Jill and I have settled on a Free for All month for November because December will most likely be Shit Christmas TV Movies month. Look, we’re not machines and thinking of themes every month is hella difficult. So movies from our wish lists it is.
I’m finding it hard to hang up my Halloween hat and move on this year. It’s been such an awesome month. November will be just as cool – it’s birthday month! – but I don’t want to turn my back on spooky things just yet.
Or La femme la plus assassinée du monde (original title)
Not much preamble today but I will say this. This film is very French and very confusing. Beautiful though.
Paula Maxa is the Parisian Grand Guignol Theatre’s leading lady, famous for being murdered on stage every day. But is there a link between the theatre and a series of gruesome real-life murders?
Um. Let’s not rely on anything I say here in this review, I may well have the wrong end of the stick. Paula Maxa (Anna Mouglalis) is a beloved by some, hated by a lot actress at the Grand Guignol Theatre in good old gay Paree. She’s been slaughtered on stage more times that she’s had hot dinners and relies on stage-hand Paul (Jean-Michel Balthazar) to make it look as real as possible.
The theatre itself is run by some right oddballs who seem to have a very bizarre arrangement in place. Although the shows they put on nightly seem to do alright there is a very real threat on the horizon: the birth of cinema.
When journalist Jean (Niels Schneider) arrives to interview Paula, a friendship is formed and there’s possibly something more a-brewing, though our girl is rather closed off. Via Paula’s own mouth we learn about the terrible secret that haunts her – the very driving force that keeps her screaming night in, night out. Meanwhile, there seems to be a plot to turn Paula over for real to a mysterious gentleman who might have a connection to her past… What the devil is that all about?
TMAWITW is gorgeous looking. It seems to capture the time period perfectly. All the costuming is wonderful and Paula’s supporting actresses are a lot of fun. Mouglalis is soulful as Paula, a haunted woman with a sad story, one that revolves around the death of her sister at the hands of a very bad man – and her inability to do anything to save her.
Guilt is a powerful emotion and it eats at Paula, who stays at the theatre as some sort of penance. Here she can scream as much as she likes, something she failed to do to save her sister’s life. When Jean arrives to offer her a way out, she’s torn. Can she leave this place and make it in Hollywood?
The ending is a little bit confusing, I won’t lie. But it doesn’t really matter. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this movie, which has some suspenseful moments and really is wonderfully OTT. The murders on stage are gloriously bat-shit and the audience laps it up. They come complete with bibs to capture the splashes of blood that coats everything around them.
Ooh la la!
What does my leading lady think of this one? Would she beg it for an encore or slit its throat? Find out here.
May-hem month seems to be leaning towards Asia Extreme movies so far and I for one am here for it. While this week’s pick is nowhere near as bat shit crazy as the last, it’s still pretty out there in terms of premise and delivery. There’s a strong moral to the movie too which I’ll address but for now, my thoughts.
The investigation following a sales manager brutally killing his entire family leads to a track of mystery and tragedy in an overwhelmed work team at Seul.
Lee Mi-Rye (Ko Asung) is a hard-working intern hoping to be made permanent in a big sales firm in Seoul, South Korea. As with so many big companies, she’s treated like a pack-horse and given very little recognition in return, which I’ll go into in just a moment. First I should mention that the film begins with Mr Kim, an employee at the same firm. As the movie opens we witness Kim return home from work, eat a nice meal and then slaughter his entire family, child and all, with a hammer. What’s wrong with After Eight Mints is what I want to know?
Back at the office, the police are going through the staff one by one trying to work out a) why this happened and b) where Kim is now he’s at large. It soon becomes apparent to Detective Jong-Hoon (Sung-woong Park) that the staff are all hiding something.
Back to Mi-Rye. As soon as the police turn up, Mi-Rye is briefed by her colleagues to pretend that she didn’t know Kim very well. She plays along at first because she’s eager to please. However, Jong-Hoon soon sees through her and learns that actually she was quite close to him. Mi-Rye explains that he was the only person nice to her when she started.
The rest of her colleagues are absolute bastards to her actually and this only gets worse when their big boss Kim Sang-Gyu (Eui-sung Kim) hires a second intern. This pits the girls against each other and has Mi-Rye’s colleagues comparing her unfavourably to the new girl.
Meanwhile, the cops work out via CCTV that after the murders, Kim returned to the office and was not seen leaving. This suggests he’s still in the building! EEEK. This theory is further reinforced by the fact that Kim (and Mi-Rye’s) colleagues start to turn up dead in wonderfully gruesome ways.
All this is set against the backdrop of an overworked and under-valued work force who are being worked to the bone by their overbearing and demanding boss. Who reams them out in front of everyone else in the department which is probably the scariest thing about this thriller/horror – and my worst nightmare.
