Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

When I saw the original Escape Room two years ago, I liked it. And while I may have revised my original assessment, I still think it’s like a Saw movie for those who don’t like torture porn (like me). I was wondering if they could keep things up with the sequel. So, I headed off to the theater (which was way more packed than I’ve seen it since the pandemic started. You can blame Space Jam 2 for that) to see what the film had to offer.

After surviving the death game of the first film, protagonists Zoey and Ben head to New York to see if they can find Minos, the group behind their trauma. Their goal is to bring Minos down, but the trip quickly turns dangerous as they realize they’re trapped in another death game. One in which all the other participants are, like themselves, survivors of past games. And this time, the rooms are not just deadly. There’s a hidden secret behind them.

Well, I’d say it was worth the ticket price.

The film does have a number of great scenes full of tension. You watch these characters try to solve the problems while trying to preserve their lives, and as time limits kick in, you start feeling a little nervous. The escape rooms are also pretty cool, and the puzzles are rather clever (though I have questions about one feature of the Beach Room). The actors do a good job of simulating terror and dealing with trauma. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the twist they wrote into the film.

That being said, that twist wasn’t really a good twist. The ending seems to invalidate the growth of the characters in the rest of the film, and there wasn’t as much development of the cast as I would have liked. I especially wanted to see more of Holland Rhoden (Lydia from Teen Wolf). Seriously, she’s a great actress and her character had an interesting trait that could’ve used some more exploration.

And now that I think about it, there’s a huge plot hole that I only just noticed. But I won’t spoil it here. If you see the film and want to discuss, hit me up in the comments below.

On the whole, I’m giving Escape Room: Tournament of Champions a 3.1 out of 5. It’s fun, but there’s plenty in the third act that I thought could have been different or better. Still, if there’s nothing else and you need to watch something, you could pick worse films.

Check back soon, Followers of Fear. I’ll have more posts this weekend, including a review of the third Fear Street film and marking an anniversary. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!


Another reminder, Followers of Fear: I’ll be celebrating my ten-year blogging anniversary next month. To celebrate, I’m hosting an Ask Me Anything, or AMA, on my blog! And one lucky participant will win a prize. To participate, send an email to ramiungar@ramiungartehwriter.com by 11:59 PM on July 28, 2021. I look forward to reading your questions. Hopefully they’re all appropriate for this blog.

Ah, the Conjuring films. They started out strong and had some good ones other than the first film (Annabelle: Creation is still chill-inducing). But it’s been obvious since The Curse of La Llorona that this franchise has been on a downturn. Still, horror fans are nothing if not hopeful that crap will turn out to be good. And it was included with my HBO Max subscription, so why not?

In The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, the Warrens must help an accused murderer clear his name after a demon possesses him following a botched exorcism. Looking into the original exorcism, they start to realize that this is more than just your average possession. This is part of a curse. And if they’re not careful, the curse will not only take the accused murderer, but the Warrens as well.

And before I actually tell you my thoughts on the film, let me just say, this film unsurprisingly plays fast and loose with the history. Also, when I tell a demon to possess me in order to save someone else, they never take me up on it! Even when they’re about to be expelled, they’d rather try to bribe me than go inside me. I mean, is possessing me really that bad?

Anyway, about the actual film: I think Conjuring 3 can best be summed up in that it’s further proof that this franchise needs to end. The plot is pretty formulaic and not that scary. I think the biggest moment of fear I had was watching Arne Johnson, the accused murderer, look into a hole in the wall. Other than that, pretty blah. Maybe if you’re under the age of ten, you’d find it scary, but for veteran horror fans it’s just below-average fare.

If there is one thing to like about this film, it’s that the actors did a great job. They know this is just a sequel in a series that, if this were the 1980s or 1990s, would have gone straight-to-video by this point. But they give it their all and convince you they’re feeling love, fear, inadequacy, etc.

On the whole, however, I’m giving The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It a 1.7 out of 5. There are better horror films out there than this, so only major fans of the franchise should waste their time. The rest should avoid it like the plague.

