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To be specific, today I’m talking about the mini-series Haunting of Hill House from Netflix, which came out in 2018. I feel like I have to be specific because so many works have the title Hill House, or Haunting of Hill House, or some other hilly housey variation. And many of them don’t have a goddamned thing in common with the Shirley Jackson original besides cribbing the title.

That’s not the case with Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House, though. I’d say that this is the adaptation that is most true to the original work. And it’s the adaption that, in my opinion, Shirley would have loved the most.

The story is about the Crain family, who purchased Hill House to flip it. The first episode starts with the father, Henry, pulling the children out of the house in a panic. They leave behind their mother, Olivia. We later find out that she died. There’s some question as to how she died, whether it was suicide or her husband killed her. Of course, right away we’re all pretty sure it’s the house. 

Still from Haunting of Hill House.

This is all set in the past, though. In the present, the Crain children are called together when the youngest, Nellie, goes back to Hill House and kills herself as well. Allegedly.

Of course, we all know, that’s not how that went down.

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Through the course of six episodes, we see the family from two points in time. We see them in the lead-up to Olivia’s death, then in the lead-up to Nellie’s. Each episode focuses on one character, until the end. Until the House manages to lure all of them back.

Haunting of Hill House was packed with Easter eggs for us Shirley Jackson fans. Everyone’s name is a reference. Luke, Nellie, and Theo are, of course, the original characters from the book. At one point Nellie’s seeing a therapist, named Dr. Montague. Shirley, of course, is named for the lady herself. And her married name, Harris, is a reference to Jackson’s iconic short story collection The Lottery, or The Adventures of James Harris.

We’re also treated to so many of the best-loved lines from the book. One of my favorite moments of the series was when Mrs. Dudly takes a little Nell by the shoulders and tells her to insist upon her cup of stars. It melted my heart.

Annabeth Gish as Mrs. Dudley in Haunting of Hill House

What I loved most about Haunting of Hill House was that it, like the original story, talked about mental illness right along with the haunts. We see a family that’s torn apart by the loss of their mother, the heart of the house. We see how that’s impacted each family member in a different, but heartbreaking way. Steven, using the story to forward his career. Shirley and Theo, constantly caring for everyone while at the same time keeping them all at arm’s length. Luke, descending into drug addiction to hide from the pain. Nell, plagued by anxiety. And Henry, believing himself to be the cause of it all, avoiding his children to not hurt them further.

Watching the show, we know that Olivia Crain didn’t kill herself. We know Nellie Crain didn’t kill herself either. Both were victims of the house, and what walks there. We’re led to believe that the various effects on the five kids are caused in part by the house too. 

Victoria Pedretti as Nell in Haunting of Hill House.

But not entirely. After all, it doesn’t take a twisted house murdering your mother to drive you to drugs. Or to push people away. Or to lay awake at night, feeling like there’s a cold stiff hand around your heart. 

This is why Haunting of Hill House stays with us. Because we can all fall prey to these horrors. And this is why I started bawling like a child at the last line. Because if you are struggling, however you struggle, you do not walk alone.

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Want to check it out for yourself? You can grab the whole mini series on Amazon.

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Movies n TV

Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube Channel

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Youtube is a great place for those of us who like a spooky story. There we can find a mixture of true tales and cutting-edge fiction. These range everywhere from amateur footage to professionally crafted videos. 

Today, we’re talking about a hidden YouTube gem, Scary Fairy Godmother

The channel launched in December 2014. Since its birth, there has been just one topic of discussion. The fey is not to be trusted, and in fact, is something to be feared.

A still from the Scary Fairy Godmother channel.

Some of the stories on this channel are fiction. But some are claimed as first-hand accounts of dangerous interactions with fairies. 

Now, whether or not we believe in fairies isn’t the point of this review. I am only here to talk about the level of entertainment to be found on this YouTube channel. 

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A recent video titled Melsh Dick (don’t laugh) was a common fairy tale. A girl is lured away from her friends by a boy who claims to be her cousin. He doesn’t give her a name, they never do. Fortunately, the girl escapes. Others haven’t been so lucky. 

A favorite video of mine, being a city dweller, was Urban Fairies. This video consisted of eight encounters with fairies in an urban setting. Many of these encounters are nice. There’s a beautiful swirl of lights seen out of an apartment window. A person is lured into a city park by a lovely young woman who might or might not have been human. And another person receives some personal and sage advice from what looks to be a homeless man while she’s out walking her dog. All of these stories were delightful, reminding us that magic can be found in any setting.

For creepier encounters, we turn to the video House Fairy Horrors. Warning, you might not be as thrilled about the Elf on a Shelf after this one. 

In this video we hear the tale of a goblin that took over one room of a person’s house, chasing out anyone who tried to go in. A young child sings to scare sprites out of their home, only to have them hold a grudge and return years later. There’s even a shadow man who seems to encourage a vegan lifestyle. 

Some of the videos have themes, like frost fairies or encounters with fairy royalty. Some are eerie tales plucked from Reddit, real life or imagined.

