Posts Tagged ‘streaming service’

I first heard of this film earlier this year. And I heard a lot of back and forth on it. Some people loved it, other people hated it. It got a terrible response when it was released. However, there’s a cult following around it, and I recently found it on HBO Max. So, unsure of what I was getting into, I watched it.

Based on the graphic novel from Boom Studios (which I may need to read now), The Empty Man follows James Lasombra, a former cop with a past. When his friend’s daughter Amanda goes missing and the police show little interest in finding her, he does some investigating himself. This leads him not only to a strange cult with connections to a spirit in Bhutan, but to a rabbit hole that will not only change him, but the world.

Well, that was something else. And I have to say, I’m glad I watched it.

For one thing, the main part of the film is very atmospheric. There’s this somber air around the whole film which pairs well with the story and the characters. Add in some decent jump scares and some even better creepy sequences, and you actually have a film that’s hard to look away from. I especially like the sequences involving the cult, which is just freaky as all get out. Especially that bonfire scene.

Oh, and the sequences with the titular Empty Man is quite creepy to watch when they’re onscreen.

That being said, it’s not perfect. The main issue is the film’s opening. Remember two paragraphs ago where I said “main film?” The first twenty minutes are kind of a prologue to the rest of the movie, but it feels like its own short film rather than part of a cohesive story. And I’m sure the difference between those first twenty minutes and the rest of the film is part of why this film got negative reviews after its release.

In addition, there were never any moments where I felt a huge surge of terror; Lasombra’s personal trauma is supposed to be very important but is only really explored near the end of the film when its impact on the audience won’t be that strong; and I’m sure there are people who won’t like the final twist, or get the philosophical mumbo-jumbo from the cult.

That last part wasn’t a big turn off for me, but I can see it being a turn off for others.

All in all, though, I can see how The Empty Man could receive a cult following and has been doing so much better since being released to streaming and home media. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it a 4.2. It’s strange, creepy and compelling. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think you should check it out and find out if it’s yours.

Don’t let nothing stop you from watching it.*

*That makes plenty of sense if you’ve seen the movie.

It’s a James Wan horror film. He’s the guy behind Saw, Insidious and the Conjuring films. Nuff said.

Malignant follows Madison Mitchell, a woman who becomes connected to several murders in the Seattle area, starting when her abusive husband is murdered by a mysterious intruder. Not only that, but Madison becomes witness to the murders in dreams, committed by a mysterious figure named Gabriel. As the police attempt to figure out the connection, Madison’s sister learns a secret from the former’s past. A rather disturbing and deadly secret.

This film started out rather slow and kinda typical for an average horror film, but it got better with time. And honestly, it was really interesting.

Malignant is rather atypical of a horror film. James Wan made it more of a giallo film, which is an Italian genre mixing mystery-thriller with suspense and horror (they were quite influential on slashers). The result is a mostly well-done balance between a crazy crime thriller and a strange horror film, especially in scenes like in the Seattle Underground. And the final reveal is rather ingenious, with some very nice body horror that made me shout in my own living room in shock.

Also, what a film score! It was kind of all over the place, but it was still interesting to listen to.

However, the film’s first twenty minutes or so did feel a little cliched and below-average for a horror film. And the ending was kind of a let down for me. Something much darker would’ve worked better for me. And they do bring down the film’s score for me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Malignant a 3.4. Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the film, and ooh, that twist! What an image! I’m going to dream of that for years. However, there’s a lot that could have been improved or done differently. If you want to watch it, go ahead. It’s in theaters and on HBO Max. Still, it’s not the best thing I’ve seen this year. Not by far.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed so I can hang with friends and maybe do some editing tomorrow. Good night, and pleasant nightmares!

Well, it’s here. Netflix released the final film in its Fear Street trilogy (though the cast and director have expressed interest in doing more films in the series). The first and second both rated a 4 from me, so I was curious to see if Part Three could keep up the tension and drama. And after a late sleep and a busy afternoon, I watched it.

Also, in 1666 I wasn’t alive (not by human standards, anyway). And yet I still prevented some of my enemies from influencing the planet using a ritual in the Arabian desert. That was a fun, if rather hot, two weeks.

