Halloween 2018: Annihilation (2018)

Continuing on with the Halloween movie watching, we’re back to something a little more current with a 2018 film. While a lot of people got this on Netflix, Canada got the theatrical release and therefore only just got it available on Netflix now. I remember watching the trailer for this and being incredibly interested in it. It felt like it would be a horror thriller with science fiction and such. Honestly, at this point, I don’t remember much from the trailer except the general storyline.

Annihilation (2018)

annihilation

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Benedict Wong, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Tessa Thompson

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply. – IMDB

As usual, I’m going to be clear that I’ve never read the source material so this write-up is based completely on the film itself.

Annihilation comes as a midway point  for myself. I had some high expectations for it when I first saw it announced but somehow that feeling has gone away a little. As for whether it met my expectations, I’d have to say that it did in one way and then it didn’t quite reach what I had expected it to be completely. A part of me also thinks that this isn’t quite horror. Its more of a scifi/fantasy thriller with horror elements. With that said, Annihilation is visually very pretty. The creativity behind the world that the five scientists go into definitely was an eye-opening experience just to see the ideas behind it and how it was executed. The execution itself is a recount of events from Natalie Portman’s character and with that centers her as being the main character which makes it out by all means but then it jumps from mostly in the past rundown of events but jumping back to the present as she is being questioned.

Annihilation

The creatures in this world and the flora and the colorfulness that covers all over the world has this sinister yet mesmerizing sort of effect. The world creation actually is the plus in Annihilation. Its the mystery that surrounds it which makes it so intriguing to keep watching just to see what more there is around the corner. There is this creeping feeling of something bad always going to happen because of the little that we know especially with the history of no one making it back from this area. At the same time, there is a lot of genuinely dangerous moments that happen at fairly unexpected moments. There are some that pack in quite a lot of atmosphere building tension.

Annihilation

As for the cast itself, I haven’t seen Natalie Portman in too many movies so I’m not sure that I’m exactly impressed with her performance. To be honest, everyone does a well enough job but nothing really does standout because it becomes fairly obvious that the scientists here are only half developed especially with anyone outside of Natalie Portman. Everyone seems to have some past that gives them some form of weakness but its never given enough attention to make them memorable. Some of them seem to fall a tad flat. For anyone back in the facility with Benedict Wong who only plays as a tough interrogator while Oscar Isaac is a survivor that pretty much that falls into a coma after the events and is the main reason behind the mystery and why Natalie Portman’s character goes into this area. His parts are best described as powerful because of what the scene delivers but its Oscar Isaac and he always has some presence but he’s more of a supporting leaning into cameo part. However, there are some familiar faces like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tessa Thompson.

Overall, Annihilation is visually very impressive and the story and execution uses ambiguity to create mystery and suspense and that works especially with the beautiful world they have created. However, there’s something lacking about it that makes it hard to really be completely memorable and that probably gets down to lack of character development. There has this effect of giving the story something to think about at the end but then, I’m not sure it actually lingered that long in my mind.

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Halloween 2018: Nightlight Tales 2 by Anthony Renfro

*Book received in exchange for honest review*

It has been a long while since we looked at Anthony Renfro’s work. Consider me very sorry about it since its beem sitting in my inbox for at least a few months. However, such a fitting time to read an anthology of horror short stories. To keep things moving, I will link back to reviews for some of these that I have written about before. One thing is for sure is that you should head over and check out Anthony’s blog HERE.

Nightlight Tales 2
by Anthony Renfro

nightlight tales 2

The Headless Fountain Man

Fun fact: This story was inspired by a picture that I posted on Avenue of Daydreams.

There is something so fun about The Headless Fountain Man. I would have to say that he nailed it on the head with the “monster” in this one. Not to mention the main character is called Kim so it could be my biggest nightmare. The details and description for this short story is really well done. I had this slight feeling of one of the scenes from Gerald’s Game in there. It kind of creeped my out and also explains why I don’t normally take human figures or sculptures often. 100% awesomeness for this short story on all angles especially for creativity. I may have taken the picture to inspire it but it sure went off in an unexpected direction.

