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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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Justin Kurzel's Critically Acclaimed 'Nitram' (2021) - Film Review ★★★☆☆

Nitram 2021 | Film Poster | Film Review

It was an event that shocked the world. The April 1996 Port Arthur massacre caused fundamental changes to Australia's gun control laws and remains an incredibly traumatic event in the nation's history. Director Justin Kurzel explores the events leading up to the massacre in the critically-acclaimed film Nitram that has won 18 Australian and international film awards to date, including Best Actor for Caleb Landry Jones at Cannes Film Festival 2021.

At no point does the film name the perpetrator of the massacre, referring only to 'Nitram', a nickname that Martin Bryant particularly hated. Indeed, much in the film is off-screen including, thankfully, the events of the actual massacre and its aftermath. What we see instead are the events in Bryant's life in the years leading up to that fateful day and how he appeared to the outside eye.

Nitram is a difficult film to judge and I'm left wondering what the point of it was. There is the overwhelming impression that guns should never have been sold to such a strange and unstable young man who clearly had a volatile and unsettling demeanour. The question is, who is the message in this film intended for? Perhaps countries that still have guns for sale to the public and instances of mass shootings (e.g. USA and Russia)?The message at the end of the film, that there are more guns in Australia now than in 1996, makes the film feel unbearably nihilistic and, again, pointless. It's a lone voice screaming into the chasm and it appears, perhaps, 25 years too late.

The performances by the four main actors were undeniably good. Caleb Landry Jones delivers such a convincing performance as Nitram that the viewer's lip seems to instinctively curl in disgust. Nitram is a horrible and thoroughly unlikeable character, is it any surprise that he struggled to fit in?

Yet this is the issue I have with the film. Martin Bryant was known to have an extremely low IQ of 66 and was later diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. We see how impossible it was to like this strange young man but not how this might have felt to him. In a sense, Nitram shows us no more than Bryant's Wikipedia page but we still have no insight into the man, his feelings, his motives.

I don't necessarily want excuses or explanations for the events in Port Arthur in 1996 but I have to ask again, what was the point of this film?

I'm given to question why I watched this film and what I expected from it. Following the attention at film festivals, I expected a more insightful look into Bryant's psyche and the circumstances leading to his decision but instead, Nitram felt like an average linear biopic, faithfully portraying the events in Bryant's life but failing to deliver anything of substance.

Given that we know so little about Bryant except that he revelled in his notoriety and in learning more about the extent of his casualties, is it not likely that this film is simply giving him what he wanted?

Caleb Landry Jones is Nitram
I give Nitram an okay three out of five stars. Director Justin Kurzel has delivered a film with great acting and superb cinematography but it's a slow-moving and ultimately pointless film that simply throws celebrity but not insight into Martin Bryant's actions.
★★★☆☆

Released exclusively in cinemas nationwide on 1 July 2022 / 112 mins / Cert: 15 / Picturehouse Entertainment

Nitram (2021): Trailer

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Wednesday, 15 June 2022

A Stunning Post-Apocalyptic Debut: 'Moths' by Jane Hennigan, narrated by Juanita McMahon

Moths by Jane Hennigan | Narrated by Juanita McMahon |Audiobook Review

There's something about certain dystopian or post-apocalyptic novels that draws me in, keeps me reading into the quiet hours of night and doesn't let me go until I'm finished. I knew I had to read Jane Hennigan's Moths when a fellow Goodreads reviewer John recommended it, stating that it was going onto his list of favourite dystopian novels alongside a favourite of mine A Boy, His Dog and the End of the World. I went in with such high expectations - usually a bad idea - but in this case, my impossible expectations were exceeded.

I lived, breathed and slept Moths in the two weeks that I listened to it and might have flown through it sooner had I been reading it. I took long lunch time walks out on the marsh as I listened to this dark tale about nature gone wrong, knowing that I needed to draw it out for as long as possible. I didn’t want to finish this book, could think of little else in those two weeks and needed to know what would come next.

Moths is set about forty years into our future, following a catastrophic time when the tiny toxic threads of a previously unknown species of moths begins to kill men or fill them with uncontrollable, murderous rage. Society breaks down, systems fail, changes are made to ensure that both men and women can survive in this strange new world. Most of all, sacrifices are made and controls put in place to ensure that men are not exposed to the unrelenting threat of moth fibres that permeate the entire world.

The future world of Moths is a deeply horrifying place but I’m hesitant to go into details of the structures and practices because I want other readers to go in as blind as possible, to experiences the twists and reveals as I did. I can say that it is at once feminist and misanthropic, that it reminded me of both The Handmaids Tale and The Testaments and that I’ll be reading both Vox and The Power now due to favourable comparisons with those books.

I can also say confidently that it is unique and inventive enough to stand out in the world of dystopian fiction and that, like John, I will be adding this to my list of favourite dystopian books ever. I am absolutely thrilled that the sequel Toxxic is coming out in July!

