Get Out marks Jordan Peele’s — known for his role in the phenomenal sketch comedy Key and Peele — feature length directorial debut. It’s shocking how well he does as he writes and directs this excellent film. It was clear from his comedy that Peele was talented, but his transition from one side of the camera to the other is flawless. Get Out opens with a young Black man (credited as Keith Stanfield, now going by Lakeith Stanfield) walking down the street in a hedge-filled suburb, quipping to someone on the other end of his phone that he “sticks out like a sore thumb.” A car passes him driving in the opposite direction and he tenses but keeps walking. The car makes a u-turn, and the camera swings around with it, following the car while simultaneously framing Stanfield’s face in the center of the shot. It’s technically dazzling, and puts the audience in the head of the character as he reacts. The people in my packed early screening collectively gasped. The dread was palpable before the opening credits had rolled.
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Caradog W. James’s third movie Don’t Knock Twice follows a mother and the daughter, separated by social services, reconnecting after the daughter summons an angry demon. While the cast’s résumés speak for themselves (Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica plays the mother, while Lucy Boynton of The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House plays daughter Chloe) the demon is, hands down, the best part of the movie.
In The Conjuring and Insidious series, James Wan’s demons play games with the audience. The music builds to a climax before a character opens a closet. And then it’s empty. Four seconds later the character turns around. Boom. There’s a ghost in their face. The audience jumps. Don’t Knock Twice refines that by having the demon play games with the characters instead of the audience. Early on, Chloe and Danny (Jordan Bolger) are video chatting. Chloe hears a knock on the door and gets up. The audience watches through the Chloe’s webcam as the demon visits Danny without a witness.
What is the witch’s goal in The Conjuring when she jumps out at the characters? It seems that she’s only trying to scare them, which is dull after the initial jolt. What is the demon in Don’t Knock Twice accomplishing by jumping out? Well, it depends on the scene. Sometimes it’s herding characters away from their protectors, others luring guardians away. In most scenes, it’s clear that the demon is working with a strategy, which is a terrifying concept that the film executes wonderfully.
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Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s second novel, Certain Dark Things, tells the story of a blood feud between two vampire clans being fought in Mexico City, where vampirism is outlawed. The story’s told through a rotating close third-person point of view, with each chapter assuming a mix of objective facts and subjective thoughts from the novel’s principal characters: Domingo, Atl, Ana, Nick, and Rodrigo. Atl and Nick are different breeds of vampires from warring clans enmeshed in a cat-and-mouse game as Nick and Rodrigo hunt Atl across Mexico city.
The book starts with a brilliant reimagining of a meet-cute. Domingo – a young trash collector – riding on a train, spots a beautiful woman. He approaches her and she invites him back to her apartment… to feed as it turns out. It’s a good set-up, and I like the work that Moreno-Garcia does with Atl’s decision to bolster Domingo’s now decreased blood supply with orange juice and iron pills rather than kill him. The choice drives Atl’s emotional arc. She’s in mourning and unmoored from everything she’s known. Those feelings drive her to cling to Domingo, and as the conflict escalates, Domingo becomes more and more of a liability because of his ignorance, his peaceful nature, and his physical weakness.
Continue reading at Spectator and Spooks!
In the wake of the US election of a man whose rise to power was heralded by white supremacist groups, racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobic politicians, whose hateful rhetoric drove a deeper, manipulative wedge between the disenfranchised and the bourgeois of America , a coworker said something that surprised me: “What we need now is art.”
I’d imagined the sentence ending with “revolution” or “meaningful protest” or “Canadian citizenship.” Even as a writer, someone who ostensibly believes that art can make a difference, I wasn’t ready to hear that what we needed was “art.” I also wasn’t ready to go create works that would nudge the giant pendulum swinging from tense acceptance to open hatred to swing a little further into acceptance. I believe writing can do that. If I didn’t, why bother? That hope is why I spend my free time reading submissions for Spectators and Spooks, trying to find that perfect piece, a ghost story that illuminates a world view different from my own white-passing, straight cis-male perspective that can move me to understand and love a character from a different background and space and time that has been overlooked and dishonored.
While Ken Liu doesn’t do much by the way of ghosts – not in the supernatural sense at any rate – in Paper Menagerie he works to move that pendulum of otherness, that weight that I am yet unsure of how to move for myself or others.
Continue reading at Spectator and Spooks!
For years, slashers have relied on the trope of the unkillable monster. Michael Myers is shot multiple times at the end of Halloween only to disappear when the camera turns away from him, before coming back for Halloween II. Jason dies at the end of pretty much every Friday the 13th movie only to be inexplicably back (or explicably resurrected) for the next one.
And that’s saying nothing about the damage either of them supposedly took as they pursued hapless teenagers. These two were punched, kicked, head-butted, stabbed, shot, electrocuted, defenestrated, but never slowed down. Early slashers trained audiences to accept that the killer could fall down the stairs and be back to full health – though typically never going faster than a walk – in the very next scene.
Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson took full advantage of those expectations with one of the best twists in movie history: the second killer. It’s genius. After decades of watching Leatherface, Jason, Michael, et al tearing brain-dead teenagers apart, audiences were primed to assume that it’s always the one guy behind the mask. Adding a second killer gave a realistic explanation for the amount of punishment the guy takes, and how he seems to often be in two places at once.
Ghostface can be in two places at once, because Ghostface is two people: Billy and Stu. It’s a brilliant take on an all-too-familiar trope. But who’s the killer in each scene? I tried to figure it out once and for all:
Find out who was behind the mask at Wicked Horror!
The Similars (Los Parecidos) written and directed by Isaac Ezban. The movie takes us to a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, paying tribute to The Twilight Zone. The Similars opens with a monologue delivered with the same pauses and inflections (at least to my English speaking ears: the movie is in Spanish) Rod Sterling used during The Twilight Zone’s opening sequence and during his episode book-ending monologues. The set-up of The Similars is near-identical to season 2, episode 28 of The Twilight Zone, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” A roomful of strangers delayed on a bus trip — in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” because of a blizzard and in The Similars because of a hurricane — trying to figure out who the outsider is.
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It’s me. I’ve been bad about posting my work as it gets published. I’m going to make a few separate posts, one for each article, so please excuse me as I blow up your feed.