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I think that one of the reasons that people find the zombie genre is so popular is because it’s so relatable. In every point of history, there has been a very legitimate fear of infection, and of becoming part of a huge mass of the unidentified/unnamed/unclaimed waste left in its aftermath. It’s a terrifying thought to have to watch your body rot and decay into something inhuman before your own eyed.  Just as there’s a complex horror of being swallowed into an unmarked mass grave, full of other rotting husks of unknown strangers.

And of course, the more bureaucratic nightmare of quarantine – the loss of control over one’s freedom, autonomy and body. The isolation of being a number in a system, a statistic to be glossed over in news reports, or worse, totally neglected by the system built to serve and protect you as a citizen.

At the time of this review, the world is rocked by the Corona virus. Clips of videos and pictures on the internet show people being removed in hazmat protection, portions of cities blocked off for quarantine, and countless people reacting to fake or real bouts of public sickness. Borders have been closed. PPE has been sold out completely online. 

Before that was Ebola, H1N1, SARS, Bird Flu, Hantavirus, The Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, Rabies, Leprosy, The Black Death… 


And, something more akin to this movie – the HIV/AIDS epidemic. But before we get into all that…

The Plot:

Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin, has just been given a death sentence – she’s been bitten by an infected person and is now positive for a disease that’s been ravaging the entire US. After trying to run away, she is picked up by her father and taken back to their house in the quiet countryside to await her fate. She’s given only a few weeks to spend with her family before being forced to suffer her final days isolated in quarantine. 

During her time at home, she must come to accept her mother’s past death, learn to forgive, and face her mortality while losing her agency and body in the process as she becomes sicker. She experiences the fear and ignorance of even her closest loved ones as she becomes less and less of Maggie and more of something else entirely…

The non-spoiler reveal:

There’s no way around this: Arnold Schwarzenegger plays her dad. 


It’s…unfortunate and, frankly, jarring to see older Arnold play a Midwestern farmer and father to a young twenty-something (and father to even younger children). And it’s not to say that he doesn’t try in this film, because he does.

And he does a good job at acting, but what probably drew a lot of people to watch this movie (me included) was what ended up hurting it – it’s an Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie movie at the end of the day. No matter how it’s packaged, that’s what’s going to stick in people’s minds and when this slow-burn drama starts unfolding, it’s…well…


(snob glasses affixed) In “Genre And The Invention Of The Writer”, especially when examining Foucault’s “author-function”, Anis S. Bawarshi said:

“The author-function does not refer to the ‘real’ writer, the individual with the proper name who precedes and exists independently of the work. Instead, it refers to the author’s name, which, in addition to being a proper name, is also a literary name, a name that exists only in relation to the work associated with it. The author-function, then, endows a work with a certain cultural status and value. At the same time, the author-function also endows the idea of ‘author’ with a certain cultural status and value.”

“The author-function delimits what works we recognize as valuable and how we interpret them at the same time as it accords the status of author to certain writers”

I know, you’re thinking, ‘But Brannyk, doesn’t that work in favor of the movie? The reason that we’re talking about the movie right now is because of Arnold “Put That Cookie Down” Schwarzenegger? And also, what happened with the HIV/AIDS talk?

We’ll get to HIV/AIDS in a minute. First, yes, Arnold and Abigail Breslin’s (but we know it’s Arnold) capital is what drew people in. In fact, that reliance on his capital was incredibly faulty direction that the marketing took – relying on (and exaggerating) the scarce action scenes of the movie. They even went as far as to hype the movie with the most ridiculous tagline: “Don’t Get Bitten” as a way to sell Action-Arnold, and not Midwestern old-dad Arnold.

So beautifully dumb

It’s no wonder that, while it fared well with critics, it bombed hard, not even making back its budget (which probably mostly went to the salaries for the actors, as there was limited effects and locations).

And it’s a shame because “Maggie” is a fresh take on an old trope. And so, patient reader, we get to HIV/AIDS.

Just put it on the back of the toilet with the rest.

Brain Roll Juice:

“Maggie” is not the total chaos and calamity of most zombie outbreak movies. It’s an epidemic, yes, but as we see government-issued brochures given to Maggie, as we hear NPR news reports, and boring, routine doctor visits – this is not a collapsing society situation. Yet, there’s fear and prejudice against those infected. There’s ignorance. Some of it is rational – they are living in the country, where everyone knows everyone and resources are reserved for the larger cities. Maggie is seen as a victim, a carrier, a ticking time-bomb, a troublemaker, and an innocent child.

