brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I’m sure you’re interested in more hot takes on my ass and preparing for a pilonidal surgery but instead I’m going to talk about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Obviously there will be spoilers.

There is a problem with people of a certain age writing about Star Wars. For many of us, there is no time before Star Wars, no time we don’t remember having seen it. It’s sunk deep into our bones, soaked into our souls, flavoring the stories we’ve told ourselves and the play we’ve shared with others. So when a Star Wars movie or tv show or book comes out, it’s hard to separate our sense of self from what we’re consuming. It’s hard to accurately judge the product because there’s so much established emotion, context, hope, love, and projection going on. There are high standards to meet, but enough love and good will that a mediocre product can still be lofted up as long as it hits the right notes. The Prequels didn’t hit the right notes, for a number of reasons.

“Star Wars: Rebels” does hit the right notes, albeit on a smaller and more intimate scale. Please read more behind the cut.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I had surgery on my butt in August and I’m going to tell you ALL ABOUT IT in a series of posts because apparently what I do on the internet is talk about my ass. Which has resulted in a bunch of really interesting twitter bots following me. Lord help me when I try to get a job and they do a google search on me or something. Anyway. Pilonidal Cysts.

I have a cystic skin condition unrelated to Pilonidal Disease, so when I had gross oozing, bleeding, swelling, and pain at the base of my tailbone/ass I assumed it was just my skin being awful and trying to kill me. I’ve lived with this for LITERALLY twenty years. TWO DECADES. I was aware of what Pilonidal Cysts are, but what are the chances that I’d have hidradenitis suppurativa AND pilonidal disease? IT IS TO LAUGH. Of COURSE I’d have both! I mentioned my butt issues to my general practitioner who said “Hm, that sounds like a pilonidal cyst, pull your pants down” and I did and mooned her and she said “yup that’s a Pilonidal Cyst here’s a referral to a surgeon.”

I foolishly assumed the surgeon could like… lance it in his office and that’d be it. OH LOR. NO. It involves actual knock-you-out surgery and I’m going to talk about that in a later post. But right now I’m going to talk about what a pilonidal cyst is.

There’s a lot of misconceptions about Pilonidal Cysts/Pilonidal Disease and what causes it. The general idea most people have of Pilonidal Disease is that it’s caused by fat hairy gross dudes who sit around too much in a slouched position while playing computer games and jerking off. It’s OBVIOUSLY caused by ingrown hairs, poor hygiene, improper seating posture, etc.

Actually, according to my surgeon, it’s not! It is, I believe, related to Spina Bifida. When the fetus is forming you have the neural tube that eventually closes to form the spinal column. Sometimes it doesn’t close completely and a little pocket or closed tube is formed. Either you’re born with it or you’re not. If you’re born with it, either a hair grows into it or not. If a hair grows into it, either it gets infected or it doesn’t. If it gets infected either it comes to a head on its own and drains (like mine did, continuously for twenty years) or it just swells up and is horrific. It’s entirely chance. There’s nothing a person can do to cause or prevent it. Lancing, antibiotics, etc don’t really affect it. Even if you can get it into remission, it’ll come back. The surgeon I saw stressed that it’s something he sees all the time in men, in women, in thin people, in fat people, in hairy people, in not hairy people, in active people, in sedentary people. It’s just a thing that happens. And it can be treated.

The surgeon I saw removes the entire Pilonidal Sinus in out patient surgery and then stitches it all up. He does not pack the surgical site unless the stitches fail, which I appreciate, as I didn’t want to deal with packing. It took me about 3 weeks before I could sit again (I basically spent two weeks doing nothing but lying in bed, which actually is awful.) In my next post I’ll talk about how to prepare for surgery, and what happened with my surgery.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Just saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and it was utterly fantastic in so many different ways. Is it a perfect movie? No, of course not. But one thing I noticed was how many of the marginalized characters had agency, made their own decisions, controlled their own lives. There’s spoilers in this, so I’m going to tuck the text behind a fold.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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NOTE:
This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Fox’s Last Man On Earth.

Phil Miller has spent much of his post-virus last man on earth time wallowing in his own filth, drunk, in droopy underpants. In the Before Times, the 41 year old man had a job- not a career- as a temp. Unless the Tuscan, AZ temp market is vastly different from the Chicago, IL temp market, he was making $8-11 an hour, or just enough to afford his shabby apartment, single lifestyle, and not much more.

When Phil, who has given up on personal hygiene, sobriety, and life, meets clean and well groomed (shaved legs, even!) Carol, he stumbles across her clean drying laundry (and bra) first, spinning a fantasy of the sexy young soulmate they belong to. Carol’s less than conventionally attractive appearance puts him off immediately. She doesn’t live up to his fantasy. She isn’t what he deserves. Phil, who has literally been living in a pile of garbage and shitting in a pool, is convinced that she isn’t good enough for him. This despite the fact that Carol, annoying quirks aside, has her life pretty together. She manages to bathe and wash her laundry, for instance. She has plans for the future that don’t involve soaking in an inflatable pool filled with alcohol. And unlike temp Phil she had an actual career as an office manager of a business, which meant she was making significantly more than Phil and also probably had PTO, health insurance, and a 401k. In the old world, there’s a good chance she would have been out of his league, and yet Phil considers himself comfortably superior to her because of her appearance and insistence on stopping at stop signs (which, by the way, ignoring stop signs lead to a car crash when Melissa shows up). But really, which is worse: being a stickler for grammar or shitting in a pool and living amidst literal piles of literal garbage with food crusted on your face and in your beard?

Likewise, when Melissa shows up– younger looking than Carol, more conventionally attractive, more stylish, more made-up, more blonde– Phil feels entitled to her sexually and emotionally. She is more attractive than him, and again, in the before times she had a career as a Real Estate Agent and made FAR more money than he did. She, again, would have been very out of his league and yet he feels entitled to her simply because he exists and he wants her. Melissa can barely tolerate his creepy and predatory company, desperate horniness aside. (And in a world where every single vibrator and battery is free and available, would she REALLY be that desperate for sex with a creepy married dude? That plotlette very much feels like something a group of dudes would come up with.) Phil has nothing to offer her besides sex, and yet he feels he deserves her and if given the chance (no Carol, no Todd) she would realize how great he is and return his interest and attention, even though he has an established history of lying to her and betraying her trust.

This is an example of the same male entitlement that gives rise to the Nice Guys who have nothing to offer save feigned respect and kindness with an ulterior motive, and who deride and berate the women (usually better looking, with better jobs and social skills) who don’t appreciate their greatness and refuse to fuck/date/marry them.

Phil’s attitude is toxic, and dangerous, and creates a hostile and threatening environment for Melissa and Carol to navigate. When Carol pulled a gun on drunk, urine-soaked Phil and demanded to know if he was a nice person or not he said he was. But as his interactions with his fellow survivors show, he isn’t very nice at all.

Will his brief moment of emotional vulnerability and truth with Melissa mark a change in his toxic personality, or will he continue being a barely likable (albeit wittily written) character? I have a sneaking suspicion that “Last Man On Earth” may reflect the reluctance of an increasing number of survivors to put with him and his manipulations.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I’ve had a large number of miscarriages since having Nikola (and some prior to him), which is one of the more frustrating forms of infertility. I can GET pregnant, obviously. I can’t STAY pregnant. Is it hormonal? Chromosomal? Something else? Who can say! Investigative tests can be really expensive and often don’t reveal anything anyway. I’m 36 and the age gap between Nikola and any hypothetical siblings is only increasing, and I made the decision recently to let go of the dream of a larger family, of another baby, of a sibling for Nikola.

