Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

After the failure that was the Grudge reboot earlier this year (see my review here), I was hopeful after learning a television series based on the original Ju-On movies was going to be released in Japan. And it was being brought to America through Netflix. And as soon as I could, I sat down to watch all six episodes of JU-ON: Origins. After all, it was guaranteed to be better than the Grudge reboot, but would it be legitimately scary?

JU-ON: Origins begins with a paranormal researcher named Odajima appearing on a talk show with an idol who experienced supernatural happenings at her apartment after her boyfriend goes house-hunting for them. At the same time, a troubled high schooler named Kiyomi becomes involved with a mysterious house near her school. This and other events leads to many people’s lives becoming involved with the house, a house whose history is alive and kicking, and in the worst possible way.

While this series bears very little resemblance to the original story of the movies beyond a cursed house and several men questioning if they’re the father of the children they’re raising, it’s definitely a better horror story than the Grudge reboot. And even better, it’s freaking scary.

First off, the show does a great job of setting up a mystery. The characters spend their time running down multiple leads, each one leading to a new aspect of the haunting. And each new aspect seems to add more questions than it answers. But even better, there are a number of terrifying moments. There were quite a few moments, especially in the later episodes, where I was squirming in my seat. Anyone who gets to episode five will shiver every time they think of it.

I also liked how they incorporated famous tragedies from Japan’s recent history into the story. A lot of the major events of the story occur around the same time as the murder of Junko Furuta, the sarin gas attacks, and the Kobe child murders (which, by the way, are terrifying in their own rights). Almost as if to say the house’s evil has some sort of connection to those events.

And if you don’t like subtitles, there’s an English dub on Netflix, and it’s decent. The English dialogue matches very well with the Japanese lip movements, and there are some well-known anime voice actors in the series (I had a lot of fun making jokes about that in the calmer moments of the show). Though I am sad to say, that’s not Nicholas Cage voicing the main character Odajima, but a guy named Brock Powell doing a really good Nicholas Cage impression.

This scene! Oh God, I’m shivering again.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was that I would’ve liked to see more from the original films incorporated into the story. I’m not asking for a direct based-on-the-movie or Kayako and her son to fully appear on screen, but I would’ve enjoyed more references or incorporation of the original story that’s become so beloved by fans.

And just a trigger warning: this series delves into subjects such as domestic violence and sexual assault. So if that’s a turn-off, maybe don’t watch this one.

For everyone else, however, JU-ON: Origins is a terrifying TV show that will satisfy anyone else bored with more recent entries into the Ju-On and Grudge franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this show a 4.5. Head on home and settle in to watch it. Just make sure to watch with the lights on.

Also, if you go house hunting and the house has a history, make sure that it hasn’t harmed anyone in at least a decade before deciding it’s your dream home!

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but it took me about two months to get through the audio book of this novel. Not because of how I was reacting to the book, but COVID-19 has changed my audio-book listening habits in a major way. Which is a pain in the ass when you decide to read more works by writers of color and this particular book and author comes highly recommended. But I finally got through it, so let me tell you about this book I just finished (the audio book of which, by the way, was narrated by the author himself, and he did a great job).

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a large man who gets thrown into Northwest at New Hyde Hospital, a mental institution in Queens, New York. Not because of any mental illness, but that doesn’t keep him from being there. And as Pepper gets a crash course in the mental health industry, he also has to contend with a terrifying resident with its own wing of the hospital. A demonic figure, a devil, who seems to enjoy the pain and suffering of other patients. And Pepper finds himself in the unwelcome position of having to face this monster and stop it, lest it hurt him and his new friends in New Hyde Hospital.

Despite the title and the monster mentioned in the second half of the preceding paragraph, the true horror of the story doesn’t come primarily from the devil. It actually comes from the setting: LaValle does a great job of writing about people trapped in an industry that doesn’t always have the well-being of its patients in mind (and quite a few of the characters note this in the story). As someone who has his own share of mental health issues, reading this book, whose author drew on his own experiences with mental illness and mental institutions, made me very much aware of my experience with mental health and the industry, and how much worse it could be things were a little different. I’ve since put a book on the industry on my TBR list, which I hope will further educate me and make me more aware of a segment of society that the rest sometimes wishes to forget exists.

