Review of Suspiria (2018)

A review of the horror film Suspiria (2018), written by my buddy Jenna. Follow her at instagram.com/hermionestrangler


suspiria

Suspiria was definitely a well-made remake. I tried to watch it as a separate movie and not to compare it too much to the original version from the 70’s and it was actually pretty easy – they are very different kind of movies.

In the beginning young dancer Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) disappears from a dance academy located in Berlin in the 70’s. Before her disappearing she told her psychotherapist Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton) the unbeliavable dark secrets of the academy and its leaders. The doctor starts his own journey trying to reveal the truth.

The main character is Susie Bannon (Dakota Johnson), an ambitious young dancer from America, who attends to the dance academy and soon proves her talent to the lead choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). She gets the leading part as one of the other students flees from the school after having a mental breakdown.

Susie befriends another dancer, Sara, who was also close with Patricia. Patricia’s psychotherapist tries to tell Sara what Patricia had told him, but of course he sounds crazy. Soon Sara learns that some of the rumors may actually be true. What will happen to the upcoming dance show? Where did the girls disappear? Who is the mysterious Mother Markos (again Tilda Swinton, I know, amazing)? Where is she?

The new Suspiria is a very long, complex story with lots of interesting characters and backstories. It managed to keep me interested the whole time, even though I usually can’t sit still longer than two hours. The casting was absolutely amazing and it was interesting to notice that almost the whole cast were actually women. Tilda Swinton plays three roles at the same time and as usual, she left me speechless. Dakota Johnson was definitely a fresh face in horror after her role in Fifty Shades film series.

The movie is dark, sinister, sexy and bloody. The artistic dance pieces are mixed up with blood and gore like a delicious horror smoothie. The setting was absolutely beautiful and the makeup and special effects were amazing, I truly didn’t realize I was watching Swinton as an old man the whole time.

All in all I really think that Suspiria is a very succesfull remake even though it’s not completely the same as the original. It is still very enjoyable movie with a great plot.

Review: The Haunting of Hill House. Written by Giulia Bia.

My friend Giulia Bia (IG @parttimedandy) wrote this wonderful write-up of the Netflix hit The Haunting of Hill House.

Grazie, Giulia!


haunting of hill house

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE AND THE PERILS OF SAPPINESS

90% of myself subscribed to Netflix just for the horror section.

Like many hardcore horror lovers, though, I’ve been bitterly disappointed many times by the crap that has been put under that category, apart from some brilliant exceptions (e.g. “The Similars”, “The Bar”).

When I saw “The Haunting of Hill House” was available, I embarked in an epic binge and watched the whole 10 episodes while my face went from this

tie

to this

tie2

and not because the story touched something deep inside me.

But let’s see what the maze that is Hill House has in store for us.

The story and its strong points

You probably already all know this: “The Haunting of Hill House” is based on Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece novel of the same name, and loosely so. Basically, what remains is the title and the house itself.

The story revolves around a family composed by parents Olivia and Steve Crain and their children Shirley, Luke, Theo and Eleanor (Nell). Olivia and Steve’s job is to buy decrepit old houses, flip them and sell them: what better investment than the stately and haunted Hill House?

When the series opens, the children are troubled adults, father Steve is almost absent from their lives, and mother Olivia has been killed many moons ago by Hill House.

Nell’s call for help will bring together the semi-estranged members of the Crain clan, wo will have to fight their own demons to defeat the lingering power of Hill House.

I must say the first episode is one of the most gripping I’ve watched in years. So many hints of horrible past and future events are scattered around that one can’t help but keep watching episode after episode.

The telling of the Crain family’s last night at Hill House sent a shiver down my spine, mostly because one doesn’t see what’s really happening and everything is left to the imagination of the viewer. The blurred image of Olivia running after her fleeing family is rather haunting (forgive the pun), and the hysteric pack of children is enough to convey all the terror of the unknown. Far be it from me to spoiler: suffice to say Olivia dies in the house under circumstances that will be revealed later.