I felt that Hennigan portrayed the effects of long-term institutionalisation very well as well as the consequential infantalisation of those who are incarcerated, how decades of medication would render them as empty shells. I didn’t quite agree with the complete breakdown of the electric grid, mobile grid and internet but it is clear that this is an issue that will divide dystopian writers and fans for ages to come. Just how much will society collapse following a catastrophe?

I listened to Moths narrated by Juanita McMahon on Audiobooks.com. Juanita’s narration was superb and absolutely contributed to my enjoyment of Moths. I liked how she changed her voice for each of the characters, making them distinctive and nuanced. I definitely recommend listening to this one on audiobook.

I give Moths a superb five out of five stars and recommend it to all fans of dystopian, post-apocalyptic fiction. I cannot wait for the release of Toxxic and will be following Jane Hennigan's writing career with great interest.

★★★★★

I was gifted a copy of the audiobook by the author Jane Hennigan. I will always give an honest and true review no matter whether booked are gifted or purchased by me.

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Monday, 13 June 2022

The Gunpowder Plot, Tower Hill Vaults, London - Review

The Gunpowder Plot | Tower Hill Vaults, London | Review

The Gunpowder Plot is the latest immersive experience from Layered Reality, the award-winning producers of the Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience which I went to (and loved) in 2019.

The experience integrates immersive theatre and virtual reality. Guests can expect to join live actors on an adventure back in time to 1605 as you travel across London and participate in the Gunpowder Plot itself. Multi-sensory special effects, three interludes on virtual reality, and a labyrinthine set combine to deliver a fun, educational and immersive experience.

We had a lot of fun at The Gunpowder Plot. I'll tell you all about what worked and what didn't.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

The Gunpowder Plot

I had no idea what the Gunpowder Plot was actually about (note: I didn't go to school in the UK). I knew Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up parliament but I thought he was simply an anarchist. I didn't know it was about Catholic rebellion in the face of James I's brutal repression of the Catholic faith and that it's all linked to the time from Henry VIII.

I learned about all of this on The Gunpowder Plot which was fascinating to me because I already make a habit of traipsing around England and photographing the ruins of dissolved monasteries. I loved the historical aspect of The Gunpowder Plot and am thirsty to learn more about that period in history.

The Gunpowder Plot | Tower Hill Vaults, London | Review

The Immersive Experience

The immersive theatre aspect of the event was superb. I now know first hand what it feels like to breathlessly press your back against a wall to avoid detection from pursuers. The actors were all incredibly talented and each and every one of them drew us into the story, asked us questions and didn't call us out when we lied to them.

Special mention goes to Jess Darnell as the priest, Leda Douglas as Lady Cecil, Stanley Eldridge as Thomas and the wonderful Harriet Sharmini Smithers as Anne. We got to collaborate as a team, make a pretty significant decision and I'm glad to say that I was on the side of the majority.

The Gunpowder Plot | Tower Hill Vaults, London | Review

The Virtual Reality

The only part of the experience that a bit hit and miss was the Virtual Reality. On the whole, it was a bit glitchy and blurry (and I say this as an experienced VR user who knows the usual tricks to stabilise the image). A lot has been made of the fact that Tom Felton is part of the digital cast but the quality of the VR was such that I wouldn't have recognised Tom in his role as Guy Fawkes if I didn't know it was him. The graphics were not as good as in Jeff Wayne’s The War of The Worlds: The Immersive Experience, and I expected more from Layered Reality.

The Gunpowder Plot | Tower Hill Vaults, London | Review

Verdict

We really enjoyed The Gunpowder Plot but were disappointed by the VR interludes. I hope that they will work to improve this aspect of an otherwise excellent experience, because the actors, set and other visual displays were brilliant.

Tickets for The Gunpowder Plot are on sale now at gunpowderimmersive.com.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2022

'Graphic Novel Review: Clementine, Book One' by Tillie Walden TWD (Based on the Telltale's The Walking Dead character)

If you've played Telltale Games' The Walking Dead video game series, you'll be very familiar with Clementine, the series protagonist. Clementine lived on after the end of the game, making her first post-game appearance in Clementine Lives, which featured in Skybound X along with the first chapter of Rick Grimes 2000. Written by Tillie Walden, Clementine: Book One is Clem's first dedicated comic book series.

Clementine by Tillie Walden | Graphic Novel Review | Front cover and author photo

Official Synopsis

Clementine is back on the road, looking to put her traumatic past behind her and forge new path all her own.

But when she comes across an Amish teenager named Amos with his head in the clouds, the unlikely pair journeys North to an abandoned ski resort in Vermont, where they meet up with a small group of teenagers attempting to build a new, walker-free settlement.

As friendship, rivalry, and romance begin to blossom amongst the group, the harsh winter soon reveals that the biggest threat to their survival… might be each other.