Fear of the Scarecrow

Revenge, scarecrows, incantations, pumpkins, creatures and some bloody moments pretty much sums up Fear of the Scarecrow. Its a story about revenge and how far to go for it. But its even more than that because there are layers to this story more on a physical level as the events and revenge gets more intense with how it turns outs. I’ve read this one before and rereading it is still pretty fun.

It Sleeps At Dawn – Review

The Dead of Winter – Review

Gluten-Free

Unexpected is how I’d describe this story. I think this highlights why I like reading Anthony’s short stories a lot. I’ve talked about his creativity before but I wouldn’t have imagined on using gluten as a central way to commit suicide. Extreme, gruesome and very well described. Gluten-Free is one of the shorter short stories but one that is fully engaging because of how its presented. Its unique and that is what makes it stand out for myself.

The Lot – Review

The Dragon

In our current landscape, technology is everywhere. A lot of people ignore the horrors that come with it. Of course, we’ve also been seeing a lot of movies that reflect this especially with the new wave of screenlife horror and thrillers. The Dragon mimics something of the dangers of when something like Alexa is a lot more sinister. Its clever to use technology as the background but what I like a lot about it is the vivid description of how things go down. Its great to be able to picture every moment that happens.

Webs

I was wondering when spiders would be the central horror in one of the stories. A completely fresh setting compared to previous stories also gives it a nice little change. At the same time, the story paces itself quickly and takes a quick change for a fairly bloody turn of events. Using curses and spider webs and looking for ancient idols being the center makes for a fun adventure. It only focuses on the main event but could definitely be something that I’d read a full story about from the whole research to the horror in the cave or tomb or whatnot.

Gas Station of the Dead

One of the longer (is not longest) story of this collection is a story that comes back to what I think Anthony does a great job at: Zombies. I’ve always been more of a fan of the short stories, this one is more fleshed out. It gives us a more complete story with the main character. Its definitely not a bad thing and this one packs a lot of the hero and having the positivity to move forward and be smart about how to get out of each situation. It is a tamer novel as a while but with a commendable end goal for our main character as we watch him hatch his plan while not exactly knowing what exactly his plan is until we get there. I can’t say its my favorite mostly because if we were looking at commendable characters from this collection, Mike Beem Chronicles, which is a series that I’ve read all of and features as the final four stories does an incredible job at with both building a memorable main character. I guess this one fell short a little for myself.

Mike Beem Chronicles:

A Zombie Christmas – Review
A Zombie Christmas 2 – Review
Flesh of the Zombies – Review
Zombie Beach – Review

Overall…

Nightlight Tales 2 shows a diversity in what Anthony Renfro can create. While he has an obvious love for writing about zombies, there are other aspects of horror that he dives into using different avenues to share the depths of his creativity. This collection is definitely a fun read and is packed with page turning stories, which are perfect for the Halloween season or any horror craving you may be having.

Where to find it:

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CJTDK66

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07CJTDK66

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07CJTDK66

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07CJTDK66

Halloween 2018: The Visit (2015)

It sure feels like I’m working backwards one year after next as I work through the films. Trust me, it isn’t deliberate. Next up is 2015’s The Visit, somewhat considered a comeback directorial film from M. Night Shyamalan. I have only seen The Sixth Sense from him so I have no idea about his career.

The Visit (2015)

Director (and writer): M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn

Two siblings become increasingly frightened by their grandparents’ disturbing behavior while visiting them on vacation. – IMDB

I am probably about the only person who doesn’t know much about The Visit. I honestly chose this one off a whim, remembering it had mixed opinions. With that said, all I knew was that grandkids visit their grandparents and stuff happens like most horror movies would go. Not a whole lot to go on so expectations are non-existent. With that said, The Visit turned out to be quite good. Usually, I figure out twists pretty well but I didn’t finish convincing myself of it before it took the route that it did. Maybe it had to do with the similarity to an elementary school camping creepy tale that made this one feel more effective for me.

I enjoy films that use a documentary format to play up the events because when it is done well, it helps to keep some things under wraps and there are things left to imagination in the mysterious zone. The Visit works relatively well in that department especially since the events are highlighted a lot with noises here and there. The bumps at night are generally overused in horror films but because we never quite know what to expect whenever the kids see what is causing the noise. On top of that, its a question of what is causing the odd behavior in their grandparents. Creepy grandparents somehow have its effectiveness and these ones have the unexpected factor.

