zelda Adams, John Adams
Genre: Horror ∙ IMDB user rating: 5.8
My score: 4/5 ∙ Runtime: 86 mins
Teenager Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives with her mother in the woods. Their home is incredibly remote, buried in the heart of the forest surrounded by all the delightful things Mother Nature has to offer. Which is lucky, as Mum (Toby Poser) only pops into town once a week or so for non-foragable items, such as drum sticks and vinyl.
Despite really wanting to join her mother in town on these jaunts, Izzy is relegated to the bench as she lives with a de-habilitating autoimmune disease that puts her at risk. This is also the reason the pair live the way they do, and have since Izzy was just five years old. The women live a pretty dope life despite the isolation – they form a band called Hellbender – and are totally aesthetically a piece of me, with a sound that ain’t too shabby either.
One day, while wandering in the woods, Izzy bumps into a lost hiker (John Adams). The hiker is the uncle of a girl who lives on a neighbouring mountain and after taking a wrong turn, he ends up trespassing on Izzy’s land. This may seem innocuous to everyone else, but Mum isn’t happy and dispatches with Uncle quickly, in a very creative way which sets us up for the rest of this ride.
Later Izzy defies her mother’s strict rules by hiking to the edge of their land. Here she stumbles across Amber (Lulu Adams) a girl similar in age. The pair hit it off well and arrange to meet at the house the following day. Of course Izzy doesn’t share this with her mother when she gets back. The next day, she joins Amber and her friends where they drink tequila and Izzy shows off her drumming skills.
Things pop off dramatically when two things happen. First, Izzy eats a live worm which causes her to feel and act very strangely – and two, the real owner of the fancy house returns and chases the kids away. In the ruckus, Izzy acts threateningly towards Amber which derails their new friendship. She also bumps into the house owner who’s extremely angry and threatens police intervention. This doesn’t come to anything – for reasons – and Izzy returns home.
Meanwhile, word is that a man’s gone missing and he turns out to be Amber’s uncle. Weird huh? With Izzy acting extremely out of sorts, Mum is forced to share a few home truths about her heritage and weirdly, it turns out some of her history just doesn’t add up. As Izzy comes to terms with this new information, with which comes great responsibility – will her mother’s fears come to fruition?
Spoiler: yes, they probably will.
I liked this. It’s pleasingly witchy, quite rich in detail and looks absolutely stunning in places. There are some dodgy effects here and there, but not enough to drag me out of the story – or stop rooting for our central pair.
While Izzy makes some dramatic decisions on discovering her new powers, I still liked her. I’m sure I’d feel exactly the same if I was suddenly omnipotent and still a teenager. It’s just a shame this seems to be cyclical and at the cost potentially (and eventually) of her mother’s life. I do really like the opener too which harks back to Mum’s own mother and her fate, which is padded out later in the film when Izzy asks about what happened to her grandmother.
There is a very psychedelic element to some of the scenes, as the women experiment together with different foods and spells – one particular standout is the frankly disgusting vomiting of blood into each other’s faces. This is fun but it might distract at times from what the hell is going on. Luckily, at under 90 minutes this is a really tightly paced piece.
Incidentally, the same family made another film – The Deeper You Dig (2019) – which I also enjoyed recently. There seems to be a strong theme running through both stories and it leans heavily into the relationship between mother and daughter, which is powerful and complicated. I’d say the Poser-Adams’ are a family to keep an eye on.
Our anti-award winning season continues as we plunge the depths for the films that would never stand a chance with the academy, or any other board of stuffy prize givers. Which is a shame for the films but hey, the Razzies have always seemed way more fun – and having just stalked their website, I can’t believe I’ve never sought out Diana the Musical.
Watch this space, I guess!
For now however, let’s explore the seedy underbelly of hair styling.
A lonely hair stylist becomes obsessed with the lives of her clients and descends into murderous madness.
Director: Jill Gevargizian
Starring: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant
Claire (Najarra) is a hairstylist working long hours at the salon. While outwardly shy and reserved, our girl harbors a secret. A pretty big one as it goes – our girl collects the scalps of her clients and displays them secretly in her cellar. Any time she’s feeling low, she puts them on and imagines herself in their lives.