It’s both sad and a relief.

I’ve never been a fan of infants, although I adore toddlers and get a big kick out of little kids.

Niko was out of school for almost two weeks due to a series of serious illnesses. Last Friday was his first day back in a while, and a gorgeous day to boot. After school let out I let him run around on the playground for over an hour. One of his friends kept touching base with his mom and baby sister. One heart melting moment included him touching foreheads with the giggling girl and exchanging smooches. All I could think of was how much I wanted that for my family, for Nikola. It was this sour, painful moment. But it passed quickly.

More than that brief pain, I mostly felt sympathy for the woman, juggling an early toddler who wasn’t quite walking and wanted to crawl around an unsuitable area (a paved surface covered in dirt, grit, broken glass, etc or a grassy area that was mostly mud and dog poop– thanks dog owners who bring their dogs onto school property where kids play and run and let your dogs crap there and don’t clean it up! Awesome!) and be anywhere but in her mom’s arms. And as much as I’d like another kid in my life, a sibling for Nikola, I am so so glad I don’t have to deal with a baby.

I’ve started thinking about the expenses of another kid, and how we’re able to give Niko more… more books, more toys, more museum memberships, mini boxes of cereal and juice boxes and other tiny little indulgent luxuries.

I’m starting to not just adjust to having only one child, but to prefer it.

(Having made this decision, of course, my period was then over a week late. Thanks body! You suck!)

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Hello, gentle readers.

I am discontinuing this blog for a number of not very interesting reasons.

I am continuing to blog at my main general-purpose blog and will be mentioning Nikola there from time to time if you want to follow along. But I’m swinging the focus off of him specifically.

Feel free to visit us at Words Words Words Art.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Nikola, almost six, is an only child who never attended day care or much in the way of play groups. Pre-Kindergarten and its broad swath of germs and viruses hit him hard. Kindergarten is hitting him less hard, but that’s like saying getting struck down by a golf cart is better than being flattened by a fast moving freight train. You’re still on the ground counting your bones and wondering what hit you.

Niko has a gross cold that leaves him snotty (although he’s finally figuring out how to blow his nose) and with a nasty cough. I kept him home from school yesterday because the cough was disrupting his sleep and he was on edge and poorly. Then last night his cough progressed to triggering vomiting. Thankfully he knew what was up and called me in to help him and we kept the mess pretty contained, at least physically. But he doesn’t enjoy vomiting, or coughing excessively, or feeling out of control, especially at 1:30 in the morning. I mean, who does? So the coughing till he pukes events usually progress to crying till he coughs more and then pukes again. One of my mom jobs is to calm him down when he gets worked up (even when he’s healthy, as he has asthma) because crying can lead to coughing can lead to grossness.

I cleaned up the puke, got him calmed down, helped him blow his nose and drink some water, cranked up his humidifier, fluffed his pillows, and did everything else I could to help him sleep comfortably. I gave him the last of the liquid benedryl we have on hand because it can shrink swelling in nasal passages and dry up postnasal drip, helping ease coughing and make breathing easier. He declined the codeine cough syrup we have for him (it tastes like fire) but if he’s coughing this much again tonight I’m going to insist he take it. But other than that, there’s nothing I can do. I mean, I can sit up on the couch with him, supporting his body so he’s not lying down, and hope that helps his cough. I can push fluids into him during the day, and feed him chicken soup. I can take him to the doctor (where they’ll say “yup, that’s a cold, keep him hydrated. that’ll be $25 please.”). But I can’t really make him better.

Most cold remedies don’t work any better than a placebo, while also having some pretty severe side effects, especially for children. There’s nothing I can give Niko to make him all better. If I could pull the sickness out of his body and endure it myself I would. All I can do is try to make him comfortable and be thankful this isn’t Pertussis.

Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough for the whooping sound of the coughs, or 100 day cough because of how long the illness usually lasts (10 weeks or longer, ie, over 2 1/2 months), is a highly contagious bacterial infection. It causes coughing so extreme that people wit it vomit, can break ribs, or become utterly exhausted. After coughing they can pass out; during coughing they can wet themselves, tear open arteries, burst capillaries in their eyes, or develop hernias. Infants don’t always develop the cough, sometimes they just stop breathing. Complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, and seizures. Despite the fact that a Pertussis vaccine was developed in the 1940s and has been proved resoundingly effective and safe, people are still rejecting it out of fear and misinformation. And so a disease that could be completely eradicated in the USA has pockets where it lives and strikes those most vulnerable to it, hospitalizing many of them and killing some of them.

Nikola will be sick for a week or two. He’ll probably miss 4-5 days of school (a school week). He’ll be gross and miserable and he’ll probably get this one or two more times this school year, and hopefully will get it less often next year. We’ll continue to treat him kindly and gently and help him use his inhaler so he can breathe better. He’ll be miserable and I’ll be miserable and I’ll lie awake at night listening to him cough and worrying, and listening to him NOT cough and worrying about THAT.

But it’s not Pertussis, at least.

That’s something.

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One of the big explanations/excuses for why various transphobic laws restricting public bathroom use to genitals is that it protects women from men who’d put on wigs and dresses (and shave their bodies? and wear foundation garments? and pad themselves? and use extensive make up? and manage to find size 12 or larger womens’ shoes?) and assault women in the bathrooms while disguised as women, something which has never happened, although men dressed as men have assaulted women in bathrooms and have camped out in portapotties to get a glimpse of women using the toilets.

If legislatures really wanted to protect women in bathrooms, they’d realize that first of all, assault is assault. It doesn’t matter if a man assaults a man or a woman; it doesn’t matter if a woman assaults a man or a woman. If you’re in the bathroom and someone assaults you, that’s already a crime. You don’t need to make a special law that only targets one particular marginalized group of people on the grounds that one of them might maybe commit a crime at some point. Then maybe they’d look into laws across all states, or even federal laws, protecting people from “upskirt” photos. It’s legal, at least in Scotland, to install one-way mirrors in public bathrooms and then sell tickets for men to watch women using the bathroom. Has there been a rash of legislature outlawing that in the USA?

Laws barring Trans and Non-Binary/GenderQueer folk from bathrooms because of their genital configuration are not about protecting other bathroom users. They’re about curtailing the ability of Trans & GQ/NB to exist in the world without harassment. They’re about making it illegal to exist as a Trans & GQ/NB person when there are more and more laws protecting their right to exist. They’re about finding ways, about creating ways, to oppress a marginalized group and make it very clear that they are unwelcome and not fully human.

These proposed laws spin ciswomen as delicate tender flowers needing extra protection and transwomen as sexual predators who are “really” men. They are harmful and they are bullshit and they are created not out of any desire to help or protect but out of the desire to actively oppress and harm Trans and GQ/NB people.

This is a tremendous problem.

