I’m going to blunt here and just straight out say that most likely everyone who sees this French art-house film, Jessica Forever, will hate it. I liked it, but I’m definitely in the minority. Out of those who see it, maybe 99% will either hate it or just stop watching before the 10-minute mark. If you don’t believe me just go look at its audience score on IMDB. A sad 4.6! Also, the member reviews on Shudder say violently negative things.
The criticisms aren’t completely uncalled for. The film is slow, confusing, and slightly tedious (actually a lot tedious). The dialogue feels as if the writers shortened everything to just the bare minimum and left the characters to insensibly talk in scenes that never end. Then there’s the issue of the plot itself, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Despite all this, I really like the movie. I think it’s because of the whole first half that was much more interesting than the second and third acts. The major flaw here is that Jessica Forever expects too much of its audience. Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, who wrote and directed the film together, assume that their viewers are willing to dig through the many layers and interpret the film on their own.
More mystery than story
Jessica Forever is about a woman named Jessica (Aomi Muyock) and her makeshift family that consists of violent teenage boys that she’s taken in. They’re comparable to wild animals tamed by her affection, rehabilitated into peaceful warriors. It’s a dystopian film set in the distant future where orphans are outlawed and self-trained as soldiers, but the reason behind it is never explained. Outside of their isolation, a single shootout and the graphic image of the word “orphan” branded on someone’s chest, the film rarely displays their struggles and never offers up any real explanation as to why they’re struggling at all.
Why are orphans outlawed? How come they’re hunted down by killer drones? Why do they live like animals in the woods? How would the police even know they’re orphans in the first place? Who knows.
The strangest part is how relatively normal the rest of the world is. Malls are open, schools are open, cities are intact and people live normally. No one from the outside world seems to care about outlawed orphans running loose. It makes the danger feel insignificant, like a fantasyland they’ve imagined for themselves. Without any information outside of what’s directly happening on the screen, the story deflates way before it ever gets the chance to properly develop. It’s really about loneliness. If the word “lonely” came to life and became a movie, this would be it.
A potential relationship wasted
Despite having her name in the title, Jessica is not the star. Her role is more of a background presence guiding her adoptees. The driving force of the story is a boy named Kevin (Eddy Suiveng) who is taken in by Jessica and her group in the beginning. It’s his introduction that starts the film and his (spoiler alert) death that turns everything around.
When Kevin joins the group, he struggles to control his violent impulses before learning how to fit in with the others. He forms an intimate bond with fellow orphan Julian (Lukas Ionesco). The way they interact implies that they’re closer than friends or brothers, they seem to find a new type of comfort within each other. I loved this part of the movie, it got me infested in Kevin and his relationship with Julian and the other boys. It could have held up the film singlehandedly but then, 30 minutes in, Kevin dies and Julian becomes depressed.
That’s the death of the film for me. After that, it transitions into a new phase with less interesting characters and less interesting storylines. It’s a thinker movie, don’t watch it if you want to be entertained, but it’s truly a piece of art. Every shot is just beautiful. (2.5 / 5)
All photos are property of Shudder and Ecce Films Production
Shudder March 2023 Release Schedule
Mutant family, please gather ’round as February kicks rocks and we shove our way into March. With the new month comes the shifting from winter to spring as death beautifully resurrects back to life, drunken patrons swarm our local bars like rabid locusts for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, and of course new exclusives and returning favorites on Shudder to satisfy the horror fiend in us all. To quote the prestigious Samuel L. Jackson, “hold onto your butts” and let’s dive right into Shudder’s March 2023 release schedule.
While it is true that the release schedule for the start of 2023 on Shudder has been minor and slightly mixed, with films such as the much talked about experimental low-budget indie ‘Skinamarink‘, the surprisingly entertaining horror comedy ‘Sorry About the Demon‘, and writer/director Neil Marshall’s return to the genre with ‘The Lair‘. We also graciously received the wildly fun ‘The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine” special, with season 5 currently in production and premiering later this year; though it can’t come soon enough. As we like to do here at HauntedMTL, let’s kick off March with Shudder’s newest exclusives currently streaming now and in the coming weeks.
Spoonful of Sugar – Now Streaming
Starting off this list we begin with director Mercedes Bryce Morgan and writer Leah Saint Marie’s latest film ‘Spoonful of Sugar‘, now currently streaming.
Millicent (Morgan Saylor), a disturbed college student working on her thesis about children with severe allergies, is hired to babysit little Johnny (Danilo Crovetti), a sickly, mute child who suffers from every allergy under the sun. His mother Rebecca (Kate Foster) is an accomplished author currently focused on her newest book release, while his father Jacob (Myko Olivier) spends his days in the backyard working on frivolous carpentry projects. After experiencing a bizarre sexual awakening while using LSD as an alternative treatment for Johnny, she soon uncovers the family’s dark secrets as things begin to become unhinged.
