Monday, 3 October 2022

Horror Film Review: Deadstream ★★★★☆

I know, I know. It's not technically permitted to admit this in the horror community but I wasn't a fan of The Blair Witch Project. Somewhere between the extreme hype and lack of resolution, I was left feeling lukewarm. As a result, I tend to avoid found- or live-footage horror but Deadstream caught my eye and I decided to give it a chance.

Deadstream 2022 | Horror Film Review | Banner

The directorial debut of Joseph and Vanessa Winter, Deadstream is the story of reprehensible video stunt-blogger Shawn Ruddy (Joseph Winter) (possibly the illegitimate lovechild of PewDiePie and Logan Paul), who comes out of forced retirement to go it alone in one of America's most haunted houses. Not the most haunted, you understand, because that would take actual money, but close enough.

Armed with just a head-cam, selfie-cam and his enormous ego, Ruddy acts with increasing stupidity, throwing his spark plugs into the trees and padlocking himself inside the house before throwing the key down a drain.

What could possibly go wrong?

I desperately want to say that the most scary thing about Deadstream is Ruddy's stupidity but I'd absolutely be lying. Let's just agree that deciding to watch the film - in the dark - at 5am on a Sunday morning (thanks insomnia) wasn't my finest 87 minutes. When it wasn't making me jump out of my skin and sending my very grumpy cat scarpering out the room, Deadstream made me cringe and gag in utter revulsion. The special effects might have been cheap but the effects were extremely grim.

For a live-footage horror film, Deadstream is extremely well made. The visuals were great for supposedly taking place in a dark, abandoned house and the plot device of the live video stream was very well done. The comments on the live stream were brilliant and made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion (sorry, cat), especially the one about how Ruddy looked like he'd been in a boxing match with Logan Paul.

Joseph Winter portrays Ruddy to perfection. He's despicable and irredeemable, unlikeable to the max. His 'fans' clearly want Ruddy to die and he's here for that. It helps that Ruddy has such a large catalog of controversies behind him because that helps move the plot along nicely. Special mention also goes to Melanie Stone in her role as Chrissy. No spoilers but there's a point in the film when Chrissy's disposition changes and it was chilling.

I enjoyed Deadstream a lot, much more than I expected to. It was scary and grim enough with a healthy side-helping of humour.

Deadstream 2022 | Horror Film Review
I give Deadstream an excellent four out of five stars. It's the first work I've seen from either Joseph Winter or Vanessa Winter but I'll be interested to see what they do in future. Recommended to fans of found footage, supernatural and comedy horror.
★★★★☆

A Shudder Exclusive, Deadstream, premiers Thursday, October 6, 2022

Trailer: Deadstream (2022) dir. Joseph and Vanessa Winter

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Friday, 30 September 2022

'In the Vanishing Hour' by Sarah Beth Martin | Book Review ★★★★☆

The best parts of historical fiction are the ones that take us back to a certain time and a certain place. We get to learn more about what people wore, how they thought and what the atmosphere was like during that time. For me, historical fiction doesn't even need to be centred around major historical events, I'm just looking for glimpses into the past. When I picked up Sarah Beth Martin's In the Vanishing Hour, it was with this in mind - I was captivated by the idea of twin mysteries set in a small Massachusetts town in the early 1950s and 1970s.

In the Vanishing Hour by Sarah Beth Martin | book banner

Frances Adams is haunted by the death of her brother Mac in 1951. He was just a teenager when he drowned in the Charles River and Frances cannot escape the weight of his loss. When she gets a job as a window dresser in a department store, Frances meets model Gwen who invites her into a world of fashion, lights, fragrance and colour. It is a world where Frances can reinvent herself and become so much more than the sister of a dead brother.

When tragedy strikes again, Frances is drawn into a web of mysteries that will force her to confront not only her own past and that of her family, but also the secrets that Gwen sought to solve.

In the Vanishing Hour by Sarah Beth Martin | book coverWith hints of fern, teal and emerald in the book cover, In the Vanishing Hour is a whole mood. I loved being immersed in the heady days of late-50s fashions, propriety and women's aspirations to enter the workforce and be something more. This was contrasted with the yellow brown aesthetic of the early 70s, with a decidedly more laid-back vibe tinged with edges of regret.

Throughout the novel, Sarah Beth Martin digs deep into the impact of the events that haunt us, the mysteries that weigh us down and the impossible task of moving forward in a world that you never imagined for yourself.

