Movie Review: Hereditary

I just don’t want put anymore stress in my family

Hereditary is the feature length directorial debut of Ari Aster. It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Gabriel Byrne and Milly Shapiro.

When the Graham family experiences a loss, the family struggles to express their grief, in the meantime weird things start happening around the house affecting all the rest of the family.


The Good

Hereditary is easily one of the best horror movie to have come out this year. It is tense, it’s creepy but it’s also well shot and brilliantly acted. Toni Collette gives a powerhouse performance alongside Alex Wolff and the rest of the cast are also great.

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Though it doesn’t have a lot of jump-scares, it does deliver in terms of uneasiness. At times it’s uncomfortable and there’s a lingering feeling of dread throughout the movie as one bad thing leads to another.

Another great aspect of the movie is the cinematography, the movie uses creative shots and cuts to amplify the creepiness and once again it’s thoroughly effective.


The Bad

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Though majority of the movie works, the movie does have some flaws. When the third act kicks in, it becomes your typical horror movie having elements that you have seen before. In return, the movie becomes somewhat predictable and it can take you out of the movie.


Rating

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Overall Hereditary though slow, it delivers the scares, the creeps and the uneasiness. The acting and the cinematography is the movie’s biggest strengths. The story sucks you in with vice like grip and puts you on the edge of your seat and at times you’ll feel helpless.

Unfortunately the movie doesn’t maintain this throughout as the third act becomes your run of the mill horror flick. It has surprises that you’ll never see coming and scenes that are undoubtedly unforgettable and with that it all leads to a great horror film. If you love psychological horror, Hereditary is highly recommended.

Good Bad 4.8/5
    • Great Performances
    • Great Cinematography
    • Utterly Creepy
    • Weak third act
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Movie Review: The Invitation

Each one of us is on a journey and we feel it’s important to be on this journey with the people you love.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend were invited to a dinner party hosted by Will’s ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard). As Will walks around his former home, relieving the painful memories that he’s left behind, he notices that there’s something sinister behind the dinner party.

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The Good

The Invitation is slow-burn movie with pretty decent build up but great climax. This movie is very unpredictable and the writing is manipulative in a great way. As an audience you’re not sure who to trust and unable to identify who’s dangerous and who’s not. This results to an uneasy viewing experience and it does a great job keeping the eerie feeling through out the movie.

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As the movie kicks into overdrive in it’s third act, everything comes together. The climax is filled with suspense and delivers some incredibly shocking moments. The ending is great, the last shot of the movie is a must-see as it delivers a truly defining WTF moment.


The Bad

There are a lot of things to like in the movie but in the end it’s very flawed. There are character decisions that don’t make sense and speaking of the characters none of them are likable. Our avatar, Will spends most of his time sulking and isolated. Though we are given a backstory from his tragic past, his writing becomes annoyingly repetitive.

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Another problem is the pacing. The movie moves incredibly slow and though it’s a slow burn movie there are scenes that felt unnecessary which if cut out would still keep the slow, methodical pacing but would overall improve the movie.
The acting felt mediocre and for a house filled with people, none of them have one decent thing to say.


Rating

Overall The Invitation is a decent suspenseful film. It didn’t rely on jump-scares or scary visuals but it builds up an incredibly creepy sensation and it’s enough to make you uncomfortable. The third act, all the way to the ending is a must see and without a doubt one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. However problems with it’s characters, pacing and story telling stopped this from being a great. People who don’t have the attention span to sit and listen to meaningless banter might be bored out of their heads. However for those who enjoy slow-burn films with high-tension climaxes would appreciate this more.

Good Bad 3.7/5
  • Third Act
  • Uncomfortable Atmosphere
  • Unnecessary Scenes
  • Unlikable Characters
  • Questionable Character Choices

Book Review: Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

“The Perfect Place To Die” The longer I was in Aokigahara, the more I believed this statement to be true. Despite the pervasive atmosphere of death and struggle and sadness, you felt cocooned here, isolated from the outside world.

-Jeremey Bates, Suicide Forest

I’ve always wanted to read or watch a documentary on The Suicide Forest. Ever since I heard of the place, it fascinated me. It’s a mysterious place, yet as eerie as it is, people are still drawn to it and reading Jeremy Bates’ Suicide Forest, I expected him to shed some light on the mysteries of the place. Unfortunately that was not the case with this book.

A group of friends led by Ethan, set out a hiking trip on Mt Fuji. Due to weather conditions their trip was postponed to the day after. The group then meet a couple who’s trip was also postponed and upon talking to them, they were told of a place called The Suicide Forest, with nothing else to do, the group joined the couple and ventured into the Suicide Forest.

