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Don’t you just hate it when a ghost ruins all your plans and makes you fall for her indie-music singin’ ways AFTER she’s stolen your precious pizza?! I hate that the worst of all! And so does our main character in this week’s movie, A GHOST WAITS.

Thanks to Arrow:

This film is brought to us by ARROW –  a true indie SVOD service created and run by people that love cult films of all kinds. ARROW is building on our decades of experience in the Cult film and physical media worlds. They believe in film, from horror to action to westerns to the truly bizarre and use their experience as a distributor and our recent digital presence to deliver a very different SVOD service in ARROW.

Their approach to supporting each release on ARROW includes looking to supplement the feature films with hours of additional content that paints a fuller story of the filmmakers, genres and the movies themselves.  They commission stunning artwork from some of the best illustrators and artists from around the world and work as closely as they can with the filmmakers themselves in how their film is released.
Check out ARROW today at https://arrowfilms.com/!

I want to put a trigger warning on this one for suicidal ideation/themes. So, if that’s not in your wheelhouse, I’d suggest skipping this, especially the end with “Brain Roll Juice”. Thanks and be well. – J.M.

The Plot: (spoiler-free)

Jack (MacLeod Andrews) is your typical half-neurotic, half-sweet-as-apple-pie handyman. He’s often neglected and shit on by others, including his own friends and his boss, but it’s really through no fault of his own. He likes his job and enjoys the simplicity of fixing the broken, maintaining houses, and rocking out to indie bands. He’s the kind of guy who talks to toilets while cleaning them, and making them talk back. 

He’s also the type of guy who is slow on the uptake when he begins to be haunted by a dark and mysterious ghost, Muriel (Natalie Walker). So, chairs rocking on their own, lights going out, and strange dreams don’t bother him much. But push comes to shove when this ghostly apparition STEALS HIS GODDAMN PIZZA!

Pictured: a broken, pizza-less man

He then starts losing his shit before realizing what’s happening and why so many previous tenants of the house have moved out (ghost on both accounts).

However, frustrated, he confronts the ghost, shocking her and piquing her curiosity in him. They start to form a bond and maybe even…love?

But ghosting is a serious business and if she can’t get him to leave the house, then her ghost license is revoked, or something, and she becomes a “shadow” (which is bad news).

But as just they begin to understand their feelings, the ghost agency sends another ghost to get the job done. Can their love survive? And if so, at what cost?

Thoughts: (spoiler-free)

This is one that hurt because there were a lot of right steps done for a low-budget horror-comedy, but there were also problematic areas that could have been avoided.

They lowered the effects and made it more down-to-earth, including makeup and the very slight gore. These are effects that I could probably do if given some YouTube videos and an afternoon, but that actually enhances the indie feel of this movie. 

Pictured: level of spookiness

Same with the black and white. It’s not really needed, but it adds to the flavor and the atmosphere, and reminds me of old indie horrors of the early 60’s. There are some fun shots, but for the most part, it’s pretty straight-forward. 

The music is filled to the brim with indie bands, which can get a bit tiring after a while because they blur together. But I enjoyed that they were mostly diegetic and a plot point. And I was also happy to see that they were actually used by the characters instead of just blaring in the background.

Okay, let’s get to the really good and the really…not-good. 

The really good were the shoulders of MacLeod Andrews because he f***ing carried this thing. His portrayal of Jack was actually sweet, endearing, and relatable. Honestly, it was weird seeing a character that I related so much with during the first act especially. Yes, I have talked to toilets. Yes, I have made them respond to me. We’re friends, get over it. But seriously, his acting was tremendous in this, as were his line reads because it could have gone completely the opposite and he could have sounded like a “nice guy” instead of an actual nice guy. So, I tip my hat, sir.

Pictured: Brannyk on any given day

And here comes the not-good, which I’ll talk more about in the next segment, too. The writing, mostly.

When we get to the second act, it begins to unravel. Once our two mains meet, it becomes a mess. We don’t get enough character from Muriel (not backstory, character) to make her memorable or his actions justifiable. The ghost bureaucracy just muddled and slowed the story down. When you add bureaucratic rules to supernatural, it usually gets tiresome unless really well done (i.e. Beetlejuice). It’s like playing a complex role-playing game – suddenly you’re arguing about THAC0 for an hour when you just wanna go kill orcs with your bikini-clad barbarian babe. 

If they wanted to add it, we (as the audience) should have learned about it before Jack, so it didn’t feel tagged on and it felt more a part of Muriel’s character. The stakes would have felt higher and we could have connected to her more as a character. 

