Finally, Lovecraft Country brings the horror in “Strange Case.” Sure, there have been horrible moments, mostly tied to the horrors of racism, but this episode does a great job of fusing social themes and body-horror in a creepy and effective way.
The story so far…
The episode continues to build on the ongoing narrative concerning the lodges and the missing pages, but the real draw of the hour is Ruby’s body horror-driven identity story.
Ruby wakes up after her evening with William in the previous episode in the body of a white woman named Hillary and stumbles out into the streets of Chicago alarmed and confused and nearly getting a poor black kid murdered by the police. She’s picked up by a pair of cops who take her back to William who has laid out a tarp in a room, placing the contorting and visibly pained “Hillary” on the floor. He then proceeds to help Ruby escape that fleshy vessel in a gruesome manner and a report about African cicadas is read on the news.
Ruby is given a potion that allows her to slip into “Hillary” for a period of time, and the episode follows Ruby over a series of transformations. Ruby first begins to enjoy the freedom and protection of being a white woman; she gets access to a managerial position at the department store, she gets free ice cream. Things seem great, but “Hillary” also bears witness to how black people are treated in white circles. She also tries to “uplift” the only black employee of Marshall Field’s (the one who applied for the job Ruby originally wanted) but only proves to condescend and perpetuate the worst sort of impulses of the moderate white of the era. “Hillary” chastizes the only woman of color in the store to “be better.” She also forces this poor woman to take a group of white Marshall Field’s employees into her safe space, a bar, where the whites proceed to gawk and fetishize the black people in their space.
With each transformation, Ruby grows more and more disillusioned with the magical transformation and the Hillary identity, and finally breaks when she witnesses the man who hired “Hillary” attempt to assault the very employee she has been bullying. This sets the stage for revenge and a high heel brutally shoved up the ass of the boss (though we do not necessarily know much about what he had done behind a failed assault).
The wrinkle to this storyline, however, is that it is not merely Ruby who has been under such brutal transformations because Christina and William are finally revealed to be one and the same. “William” granted the magic as a favor, which is later called when he has Ruby pose as the help at one of the local lodges. It’s all very much a solid A-plot for the episode.
Montrose, having killed Yahima, is in a very dark place. He is brutally beat down by Tic and proceeds to lick his wounds in the comfort of his lover, Sammy, and diving into the underground queer community in the area. Montrose seems less about an emotional connection than a physical one early in the hour, refusing to kiss Sammy, but by the end, among the drag performers at the club and the celebration, finally kisses Sammy. However, could an acceptance of himself truly help Montrose with decades of trauma, his fractured relationship and betrayal of Tic, and his very recent murder of an intersex person?
Tic and Leti continue to develop their relationship, albeit with a couple of hurdles. They discover Montrose has sabotaged their plans. Tic is well aware of what Montrose has done, but Leti assumes Montrose merely let Yahima go. Tic’s violent attack of Montrose naturally alarms Leti who at one point checks on him while wielding a baseball bat. Not helping matters is Tic’s obsession with uncovering more magic by translating the text from the now-destroyed pages. Tic and Leti have sex later; Tic’s knuckles still raw and bleeding from his brutal beatdown of Montrose, and later still they have an intimate moment in Leti’s bathroom. Tic opens up about not knowing what love is but finding something like it in Korea with Ji-ah, who we’ve only heard over the phone.
Even so, after finding a little bit of love and mercy, Tic is still agonizing over magic, pouring over photos of the pages taken by Leti uncovers a message in the Language of Adam, something so alarming to him that he calls Ji-ah in Korea. She knows something about what is going on.
How it worked out…
Lovecraft Country delivers an outstanding episode that delivers genuine horror that smartly intersects with the larger themes the whole season has addressed. The performances are top-notch and anchoring the episode around Ruby’s experiences with transformation worked out incredibly well.
This might be the single goriest episode of the series yet, with flaps of flesh sluicing right off of bodies during transformations and it really feels the closest to effective Lovecraftian horror the show has gotten. H. P. Lovecraft wasn’t necessarily much of a body-horror writer, as in those themes didn’t exactly drive him, but the larger movement his work inspired has latched onto body-horror as a driving element, such as the recent adaptation Color Out of Space. Plus, it does make a kind of cosmic sense that our mere fleshy vessels are so easily slashed and scrapped as we are just meat in an indifferent universe. So while Lovecraft Country has not delivered the sort of cosmic awareness normally associated with Lovecraft’s prose, the body horror does feel like an appropriate well for the series, especially because it makes for such a nice metaphorical device for exploring identity.