Its interesting to see how Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould was both in Better Watch out (review) after this film. They are very good young actors and they definitely excel in their roles here. The same goes for the grandparents here played by Deanna Dunagan and McRobbie. They are sufficiently creepy. There are some bits especially with the grandma that has hints of fairy tale stories and also, she has one scene under the house that is crazy creepy notched up to level eleven. That is just a quick example.

Overall, the story here feels fairly simple. The reason this works to a decent horror extent is in the mystery of how it is filmed and executed. If it was in traditional filming, it might not have been as effective. The creepy moments were in the unknown and a lot of the off frame and creepy ambient sounds used here. The twist was also relatively clever. Thinking back, it wasn’t completely hard to figure out but I was sold on the twist.

Have you seen The Visit?
Are you a fan of M. Night Shyamalan films?

Halloween 2018: The Babysitter (2017)

The first movie to kick off the Halloween month is Netflix Original’s The Babysitter!

The Babysitter (2017)

The Babysitter

Director: McG

Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Emily Alyn Lind, Andrew Bachelor, Doug Haley

The events of one evening take an unexpected turn for the worst for a young boy trying to spy on his babysitter. – IMDB

Its undeniable that we’ve seen this formula quite a bit in the last few years. Rewind back to something like Better Watch Out (review) or this year’s Knuckleball (review), both having their individual twist on the “Home Alone” set in a horror concept. Except this one adds in one more twist that makes it a much bloodier affair while also keeping in the horror comedy subgenre. Netflix Originals have been iffy at best if we look back at the averages, but then I’ve only watched the romance and teen stuff so perhaps horror fares a little better. The Babysitter may have its flaws but it still is a satisfying comedic, over the top, horror affair. Hear me out!

THE BABYSITTER

First of all, if you haven’t seen Samara Weaving in Mayhem (review), then you need to add it to your to-watch pile pronto! That movie proves that she can take the bad-ass chick role in an exceptional way and add in some humor in the process. Its actually one of the reasons that I decided to watch The Babysitter. And being the leading lady here, lethal as heck may I add, she does a stellar job. In fact, she is one of the top reasons that The Babysitter is worth the watch. Not to mention, you need to take a look at the boy here played by Judah Lewis who also has some great tricks written for his character up his sleeve. We see him toughen up throughout the film and get over the obvious crush that he has over his hot babysitter. Aside from these two main leads, Samara Weaving’s character Bee takes on a high school crew consisting of some very familiar faces. The first being the constant Netflix appearing face, Bella Thorne playing a cheerleader who honestly plays a very weird and rather insignificant role for the most part. There is also Hana Mae Lee who plays the odd chick, similar vibes to her role in the Pitch Perfect movies. I do like her odd and awkward style. She falls really well into this role so it works with the balance of these characters. The last familiar face is Robbie Amell who is in so many things now including The Duff (review) who plays the tough and psychotic bad boy. There’s a charm to Robbie Amell that makes what he does work although I do have to say, he is lucky that this is a horror comedy which makes it easy to not take him seriously because that’s how his character is meant to be.

The Babysitter

I’m a big fan of this concept of horror. The Home Alone twist and the confined and limited space as a film setting. At the same time, it adds in some over the top elements as well as a little bit of blood and violence and tension. To be fair, this movie did pull off some decent tension for the most part of it. It goes a little off rails at the end and the only thing I disliked about it was how they chose to end it. To avoid any spoilers here, let’s just say, horror movies like to do that and I hate it because most of the time, its unnecessary. Is The Babysitter an exceptional film? It probably isn’t. Many compare it as the lesser version of Green Room. I’ve never seen Green Room but that is on the watch list this month. Keep an eye out for my thoughts on that.

That’s it for the kick-off film. 
The Babysitter is a horror comedy so a nice way to break into the horror month.
There will be some more intense horror as we move along, that I can promise you.

Have you seen The Babysitter? Thoughts?

Announcement: Halloween Marathon 2018 Officially Begins!