Their flirting/meeting each other was, like, an hour or two at most. They are just sitting at the table and talking for half an afternoon. This equates as love in the movie. Do we need to revisit Frozen?

We never really understand why he even likes Muriel as more than a cool undead chick to sometimes hang with. The love doesn’t feel real or genuine. It feels really forced, in fact.

Pictured: Flirting, apparently

And also, just a BIG no for the line from Muriel, “What’s a movie?”

This is from a ghost who has claimed to understand people’s deepest fears from observing them and you’re telling me she’s never seen a couple people plop down and watch a freakin’ video on Tubi (please Tubi, respond to my voicemails, I love you, please notice my love!)? I call Bull Shenanigans. Hard B.S. 

Pictured: my face at this line

Brain Roll Juice: (spoilers ahead)

Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush. This is a movie where a guy who has shitty friends feels lonely, meets a ghost for an afternoon, she pays attention to him so he thinks he’s in love, she likes him or whatever, but they can’t be together, SO HE COMMITS SUICIDE. 

Let that seep into every crack of your soul. I’ll wait…

Suicide is the answer to this love story.

She doesn’t say, “Hey, wait a minute. Like, you have your whole life…”

Nope, she’s all smiles and thumbs-up as he sits in his car, garage doors closed, waiting to die. He even calls his boss to thank him for everything and we see a scene of his boss finding his lifeless body.

In the next scene, we see the two of them haunting the house together because true love wins and they chose not to fear the reaper. 

Yeah, so…

Honestly, I am still not sure what to even say to this ending.

I keep seeing reviews calling A GHOST WAITS heart-warming and charming, and I’m just beside myself. I keep thinking I’m the only one who sees the damn gremlin on the wing of the plane and that gremlin is the alarming rise of suicides in the world. 

In the United States, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall, claiming the lives of over 48,000 people per year. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54. Males are at a higher risk than females, just as rural areas are higher risk than urban

And if we still believe the theory of Durkheim’s extensive study on suicide (I know it was like forever and a day ago), Le Suicide, we can see a pattern that Jack fits into, which Durkheim called the Egoist Suicide. The Egoist suicide is usually enacted when one feels severely disconnected from their family, friends, community and society. Jack basically even says this at one point, that his life doesn’t matter because his friends don’t want him, his boss doesn’t respect him, and we never hear from his family. He is alone and lonely. He thinks he has no reason to live and one reason to die, so he chooses death. 

This is depressive, not happy. The ending glorifies his decision and is played off like it was the right decision. There is no hint of hesitation from him or Muriel.

This, surprisingly, goes back to Beetlejuice, when Lydia is planning on suicide to be with the people who care about her and they tell her that life is hard, but it’s hers to live. They will always love her and be there for her especially when she lives through those challenging times. It’s Barbara and Adam’s love that supports her and drives her to keep living, and not to pull her into the bureaucratic eternity of being a ghost.

Because otherwise the relationship would be selfish and toxic. 

Bottom Line:

You might enjoy this romp. There were moments that I truly did. But when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, it falls flat with its mission (a genuine romance) and it’s message (Jack completing suicide = love beats all).

2 out of 5 stars (2 / 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

She Will, a Film Review

She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film includes Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt.

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She Will is a 2021 supernatural horror film directed by Charlotte Colbert. This R-rated film boasts a cast that includes Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, and Malcolm McDowell. This movie is currently only available on Shudder.

Veronica (Alice Krige) is an actress recovering from a double mastectomy at a spiritual retreat in Scotland. With the help of her nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt), she slowly connects with the land and its dark legacy. However, the remake of her breakout role and the director who haunts her bring back troubling memories. But the land seeks to make her whole, no matter the cost.

Veronica staring in disguise
Alice Krige as Veronica

What I Like

This film is beautiful, giving the setting a character all its own. While not every frame delivers expert detail, the majority of She Will certainly evokes the viewer. This only adds to the horror, turning the supernatural into a force of nature itself.

The relationship between Desi and Veronica, changing throughout the film, brings a lot for the actresses to utilize. It should go without saying that Malcolm McDowell amplifies every scene he’s in.

I wouldn’t call this an arthouse film, but it centers itself on womanhood interestingly and artfully. This includes darker subjects of exploitation, specifically in the film industry, through Veronica’s personal journey.

Desi looking out a car window
Kota Eberhardt as Desi

What I Dislike, or Food for Thought

She Will deals with heavy subject matter. As alluded to earlier, Veronica’s journey implies many things that will be hard for some viewers. There is also an attempted assault.