The Story

Clementine: Book One has proved controversial among fans, many of whom weren't willing to accept Clementine leaving AJ in Clementine Lives. I think this notion was immediately put to bed in the opening pages of Clementine: Book One with Clementine meeting Amos as he embarks on Rumspringa. Just like Amos needs to go on his voyage of self-discovery, so too must Clementine find herself in this coming of age tale. And if that ultimately leads her back to AJ, then so be it.

The Art

I'm not going to lie, the artwork was disappointing. I'd been drawn in by the gorgeous, eye-catching cover and was dismayed to see the grey, bland pages inside. I'm also a little annoyed - they'd ultimately reissued The Walking Dead comics in colour, so haven't they learned that fans prefer colour?

Verdict

I wanted to love this comic with all of my heart but sadly the artwork let it down. It’s not just about aesthetics – there were scenes that I had to read once, twice more to try understand what was happening because it wasn’t clear from either the text nor graphics. This was most evident in what could be described as the most important scene in the book, one where there shouldn’t have been a shred of ambiguity. I think Clementine: Book One could be saved with a colour re-issue but even then they might need to enhance some artwork or dialogue.

Stan Zone

Recommended if you like: The Walking Dead, zombies, post-apocalyptica

Buy

Clementine: Book One will be released on 28 June 2022 and is available from the following retailers:

Amazon | Forbidden Planet | Waterstones

Affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you purchase using these links, at no extra cost to you.

Links

Tillie Walden Instagram | Tillie Walden Tumblr

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

Image Credits © Tillie Walden

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Monday, 4 April 2022

Horror Film Review: See For Me (2021) ★★★★☆

I love films that are more than just the sum of their parts. Give me synergy, emotion, gravity and I'm sold. Randall Okita's See For Me is a whole mood. Visually stunning and anchored on a flawed protagonist, it tracks one night in the life of a blind former skier when the luxury home she's sitting is invaded by a team of thieves.

Skyler Davenport is Sophie | See For Me 2022 | Horror Film Review

Sophie (Skyler Davenport) is independent and savvy, a former athlete whose career was cut short by a degenerative retinal condition. Nowadays she pet-sits for a living, selectively lifting more valuable items to supplement her modest earnings.

The gig at the mansion of a recent divorcee should be simple. One cat, a secure yet secluded location and her best friend Cam on the other end of a video call.

Simple, that is, until she has a fight with Cam over her klepto tendencies and manages to lock herself out of the most secure house on earth.

Enter Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy, The Flash). A lifeline at the end of the See For Me app, she guides Sophie back into safety. It should all end there but what's the fun in that?

Jessica Parker Kennedy is Kelly | See For Me 2022 | Horror Film Review

Sophie awakes in the middle of the night to noise and signs of company, definitely not the invited kind. As she navigates in the dark with only Kelly to assist her, can she make it through the night alive?

See For Me is a tense thriller, made all the more claustrophobic for its use of darkness; an excellent technique for the viewer senses Sophie's visual impairment. Simultaneously, director Okita washes each frame with colour, a lurid, visual feast for the eyes.

As visually appealing as See For Me is, it's the performances that make it shine. Skyler Davenport is excellent as Sophie, thoroughly unlikeable and morally unsuited for the task of housesitting-while-blind. The casting was spot-on and I'm pleased that they chose Davenport, a partially sighted actor, for the role. Likewise, Jessica Parker Kennedy shines as Kelly, as moral and likeable as Sophie is not and the true hero of the film.

Spoiler Warning

See For Me 2022 | Horror Film Review

I have two complaints about the film - one unfounded and one founded - and I'm going to put up a spoiler warning. I'll try to be vague but don't read on if you've not seen the film.

Both complaints can come under the header of plot holes. I managed to debunk my first complaint. There seemed to be a heck of a lot of rounds fired from a certain gun so I researched it. The standard police-issue service weapon in Canada is a Glock 17 and there were exactly seventeen rounds fired before the gun clicks on an empty chamber.

My second complaint wasn't as easily debunked. The See For Me app depends of the operator speaking to Sophie and we don't see Sophie putting in earphones. There's a lot of background noise with drilling and conversation, but I'm not entirely sure the thieves wouldn't have heard Kelly on the other end of those calls, especially when she's screaming.

Skyler Davenport is Sophie | See For Me 2022 | Horror Film Review
I give See For Me an excellent four out of five stars. I'll be honest, I should have docked a star for that plot hole but I enjoyed the acting, plot and visual feast enough to keep it at four. Technically, See For Me is more thriller than horror but getting locked out of the most secure house on earth in sub-zero temperatures while blind is a horrific concept, so I'll let it slide.
★★★★☆

A Shudder Exclusive Film, See For Me, Premiers Thursday, April 7, 2022

Trailer: See For Me (2021), dir. Randall Okita

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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