We’re introduced to Claire as she takes on a client from out of town, a woman called Sarah. As the woman relaxes with a glass of red, she expels her own secrets, confident they’ll never see each other again. Claire’s intrigued by Sarah’s tales of work and home life – even though she’s smug and annoying – which may be why she’s compelled to murder and add her to the basement collection.
Things take a turn when Claire’s contacted by a regular – Olivia (Grant) – who desperately needs a stylist for her wedding. Claire’s usual stance on weddings is no thank you given how intense they are – but she says yes and the pair start to bond – which delights lonely Claire who lives alone and has no friends or family to speak of.
After their first time hanging out outside the salon, the pair connect over their stories about absent fathers but Claire berates herself afterwards and takes out her frustrations on the kindly barista at her local coffee shop. Which is a bit silly given its proximity to the salon (and CCTV cameras) – plus, the person who nails your coffee order is worth holding on to if you ask me.
After this particular murder, Claire decides to lock up the cellar/basement and focus on Olivia and their fledgling friendship. At Olivia’s hen do, to which she secures an invite, Claire comforts the bride-to-be when she expresses doubts about the nuptials – but overhears her other friends slagging her off in the loo. They mock the idea of inviting the stylist to the hen party which infuriates her – and experience teaches us not to mess with the girl holding the sharp scissors, am I right?
You can probably see where this is going. As Claire clings tighter to her new friend – turning up at her work, calling too many times – the more Olivia backs away. During a tense encounter, Olivia firmly requests that Claire not be ‘like this’ on her actual wedding day. Devastated and embarrassed, Claire reopens the cellar and her behaviour becomes even more unhinged. After more murder and a cheeky bout of breaking and entering – we’re getting closer to the big day. Will the fragile friendship make it?
Meanwhile, the authorities are looking for the missing barista AND Claire’s first client. Which makes dealing with warring bridesmaids, my MIL and Glynn’s ex in the lead up to my big day seem like a walk in the park.
Will Olivia’s wedding day go off with the bang she’s expecting? I think we can confidently say no. No it won’t.
See, this is exactly why I’ll do anything to avoid going to a salon. The Stylist is a little light on storyline, after you get beyond the delight of a murderous hairdresser and it has a tendency to lag a bit – but overall, it has solid bones and is quite effective.
We get little to no true backstory for Claire, which is chilling but I also want to know how the cellar came to be and who her first victim was, after all after Sarah’s murder, everything’s already set up and ready to go. Also, if she’s targeting clients then why is it only now the community have noticed people missing? Claire’s motivations do seem a bit weak but there is a sexual undertone to her attachment to Olivia, so I think there are some really interesting themes there that I wish we’d explored more.
The topics of loneliness and making friends as an adult feel quite close to my heart though and I sympathise with Claire. As a viewer I did have a snap out of it attitude to some of her behaviours but I recognise a lot of those feelings in myself. Claire just doesn’t seem to have the confidence facade so many of us adopt, especially at work.
Other than that, the scalp wigs really annoy me. Has Claire never mainlined Drag Race? What’s with the rough finish around the hairline? I feel as though Claire, who seems pretty fastidious in most aspects, would do a better job of that, especially since she’s keeping them for later use.
– Genres: Drama ∙ Horror
– IMDB user rating: 5.6
– My score: 3/5
– Runtime: 105 mins
This month we’re catching up on the awards season films we haven’t caught yet, which leaves quite a few options open to us. I’m very behind on what’s been buzzing this year.
This movie’s been on my list for a while but I’ve never really had the urge to sit down to it. Much as I appreciate the work of JC – and the cast involved – it just never seemed like the right time. Plus, I’m still doing the Pandemic thing of re-watching things I’ve seen a hundred times before, like 30 Rock.
Comfort is key, alright?
But let’s get down to brass tacks. Is this Gothic western any bloody good?
“Deliver my soul from the sword. My darling from the power of the dog.”
Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.