I enjoyed In the Vanishing Hour both as a mystery and as a work of historical fiction. Mystery thrillers are no longer my bag, which is strange given that I read every Kellerman and Cornwell back in the day, but the mystery here was interesting and poignant enough to keep me interested with a lesser emphasis on danger and none of the gory details.

For a vivid and mysterious journey through time, I give In the Vanishing Hour an excellent four out of five stars.

★★★★☆

I received an electronic copy of this graphic novel from Book Sirens. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me

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Sunday, 11 September 2022

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

I can’t tell a lie: Thursday was strange. While we were eating our meal at Busaba, we saw the news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away. What were we meant to do? What would happen now? It turns out that the band must play on and the Arcade Fire gig at the O2 would go ahead. It felt like a sad omen on an already blighted tour. Win Butler, the lead singer of Arcade Fire, has been the subject of extremely serious allegations of inappropriate behaviour and many were calling for the tour to be cancelled. It wasn’t. I made the decision to go for two reasons: to support Régine Chassagne and the rest of the band, and because Arcade Fire’s music is extremely important to me.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The evening started with the band on the second stage. They played a recording of Louis Armstrong’s “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” to commemorate the Queen’s passing. I thought it was a nice touch to acknowledge this and work with the heightened emotions in the crowd.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The band launched into "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)" before moving onto the main stage with "Age of Anxiety I". By this stage, I was a little worried. I'd enjoyed the first two tracks but my husband said there was something wrong with the acoustics. I had to agree with him with "Age of Anxiety I" - it didn't sound right at all. I couldn't put my finger on it but it lay somewhere between the bad sound typical of The O2 and Win's vocals.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

I was ready to forgive all with "Ready to Start" (which was spectacular) and "Deep Blue" but then "Afterlife" came on and it was virtually unrecognisable. The timing was all wrong and I was hoping against hope that my favourite tracks wouldn’t be ruined. Luckily, my fears were not realised. “Reflektor” was up yet and Régine’s vocals were sublime, as always.

The absolute pinnacle of the show was when Régine and Win moved to the small stage again and performed “My Body is a Cage”. This was a particularly heartfelt performance, all the more powerful for the mess in which Win finds himself at present. It was a very poignant moment and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

This was a turning point in the show and things ran much more smoothly after that. “Creature Comfort”, “Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)”, “The Lightning I” and “The Lightning II” were up next with Win begging the crowd not to quit on him.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The third greatest moment in the show (for me) was when the band played “Rebellion (Lies)” followed by “The Suburbs” and “The Suburbs (Continued)”. I genuinely feel I’d still be working at the worst job on earth if “Rebellion (Lies)” hadn’t become my anthem and given me the strength to walk out.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

The band took the tempo down after that with “WE” and “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

And then it was time for the second greatest moment of the night for me as “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” began playing. This song is the first Arcade Fire song my husband fell in love with and the reason he was there that night. Régine did not disappoint and we sang along to every single word. It was absolutely marvellous. “Everything Now” was up next in a seamless segue and the crowd went ballistic. It was a moment of huge release and catharsis leading to the encore where “End of the Empire I-III”, “End of the Empire IV (Sagittarius A*)”, a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and the ultimate Arcade Fire anthem “Wake Up” were played.

After a shaky start, the band had given an incredible performance and delivered a night to remember.

Would I go see Arcade Fire again? I guess it remains to be seen how Win deals with this situation. I’d be heartbroken if the band did break up and I couldn’t see them live again but I don’t think the statements to date have been enough. Given their focus on charity, this could easily be a campaign and narrative against sexual harassment.

Arcade Fire at the O2, 8 September 2022

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Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Independent Film Review: Root Letter (2022) ★★★★★

Not many films render me silent, staring into space and trying to piece together what I've just seen. Root Letter is a gritty, uncomfortably realistic film that delves into the heart of both the opioid crisis and the lasting effects of families torn apart by deportation. Despite the heavy topics, director Sonja O'Hara lifts the weight from viewers' shoulders, telling the story through the letters of pen pals Carlos (Danny Ramirez, Top Gun: Maverick) and Sarah (Keana Marie, Dash & Lily).