That all being said, the titular devil is scary too. There’s something about a bison-headed monster popping out of the ceiling of a mental hospital, one that enjoys hurting the patients and can manipulate the staff for its own benefit. Just makes the hairs on the back of your neck rise and makes you wonder about what it might be like if a monster such as that existed.

I also really grew to love the characters. Pepper comes off as honest and likable, if impulsive and a bit thick-headed at times. You really got to see him grow throughout the course of the story as he interacts with the other characters and deals with the trials and tribulations set before him. And speaking of the other characters, even the minor ones were given enough development to feel real. Some of my favorites include the Ugandan immigrant Coffee, who really does want someone to listen to what’s happening at the hospital, and the sassy Luchee, a young woman trying to have some semblance of normal given her situation.

If there was anything I didn’t care for, I found the climax to be a bit anticlimactic. I think I get what the author was going for with that ending, but I kind of wanted something more, and I didn’t get it. That, and there are a lot of digressions in the story. Some of these digressions are quite helpful: they help flesh out the world of the story and what the characters are going through. At the same time, there are some that made me scratch my head, like the one from the POV of the rat living on the second floor of the hospital.

But all in all, The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle is both a scary story and a story that hits deep at what it means to be human. And after reading this, I’ll likely read another book by LaValle very soon. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 4.3. Grab a copy and get ready to see a side of life many would rather forget existed.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As promised, more posts are on the way, including on my recent trip to South Carolina. Keep your eyes peeled. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Some of you may remember I reviewed the novel Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis, the inspiration for the anime horror film I’m a huge fan of. Turns out the novel had something of a sequel, an anthology of tales by the same author, Yoshikazu Takeuchi, about idols being stalked by obsessive fans. I’ve been meaning to read it forever, but only just got my paws on a copy recently. Hoping it would compare well to the original novel, I read it in about a night.

Um…I’ve read better.

The anthology has three stories inside, a short story called “Wake Me From This Dream;” a novella called “Cry Your Tears;” and a novelette called “Even When I Embrace You.” Yeah, they all sound creepy just from the titles. However, the quality ranges from story to story.

“Wake Me From This Dream” follows one fan’s strange experience when he actually gets to be with his idol (after a fashion). It’s kind of creepy in how it approaches its premise, as well as hard to look away until the end. The story actually reminds me of Stephen King’s quote about short stories, about it being a kiss in the dark from a stranger. It’s especially true of this story, though the author seems to confuse social anxiety and laziness in a less-than-helpful way.

“Cry Your Tears,” the longest story, is a standard celebrity stalker story. Guy is obsessed, in love with his favorite singer; his idol is creeped out by his intrusion into her life; a bloody climax ensues. Meanwhile, our heroine whines about how hard her life is. Like I said, it’s standard and doesn’t really do anything to pull itself away from the other standard stalker stories.

“Even When I Embrace You” is probably the weirdest story: a new idol singer who isn’t even sure being an idol is what she wants to be as an entertainer is pursued by a guy in a bunny costume. The premise is interesting, I’ll give it that, and it’s nice to see a heroine who’s a bit more rounded and doesn’t mind fighting back when she has to. However, the supernatural element to the story isn’t well thought out, and the bunny costume just sounds like another impractical movie killer costume.

On the whole, Perfect Blue: Awaken From a Dream is probably best left to the die-hard fans of the original novel and/or the movie. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 2.3. Outside of that first story, the rest feels run of the mill and uninspired, though they are well-written.

Yeah, not the best book. But I did get an idea for a novel from something the author said in the afterword, so that’s a plus.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and STOP TRYING TO FIND OUT WHERE I LIVE! I mean come on, do you know how dangerous that is? You might as well walk into the tiger enclosure at the zoo (and you’d probably have a better chance of survival while there).