During her own time of accepting her virus and fate, friends and loved ones try understand how this change will affect them – some say goodbye, some turn away, and some give into prejudice and ignorance.

Throughout the movie (whether intentional or not) the interactions with the community, the government’s awkward involvements, and the sickness itself (not the cannibalistic part, though, duh) is reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 80’s-90’s. Maggie as a “carrier” of a deadly and mysteriously disease that is clumsily handled by government officials and little understood by the general public pulls a lot from history. We see Maggie losing agency, little by little, with her choices and her own body as she is slowly succumbing to the virus. We see more government intervention by way of law enforcement and medical staff, even when trying to help her. We see her own friends misunderstand her and the community at the brink of hysteria.

Just cross out AIDS and add zombie virus

In fact, when questioned about the school re-opening and asked whether he would send his child to school with a child with the disease, the mayor of the town had this to say,

“I’m glad I’m not faced with that problem today, and I can well understand the plight of the parents and how they feel about it. I also have compassion, as I think we all do, for the child that has this and doesn’t know and can’t have it explained to him why somehow he is now an outcast and can no longer associate with his playmates and schoolmates. On the other hand, I can understand the problem of the parents. It is true that some medical sources had said that this cannot be communicated in any way other than the ones we already know and which would not involve a child being in the school. And yet medicine has not come forth unequivocally and said, ‘This we know for a fact, that it is safe.’ And until they do, I think we just have to do the best we can with this problem. I can understand both sides of it.”

Just kidding. That was Reagan in ’85. A full two years before forming the President’s Commission on the HIV Epidemic in ’87. And that was after AIDS was named in ’82 and HIV identified in ’82.

Any who, what I’m getting at is that there are similarities that make this a familiar ride in an old trope that I found refreshing, surprisingly rewarding and genuine. While I hope this nod was deliberate, the zombie virus itself pays homage to very real and very deadly diseases in our world as I stated before and while the scary zombie move is fun, this was a good stroll into what other facets the zombie genre could tell. Familiar stories. Heartbreaking stories. Vulnerable stories of communities trying to recover and survive; families learning how to deal with loss and say goodbye; and victims finding agency (in small or big ways) within their suffering and their final moments.

Too much capital – pull back!!!


A slow drama with Arnold Schwarzenegger and zombies. If you feel like you’re up to that, give it a go. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

When not ravaging through the wilds of Detroit with Jellybeans the Cat, J.M. Brannyk (a.k.a. Boxhuman) reviews mostly supernatural and slasher films from the 70's-90's and is dubiously HauntedMTL's Voice of Reason. Aside from writing, Brannyk dips into the podcasts, and is the composer of many of HauntedMTL's podcast themes.

Movies n TV

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 discuss.

The Story

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.

Zoe Robins in Wheel of Time

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.

What worked

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.

Daniel Henney in Wheel of Time

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 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

American Horror Story Delicate, Multiply Thy Pain



American Horror Story Delicate began last night, Killer Queens. And it was, well, a complicated episode. This makes sense because this season is about a complicated topic.

Just in case you didn’t know, this whole season is based on the novel Delicate Condition by Danielle Valentine. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. 

The Story

Anna Victoria Alcott is an actress who just got her big break. She was in a horror movie that no one can stop talking about.

Emma Roberts in American Horror Story Delicate

Except Anna herself. Because this career success couldn’t have come at a worse time. She and her husband Dex are in the middle of the difficult IVF process. It’s expensive, time-consuming and painful. Ironically, so is trying to win an Oscar.

But Anna has other things to worry about. Someone is messing with her. Several women are watching her in public. Worse, someone appears to be getting into her home, slashing notes she leaves for Dex, and removing her vital IVF medication from the fridge so it spoils. Her calendar is hacked to move her doctor appointments around so she misses them. Worst of all, someone broke into her home and crawled into bed with her.


Of course, no one takes any of these concerns seriously. Her agent, Siobhan, is focusing on getting her an Oscar. Her husband, Dex, doesn’t seem to give a shit about her except for when it comes to having a baby. He’s frequently dismissive of her concerns and only seems to want her around when it’s convenient for him. He goes so far as to kick her out of his show opening because she’s on edge.

You know, maybe because she’s clearly being stalked by someone who is trying to keep her from having a baby. 

What worked

AHS Asylum had a lot of dark and important things to say about mental health care in America. AHS Coven had a lot of dark and important things to say about race and gender relationships.

Last season, AHS NYC wasn’t so subtle. Yes, there was a killer. But the real historical horror of the AIDs epidemic in the 80s was the focus of the season. And that worked very well.

