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Based on V. C. Andrews’ 1979 novel of the same name, Jeffrey Bloom’s Flowers in the Attic is a little better than some critics suggest. That’s not to say you’ll love it, but let me go through a few details here and make a light defense of the film. To begin with, plenty of horror fans will come forward and suggest it’s not a horror film. While I understand the sentiment, my initial response is usually, “Who cares?” However, I do think there are plenty of horror elements here. In fact, it doesn’t hurt that Wes Craven was originally considered to direct it. Obviously, if you’ve read the title, I think this movie has themes similar to those found in The People Under the Stairs, and I’ll elaborate more on that in a bit.

The second predictable critique of Flowers in the Attic will be of the acting. Yet again, I understand the criticism. Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, and Jeb Stuart Adams don’t offer the most commanding performances committed to film. However, let’s not forget about Louise Fletcher, who definitely takes control of this film, giving a performance similar to what she accomplished in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As you watch, you may be enraged by her, as she puts everyone through hell due to sins of the past.

The result should make us ask: Should one’s perceived morality justify unrelenting cruelty? Might that urge exist beforehand, with the sadistic impulse requiring righteous justification? In fact, could it be that justification itself adds to the depravity of our actions, by masking punishment as a virtue? All of these disturbing (and, let’s face it, semi-kinky) questions unfold in Flowers in the Attic.

A Strange Tale

So, what specifically happens in this story? (Obviously, one might wish to avoid reading further if they don’t want any kinds of “spoilers.”) After the death of her husband (Marshall Colt), Tennant’s character, Corrine, moves into the mansion of her estranged father, Malcolm (Nathan Davis). She hopes her father will forgive her, then rewrite his will to hand over his estate after his death. However, Corrine’s mother, played by Fletcher, is perpetually going to punish Corrine and her children, Chris (Adams) and Cathy (Swanson) and 5-year-old twins Cory (Ben Ganger) and Carrie (Lindsay Parker).

Basically, these kids are, well, “kidnapped” for years by their grandmother’s estate as their mom tries to gain her father’s love (and fortune). At the same time, they are all ostensibly waiting for his funeral to escape the grandmother’s sadism. The siblings are imprisoned, only getting a sense of freedom when she’s out. Things get desperate when their mother gradually abandons them, with no plans to sneak the children out of the house. Basically, her greed ends up trumping their need.

Symbolism and the Comparison You Came Here For

Aside from flowers and an attic, Flowers in the Attic has some symbolism built into the plot. Obviously, these children live where their mother lives, yet they might as well be separated by thousands and thousands of miles. They first arrive in town as strangers to their grandmother, even though they’re related. It’s not like they have no place to stay, but end up feeling like they’d be better off lost. These are all themes of abandonment. Also, even though their grandmother considers herself well-raised and moralistic, she’s no better than the proverbial slob raised in a barn.

Again, people sometimes question if this is horror, but some of these family members are no better than deranged killers. In fact, considering that Wes Craven was considered to direct, I can’t help but wonder if this story partly influenced Craven’s later film, The People Under the Stairs. Both feature characters too psychologically damaged to defend themselves against their wealthy captors. Noticeably, they are basically disarmed (none of the victims carry a gun). Both stories feature perverted mother and father roles.

Then, of course, you have imagery like the attic door or, in The People Under the Stairs, kidnapped children locked away in a basement. In Flowers in the Attic, when the kids see their grandfather for the first time, it’s not like the old man simply refuses to accept them — he attacks them and seems like a monster.

Really, the main difference is that, in Flowers, the grandmother has hired some henchmen who prevent the kids from escaping. In People, the Mommy (Wendy Robie) and Daddy (Everett McGill) characters compel kids (Brandon Adams, A. J. Langer) into hiding, too. As perhaps the ultimate thematic crossover, kids also end up spying through walls in Flowers in the Attic. Though it lacks the bloody scenes prominent in The People Under the Stairs, the adults in Flowers in the Attic seem perfectly capable of burying young bodies in the woods.

One Last Bit of Trivia

The final scene of Flowers was filmed at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California. The 2007 film There Will Be Blood also filmed parts at Greystone Mansion, as well as films like Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Big Lebowski, Cabin Boy, Death Becomes Her, Eraserhead, Ghostbusters II, The Golden Child, The Muppets (film) (Kermit’s mansion), Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise, Stripes, and The Witches of Eastwick. Also, soap operas like The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful have used the location, and even the music video to “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meatloaf features Greystone.

What are your thoughts on Flowers in the Attic? Is it similar at all to The People Under the Stairs or does this idea belong locked away in a basement or attic?

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Movies n TV

She Will, a Film Review

She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film includes Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt.

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She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film boasts a cast that includes Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, and Malcolm McDowell. This movie is currently only available on Shudder.