I’ve never reviewed a true crime book on my blog before. As you well know, I tend to specialize in horror of the fictional variety. But for a while now, since first hearing of the Cecil Hotel (which made one of my lists of haunted places to visit) and the death of Elisa Lam there in 2013, I’ve wanted to learn more than what I could glean from a ten minute YouTube video or from reading the Wikipedia page. And earlier this year, someone finally released a book about the case. Despite mixed reviews, I decided to buy a copy, and read it over the course of my vacation.

Here are my thoughts.

Gone at Midnight focuses on the case of Elisa Lam, a Chinese-Canadian student who disappeared in early 2013 in Los Angeles. Several days after her disappearance is reported, she is found dead in one of the water tanks of the infamous Cecil Hotel, a location known as “The Suicide” for its history of violent deaths and even having serial killers as residents at certain points. The incident is only made weirder by the release of footage from a hotel elevator showing Elisa acting strangely on the night she disappeared. Author Jake Anderson traces Elisa’s path over the last two years of her life, as well as how the case took a viral life of its own with websleuths on the Internet and the many problems with the police conclusion on the case.

I have to say, Anderson does a very good job of writing a convincing narrative. The book could easily have gone into the deep end a la The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel, with talk of synchronicity, paranormal happenings at the hotel, and theoretical physics, among other subjects. However, he keeps the narrative on track, only bringing up the weirder aspects as they relate to the case of Lam’s death and his own investigation into the case as a journalist. Anderson also does a terrific job of laying out the various problems with the police’s conclusion, and offers several alternative possibilities about what may have happened.

His reconstructions of what Lam may have been thinking during her final years (something I’ve found in a lot of true crime I’ve read), based on her many blog posts, also has an eerie authenticity to it. And his examination of the websleuth community, the pros and cons of the movement and how it all relates to Lam, is quite interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is used later for a sociological study into websleuthing.

There is one major criticism I have, and it’s one I share with a lot of other critics of the book: Anderson spends a lot of time on his own mental health. And while in some places it’s relevant to what we’re reading about, at other times it’s distracting. I understand why he did it: like Lam, the author has his own mental disorders, and his struggles strengthened the kinship he felt with Lam, despite having never met her. I too feel a strange kinship with Lam: not only was she a little older than me when she died, I also have my share of mental struggles, and enjoy writing and blogging like she did, among other things.

However, as I said, it’s distracting at times, and I feel like Anderson’s struggle with his mental state, while relevant, should have been kept in a foreward or afterward to the book, or maybe even in an essay published separately from the book.

All told, Gone at MIdnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam┬áby Jake Anderson is as of this moment the definitive book on the Lam case, and deserves to be so. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.3. After reading this, I’m going to be doing a bit more research into the case, but Anderson might have me convinced on his take on the Lam case.

Grab a copy, take a deep breath, and jump right in. You’ll find yourself on a roller coaster that may, as it did for me, hit close to home.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m finally back from my trip, so I’ll be posting quite a bit over the next two weeks (especially since I’m quarantining myself to make sure I didn’t catch anything). Keep an eye out for more reviews, breakdowns of the paranormal activity I encountered, the places I visited, updates on my writing, and so much more.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

For those of you who are unaware, Slasher is a Canadian-American TV series that’s like American Horror Story, with a different story and cast every season, but more bent towards slasher horror. I’ve reviewed the first two seasons (see my reviews here and here), and have enjoyed watching the evolution of the show from a so-so derivative AHS knock-off to a very thrilling and bloody murder mystery in the second season. And while it took me a while to get to it, I finally got around to the third and final season. And what a season it was!

Subtitled Solstice, the story begins with the murder of Kit Jennings, a bisexual party boy who is violently murdered at his apartment building by a masked murderer known as the Druid. A year later, all the residents living at the apartment building at the time of the murder are still living there, and start to die under horrific and bloody circumstances. As the police rush to find the returned Druid killer, the apartment residents will have to watch their backs. Because everyone has a connection to Kit, everyone has a secret, and everyone is a target.

I don’t know if the third season was intended to be the final season, but in a way, I’m glad it was. There’s no way they were going to top this season.

