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Everything Everywhere All at Once official movie poster
Everything Everywhere All at Once official movie poster

So where do I start?

I guess I’ll start someplace in the beginning of the middle of the end or thereabouts. Since in Everything Everywhere All at Once it’s all is interconnected. Essentially the main character Evelyn is tasked with saving the multiverse from certain doom. Evelyn is an aging Chinese immigrant laundry coin-op owner struggling with taxes while redefining her relationships with her husband, father, daughter and self. Everything about her seems spiteful, as if she is trying too hard to make things right despite the universe having other plans. She wants to please everyone else, especially her disapproving father whom she had been alienated from, while simultaneously being disgusted by all around her and wholly dissatisfied with her circumstances whether or not she will admit it to herself. She becomes the embodiment of perfectionism, both assumed and projected.

She learns from a different iteration of her then-husband that she is the only one who can save the multiverse from certain doom, by reconnecting with other versions of herself in order to appropriate their skills. But she is warned not to get too close to her other selves or she could wind up becoming fractured. It’s way more complicated and intertwined than that, and I won’t give away any more. Partly because the glitter dust is still settling in my own mind. And partly because I don’t want to spoil the movie, which must be experienced for yourself to truly understand how multifaceted it is.

At any rate, the result is a heartfelt dark comedy about a mid-life crisis coming of age and journey into acceptance. So needless to say this resonated with me on a profound level, having played some of those cards from my own hand a few years back to now still be sorting out the good and bad consequences of those actions.

So what’s the multiverse like?

Honestly, I have no basis for comparison. I never saw Swiss Army Man by the same directors, though many have said that it also defies explanation and now I kind of want to. The closest I can say I’ve come is that this kind of like an amplified, more adult version of Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. Except that it’s so much more. Everything Everywhere All at Once has some similar reality checks, high action scenes, and transitions, but it takes them even further and alters its own reality, considering the deeper more profound implications that result from an older perspective, different relationships, and earning an R rating. It’s a much different story, not of love lost or gained or of teenage angst in existential crisis, but ultimately exploring the deeper meaning of family and truly connecting with others and oneself. It is about finding grace in unexpected situations.

So what does all this have to do with horror?

Well, considering the idea that every iteration of oneself could be interrelated beyond the decisions that lead them to become who they are at any given point is simply… terrifying. This movie represents a deep existential crisis beyond the psychological level, stripping bare the very fabric that makes us ourselves. What if…? Should I have…? What might have been…? Who could I have become…? There are reasons the answers to those questions typically lie beyond our comprehension, and the open exploration of these themes is a bit unsettling to say the least.

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If you have never had a profound existential crisis, be glad that the multiverse isn’t depending on you to put yourself back together in its wake. It’s a horrific proposition. We should all be grateful not to be that important and not to be that needed. Not to belittle how special and unique each and every one of us are, but there is a point at which you’re way better off on the bench sitting that crisis out and hoping the coach doesn’t call you in to the middle of the crazy.

So, I thought this was a comedy – what gives?

When all is said and done, this movie is funny as Hell, and I mean that in the most desecrated smitten way. (And yes, I did choose those words intentionally, thank you very much.) Everything Everywhere All at Once is deep and thought-provoking but it also crosses over so many lines into absurdity and taboo without apology (or any sense that there is even a need to do so) that you can’t help but let yourself be led along laughing all the way at the irreverence.

Because, let’s face it, there is a dark humor to be found in those deep recesses of the psyche and in the release of that pent-up energy. You feel shamelessly tainted and dirty and free all at once. It opens the door to conversations hitherto unspoken, desires not yet acted upon, and selves never explored. And honestly there is a lot of humor in the release that comes from opening that door, like finally owning up to a totally inappropriate fart with pride. Like Shrek says, “Better out than in.”

I give Everything Everywhere All at Once 4.5 Cthulus.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Everything Everywhere All at Once opened up some intriguing conversations and thoughts about the reality we live in, and I very much enjoyed the action, humor, and consideration of the need for human connection. It all truly comes down to relationships: with others, ourselves, our reality, and our acceptance of that reality. That is Everything Everywhere All at Once, all neatly wrapped up in an existential bagel with everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) on it. Though in the past here on Haunted MTL, I admit to having preferred donuts to bagels…

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Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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Movies n TV

The Beach House, a Film Review

The Beach House (2019) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown starring Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, and Jake Weber.

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The Beach House (2020) is a body horror film directed and written by Jeffrey A. Brown. This film stars Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros, Jake Weber, and Maryann Nagel. As of this review, this film is only available on Shudder.

Desperate to rekindle their strained love, Emily (Liana Liberato) and Randall (Noah Le Gros) escape to a beach getaway. They soon learn to find that family friends of Randall’s father, Mitch (Jake Weber), and Jane (Maryann Nagel), also had a similar idea. After getting used to each other, a mysterious fog engulfs the town. Unfortunately, they realize too late the danger they find themselves in.