At least all planned future films in the franchise are still in the development stages. There’s time for Warner Bros. to pull the plug and save themselves, as well as audiences, from a lot of disappointment.

Is that harsh? Maybe. Do I care? Not really.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to enjoy my weekend. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

When A Quiet Place came out in 2018 (oh, such innocent days), it caused quite a sensation. Hell, even I loved it, giving it a 4.3 out of 5 (you can read my review here). When horror fans heard a sequel was in the works, we were interested. We weren’t sure how they could continue the story, but we were interested. Then the trailer came out, and we were excited. And then the pandemic happened.

Well, it finally came out. And after work, I got in the car and headed to the theater to see if A Quiet Place Part II was both worth the wait and on par with the original.

I can say that it succeeds on both counts.

Taking place right after the end of the first movie, A Quiet Place Part II follows the original film’s family, now with the father dead and the mother just recently giving birth, they try to leave the family farm now that it isn’t safe. They run into an old friend, as well as coming across possible signs of a safe haven not far from their location. But with so many predators around and other dangers aside, it’s a race against time to save not just the family, but perhaps all of humanity.

So, despite noise from the auditorium next door spilling into our theater,* Part II does as great a job as the first film in using sound to do the work of dialogue in storytelling. Every silent space and every noise, from a branch breaking or a breath, helps to get us to emphasize with the characters and put us in their world. Not to mention that the use of sound, as well as a few well-placed jump scares, it really builds an atmosphere.

The story is also well-written. After the opening scenes, which recap the destruction of society and the end of the first film, the writers manage to not only find a new story that feels natural, it also brings up twice the necessary tension to drive the story. And the new character of Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy, is given plenty of development during the film. Usually, you don’t expect that with new characters in a horror sequel, so it’s a nice surprise.

If there are a few things that could have been improved, I would have liked to see more of how humans in this world have adjusted–good or bad–in this new world. There were hints midway in the film, but I would have liked to see more. And Djimon Hounsou (Korath the Pursuer from Guardians of the Galaxy) is in this film, and the guy has way more chops than are shown. I would’ve liked to see more of him.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to give A Quiet Place Part II a 4.4 out of 5, one point over the first film. With a plot that manages to keep the tension and sense of urgency up, as well as the strong characterization, it’s a great sequel. If you enjoyed the first film, then you should totally see the second. Sit down, be quiet, and get ready for a great ride.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I have a three-day weekend, so I plan to get plenty done, including a new blog post or two. I hope you have a good weekend as well. And until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares.

*Don’t worry, I let the staff know. They’ll hopefully figure out a way to avoid having showings of the film next to noisier films.

It’s been a double-dose of Anthony Mackie today. I watched the latest episode of Falcon & Winter Soldier on Disney+, and then I got to see this film on Netflix. I would have seen it when it came out, but the pandemic kind of screwed with those plans. Anyway, better late than never.

Taking place in New Orleans,* Synchronic stars Anthony Mackie as Steve Denube, a paramedic who starts encountering some strange cases while out on the job. People are being found, injured, dying or dead with mysterious injuries and causes, and Steve traces it to a new street drug called Synchronic. Turns out Synchronic is a drug that allows people to travel through time. And when someone important to Steve goes missing, he decides to use Synchronic to do some good.

So before I tell you what I thought of this film, let me just state that this film is by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the team behind the body-horror romance Spring and the Lovecraftian horror film The Endless. And I’ve started to notice a pattern with the films they make: while strange shit is part of their films, it’s not the focus like strange shit is the focus of mine. Really, the strange in their stories is a tool to tell very human stories. Stories of love, identity, loss, belonging, and purpose, among other things. Synchronic is no different.

All that being said, I really enjoyed this film.

First off, it’s a really well-told story. if at times really difficult to watch. At first things are really trippy, but then you start watching and things start making sense. From there, things go from just trippy to being a very human story about purpose in life. And as the story unfolds and you start to understand more what’s happening, it not only enhances the story, but enhances what our protagonist is going through.