For one thing, I love how they manage to take these diverse characters, flesh them out to make them feel real, and then weave a narrative around them. It could have easily come across as hard-to-believe, or silly, or dumb, but the writers made it believable and truly thought out every aspect of the story to make it thrilling. I also like how the emphasis on this season was on connections and community. There’s a lot of commentary on how people are united and divided in a community, both online and offline, people can be. You have white supremacists living next to Muslims, straight couples living by LGBT families, caring people living beside monsters. All that gels together in a way that feels organic and believable, and I loved it.

And speaking of the cast, I don’t think I’ve ever found a horror story where I wanted so many despicable characters to get murdered! The white supremacist; the white supremacist’s prejudiced, slutty daughter; the housewife who believes sharing everyone’s pain across her gossip vlog is real journalism;* the creepy teenager who thinks bringing up people’s trauma is funny. Each one of them is written and played so well, and I only hope I can portray such characters so well in my own work.

Finally, this season contains some of the most brutal kills in a slasher story I’ve ever seen. Kid you not, I cringed more than I normally do with these kinds of stories, and that’s saying something. If you decide to check this season out, be prepared. This season goes the limits.

If there’s something I didn’t care for, I would’ve liked to see more of protagonist’s, Saadia Jalalzai’s,** parents and family. They leave for a trip at the beginning of episode one and then are pretty much gone from the season. I honestly would have enjoyed seeing a bit more of them and their reactions to everything that occurred within the course of the season.

All in all though, Slasher‘s third season is a gory, terrifying delight for any slasher fan. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the season a 4.7. Get on Netflix, settle in for eight episodes and, if you live in an apartment building, thank whoever that even your worse neighbors probably aren’t as bad as the ones in this show.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I wanted to get one more blog post out before I left on my trip tomorrow, and I’m glad it was this one. Don’t know when my next one will be, but I’m sure whenever it is, it’ll be the first of several. And in the meantime, if you’re in Des Moines this weekend, come by the Valley West Mall for the 5th annual Indie Author Book Expo. I’ll be selling books and doing Tarot, so I hope to see you there!

Until next time, stay safe, beware of machete-wielding maniacs, and pleasant nightmares.

*BTW, if I ever get as addicted to my online following as that woman or some of the other characters in that show, please break my phone and slap me silly. I’ll need it.

**And yes, I was reminded a bit of my character from the Reborn City series, Zahara Bakur, but I’m pretty sure they just share an archetype.

I may have stayed up late last night reading this one. What can I say? Riley Sager knows how to take a damaged young woman with a past, put her in a scenario reminiscent of famous horror films and novels, and then create a compelling mystery-thriller. Such is the case with Home Before Dark, where Sager takes on Gothic horror and The Amityville Horror.

Home Before Dark follows Maggie Holt, an interior designer who also happens to be one member of a family that experienced an Amityville Horror-esque situation that forced them to flee their newly bought home, the infamous Victorian mansion Baneberry Hall, after only twenty days. Her father Ewan later wrote a book about their “experiences” in the haunted house, which became a bestseller and has forever followed Maggie. Twenty-five years later, Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall, a place she doesn’t even remember, to renovate the house and find the truth hidden in her dad’s book. But as figures from the book emerge as real people and Maggie digs deeper, she finds an even deeper mystery within the manor. One with possibly deadly consequences.

From the start, the novel draws you in and makes it hard to put down. The story switches between Maggie’s present and passages from Ewan Holt’s “tell-all,” House of Horrors, and it’s fun to see how things that “happened” in the past line up with or contrast with what Maggie experiences. I also liked Maggie as a character. You could really feel how much her life has been affected by her family’s deceptions and the popularity of the Book (as she calls it). I almost felt angry at her parents just reading about how much they twisted her life.

