The journey continues through the 26 books and movies I challenged myself to read and see for Halloween. Featured here are my week 3 picks: The Stepford Wives, Horrorstör and And Then There Were None, “The Bad Batch”, “Mercy”, and “You’re Next”. I also had an unexpected opportunity to see “Get Out” during this week, so that review is here too! See last week’s post for other reviews from this list!
For really great lists of books and movies that inspired a few of my selections, check out these Buzzfeed articles: 39 Books That Are Actually Scary and 31 Underrated Creepy, Disturbing, and Downright Scary Films You Can Watch Throughout October.
The Diviners – Libba Bray (2012)
Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman (2011)
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (1939) [My Rating: 5/5]
One little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
This chilling murder mystery and psychological thriller is not only Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel, but also apparently the world’s best-selling mystery and one of the best-selling books of all time. It was first published in the UK under a different and offensive title, but it was changed to And Then There Were None when it was reprinted in North America. This is a very unsettling story about 10 strangers (every one complicit in some way in the deaths of others) lured to an isolated island and killed one by one in ways that parallel a creepy nursery rhyme. By the time authorities arrive, everyone is dead and there’s no sign of another person having been on the island besides the deceased BUT certain things about the crime scenes indicate that someone tidied up! This book had me constantly reevaluating who I thought was the killer until there was no one left to suspect, and the general feeling of dread and isolation, of characters coming unhinged, is all very unsettling and gripping. This novel is widely considered Christie’s masterpiece, and I think once you read it you will appreciate why.
The Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (1934) [5/5]
The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel (2017) [4/5]
Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix (2014) [My Rating: 4/5]
Orsk: The better home for the everyone!
I have to say, I probably love the idea of this book just a touch more than I love the actual book. There’s nothing wrong with the content – what’s not to like about a story where paranormal shit starts happening inside an IKEA-esque housewares store built on the site of an old asylum? The humour is dark, and the horror is disturbing. It’s like what would maybe happen if the Coen brothers or Joss Whedon had done the “Saw” franchise. It’s definitely one of the more effectively creepy books I’ve read in a while but my favourite, favourite, favourite thing about it is the detail that went into the design. The whole thing looks like a catalogue for Orsk furniture, complete with prices on the covers, promotional copy and coupons on the inside pages, a very convincing order form, and feature furniture pages that get increasingly horrible as the book progresses. Everything is perfect, right down to the author photo on the back flap that’s made to look like an Orsk employee ID card! I just feel like maybe a little more effort went into the presentation than the actual guts of the thing, so to speak. Still definitely worth checking out, if for no other reason than to see a prime example of what everyone else should be doing with their packaging.
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2013)
The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin (1972) [My Rating: 4/5]
Something strange is happening in the town of Stepford.
This satirical thriller is so iconic that the term “Stepford Wife” has become a pretty common descriptor of a submissive and docile woman who seems to conform blindly to the stereotype of an old-fashioned subservient role in relationship to her partner.The Stepford Wives, written by the same guy responsible for Rosemary’s Baby, is about a successful photographer who moves with her husband and family to an idyllic Connecticut neighbourhood, only to suspect that the disturbingly submissive housewives are robots created by their husbands. Especially when she goes digging and discovers that some of the wives were once feminist activists and successful professionals. This book is a super quick read, which is at once refreshing and frustrating because I would have loved for Levin to dig deeper into Stepford and the feminist message within. I also wish it was a little more clear in the novel whether the Stepford wives were literal robots, as they have been shown to be in the movie adaptations that followed, but I guess Levin wasn’t specifically trying to write a sci-fi/horror. What is most disturbing to me about this novel is the fact that it was written 45 years ago, yet the concept of successful women being objectified and subjugated by the men who feel threatened by them remains relevant today. Now that’s scary.
Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link (2008)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu (2016) [3/5]
The Haunting at Hawke’s Moor – Camille Oster (Kindle) (2016)
Borrower of the Night – Elizabeth Peters (1973)
I Remember You – Yrsa Sigurdardóttir (2010) [2/5]
III – The Ritual (2015)
The Axe Murders of Villisca (2016) [1/5]
The Babadook (2014) [2/5]
The Bad Batch (2016) [My Rating: 1/5]
“You don’t see things how they are. You only see things how you are.”