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I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen “Star Wars.” I grew up with it. The original trilogy is one of my mom’s favorite films, and she took Baby Me into the theater to see “The Empire Strikes Back,” nursing me to keep me quiet. We used to check out the television magazine in the Sunday Tribune and highlight the showings of “Star Wars” movies, and she’d let me stay up late to watch them. She started reading me “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” as a bedtime story when I was so young that it just sank into my conscious. I don’t remember hearing it for the first time, I don’t remember a time without those stories in my blood, although I do remember lying on an inflatable pool float on the floor one hot and sticky summer listening to her reading to me and my brothers. Something was going on with our bedrooms, I don’t remember what, and we weren’t able to sleep in them. So we camped out on the floor upstairs and she read to us by candle light.

My mom introduced me to a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and encouraged me to read and enjoy the genre. She scoured used book stores for out of print books back in the day when out of print books could be very hard to find (no internet!). She took it as given that I could and should love these books, these movies, these tv shows. She shared them with me, shared her love and adoration, her visions of the future and endless possibilities.

I know a huge amount of women who are really deeply invested in science fiction and fantasy books, movies, and tv shows. Most of them were introduced to it by other women, by their moms and aunts and older sisters and cousins and best friends. Paperbacks are circulated, pages worn fabric-smooth, binding creased and bent and chipping away, covers held on with yellowing tape. Read this. Try this. What do you think of this? Have you read this one yet? We induct each other into little worlds, usher each other in, introduce each other to our favorite books and characters and authors and worlds.

More and more the recommendations involve “there’s a female central character!” or “nobody gets raped in this one!”

Science Fiction and Fantasy, like Gaming, has a reputation as being male-dominated, a genre ruled by men: written by men, about men, for men. Women interested in these areas are treated as trespassers, foreigners, creatures suspect and false. This despite the fact that there’s a very long history of women writing Science Fiction and Fantasy… that one could easily argue that the novel in general and Science Fiction specifically were founded/originated by women authors. Women have always been involved with Science Fiction, with Fantasy, with Gaming, with Horror, with Pulp, with all the little islands men set themselves up as absolute rulers of despite all evidence to the contrary.

So let’s have a toast to the women in our lives who introduce us to our favorite nerd things, our geeky tv shows and movies and books and games. Let’s think of our lady friends and their recommendations and our history. Let’s remember each other with fondness and kindness and keep sharing our passion and love.

Women have been a part of every aspect of nerd culture since the very beginning. We aren’t going anywhere. But we’re bringing others with us.

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I have a sick kid, so haven’t been able to watch movies lately.

He’s not worryingly sick, just sick enough to stay home from school (first with a stomach bug, then with a cold).

If he were 10 or older I’d try to find movies to watch with him/around him. But he’s 5, and my review of “Curious George And The Big Halloween Boo Fest Of Ridiculous Circumstances” would only devolve into a rant about colonization and the 1%.

I’ll finish up reviewing 31 movies total, but alas, it might not happen until after October is finished.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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“Audrey Rose” is a movie about white people discovering Hinduism.

There are good things to say about “Audrey Rose.” Anthony Hopkins is outstanding in the film as bereaved father slash stalker, and child actress Susan Swift was simply phenomenal. Additionally, unlike a lot of modern films, background New York is filled with People of Color: Black cops, a Black bailiff, a Jewish lawyer who talks about Shabbas and Dybbuks, a restaurant filled with patrons including a Black woman and a Sikh family, a mixed race jury, Indian expert witnesses. Most modern movies are notoriously, unrealistically white.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have much else redeeming it, and also suffers badly under Indian-specific Orientalism.

The plot of the movie is that young Ivy Templeton regularly has night terrors right around her birthday. They get worse the older she gets. Meanwhile, around her 11th birthday, a creeper dude (Hopkins) has been lurking around outside her school, following her and her mom home, trailing her dad en route to work, slipping gifts for her into her dad’s grocery bag, etc. The tension ramps up and then takes a frankly bizarre and almost preachy turn for pro-reincarnation… from a very Western European/Monotheistic point of view.

Stalker Elliot Hoover reveals that lost his wife and daughter in a horrific car crash almost 11 years ago, and that night terror afflicted Ivy is his daughter reincarnated, and her soul can’t rest because reasons. Ivy’s mother Janice, who is very ineffectual (sobbing and screaming while her daughter has a night terror, for instance), falls for Hoover’s line of bull very quickly to her husband Bill’s disgust. The movie seesaws for a while between “Is Hoover just a creepy stalker” and “no this is for real come on” and comes down too heavily pro-reincarnation. It’s very much a Movie With A Message (reincarnation is totally cool and every single person in India has no fear of death and never grieves for the dead because they all, every single one of them, believe in reincarnation and everything’s totally peaceful and cool if filled with violence and starvation they’re just, you know, so SPIRITUAL) that includes a freaking court trial to determine whether or not Ivy is Hoover’s reincarnated daughter.

They decide to settle things with a dose of hypnosis/age regression which people keep stressing out about how OMG DANGEROUS!!!!!!!!! it is. Ivy dies from it, for ~reasons~ and the movie closes with Janice penning a thank you letter to Hoover where she talks about both reincarnation and heaven. The cosmology is sloppy.

I wanted to like this movie a lot, and would have enjoyed it more if there’d been more of a question over whether or not reincarnation existed/Ivy was Audrey Rose reincarnated. Also if there’d been less cultural appropriation of reincarnation/Hinduism. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely incredible, though, so if you’re a big fan watch it just for him.

This movie gets 2 out of 5 stars.

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“Cockneys Vs Zombies” is not “Shaun of the Dead,” but kind of wants to be.

It’s a bank heist movie and a family movie and a zombie movie, mashed together. It’s a dark comedy that isn’t very funny. As an American, a lot of the references, jokes, and choice of actors was completely beyond me, though, so perhaps if I were English I would have appreciated it more. Netflix recommended this movie based on my enjoyment of “John Dies at the End” so I was expecting something very weird, and this… wasn’t that weird.

The movie opens with a construction crew doing some digging. Two men discover a sealed vault and open it up, hoping to find treasure. Instead they find a bunch of bones, and a meaty damp-looking mobile corpse that quickly attacks them. This unleashes the zombie horror on London’s East End. While that’s cooking, Terry and Andy MacGuire discuss their bank robbery plans. They very obviously have no idea what they’re actually doing, and are making a lot of very bad decisions. Their day job apparently consists of taking hot pre-packaged meals to residents of Care Homes (Retirement Communities), including their grand dad Ray, who raised them. Ray berates them for working such a crap job, tries to inspire them to work harder, to get better jobs, to make more of themselves. Ray, and the rest of the residents, are troubled by the fact that the land their home is on has been sold, and they are all going to be relocated someplace else. Other than his service in World War II, Ray has never been outside of the East End. All of his friends, his family, his memories, his shops, he’ll be leaving all that behind. He’s not looking forward to it.

The movie splits into two congruent story lines as the boys head out to rob a bank. They pick up their cousin Katey and two male friends of theirs. In the ordinary course of things, they should have stuck with Katey alone. Since one of those friends had a massive stash of guns, however, it turns out to have been a good choice. Their bank robbery is a massive bumbling clusterfuck that veers away from being a shoot out with the police at the end due only to a surge of zombies that ate the cops. The group heads out, quickly realizing what’s going on… and resolving to go rescue their grand dad.

