Posts Tagged ‘films’

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!

Everyone, sing it with me.

Happy Birthday to the blog,
Happy Birthday to the blog.
Happy Birthday to Rami Ungar the Writer
Happy Birthday to the blog.

Great job singing, everyone. Except you. Yes, you. You were off-key.

So, as this post says, Rami Ungar the Writer, the very blog you’re reading right now, is nine years old as of today. And even though my memory of starting this blog at my local library has faded over time, this blog hasn’t. True, there were times where I thought it would. During the first year or two of college, there were days where I was lucky to get one or two views a day. I would wonder if writing this blog was even worth it, given how few people were reading what I had to say as I tried to make something of myself as a writer.

But I kept at it. I’m stubborn when it comes to goals, particularly writing-related goals, and I kept blogging. And you know what? People found my posts. They liked them, commented on them. Some even decided to subscribe to the blog. When my books came out, some of those subscribers elected to read them. And many of my subscribers have become dear friends of mine. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting a few in person, and making happy memories with them. It’s been quite the ride.

As of writing this post (and I know it’s tacky to brag, but nine years! That’s a long time to be blogging, especially in Internet time), Rami Ungar the Writer has 1,694 posts (including this one); 1,217 subscribers; 6,160 likes; and 4,526 comments. Crazy to think about. Even crazier, despite all common sense, some of you are actually proud to be Followers of Fear. I think one or two of you even used the title in hashtags on Twitter. The world is truly something else.

So what’s next? Well, even without a pandemic, I doubt much would change. I’ll be writing and editing stories and working on getting them published. I’ll have reviews on new works of horror as I come across them (and a few new ones are now cheap enough to rent through YouTube, so that’ll work). If I want to discuss a particular aspect of writing or of horror, I will. And if there’s any ghost-hunting or travels to be done, I’ll post about it.

Anyway, thanks for celebrating the blog’s ninth birthday with me. I’m so glad to have so many Followers of Fear interested in my stories and what I have to say. I hope you’ll continue to read what I write, blog or book form, and even let me know what you think.

Also, what do you think I should do for the tenth anniversary? Buy a cake and some champagne? Do another AMA on YouTube? Throw a wild party? I guess we’ll just have to wait till next year to find out.

So, until next time, thanks for being here. And as always, 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).

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.

Well, I didn’t think I would get it done, and especially not today. But get it done, I did, and now it’s time for a blog post.

As you well know, earlier this month I started working on the second draft of River of Wrath, a novel about a small town in 1960s Mississippi whose dark history is dredged up when one of the circles of Hell described in Dante’s Inferno appears in the town. I’ve been meaning to get to this draft for forever, but the deaths of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbury, among so many others, forced me to pull this one off the flash drive and get to work on it again. One of this story’s main themes is racism and racial violence, after all, so I can’t think of a better time to work on this story.

And I’m honestly amazed I got this story finished. For one thing, I didn’t think I’d get to keep to that goal of getting one story done a month, but I guess I did, after a fashion. And I didn’t think I’d finish it today. After all, I had about 75 pages left to edit when I got up this morning. However, a lot of work and I just kept going. Before I knew it, I only had 30 left, and I just couldn’t stop. Now it’s a bit after midnight and I’m done with the second draft. Imagine that.

On another note, this draft is now longer than the first draft! When I finished the story the first time around in October 2018, the novel was 192 pages (8.5 x 11 inches on MS Word, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font) and 60,059 words. The second draft…is 204 pages and 63,843 words! I added twelve pages and nearly four-thousand words! I’m not sure if most of those words came from adding more in-depth explanations about Dante’s Inferno, as one of my beta readers advised, but it’s quite an addition. One, hopefully, that’s well worth the work.

So what’s next, both for River of Wrath and for myself? Well, before I start a third draft of River, I’d like to get it looked at by some sensitivity readers. As I said, this story deals with racism, and I want to make sure it’s not accidentally hurtful to African-Americans despite my best intentions. Hopefully, they’ll give me some insight to improve the novel and make it so that the only people who find it offensive are people whose offense I don’t care about, aka white supremacists.

As for me, I’m going to take a break for a short while. You know, watch some movies, read some books, prepare for my upcoming trip to Iowa and South Carolina. However, I’m sure I’ll get in front of the keyboard and start banging out a new story soon enough. I have an idea that’s been rattling in my head for awhile now that I think I can do a lot with, so I’m looking forward to working on it.

But for now, it’s late and I need to sleep. Good night, my Followers of Fear. And until next time, stay safe, be kind, and pleasant nightmares!

It’s hard to imagine, in the midst of this pandemic, that I have travel plans. In fact, I was SURE around March that these plans would be canceled. But, by accident and chance or by the grace of the Overarching Entity who runs this dimension, I’m doing some traveling very soon. And, as I have in years past, I’m telling you about it. Especially since there might be a chance to run into me.

Let me explain: next month, I will be traveling to Iowa and South Carolina. In Iowa, I will be visiting my good friend and fellow author Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog, as well as her husband Charles Naylor, whom you probably haven’t seen around the blog. While we’re together, we’re going to be doing some pretty cool stuff.