Malcolm McDowell plays an eccentric director, but I would have liked to see him without the public persona. For the most part, the viewer hears rumors but only see the friendly facade.

While the subject matter and visuals can be intense, I wouldn’t exactly call the film frightening.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Where She Will might lack in horror, it makes up for in the stunning visuals and execution. Alice Krige plays a dynamic character who brings to life Veronica’s struggles. If one fancies a journey of self-discovery and empowerment like Midsommar, She Will might fill that niche.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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The Last of Us: Episode 3: Long, Long Time

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One of the first mentions of Bill and Frank in HBO’s The Last of Us is in episode one, when Ellie discovers that Joel and Tess communicate with men over the radio via 60’s-80’s pop songs. Rewind to the end of the episode, when Depeche Mode’s 80’s hit “Never Let Me Down Again” plays. Bill and Frank are in some sort of trouble. In the third episode of this series, “Long, Long Time,” we find out what that trouble was.

*WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS HEAVY SPOILERS*

The Dead Can’t Get Infected

Let me preface by saying that however you think this episode is going to be, you’re most likely very, very wrong.

“Long, Long Time,” begins shortly after Joel and Ellie are forced to leave Tess and escape the Boston capitol building. They are in the forest, prepping for another long journey ahead of them. As they walk, we learn more backstory on the origin of the Cordyceps pandemic. “Who was the first to bite? Was it monkeys? I bet it was monkeys,” Ellie says. But Joel explains no, it wasn’t monkeys. Rather, the disease spread through basic food products, like flour or sugar. Then the cordyceps mutated as flour, sugar, biscuit and pancake batter hit the store shelves that Thursday before the outbreak, infecting everyone who purchased those products. “That makes more sense,” Ellie somberly admits.

Joel explains the origin of the burnt up dead bodies of non-infected people

Eventually, they find a picked-over abandoned grocery store, where Joel hides his assault rifle and green toolbox underneath the floorboards. While Joel is looking around the store for supplies, Ellie heads to a room in the back and finds a hidden basement. Unbeknownst to Joel, she crawls inside and comes face to face with an infected. Luckily, Ellie has the advantage; the infected is crushed by a pile of rocks and has no chance of escaping. Ellie walks over to it, cuts her knife across its face, then stabs it to death. Her first kill.

Once the two are done with the store, they continue on their journey to Bill and Frank’s, whom we finally get to meet.

Meet Bill

It’s September 30, 2003, four days after the outbreak. Bill (Nick Offerman), a burly survivalist, is hiding in his bunker, watching the cameras planted outside his house. FEDRA is taking survivors to a Quarantine Zone (QZ). Once Bill confirms he is alone, he makes the town his own.

Four years of isolation pass and we witness all the work Bill has put in to protect his home from infected and raiders alike. He is a hardened man who is afraid of nothing. He has safe-proofed his home with trip wires, high voltage electric fences and trap holes. When an uninfected man on his way to Boston suddenly falls into one of the holes, Bill’s entire world changes. The man is named Frank (Murray Bartlett), and he and Bill quickly become infatuated with one another. Before we know it, another three years have passed and Frank is still living with Bill. Their contrasting personalities compliment each other as they protect the neighborhood together. And Frank’s desire to meet knew people overcomes Bill’s tenacity for seclusion. Thus, the origin of their partnership with Joel and Tess.

PlayStation vs. HBO

“Long, Long Ride” is brutal in the most unexpected ways. In the playstation game, we meet Bill after he saves Joel and Ellie from a swarm of infected after Joel gets caught in one of Bill’s traps. He takes them back to a hideout, where Joel picks up ammo, can update his weapons at a workbench, and receives a shotgun and nail bomb recipe. Meanwhile, Bill and Ellie, being the stubborn characters that they are, are at odds with each other throughout their entire journey together.

It is in this saga with Bill that we come across a Bloater, the most aggressive infected character in the first Last of Us game. Finally, the trio make it to Bill’s home, where they find Frank’s lifeless body hanging from a ceiling. He became infected and chose to end his life before turning into an unrecognizable monster.

Bill and Frank bond over Linda Ronstadt.

None of this happens in “Long, Long Time.” While the game hints at Bill being gay through Frank’s suicide note and a male porn magazine that Ellie stole from Bill’s hideout, there is not any other mention of it. He refers to Frank as his “partner” and nothing else. While it is clear that Frank and Bill were in a relationship, it was not a very loving one judging by the hatefulness toward Bill in Frank’s suicide note.