Leave – Premiering Friday 3/17
After having been abandoned as an infant at a cemetery wrapped in a cloth with satanic symbols, Hunter White (Alicia von Rittberg) grows obsessed with figuring out who her biological parents are and why they seemingly abandoned her. However, as she gets closer to the answers she so desperately seeks, a malevolent spirit is warning her to leave.
‘Leave‘ premiers exclusively on Shudder Friday 03/17 and is directed by Alex Herron and written by Thomas Moldestad, starring Alicia von Rittberg, Herman Tømmeraas, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, and Stig R. Amda
The Unheard – Premiering Friday 03/31
‘The Unheard‘ follows the story of deaf 20-year-old Chloe Grayden (Lachlan Watson) after she undergoes an experimental treatment to restore her hearing. While recovering at her family’s beach home after the successful procedure, Chloe begins to fear she is not alone as she begins to experience auditory hallucinations related to the mysterious disappearance of her mother.
‘The Unheard’ is directed by Shudder alumni Jeffrey A. Brown (The Beach House) and written by brothers/screenwriting partners Shawn Rasmussen and Michael Rasmussen (Crawl), co-starring Michele Hicks and Nick Sandow. ‘The Unheard‘ premiers exclusively on Shudder Friday 03/31.
Returning Classic and Fan Favorites
Now that we’ve removed the veil for the new exclusive titles dropping this month, I think it’s time we reveal the returning classics jump starting our transition into spring for 2023. Allow me to highlight some of my favorite films returning to Shudder for March including ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ and ‘The Company of Wolves‘; grim re-telling’s of popular children’s fairy tales. We also cannot forget John Carpenter’s haunted coastal horror ‘The Fog‘; no, not the remake…thankfully.
Gretel and Hansel – Now Streaming
Directed by Osgood Perkins, ‘Gretel and Hansel’ is a terrifyingly dark and unique vision to one of history’s most famous childhood fairy tales. After being thrown out of their mother’s home, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) leads her younger brother, Hansel (Samuel Leakey), through the woods in search of food and work. The children soon discover a quaint cottage where a fragile old woman Holda (Alice Krige) offers fresh food and bed. The children accept all Holda has to offer, with little thought as to what may be asked of them in return.
Though it has been met with mixed reviews, ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ offers astounding performances by veteran actress Alice Krige as the films iconic Witch of the woods and Sophia Lillis as lead Gretel. Director Osgood Perkins does well to draw his viewer in with a beautifully haunting score and unnerving cinematography, making this one grim re-telling worth checking out at least once. ‘Gretel and Hansel‘ is available to stream now.
The Company of Wolves – Now Streaming
Continuing our list of returning classics, we have yet another bold re-telling of a beloved children’s fairy tale, 1984’s ‘The Company of Wolves‘. While the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood‘ has been retold through various forms of media, including numerous films, ‘The Company of Wolves‘ is a beloved horror interpretation with adult themes and memorable practical effects including one of the genres best werewolf transformations.
A wise grandmother (Angela Lansbury) tells her granddaughter Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) a disturbing tale of innocent maidens falling in love with handsome strangers … and of their sudden mysterious disappearances when the moon is full and accompanied by the strange sound of a beast in the woods.
‘The Company of Wolves’ is co-written and directed by Neil Jordan and stars Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Micha Bergese, and David Warner, streaming now.
John Carpenter’s The Fog – Streaming 03/31
Writer, director, musician, and horror master John Carpenter is a legend in the genre having provided countless classics such as ‘The Thing‘, a terrifyingly gruesome remake of ‘The Thing from Another World‘. Or his sci-fi action/horror ‘They Live’ where he deals with societal control through corporations and government. And of course, my personal favorite, the film that jumpstarted his career and created one of horror’s most iconic slashers…’Halloween‘.
1980’s ‘The Fog‘ is a terrifying shoreside tale of vengeful spirits haunting the fictional coastal town of Antonio Bay, OR. as they begin preparations to celebrate its centenary. Following exactly 100 years after a ship mysteriously sank in the town’s waters, a thick unearthly fog harboring the souls of those who perished rolls in and with them, the dark secrets of Antonio Bay’s past.
John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’ stars scream queen and recent Academy Award winner Jamie Lee Curtis, genre alums Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, and Nancy Kyes, and was co-written by the late Debra Hill. ‘The Fog‘ will be available to stream on Shudder 03/31.
Full Shudder March 2023 Film Releases
For a full comprehensive list of all the titles being added to Shudder for the month of January, please refer to the graphic below. Please be on the lookout for our review of ‘The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine’ to drop later this week here on HauntedMTL and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more Shudder news and spooky reviews!