Halloween Marathon

The 2018 Halloween Marathon is upon us. It definitely came by quickly enough.

Halloween Marathon has been always an exciting month in the year over here. This year’s horror movies have been quite limited so its going to be an adventure to work on getting rid of some of the movies in My List on Netflix as well as some movies on our shelves that we’ve bought but never seen. We are in the phase of decluttering and trading in our films is one of the phases we are working on. I do have a lot of horror movies to catch up on and with the Netflix October movie releases and other bits here and there with books and hopefully some cooking as well, its going to be a ton of stuff happening and with a decent variety if things go as planned.

Reviews currently being scheduled and writing in progress:

  • The Babysitter (2017)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2017)
  • Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (Season 1 & 2)

Some of my top picks:

MOVIES

  • Annihilation
  • The Babadook (because it seems like I’m the only person in the universe that hasn’t seen it yet)
  • Bone Tomahawk
  • Green Room
  • Gantz: 0
  • The Visit
  • What We Do in the Shadows
  • Sharknado: The 4th Awakens
  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

TV SERIES (These picks are priority because I want to wrap up the show as they are already done)

  • Scream Queens (Season 2)
  • Hemlock Grove (Season 3)
  • Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)

The Maybe List (if I’m in a mood and none of the top picks fit my liking or I want to watch a dumb horror):

  • The Forest
  • It Comes at Night
  • Anaconda
  • Mother!
  • Mama
  • The Open House
  • Winchester

Obviously, the list above is all subject to change and its on what I decide to pick. However, I’m open to any suggestions! If there’s any movie that you want me to review on this list, just leave it in the comments or tweet or email or whatnot and I’ll make sure to bump up the priority. 

Also, as I mentioned before, books will be included in there. I’ve currently started one already so we will be having 2 or 3 hopefully pop up over the month.

On top of the normal programming from movies definitely making it in and others in consideration above, Elwood and I are kicking off Movies & Tea Podcast’s season 2 with our look at Guillermo Del Toro’s directorial effort. With that said, there is a lot of horror movies coming out from there. I’d say that we might get through a movie or two in October if things go as it did in the first season of the show.

Before I wrap this announcements and start the Halloween Marathon out of the gates here, I do want to say that I have a last minute decision of attending the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal so I’ll be covering up to 10 films there. However, none of those films will be horror, or at least from what I think. So, there will be other things going on here. If the marathon takes a little slide in the background, the second half of October will be in full force. You just need to be patient with me as I work through real life, festival coverage and Halloween marathon.

That’s it for this morning’s announcement! 
We officially start tomorrow morning with a movie review! 🙂

Are you doing anything special for Halloween on or off the blog? Leave a comment and a link to your blog so others can go check it out!

My Weekly Adventures: Its Here Again… Announcements

My Weekly Adventures

Welcome to the next Adventures post. I shouldn’t use Weekly adventures but we’ll keep it like that for now since I can’t figure out a better name. These past 2 weeks didn’t feel particularly like it was busy but when I thought back, a decent amount of small things happened and it was really tiring.

Its October right around the corner so of course, that also means that we have an important announcement (and another one as well). If you saw my tweet then you might already know what I’m talking about.

Let’s get started!

Hiking: Reserve Naturelle des Montagnes Vertes

Reserve Naturelle Montagnes Vertes

Keep this one short and sweet. We finally got back out to hiking. Everyone’s health seems to be okay again. We have some little things that happened after the hike but still, it was a good one. I’ve already did a post on it so you can check that out HERE.

Hangout with High School Friends

Last weekend, we had a little get together with some high school crew to see one of our friend’s baby. I probably talked about the baby shower back in October last year or something. I can’t remember right now. Either way, we had a little food and some tarts and chatted the afternoon away. It was great! Plus, her little one is so adorable.

Montreal Oasis Marathon 2018

montreal marathon

Last weekend was the Montreal Rock & Roll Series Oasis Marathon 2018. It had a move from the more eastern side of Montreal to downtown near Chinatown area. They shifted the event earlier as well. Suffice to say that, the pick up package and the picking up bags after the marathon left a lot to be desire in terms of organization but the race itself was great. It started off in Rene Levesque which is one of the main arteries in downtown. There was little firework moments for each coral’s start. Plus, the location made finding a place to sit down good especially since its kind of my turf. So it made the whole event for my being there to pick up my friend easy, especially when the temperature dropped that morning drastically so I had my scarf and hat for winter with me in the morning.