Picking up just after the end of Part Two, Part Three: 1666 picks up with trilogy protagonist Deena seeing the beginning of the curse through the eyes of the witch Sarah Fier herself. As events unfold, we come to realize that what we’ve been led to believe may not be the case. And only by finding the truth can Deena hope to end the curse once and for all.

Well, the attempts at Irish accents may vary among the cast, but this was probably the best film in the trilogy.

For one thing, the section taking place in 1666 are extremely well done. Most of the actors from the first two films take on new roles in this section, almost like there’s a trapped or cyclical nature to the curse. Also, watching the events reminds you of a much darker version of The Crucible, with quick turns to paranoia, rage and bloodlust.

Plus some murders, of course.

There’s also a rather well-done twist in this section that I didn’t see coming until maybe a few minutes before it’s revealed. It changes the story in an interesting way, and actually gives it some more depth than it already had.

After we return to 1994, the climax is quite tense and exciting. It’s a good wrap up to everything we’ve seen before and there’s still some great sequences of blood, guts and gore.

Pointing out any flaws seems to be nitpicky to me. I will admit, once the big twist is revealed, there aren’t that many surprises. Things just kind of wrap up. And I would’ve liked to see how things played out if the twist hadn’t been written into the story.

But all in all, this was a great wrap up to the trilogy. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Fear Street Part Three: 1666 a 4.2 out of 5. This brings the total trilogy score, once you round it to the nearest tenth, a 4.1 out of 5. The Fear Street films aren’t anything new or groundbreaking in the horror genre. Nor are they the movie event of the summer, as Netflix advertises (that title, so far, still goes to In the Heights and I recommend you go see that if you haven’t).

Still, it’s a bloody fun ride, and I can totally see watching the trilogy back-to-back around Halloween becoming something of a holiday tradition. Especially for those who haven’t seen them before or don’t watch a lot of horror outside of October.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m not feeling particularly tired, so I might try writing for a bit tonight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.


Another reminder: to celebrate ten years of blogging, I’m hosting an Ask Me Anything, or AMA. To participate, send a question to ramiungar@ramiungartherwiter.com by 11:59 on July 28th, 2021. One lucky questioner will win a prize for their question. Looking forward to reading your questions, Followers of Fear!

Netflix has been marketing this as the movie event of the summer, a trilogy of films based on the books by RL Stine (which I have not read, so I can’t tell how faithful it is to the books). While I’m more tempted to call the movie adaptation of In the Heights the movie event of the summer (prove me wrong!), I was willing to dive in and check the first film of the trilogy out.

It also gave me an opportunity to remind you all that in 1994, I was only a year old. Yeah, that’s right. I turned a year old in 1994. Plenty of you reading this blog are old! And you’re welcome for the reminder.

Taking place in 1994, Fear Street Part One takes place in the town of Shadyside, which is famous for its bloody massacres every 10-20 years. After a massacre at the local mall, teenagers from Shadyside get into a dispute with their counterparts from the more prosperous city of Sunnyvale. This has deadly consequences, as the violence ends up waking the spirit of Sarah Fier, a witch who cursed Shadyside over three centuries ago. And if they’re not careful, all of them will end up dead.

For a slasher, it’s not just a lot of fun. It’s well-written! For one thing, the characters are given quite a lot of development, given the film is less than two hours. I honestly forgot these kids were actors and actually believed they were these characters. Thus, I felt their pain and emotions when they went through interpersonal drama, as well as their own terror.

Not to mention, the writing for this movie was above-average. After a certain point in the plot, the film could have done a very simple, by-the-numbers plot, but they managed to include several plot twists and new directions that I wasn’t expecting. Combined with the great actors, the film not shying away from some seriously brutal violence, and a lack of distracting CGI, and the film ends up pretty good.