Of course, the cast does a great job at giving this story its weight. Anthony Mackie is a great dramatic actor who can really pull off these weighty roles, and it’s his prowess as an actor that, at times, makes Synchronic such a hard film to watch at times. Like I said, human story with strange shit as a tool to drive the story.

Finally, the special effects and the sets were really well done. Because it’s a movie involving a literal time travel drug, it leads to some interesting locales, and each one is brought to life so well. You find yourself totally believing that the science-y bits could happen, helped by the fact that some of the theoretical physics stuff employed in the story sounds real, or real enough to give the strange stuff an air of credibility. And the attention to detail for the historical settings really makes you think you’re looking at real places in the past (sometimes uncomfortably so).

There were a couple of things I didn’t care for, however. One is that there’s occasional flashbacks to what should be a traumatic moment for Steve, but it’s so sparingly used and Steve seems so unaffected by it, I wonder if it was worth having in the final film. That, and there were a few moments focusing on Steve’s best friend Dennis and his wife that I felt could have been cut. It’s illustrative for their characters, but they don’t really add that much to the story or to Dennis or Steve’s journey.

All in all, though, Synchronic is a brilliantly told science horror film that brings an emotional punch to its timey-wimey concept. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.8. If you have Netflix, get on there and give it a watch. You’ll likely find it time well spent.

*Which I will be visiting later this year if all goes well.

Today was my first trip to the movies since October. Wasn’t planning on going, but this movie wasn’t streaming anywhere and I needed some new horror. No point to this story, I just thought I’d mention it.

Based on James Herbert’s 1983 novel Shrine, The Unholy follows Gerry Fenn, a disgraced journalist who goes to the small town of Banfield, Massachusetts for a silly tabloid piece. However, while there he becomes wrapped up in something much bigger. A deaf-mute girl named Alice is suddenly able to hear thanks to the Virgin Mary, and is performing miracles through her. Thinking this is his shot at the big time again, Fenn follows Alice’s case and gets close to the investigation by the church into the miracles. Soon, however, he realizes that Alice’s miracles may come from something darker and with plans for those coming to see Alice’s miracles.

I think the scariest thing about this movie is that so many people were in a single small space, worshipping together, without masks or social distancing! I mean, how much more terrifying can you get?

Jokes aside, this movie wasn’t really scary. It’s overly reliant on CGI and jumpscares, and the latter are so loud you can’t help but jump in your seat (and afterwards wonder if you’re going to lose your hearing). It’s just another popcorn-horror flick that just tries to make some money instead of actually telling something truly memorable and scary.

Also, I think the exorcism chant used in one scene is the same one used in Supernatural, which itself was cobbled together from various Latin passages in the Bible. I wonder if the writer is a fan?

Was there anything to like in the movie? Well, I haven’t read the original novel (might try to change that), so I can’t tell you if it was a decent adaptation. But I can say it was written somewhat well. There was definitely more depth in the story than one would expect from one of these popcorn horror films. And the characters were actually pretty complex and deep, which is nice to see given the talent in the roles. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Gerry Fenn, and he plays the character in such a way that you feel his excitement and his horror as this case develops.*

Did I mention the cast is full of some amazing talent? Katie Aselton, William Sadler, Cary Elwes and Christine Adams (I recognized her from a Doctor Who episode she was in), and many more. And I think Cricket Brown, who played Alice, might end up becoming a well-known name someday. I totally believed she was a deaf-mute girl going through a miraculous occurrence.

Cast and slightly-deeper writing, however, does not elevate the movie as much as one would like. On a scale of 1 to 5, I award The Unholy a 2.6. If you’re dead-set on seeing this movie, I would recommend waiting until it’s out on DVD. If one of my stories is ever adapted, I hope it turns out better than Shrine‘s adaptation.

And I hope the next time I visit the movie theater, whenever that is, the movie is better than what I saw. Whether it’s a horror movie or not.

*He’s also been in a significant role in Supernatural. Is that a coincidence?