What I appreciate most is that the episode, while horrifying, was also bleakly funny. Not funny as in laugh-out-loud, but more a recognition of the effective use of situational irony that ran through.
And look, this show still has issues. The William-Christina transformation scene creates some issues because there are moments in the show where the two identities are seen just mere moments apart. Let’s not even get into the fact that there are just strips of meat all over Chicago from the transformations, either. How are the racist cops not investigating the flayed remains of a white woman? Montrose’s rough sex (closer to rape) was uncomfortable given what he did to Yahima the night before. The show isn’t handling queer themes well enough. Themes of blackness the show does quite well. Everything else, well, is a coin-flip.
Lovecraft Country may have bounced back a bit with this week’s episode, one that deftly integrates horror and social themes in a delightfully gory package. I give Lovecraft Country‘s “Strange Case” four and a half Cthulhus. (4.5 / 5)
So what are the other miscellaneous odds and ends to cover?
- I appreciate the gorgeous title cards presented with each episode but there’s no way in Hell I am going to make new title cards for these reviews week to week.
- Yes, that was Shangela from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
- The actress playing “Hillary” was the same actress who kept the dogs and Shoggoths in the first two episodes, Jamie Neumann.
- So, the police captain’s torso is apparently black and we didn’t even really get into that or the man in his office closet. I am sure we’ll learn more in the coming weeks.
- I appreciated Tic looking every bit the Lovecraftian scholar at the end of the episode; flop sweat, panicked eyes, piles of documents. It was very recognizable.
- The big literary reference this week? The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- The monologue over the Hillary montage is “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf.”
- Some great songs, as usual, on the show. Tic and Leti’s love scene was set to “Return to Love” by Black Atlass. One of the first songs we here is Patience and Prudence’s take on “Tonight You Belong To Me.” My choice for the sound of the episode, though? Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.”
What did you think about “Strange Case?” Do you think Lovecraft Country has bounced back, or do you think it’s been going strong since the first episode? Let us know in the comments.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a Film Review
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a R-rated horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas, available on Amazon Prime.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2022) is a horror comedy directed by Damon Thomas. Based on Grady Hendrix’s novel of the same name, this R-rated film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathay Ang, and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. As of this review, the film is available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Abby Rivers (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen Lang (Amiah Miller) seek to escape the monotony of high school drama with their friends. However, in their efforts to have fun, Gretchen Lang encounters a troubling otherworldly demon bent on controlling her body. It’s up to Abby to help her overcome this demonic threat.
What I Like in My Best Friend’s Exorcism
The effects are surprisingly good. While not overwhelming, these effects never take me out of the film. Even the less realistic scenes fit the overall tone while looking better than expected or required. The 80’s aesthetic strengthens that believability.
Continuing that thought, My Best Friend’s Exorcism oozes the 80’s. Perhaps this comment should set an expectation for the viewer. I can’t exactly comment on the accuracy of the era, but it certainly fits the era of film. If 80’s films don’t interest you, consider looking somewhere else.
While I don’t meet the target audience, the jokes land and provide an enjoyable horror comedy feel. My Best Friend’s Exorcism focuses more on comedy than horror, but this remains a common trend in horror comedies.
The performances remain strong throughout, with leads Elsie Fisher and Amiah Miller pulling off that best-friend chemistry. The cast purposely captures that 80’s nostalgia. Added to the campy nature of the film, one might grow irritated with the acting choices. For me, it certainly fits with the tone and setting.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Drug use might deserve a mention on this list. While I don’t find this egregious, I imagine this point, or some other technicality, earns the film its undeserved R-rating.
The possession lends itself as a rape allegory, with some characters even believing this to be the trauma Gretchen Lang suffers from. While this isn’t the case, the conversation remains for those who want to avoid such material.
Body horror describes a few scenes of the film, though sparingly. However, one scene convinces me to bring this up for those who get squeamish at the cracking of bones or slimies in the body.
A character is tricked into outing themselves and faces some homophobia because of it. This homophobia is rightfully taken as cruel, not condoned in the slightest, but it remains potentially triggering and deserves mention here.