That being said, it wasn’t anything extraordinary. It was fun, but it won’t become anything classic like other horror films I could name. And some parts of the plot were kinda predictable by their tropiness. Not a bad thing, but still rather predictable.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Fear Street Part One: 1994 an even 4. I would give it a higher score, but I don’t want to make this movie seem bigger than it is. Still, it’s an enjoyable slasher and I look forward to seeing how they continue the story in Part Two: 1978 (yeah, you’d think it’s a prequel, but technically it’s not). I’ll let you all know as soon as I see it what I think of it.


Just a reminder, Followers of Fear: my ten-year blogging anniversary is coming up, so I’m marking the occasion with an AMA! Between now and 11:59 PM on July 28th, 2021, I’ll be accepting (almost) any question you send me. And one lucky questioner will be given a special prize for submitting their question! Just send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com with your question and where you’re from. I look forward to reading and answering your questions very soon.

I look forward to hearing from you all. Good night, pleasant nightmares, and remember to look up the local fireworks ordinances in your area before setting them off this weekend. For all you know, your patriotic celebration could be illegal because you don’t have a license, like in Ohio. Some of my neighbors are going to learn that the hard way.

I recently was able to watch the new Netflix true-crime docuseries “The Sons of Sam.” For those of you who haven’t seen it, the docuseries follows how a man named Maury Terry became convinced in the wake of the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of David Berkowitz, AKA the Son of Sam Killer, that Berkowitz didn’t commit all the murders and was in fact part of a Satanic cult. Berkowitz himself claimed to be part of such a cult, naming the sons of Sam Carr, the man who owned the demon dog (and who, by the way, were both dead and unable to defend themselves at the time of the allegations), as members.

Now, I’m not here to argue whether or not Berkowitz was the lone killer. Most historians and investigators agree anyway that the claims of a cult are unlikely for a number of reasons. Berkowitz himself has been diagnosed as antisocial and seems to enjoy the attention, so he would say anything to stay in the spotlight/keep up the image he’s built for himself since first getting arrested.

What I’m here to talk about is the true horror of the docuseries. It’s not how terrifying Berkowitz and his crimes were, though that is scary too. Nor is it the idea of a nationwide Satanic cult that Berkowitz may have been part of (and which, given how often it keeps cropping up in American history, feels more silly than scary nowadays). It’s the price of obsession. Of becoming so sure of an idea or a hidden truth, that you look for anything that could be considered evidence and end up linking things that might not be evidence at all. You may even lose sight of objective reality and the truth, as well as the respect of your peers and relationships with your loved ones, just to find what you are looking for.

The doucseries revolves around the conspiracy theory that David Berkowitz did not commit the Son of Sam murders alone.

And quite often, what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along. You just refused to see it.

We see this play out with Maurice Terry in “Sons of Sam.” After Berkowitz is arrested and sent to jail, Terry believes that Berkowitz may not have committed all the murders or acted alone because most of the police sketches don’t resemble him or because one or two people saw Berkowitz far from the site of a Son of Sam murder minutes before it happened. Rather than chalking it up to disguises, the noted unreliability of police sketches, or that all these sightings took place at night under low visibility settings, Terry believes there may have been multiple people involved in the shootings.

This leads to him looking into Berkowitz’s hometown and alleged Satanic rituals occurring near Berkowitz’s home, which leads to conversations with people who claim to have belonged to the cult or know people who were, including the Carr brothers mentioned above. He goes on to link the Manson murders, the murder of a woman at Stanford University, and the deaths of a billionaire and a filmmaker to the cult, the last two being members who were allegedly killed to silence them.

And sometimes it seems convincing. Mutilated German shepherds were found in the park near Berkowitz’s home, as well as Satanic graffiti. Charles Manson was likely influenced by belief systems such as Christianity, Satanism, and Scientology, just to name a few. Some of the people who knew or met the Carr brothers say they were interested in the occult and at least one of them was afraid of being followed. And Berkowitz, as we stated above, has said he was part of a cult, though he refuses to name names other than the dead.