Keana Marie is Sarah Blake & Kate Edmunds is Zoe | Root Letter 2022 | Independent Film Review

Carlos and Sarah are randomly paired through a school pen pal programme. Carlos lives in severe poverty, working his way through school while his mother has been deported to Mexico and his father lives in another state. Sarah is bringing herself up while witnessing the horror of her mother being eaten alive by an opioid addiction. Sarah is already living on the edge when her best friend Caleb decides to get in on the opioid-selling game with the dangerous and unhinged Jackson.

And then Sarah's letters to Carlos stop. He decides to carry on with his life, settling back into the grind of working to survive, but is stopped in his tracks when one last, anguished letter arrives from Sarah. Now, with Sarah missing, Carlos must retrace her steps and try to piece together what happened in those final days before she disappeared.

Keana Marie is Sarah Blake & Breon Pugh is Caleb | Root Letter 2022 | Independent Film Review

Based on the best-selling Japanese video game by Kadokawa Games and written by Tribeca Film Festival-winning screenwriter David Ebeltoft, Root Letter is a stunning feat of misdirection and devastating storytelling. There are no mansions or fancy cars in the lives of these teenagers, just a desperate drive to get through each day and make it out alive.

Throughout the film, Dan McBride's cinematography lifts the viewer from the depths of addiction, poverty and betrayal to the love, light and emotion of teenage friendships and connections made. The juxtaposition of dark and light makes the reality ever more jarring.

Danny Ramirez and Keana Marie give powerful performances as Carlos and Sarah, utterly believable and commanding every scene that they are in. I liked Ramirez in Top Gun: Maverick and Look Both Ways and now he is firmly on my list of young actors to watch.

Root Letter 2022 | Independent Film Review
I give Root Letter an excellent five out of five stars. This gritty thriller is perfect for fans of Euphoria and those who prefer a healthy serving of dark reality with their teen mysteries. In the meantime, I'm off to check out Doomsday which both director Sonja O'Hara and cinematographer Dan McBride worked on.
★★★★★

Trailer: Root Letter (2022), dir. Sonja O'Hara

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Sunday, 21 August 2022

Bauhaus at the O2 Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022

Bauhaus at the Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022

Bauhaus broke up (for the first time) when I was ten-years-old and had last toured as Bauhaus in 2006 before their current set of tours began in 2019. I'd fallen in love with them at age 15 but before 2022, the closest I'd come to seeing them was seeing Peter Murphy at the Brixton Academy in 2018. This year has been exceptionally kind to me because not only did I see Bauhaus at Primavera Sound in June - the best gig I've ever been to - I also got to see them again at the Brixton Academy on Friday.

Bauhaus at the Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022

To my shame, I was surprised back in 2018 how good Peter Murphy was but luckily I was prepared this time. Bauhaus were incredible and banged out hit after hit. I kept waiting for a quiet moment so I could go to the bar, but alas it was not to be.

Bauhaus at the Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022

What made me fall in love with Bauhaus was that it was the first time I truly appreciated each of the instruments. Kevin Haskins' drums, Daniel Ash's guitar, David J's bass and Peter Murphy's unmistakable vocals just spoke to me and for years I listened to Bauhaus to try out new pairs of headphones.

To hear them perform live and to have them sound as good - no, better than - their albums was an incredible privilege.

Bauhaus at the Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022

Brixton Academy is my favourite venue on Earth and the atmosphere on Friday night was superb. Primavera Sound was amazing, if only to see Bauhaus in a festival setting, but it felt like they truly came home on Friday and I will never forget that gig.

My highlight of the gig was every, single second between the beginning of "Double Dare" and end of "Dark Entries". I've been spoiled, I know how good Bauhaus sound in both a festival setting and small venue. All I want now is to see them again.

Bauhaus, Brixton Academy, 19 August 2022: Setlist

Bauhaus Setlist O2 Academy Brixton, London, England 2022

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Monday, 15 August 2022

Horror Film Review: Glorious (2022) ★★★★☆

Glorious 2022 poster - directed by Rebekah McKendry

Ryan Kwanten and J.K. Simmons starting in a horror film together? Oh how Glorious, I'm definitely up for that! In all seriousness, though there's nothing serious about this film, Glorious is one to watch.

Wes (Ryan Kwanten) is in a Bad Place. Wracked with guilt and self-loathing, he's clearly made a mess of things and would do anything to get his girl back. Instead, he drives across the state before stopping at a rest stop, drinking his way to the bottom of a bottle and waking up feeling very worse for the wear. And that's when his trouble really begins and Wes learns how not to trust weird men in dingy bathrooms when they tempt you to stick body parts in holes with the whole known universe at stake.