This movie isn’t as weird or as funny as I was hoping, and a lot of the special effects fall flat, looking too obviously computer-generated. The acting is good, though, and the movie does do a few remarkable things:

  • Katey is a phenomenal character, and I wish she’d been a protagonist or is the star of a sequel or something. She’s a well written, well-realized character who is an expert at lock picking and hot wiring, she’s quick on the uptake and an excellent shot, she’s very focused, she cares deeply about her cousins and grand dad. She’s utterly amazing, and she isn’t sexually assaulted or raped.
  • In fact, nobody in the movie is sexually assaulted or raped or threatened with same. There’s some rude jokes about sex, but nothing threatening. This is an incredibly welcome change and I deeply appreciate it.
  • Gentrification is directly addressed in this movie, with Ray and his friends having their home taken from them so a development company can erect luxury flats or whatever. The old folks are simply expected to shuffle away, are treated as inconvenient. The zombie plague is, after all, directly caused by the development company. The group of survivors takes a moment to question whether or not the police/military will even make an effort to save East End and its residents, and Ray says they’ll save themselves, as they’ve always done.
  • While predominantly white, two Black men have speaking roles (one of them significant), and the zombie hoards include PoC. It’s pretty common for people to say “Oh well this movie/show/etc is set in England so obvos every single person has to be white, regardless of England’s actual demographics.” So it was nice to see a mixed cast.
  • There’s a lot of women in this film, and they talk about stuff other than men (mostly they talk about zombies). Katey and Emma are full and active participants in the movie with critical roles, and never play damsels in distress or need special ladysaving. Peggy, Ray’s girlfriend, acquits herself well against zombies using both a sledgehammer and a machine gun.
  • There is no question of leaving any of Ray’s elderly and disabled/slow moving friends behind. They aren’t CARRIED, either. Erik is assisted in walking (he just had a hip replacement), but he and Hamish (who uses a walker) primarily move under their own power, of their own volition. Through the movie, the old folks are shown as having value and being able to control the situation.

There’s a lot I appreciate about this movie, and I wish I liked it more. It really needed tighter writing, better pacing, and more humor. I mean, there’s a scene where an old man in a bathrobe escapes a zombie horde while using a walker, and it just… kind of… falls… flat. They escape in a double decker bus. There’s these ridiculous moments, but it never really gels.

I have a feeling this movie gets compared to “Shaun of the Dead” a LOT for a number of reasons and it just doesn’t measure up at all. Sadly, it’s pretty derivative, so it utterly fails at being its own thing instead. I don’t regret seeing this movie, but I wish it had been better. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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“Candyman” is a classic horror movie about racism, abandonment, and Chicago.

I grew up in a really religious household, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, I went to Catholic school from second grade (CCD classes prior to that) through High School. The way I was raised just felt normal. Most of my friends were Catholic, or came from conservative families, or both. My parents were a little stricter in some ways than my friends’ parents, and I felt very little desire to rebel against them (out of very real fear of rejection/abandonment. Ironically, I got thrown out of the house for doing laundry at the wrong time and not for any petty teenage rebellion or high spirits. In retrospect, I could have lived it up a lot more and gotten the same result.). So when my parents banned almost every movie in existence, I didn’t really question it or try to sneak around to watch them. The upshot is that there are a ton of classic movies I have never seen. “Candyman” is one of them.

“Candyman” is a movie set in Chicago. Like the best urban fantasy and horror the city is a vital, integral part of the story. It’s almost a character in its own right. The movie opens tracking vehicles along the knotted tangle of expressways, moving from the South Side Northwards. Views of the luxurious high rise condos of the Gold Coast through protagonist Helen Lyle’s window; the cop car tooling down Lower Wacker Drive; Cabrini-Green, the setting of much of the horror; the University of Illinois at Chicago, pre-extensive external renovations; the bridges spanning the cold murky depths of the Chicago River; Stroger Hospital. Part of the character of Chicago is racism and segregation, and the movie digs much more deeply into issues like systemic racism and sexism than I was expecting.

Grad Students Helen Lyle and Bernadette Walsh are working on a thesis about Urban Legends, back when your average college student didn’t know what Urban Legends were. Helen’s husband, Trevor, is a professor at UIC. Despite her protests, he touches on Urban Legends in a lecture, cuing in potential interviewees/story tellers about what Urban Legends are and how they spread. He’s also very flirty with a female student, something he seems to have a history with. While transcribing tape recordings about a Bloody Mary-esque character named “Candyman” in her office, a cleaning lady mentions she’s heard about him. Intrigued and hungry for more data, Helen asks her and then another cleaning lady (who lives in Cabrini-Green) questions. They tell her a story about a woman who was killed by Candyman when he came in through her bathroom mirror… waiting in an adjoining apartment, removed the mirrored medicine cabinet, kicked her mirrored medicine cabinet out, and came through the hole. Helen does a bit of research and discovers that this is an actual thing that actually happened, and that the Housing Projects were so poorly made that the medicine cabinets were just set into holes in the cinderblock walls. There was nothing, no barrier, between the medicine cabinets. The victim called the police twice about the intruder, called 911 to report a break in, and was ignored.

I want to point out two things here:

1) Bernadette and the cleaning women are all Black, and the film passes the Bechdel test with wildly flying colors. Helen listens attentively to the cleaning women and treats them as experts in their knowledge, learns from them… but she’ll also be profiting from their story in a way they can’t, as she has access to academia and publishing and they don’t.

2) The bit about the congruent space between bathrooms? True. People WERE murdered by intruders punching through the bathroom cabinets. “Candyman” is based on a Clive Barker short story, a story written by an Englishman and set in England. Bernard Rose, another Englishman, wrote the script and directed the movie and did a fantastic job localizing the story. At the same time, he’s a white man who is literally profiting off the pain of Black people, sensationalizing actual horrific things that actually happened to actual people and making money off them in ways the people who experienced these things don’t have means of doing. Themes of abandonment thread their way through the film: people call 911 and are dismissed; Helen calls her husband for help and he’s off fucking a student; Helen and other people scream for help and are ignored; Trevor abandons Helen for his sexy perky-nippled student; multiple housing projects holding thousands of people are left to rot and decay, those within written off as unsalvageable human trash.

After a smug, condescending lecture from another man doing Urban Legend work, Helen decides that she and Bernadette are going to gather some first hand data and visit the Cabrini-Green projects, interview some residents, take some photos. This is a shockingly bad idea and Bernadette, who has actual brains in her head, does everything she can to convince Helen not to go. The two women wind up going together. A resident points out that every time white people come by bad things follow them, and this is very true as Helen’s actions rile up Candyman and cause problems for everyone, including herself.

The “real” history of Candyman, which omits his name and date of birth or death, is an absolutely unrealistic bit of unlikely circumstance and convoluted torture and murder, yet is told as unassailable fact by a man who studies Urban Legends and their hallmarks. The Urban Legend of a man breaking through a medicine cabinet is revealed to be true. UIC, a campus rich with Urban Legends of its own (both legends common to any campus with heavy use of Brutalist Architecture as well as more specific ones relating to the Behavior Science Building and Art and Architecture Building), is a wonderful choice as Helen and Bernadette’s college. Helen is attacked, but is not sexually assaulted or raped; she undresses on camera and it’s not titillating or voyeuristic. Her friendship with Bernadette is deep and loving. Helen repeatedly crawls through small openings, emerging from screaming mouths, born again from concrete birth canals. Helen fights to retain control of herself, of her mind, of her actions.