Gretel and Hansel
Spoonful of Sugar
The Company of Wolves
Jack be Nimble
The Blair Witch Project & Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
Movies n TV
She Wolf, Art by Jennifer Weigel
So this isn’t a review but more just some thoughts…
I have to admit that I actually like the She Wolf music video by Shakira.
Maybe partly because my Zumba group back in the day used to dance to it with all of us cautioned to not to look up the music video for fear it would be too risque or something… (The Zumba dance to this was one of my favorites, and I loved our group of mostly 60+ year old retirees for all that some of them did act surprised at these things, whether or not they actually were.) Or maybe partly because it reminds me of Madonna’s Express Yourself, or by extension the famous dance scene in Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang.
It’s a guilty pleasure.
The ways these things evolve and stay the same over time fascinates me, especially how the messaging and movement change, and yet stay the same.
Anyway, I created this artwork based upon the She Wolf video and song, incorporating a Hazelle puppet head atop a modern Barbie doll body. I don’t recall what happened to Barbie’s actual head though I’m pretty sure I needed it for another project. (Technically I needed the body for another project too, and this was just a stopover.) Years ago this piece found itself part of the Women’s Caucus for Art website as one of the chosen artworks for the year. I was going to try to write something to go with it for Haunted MTL but instead I thought I’d share it as a lead up to my revisitation of my werewolf story from St. Patrick’s Day last year.
Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.
Movies n TV
Beware The Slenderman Documentary
The Slenderman is a well-known character for both gamers and Creepypasta fans alike. Most of us have seen pictures of him. Eerie photos of an incredibly slim, tall man with a white face and three-piece suit. He stalks children at parks, taking them away forever.
It’s a great scary story, a modern urban legend. And I’d like to think that most of us know that it is only that.
Unfortunately in 2014, the story became too real for three twelve-year-old girls. Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser attempted to murder their friend, Payton Leutner. The three girls went into the woods, and Payton was stabbed nineteen times.
Miraculously, she survived.
Today, I want to talk about the most comprehensive documentary I have seen to date regarding this tragedy. We’re taking a look at Beware The Slenderman.
Released in March of 2016 by HBO, this documentary was actually released before the end of the trial. Despite that, it was incredibly informative.
The two-hour-long documentary can be broken into two basic topics. The first, of course, is the attack on Peyton Leutner and the subsequent trial. The next topic is the one I was more interested in if we’re being honest. Slenderman is a modern-day urban legend. Why did his story have the power to drive two children to kill?
Let’s talk first about the coverage of the criminal trial against Anissa and Morgan. Now, I’m going to tell you something that surprised me. This documentary was released in 2016. The criminal trial was not over until 2017. Seems to me that it would have been better to delay the documentary until the trial was, you know, over. But hey, what do I know? Instead, our climactic ending revolves around one serious question. Would Alissa and Morgan be tried as adults or children?
We saw a lot of interviews with the parents of the two girls. They talked a lot about how seemingly normal they were. About how they were often the target of bullying, and how they only had a few close friends.
This was a very sad, yet touching view of families that are struggling with an impossible situation. How do you love and support your child after they’ve done something so terrible?
I will warn you that this portion did involve police interviews with the girls. It’s not as upsetting as hearing babies crying while they died like in Transmissions from Jonestown. But it’s still not a warm and fuzzy experience.
I appreciated the view of the families. It’s a point of view we don’t see as much. Part of me would have liked to see the family of Payton Leutner involved more. I’d have loved to know what they think of all of this. But it appears that they either didn’t want to participate in the documentary or weren’t asked in the first place. And honestly, I think that might be for the best. Even though Payton survived, she was brutally attacked by her two best friends. She and her family deserve to live their lives in peace.
What I was fascinated by was the story of Slenderman as a modern urban legend. What was it about this character that these children latched onto?
In this documentary, he’s compared to the Pied Piper in the way he lured children away from their families. This included a warped and frankly terrifying retelling of the Pied Piper with some of the creepiest animation I have ever seen. I loved it.
Slenderman is a perfect character for this sort of infatuation, unfortunately, because there are just not a lot of specifics in his story. He pops up in video games and online tales with any number of motivations. Is he abducting children to torture and kill them? Or is he rescuing them from their cruel peers who ostracize them? His vague back story and vague appearance mean we can look at him and see whatever we want to see. If you want to see a killer, that’s what you’ll see. If you want to see a friend who happens to kill other people sometimes, you can see that too.
Overall, this was a fascinating documentary. It managed to handle a sensitive situation tastefully. No one is made out to be a bad guy here because in the end no one really is a bad guy. I mean, except Slenderman.
This story is a stark reminder that stories have power. They have the power to heal us, inspire us, to change our lives. And if we aren’t very careful, they have the power to destroy our lives as well.
Stay safe, and don’t take things too seriously out there.
(4 / 5)