Directors: Jane Campion
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons
TW: Mention of suicide, animal dissection
Rancher Phil Burbank (Cumberbuns) isn’t exactly the warm and fluffy type. He holds court among his peers, who enjoy his stories (mainly about his friend and mentor Bronco Henry) but are clearly intimidated by his rough exterior. By contrast, his brother George (Plemons) is softly spoken and empathetic. The pair live alone – apart from a maid and their housekeeper – and employ a number of farm hands. I think, I actually don’t really know what ranchers do. Wrangle things?
One day during a meal at a local restaurant, the owner, widowed Rose (Dunst) and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) fall foul of Phil’s wicked tongue. His comments about Peter (who doesn’t fit Phil’s masculine ideal) upset not only the boy but his mother, who is caught crying by George. Not long afterwards George and Rose marry – and she goes to live with the brothers.
Phil is just about as welcoming as you’d expect, failing to light the boiler to welcome the new Mrs Burbank on the night she arrives, and barely addressing her. George pushes Phil to make more of an effort with his personal hygiene for his new wife’s sake which causes him to stubbornly miss an important dinner with their parents. And so begins his dedicated campaign to drive Rose out, or at the very least, to the bottle.
Phil does have a somewhat secretive routine however, which involves him bathing in the river and stashing Broncho Henry memorabilia which he seems rather attached to. Could this gruff and stinking cowboy be hiding a painful secret?
When Peter comes to stay at the ranch over Summer break from college, things look set to become even more fraught on the farm. Rose is nervous when Phil takes her son under his wing – after Pete catches him swimming naked in the lake. He also steps in when the boy receives homophobic taunts from the other men. Soon he starts making Peter a braided rope and teaches him how to ride, and it becomes clear he’s molding himself into Pete’s mentor, whether he likes it or not. Pete in turn starts to open up about his father’s suicide. Phil wonders out loud about Rose’s drinking, which has intensified ever since she arrived (can’t think why).
Later Phil admits that Bronco Henry saved his life by lying with him one night to keep him warm. Peter asks if they were naked, which we all want to know frankly. The ensuing silence seems to say it all.
As Rose continues to worry about her son and Phil spending time together – and her drinking gets worse – she takes a pop at him by giving a collection of hides away to a Native American tradesman in exchange for a beautiful pair of gloves. Phil is distraught – and raging – as this means he can’t finish the rope. Luckily, Peter has a procured a hide of his own and is willing to donate the cured strips from it to the project.
Having obtained a bad cut to his hand during a recent work assignment, Phil’s health takes a nasty turn the next morning and this threatens to change the farm’s dynamic for good. But he must get the rope to Pete, above all else.
The actor Sam Elliott was recently criticised for his comments about The Power of the Dog. It seems he wasn’t pleased about the depiction of cowboys running around shirtless in leather chaps, which is strange because by definition I always think of them like this. Cowboy country just seems so innately homoerotic.
This is a beautiful film. It looks gorgeous and the performances are really good. It’s slow and moody though which I happen to enjoy but could be off-putting. Cumberbuns is at his best as the complicated Phil and my heart went out to him many times even though he’s a cruel bastard. Those few moments of him alone in his secret glenn speak to his devastating loneliness and loss – and it’s just all so sad.
The climax of the film seems very sudden but it actually paces out perfectly and is incredibly sinister. It also challenges the notion of strength – something Phil himself has been keen to control throughout. While Pete doesn’t fit the old ideal of what is masculine and powerful, he has a quiet and ambitious streak which pays off for him (and ultimately everybody). He’s an interesting character, as his actions (and preparation) hint at a pitch dark soul and it would be interesting to see where he goes from here.
Dunst is great as Rose too but she’s not given an awful lot to do beside play wife and mother. The subtle torture Phil puts her through is so chilling. The scene in which she’s practicing piano and he mirrors the tune with his own instrument (not that instrument) is premium gaslighting.
Camps won Best Director for this film, making her the third woman to win in this category in the history of the Academy Awards. She deserves it as far as I’m concerned. TPOTD is a powerful Gothic fairy tale in a Western’s stinking clothing – and I liked it.
– Genres: Drama ∙ Romance ∙ Western
– IMDb user rating: 6.9
– My score: 4.5/5
– Runtime: 126 mins