Veronica (Alice Krige) is an actress recovering from a double mastectomy at a spiritual retreat in Scotland. With the help of her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), she slowly connects with the land and its dark legacy. However, the remake of her breakout role and the director who haunts her bring back troubling memories. But the land seeks to make her whole, no matter the cost.

Veronica staring in disguise
Alice Krige as Veronica

What I Like

This film is beautiful, giving the setting a character all its own. While not every frame delivers expert detail, the majority of She Will certainly evokes the viewer. This only adds to the horror, turning the supernatural into a force of nature itself.

The relationship between Desi and Veronica, changing throughout the film, brings a lot for the actresses to utilize. It should go without saying that Malcolm McDowell amplifies every scene he’s in.

I wouldn’t call this an arthouse film, but it centers itself on womanhood interestingly and artfully. This includes darker subjects of exploitation, specifically in the film industry, through Veronica’s personal journey.

Desi looking out a car window
Kota Eberhardt as Desi

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

She Will deals with heavy subject matter. As alluded to earlier, Veronica’s journey implies many things that will be hard for some viewers. There is also an attempted assault.

Malcolm McDowell plays an eccentric director, but I would have liked to see him without the public persona. For the most part, the viewer hears rumors but only see the friendly facade.

While the subject matter and visuals can be intense, I wouldn’t exactly call the film frightening.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Where She Will might lack in horror, it makes up for in the stunning visuals and execution. Alice Krige plays a dynamic character who brings to life Veronica’s struggles. If one fancies a journey of self-discovery and empowerment like Midsommar, She Will might fill that niche.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Last of Us: Episode 3: Long, Long Time

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One of the first mentions of Bill and Frank in HBO’s The Last of Us is in episode one, when Ellie discovers that Joel and Tess communicate with men over the radio via 60’s-80’s pop songs. Rewind to the end of the episode, when Depeche Mode’s 80’s hit “Never Let Me Down Again” plays. Bill and Frank are in some sort of trouble. In the third episode of this series, “Long, Long Time,” we find out what that trouble was.

*WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS*

The Dead Can’t Get Infected

Let me preface by saying that however you think this episode is going to be, you’re most likely very, very wrong.

“Long, Long Time,” begins shortly after Joel and Ellie are forced to leave Tess and escape the Boston capitol building. They are in the forest, prepping for another long journey ahead of them. As they walk, we learn more backstory on the origin of the Cordyceps pandemic. “Who was the first to bite? Was it monkeys? I bet it was monkeys,” Ellie says. But Joel explains no, it wasn’t monkeys. Rather, the disease spread through basic food products, like flour or sugar. Then the cordyceps mutated as flour, sugar, biscuit and pancake batter hit the store shelves that Thursday before the outbreak, infecting everyone who purchased those products. “That makes more sense,” Ellie somberly admits.

Joel explains the origin of the burnt up dead bodies of non-infected people

Eventually, they find a picked-over abandoned grocery store, where Joel hides his assault rifle and green toolbox underneath the floorboards. While Joel is looking around the store for supplies, Ellie heads to a room in the back and finds a hidden basement. Unbeknownst to Joel, she crawls inside and comes face to face with an infected. Luckily, Ellie has the advantage; the infected is crushed by a pile of rocks and has no chance of escaping. Ellie walks over to it, cuts her knife across its face, then stabs it to death. Her first kill.

Once the two are done with the store, they continue on their journey to Bill and Frank’s, whom we finally get to meet.

Meet Bill

It’s September 30, 2003, four days after the outbreak. Bill (Nick Offerman), a burly survivalist, is hiding in his bunker, watching the cameras planted outside his house. FEDRA is taking survivors to a Quarantine Zone (QZ). Once Bill confirms he is alone, he makes the town his own.

Four years of isolation pass and we witness all the work Bill has put in to protect his home from infected and raiders alike. He is a hardened man who is afraid of nothing. He has safe-proofed his home with trip wires, high voltage electric fences and trap holes. When an uninfected man on his way to Boston suddenly falls into one of the holes, Bill’s entire world changes. The man is named Frank (Murray Bartlett), and he and Bill quickly become infatuated with one another. Before we know it, another three years have passed and Frank is still living with Bill. Their contrasting personalities compliment each other as they protect the neighborhood together. And Frank’s desire to meet knew people overcomes Bill’s tenacity for seclusion. Thus, the origin of their partnership with Joel and Tess.

PlayStation vs. HBO

“Long, Long Ride” is brutal in the most unexpected ways. In the playstation game, we meet Bill after he saves Joel and Ellie from a swarm of infected after Joel gets caught in one of Bill’s traps. He takes them back to a hideout, where Joel picks up ammo, can update his weapons at a workbench, and receives a shotgun and nail bomb recipe. Meanwhile, Bill and Ellie, being the stubborn characters that they are, are at odds with each other throughout their entire journey together.