What I Dislike, or Food for Thought on My Best Friend’s Exorcism
This film seems to earn its R-rating off some technicality. It is neither raunchy nor gruesome for those expecting that from their R-rated horror films. For me, it’s more an issue of setting expectations. I expect my R-rated horrors to hit hard. My Best Friend’s Exorcism doesn’t.
It would be unfair to expect something like Jennifer’s Body, as this is a lighter and zanier film. There are elements of sisterhood and bodily autonomy that echo the cult classic, but My Best Friend’s Exorcism remains an entirely campier affair.
In terms of performances that lack the intended impact, three over-the-top anti-drug spokesmen outstay their welcome. It’s clearly a jab at D.A.R.E., which certainly works in increments, but then one character becomes an important part of the plot and still keeps his caricature.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism fits the taste of an 80’s horror comedy fan. Don’t expect to be frightened at any point, but the comedy lands well enough. The film knows its niche and hits most of its targets. It’s hard to say if the film will stand the test of time, but it certainly earns its runtime.
(3.5 / 5)
American Horror Story Delicate, Rockabye
There’s a lot to unpack from this episode of American Horror Story Delicate, Killer Queens, so I don’t want to waste any time. I just want to take a moment and issue a trigger warning. This episode, and therefore this review, talks about several topics that might be upsetting. These include abuse, pregnancy trauma and miscarriage. It’s heavy. If you’re not up for that, here’s a link to my review of Tucker and Dale, which is considerably lighter and funnier.
Our episode starts with Anna trying to get the police to take her seriously about the break-in. There’s just one problem. No one was seen coming in or out of the apartment except Dex. No one shows up on any of the security footage. The police are convinced it’s just Anna’s IFV medication making her see things.
But Anna doesn’t have time to think about the break-in. She’s just been nominated for a Gotham award, and she needs to get into full Awards Show mode. Siobhan gives her something she calls B12 and tells her that her life now revolves around awards prep.
But Anna’s whole life can’t revolve around that, because she’s pregnant now. Even though she seems to be losing time. Like, weeks at a time without even realizing it.
Things just get stranger when she’s at the Gotham Awards and accosted by an overzealous fan in the bathroom. After the woman puts her hands on Anna’s stomach, she knocks her over and the woman hits her head on the sink.
Rather than aiding the woman, Anna goes out to accept her award.
Or does she? After throwing up blood on stage, she finds herself back in the bathroom, being helped up by paramedics.
Everyone agrees that Anna needs some rest and space to heal. So she and Dex go to Talia’s house in the country. There, of course, everything gets much worse. Anna starts to bleed after a yoga session and is taken to the hospital. There, she gets an ultrasound by Nurse Ivy. A nurse that no one else knows at the hospital.
Sadly, the bleeding doesn’t stop. And as we end the episode, it appears that Anna has lost her baby.
Emma Roberts is doing a fantastic job playing Anna. Proving as always that American Horror Story actors are nothing if not flexible. I find myself wanting to compare Anna to Madison Montgomery from AHS Coven. They’re both actresses who experience abuse from men that one might, sadly, expect for women in their station and age range. Madison is gang-abused by frat boys, and Anna has her autonomy taken away from her as soon as a baby is in question.
That’s where the similarities stop. Can you ever imagine Madison saying, “You’re right, I’m sorry,” to literally anyone? She’d have snapped a man’s neck first. Anna’s body language, voice modulation, and the overall way she carries herself in the world is so different.
This is also part of what makes her relatable. I imagine many of the female-presenting people reading this can remember a time when we’ve said, you’re right, I’m sorry when they were wrong and we weren’t sorry at all.
I also really loved the amount of blood in this episode. There is so much blood involved in being a cisgender woman. It’s something we take for granted, but shy away from when in polite company. There was no shying away here. We’re made to see all of it. I don’t think the amount of blood in the miscarriage scene was overkill at all. If anything, it wasn’t enough.
Finally, it’s a small point but one that I appreciated. I bet you already know the one I’m talking about. When Anna is overjoyed to get to wear the same dress once worn by Madonna, Siobhan reminds her in a stern voice not to rip it.
If you didn’t get the joke, look up Kim K and an incident with the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress. I do appreciate anyone who can poke fun at themselves.
The reference to ‘don’t rip it’ with the dress was fun. I hate Kim K and her whole family, but that was funny.