Will we find out what pushed Kim over the edge? What are the others hiding? And is Mi-Rye okay, hun?
While I want to do a decent job of reviewing this I don’t want to give away every nuance of the plot. It is quite hard to keep a track of and the end is quite ambiguous, although AWESOME.
Office was actually really compelling. I was all in from the get go, even though it does have a habit of flipping you backwards into a flashback without much fanfare. A couple of times, even though I was concentrating I had to rewind to understand a scene. I’m not afraid to admit that I also found a Reddit forum discussing the film and read that cover to cover to help me understand a couple of points.
The performances were good, the set up is great and there’s something so relateable about the setting of an office, since I personally spend so much time in one. As Mi-Rye learns what her colleagues really think of her, via the old-school medium of hiding behind pillars and eavesdropping, I could feel her distress and paranoia bubbling over.
Korean cinema is my favourite and although this doesn’t have the impact of Old Boy or Memories of Murder (to name but a few shit hot examples), it’s not bad at all. I like its creepy tone and enjoyed unraveling the plot. I also really found myself rooting for Mi-Rye who has the look of a rabbit caught in headlights for most of the film.
And the aforementioned moral of the story – and potential *Spoiler* – be nicer to your interns, fuckers.
What did Jill think of this one? Would stay late to work on it or fire it? Find out here.
This week I am seriously digging:
The first season of Atlanta was so good, I feel like I’ve been waiting a life time for it to return. And now Donald Glover and friends (including the amazing Lakeith Stanfield) are back and it’s just as good as ever. Not only is deeply observational, it also has a lot to say about the state of the world, from the point of view of its mainly black cast.
It’s also funny as hell with some of the most off the wall scenarios (particularly episodes 1 (“Alligator Man“) and 6 (“Teddy Perkins“)). One of my favourites so far is episode 5, “Barbershop” which is pure perfection in its simplicity but is written so well and made me cackle all the way through.
I’m two episodes into this Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-written thriller and I’m frankly OBSESSED. Starring Sandra Oh, Fiona Shaw and always-flawless Jodie Comer as super-assassin Villanelle it’s already been pretty explosive.
Currently playing on BBC America it’s one of my most favourite current shows and I can’t wait to see how Oh’s Eve Polastri fares in her mission to uncover the identity of the woman knocking off several of the world’s most prolific people. What’s more this all feels very female and while we do meet your usual bullshit male bureaucrats, it’s very much the women who shine here.
Jillian, I think you will LOVE.
Look at this total babe in her orange kimono sleeved jumpsuit.
I can’t imagine myself looking half as good as this in it, however I still want to swan around in this in the warmer months, a straw bag swinging from one arm and my own statement earrings embellishing my ear lobes.
There are 50 books in the Penguin Modern collection and are only £1 a pop, so you can grab yourself some classics from the greats without breaking a sweat. So far I’ve got:
Fame by Andy Warhol
New York City in 1979 by Kathy Acker
Food by Gertrude Stein
The End by Samuel Beckett
Investigations of a Dog by Franz Kafka
Three Japanese Short Stories by Akutagawa and Others
The Breakthrough by Daphne Du Maurier
The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson
and The Custard Heart by Dorothy Parker
Not bad for under a tenner, eh? And they look amazing on the bookshelf or in my case, dotted around the flat.
What are you digging this week?
I read this book in tandem with my friend Heather and it was so much fun. We both raced through it in a couple of days and compared notes as we went. This book is impossible to put down, something authors are always quoted as saying for the cover of novels but in this case it’s true.
Anna Fox is a shut in who hasn’t left her home for ten solid months. Currently living alone, Anna moves dreamily from room to room within her own safe haven, only stopping to overdose on old Hollywood movies and to watch her neighbours through the window.
When she’s feeling up to it, she also offers her support to people like her on an online forum for agoraphobics. As a former child psychologist, she knows what she’s talking about. Sadly Anna is too haunted by her own past and mistakes to be any good at taking her own advice.
When a new family moves in across the way, Anna becomes infatuated with their day-to-day movements. But when she witnesses something earth-shattering her life is tipped all the way over and she must fight to prove she’s not a crazy bitch making shit up.
I really enjoyed the character of Anna and felt desperately sorry for her at times. Trapped in her own home there’s not a lot of freedom for our protagonist but she’s a goddamn fighter. The concept of the bat shit woman imagining things is not a new one but I feel as though the pace and plotting of this novel lifts it above the rest. The prose is beautiful and the characterisation well padded.
My sympathy is with Anna and her family and even though I thought I could see it all coming, it kept me guessing until the end. As an avid curtain twitcher myself, I really appreciated the Rear Window-esque snooper in Anna and her love of black and white noir doesn’t hurt either. It’s incredibly Hitchcockian and that can only ever be a good thing.