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Of course, the creepiest tales are those where people are lured into the forest by the fey. You’ll find several of these stories on Scary Fairy Godmother. It always seems to be in good fun, until one finds themselves lost. 

Cover from Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube channel.

These stories might not seem very scary to us. The tellers of these tales come away without a scratch after all. But consider this. The only time we’d hear about a fairy abduction is if it fails. We do not know what happens to the others, only that they’re not around to tell us.

How many people went missing in your town last year? 

From what we can gather from these videos, we are never safe from the fey. They can reside in our homes, our cities, and our parks. They can even reach us in our dreams. What they want with us may vary. Perhaps it’s just to give us a scare. Maybe they enjoy playing tricks on us. Or maybe they’re vengeful, angry at the disrespect mankind has shown to the environment, and eager to punish us for our abuses. Whatever the reasons, it’s probably best if we steer clear.

The Scary Fairy Godmother YouTube channel is one with staying power. The fan base is small, but it’s growing. It’s a great one to throw on while your hands are busy, or if you just want a soothing voice to tell you a scary story. So if you’re a fan of the creepier side of life, do yourself a favor and check it out. 

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3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Gaming

The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End

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Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.

Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”

“When We Are in Need”

Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.

The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.

“Look for the Light”

Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.

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Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.

Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.

The End

Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.

The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.

Series Verdict

HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.

A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.

Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.

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It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Let the Wrong One In, a Film Review

Let the Wrong One In is a horror comedy directed and written by Conor McMahon, starring Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, and Anthony Head.

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Let the Wrong One In is a 2021 horror comedy directed and written by Conor McMahon, starring Karl Rice, Eoin Duffy, and Anthony Head. This film is currently available per subscription to Amazon Prime (through Shudder) or Shudder directly.

Matt (Karl Rice) and Deco (Eoin Duffy) are estranged brothers, but when Deco finds himself strangely ill, he seeks his brother out. Through obvious signs and tropable behaviors, the brothers realize Deco is a vampire. What follows spirals into a plot of brotherly guilt, passive aggression, and bloody retribution.

Vampire hunter tied up and looking annoyed
Anthony Header as Henry

What I Like

With the titular reference to Let the Right One In, the idea interested me. After the trailer, I realized this film doesn’t relate to or parody the novel or film aside from being about vampires. As a fan of the franchise, it would have been interesting to find a subversion. However, the film can charm a viewer at certain points, receiving a few laughs from me.

Either Let the Wrong One In is a micro budget film or imitates such films. The special effects ensure you know this as intended, if perhaps out of necessity. If you can accept these points, the film might be an entertaining viewing experience.

The chemistry between the two leads is where the film shines. Both Karl Rice and Eoin Duffy feel like bickering brothers. With Deco’s performance as an addict, the film even ties into elements that family members of addicts know all too well.

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Anthony Head (of Buffy fame) also plays his campy and ridiculous vampire hunter role to perfection, even seeming competent in the profession despite the character being more of a joke. Anthony Head can chew a scene, becoming an easy highlight of the film.

I like how vampires are named vampires without the cliche attempt to figure out what they are. It seems to be a rare thing to see on film. When this standard of logic does appear, it helps me believe the characters a little more. Though Let the Wrong One In doesn’t care if you believe in its characters.

Deco looking hungry with fresh blood on his face
Eoin Duffy as Deco

Potential Trigger Warnings or Tired Tropes

The film is a collection of tropes wrapped around a campy and zany direction. I wouldn’t particularly say they are tired or are different enough to have a pass, but one goes into a film like this with these expectations. Don’t expect unique and refreshing subversions.

Addiction plays a role in the film, including the emotional manipulation addicts deploy to control others. The film doesn’t depict these elements effectively or abhorrently, existing as a plot point first and foremost. If this plotline upsets you, perhaps give this film a skip.

There is a point where implied violence occurs on an animal, but it certainly doesn’t take this idea too seriously. In fact, the creature gets a few shining moments. Still, I understand some get squirmy at this.

Brothers in a bunk bed, one laying on the top bung, the other sitting on the bottom.
Karl Rice as Matt and Eoin Duffy as Deco

What I Dislike

Let the Wrong One In falls under the “so bad it’s good” category, though purposely done to be so. It’s a campy and dumb movie for those interested in passing the time. There is nothing wrong with satisfying this niche, but it’s not an enjoyable time for all.

The brotherly relationship should be the center of the film, which might have focused the film more. However, the film has a big bad that feels somewhat out of place and unnecessary. It also adds to the runtime, which isn’t long at 1 hour and 40 minutes. But it feels too long for this plot.

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Again, I wonder why Let the Right One In exists as the film’s namesake as it has no notable connection to the franchise, even in parody.

While I must admit that more jokes landed with me than I expected, most of the zany humor falls flops. This film seems to be a Shaun of the Dead clone but falls far from the other’s success, lacking the focus of its predecessor.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, if you want a horror comedy to turn your brain off to, Let the Wrong One In can certainly be that film. However, there are better examples to pull from. The lack of direction and comparisons to greater options makes this fall even further on the recommendation list. One additional point in the film’s favor is that you will likely know if the film is for you within the first few minutes of viewing.
1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

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