Ghat (J.K. Simmons) is a being of impossible malevolence and destructive potential. He's also stuck in a toilet cubicle in the armpit of America and can't bear to be looked at but that's an other story entirely. All he needs in order to unleash his creator's every whim is to destroy the life of a completely innocent and undeserving man.

Ryan Kwanten is Wes | Glorious 2022 | Horror Film Review

Because Wes is completely undeserving, right? And surely he's broken enough already after suffering an unbearable breakup, never mind his terrible upbringing?

Claustrophobic and grimy as they come, Glorious is very funny and a very enjoyable ride. You might never quite see Ghat in all his glory but J.K. Simmons commands the whole, shitty, disgusting space with just his voice. Well, you wouldn't expect any less from him, would you?

"Glorious speaks to my adoration of Lovecraft, gore, absurdist humor, philosophy, and the type of transgressive movies that leave you thinking I can’t believe I just saw that. It is a wild mix of horror, humor, and heady moralistic concepts about our own existential realizations of who we really are, forcing each of us to stare into our personal abyss. And sometimes, the abyss stares back… and maybe has a favor to ask." - director Rebekah McKendry

Ryan Kwanten is Wes | Glorious 2022 | Horror Film Review
With belly laughs rather than jump scares and a generous side helping of toilet humour, Glorious is an excellent way to pass 1 hour, 19 minutes. Don't be fooled though, this is definitely horror and I look forward to what director Rebekah McKendry (All the Creatures Were Stirring) delivers next. Four stars from me.
★★★★☆

A Shudder Original Film, Glorious, premiers Thursday, August 18, 2022

Glorious (2022) Trailer, directed by Rebekah McKendry

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Wednesday, 6 July 2022

'Black Butterflies' by Priscilla Morris - A Tale of Survival and Loss During the Siege of Sarajevo ★★★★★

I've finished Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris. I wanted to say 'finally finished' but I realise that it only took me two weeks to read. I have a bad habit of not finishing books on Bosnia. After studying both the war and genocide, and visiting Mostar and Sarajevo, I find the topic quite harrowing and exhausting because I know what's coming. Somehow I managed to push through with this novel but I'm quite depleted.

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris | Book Review

This is going to be a case of the book being far, far better than my review because I'm battling to separate this excellent book from all the emotions it's provoked in me.

Black Butterflies is superb. It is a fictional account by Priscilla Morris but she explains in the afterword that the characters are based on members of her own family, specifically her great-uncle and her maternal grandparents. The book is exceptionally well-researched and transports the reader to the siege of Sarajevo amid the Bosnian War.

Zora Kočović is an artist living in the cosmopolitan, multi-cultural city of Sarajevo when war breaks out and the city is placed under siege on 5 April 1992. Her husband Franjo is able to escape with Zora's mother to live with their daughter in England but Zora decides to stay behind, to continue her work as an artist and teacher and to look after both their home and her mother's apartment.

It is a decision with dire consequences.

Black Butterflies takes place in the first year of the Siege of Sarajevo and delves into the hunger, cold and desperation of Sarajevans as both water and electricity supplies are cut off, food and water become scarce, and Serbs relentlessly shell the city. We spend endless days with Zora and her neighbours as the seasons bleed into one another and the friends encounter unfathomable losses.

Morris does such a good job of fleshing out the characters of the book, weaving their various nationalities into their stories as we meet the Serbs, Croats and Muslims that lived in Sarajevo before the war (Morris explains that she does not use the term 'Bosniak' in the book as she does not believe that it would have been used by Zora in Sarajevo in 1992. This corresponds with reports that the term emerged in the mid-1990s).

Zora makes daily visits to the Vijećnica (City Hall) and Baščaršija (the old bazaar), she muses about bridges and the connections between people, and she works to resolve the often painful memories from her childhood.

Black Butterflies is a rare gem that combines historical events with deep character study. I loved, and lived, every minute of this book.

Lasting 1425 days (over 3 years and 10 months), the siege of Sarajevo remains the longest siege of a major city in modern history. The scale of deprivation and loss endured by Sarajevans during that time is unfathomable but their determination and resourcefulness equally admirable . I love that Morris chose to write about these events and look forward to more of her work.

I give Black Butterflies a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of historic fiction.

★★★★★

I received an electronic copy of this graphic novel from Book Sirens. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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