A woman with her mouth agape. Behind her is a dark background. Next to her reads, "The Beach House." Below is a scenic beach with a mountain in the distance.
The Beach House Alternative Cover Art

What I Like

Body horror gets under my skin, and The Beach House certainly lives up to the standard. There’s something magical about creatures terraforming your body to their preferred environment, turning humans into nothing more than conscious prisoners in their own flesh. While I wouldn’t consider this film the most traumatic or unsettling example, it utilizes wonderfully grotesque scenes.

Aside from the body horror, the film drops a few Cosmic Horror–or Lovecraftian–vibes that go together perfectly. Another favored genre of mine, this combination ensures the odds are overwhelmingly against our human leads.

Beyond the grotesque, visuals might not overwhelm but certainly succeed in their goal. Several scenes provide an intentionally tranquil experience that contrasts with the grotesques and improves their effectiveness.

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In terms of performance, each actor hits their mark. While some roles require less effort, each contributes to the plot as intended. The standout performance goes to Liana Liberato’s Emily, who acts as co-lead. She simply has the most to work with and lives up to the part.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

As “body horror” should indicate, this film will hit hard for the more squeamish viewer. While horror by nature has some amount of grotesque, body horror brings that grotesque to the next level. While I don’t particularly find The Beach House hitting harder than its competition, it certainly respects its chosen genre.

Woman looks shocked or horrified. Bushes or trees make up the background.
Liana Liberato as Emily

What I Dislike or Considerations

A few scenic montages may hit or miss depending on your interpretation. While I have my own theories, that speculation goes beyond the scope of this review. Many of these scenes overlap more philosophical conversations and musings that may annoy or add layers. This strategy seems a common practice in Cosmic Horror, which forces characters to rationalize the irrational.

It’s hard for me to understand how secretive or known this event is supposed to be in the film’s world. Individuals know something outside of the town, with evidence implying governmental knowledge. This information creates a contrivance–perhaps, even a plot hole–because the characters had to reach this isolated town without any opposition.

One of the visuals didn’t exactly grab me. While I won’t go into too much detail, an effect looked too visually similar to a common animal that barely survives rain. It’s hard to be threatened by that. It also doesn’t exactly match up with some of the other visuals. Even the creatures that look similar to it still look different enough to provide a more alien assumption.

There are moments when the infected chase our main characters by crawling at them. While the context works, with injured characters helping to sell them, I can’t help but find these scenes amusing as opposed to frightening. Yes, it’s certainly visually different from the plethora of zombies out there, but it’s also less frightening than zombies that leisurely walk to their targets.

Final Thoughts

The Beach House combines cosmic and body horror to create an uncomfortable film that tests its characters. For those who enjoy these genres, it will certainly entertain you, but I doubt it will frighten you. I imagine the mood to watch it again might strike me, but I’m not entirely certain it will stand the test of time. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

If this movie suits your fancy and you want more, Honeymoon seems an appropriate recommendation.

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Movies n TV

Every Secret Thing, a Film Review

Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener, based on Laura Lippman’s novel.

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Every Secret Thing (2014) is a crime thriller directed by Amy J. Berg and written by Nicole Holofcener. This R-rated film stars Diane Lane, Danielle Macdonald, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks. Based on Laura Lippman’s novel of the same name, the film adaptation is accessible through MAX and DirecTV.

When a little girl goes missing, Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) spirals into an all too familiar tale. As pressure mounts, Alice Manning (Danielle Macdonald) and Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) become the leading suspects. The strained frenemies unravel under the attention and reminders of their shared past.

Laura Lippman stands out at the top of the cover, over a black background. Every Secret Thing appearing over a pool
Every Secret Thing Book Cover

What I Like

The film unravels in a non-chronological structure but makes it easy for the viewer to follow. It helps that the age difference clearly divides the younger actors, who change actors. One casting choice resembles their older counterpart, and the acting reflects a strong direction for their shared role.

Unreliable narration remains expertly communicated with scenes that change perspectives depending on whose perspective we view them from. This choice adds a reason to view the film twice, providing extra ambiguity for some of these events.

The camera gets up close and personal to an uncomfortable degree, which almost certainly presses the actors’ performances. This choice places the viewer in the character’s perspective and limits us from others’ perspectives to add extra credence to these biases.

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Every Secret Thing provides a spiraling mystery that unravels with several twists and turns. Assuming the novel provided the outline, this film executes these points and keeps a consistently engaging experience throughout the runtime.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

Child abuse and neglect remain the central plot points of Every Secret Thing. Little of this abuse appears in scenes, but there is no escaping the danger children are in throughout the film.

Self-harm and suicide are shown throughout the film (once in the case of suicide) through one specific character. It isn’t glorified or romanticized nor addressed with particular sensitivity. For those sensitive to these subjects, it might be triggering.