I really wanted to like this book, I wanted to root for it even after reading several negative reviews. To my disappointment the book was terrible. The characters were one dimensional and flat out annoying. Ethan, the main protagonist, is a jealous guy who makes bad decisions throughout the whole book, he’s a difficult character to get behind to. The rest of the group are mostly stereotypes and there’s very little character development between them.

The first two acts were boring and it was filled with monologues that you couldn’t care about. There were a lot of unnecessary information given out and you just wish the book would just get straight into the killing or at least do something scary. At some points the book didn’t know the direction it was taking, was it going to be a supernatural ghost story or should it have a physical killer? You can call it unpredictable but by the time you realize what’s happening you couldn’t care less because you are not invested in the characters.

The only good thing about the book is the third act, which was exciting, it gave me the same feeling when I watched the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which I liked. Overall this plays out like a bad horror movie. You have a scary place, flat characters and they’re just there for the killing. It had very little to do with the fact that it’s set on The Suicide Forest in which at times it felt like it could’ve been any forest in the world.

I really wanted for this book to do great and I was expecting a great horror story about The Suicide Forest, however this is not that book but if you’re someone who doesn’t mind a short, badly written horror story then this is for you.

Rating 2.2/5

Book Review: Replay by Ken Grimwood

“All life includes loss. It’s taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it.”

-Replay, Ken Grimwood

Jeff Winston was 43 years old when he felt something his heart, he’s stunned and just like that he died of heart attack, in the year of 1988. Suddenly he awoke in his college dorm room at Emory, the year was 1963 and once again Jeff Winston was 18 years old.

Replay started off strong, right off the bat, our protagonist died and woke up 25 years earlier in his 18 year old body. Straight away there’s intrigue, I wanted to know how and why as well as follow Jeff’s bizarre story. There was a feeling of anticipation within me, it felt like I’m about to embark on an amazing sci-fi/fantasy journey with Replay. Unfortunately the sci-fi/fantasy aspect of Replay is underwhelming. It was during the beginning of the third act where I realized that Replay is more of a Romantic novel. That said, the romance was written very well, overwhelming on certain parts but if I’m going to give the book a credit it would be hitting the romance aspect right out the park.

With this being underwhelming on the fantasy/sci-fi part, the book also suffers on some aspects. There was a part of the first act where, there was absolutely nothing going on despite the strong early chapters. The pacing could have been a lot better and with the lack of sci-fi elements the book needed a quicker pace. Another complaint is our protagonist, Jeff Winston himself, he lacked the charisma to make me root for him. Compared to his counter parts or other characters he was the least person I cared about. His character was so bland where, there were parts where women went with him mainly because he’s got money.

That said, he was smart with several of his decisions. Any smart person would do what he had done when he woke up back in 1963. He was placing bets on winning teams, investing and buying stocks on start up companies who’re eventually going to become successful. There were a lot “yes that’s exactly what I would do” moments. Though unlikable as a character at least he was smart. Also a great part of the book was Jeff’s female love interest. She was written incredibly well she was the complete opposite of Jeff in terms of likability and she’s oozing with charisma. With her around Jeff sometimes becomes an afterthought and that’s how strongly she was written.

Overall the book is a great romantic story, just don’t expect it to be heavy on the sci-fi/fantasy aspect because waking up in a younger version of yourself is as good as it gets in terms of fantasy. It wasn’t what I was expecting but in the end I was OK with it. If there’s one lesson to take about the book, it is to remember major sports win or derby wins because you will never know. Highly recommended to people who are into romance-fantasy novels but for hardcore sci-fi/fantasy fans, this won’t be for you.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: And the Hills Opened Up by David Oppegaard

He wanted to shout them into the sky and have them taken by the wind. He wanted to be rid of their names and faces, the memory of their touch and he understood that his love for them was like a curse, a great eternal curse as strong and wicked as anything a demon could devise

-The Hills Opened Up, David Oppegaard

It’s the middle of the summer in Red Earth, Wyoming when miners blasted deeper into their copper mine. Little do they know, they unearthed a demon from within the mines and proceeded to kill everything in it’s path. At the same time the citizens of the town bands together as they try to stop the demon from killing everyone in town.

I picked up this book thinking it would be a fun campy horror book that would have some similar tone as the 1990 movie Tremors. Though the premise is almost the same where replace the monster with a humanoid demon referred to as The Charred Man. The novel is darker in tone, it is gory and it is non caring in a way that children, women and infants are killed in a violent and graphic way. So if you’re a fan of gore, guts and blood then this might be the book for you.

