August Blind Spot Review: The Orphanage (2007)

“Seeing is not believing. It’s the other way around. Believe, and you will see.”
– Aurora

SYNOPSIS: A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend. – via IMDB

Finally got to checking this out, too, and again, another one I am pleased to have checked off my list. For years and years it has been recommended to me and I have always been like Captain Eventually about it, but this year was the year for me! I honestly didn’t know too much going in to watching this, not about the story, nothing (except maybe that the kid from above was in it), and I am grateful for that. This is the kind of movie where the less you know, the better.

The movie gets into the swing of things gradually, not too rushed or anything, and you get the backstory for what is going on. When Simón goes missing, the effect on the Laura and Carlos is heavy. Their hope dwindles as time moves on, and to see the way they handle it is really sad. I think the story is woven so well, because there is a psychological and emotional aspect to this and it is handled deftly throughout. You really get caught up in the story and their suffering, as well as the mystery.

The performances from Belén Rueda and Fernando Cayo are truly good, as they are the ones that sell the story to you throughout. The Orphanage is a creepy film – it does not go big for jump scares, but a subtle chill that creeps in, which is awesome. Jump scares are overrated, and I always prefer a movie that works more with the atmosphere and the psychology. This one definitely goes for more of a look at the parents, specifically the mom, and how she is dealing with it. I wish they had explored a little more how it was for her to be back at the orphanage she grew up in. 

So we have covered the performances and the pacing, which leaves us with how the movie looks and sounds, and I think both work wonderfully to weave that dark, mysterious, magical feel of it. It all works together to create a fantastic atmosphere. I  didn’t expect it to have as much of an emotional core as it did, but I really think it takes The Orphanage from being a generic mystery/horror to having a little dramatic spine which elevates the whole experience.

The Orphanage is such a good movie and it has so much going for it. I was mesmerised from the off and enchanted throughout. It is a magical, mystical, dark, creepy film, and after having

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July Blind Spot Review: Cronos (1993)

“You may continue the game. After all, you have the toy. But I’m keeping the instructions, and I’m open all night.”
– Angel de la Guargia

SYNOPSIS: A mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path. – via IMDB

Finally! I know it has been forever since I posted a Blind Spot review, but with the move and all that I just did not have the time, and had to get my hands on movies and get some time to blog and blah, blah, blah, but I finally have it. I have been really interested in seeing Cronos for some time as I really love Del Toro’s Spanish work.

I have never really read too much on this movie because I like to go in to watch things with as little knowledge as possible, so that it is a totally new experience for me. Definitely what I got here. For one, I was shocked that sections of it were in English, though the majority was Spanish. I also was not impressed with Ron Perlman, but that is just me. He irrationally annoys the crap out of me, and this was no exception.

The movie is shot well, and has the beginnings of that magical charm to it, but never realises it quite like The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth. The dark fairytale teases but never fully comes to life. The storytelling is a bit uneven, too. We get the whole concept of life everlasting, then the Alchemist is dead, this antiques seller has the archangel statue that houses this “eternal life”, he mistakenly finds it and then is suddenly using it and the people searching for it immediately know he has it and… yes, I could go on, but it is all so messy and sudden.

The story I liked, but was a bit disappointed that ultimately it was all about vampirism, and the insect running the show was never explained. I wanted answers! Once I accepted that the life everlasting was vampirism, there was a lot to appreciate. I did enjoy the undertaker/makeup man, he provided some solid humour to the movie, and I also liked the fact that, while this is ultimately vampirism, it is different from what we are traditionally used to (the turning, for instance). The movie also has a darker tone to it, and weaves a few different themes throughout it to varying degrees of success.

Cronos is worth a watch, and it shows that Del Toro is gifted, I just felt that it was a little underwhelming, more like his English works (though still better than the rest) than his Spanish fantasies that I have come to love. I know a lot of people love this movie and think it is brilliant, and I am glad that I have watched it, but it is certainly not my favourite of his, but worth a watch.

Review: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets. – via Goodreads

This. Fucking. Book. Ugh. Seriously. What a damn chore to read. I hated pretty much every second of it. I honestly thought there would be more to this, but there really wasn’t. And the fact that this crazy twist was heralded as something, and let me tell you, it’s something alright. Something super grating and infinitely annoying and beyond stupid, that’s one.