I first heard about this film last month, described as The Call of Cthulhu meets small Norwegian island and with Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and Chopping Mall fame heavily featured in the marketing. The trailer looked cool, so I mentioned it in a post about cosmic horror becoming popular, and patiently waited for it to come out. I watched it evening, so obviously I have to write a review about it.

Based on a short story by Paul Kane* and influenced by the works of HP Lovecraft, Sacrifice follows Isaac Jorgstadt and his pregnant wife Emma as they return to the tiny Norwegian island where he lived until he was a child and his mother took him to America. As his mother has recently passed, Isaac now owns the home and has come to see if he can sell it. However, between the townsfolk’s bewildering behavior, unearthed family secrets, and strange dreams, Isaac and Emma find themselves in the crosshairs of a powerful cult worshipping an ancient and terrible god.

Pandemic or no pandemic, I think we can call this the first good horror film of 2021.

First off, the movie was really well done. The strange behavior of the townsfolk adds to this feeling of unreality in the story, which is heightened by frightening imagery and occurrences. The tension between Isaac, who becomes more and more enchanted by the island, and Emma, who is just freaked out, compounds the uneasiness we feel. And the slow-burn nature of the story ramps up in just the right way in the third act.

I also like the way HP Lovecraft’s work is incorporated into the story. Images and statues of Cthulhu–or as he’s known in the movie, “The Slumbering One”–abounds; Isaac’s name in America is Pickman, a reference to Pickman’s Model; dreams play a prominent role in the film; and of course, we get the occasional tentacles. You really enjoy stumbling across all these references and being like, “I get that!”

I always enjoy when cosmic horror is incorporated well into a non-Cthulhu Mythos film.

Excluding Barbara Crampton’s attempt at a Norwegian accent and one line that could be misconstrued as offensive to certain belief systems,** I only had one problem with the film. During the climax, the ending was epic and scary, and then that final shot felt…anticlimatic. I would have liked to see a shot of the Slumbering One or his tentacles or something. Just something more Lovecraftian and scary to end the movie with. Is that too much to ask?

All in all, though, this was a creepy and enjoyable ride. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.1 As of right now, it’s only available from iTunes, but I say it’s worth the cost to check out.† Especially if you can pair it with some good calamari.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to birth my own nightmares. Until next time, pleasant nightmares (or as they say in the film, “dream well”).

*Whose work I need to check out.

**That better have been a put down on female genital mutilation and not on bris milah or similar rituals, I’m just saying.

†Hopefully you have an easier time playing the movie than I did. Still not sure if that was my iTunes player or my computer, but I had so many issues with the streaming.

I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about this film. It’s from the same director as the Happy Death Day films and has a talented cast. Plus, the trailer looked great. Even my dad, who is never interested in horror that I haven’t personally written, was interested in it! So, while the theaters are still open, I went to go and see it.

A horror-comedy mashup of Freaky Friday and the Friday the 13th films, Freaky follows Millie Kessler, a quiet teenage girl whose life was already difficult. But then the Blissfield Butcher, a local serial killer, goes after her. What happens next causes Millie to magically switch bodies with the Butcher. So now, while stuck in the body of a middle-aged murderer, she must figure out a way to get her body back before the Butcher uses it to massacre everyone she knows and loves.

This film is bloody bonkers fun!

I think the film’s strongest point are its main players. Vince Vaughn has a history with comedies, and he does a great job pretending to be teenage girl stuck in the body of a serial killer. It’s crazy how believable he is! Kathryn Newton, who’s had roles in Supernatural and Detective Pikachu, is essentially playing three different girls: shy girl, serial killer pretending to be a shy girl, and badass girl. It’s really cool to see her with that range.

In fact, the whole cast is great. They all have a great chemistry and even the least developed characters are quite likable thanks to their actors. Though I enjoyed seeing some of the assholes get their just desserts.