The closing of the first episode is notable too, as Luke, now a writer of paranormal stuff, finds himself face to face with the ghost of someone close and dear to him.

The series gives us many blessed moments of delightful horror: just to mention a few, the sixth episode, “Two storms”, juxtaposes a tempest that occurred during the Crain family’s stay at Hill House and the storm that is raging in the present time while the siblings share stories about Nell around her coffin. Pity “something” keeps messing with her body…

The Bent-Neck Lady, too, is pretty memorable, and I must say I didn’t see the twist coming. Hope this doesn’t sound conceited, but 99 times out of 100 I spot the horror gimmick a mile away: this wasn’t the case. Plus, one of the stories that scared me the most when I was little was Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Thrawn Janet”, and because of that I tried not to look at Bent-Neck Lady too much.

Episode 3, “Touch”, offers us another creepy moment when young Luke accidentally descends to the basement because of a faulty dumbwaiter and is attacked by a vicious zombie-ghost thing.

I also loved how Hill House reveals time and time again its labyrinthine nature, especially when the mysterious “Red Room” shows its true face and how it has molded itself over the desires of its occupants.

Many are the strong points of “The Haunting of Hill House”: the seamless alternation between past and present, the depiction of Hill House as a restless, evil Venus flytrap patiently waiting for its victims, the duplicity of the house as a place of death and eternal life, the accurate depiction of the characters and the relationship with each other.
But there are also numerous flaws that ruined the series for me, which are totally underrated in the reviews I’ve read so far.

Why sappiness should never have anything to do with horror

Let’s start with a general consideration: the last two episodes are incredibly soppy. So soppy I swear I had an unbearable desire to punch everyone, and especially sweet Olivia, in the teeth. So soppy they ruined the whole other excellent 8 episodes. So soppy they cemented my hope there isn’t an afterlife for anyone.

Carla Gugino, who portrays Olivia, is a beautiful woman and a talented actress. Pity her character, which is a pivotal part of the plot, is one-dimensional and, well, unbearably sappy.

Olivia has a dark side: why would she be the first of the family to fall prey to the lure of Hill House? She somehow echoes Jack Torrence’s role in Stephen King’s “The Shining” (which, in fact, was inspired by Shirley Jackson’s novel), but she is portrayed as the All-American mother, an almost angelical figure whose main job is to be the rock of the family. Her “darkest” moments are the migraines that sometimes plague her and make her snap at her kids. Even in death she lovingly hovers at her husband’s side whispering mindful suggestions. Her sweet facial features, large green eyes, long flowing hair reminded me of those corny statuettes of the Virgin Mary one finds in Catholic churches.

And don’t get me started on the stupidity of her reasons for wanting to kill her whole family inside Hill House.

In the infamous last two episodes, the “Virgin Mary” aura looms also around Nell, and her speech in the Red Room reeks of such do-goodism that I seriously considered switching to some other series.

It’s such a departure in tones and mood from the rest of the series that one can’t help but feeling cheated and, well, deprived of a good old bloody ending.

The ghosts, too, play such blatant mind tricks one should be really an idiot to fall for them.

All in all, “The Haunting of Hill House” remains one of the best things offered by Netflix so far; some more courage in denying the viewer a reassuring and pleasing ending would have been appreciated.

Film review: The Landing (2018)

My buddy Jenna (IG @hermionestrangler) wrote this review of the new film The Landing (2018).


landing poster

The Landing (2017) is a faux-documentary film about Apollo 18, the space mission that ended up in death of two of its crew members.

It’s the year 1973. Apollo 18 has successfully landed on the Moon and the crew is now returning to Earth. Something goes terribly wrong, and the main pilot, Bo Cunningham has to make an emergency landing. Their capsule ends up in China. There the crew members try their best to survive, but in the middle of the desert it’s easier said than done. One after another they seem to start losing their minds piece by piece.