The problem is, none of these can be definitively proven as being Satanic. Yes, dogs were mutilated near the park, but there’s no way to prove that it was Satanic or Berkowitz was linked. Satanic graffiti can be found all over the place (I saw plenty in the college bathrooms at Ohio State), and doesn’t mean Satanists are at work. Manson and his followers never claimed to be linked to any other group, though they’ve at times claimed that Manson was God, Jesus and the Devil all at once. The Carr brothers aren’t around to defend themselves, and we don’t have enough information to know if they suffered from mental illness or if their alleged interest in the occult was serious. A couple of the murdered people Terry linked to the cult have since been solved and have mundane, if horrible, explanations.

And Berkowitz, as noted, is likely a psychopath who enjoys the attention. He would say anything if it keeps him in the spotlight.

The horror of consipracy theories is that, while they seem plausible and preferable, they hide the truth and can destroy so much in the lives of believers.

We especially see this in the interviews Terry has with Berkowitz. A lot of the questions Terry asks Berkowitz seem leading, and he seems less concerned with getting to the truth than with confirming what he already believes. Berkowitz himself doesn’t give any new information that can be investigated, like a name for an active member of the cult or where proof like member logs or photographs can be found. But Terry believes it, because he wants to believe.

And that’s the horror. Terry has woven a spider web of possible links and maybe connections around himself. And it’s so tightly and thickly woven with “facts” that he’s unable to see anything that might disprove this theories. He, and those who believe like him, only see the idea of the cult that they say committed the Son of Sam murders. In the process, Terry drives away many people close to him, ruins his credibility as a journalist, and suffers from health issues while searching for his truth. And in the end, he dies still pursuing his truth.

It’s unfortunately an all-too common story. Since time immemorial, mankind has spun spiderwebs of conspiracy theories around themselves and others, refusing to see the truth because it doesn’t fit with their worldview or beliefs. In the US alone, we’ve seen it time and time again with a variety of boogeymen and alleged cover ups. Since 1692, the idea of Satanists operating in the US has been especially prevalent, most recently gaining new life in the 1980s with the Satanic Panic (which Terry unintentionally contributed to trying to convince people of his beliefs) and with today’s QAnon conspiracy.

The result is not just the actual truth being ignored or denied by many people. It can lead to lost relationships, ordinary people being misled, the ruination of reputations, laws being broken, and day-to-day life being severely disrupted. Occasionally, lives are even lost.

And all because someone sees something, may not like or understand what it means, and an alternative presents itself that seems to make more sense. To an outsider, it can seem impossible and extraordinary when so many different and unrelated people, events or things are connected or enlisted to “support” the central idea of the theory. But to the believer, it’s all so simple, and if the connections out of left field help to make the core idea make sense or more believable, or if powerful figures back it up for whatever reason, all the better.

It’s preferable to admitting that a sick and twisted individual work alone and takes lives for their own sheer pleasure. Or that some people have never liked a former President because of what he said/stood for and enough came out and voted against him to keep him from a second term. Or that horrible stuff happens, and there isn’t some grand, simple, good-vs-evil reason behind it.

And to admitting you might’ve been fooled and gone through so much just to be wrong.


If you want to check out “The Sons of Sam” docuseries on Netflix, by all means go ahead. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Just go in with quite a bit of salt. It may make what you’re watching feel more psychologically difficult, because it’ll feel like you’re watching someone fall down a bottomless pit of conspiracy and experiencing the fallout of it. But it’s a fascinating watch nonetheless, and it might deepen your understanding of the allure and journey into conspiracy.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading through my entire TED talk. I just wanted to discuss what I’d watched and how it made me feel. I had no idea it would get this long. Hopefully, I made it interesting enough.

Anyway, I plan to have a shorter but just as exciting post out before too long. Until then, you know me. I’ll be busy writing stories and trying to find them homes, as well as experiencing (and in some cases, causing) all the terrifying phenomena I can. Should be fun.

Also, ParaPsyCon is only two weeks away. This is the biggest convention of authors, ghost hunters, mediums, psychics and more around, and it’ll be held on May 22nd and 23rd at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH. Cost of admission is just purchasing a self-guided tour of the former prison, about $25. I’ll be there as well, so I hope you’ll stop by and say hi. You can get more information by checking out the website here.

Until next time, Followers of Fear, stay safe, have a good weekend, and pleasant nightmares.

