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Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) writes and directs Parasite (2019), a darkly comic thriller. Bong and screenplay co-writer Han Jin-won explore the intersection of those on opposite ends of the poverty and wealth gap. Already awarded the Palme d’Or and six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, this film may seem like something that wouldn’t fit into the Haunted MTL canon. Impressions can be deceiving, however. Parasite is a ghost story and the specter is poverty.

Parasite follows the Kim family, a basement-dwelling family that struggles with poverty. Through the recommendation of a friend, the son ends up taking on a position as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of the wealthy Park family, lying about his qualifications. Soon enough, the rest of the Kim family, through manipulation and social engineering, end up ingratiating themselves with the Parks

The film stars Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host), Choi Woo-shik (Okja, Train to Busan), Park So-dam (The Silenced), and Chang Hyae-jin as the Kim family; all chronically underemployed and representative of the 99% of South Korea. Lee Sun-kyun (Take Point) and Cho Yeo-jeong (Vampire Cop Ricky) play the parents of the Park family, the targets of the Kims. Lee Jung-eun plays the Parks’ housekeeper who becomes caught in the crossfire in a rather unexpected way.

The Kims are largely sympathetic, regardless of the disconcerting choices they make. (Neon)

What Worked

Parasite is a ghost story in a few regards. Within the story, there is a supposed ghostly encounter relayed by a concerned parent. More to the point, though, is the specter of poverty that looms large. It looms over decisions, relationships, and vengeance that explodes by the film’s end. There are long term hauntings as well as haunted people, haunted by choices or inaction in startlingly equal measures.

There is a voyeuristic indulgence in seeing incredibly poor choices and the end results of those poor choices. I attribute it as being akin to cringe comedy. You are seeing something terrible yet remain compelled to watch. Parasite is a masterclass in tension, winding up the rubber-band of manipulation and scheming until it snaps. It snaps into such a satisfying series of emotional and violent circumstances. The film is also quite hilarious at times, with a particularly hilarious and awkward sequence involving several characters in hiding in the worst possible place and the worst time.

The performances are fantastic across the board, but special attention should be paid to Song Kang-ho as Ki-taek, the patriarch of the Kims. Song’s performance of Ki-taek is incredibly satisfying and he sells a fraying mind and betrayal with a simple look. Cho Yeo-jeong and Lee Sun-kyun are also equally up to Song’s level as the Parks, who create strong performances as a gullible and obsessive housewife and a charismatic but ultimately shallow businessman, respectively.

Song Kang-ho largely carries the film during the final act, but that is not to say the rest of the actors do not pull their own weight. (Neon)

What Didn’t Work

In truth, the film is excellent and there is very little to find fault in. The film in many measures is a ghost story. When the twist happens (you’ll know it when you see it) everything clicks and things begin to spiral beautifully. I use beautiful, despite the rather upsetting and violent series of events that follow. There is beauty in the unraveling.

With that being said, I would have appreciated a bit more of the uncanny early on. The experience of Da-song’s “ghost” that has his mother so clearly rattled becomes an important plot point by the last third of the film; however, it is only hinted at about once before the explicit reveal. While I do not think that this was a mistake on the part of Bong Joon-ho, I feel like perhaps the ghost story elements might have been tapped into further.

Honestly, though, this is more or less just reaching for something to be critical over in a largely masterful movie. I suppose one could find annoyance at the number of unanswered questions left in the movie, but those will eventually be answered in the eventual television series.

Final Impressions

Parasite is a film that is in equal measure bleak and hilarious. The film is a deft culmination of poor decisions that finally explode into violent catharsis.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Please continue to check out our reviews here on Haunted MTL.

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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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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