“Candyman” also explicitly questions the function of Urban Legends. Why are they so wide spread? Why are they so important? What do they mean, what do they offer? What if they are religion, a sacrament, something sacred and divine? What if we create god? What if our desires and fears manifest themselves as power and flesh, and become hungry? What if Urban Legends grant a special form of immortality?

It’s a fantastic movie.

It’s also not without its flaws.

One of the themes of the movie is that Candyman, a large Black man who is literally not human, preys upon and controls a white woman. He ruins her character, destroys her mind, posesses her, touches her body, kisses her. This is a pretty common, and pretty racist, fear about scary Black men despoiling white women. This could have been avoided by casting Helen Lyle as pretty much any ethnicity other than white, even made less obvious by darkening her hair. Urban Legends and stereotypes about sexually insatiable white-virgin-deflowering Black men abound. Does the movie knowingly play with this trope, or simply lazily fall prey to it?

Ultimately, I was pretty blown away by this movie and wish I’d watched it earlier. I was aware of its status as “cult classic,” and all too often that means “kind of shitty and very dated” (and so much about this movie IS dated, like UIC’s East Side architecture which as drastically been changed, or the fact that most of the housing projects have since been torn down and the ones close enough to the Gold Coast developed as luxury condos… which were supposed to be mixed-use with a certain percentage going to CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) tenants. That has overwhelmingly failed to happen, and a whole lot of people have been left homeless.). But there’s a lot about this movie to enjoy, to think about, and to unpack.

In my personal rating system for 31 days of horror, 5 stars means “buy this movie, it has good re-watch potential”; 4 stars means “rent this movie, watch it”; 3 stars means “find this movie for free, eh”; 2 stars means “skip it”; and 1 star means “ugh.” I’ve run across one movie that I thought deserved negative stars. “Candyman” is the first movie I felt deserved 5 stars. There’s a lot going on.

5 out of 5 stars for “Candyman.”

I’m really glad. I was getting super burned out by shitty, hateful, shallow gore horror and flapping tits.

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“Vampires” is a pseudo-documentary about vampiric society in Belgium.

I’m a big fan of vampires, and a year or more ago saw a trailer for a vampire mockumentary making its rounds online. When I was flipping through netflix and saw a vampire mockumentary I thought YES THIS IS IT FINALLY and settled in. I was soon confused. This was… subtitled? I didn’t… remember… subtitles? It turns out the trailer I had watched was for “What We Do In The Shadows” which hasn’t been released in the USA yet but contains the line “we’re Werewolves not Swearwolves.” Can you see why I was so excited about it?

The movie I actually watched is simply called “Vampires” and is a Belgian film.

The film asks very reasonable questions: what if vampires existed? How would their society work? How would it affect human society? Are all vampire societies the same? What would happen if a documentary crew followed a vampire family around for a while?

Like good fake documentaries/mockumentaries, the film takes itself just seriously enough. It’s grounded very firmly in reality and recognizes that vampires living openly would cause some pretty big changes in human society. I was expecting more dark humor than there was, though. There is a lot to poke fun at or find tragihumorous with regard to vampires, and the “dark comedy” wasn’t very comedic… or perhaps humor was lost in translation.

One interesting aspect of the film is that the vampires are very much portrayed as the 1%, so to speak. They keep a woman, a former prostitute, in their house. They refer to her as “Meat” or “The Meat” and feed from her on special occasions because she tastes good, much as one would keep a goat around to milk it. The cops bring them (Black) “illegal immigrants” and criminals, who they refer to as “sausages,” who are kept in a pen in the back yard like livestock to be drained to death to feed them. They apparently stole the house they live in, the former owners dessicated body stored in the living room, wearing a clown wig. Vampire families with children are given (take? are assigned?) houses while vampires without children are forced to live in the basements of vampire families. The family that’s followed is casually racist, sexist, and ablist. When they are exiled to Montreal, Canada the adults are shocked to find that they are expected to work for a living and can’t casually murder anyone they feel like. But the social commentary is glancing at best, not very meaty at all.

This was an ok film with a few interesting concepts, but it doesn’t go deep enough, far enough, or darkly humorous enough. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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“The Awakening” is a tense ghost story set in a boarding school in the early 1920s.

If you’re anything like me, you saw “The Awakening” available to watch on netflix and thought to yourself “Huh. I wonder if there’s any connection to Kate Chopin’s feminist short story about desire and sexual awakening.” The answer is no, although the trousers-wearing (at home, at least), cigarette smoking, atheist, ghost debunking Florence Cathcart has consensual sex with the emotionally traumatized but sex headmaster of a haunted boarding school, which is pretty great for a woman in London in 1921. Cathcart, who’s written a best selling novel about ghosts not being real, also works with the police to debunk fraudulent charlatan spiritualists intent on ripping off grieving patrons… an actual thing that actually happened, although in real life they pulled cheesecloth “ectoplasm” from various orifices, instead of using blood capsules and killing birds. After one successful raid, she’s approached by a teacher at a boys’ boarding school in Cumbria. A boy has died recently, apparently at the hands of a ghost, and the students are terrified. After a bit of emotional blackmail on his part, she agrees to join him at the school and investigate things.

At the school she reveals she attended Cambridge, unusual for a woman of her time. She sets up a variety of ghost/fraud hunter traps including tripwire cameras, and investigates the school. Despite some creepy events (including an alarming and unsettling dollhouse), she figures out what happened: some of the boys pranked her… and the dead child was killed because the English teacher locked him outside in the dark to help him “man up.” Terrified and alone, he had an asthma attack and died. “These boys must be strong– stronger than us,” he says in his defense.

The specter of both victims of the flu and the dead and surviving soldiers of World War I are laced throughout the film. There’s conflict between Robert Mallory, the teacher who contacted Cathcart, who is a veteran and Edward Judd, the groundskeeper, who faked physical disability to avoid being drafted. Mallory resents Judd’s cowardice while Judd resents that Mallory and other veterans are treated as heroes, as his betters. Cathcart, it turns out, is obsessed with ghosts because she desperately wants them to be real, she desperately wants to make amends to her dead fiance.

The acting in the film is fantastic, and the cinematography is interesting. It has a washed out, faded look and feel to it that I absolutely adored. Had the movie ended with Cathcart solving the mystery of the student’s death and leaving the fate of ghosts up in the air, I would have been very happy. A nice little mystery neatly solved, with the question of spirits not conclusively solved. Sadly, the movie continues on, and although the acting and atmosphere are both wonderful the plot descends into convoluted yet predictable plot twists and el oh el the skeptic is proven wrongity wrong about her deeply held beliefs and career.

There’s also an attempted rape scene, where Judd just happens to witness Cathcart and Mallory having consensual sex, so he decides that Cathcart is a slut and he beats her and tries to rape her, because that’s the price that must be paid if one is to see a woman in a film I guess. It’s a price I’m getting increasingly tired of paying, and quite frankly I’m getting burnt out on movies at this point. I was really enjoying “The Awakening” ridiculous over-telegraphed “plot twists” and all, and then BAM! a violent struggle and attempted rape of a very cool woman. There’s no escaping it. And that’s just so incredibly depressing and disheartening.

If the movie had ended after the mystery of the student’s death was solved, I would have rated this a 4 out of 5 stars. But it went on and took some bad turns and ultimately, as much as I wanted to like this movie, it only gets 3 out of 5 stars. Which is a shame. The acting is great, the ghostiness is great, the creep actor ramps up nicely (I’ve never seen such an effective use of a spooky dollhouse), and the cinematography is gorgeous. Alas.