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.

I looked for a cosmic horror GIF, and this was my favorite.

Cosmic horror is everywhere these days. Since HP Lovecraft first kicked off the subgenre in the early half of the 20th century, it’s spread from pulp magazines to all corners of horror literature, to table-top roleplaying games and video games. And while cosmic horror has been in the movies and on TV sporadically since the 1960s, in the past couple of years we’ve seen a glut of it on those mediums: Annihilation, Stranger Things, The Color Out of Space, Underwater, Lovecraft Country (which I’ll be watching soon now that I have HBO Max), The Endless, and most recently, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s fourth season (though not very well).

And there are more on the way. Just today, I heard about a new film called Sacrifice coming out next month that has Lovecraftian themes (click here to check out the trailer). Sometime this year, the long-awaited anime adaptation of Uzumaki by Junji Ito is supposed to air. Richard Stanley, the director of Color Out of Space, hopes to do a trilogy of films based off Lovecraft’s work.

And there’s a lot more that I probably don’t know about. Plus new games, novels and short stories, comics, manga and anime, poems and art! Cosmic horror is kinda going mainstream right now. Or as mainstream as horror can get.

Color Out of Space was awesome. And we may have more like it in the future.

The question is, why now? Why is this particular subgenre only now just getting mainstream acceptance? Why the sudden enthusiasm?

I think there are a few reasons. One is time and a devoted fanbase. Cosmic horror, as I said, originally came from pulp magazines with very small circulation. However, the fans who enjoyed the stories of Lovecraft and those who played in his world–what would later be known as the Cthulhu Mythos–preserved and kept the stories going even after the deaths of the magazines and of Lovecraft. Through hard work and advocacy, more fans found cosmic horror and found themselves drawn to the stories. Then as now, fans would then tell other fans, or create their own work based on these stories, which has a looping effect of creating more fans through exposure. So, it may have taken time, but cosmic horror has been able to spread with patience and the love of many who follow it.

Almost sounds like cosmic horror is an eldritch deity in and of itself, doesn’t it? I find that hilariously appropriate.

Another factor at play, I believe, is that modern audiences are more receptive to that kind of horror than they have been in the past. Like I said, it’s taken time for cosmic horror to penetrate the public consciousness, and so for many people, cosmic horror may be a nice change of pace from the usual horror fare. We’ve seen plenty of haunted house stories, slashers, and sequels and ripoffs of possession or ghost stories. Those elements are not normally part of cosmic horror. In fact, it could be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

And finally, while cosmic horror normally deals with ancient, otherworldly gods and terrible secrets, it’s a great place to talk about modern issues. Granted, horror has always been a place to explore our everyday fears and anxieties, but cosmic horror, through the perspectives and interactions of its human characters against these terrors, can do it in a unique way. Lovecraft Country uses cosmic horror to explore racism, which both was part of the genre’s start and which is a current problem today.

Is it too much too hope that one of those works might be a kickass, terrifying adaptation of Hellstar Remina by Junji Ito?

And I wrote a novella, What Errour Awoke, that combined elements of cosmic horror with the current pandemic to explore the fear with the latter. And yes, I still hope to get that published.

So, with all these factors, can we expect more cosmic horror in the near future? I think so. Maybe not in huge numbers from the movie industry, as cosmic horror tends to have a spotty track record there.* But certainly in other mediums. Horror-themed TV has been booming, so we’ll likely see plenty of shows exploring those themes in the future. Comics and manga have always loved cosmic horror. And, of course, we’ll likely see many, many new books or short stories in that vein.**

So long as they’re made with lots of love, both for the subgenre and for the projects themselves, rather than for the money, I look forward to it.

Are you a fan of cosmic horror? Are you enjoying the wave of new works in the subgenre? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

*While they were well-received by critics and moviegoers, Annihilation and Underwater underperformed at the box office, and Color Out of Space only had a limited theater release.

**Hopefully, I’ll be able to add to this. I’ve a few cosmic horror ideas waiting to be written. I’d love to share them with you all someday.

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 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!

 

 

Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!