And of course, there were numerous twists and turns along the way. I saw none of them coming and they really really kept the tension high and my mind boggled at the possibilities. They’re part of the reason why I was up past midnight last night.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about the novel, it’s that during the sections quoting the Book, the plot seemed lifted from today’s B-horror films. You know, the kind that have paint-by-the-numbers plots, rely heavily on CGI and jumpscares, and you forget about them a year or so after they release? I get that it’s supposed to be a pastiche or satire of Amityville Horror-style haunted house stories, but at times it felt like I was reading a bad ripoff of The Haunting in Connecticut or one of the poorer Conjuring films. Not really my thing, as you well know.

All in all though, Home Before Dark is a twisty, satisfying read. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Riley Sager’s fourth book a 4.7. Grab a copy, settle into a comfy chair, and prepare to be thrilled. You’ll be “haunted” even after the very last page.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I might get another post out this week, but given that I’m leaving for my trip soon, that’s going to take up my attention this week. And it’ll be really hard to blog until after I get back. Nevertheless, once I do come back, I promise to have quality content for you. Or something you can use to fill five minutes of your life, depends on how you view it.

And in the meantime, if you’re able to come to the fifth annual Indie Author Book Expo in Des Moines, Iowa this coming weekend, please do. I’ll be selling copies of Rose, doing Tarot readings, and interacting with people, and I’d be happy to see you.

Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Since it was announced that King was releasing another collection of four novellas last year, I’ve been looking forward to reading it. The shutdowns due to COVID-19 delayed me getting my copy from the library by about two months (thanks, coronavirus!), but as soon as I had it, I settled down to read it and see how it stacked up against collections like Four Past Midnight and Different Seasons.

It took me maybe two weeks to read the book. What did I think?

Oh God, I was disappointed. I’m a huge King fan, but–oh God. This is definitely not one of Stephen King’s strongest collections of novellas. Out of the four stories in the collection, I disliked or was indifferent to three of them:

The first story, “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” follows a young boy whose relationship with a rich, elderly bachelor takes on a supernatural twist. And while it goes for a creepy coming-of-age story vibe with comments on technology addiction and how business takes place online, it feels like just your average coming-of-age story that tries to be creepy a few times. And not very well. If perhaps the story had dropped some of the literary focus and instead tried to focus on the protagonist through more supernatural terror, I might have enjoyed it a bit more.

The second story, “The Life of Chuck,” is actually three stories in one, all focusing on a man named Chuck Krantz at various stages of his life. And I didn’t see the point of all three stories being included together as one story. The three parts don’t really link up that well except for the titular character, and each has a different focus: the first is an interesting take on the verse from the Talmud “He who saves a life, saves a world entire;” the second is about an impromptu flash mob in Boston; and the third is a spooky ghost story set during Chuck’s childhood. I think if the three parts were released in separate collections, they honestly would have been stronger, especially the first and third. As they are though, I was just left annoyed and confused.

The final story, “The Rat,” is a semi-interesting story about an author trying to finish a novel in a remote cabin during a storm that takes a dark fantasy turn during the last third. And the way it takes that turn is so silly, I’m wondering if King meant for that to be a comedy/horror piece and I missed it. As it is, it’s not going to leave anyone with nightmares anytime soon.

The one story I actually liked is the third, “If It Bleeds,” starring Holly Gibney from the Bill Hodges trilogy (which I haven’t read) and The Outsider (read my review here). In this story, private eye and cinephile Holly Gibney realizes a monster like the one from The Outsider is causing death and misery after a school is bombed. It’s got a great mystery at the center, a thrilling climax, and some nice character development on the part of Holly (who, might I add, is on the spectrum with me. Positive representation!). It’s not exactly top-notch King, but it’s still very good, and I’d check out an adaptation if one were made and it was on a channel/streaming service I have access to (*hint hint wink wink*).

All in all though, If It Bleeds by Stephen King is not going to keep anyone up at night. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the collection a 2.3, and that’s mostly for the titular story. Major King fans are going to read this one, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s either a casual fan, a new King reader, or just looking for a scary collection of stories.

For that, I recommend his collection Four Past Midnight.*

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m disappointed that this book didn’t resonate with me, but I already have my next read, Home Before Dark by Riley Sager, waiting for me to start. Hopefully that’ll scratch my horror literature itch, especially if I finish it before it has to go back to the library. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*And would someone please make a movie based on the third story in that collection, The Library Policeman? PLEASE?!!! I would help make it and make it the best it can be if someone did.