Setting Up New Social Media

A little side note and I guess a follow-up from the What’s Up segment (unless I edited it out and forgot then it would make no sense and be slightly embarrassing), I decided to continue on my research into the China social media world and actually signed up for a Weibo account. Its pretty much a Facebook/Twitter mesh but since Chinese characters are a word in itself, its satisfies the microblogging corner of the market. I’m not great at writing Chinese but I do recognize words so typing it is actually a good practice. Consider it a social experiment or whatnot, but I have an account now so I’ll be checking it out. If you have an account also, give me a shout. Its lonely to trek new territory alone.

Moon Festival

moon festival

Moon Festival came around last Monday. I had dinner with my mom. After some debate, as her kitchen renovations continue, we decided to stay in to eat since the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed on Mondays. One of her friends dropped by to have dinner with us as well. Delicious as always and we had moon cakes and everything.

Halloween Marathon 2018

Official announcement tomorrow! Keep your eyes posted! Short and sweet announcement, right?

Festival du Nouveau Cinema

On that note, I got press just a few days ago for Festival du Nouveau Cinema, which is a festival that has been running for a long time but I’ve never been to. It usually hits the busy and event hiatus that I take for my own sanity. This year, a fellow Montreal blogger DM’ed me on Twitter and gave me a heads up to check it out and since I’ve been in the Weibo world and checking out movie reviewers and saw one of their movies being listed as this year’s top 5 Chinese movies, I wanted to go. So yay, that is happening. Not sure how its going to fit into the whole schedule but I’ll talk about that more very soon. I’ll have a post for my picks in a day or two.

Cute Kitty Pic

Kitty

That’s it for this adventures! 
What have you been up to?

Horror Marathon Wrap-up & Overview!

And we are at the end!!! Happy Halloween!

If you missed any of the posts, the Halloween Horror marathon page is updated with this year’s movie reviews and TV binges. You can find it HERE.

Its been quite a month. Hooray to slight organization! I won’t lie that I started the Saw franchise in mid or late September because I was anticipating the work craze in the last week and still, it wasn’t quite enough to not skip two days. However, I am pretty happy with it. We discovered some great movies and TV series. The Autopsy of Jane Doe being the indie that scared me a lot even if it wasn’t perfect and one that I honestly love a lot. Unfortunately, books and recipes didn’t quite get their appearance because I took on a huge task however I did work hard so I am near the end so those reviews will go up and I will proceed to try and complete my Goodreads challenge which is incredibly behind because of IT. As for IT, I plan on working on some compare and contrast piece of the adaptations/remake/source material.

The overall feeling of I have of Saw is pretty underwhelming. Yet again I remind you that gore and blood doesn’t impress me. Making me sick and making me scared or anxious are two very different things. I loved the direction of the first one a lot and the last two did alright but everything in the middle was really meh. I’d have to say, after so many years of these marathons, I like even the most nonsensical slasher films in Halloween or Friday the 13th over any of the Saw films in the middle. Plus, Saw has to really been considered as an entire story since we spend each movie catching up with Jigsaw and his grand plan. It does show his genius and in a certain way if you look at it, it does make sense since the 7 movies aren’t really that far apart from each other on a timeline. It would be interesting to see how it would measure up if put on a timeline and see if it all makes sense. That was the original plan but work took over and here we are, struggling to get this final wrap-up before the clock strikes midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone.

With that said, I’ll keep this short and sweet since I’ve wasted enough time trying to record a video and having that fall apart.

My top 3 faves of this year in terms of movies would be (in no particular order): The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Pulse & IT (2017) & Saw is somewhere there but I can’t decide which. As for fave TV series, Stranger Things takes that one for sure. Actually the TV Binge for Stranger Things Season 2 should be coming up also. 🙂

That’s it for this Horror Marathon!
Any suggestions for next year’s horror feature?
Are you a Saw franchise fan?
What movies are your horror marathon picks?