And from that, let’s move onto the horror. Well, I wasn’t exactly terrified. There’s not much atmosphere, and most of the scares come from jumpscares. That being said, there are quite a few inventive kills that I liked, and the more slasher-y bits of the film were a lot of fun. And in the slasher genre, if you can’t be scary, then being fun is a good second.

As for the comedy, it was kind of hit-or-miss. Most of the misses came from swearing and dirty humor, which I’ve come to think of as scraping the bottom of the barrel. “Ooh, we’re saying bad words and making references to a natural part of the human experience that society gets really uptight about! We’re so funny and edgy!”

Moments like this, where Vaughn makes the most of the premise, are where the humor shines.

The really funny parts come from Vince Vaughn making the most of his character’s situation. The theater was in hysterics whenever Vaughn was commenting on the oddities of being a man, or getting into situations where, out of context, would look totally crazy. There’s a scene involving Vaughn and the love interest in the back of the car that had me laughing so hard, my glasses fogged up (I was wearing a mask)!

Of course, Freaky isn’t perfect. As I said, the film has some misses in the humor department. Also, the method by which the characters magically switch bodies is oddly specific and leaves a lot of questions. Maybe they’re planning on answering those in a theoretical sequel (because of course that’s always a consideration with movies these days), but with just one film, it makes me raise an eyebrow.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Freaky a 4.5. It’s a fun slasher film that makes the most out of its concept and has some good laughs. Even those who don’t like horror-comedies or horror in general should enjoy themselves.

Speaking of which, Abba: if you go see this film, give me a call afterwards and let me know what you think. I’m very curious to hear what you think.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to sleep and then work on my various projects. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

“The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane” by John Quidor, 1858

Recently, I rewatched a movie inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that I first saw a teen. The movie was better in my memory, but it did get me interested in the original Washington Irving short story. Which, I realized, I’d never actually read. The closest I ever came was a version that had been updated for the 21st century and dumbed down for kids. As it was America’s first ghost story and I’m a horror writer from America, I figured I should correct that.

So, I read the short story. And then I did some research into the story’s background and influences, as well as some of the other adaptations (I will maintain to my death that the best version is the TV series Sleepy Hollow, and not the Disney cartoon or the Tim Burton film). And once again, following my interests has led me both down a rabbit hole and to an idea for a new story.

Still my preferred adaptation.

But first, let me tell you some things about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that may surprise you. Turns out, there’s a lot about this story than most realize.

For instance, there really were two historical figures named Ichabod Crane and Katrina Van Tassel. Yeah, they were real people. Washington Irving liked to name characters after people he met. For Katrina Van Tassel, she was the daughter of a family Irving stayed overnight with, and was charmed enough by her to immortalize her in fiction. I wonder how she felt about her character being a flirty MacGuffin whose father’s fortunes and lands were more relevant than her appearance or lack of a personality.

As for Ichabod Crane, he was a colonel in the US Army who served for nearly five decades (yes, I believe that’s where the TV show got the idea to make him a Revolutionary soldier as well). However, his character was likely based on an actual schoolteacher, Jesse Merwin, who taught in Kinderhook, New York and came from Connecticut, like the fictional Crane did. So…yay for namesakes?

Speaking of Washington Irving, he’s buried in the real town of Sleepy Hollow. Yeah, that’s true. They even worked that into the movie I mentioned at the top of the post (though they left a lot of questions in their wake).

But the biggest surprise I found out about America’s first ghost story? It’s not a ghost story.

Now I know what you’re thinking. But hear me out: while it’s regarded as a ghost story by many, this is mostly because the Headless Horseman and his midnight chase of Crane has entered the public consciousness more than any other aspect of the story. In reality, the Horseman plays only a minor role until the story’s climax.

Disney’s Headless Horseman. Traumatizing children and contributing to the confusion over the story since 1949.

So what is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, if not a ghost story? Why, it’s a somewhat comedic tale of two self-centered men vying for the hand of the local squire’s daughter and the cunning trick one uses to get ahead of the other.

