Review – A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay


This one was a really fun read. A Head Full of Ghosts is a novel about the Barrett family and the tragedy that befell them. Their eldest daughter Marjorie begins displaying odd behavioural changes and after psychiatry doesn’t help, the father enlists the help of an exorcist. The Barrett family is also going through hard times so they reluctantly agree to be the subjects of a reality TV show called The Possession. Continue reading Review – A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

The Wailing: Movie Review

I really had no idea what to expect going into this movie. Here is a full list of everything I knew about the movie:

  1. South Korean ghost movie
    2. Really scary
    3. Really good
    4. Two-and-a-half hours long

Point #4 kept me from watching it for a while. I’m all in favor of a good movie regardless of length, but it’s not always easy to carve out two-and-a-half hours to sit down and watch a movie. I wish I was one of those people who could break up a movie into several viewings, but that doesn’t really work for me.

I had a day a couple weeks ago where I stayed home from work to battle the flu. Having the house to myself and not wanting to leave the couch, I figured there would be no better time to watch this. Plus, I figured the creeping deliriousness of my brain would help to heighten the supernatural aspects of the movie.

And so, slightly sweating yet huddled under a heavy blanket, I hit play.

First things first: yes, technically this is a ghost movie, but it’s not a ghost movie in the way I normally think of them. In this movie, a ghost takes the form of an old Japanese man and he persuades the villagers to kill their family in horrible ways. In that way, it plays out as a possession movie, with a ghost/demon in the center of it all.

Of course, it’s not nearly that simple. Is the Japanese man really causing all of the murders, or does the mysterious woman in the white dress have something to do with it? And what of the suspiciously hip-looking shaman? To put it more succinctly, who is the angel and who is the demon?

We follow Jong-goo, a policeman in a tiny village in South Korea. Very early in the movie he is called to the scene of a grisly murder and notices that the murderer has an odd rash on his neck. He begins to notice this same thing at every murder scene. It’s when he sees the rash on his young daughter – Hoy-jin – that he really begins to worry.

And then there are the nightmares. Early in the movie, we hear the story of a hunter encountering a man in the woods with red eyes, hunched over a deer and devouring it raw. Jong-goo begins dreaming of the creature, even seeing him in a kind of waking nightmare at one point. As Hoy-jin’s behavior becomes more erratic, Jong-goo becomes more frantic in his search to destroy the evil that is infecting his daughter.

Let’s get this out of the way: Jong-goo is a terrible policeman. Just awful. Even before Hoy-jin starts showing evidence of the murder rash, he shows to be unreliable at best. He routinely shows up late. He is not aware of his surroundings. He believes every rumor presented to him and changes his mind at the drop of a hat, merely because he hears new information that may-or-may-not be credible. He seems incapable of processing information and making a decision based on everything he knows up until that point. He’s like a dog chasing a ball; he’ll just follow whatever the newest piece of information is and ignore everything else. Not exactly who you want to be investigating a series of ghost murders.

As a father myself, I understand that decision-making can become cloudy when it comes to your child being in danger, so perhaps his actions later in the movie can’t be judged as harshly. However, since we had already seen his extremely flawed thought process on full display before his daughter contracts the murder rash, I feel like his daughter being under duress didn’t make his decision-making any worse. He was terrible throughout the entire movie; his daughter contracting the rash only made him more violent.

I loved the setting of this movie. Some of the imagery was really impressive. However, it was extremely slow-paced and the actions of Jong-goo only served to frustrate me at every turn. Perhaps I could look past some of that in a shorter movie, but the long run time really killed this movie for me. I’m fine with a long movie if there is a point to it, but this movie had entirely too many moments that dragged, and I don’t feel that the payoff at the end was worth what it took to get there.

I also didn’t love everything about the ending. There were a few different things going on, and, while I liked how one of them wrapped up, the other involved Jong-goo and his notoriously terrible decision-making. I should have been invested in his story and really torn by the decision he was being forced to make. Instead, I had already lost all faith in him and was just frustrated by the entire situation.

There were creepy moments, but it wasn’t really scary. It wasn’t unnerving. It wasn’t much of anything but slow and marred by a protagonist incapable of ever making a correct decision.

I know a lot of people loved this, but it just wasn’t for me. Then again, “slow moving possession film,” isn’t exactly my subgenre of choice. If you like possession films, give it a go and tell me why I was wrong.

Rating: 1.5/5

The Conjuring 2: Movie Review

conjuring 2 - poster

Based on the Enfield Poltergeist case, one of the more famous hauntings in British history.  An adorable little British family is being haunted by a demon, and one of them is possessed.  Whatever are they to do?  Good thing the Warrens are on the case!

“The power of ED WARREN compels you!”

I’ll admit to being hesitant about this movie.  I enjoyed the first one a decent amount, but the trailers for this movie looked terrible.  I actually laughed out loud at a couple of points, although maybe that says more about me than the trailer.  “A room full of upside crosses?  HILARIOUS!”  I am not well.