Unfortunately that’s the best the book has to offer. The characters are unlikable, there’s no one I wanted to root for, in the end I found myself rooting for the demon as everyone is selfish or are making nonsensical decisions. The women in the book are mostly whores or helpless housewives, the novel has no strong female character at all. Fortunately the book is only under 300 pages as it was quite difficult to keep up to it. Especially at the end where I felt like it dragged on for too long.

The pacing was also another problem as the book started out slow and it took a while to get to the second act. The second act did pick up, which is probably the best part of the book but only to be slowed down by the third act.

All in all, And the Hills Opened Up, had a lot of potential specially with it’s simple premise. It could’ve been fun and terrifying at the same time. However it’s dull characters and irregular pacing prevented me from liking at what could have been a great book.

Rating: 2.5/5

Graphic Novel Review: Ten Grand Vol. 1 by J. Michael Straczynski

Ten Grand Vol 1 tells the story of Joe Fitzgerald. A former hitman but now working as a private investigator. Joe’s interest peaked as he was asked to investigate a simple case of disappearance. With a man he thought he killed before, possibly running the operation. Joe dives into the supernatural as he faces angels and demons alike.

Upon reading Ten Grand, one might see some similarities with DC’s Constantine. That said, for a horror graphic novel, Ten Grand brings an impressive amount of human drama to the table. The protagonist is a well written character which I believe the readers can comfortably sympathize with. Specially upon exploring Joe’s past we get to know his motivations.

The artwork compliments the novel nicely. It is gritty and disturbing at points, in addition, each situation the protagonist is in is matched with a color scheme. Overall this creates a consistent theme for the novel.

The novel does fall into some cliched areas and does have some bad dialogue here and there but the biggest let down is the climax all the way to the ending. It seemed that all story telling was dropped and didn’t provide clarity to some story arcs.

All in all I find that Ten Grand is still a great horror graphic novel. With an incredibly intriguing lore and a story that’s easy to follow and not to mention a character the readers can root for, Ten Grand delivers a fix for horror seekers and readers who are into the supernatural specially when it comes to angels and demons.

Book Review: A Dance of Death By David Dalglish

A Dance of Death is the 3rd book in David Dalglish’s Shadowdance series. The events occurs two years after the events of A Dance of Blades. This time, Hearn, along with Zusa and Alyssa travels to the city Angelport to confront a copy cat murderer who calls himself The Wraith.

Moving away from the setting of Veldaren, A Dance of Death occurs in the city of Angelport. Home of one of the Trifect, The Keenans, and also of the Merchant Lords. Once again, Dalglish manages to create a world just as dangerous as Veldaren. Although Angelport may not have the thief guilds that Veldaren houses. It does have the Merchant Lords, The Keenans and the city lord, Ingram. Surely enough, all three forces gives Angelport an uncomfortable presence that without a doubt provides our main characters with a feeling of extreme vulnerability.

As much as we are familiar with Hearn and Zusa being such a dominant force from the previous book. The positions are switched as they are in a vulnerable position in the city of Angelport. With the cover showing Zusa lying still in the hands of Hearn, implying that she might be dead. There are moments in this book where you expect her to die. Those moments really does add a tremendous amount of tension in the book as you read through.

The action, as usual is superb and the dialogue, absolutely exceptional. The characters however, might be confusing at times as names are dropped here and there, it could be hard to keep up from time to time. The introduction of the elves was also a great addition reminding us that this is a fantasy book. A dark and gritty one at that. Also the character development of Hearn, Zusa and Alyssa was written very well along with the chemistry between Hearn and Zusa.

An important aspect of the book is The Wraith, which basically acts as Hearn’s rival. Of course, written in such an intriguing way, the fight between the two is a very riveting read which may leave you exhausted. Although there are a lot to like about this book. Having read the previous books, there are moments here that almost mimics some events from the previous books. Such as riots withing the city and the hiring of a fearsome mercenary to kill our main characters halfway through the story. To some, this may be bothersome as you have read this in both A Dance of Cloaks and A Dance of Blades but it may not be a bother to others.

To conclude A Dance of Death is another great addition to the Shadowdance Series. However, this might feel like a filler to other as it did for me, it does provides a thrilling and enjoyable story. With a whole new setting, a set of truly fascinating new characters, not to mention the always incredible fight scenes and an engrossing climax. A Dance of Death is a highly recommended read for the fans of the previous books or fan of the dark fantasy genre.