This movie was a grade-A waste of time. In a future dystopia, people identified as “bad batch” (by some mystery entity, for reasons never defined) are cast out into a desert wasteland to make their own way while dodging dehydration, poverty, and cannibals. This film has been described as “Mad Max” meets “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” by way of “Pretty in Pink”, though that last one is misleading as it mostly applies to the upbeat soundtrack. It’s also billed as a post-apocalyptic horror romance art film, which makes the plot exactly as confusing as it sounds. Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed it was supposed to be a cannibal love story unless the internet told me. For me, there was not a compelling enough reason for Arlen to want anything to do with Miami Man, given the circumstances of how they know each other, and the fact that neither of them manages to have an actual personality. Maybe the problem is that I went into it with high-ish expectations since the cast includes Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, and Jason Momoa, but I was deeply disappointed. Keanu Reeves is a cult leader surrounded by young pregnant women and hallucinogenic drugs. Jim Carrey is some crazy man who never speaks and endlessly wanders the desert with a shopping cart and cardboard sunglasses. And Jason Momoa is a big beefy cannibal with a passable Cuban accent. I just really wish I hadn’t watched the whole thing, but I kept hoping to find something redeeming. I want my 118 minutes back, Ana Lily Amirpour!
The Black Room (2017)
The Bye Bye Man (2017) [2/5]
Gerald’s Game (2017) [4/5]
The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
It Follows (2014)
Mercy (2014) [My Rating: 1/5]
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”
I should really just stop placing any kind of expectations on movies altogether. Because when you tell me things like “Mercy” is based on a short story by Stephen King, and is also from the producer of “Paranormal Activity”, I do stupid things like add it to a list of movies to watch for Halloween and then commit to watching it by posting the list online. Live and learn, I guess. “Mercy” is about a single mom and her two sons who become the caregivers to her very ill mother, Mercy. When Mercy’s favourite grandson (Chandler Riggs from “The Walking Dead”) stops giving her the antipsychotic drugs she’s supposed to receive, right around the time he discovers a creepy, blank book buried in the yard, mayhem ensues. There is just so much about this movie for which an explanation would be much appreciated. Why point out that Chandler Riggs’ character can “see” things like both his aunt and his grandmother, but then make it completely incidental to the plot? Why bother writing a character that only the grandson seems to be able to see, who in no way helps the plot and wasn’t important enough for Chandler Riggs to ever bother learning who she even is? Why did anyone think this movie needed to be made?
Rings (2017) [1/5]
You’re Next (2011) [My Rating: 4/5]
Did you remember to lock your door?
It actually doesn’t matter, because the masked killers that crash this wedding anniversary are already inside the house. One by one they start picking off members of the Davison family in truly bloody and horrific ways, but what they don’t anticipate is the +1 Erin Harson and her secret talent for fighting back. This movie doesn’t really break any new ground in the horror genre, and is a touch too bloody for my taste, but it wins major points for the most kickass female lead I’ve seen in a slasher movie in a while. Erin’s methods are as creative as the parents in “The Last House on the Left” (2009), and she’s as strong and capable as Sarah Carter from “The Descent” (2005) – two films I also happen to really like and happily watch any time of the year. This movie also does a good job of just being thoroughly creepy, like when someone opens a closet door and finds bottles of urine and empty food wrappers and realizes that the killers have been living in the house with them for some time and they never noticed (*shudders*). Erin is included on BuzzFeed’s list of 19 Horror Movie Final Girls Who Are So Badass it Hurts, but I’ll warn you right now that they basically give away the ending of the movie in the write up, so beware. I mean I realize this movie came out six years ago so we’re probably past the “spoiler” timeframe, but still. Kind of ruined the final surprise :(
BONUS REVIEW: Get Out (2017) [My Rating: 5/5]
Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome
When I first saw the trailers for this movie I definitely thought, Do you know what we don’t need right now, while racial tensions in the US are so explosive? Probably not a movie where a black man goes to meet his white girlfriend’s parents and is completely terrorized. To be honest, “Get Out” was absolutely nothing like I was expecting – it’s like the Stepford Wives meets Alfred Hitchcock. And while I feel like “Get Out” would be just as creepy if it had involved any race combination, its power lies in how it highlights racism in ways that go beyond physical violence and hate speech. Modern racism is a cop insisting on seeing a black man’s ID at the scene of an accident even when he wasn’t the one driving. It’s black people disappearing or being taken off the fucking street for years and no one apparently noticing or caring. It’s being manhandled without permission and asked absolutely mortifying and personal questions by a room full of white people who think their inappropriate interest is appreciated. It’s the belief that just because someone’s “other” that you can say whatever you want to them, do whatever you want to them expecting there to be no consequences. I can’t believe that it’s 2017 and this is still a story that we have to tell, but it IS unfortunately a message that some people are still not hearing. And if you could really give a shit about this message, and all you’re looking for is a good jump scare and spending around 90 minutes with a horrified expression on your face, dying to find out what the fuck is going on, you’ll find that here too. So basically everyone should just watch this movie, and hopefully learn something while they’re hiding under those blankets.
Read/watched some of these yourself? Let me know what you thought!
Want to follow along? This week (October 22-28) I’ll be reading Those Across the River, Hex and The Haunting at Hawke’s Moor, and watching “III – The Ritual”, “The Black Room”, and “The Girl With All the Gifts”. Join me!