I strongly recommend this to anyone who loves a thriller.
The Woman in the Window
Publisher: HarperCollins (25 Jan. 2018)
Gifted hardback (new)
What are you currently reading?
This week I’m digging:
Marcella Backland left the Metropolitan Police for the sake of her family, only to have her husband leave her. She returns to her job on the murder squad, investigating a case that seems disturbingly familiar to her.
Fucking hell. This show is great, Anna Friel is brilliant and men are the worst, obviously.
There are a lot of characters to keep track of and therefore a lot of suspects but it’s a compelling British crime thriller that keeps you on the edge. Particularly Marcella herself who could be good, could be bad but regardless is still someone you’re totally on-board with at all times.
I was recently given this amazingly thoughtful gift by my friend, Damon for my birthday. (Picture above, not mine).
The film journal is part of the Passion Journal range that allows you to log information about your hobbies (there’s wine, gardening, books). I’d already decided that keeping a log of the films we watch for the podcast was what I wanted to do – you know, actually writing down the name of actors and directors could do wonders for content. So this came at the best time. Here you can record comments on the films, give them a rating out of 5 stars, etc. It’s very cool.
Thanks again, Damon!
Speaking of the podcast, after a December hiatus James and I are back in the studio. If by studio, I mean James’ front room, on the sofa (which is what I definitely mean).
I’ve really missed having the structure of watching films to talk about and having the podcast as my main (with this blog) creative outlet. You sometimes don’t realise how much you love and need these things until you stop doing them, even temporarily.
So we’re back in the game, determined to tighten things up and be more organised. I’m going to be better about taking notes (see above) – and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
The Women of the Golden Globes
Goddesses, the lot of them. And yes, I could say a lot more than that but what have I got worth adding? Let them speak for themselves.
What are you digging this week?
Week 2 of Films That Remind Us of Each Other and Jill chose this. Which I was kind of excited about – my girl gets me.
Men suck and some even more than others. Predatory men for instance, which is all too topical at the moment. That makes this an interesting pick for reasons beyond me being into the Final Girl Trope. But is it good though? Find out below!
Final Girl (2015)
A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins.
Veronica is five when her parents pass away. It’s at this age that she meets a mysterious (creepy) man called William. When he questions her about their deaths, her pragmatic approach impresses him. When she displays total recall memory skills during a couple of tests, he recruits her for a special project for a special person. He also reveals that his own family were killed by a Very Bad Man, which one would assume is his raison d’être though it is never mentioned again so who knows, eh?
It’s all very enigmatic (and creepy, did I say creepy?).
Fast forward 12 years and Veronica is now a young woman with an impressive collection of prom style dresses. She’s also in love with William but we’ll come back to that later (boy will we). There are a handful of training montages which are somewhat satisfying as I live for a training montage.
We witness several hardcore exercises William puts his protégé through in order to mold her into the ultimate killing machine. In the last test, he injects her with a truth serum/DMT cocktail that reveals her darkest fears. Her nightmare turns out to be letting down William by not being good enough. Aw and also Grrr.
Done with training and finally ready for action, William and Veronica rock up in a small town where some teenage turds have been ‘hunting’ women in the woods. You may wonder how the fuck they know this is going down but let’s suspend our disbelief for the sake of this review for a moment.
Before we go into all that though, I need to mention the icky atmosphere between V and William. In a hotel room before the action gets started, V asks if she can lie on the bed next to him (she’s wearing a towel, he’s being all brooding). William says no until he begrudgingly (but with little persuasion) says yes and might I remind everyone that that the girl was five when they first met.
WEIRD and FUCKING CREEPY.
Back in small town America, and gang ringleader Jameson and his fuckhead buddies Daniel, Nelson and Shane are luring pretty blond girls into the woods and then hunting them down. Each of these heinous douche bags are literally the worst and you will hate them with the fire of a thousand suns and it’s okay – they won’t last long.
Veronica, predictably, goes down like pizza on a Monday night with the boys and arranges a date with Jameson for the following evening. He tells her to wash her hair and wear red lipstick. How she refrains from stabbing him in the neck right here is beyond me.
V also finds time to meet Shane’s girlfriend at the diner, a sad brunette who she really seems to bond with. The two discuss love and relationships over vanilla milkshakes. Alas, this might be a film with a Girl Power-esque message but, apart from a very brief chat between the two women, Veronica never interacts with any other live female (maybe a waitress). I wish that had been different.
Anyway, the rest you can imagine, I’m sure. Veronica is driven out to the woods by Jameson and his dick swinging pals and even though she knows full well what they have planned for her, it is very uncomfortable to watch. I felt protective of V despite the fact I already knew she could kill a man with her bare hands – these bastards!