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“V/H/S” is a movie that exists in the world.

One of the problems with “V/H/S,” and there are many, is that it came out in 2012 and features people recording things on digital cameras (or directly onto a laptop), but then other people watch those recordings on VHS tapes. Like, what? Really? Seriously? These folks couldn’t have found a DVD or website or something? It’s a conceit that would have worked 10 or so years ago, but now? One of the video vignettes is specifically dated in the 1990s, and it makes sense that it’d be on video tape. But it’s hard to find excuses to have people continuing to record while horrific things are happening around them, so two different vignettes use a headcam… one of which is disguised as a pair of glasses.

If you’re unfamiliar with “V/H/S,” it’s an anthology of 5 short horror films within a framework of a bunch of dickbags robbing a house looking for a special VHS tape. “You’ll know it when you see it,” they’re told. Why do I say they’re dickbags? They make a living assaulting women in parking garages and restraining them while they pull their shirts up and videotape them struggling, naked breasts exposed, and selling the footage to “reality porn” websites. They also record sexual encounters without the partners being aware of the recording. And they record themselves smashing up peoples’ homes for larks or whatever. I don’t know what any of their names are. They’re violent, they’re sexual predators, and I don’t give a fuck about them. I don’t care that they broke into a creepy dark house with a dead body in it and continued to faff about watching VHS tapes in the presence of the dead body and gathering up all the other VHS tapes that were stored in the basement far away from the multiple television screens for whatever ridiculous reason. Each vignette (watched by one of the B&E dudes) is framed by spooky stuff happening to the guys. But… I don’t care about them. So big deal.

The first vignette is about a group of dudebros who have made a pair of fake glasses that takes digital video and sound. They decide to go pick up a woman and have sex with her and record it, without telling her. Again, this is the second time “videoing a woman having sex without her permission” comes up as a plausible, possible, good choice of action. They go to a bar, get super drunk, take two young women back to a hotel. One of them passes out while a guy is trying to initiate sex. His friends laughingly advise him not to rape her. He turns his attention onto the other young woman, who is pretty creepy. She turns into some kind of vampire ghoul thing and eats everyone. This is actually an interesting idea, and I’d love to watch a movie about a freaky vampire ghoul thing that looks like a human woman and eats dudes. But about 75% of the vignette is the dudes wobbling around getting drunk and bro-ing it up and just generally boring the piss out of me. Also, there’s the troubling idea that a group of men try to take advantage of a woman but she is a violent monster who eats them so everything’s ok.

The second vignette is a video of a young couple on a second honeymoon road trip. You know how people groan about other folks’ vacation photos? Remember how old sitcoms used to feature vacation photo slides as like the most horrific boring thing in existence? Imagine watching an excruciatingly dull video of two strangers on a road trip as they record the scenery dribbling past and make small talk. It was like experiencing death. There’s a creepy part where the couple goes to bed and then at night the camera clicks on and pans over the dude asleep in his bed and then it continues panning over to the gal asleep in HER bed, and the videographer strokes her ass (clad, of course, in a lace thong) with a switch blade. It was a very creepy scene, very fantastically done. Later on the same videographer comes into the room at night and records herself killing the dude and then making out with the gal, because they planned this murder-thing for whatever reason. Killer records herself making out with New Widow, and we hear New Widow asking for reassurances that the footage had been erased. Earlier, her husband tried hard to coerce her into getting naked on camera for him. I mean, he really put the pressure on. He also recorded her changing her clothing without her knowledge/permission. So again, this is the third piece that involves filming a woman without consent.

The third vignette is about a young woman who lures a group of people to an isolated vacation spot to act as bait for the serial killer/boogeyman that killed her friends previously, so he’ll come out and she can kill him. She fails. The special effects were good– he (she? it?) didn’t show up on the recording except as glitchy static-y artifacts. There was a LOT of wasted time, irritating characters, and general bad acting. As with the previous two vignettes, a woman is a predator. The guys also take close up video shots of the breasts of the other woman in the group, and constantly refer to her as a slut.

The fourth vignette is a skype/webcam exchange recorded directly to a laptop. Why the fuck would it be on a VHS tape? It’s about a guy pretending to be the long distance boyfriend (and almost a doctor!) of a young woman he’s known since childhood. She is concerned about a lump on (in) her arm, and possible ghosts in her apartment. The lump is a tracking device and the ghosts are actually aliens who’ve been using her body to host alien/human hybrids… one of which we see the fake doctor boyfriend carve out of her body. Although the fetus is pretty big, she didn’t look pregnant at all. He arranges things to have her fake-diagnosed– and medicated– as shizoaffective, leaving her even more emotionally reliant on him. She was unaware he recorded all of their conversations, including her taking off her shirt and playing with her breasts. As he closes a conversation with her, he opens another one with a different woman that plays out exactly the same way: she takes off her shirt and plays with her breasts, then picks at her arm while complaining of a lump. This is actually an interesting story with serious pacing issues, mediocre acting, and a very low believability. The set up is too complicated, the removed fetus is too big, etc. And, again, this is the fourth vignette… the fifth piece over all… that records and displays a woman’s breasts without her consent.

The fifth vignette is about a group of guys who are headed out to a Halloween party, in costume. They wander into the wrong house and although it’s extremely obvious they’re in the wrong place they explore all the rooms and then head upstairs where they see some kind of ritual involving a tied-up woman and a knife. There’s some great scary special effects, but the set up (dudes in costume wandering around what is obviously the wrong house) is so ridiculous and the guys so bland and boring not even the effects could save it. To their credit, they try to save the woman, but it turns out she’s evil and kills them. Again, woman as predator.

I watch these movies and I take notes on them as I watch. I’ve noticed that the more I like a movie, the fewer notes I take. I took 2 pages of notes for “John Dies at the End,” and 3 pages of notes for “Pontypool,” but most of those notes were ruminations on the nature of fear and zombie movies, not the actual movie. “V/H/S” resulted in six pages of notes, including notes in the margins. This is time of my life, both watching and reviewing this movie, that I’ll never get back. This time has been utterly wasted.

The acting throughout the anthology is very uneven. Characterization is almost entirely absent. When it’s present, the characters are unrepentant assholes who sexually assault women for money or fun. The editing is very poor… most of the vignettes could have stood to be half as long, literally, as they were. I get establishing a sense of normalcy and complacency before whipping out the big horror guns, but tedium is not the way to do it. “Pontypool” handled this really well, and the contrast is striking. Women are overwhelmingly treated as sexual objects, victims, or monster predators (often all three) and not human beings. A lot of the special effects are great and there’s some genuinely creepy/scary moments, but they are overwhelmingly lost in utter tedium and banality. There’s a lot of really great things like this on YouTube, but for free, and better in every possible way.

I give this movie 1 out of 5 stars.

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“Pontypool” is a zombie movie without zombies.

There is an obvious appeal to zombie movies. A person or small group of people is faster, stronger, and smarter than the overwhelming shambling or running undead hordes. They thrive where others fall and fail. They survive, saving their own lives and possibly others. They are in the thick of things, confronting horrors directly, taking action. They see what there is to see and are able to find solutions to their immediate problems. They know what their probable doom looks like. How much more terrifying to be inactive, to be unable to tell what monsters are lurking, what they look like, where they are, what they want, when they will strike? To be passive, to wait, to listen and imagine?