Okay, so there is the opening. I guess you can tell from that that I was not really a fan of this. Goodness, I disliked this. The biggest failing here is the useless, unlikable characters. While this is usually a shortcoming in a book, this can be worked around if the story is good. Behind Her Eyes was not, my friends. I say again, a chore to read. Louise, let’s start there, is an insipid, whiny, border alcoholic nuisance that takes up too much of the book. Every single time the book turned back to her perspective I wanted to throw my Kindle. But I love it so much I refrained – though only just. David is a full on alcoholic cheater. Then there is crazy Adele, and that first twist is let out of the bag so early that the “tension” falls flat and the book tries so desperately to rebuild but fails at miserably because come on, we know.

Another major issue I had with this is that it started as one type of novel/story, and devolved into something else altogether messy, crude, and that did not gel with anything that came before it. That made me bristle, because seriously. It’s like The Boy, totally unsure of its identity, and this is the final nail in the coffin lid of this tedious read. Then there is this sordid, alcoholic relationship between Louise and David, and I hated reading about that, and her insecurities and her excuses and explanations for the things she was doing. Shut the fuck up!

All in all, I could go on at length about this, but I will leave it at I deeply disliked Behind Her Eyes, and regret having wasted my time on it. I could not with a clear conscience recommend something so messy, time wasting, and just overall meh. Yes, strong words and all that, but this book? Ugh.

Review: It (2017)

“When you’re a kid, you think that you’ll always be… protected, and cared for. Then, one day, you realize that’s not true. If you open your eyes, you will see what we’re going through. ‘Cause when you’re alone as a kid, the monsters see you as weaker. You don’t even know they’re getting closer. Until it’s too late.”
– Stanley Uris

SYNOPSIS: A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting demon, taking the appearance of clown, begins hunting children. – via IMDB

So I never actually liked the original It movie, and Pennywise didn’t scare me as a kid. A few years back Ryan posted that It was being redone (and kept us updated), and I felt pretty indifferent towards it. I didn’t think we needed a rehash of the old movie. Then they started releasing posters once a director was ironed out and shooting got underway, as well as the casting for Pennywise, and it looked like it had potential. By the time the teasers dropped and then the trailers, I was convinced that I was definitely tripping out to the cinema to see this.

Well, I had a total blast. I thought the casting was absolutely brilliant. I swear. child actors are so much better nowadays than ever before. They actually get into the roles, they aren’t these awkward little kids who are acting, they come across as the actual characters. I was really impressed with all the kids, truly, and was so stoked to see Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things here, and I am convinced he could have a great career ahead of him – I enjoyed him so much here.

It was put together really well – the score worked with it and it looked really good. While there are a ton of jump scares, there are also slower, creepier moments woven into it, which really works. Muschietti also did a fantastic job of how the story was split – the entire kids section of Stephen King’s novel for this movie, and the secondary adult half for the sequel. Muschietti took the time to give us backstory and personality for all of these kids, because then you actually cared more for them and their battle against this creepy thing in Derry. There was some heart at times and some good development woven in between the blood and the thrills. I also truly appreciated how much of the book made it into the movie, truly.

The humour is subtly balanced into the horror, carefully working to bring some lightness into the dark. I wasn’t always a fan of the CGI though, it was a bit over the top and dodgy at the best of times, and it just didn’t get with the rest of the movie. Obviously this review cannot be written without speaking of the latest Pennywise, Bill Skarsgård. He was the moneymaker here at the end of the day, the draw that got everyone out to the cinema, and the whole movie depends on solid casting for this role, and I think that Skarsgård nailed it. He was creepy, scary, bizarre and plain down gets that wtf vibe down that you expect from Pennywise, and I was impressed. 

I definitely enjoyed this one and can recommend it for a watch. While there are cheap jump scares tossed in, there is also heart and absolutely excellent performances from the cast all round, who share great chemistry. It is shot quite well, and sketchy CGI aside, it works really well. I am truly looking forward to the second part!

Review: Kisscut – Karin Slaughter

kisscut

Grant County #2

SYNOPSIS: Saturday night dates at the skating rink have been a tradition in the small southern town of Heartsdale for as long as anyone can remember, but when a teenage quarrel explodes into a deadly shoot-out, Sara Linton–the town’s pediatrician and medical examiner–finds herself entangled in a terrible tragedy.

What seemed at first to be a horrific but individual catastrophe proves to have wider implications. The autopsy reveals evidence of long-term abuse, of ritualistic self -mutilation, but when Sara and police chief Jeffrey Tolliver start to investigate, they are frustrated at every turn.

