“I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” director Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of Iain Reid’s 2016 novel, premiered earlier this month on Netflix to positive reviews. Readers of the novel and fans of Kaufman’s work likely had an idea of what to expect from the film; viewers unfamiliar with either may have found the movie less accessible. “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a cerebral, unsettling film with surreal elements that is true to the spirit — if not all the details — of the novel, but may not provide enough scares for some horror fans.
The premise of the film appears straightforward: a young woman (whose name is never confirmed, even in the end credits) goes with her boyfriend, Jake, to visit his parents’ farm. As evidenced by the film’s title, the woman is ambivalent about the relationship, and ponders it throughout an awkward car ride with Jake.
The young woman’s extensive internal monologue and the lengthy dialogue of the first half of the film will be familiar to readers of the novel. The actors are skilled at expressing their emotions subtly (especially lead actress Jessie Buckley, whose ability to summon a tear or two on command is impressive). Those who haven’t read the novel, however, may be surprised and frustrated at just how slow this “slow burn” can be. Even as someone who enjoyed the novel, I found myself impatiently waiting for Toni Collette to show up.
When Jake and the young woman eventually reach the farm, things take a stranger turn. Kaufman gives us a decrepit barn and some gruesome anecdotes about deceased animals; an unsettling, shifting portrayal of Jake’s parents by (finally!) Toni Collette and David Thewlis; and a foreboding basement that manages to make laundry look sinister. As the young woman becomes desperate to return home, things begin to fall apart in a way that truly disconcerts the viewer. A stop at a creepy ice cream shop — in the middle of a literal blizzard — paves the way for the film’s climax.
The gradual denouement of the film (which runs over two hours total) has already been dissected online by viewers and critics. I will not include plot spoilers here, but Kaufman has used a bizarre combination of art forms — ballet, musical theater, even an animated talking pig — to bring the story to an ambiguous conclusion. Even those who have read the book will likely be confused; the film’s ending deviates from the novel’s details, though the ultimate reveal remains the same. The tension and fear present in the book are dissipated by Kaufman’s fragmented yet surprisingly compassionate vision, which focuses more on exploration than exposition.
“I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is a painstakingly crafted, well-acted film that will appeal to viewers who enjoy puzzling over a film’s interpretation and symbolism (for example, I’m convinced the elaborate wallpaper is a reference to “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman). Those after outright scares, however, will probably look for more intense fare in the upcoming spooky season. (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)
Wheel of Time, What Might Be
Episode three of Wheel of Time was easily my favorite so far. It’s dramatic, dark, and speaks to the growing concerns about evil invading the world.
Let’s begin with Nynaeve. After showing little to no progress, Liandrin thinks she’s ready to go through the Trial of The Arches. This is an initiation that all Aes Sedai have to go through to become a sister. It’s dangerous, not totally understood, and doesn’t have a great survival rate.
One would think some cooler heads would prevail and not let the very new person do this so early. Especially since Nynaeve seems to have some issues with impulse control.
But she goes into the trial, seeing first a scene from her childhood where her parents are attacked.
The point is to walk back through the arches, leaving her family behind. This she does, but doesn’t look very happy about it. Her second trial involves finding herself back in Two Rivers, where a horrible plague has ripped through the people. Again, she has to walk away from the people that she cares about and come back to reality.
The third test is a little more tricky. It appears that Nynaeve comes back covered in blood, with no memories of what happened.
Terrified, she runs from the castle only to find Lan waiting for her.
In the real world, where Liandrin and the others are waiting for her, she simply never returns.
This shakes Liandrin. She decides she’s done holding Mat against his will, and lets him leave. Excited, but also smelling a trap, he takes Min with him.
Still not sure why she had him to start with, but I guess it’s cool that she let him go.
Meanwhile, Rand is working with a familiar face at his hospital. It’s Logain, who we might remember as the false dragon from season one.
Rand would love some advice about channeling as a man. But it appears that Logain might really have lost his mind.
My favorite scene in the episode was the one involving Perrin and Lady Suroth. This scene was perfect.
First off, the character design for Lady Suroth was just perfect. Without moving more than a hand and the crook of her mouth, she manages to be terrifying.
The massively scary nails help, as does the headdress that is both beautiful and reminiscent of an insect. The sort of insect that seems likely to bite and lay eggs under the skin of a victim.
Her absolute authority was terrifying. Uno certainly learned that.
What was more scary, of course, was who was standing next to her. Does she think she’s the one in charge? Or is she perfectly clear on where stands?
What didn’t work
One thing that I don’t love about this season is, unfortunately, not likely to change. It’s true in the books, and it’s true in the show.
The ensemble cast structure doesn’t work for me.
It fractures the story in too many directions. It’s too busy, there’s too much going on. At the same time, there isn’t enough going on with individual characters for me to establish an interest in all of them.
I care what’s happening with Egwene and Nynaeve. I care what’s happening with Perrin.
I don’t care as much about Rand right now. And she wasn’t as involved in this episode, but I don’t care about what Moiraine is going through either.
That could be because the world is coming to an end and they’re refusing to be team players. But maybe that’s just me.
Overall, this was a fun episode. It feels like pieces are being put into place. The characters are getting ready for something big. Something that we can only see the beginnings of.
Something that they clearly don’t think they’re ready for.(3.5 / 5)