In one corner, you have Ichabod Crane, the educated but superstitious outsider who uses his learning and guile to ingratiate himself into the town, feed his gluttonous appetite and maybe marry into a wealthy lifestyle. In the other, you have Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the local tough who is more brawny than intelligent but is stubborn and cunning, and may be just as interested in Katrina Van Tassel as he is in her inheritance. Neither one is exactly likable, but it’s fun to see these two go to extremes just to marry Katrina.

And while most adaptations paint the Horseman as a supernatural entity, the original story strongly hints that Brom was dressed up as the Horseman to scare the superstitious Ichabod out of town, which is why the latter disappeared from Sleepy Hollow. In fact, the first feature film adaptation of the story, the 1922 silent film The Headless Horseman, explicitly shows Brom taking off the costume after Ichabod runs for his life for New York City.

As I said though, the Horseman, which is likely based on the Irish myth of the dullahan and other European myths of headless horsemen (trust me, there are a few, though the dullahan’s the most famous), is what made it into pop culture more than anything else, and may play a key role in why the story is still famous today. That, and the Disney cartoon, but mostly the Horseman.

In any case, all this has given me my own ideas for a sequel story to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. And while I’m working hard on that, I thought I’d mention this all now. Because let’s face it, it’s all so fascinating. Also, I probably won’t have time to mention it in the post announcing the completion of the first draft. Might as well do it here.

But tell me, what’s your take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow? Did you know any of this stuff? What’s your favorite adaptation? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now. I’ll be at work on the story if you need me. Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

October is usually associated with Halloween, and obviously I’m doing everything I can to make sure you don’t forget that. But it is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when the United States recognizes how peoples with disabilities have contributed to the country and to our various industries over the years. This year especially, we are marking both the 75th anniversary of NDEAM, as it’s often abbreviated, and the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming a law.

And it’s good we have this month, because there are so many people with disabilities throughout the world and history who have contributed to our society. Harriet Tubman led dozens of slaves to freedom and acted as an armed scout and nurse for the Union Army, suffered from neurological issues due to a childhood traumatic brain injury; Franklin Roosevelt became President of the United States and led the US through some of its toughest crises, all while dealing with the aftereffects of polio from a childhood condition; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; and author Flannery O’Connor wrote enduring fiction while suffering from lupus.

Not to mention there’s a growing list of entertainers and athletes with disabilities inspiring us everyday. Magic Johnson, the basketball player, has dyslexia; Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things have cleidocranial dysplasia and deafness in one ear, respectively; and Elton John has fought bulimia and epilepsy for years. And more amazing people with disabilities are emerging every day. Check out this video of a dance company, half of whose members have disabilities.

I point out all these people because, as Ms. Hamamoto points out in the video above, one in five people have a disability of some sort. Yet, despite the passage of the ADA and the many opportunities this law opened up for Americans with disabilities, this country isn’t always very inclusive. In fact, opportunities and services available for people with disabilities can vary greatly from place to place.

This astonishes me, because becoming disabled is something that can happen to anyone regardless of sex, race, nationality, class, religion, political leanings, ethnicity or age. In fact, the likelihood of getting a disability grows as you get older. It can happen because of genetics, because of an accident, a side effect of an illness, or other causes. Lately, I’ve heard of people who get over COVID-19, but have side effects such as still being unable to taste or suffering from multiple headaches a week. These can, and likely will, be considered disabilities in the years to come.

And many members of the American military come back or discharge with disabilities. These can range from physical, such as war injuries, to mental or psychological, such as PTSD.

You might not even realize that someone near you has a disability. The majority of them are invisible. You may only see their struggles, if anything.

And yet, so many people don’t want to think about the disabled. Services for the disabled can be underfunded. Many homes aren’t always built with the disabled in mind. Education in general is often not given the funding it needs, and when it comes to budget cuts, special education is often on the chopping block. And there’s so little education on disability in general, that people may hold a stigma regarding disability for years: that disability is contagious; that they’re useless; that they brought it upon themselves; that the best thing to do with disability is to ignore it or hide it away or treat it as an annoyance.