This is the position radio DJ team Grant Mazzy, Sydney Briar, and Laurel-Anne Drummand find themselves in early one snowy Valentine’s morning in the small town of Pontypool in Canada. A boring morning stretches out before them, like so many other boring mornings, until they hear reports of a mob surrounding a doctor’s office and getting violent. They have difficulty confirming this. The police aren’t talking about it. They, especially new hire Grant, worry that it’s a hoax.

It’s not.

What’s going on is a virus infecting language. It’s not airborne, it’s breath born. An infected person has trouble with language, with thought, with words and they search for someone else to infect, to pass the infection on. Their behavior is pretty zombie-like, violent and single-minded and unnerving.

There is a lot of action, of violence, happening but for the first… half? two thirds? of the movie it takes place off screen. We hear it, we hear of it, but we don’t see it… until suddenly it’s there, a mob of bloody hands battering at the glass panes of a door. It’s a tense movie, suspenseful, and that tension is a wonderful combination of good writing and good acting. I sat through a movie about a small group of people locked in a room and I enjoyed it because I cared about the people and what would happen to them. Their personalities and histories were quickly fleshed out, they interacted in a fun and believable manner, the conversation revealed things about themselves and their town. The movie is fast paced without being frenetic.

I’ve had several people recommend this movie to me over the past few years, and I’m glad I finally got around to watching it. I know some people who watch it every valentine’s day, and that’s fantastic. I don’t know that it’d hold up to multiple re-watches for me, though, so I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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“John Dies at the End” is a streamlined, condensed version of the popular novel of the same name.

The novel “John Dies at the End” was originally a web serial published in 2001. Thomas Dunne Books published it as a hardcover with additional materials in 2009. It’s a convoluted, complicated novel with a lot of characters and events going on. It’s an incredibly offensive book, a harmful book, liberally studded with racism, sexism, homophobia, and ablism like preserved fruits in a holiday cake. Its sequel, “This Book is Full Of Spiders,” has less harmful content, although it’s still present (and frankly the entire book exists to set up a massive dick joke). It’s an interesting book, if one can get past the nauseating, casual hate, and I enjoyed the story about two losers who fuck up their lives and manage to save the world kind of sort of. I was looking forward to the movie, but wasn’t able to see it in the theater.

At a little over 90 minutes, “John Dies at the End” is a condensed, simplified version of the story. Several characters were combined and Amy Sullivan’s story arc is severely truncated (although she also has more of a presence, earlier). What works in a novel won’t necessarily work in a movie, and the script absolutely plays to a movie’s strengths without adhering too closely to the novel. While the movie leaves out the brilliant use of music to annoy a ghost/demon, it does a fantastic job portraying the turkey-headed meat monster that menaces the main characters. Bafflingly, the female Irish Setter “Molly” is changed into a male Shiba Inu (?? or some other breed??) named Bark Lee.

The acting in the movie is excellent. Most of it is extremely understated and low key, a sense of resignation underpinning everything. The high points of terror and hysteria are more of a contrast, deliver more of a punch. David and John are fairly boring loser slackers who fumble their way through life, often drunk, who are thrust into extraordinary situations and circumstances which they mostly fuck up in very human ways. In both novel and movie, the world is saved not by them, but by a dog.

If you’re a fan of dark comedy and horror (two great tastes that etc), absolutely give this movie a shot. It made me want to re-read the book, which has a lot more going on. Be warned that when Korrock appears, he launches into a bit of a diatribe about “big Black cocks,” a remnant of the racism and homophobia from the novel. There’s a few other penis-related gags in the movie that stick out oddly as well, but again, trace their origin to the book. I enjoyed the book this movie is based on, so I was primed to enjoy the movie as well. But I think I would have liked it even without being a fan of the book.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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“Lake Dead” is a very bad movie, unless you are a fan of rape.

Did you watch soap operas in the 80s? I grew up in a very small town, and our neighborhood was in a valley near electric transformers. We didn’t have cable or satellite, and we only got a handful of channels on our ancient Zenith television. When I was in high school, I babysat for a family across the street who had cable. That’s when I realized Kes of “Star Trek: Voyager” had ear prosthetics to indicate she was an alien. Our reception was so static-y I’d just assumed her ears were normal ears. When your television options are limited and you aren’t allowed outside because your mom needs to be able to reach you by phone at a moment’s notice, you wind up watching a lot of shit tv. I watched “The Monkees” even though I hated it, and I watched soap operas. There is a special kind of ~ACTING~ common to soaps of the 1980s. I don’t know if this is still true… I have a deluxe cable package and a DVR and mostly watch super nerdy documentaries about THE CELTS and shit. Are there ancient dead bodies? I am on that like white on rice. But for soap operas of my childhood there was a certain signature acting style.

I was surprised and perplexed to see it show up in “Lake Dead.”

The movie kicks off with an old white man yelling at an old white woman about things (a ritual?) were gross and wrong and he was going to end it. The woman yells back that it’s “all we know.” He storms out, drives off, is stopped by a cop car. He gets out and taunts the cop, who has a sheriff badge, and is shot int he head and killed. The yelling, the emoting, the scenery chewing… I was on the edge of my seat waiting for evil twins and surprise babies or something. I was also intrigued by the mention of a ritual. I started getting really interested in the movie. SPOILER: the ritual is never mentioned again, even though I wrote it down twice in my notes. This movie would have been a lot better with a ritual. Was that a red herring? Did they forget about the ritual element? Did I mishear? Any of these are possible. Well, the first one isn’t probable… the movie isn’t smart enough for that, and assumes the audience is stupid or stoned, over-explaining certain plot elements while completely eliding various character details.

After the old man’s murder there’s some extremely boring credits: white words in generic font on a black background, no image or art.

The acting is over all extremely wooden and stiff, expressionless. Within a few minutes, I learned the name and occupation of The Hot Boyfriend, but at the end of the movie I still didn’t know the occupations (or interests, etc) of two of the main (female) characters.

These characters are:

  • Brielle: a hot blonde inheritor of the lake property, grand daughter of the old dude who was killed
  • Kelli: a hot blonde inheritor of the lake property, etc, a barista
  • Sam: a hot brunette inheritor of the lake property, adopted, brings strange dudes home and lets them sleep in her bed while she sleeps on the couch, drinks wine directly out of the bottle, owes Brielle $5k
  • Ben: a hot fairly buff dude who’s a construction worker, Brielle’s (live in?) boyfriend
  • Bill: chubby, hairy, unkempt friend of Ben’s; college athlete; Amy’s boyfriend; drinks early in the morning; serial cheater
  • Amy: hot brunette friend of Brielle’s; put-upon girlfriend of cheating schlub Bill; loves to tan; accused of being jealous of her constantly betraying boyfriend
  • Tonya: hot brunette friend of Kelli’s, asked to round out the numbers; likes having sex in the woods with hairy drunkards who cheat on their girlfriends; doesn’t go tanning

“Lake Dead” is very obviously a dude movie for dudes. Sam walks around in sexy underpants and a tight t-shirt to answer the door, which… look. Women, generally speaking, do not wear their underpants in public. They do not answer the door in their lacy lingerie. Do you know why? Because when a woman is sexually assaulted or raped one of the very first questions asked is “what were you wearing.” I’m not saying that a woman answering the door in sexy underpants is inviting rape. I’m saying that women are incredibly aware of the onus wrongly placed on them to prevent men raping them, and wandering around in public in your scanties is not a safe thing to do. And women’s underwear? Is pretty uncomfortable. The nicer looking/sexier/fancier it is, the less comfortable it is. Women, in general, do not lounge about in lingerie with their thighs crossed just so for the flattering angle. When you have a super hot chick and a dumpy dude fucking in the woods it is fundamentally WEIRD that the woman gets COMPLETELY naked for their quickie– the one his “jealous” girlfriend might interrupt at any second– while he stays fully dressed. I know, I know. you like tits! On women. You like women’s tits. And the whole point of your soft core sex moment in the film was to show off the hot actress you got and try to cover up how incredibly thin the plot is and how bad the acting is. I get it! That doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.