"The little girl is terrified!  Stop! Stop! My sides!"
“The little girl is terrified! Stop! Stop! My sides!”

To my surprise, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.  Well…I enjoyed about 60% of it.  The story with the Hodgson family was terrific.  The characters were well-drawn and easy to love – the little British boy offering his mom biscuits to help her through a stressful time melted my cold, dead heart – and the haunting/possession stuff was scary.  I cared about that family.  I didn’t like that Janet – sweet Janet – was being possessed by an old man.  You leave Janet alone, Mr. Wilkins.

conjuring 2 - janet possessed
That stuff was great.  The other 40% was filled with the Warrens.  You want me to say it?  Fine, I’ll say it.  It was too much of the Warrens.  And it wasn’t just about the Warrens in general: it was about how great they are.  How true their intentions are.  That Ed, isn’t he great?  He’s the best.  Look at him sing an entire Elvis song to these fatherless children.  Look how handsome and caring he is.  Look at him fix up that house.  “Lemme roll up my sleeves and fix everything in your house while getting rid of a demon.  Save your money: my payment is in a job well done and a demon-free house.”
At one point he says, “There have been cases we’ve turned down; there has never been a family we have refused to help.”  What a guy!  I’m surprised the movie didn’t end with him adopting all of the homeless children in the city.  “Come live with me!  I’ll cook breakfast for you every day in a suit!”

"I see the problem. Your husband left you. Ha! Seriously though, your pipes are all messed up."
“I see the problem. Your husband left you. Ha! Seriously though, your pipes are all messed up.”

I know why they did this: they’re working on a franchise here, and the thing that links all the movies together is the Warrens.  It’s not a bad concept, as every movie gets a totally different case with a totally different family.  So they need us to like and root for the Warrens.  But we don’t need them to be this much in the foreground.

"Ohhhh.  Myyyyyy looooove..."
“Ohhhh. Myyyyyy looooove…”

There were two plots in this movie: we had the Enfield case, but we also had Lorraine seeing a vision of Ed’s death and being scared by it.  So we get a creepy scene of Janet talking to a shadow, then we get Lorraine saying, “I don’t think we should go, Ed.  It’s too dangerous.”  For, like, 20 minutes.  They basically took two movies and smashed them together.  Whenever they showed the family, I loved it.  Whenever they focused on the Warrens, my interest began to wane.

The sweater didn't help anything.
The sweater didn’t help anything.

This movie was two hours and 14 minutes long.  Even then, they had to rush through the third act just to bring the story to its conclusion.  The leaps in logic that took place over the last 15 minutes were astounding.  Lorraine was spouting exposition like a crazy person.  “The demon is this and this and this is how we know this and that and this and DEMONS AND VISIONS.”  They could have cut out 45 minutes of the Warrens and built in some of that exposition naturally, instead of having it shouted at us from the back of a station wagon (I think the license plate on the station wagon was INFODMP).  Or keep it, cut out 45 minutes of the Warrens and have the movie clock in at 90 minutes.  Either one of those options would have been fine.

conjuring 2 - familyWhen I liked this movie, I really liked it.  But there was too much “look how great the Warrens are, I certainly hope Ed doesn’t die,” that really killed the momentum for my liking.  I still recommend watching it, but be prepared to be tossed between two completely different stories for large portions of the movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

conjuring 2 - nunSPOILER ALERT
For most of the movie, Lorraine is terrified of Ed dying.  It’s the drama driving their story.  Meanwhile, if you know anything about the Warrens you know that Ed lived to be 79 years old and died surrounded by his family.  He certainly wasn’t impaled on a tree in Enfield.

What Comes Next: Here Comes the Devil

In this series, I take a look at what happens to characters after the credits roll.  Beware of spoilers.  There will be spoilers.

You can read about the origin of this series here, and my original review of this movie here.

Before I get started, let me start with this: in all likelihood, the possessing spirit is not the actual devil.  Multiple people are being possessed, which would probably make it more of a legion of Pazuzu-type minions descending upon this mountain cave, in search of bodies to inhabit.  But, since “The Devil” is in the title, we’ll just keep rolling with that.

When we left Felix and Sol, Sol had discovered that their children had died in the mountains, and the devil had taken their place.  (Seeing as how the name of the movie is Here Comes the Devil, this was not the least bit surprising.)  She kills the demon-spawn who had taken their form and takes Felix into the mountains to show him their bodies, so that he will see that their actual children had died weeks earlier.  Felix is promptly possessed by the demon, and shoots Sol in the head.

The movie ends with the newly dead & possessed Felix and Sol getting into their car and driving away from the mountain, presumably back to the city so they can wreak unholy hell on everyone they come across (and to stand on chests of naked women, because apparently the devil loves to do stuff like that.  He’s a real scamp).

The car appears to be a stick shift, which the devil cannot drive.  (They say the devil can’t write a love song, and apparently he can’t drive stick, either.)  The last scene of the movie is the car, driven by Devil Felix, lurching down the dirt road and swerving back and forth.