The children surrounding the victim close ranks. The families turn their backs. Then a young girl is abducted, and it becomes clear that the first death is linked to an even more brutal crime, one far more shocking than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile, detective Lena Adams, still recovering from her sister’s death and her own brutal attack, finds herself drawn to a young man who might hold the answers. But unless Lena, Sara, and Jeffrey can uncover the deadly secrets the children hide, it’s going to happen again . . . – via Goodreads

Man, another dark, solid entry into the series. Again, miss Slaughter holds nothing back, and delves into a depth of storytelling that a lot of writers will not touch with a ten foot barge pole. I could feel anger radiating off of me while reading this book, because she manages to write in emotions that you are able to identify with.

Lena is still dealing with losing her sister and the brutality that she went through, and there are some shifts and changes in the relationship between her and Hank, which I liked. Lena is such a bitch, and it does not endear her to me in these novels. Even in the last, I did not see her as a strong woman so much as an irritation, but that is just the character. Jeffrey I felt so bad for in this, as he has a lot on his plate, and executing a child can never be an easy thing, no matter what the circumstances. Sara is quite a complex character, one you fluctuate between liking and disliking. Again, the flaws of these people make them real.

I appreciate that there are things changing between Sara and Jeffrey, as I really think they are good together. Yes, there are issues, but they also bring out good things in each other. I also really love reading about Sara and her family, as it really makes for interesting reading, and I really like Eddie and Cathy Linton. But now that we have moved past those things, it must not be missed that Kisscut is an exceptionally difficult read, and I mean this from the content side, not the writing side (which is, as always, excellent). It will get under your skin, it will peeve you, it will make you think, it will make you angry. Slaughter again proves that she is not scared to get her hands dirty.

Kisscut is a fantastic read, well written and well researched, a great read for any time, chilling to the bone as always, and I highly recommend this series (of course). This is by no means an easy read, but it is gutsy and draws you in. The story flows, and gives you more to look at with the characters, fleshing them out more and more, and then there is the story, the victims, the mystery. Everyone has their own demons, and I appreciate how Slaughter can give you a main story and still weave these people’s lives outside of the story in.

Sporadic Scene: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) – Adam and Eve Dance

Only Lovers Left Alive is a strange little film. Dark, comedic, sweet. Adam is a reclusive, depressed musician whose wife of the last few centuries reunites with him, and their odd but perfect little relationship gets some rejuvenation. A scene that stands out as something truly beautiful is this dance that the two shared after Eve chastises Adam for his self obsession, and not seeing the bigger, more beautiful things in an endless life.

Review: The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS: Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again. – via Goodreads

Wow. Just wow. The Roanoke Girls is just so up my alley. I think the last book I read with such a hunger was Karin Slaughter’s The Good Daughter. I didn’t want to work or anything. I just wanted to curl up and read and ignore the world. I was drawn in from the off, and fascinated with the entire book.

I enjoyed the way that the book was written, with the “then” section and then the “now” section, as well as the little snippets of the other Roanoke girls sprinkled throughout. It really created tension, and this dark atmosphere you get sucked into and wrapped up in. Yes, the big ick is revealed pretty early, but that in no way affects the book negatively. In fact, it makes you even more observant on the dysfunctional behaviour you were wondering about before. The Roanoke Girls is really well written and flows, with the reveals slowly but surely painting the complexity of the story.

I really liked the way that Engel created the characters. Each had their own story, and each little flashback revealed some more, and every little section of the present peeled away yet another layer. Allegra is totally different from Lane, yet you can see how the girls are bonded. Allegra has a terrible secret, and is jealous because she knows how things will be, yet she loves Lane. It is very complicated. Add to the mix how the author created their grandfather, Yates, and you are in for an disquieting ride. The man does come across as charismatic and charming and loving, which leaves you with a perverted, sickening, uncomfortable feeling, which is amazing to establish the family ties at Roanoke.

Then there are the side characters, most notably Tommy and Cooper, and that is a whole other kettle of fish. Cooper pretty much immediately swept me off my feet, so I totally got why Lane was bowled over. Not everyone’s cup of tea,  to be sure, but total book crush for me. Their relationship was amazing, and then it was crazy, and I could see the shift of it, even while I didn’t like it. They were both damaged creatures inexorably drawn to each other, and just clicked. Tommy is also the all American boy, the safe kid, the nice guy, but he also has multiple layers to him. These characters having so many layers makes for interesting dynamics, and you are so hooked.

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed The Roanoke Girls. I just gobbled this book up, it was thrilling, sick and rough and yet there was hope tinging the edges. It had that same dark, twisted vibe as Averil Dean’s The Undoing, a book I liked a lot more than most people did, it seems. I highly recommend this read if you like something a little warped and unsettling, something that peeks into some messed up places.