Very quickly two of the crew members start to have strange physical symptoms, as if they’ve been poisoned. Soon enough they’re both dead. This is where the real story begins. What, or who, killed those men?

The movie is made in the style of a dramatic American style documentary film. It’s filled with 60’s music, lots of acted scenes and emotional interviews, and takes place in the year 1998, 25 years after the incident.

The main character is Bo Cunningham, the astronaut who didn’t get the chance to land on the Moon, since he was the one piloting the capsule. He still seems to be holding a little grudge about that, as he thinks he was more qualified to do that than some of the others. Still, he is the one that ends up bringing the capsule and the whole crew back to Earth safely.

After the crew is rescued from the desert, both the U.S. government and the FBI start their own investigations of the incident. The U.S. government seems to want to hide the evidence about the events in China, but the FBI wants to find the one who may be responsible of the two deaths. All eyes are on Bo Cunningham now, and as the documentary continues, more and more evidence starts to come up. Was it all just an evil plan to eliminate his enemies? Is Cunningham a hero or a villain?

The acting is quite good and the musical effects give a nice eerie feeling throughout the whole movie. I really enjoy the over-dramatic style in this kind of documentaries, so that didn’t bother me at all. The plot was very interesting and if you’re a fan of good mystery stories, this may be just the movie for you.

All in all The Landing was entertaining and well-made faux-documentary, especially if you enjoy a nice conspiracy theory every now and then.

Book review: American Kingpin, by Nick Bilton. Portfolio 2017.

american_kingpin

The Deep Web is a kind of “secret” part of the Internet only reachable by a special browser called Tor. The place is basically a digital reflection of the human id: illegal pornography, weird sexual fantasies (often including rape or other crimes), sick videos – it’s all right there.

A few years ago, a new site popped up there, seemingly out of nowhere: The Silk Road, a website that facilitated the buying and selling of drugs, guns, stolen software, stolen electronics, and the like. It became a hit overnight and, considering the nature of the goods changing hands through the site, a fresh nightmare for governments and law enforcement agencies. The anonymous nature of the Deep Web and the Tor browser made finding the creator of the site that much more difficult.

Despite the challenging premise, the creator of the site was ultimately captured. He turned out to be a brilliant young do-it-yourself libertarian named Ross Ulbricht, a physics whiz kid and self-taught computer genius who believed the government should not be able to regulate what people put in their bodies. He was running the multi-million dollar drug empire from a Samsung 700z laptop, borrowing wi-fi from local coffee shops in Austin, Texas and San Francisco, California.

This book tells the story of the creation of the website, and the efforts of the various law enforcement agents (from the DEA, Homeland Security and FBI, among others) to find the person behind the “Amazon of Drugs”.

Bilton is a master storyteller, and he knows the tech and start-up worlds well, having written about both before.

The portrait he paints of the young Ulbricht is vivid and alive, the story of a young man who believes he is making a difference in the world by challenging the government on its drug laws head-on. Whatever you might think of Ross Ulbricht, he had the guts to follow through on what he believed: instead of arguing on Twitter or lecturing his friends about the hypocracy of the “War on Drugs”, he built something of his own, and left a lasting impression on the world, for better or for worse.

American Kingpin also succeeds in balancing the stories of the agents on Ulbricht’s trail with the rest of the narrative. Determined, inventive, and loyal to the very government the Silk Road challenged, they worked around the clock to dig up “Dread Pirate Roberts” (Ulbricht’s user name on the Silk Road) from the murky waters of the Deep Web. In presenting these agents as human beings too, Bilton evokes the theme of loyalty vs. rebellion towards authority, an age-old question that gets a fresh treatment between the pages of this book.

An enjoyable read that tells an unforgettable true crime story, while at the same time sophisticating the reader with regard to Internet security, digital crime, and the battle between libertarian political philosophy versus governmental institutions.

Grade: 4.5/5