There’s 2 softcore sex scenes in the movie. There’s 4 attempted rape scenes. 2 of them are implied; 2 of them are interrupted, but the threat is there and the terror is there and the violence and physical restraint are there. There are twice as many rape scenes as consensual sex scenes in this movie, and one of those consensual sex scenes involves a dude who knows– he KNOWS– what he’s doing will hurt his girlfriend and doesn’t care.

This movie is a movie about attacking, controlling, and raping women. That’s what this movie is about– the assault, terror, brutalizing, and rape of women as entertainment. The psychological, emotional, and physical subjugation of women… for the enjoyment of a male audience. Brielle and Kelli are meant to be imprisoned, raped, and forced to bear children to continue a “pure” bloodline… and it isn’t lost on me that the “pure” women are blondes and the “impure” women are brunettes, one of them a WoC (Filipina). Nor is it lost on me that the blonde victims primarily scream and cry and are saved by Ben and by their estranged, alcoholic, abusive father. By the end of the movie, we know more about Ben than we do about Brielle. What’s her job? Does she have one? We at least know that Ben works in construction (and hates her adopted sister Sam).

Sam’s tortured extensively by her inbred uncles, dumped in a lake in the most inefficient and likely to be discovered way possible (they drive a shaft through her ankles while she’s still alive and attach a chain from the shaft to a cinder block to weigh her down. The open wound is a breeding ground for bacteria and an invitation for fish to nibble. Her feet will detach, the shaft will drop out, and her bloating corpse will rise to the surface of the “lake,” which is the size of a retention pond. they didn’t even bother to clean the room she was attacked in, leading to a ridiculous “close call” when the hotel manager/evil incest grandma gives the key to that room to one of the other girls.) but at least she isn’t raped (that I noticed). After her romp in the woods with Bill, Tonya’s chased through those woods and terrorized. As she’s pinned to a tree by a pickaxe through the face, one of the murdertwins (they are named, I shit you not, Kane and Abel) approaches her, unzipping his pants. We don’t see the rape, but it’s implied. Ben’s murdered and his corpse is hung from a tree, there’s no rape implication. The murdertwins attack the RV the survivors flee to, and Amy splits off to run into the woods and hide. She’s chased, brutalized, and bent over a tree branch while a murdertwin rubs against her from behind. Again, it implies rape, even though he appears fully clothed… Bill was fully clothed when he fucked Tonya in the woods previously.

When Sam was murdered and dumped in the lake, I was intrigued. Was this part of the ritual? Was there some kind of Wickerman-esque sacrifice? Did the lake need familial blood? No, as it turns out, there is no ritual. Sam was murdered, like Tonya and Amy and Bill, because they weren’t family. And Gloria, the hotel manager, was Grandpa’s wife (and sister?) and they had incestuous sex with their children, who apparently were all boys. But drunken daddy dearest got the hell out of dodge and spawned two girls and adopted a third and now grandma was all set to have her surviving male children rape and impregnate them. This is spelled out in detail in the movie. After being explicitly told this, we also see a character discover newspaper clippings lying out randomly on a table, and a family tree drawn on a wall. This movie takes absolutely no chances in underestimating the intelligence of its viewers. Daddy, of course, never told his girls anything about this… not even “my family was abusive and I left them because they hurt me, and they’ll hurt you too.”

This is not a good movie. There is nothing redeeming about this movie. The plot, the acting, everything is terrible and watching it left me feeling dirty and lessened. This is the second shitpile movie I watched on IFC. I’m starting thing Syfy will have better horror movies.

I give this movie 1 star out of 5 stars.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Christine” is a movie about a killer car, and is better than I expected.

This is the fifteenth movie I’ve seen for this project and I was starting to get really burnt out. The last Stephen King movie I watched was pretty tedious, so “Christine” was a great change of pace. Christine is a car that gets shit done. A few minutes into the movie and she attacks one dude and kills another (which, come on. He dropped big chunks of cigar ash all over her brand new seats. Rude!)

It’s a fast paced confection of a movie that doesn’t involve a lot of thinking. Cowardly, socially awkward, jackass nerd Arnie sees a rusted out ruin of a car and falls in love with it. Despite his best friend’s (his only friend) counseling him otherwise, he drops a big chunk of change to buy the car. It’s drivable, just barely, and he gets it home where his parents forbid him having it on their property. So he huffily drives over to a U-Pick/Auto Wrecking Yard/DIY Garage to rent a space for it. The gruff, cranky owner hassles him a bit, then lets him park the car there. Since this was the 1970s, nerd Arnie took shop class and knows how to fix a car. His demeanor, attitude, and style of dress all change and nerdy Arnie stops wearing his glasses and blooms into the total hottie that was within him all along. Except he’s also a jerk, which… he was a jerk when he was a put-upon nerd as well, now he just dresses better and has a totally sweet ride.

The totally gross bullies who hassled him when he was a carless nerd continue hassling him and trash his beloved car. However, since it’s a magic Satan car, it’s able to heal all the body damage done to it and then Arnie and Christine set about killinating. Arnie turns more and more into a selfish jackass, and eventually his best friend and his (ex?) girlfriend team up to destroy Christine. They succeed doing so… OR DO THEY DUN DUN DUNNNNNN?

While nobody gets raped in this movie, the contempt for women is palpable. Arnie’s mother is a shrill emasculating bitch who has the sheer unmitigated GALL to get angry when her minor son uses sexual slang while playing family board games, or when he parks a pile of shit car in their front yard. She expects him to work hard at school, keep his room clean, and make college plans. God, can you BELIEVE her? The female high school students exist only to look hot and have sex with the male high school students. That is the only value they have. And, of course, once a woman has had sex she’s a gross slut and has less value. When exchange student Leigh arrives at the school, a male student describes her as looking “smart, but she’s go the body of a SLUT.” When we see her, she’s wearing a lose sweater, books held in front of her, and baggy pleated knee-length shorts. YOWZA she’s REALLY asking for it, right? Christine, the jealously murderous female-identified car, is a symptom of the rank misogyny infecting this film. And yet, for all the overt sexism, Leigh exists as a character who takes action and gets stuff done. She’s instrumental in destroying Christine.

Watching horror movies has been a really mixed bag. The super obvious and in your face bro-style misogyny of “Christine” was off putting, but it’s a solid and fast paced movie with some great scenes (including a car that is on fire, a flaming hell car, chasing a dude down a night street). I’m glad I watched it.

I give “Christine” 3 out of 5 stars.

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