As a person with several disabilities–some congenital, others acquired in adulthood–I’m aware of how lucky I’ve been. I’m gainfully employed at an organization where close to twenty percent of the workforce has some form of disability (as well as accommodations for them). And throughout my life, I’ve been able to receive services that help me with my disabilities. So I feel it is important to not only make disability more visible, but also to advocate and help out when I can.

Which is why I’d like to close out this post with some links to help my fellow peoples with disabilities. The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has numerous resources for the disabled, and many states have programs or offices for the disabled, such as Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities in my state. If you are or know a college student or recent graduate with disabilities, then might I recommend the Workforce Recruitment Program, or WRP, a great program that pairs students and graduates with disabilities with internships in the federal government, and which sometimes turn into jobs (please use Firefox when operating on the site). And the Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has numerous listings of individual disabilities and what accommodations exist out there. My office uses this site all the time, and we find it quite helpful.

And these are just a small sample of resources for the disabled, a group that should never be discounted or forgotten. Because not only can you become disabled at any time in your life, but because no matter the disability, you matter. You contribute. You make the world a better place. And if people forget that, then it’s up to you and to the rest of us to remind them.

What resources for people with disabilities are you aware of? What has your disability experience been like?

It’s been a rough week, so I was looking forward to ending it with a horror movie that’s been on quite a few people’s radars since the first trailer dropped. I mean, it has the producers of Get Out and Us on board! Even if Jordan Peele wasn’t part of the project (yeah, I know, I thought that meant he was too, but he’s not), it looked like it was going to be uber-scary and tackle difficult issues that have been plaguing America for centuries. How could I not watch?

Antebellum begins in what appears to be a Civil War-era plantation, and follows a slave called Eden. Suffering from the worst brutalities from her captors, she must find some way out of the nightmare she’s in. But not all is as it seems. What does what’s happening have to do with a woman in the modern era and an almost identical face named Veronica Henley? In the answer lies an evil dating back to America’s bygone days, one built on power, race and cruelty.

I think the film’s biggest issue is that, because of the creative decisions of the filmmakers, its plot is confusing. We start out on the plantation, then it changes to the modern day without any warning, then back again. It’s like two different movies have been edited together, one a historical horror film, the other a slightly supernatural horror film involving contemporary racism. It’s confusing.

And when the big twist of the story is revealed, it took me two or three minutes to wrap my head around it. And I’m the kind of guy who can usually guess a major plot point in a horror movie or at the very least wrap my head around a difficult concept rather quickly. If I’m having trouble, imagine what the casual viewer is going to have.

That being said, the rest of the film is decent. The sections on the plantation during the first third were especially horrifying for their brutality, and the second third had an uncanny, creepy feeling that balanced psychological and supernatural horror. The climax is exciting enough, and the actors are great at portraying pain, terror, hatred, sadistic joy and grief when called upon. Props especially to star Janelle Monae as the lead. The costumes and sets are also amazing, with everything looking like it might on an actual plantation in the mid-19th century. Except for the outdoor furnace, which gave me Holocaust vibes and scared me down to the core of my Jewish soul.

And like Get Out, Antebellum explores its main theme of racism and slavery in an angle that wasn’t expected and made me think. Especially after seeing the documentary 13th and learning how the modern prison system is very much a form of slavery.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Antebellum a 3.5. How it tells its story does bring down the score, but there’s plenty there to keep you invested in the film. And if you need some new horror right now, this will scratch the itch for you. Just don’t expect Get Out or Us levels of terror or deep-thinking.

 

One more thing before I sign off, my Followers of Fear. Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community prays for our past sins to be forgiven, seek to forgive and be forgiven by our peers, and hopefully have a sweet new year. I have no idea what made this past year such a horror, but I’m hoping the next one will be better, and that the news of Justice Ginsburg’s death is the last in a year’s worth of horrors.

Shabbat Shalom and L’Shana Tovah (that basically means Happy New Year) to you, my Followers of Fear. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may the horrors of last year not follow us into the new one.