I normally don’t review non-horror media on this blog. I stopped doing that at some point in college, when I decided to focus more to better appeal to my audience (I’ll do an anime recommendation post every now and then, but only because that stuff helps my craft). That being said, I feel compelled to review this film for a number of reasons:

One, this is an anime movie about Anne Frank. Yeah, you read that right, an anime movie about Anne Frank. Second, it was released free of charge to watch on YouTube last month, and so far as I can tell, this was done legally by its American distributor, not by a random person hoping to make a quick buck off ad revenue or who feels media should be free on an accessible platform. And three, even my parents, neither of whom are anime fans, are curious about this film! Given all that, I decided to watch it and see if it’s any good. And given what I saw, I felt a review on the blog was necessary.

Anne no Nikki, or Anne Frank’s Diary, follows the life of Anne Frank as she, her family, and four others go into hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland in a tiny apartment above her father’s former workplace. Based on the diary she kept during the war (something people who complain that the lockdown and social distancing restrictions are too onerous need to reread), the film starts right before her family goes into hiding, and ends right as they are discovered and sent off to the camps.

This film…is a bit of a hot mess.

For starters, let’s talk about the animation. While the backgrounds are lovely enough to make me nostalgic enough for the short period of time I lived in Europe, the characters look flat, grey and unrealized. I think the animators were going for realism rather than stereotypical anime style character designs. However, when you compare it to the characters of Perfect Blue two years after this was released, or films like My Neighbor Totoro or Grave of the Fireflies, both released in 1988, and all three aiming for realism in the character design, it just pales in comparison.*

And at times, the movement is really weird, like they had to cut frames or the characters’ mouths don’t match what’s being said. It’s hard to believe this film was animated by Studio Madhouse, responsible for some of the best anime ever made, including the above-mentioned Perfect Blue, one of my favorite films ever, and my personal favorite anime, the isekai fantasy epic Overlord. What the hell?!

How the hell did the studio that produced Perfect Blue (lower) produce Anne no Nikki (upper) two years prior?

As for the plot, you have to wonder about a lot of decisions. Trying to fit this story into ninety minutes, a lot of material is skipped over, truncated or changed. Much of what allowed us to get to know and love Anne is rushed through, and perhaps a little too much time is spent on Anne’s romance with Peter.

I think the film’s worst sin, however, is that it doesn’t carry the message of Anne’s diary very well. While making us experience the darkest moments of Nazi occupation and living in hiding, Anne is still able to show us how life can go on and even be filled with hope for the future and human kindness. The film tries, but it can’t bring about that message. At least not in a way that feels authentic and powerful.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Anne Frank’s Diary a 1.7. If you want to experience the story of Anne Frank–I mean really experience it–read the actual book. Watch one of the film adaptations (I hear the 1959 one is really good), or see if there are any recordings of the play available to stream (I saw it several years ago and highly recommend it).

Just don’t watch this movie. It was released on YouTube for free because the distributor knew they could make more money from YouTube ad revenue than if they put it on DVD/Blu-Ray or to rent on another site. I’m convinced of that after wasting my evening with it.

This has been Rami Ungar, wishing I had watched something else instead. Good night!

 

*For non-anime fans, think of a beautifully drawn Disney character, and then compare it to a character from a Saturday morning cartoon with a low budget. It’s close to that.

I heard about The Wretched earlier in the week, and became interested. Apparently this film was released a few weeks ago through video-on-demand platforms and drive-in theaters. Normally this wouldn’t receive such an overwhelming response, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film has been topping the box office three weeks in a row. Still, was that all there is to it? Was it only successful due to almost no competition, or was it actually a good film? There was only one way for me to answer that, so this evening I rented The Wretched on demand and gave it a watch.