However, in the HBO show, Bill and Frank’s relationship is healthy and loving, including their fights. “Long, Long Time” presents a refreshing depiction of healthy masculinity and sexuality that stays authentic to the characters and their stories.

Another difference from the game is that the only interaction between Bill and Joel in episode three is when they meet for the first time, almost ten years after the outbreak, at a small dinner party at Bill and Frank’s house. While it would have been fun to see more interaction between Bill and Joel in the show, their lack of shared screen-time doesn’t downplay the importance they have in each other’s lives. This is pertinent to a decision Joel makes about whether to keep traveling with Ellie, and it happens in the end of the episode, when Bill and Frank are both dead.

“I hope he never lets me down again.”

Bill is a character who means business and doesn’t care much for the people with whom he shares this world. Nick Offerman took this characterization and ran with it, transforming into the most believable performance of Bill any Last of Us fan could ask for. He is a delightful live-action version of this bitter, coldhearted character.

And yet, there is so much to Bill we don’t know about that HBO was determined to show us. Yes, Bill is an angry reclusive survivalist who was “happy when the world ended.” He is not afraid to shoot down trespassers, infected or not, and exhibits a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in his bunker that is filled floor to ceiling with an array of guns and other weaponry. But after he meets Frank, it turns out that Bill is also sensitive, sweet and filled with unwavering protective love.

Offerman and Bartlett’s chemistry with one another is beautiful. Bartlett brings Frank to life as more than just a man who hated Bill. He has a rich, cultured personality, is full of love and hope. Perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode is when Frank surprises Bill with a garden of strawberries in their backyard. After a decade of rations and frozen meals, one can only imagine the bliss of eating freshly picked fruit for the first time since the world’s end. With the sun’s rays beaming through the trees and small bugs floating around them, Offerman and Bartlett performed this scene with such sincerity and love that it felt like we, the audience, were right there with them.

“Long, Long Time” ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it to Bill and Frank’s home. Here, all the flowers are dead, an unfinished dinner is caked with mold and a note to Joel is left on the kitchen table. Bill left all his belongings to Joel, including his beloved truck.

The Verdict

“Long, Long Time” is devastating. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, coupled with the heartbreaking score and thoughtful film editing, create an unexpected love story in a gruesome, ruthless world. All the while, the world-building continues, the story progresses and Joel and Ellie’s bond slowly grows stronger. While there are moments of dialogue identical to the game, this episode is ultimately original. In other words: it is tv filmmaking at its finest. It asks audiences to trust the writers with any creative liberties they’ll take with the show. I would say this request for trust is justified.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It is in this part in the game where Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry. Will we meet them in the next episode? We won’t find out until next week. So until then, make sure you check out the other shows and games we’re consuming at HauntedMTL.

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Movies n TV

Marionette, a Film Review

Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. This R-rated film stars Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf.

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Marionette is a 2020 psychological thriller directed by Elbert Van Strien. The film stars Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, and Emun Elliott. As of this review, this R-rated film is available on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and AMC+.

Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) moves to Scotland, having found an opening for her practice. As a therapist, she begins to meet with her clients and adjust to her new life. However, one of her clients, a troubled boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), has the whole institution frightened. As she soon learns, the boy knows too much and has a wicked temper.

Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter looking at Manny's drawing
Thekla Reuten as Dr. Marianne Winter

What I Like

Few films make me feel the spiraling madness of the protagonist. Marionette sits as one such example. The growing evidence facing her leaves the audience as uncertain as the protagonist. And as she becomes more extreme, we fear if she’s right or wrong.

While not too exceptional, lovely visuals throughout the film reflect the mood and situations nicely. From white rooms to stormy nights, many scenes bring life a character’s inner state. Some might find this “on the nose,” but the premise and execution highlight these moments.

Elijah Wolf as Manny, drawing a picture with a sinister glare
Elijah Wolf as Manny

What I Dislike

Taking the premise at face value, I find it strange that Dr. Marianne Winter would be the main character. Without spoiling anything, the end makes me reflect a little harder against some potential interpretations.

This leads to a somewhat ambiguous element of the film. When a film has ambiguity, all parts should be possible. However, this doesn’t feel true for Marionette.

Kraken eating a boat icon
Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Marionette is an interesting and rewarding experience. While some elements don’t tie perfectly with the conclusion, it will have you questioning what is and isn’t real. For a psychological thriller, it’s hard to ask for more. While the film won’t be ideal for everyone, those interested should certainly give it a watch.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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