Racism, the assumed motive for the bi-racial victims, plays a small role in the film’s narrative. However, character motives remain more complex, but going further spoils some elements. This film decision does create the reality that bi-racial children are the victims of child neglect and abuse in the film with little additional context. It does invite uncomfortable speculation, but speculation it would be.

Sexual assault is another concern for viewers, specifically statutory rape. This issue seems particularly mismanaged, considering the survivor remains an antagonist. One can be both survivor of assault and an antagonist of a film without needing to discredit the assault. While little appears of this issue, and the manipulation angle can indicate a perspective shift, it’s hard to refute how the film wants to represent this attack.

Daughter resting on her mother's shoulder. Both are in the back of a car.
Diane Lane as Helen and Danielle Macdonald as Alice

What I Dislike

Loosely tied to the above point, one character seems mentally off and purposely so. This point doesn’t inherently create an issue, but there seems to be a choice to make this character a mastermind. Perhaps this is better addressed in the book, but the execution is far from perfect here.

A newspaper montage reveals essential information which feels oddly misplaced. Practically the entire setup for the film appears through this montage, which creates the necessity to read these headlines in the minimal time given.

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As a horror, nothing but the events are haunting. Children being abused or kidnapped always haunts, but the terror of this remains secondary to the mystery. While the mystery is nice, this film won’t particularly scare the seasoned horror fan.

Final Thoughts

Every Secret Thing unravels a mystery of opportunism, selfishness, and deception. While the movie won’t haunt the viewer, it certainly unravels a mystery that shocks them. The nuanced and deceptive characters add a layer of engagement that creates a unique experience, but I doubt this movie will linger in my mind.
2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Quid Pro Woe

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We’ve now reached episode six of Tim Burton’s Wednesday. And after the last episode, this one did not disappoint.

We start with Wednesday attempting to contact Goody Addams. Last episode, if you’ll recall, Morticia explained the difference between a psychic dove and a raven. Since Goody Addams was the last raven psychic in the family line, it’s got to be her that trains Wednesday. 

But her seance is a failure, and Wednesday is interrupted by a magazine note shoved under the door. It says to meet someone at a crypt for answers. 

When she gets there, it turns out that her friends have put together a surprise birthday party for her. Before she can cut the cake, however, she has a vision.

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Jenna Ortega in Wednesday

Goody Addams tells her that she must find a specific gate. After some investigation, Wednesday discovers it’s the gate to the old Gates house. 

Wednesday goes to investigate, but she isn’t the only one. She is nearly discovered by Mayor Walker. He is also investigating the Gates family, even though they’re all reported to be dead. He leaves a message for Sheriff Galpin and is almost immediately run over by a car.

This incident is enough to get Wednesday’s town villages revoked. Though this seems like an empty punishment since the whole school is on lockdown. Someone burned Fire Will Rain on their front lawn. 

Wednesday isn’t one for believing the rules apply to her. She has it in her head that she’s meant to save Nevermore Academy, probably from whatever descendent of Crackstone who’s still around. So she has no problem lying to Enid and Tyler and convincing them to help her sneak off campus and explore the Gates house further.

This, of course, is an incredibly informative trip. The kids find a hidden altar to Crackstone, as well as the missing body parts from the monster’s victims. They also find evidence that someone’s been staying in the house. Someone who’s staying in what looks like a little girl’s room.

Before they can find anything more, the monster finds them. They barely escape, and go to the sheriff with what they find. 

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Of course, the house has been cleared out by the time Sheriff Galpin arrives. Furious that his son was almost killed, he tells Wednesday to stay away from him.

Because that always works, right?

Galpin isn’t the only one angry. Enid is fed up with the way Wednesday has been treating her. And so she leaves their room to bunk with someone else, leaving Wednesday alone. 

This episode was well done. The discoveries at the house were exciting, and I’m almost sure I know who’s behind the murders at this point. Overall, this was a good ramp-up to the season finale. 

Jenna Ortega in Wednesday.

Finally, this episode did something I was worried just wasn’t going to happen. And for that alone, it deserves praise.

Wednesday has been incredibly selfish and inconsiderate since the first episode. She’s been rude and demanding towards Thing. She’s ignored her friends’ needs and emotions while insisting they put themselves in danger for her investigation. She has respected no one’s boundaries, even while other people have at least tried to respect hers.

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And now, it’s finally come back to bite her. All of the people who have been doing their best to show her kindness and support are finally done with her bullshit.

Yes, this is a good thing! Characters are best when they’re allowed to learn and grow. When they don’t come to us flawless. When they mess up and learn from it. Especially for a show aimed at kids, this is essential.

If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if this character was going to experience honest character growth, I’d have assured you it would never happen. Much to my surprise, it’s happening. I hope that Wednesday is going to come out of this a better person. With two episodes left in the season, there’s plenty of time for that.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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