It is in this saga with Bill that we come across a Bloater, the most aggressive infected character in the first Last of Us game. Finally, the trio make it to Bill’s home, where they find Frank’s lifeless body hanging from a ceiling. He became infected and chose to end his life before turning into an unrecognizable monster.

Bill and Frank bond over Linda Ronstadt.

None of this happens in “Long, Long Time.” While the game hints at Bill being gay through Frank’s suicide note and a male porn magazine that Ellie stole from Bill’s hideout, there is not any other mention of it. He refers to Frank as his “partner” and nothing else. While it is clear that Frank and Bill were in a relationship, it was not a very loving one judging by the hatefulness toward Bill in Frank’s suicide note.

However, in the HBO show, Bill and Frank’s relationship is healthy and loving, including their fights. “Long, Long Time” presents a refreshing depiction of healthy masculinity and sexuality that stays authentic to the characters and their stories.

Another difference from the game is that the only interaction between Bill and Joel in episode three is when they meet for the first time, almost ten years after the outbreak, at a small dinner party at Bill and Frank’s house. While it would have been fun to see more interaction between Bill and Joel in the show, their lack of shared screen-time doesn’t downplay the importance they have in each other’s lives. This is pertinent to a decision Joel makes about whether to keep traveling with Ellie, and it happens in the end of the episode, when Bill and Frank are both dead.

“I hope he never lets me down again.”

Bill is a character who means business and doesn’t care much for the people with whom he shares this world. Nick Offerman took this characterization and ran with it, transforming into the most believable performance of Bill any Last of Us fan could ask for. He is a delightful live-action version of this bitter, coldhearted character.

And yet, there is so much to Bill we don’t know about that HBO was determined to show us. Yes, Bill is an angry reclusive survivalist who was “happy when the world ended.” He is not afraid to shoot down trespassers, infected or not, and exhibits a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his bunker that is filled floor to ceiling with an array of guns and other weaponry. But after he meets Frank, it turns out that Bill is also sensitive, sweet and filled with unwavering protective love.

Offerman and Bartlett’s chemistry with one another is beautiful. Bartlett brings Frank to life as more than just a man who hated Bill. He has a rich, cultured personality, is full of love and hope. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode is when Frank surprises Bill with a garden of strawberries in their backyard. After a decade of rations and frozen meals, one can only imagine the bliss of eating freshly picked fruit for the first time since the world’s end. With the sun’s rays beaming through the trees and small bugs floating around them, Offerman and Bartlett performed this scene with such sincerity and love that it felt like we, the audience, were right there with them.

“Long, Long Time” ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it to Bill and Frank’s home. Here, all the flowers are dead, an unfinished dinner is caked with mold and a note to Joel is left on the kitchen table. Bill left all his belongings to Joel, including his beloved truck.

The Verdict

“Long, Long Time” is devastating. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, coupled with the heartbreaking score and thoughtful film editing, create an unexpected love story in a gruesome, ruthless world. All the while, the world-building continues, the story progresses and Joel and Ellie’s bond slowly grows stronger. While there are moments of dialogue identical to the game, this episode is ultimately original. In other words: it is tv filmmaking at its finest. It asks audiences to trust the writers with any creative liberties they’ll take with the show. I would say this request for trust is justified.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is in this part in the game where Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry. Will we meet them in the next episode? We won’t find out until next week. So until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re consuming at HauntedMTL.

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Movies n TV

Marionette, a Film Review

Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. This R-rated film stars Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf.

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Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. The film stars Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, and Emun Elliott. As of this review, this R-rated film is available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and AMC+.

Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) moves to Scotland, having found an opening for her practice. As a therapist, she begins to meet with her clients and adjust to her new life. However, one of her clients, a troubled boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), has the whole institution frightened. As she soon learns, the boy knows too much and has a wicked temper.

Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter looking at Manny's drawing
Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter

What I Like

Few films make me feel the spiraling madness of the protagonist. Marionette sits as one such example. The growing evidence facing her leaves the audience as uncertain as the protagonist. And as she becomes more extreme, we fear if she’s right or wrong.

While not too exceptional, lovely visuals throughout the film reflect the mood and situations nicely. From white rooms to stormy nights, many scenes bring life a character’s inner state. Some might find this “on the nose,” but the premise and execution highlight these moments.

Elijah Wolf as Manny, drawing a picture with a sinister glare
Elijah Wolf as Manny

What I Dislike

Taking the premise at face value, I find it strange that Dr. Marianne Winter would be the main character. Without spoiling anything, the end makes me reflect a little harder against some potential interpretations.

This leads to a somewhat ambiguous element of the film. When a film has ambiguity, all parts should be possible. However, this doesn’t feel true for Marionette.

Kraken eating a boat icon
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Marionette is an interesting and rewarding experience. While some elements don’t tie perfectly with the conclusion, it will have you questioning what is and isn’t real. For a psychological thriller, it’s hard to ask for more. While the film won’t be ideal for everyone, those interested should certainly give it a watch.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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