What comes next?

It has already been established that the devil can’t drive stick.  And apparently he can’t drive in a straight line.  So it stands to reason there are a lot of things in this modern world that the devil does not have the skills for.

What follows is a fish-out-of-water comedy, with the devil trying to get acclimated to modern life.

The devil goes grocery shopping!  That wacky devil doesn’t even know what a ripe banana looks like!
The devil goes skiing!  Watch out for that tree!
The devil meets with clients!  Make sure not to mention anything about the Lord of Darkness!
The devil can’t figure out how to use a cell phone!  Try navigating that touchscreen with a severed finger!
The devil can’t get those pots put away!  And we mean, he really can’t get those pots put away!

This goes for 90 minutes or so, until someone gets wise to the devil and casts him back to Hell.

It’s a laugh riot.

And, honestly, it wouldn’t be any stranger than the actual movie.

Here Comes the Devil

Here Comes the Devil - Poster

Netflix description:
Grieving parents rejoice when their missing son and daughter return after disappearing on a family trip to Tijuana.  But they’re not the same children they once knew, even though everything looks normal on the outside.

My thoughts:
This movie was completely bonkers for the first 30 minutes or so.  I got 20 minutes in, and I wasn’t even sure there was a plot to follow.  It eventually settled in, but it took a while to get there.  Thankfully, it was entertaining, so I stuck with it.

Just as an example, here is a list of things that happen in the first half hour:

– Two naked girls messing around on a bed while a 70s grindhouse song rages.  This is the very first image we see.

– A man coming into the house and beating one of the girls senseless, an act that concludes with him cutting off a couple of her fingers and running off into the hills after the other girl hits him in the head with a fire poker.

– The same man madly humping the ground, while surrounded by severed fingers.  (This is similar to a scene in Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown.  Except I don’t think that book had severed fingers.  I don’t know.  It’s been a while since I’ve read it.  That Joseph Wayne was into some weird stuff.)

– A man and wife letting their kids run off into the hills (not unlike Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer) in an area they’re not familiar with.  While their kids are out of sight, they sit in their car in a gas station parking lot, talk about their sexual experiences as teenagers and get to third base.  Again, this is in a gas station parking lot.

– The line “seeing your parents make love isn’t the end of the world,” is uttered.  By the parents.  (They obviously never witnessed their parents having sex.)

For a while, I honestly thought the subtitles didn’t match the actual dialog.  I thought I was witnessing a practical joke by the subtitle writers.  “Wouldn’t it be funny if we totally changed the entire tone of the movie by writing insane things?”  (I would normally include some examples here, but they’re so funny that it’s best if you experience them for yourself.  I don’t want to ruin your joy.)
However, based the few Spanish classes I took, that did not seen to be the case.  The dialog really was as insane as it appeared to be.

Eventually, the movie settles in a bit into something resembling a plot, but even that wasn’t completely normal.  The kids come back to the car, but they don’t seem quite right.  Strange things begin to happen in the house.  A babysitter is run off, leaving only her bra and sanity behind.  I believe the intent was to build a sense of uncertainty in the viewer.  What is wrong with the children?  Are they possessed, or were they just mentally scarred by a traumatic event in the hills?
However, since the movie was titled Here Comes the Devil, it was pretty easy to tell what happened, so that sense of uncertainty wasn’t present.

The parents also briefly dabbled in vigilante justice, because of course they did.  They appeared particularly skilled at it, too.  I double-checked to make sure the father wasn’t actually named Frank Castle.  He was not.
Even this little storyline made little-to-no sense.  The parents had been dealing with the police since the disappearance/reappearance of their children, and the police had been extremely helpful.  And then, suddenly, they decide that knives and guns will give them all the answers they will ever need.
I’m not complaining.  I like a good throat-ripping scene as much as the next guy (probably more, actually.  I blame Dalton), but it just seemed odd.
I was going to say “odd and out-of-place”, but this movie had so many strange moments that I’m pretty sure the entire movie was out-of-place.

I was confused as to whether this movie was actually supposed to be scary or campy.  There were a couple creepy scenes, but nothing that was out-and-out scary.  The best scene was when the babysitter was telling her story of her evening with the kids, but it still felt like it was missing something.  They could have really kicked it up a notch there, and they didn’t jump on that opportunity.
At the same time, I really don’t get the feeling that it was supposed to be funny.  I laughed quite a few times, but it didn’t have a comedic feel to it.  I don’t think it was going for humor or camp. It was just so ludicrous that I couldn’t help but laugh.

This was a weird little 70s inspired possession movie, complete with lots of quick zooms.  It had a cool look to it, and I enjoyed myself throughout the entire movie, even if I was confused more often than not.
After an absolutely bonkers opening, it kind of settled in.  Some creepy moments.  A couple cool little reveals.  It wasn’t overly scary, but it had its moments.  I really liked the visuals on the hill.
Crazy, but highly enjoyable.