The Wretched follows Ben Shaw, a teenager sent to live with his dad in a beach town for the summer. While he’s hoping to deal with his personal problems and get by with his summer, Ben soon realizes something sinister is going on next door. A strange creature is spotted nearby, the neighbor’s mother starts to act sinister, and the next door neighbor’s kid goes missing a day after going to Ben’s house for help. Ben soon realizes there’s a witch next door, a bestial creature that feeds on children to survive. And now Ben has to prove it before the witch kills anyone else.

So, there are some things to like about this film. There are some really tense moments and some creepy imagery. The witch herself is rather freaky to behold in any of her scenes, especially when she’s hidden in shadow or when she’s finally revealed. The special effects are pretty cool, and aren’t reliant on CGI, so far as I can tell. And there’s a cat-and-mouse aspect to this film that works pretty well, as Ben tries to prove that there’s a witch next door to him. Not exactly easy when, in addition to trying to prove the impossible, Ben is already on rocky ground with his folks and the witch’s magic is interfering.

That being said, The Wretched has some issues. The first half hour or so is kind of slow. I think they’re going for slow-burn, but it’s a little too slow. John-Paul Howard, who plays Ben, at times feels like he’s not putting in a hundred percent. There’s a twist in the final third that feels like it was added in just to put twenty more minutes into the film, and was really unnecessary. And finally, the opening scene, which takes place 35 years before the main plot of the film, adds absolutely nothing to the story. You could take it out, and there would be no major change to the film.

All that being said, I am glad I saw this movie. Sure, it wasn’t as scary as it could be, but it satisfies an itch for horror fans. Especially when a lot of films we wanted to see have been taken off the release schedule and we don’t know when we’ll get to see them. And I got a couple of ideas for stories watching this, so that’s always a plus.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Wretched a 3.5. If you’re looking for something to scratch a horror itch, this might be just what you’re looking for. Check your local drive-in to see if it’s playing. And if it’s not, or you don’t have a drive-in theater, check Amazon, Google Play, and YouTube.

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last review, and nearly two months since my last review of a movie. Well, it’s the first of the month and a Friday night. I recently found out about an American remake of a Thai horror film that’s one of the best known Thai horror films and Thai films in general known internationally. The Thai film is on Netflix. Let’s get into it.

Shutter follows Tun, a photographer, and his girlfriend, Jane. On the way back from a friend’s wedding, they accidentally run a girl over and flee the spot. However, nothing is reported to the police or the hospitals, and things get weirder from there. Spirit images show up in Tun’s photos, and the more Jane digs into things, the more she realizes that the girl they ran over wasn’t just a random accident. Something’s coming for Tun and his friends, something from their past. And whether in a photo or in reality, it’s not going away.

So Asian horror films can be hit-or-miss with me, but this one actually did okay with me. While the plot feels a lot like a basic Blumhouse formula film–you know, characters somehow catch the eye of something evil, it slowly comes after them with jumpscares and other weird moments to scare them before killing them, and then finally there’s some sort of climax after all the backstory is revealed–here, it’s done pretty well. The jumpscares aren’t overused and are actually pretty effective, partly because the ghost of the film is so damn creepy.

Along with that, the film does some great scenes full of tension. There’s one scene with a flashing camera in a dark room that I’m sure was terrifying on the big screen, and there was another scene involving a biology lab full of preserved specimens that actually had me curled up a bit in my seat.

And as I said, the ghost of the film is so damn creepy, thanks to some great makeup and not overusing her appearances.

However, there are some things Shutter could’ve done better at. As I said, the story is kind of formulaic, so there were plenty of things I saw coming and which I’m sure other people would see coming. Sure, there were some good twists and some excellent foreshadowing at times, but still predictable at times.

And if you’re photosensitive, I would recommend skipping over the camera-in-the-dark room scene. Also, this film contains some elements that might upset certain viewers, so trigger warning.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Shutter a 3.5. If you’re looking for a popcorn horror film to last an hour and a half, this might do the trick for you. It’s on Netflix, so enjoy.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m still taking orders for signed copies of Rose, all you have to do is email me at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. In the meantime, there’s a book that’s literally screaming my name (surprisingly not a grimoire of dark magic), so I’m going to go read that. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!