One of those things (and this is the part where you should pay attention), is to attend the 5th Annual Indie Author Book Expo in West Des Moines, Iowa. Specifically, we’re going to be selling books as authors. I’ll be hawking copies of Rose, of course, and Joleene will be likely selling copies of her Aramanthine vampire series. That, and there will be a whole bunch of other authors there selling wares, so you should totally come! It’s Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th, from 10 AM – 6 PM on Saturday and 11 AM – 5 PM on Sunday at the Valley West Mall in West Des Moines (which is somehow both part of Des Moines and its own separate city). Come on by if you can, take some photos, get a signed copy of Rose, and maybe find some other reads to check out.

We will also be, along with two friends of Joleene and Charles, staying overnight at the Villisca Axe Murder House! That’s right, I’m staying overnight at another haunted location, and it’s another with a history of axe murder! And this time, I’m bringing friends and a GoPro along with my dowsing rods, and hopefully we’ll see some paranormal activity and catch it on video. Videos to be uploaded as soon as I can upload them.

After those adventures, I’ll be heading out to South Carolina to see my friend Ramsey Hardin, who you might remember from my New Year’s YouTube video (oh, such innocent days, when we thought 2019 couldn’t get any worse and 2020 would be full of happiness and joy! I miss those days). We’ll spend some time around his hometown, and then we’ll go to Charleston for a couple of days to explore some museums, enjoy the beach, and go on a ghost tour at night (because of course I would arrange for that! And yes, we will be taking video. Hopefully we’ll catch something cool). Should be a ton of fun.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to my trip and am gathering everything I’ll need. If you’re able to come to the expo, I hope you do. I would love to see you. And if you’re not able to be there but want to see me in Charleston or something…maybe. You may have to email well in advance and take precautions against COVID-19, though. Just saying.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a horror movie calling my name, so I’m going to put that on. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Earlier today, someone in a movie-themed Facebook group I belong to asked when the last time other members were carded before going to see an R-rated movie (if you don’t know, in the US anyone under 17 can’t see an R-rated movie without an accompanying adult). I laughed and commented that I didn’t start seeing R-rated films in theaters until I was in college, and my student ID came with the assumption that I was already over 17. So unless you count my Student ID as being carded, I never got carded at a theater.

This made me realize something: when I told people offline about my history with going to the movies, they always react with amazement. Sometimes, given how many people still turned out to see movies in the theaters before the pandemic, it amazes me, such as the carded story. And then I realized I never told that story to my blogging audience, who would probably appreciate it the most.

So since this weekend is upon us, let me tell you about my odd history of going to the movies, and why I will likely start going again once it’s safer to do so.

First thing you should know is, until I was off at college, the most I got to go to the movies was a few times a year. It was a treat for me. There are probably several reasons for this. My parents were raising four kids and holding down full-time jobs that didn’t always hold to the normal nine-to-five. We had plenty of free movies from the libraries we patronized, as well as from video stores when those were popular and later streaming services like Netflix. Any theater I would want to go to would require a ride, which wasn’t always on hand). And perhaps I just didn’t beg enough to go see movies I was interested in, though I’m not sure how effective asking repeatedly would’ve been.

Still, we did go to see every Harry Potter movie in theaters when they came out. I did on occasion get to see the new superhero film or book adaptation or whatever when I wanted, especially for birthday parties or if I was invited out by friends, or once or twice my folks had something to do nearby and knew I would be bored senseless if I was dragged along (one time I was even dropped off to watch an action film while my sisters went to see something that was more their speed. I was really happy about that arrangement). And of course, having two sisters who were five and seven years younger than me, I got to see a lot more kids films than I care to admit.

That being said, I did miss out on seeing a lot of films I really wanted to see in theaters. And occasionally, I did feel like I was missing out. When Paranormal Activity came out, and everyone was raving about it, how it was a revolution in horror movies (and for a while, it was), I was sad because I knew I wouldn’t see it in theaters. There was no way in hell I could get my folks to agree to take me to see it, and I would need them. After all, I was only sixteen at the time.

Then college came around, and the nearest theater was only a twenty minute walk from the dorms and later the apartment where I lived. I started going regularly, paying attention to releases. And at some point, I realized that not only was going opening weekend a rush, but it was something I’d been waiting to do my whole life. I was addicted.

Wish I could hop on the TARDIS right now. Then I could see all the movies on opening weekend I want to. Even the ones that have been delayed due to COVID-19.

Even after I moved away from campus, I would go out of my way to see new movies. And then when I moved into my current apartment and learned there was another theater even closer than the ones I went to previously, I went there, taking two buses and nearly two hours to get one way and the other, no matter the weather. And when I got my car? Hoo-boy, did life get good! Now, every movie was only a twenty-minute drive away, no matter the theater I had to go to. It was a blast.

It’s been four months since I’ve been able to sit in a theater, when I saw The Invisible Man (and found it to be average). I miss it. Yeah, occasionally you have to deal with high ticket and food prices, other patrons checking their phones or bringing their babies or otherwise being noisy. And occasionally, when you ask those people to not be so distracting, they threaten you with violence (happened to me once, I did not appreciate it).

But I also enjoy sitting with like-minded viewers right before a big horror or superhero film, that rush of emotions when something amazing or terrifying or heartwarming happens, and the thoughts going through my head as I write my review in my head. I miss the experience that goes with seeing a film opening weekend.

So when it’s safe to do so, I hope to go again, and experience all that again. In fact, I probably will. It’s hard to keep me from a good horror film or superhero film anyway (and I have the eyewitness accounts and court trials to prove it).

Do you miss going to the movies, Followers of Fear? Will you go when the theaters reopen again? 

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.