This season, the story is clearly about female body autonomy. Anna is a woman struggling with so many issues that modern women face. The balance between our careers and our families. Feeling like growing old is the most unforgivable thing a woman can do. And of course, the fact that our bodies often feel like they don’t belong to us. 


I was also pleased to see some AHS alumni. Denis O’Hare as Dr. Hill was delightful. Leslie Grossman and Billie Lourd will be involved soon, and they never bring anything less than their A-game.

This episode also did something I never thought could happen. It managed to scare me with a calendar notification. That was a special moment for me as a horror fan and calendar-obsessed person.

What didn’t work

Here are some things I didn’t love. First off, the main character Anna is a pushover. She can’t say no to Dex, Talia, Dr. Hill, or Siobhan. No one gets a no from this woman!

Anna didn’t act like that in the book. She stood up to everyone all the time, it was great. She wasn’t getting any support, but she was advocating for herself! That was such an important part of her character, and I’m sad to see that she’s lost that here. 

I also hate the changes made to Siobhan and Talia. Now, please understand that this isn’t me complaining that the book was different. That’s not my point. Siobhan was a kind, loving woman who supported her best friend even while dying of cancer. Talia was a smart, business-oriented woman who was still kind. She was trying to start a family with her transgender husband, and bonded with Anna over their IVF journeys. These were vital characters in the story.

Juliana Canfield in American Horror Story Delicate

I feel like they’ve been railroaded. 

All that being said, this was a decent start to AHS Delicate. It’s not the best start of a season we’ve had. But it’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season is going to bring.  4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Wheel of Time, Strangers and Friends



Episode two of Wheel of Time, widened the divide between the show and the books. Things are happening out of order, people are acting out of character. Whether this is to the detriment of the show, however, has yet to be determined. 

The story

One character missing from episode one was Rand. You know, our main character. But we finally catch up with him now. 

He’s living in a city with a woman named Selene. They don’t have what I’d call a super healthy relationship. She spends a bit too much time talking about her ex. 

Yes, for those of you who didn’t read the books, this is going to be important.


Rand is also working at an insane asylum. He’s kind and patent with his charges, but not all of his fellow caregivers are. 

Josha Stradowski in The Wheel of Time

Meanwhile, Lan and Moiraine are recovering form their Fade attack from last episode. Rather than taking the time to actually heal, Moiraine decides to head out to find Rand. Her team comes with her, which seems to really bother her. 

While that little hissy fit is taking place, Nynaeve is causing issues. Not by anything she’s doing, but by what she’s not doing. As none of the regular novice teacher have been able to get her to use the One Power, Liandrin offers to try. No one, including me, is thrilled with this. But, the Aes Sedai are desperate. They know that The Dark One is around, and they need Nynaeve to be ready. So, they let the person who’s driven other students to their deaths and actively committed multiple hate crimes take over. 

What could go wrong?

What worked

The special effects in this episode were really well done. I especially liked the dead fade nailed to the wall.

I was also pleased with the introduction of Elayne. Ceara Coveney is playing her, and doing a fine job. She’s warm, kind and sweet. I am thrilled that she’s around. 


One of the greatest things about Wheel of Time is the friendships between the characters. Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nynaeve and Egwene legitimately care about each other. Elayne seems to care for Egwene right away. I really love that. 

What didn’t work

One thing that bothered me in this episode, and frankly the last episode, was Liandrin keeping Mat in prison. I feel like this wasn’t adequately explained. Why does she have him? How did she trap him? What in the hell is she trying to get from him? Perhaps I simply missed something, and please let me know in the comments if this is the case. But it feels like some poor writing to me. 

I also don’t love how Moiraine is portrayed in this episode. Really, in this season so far.

I get that she’s never exactly been a warm person. She’s not personable, open, or kind. Some (most) fans of the book would likely agree that she’s kind of a bitch.

But she’s not a bitch for no reason. She certainly isn’t the sort to lash out at the people who love her because she’s in pain. And that’s what she’s doing through this episode. She’s taking her pain out on Lan. And that’s just out of character for her. 

Dónal Finn in The Wheel of Time.

It feels very much like a lot is being skipped over from the Wheel of Time books. But, so far at least, I don’t feel like anything vital has been missed. It feels more like the story is being streamlined. 

Yes, I understand how this might go horribly wrong. I think we’ve all seen that. But as of right now, the changes make sense for the switch in mediums. 

Now, let’s see if it stays that way. 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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