What didn’t work
I’m honestly struggling to find anything in this episode that didn’t work. If I had to pick out something I didn’t like, it was probably that we got the barest cameo from Zachary Quinto. I really hope we get to see more of him as the season progresses.
Another thing I don’t like overall is the character Siobhan. I mentioned this last week, and I’ll try not to mention it again because I don’t see it changing. But the character in the show is a bare reflection of the one in the book.
Siobhan in the book was a loving, selfless friend. Which made the ending, well, let’s say impactful to avoid spoilers for both AHS and Delicate Condition. This version, if she continues as she is, is not going to have the same effect.
I’m also quite done hearing the internet swoon over what a great job Kim K is doing. She’s been acting her entire life, I’d be surprised if she wasn’t good at it. And she’s doing no better or worse than many other guest stars have done in the past seasons of American Horror Story. She’s not bad. But she wouldn’t be getting the credit she is if she wasn’t who she is.
Overall, this was a great episode. It was equal parts funny, gory and infuriating. At this point, my only real complaint is that there are only three episodes left until a season break. But now that the writing strike is over, hopefully the break won’t be too long.(4 / 5)
Cadaver (2020), a Film Review
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal and currently available on Netflix.
Cadaver (2020) is a Norwegian post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Jarand Herdal. This unrated film stars Thorbjørn Harr, Gitte Witt, and Thomas Gullestad. As of this review, the film is available on Netflix.
After an apocalyptic event, the survivors endure in a hopeless world. Among these survivors are Leonora (Gitte Witt), Jacob (Thomas Gullestad), and Alice (Tuva Olivia Remman), a family fighting the hopelessness of a lost world. Leonora desires to keep her daughter (Alice) hopeful, and when a theater opens in their decrepit city, she thinks she has found the solution to their despair. However, they will all soon learn how desperate people have become.
What I Like from Cadaver
Cadaver takes on a unique focus for a post-apocalyptic movie. While most in the genre tackle the question of where you find hope, the theatrical lens is not one I’ve seen before. It blends these two unique environments together for a pleasant concoction. As a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I must admit I find my niche in the everyday lives of someone in such a world.
Leonora’s (usually called Leo in the film) dreamer nature in this horrendously hopeless environment creates a sympathetic contrast. This dreamer nature doesn’t excuse some of her choices, but she evokes sympathy. While most post-apocalyptic entries provide this balance of hope and survival, Leo’s creativity and passion for the arts give her hope and a more focused ideal.
The relationship between Leo and her husband also creates a nice contrast, as Jacob plays the rationalist and survivor. In this decision, both characters provide that post-apocalyptic dynamic of survival and hope. These interactions allow both actors opportunities to create friction as they pull the plot from their differing perspectives.
I had the chance to listen to the dubbed version, which sounds good. I’m not much for dubs, especially on Netflix, but they did Cadaver with respect and a focus on quality. At the very least, it’s competent and doesn’t distract from the viewing experience.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
As hinted at earlier, there are some dumb decisions in the plot. While many fall within character traits, the actions don’t escape criticism. This flaw becomes incredibly repetitive when characters make the same mistake.
Implied suicide occurs throughout the film with one shown incident, but there are circumstances that change the context slightly. A world this bleak invites this depressive and dangerous state as a normality. However, one should prepare if this is a trigger.
What I Dislike or Considerations for Cadaver
Again, some decisions had me roll my eyes and endure the plot. This reaction isn’t exactly the experience I seek out in my horror. It’s more haunting to make sensible, or even intelligent, decisions and still endure unavoidable or unforeseen consequences.
It’s likely that nothing in Cadaver surprises you, which underutilizes the interesting premise. There are unique elements, certainly, but never a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s in that execution that Cadaver falls flat and fails to engage a viewer.
The film doesn’t exactly haunt the viewer, but the bleak world effectively depicts the hopelessness of a post-apocalypse. Don’t expect much genuine horror, but you can expect an appropriately uncomfortable and unnerving experience. In short, viewers of Cadaver likely want a unique twist in their post-apocalypse, not a traumatic horror.
Cadaver remains a unique viewing experience by adding a slight twist to its post-apocalyptic story. While not a haunting masterpiece, this bleak film will have you feeling the characters’ struggle. While lacking sensible decision-making skills, they are certainly sympathetic survivors struggling in a hopeless world. If this is your niche, it’s certainly worth a view.
(3 / 5)