Once the group gets to the woods, they play Truth or Dare and enjoy a beverage, thoughtfully provided by V. Jameson refrains from partaking as designated driver. T&D is a tiresome affair with no surprises – but after a couple of rounds the real games begin.
One by one the tables are turned on each of the boys, as it becomes clear they’ve ingested the very concoction Veronica herself has previously taken (SHOCKER). Each of their worst nightmares come to life and it doesn’t end well for any of them. They have underestimated the power of a small blond girl and that is their ultimate downfall. Oooooooooh!
Until the very final battle between V and Jameson, there is very little to note about these scenes. It looks pretty, as does V but it’s a very by the numbers ‘thriller’ without the thrills. As Veronica and Jameson square up to each other for the climactic scene, it seems each has met their match.
Will Veronica complete her mission and get justice for all the dead girls, despite this not really seeming to be her main objective? Or will she join the ghosts of the deceased right there in the woods?
You know what to do.
I really did find the so-called sexual tension between William and Veronica weird. Although William didn’t make moves on her, he definitely didn’t put up barriers between them and that’s icky. In the final scene (*Spoiler*) it feels like something shifts between them, suggesting that they do move their relationship forward. EW.
Everything that he has done to her over the years, the robbing her of a fucking childhood and life of her own is repugnant and at no point do I truly believe in either of them. If it had been for something, some dramatic yet justified cause then maybe, but it is not enough for them just to be adopting the vigilante lifestyle because they lost people once. V lost her parents in sad but a non-suspicious way, while William alludes to the bad man but never elaborates on it ever again. So I’m at a loss to understand or care about their motivations.
It’s a misogynistic film that tries to pull out the strong female lead card which is all well and good, but not really when she’s been groomed from such an early age to be just some dude’s machine. Like Jill said in a message to me, it would of been good if she’d turned around and killed William, finally freeing herself. I’d have been pleased if she’d followed that by running off with Jennifer, the girl from the diner truth be told.
The film itself is nice looking but the plot is so full of holes I can’t take it seriously. It’s deeply disappointing as in the right hands, under the right circumstances this premise could’ve been great. I can’t look beyond the cringe of it all.
Abigail Breslin was okay but not great. And that’s about it.
2.5/5. Nope. Not much to write home about.
What did my Final Girl Jillian think of this one? Would she chase it through the woods or kicks everyone’s arse to save it? Find out here, yo.
I love me a Final Girl. The trope is one of my favourites, even though the rules of being a true FG could make your head spin clean off your neck.
Someone who hates the label though is Quincy Carpenter, the third survivor to join the infamous trio of the media dubbed Finals Girls. Comprised of Miss Carpenter (the amnesiac), Lisa Milner (the original) and Samantha Boyd (the enigma), this group of women share just one thing in common – they were all the last ones still standing after horrifying massacres.
Quincy is doing fine now, thank you very much. She’s moved on from the events of that night and even though there are massive chunks of memory missing, she’s faced her demons and come out the other side smiling. Now she’s a baking blogger in the big smoke with a handsome and supportive lawyer boyfriend and a nice home (paid for by insurance money from the deaths of all her friends, but still).
But are things as perfect as they seem? Given that this is a thriller I’m guessing we’re all here to witness the picture perfect world of our heroine unravel – and unravel it does.
When Lisa seemingly ends her own life one night, Quincy’s world is rocked – and it’s rocked even harder when Samantha Boyd turns up on her doorstep, fresh from a self-inflicted exile. And Samantha brings out a side of Quincy she never knew she had.
Is there more to Lisa’s suicide than meets the eye though – and what about the volatile Ms Boyd? Where’s she been and what’s she been doing with her life since she fought so hard for it all those years ago?
I will say that even though I enjoyed the premise of this story and the setting of Pine Cottage (described to us in flashback), it was very predictable. I am the worst plot-guessing person on this planet and hardly ever figure out an ending before it’s presented to me, so it says a lot that I clocked it from almost the beginning. Go me.
I could have described exactly the very last scene to you too so I think that says a lot. But, it’s still enjoyable, particularly if you have an interest in classic horror scenarios. The massacres take place in quite traditional horror movie settings and although the book is descriptive, it is not gratuitous. It tries to go deeper into the psychology of surviving an ordeal like these women have and I liked that.
It just could, and should have been so much better.
Publisher: Ebury Press (Fiction) (13 July 2017)
Bought hardback (new)
What are you currently reading?
In the spirit of Fall, colder evenings and crispy clean duvet covers, I added this crime thriller to my Autumn Reading List.
It’s recently been adapted for the big screen which could be interesting, though I’ll probably wait to stream it at home. There’s talk of it not really living up to the book – which is pretty good actually. It’s no Red Dragon, obviously but then what is?
The Snowman is Detective Harry Hole’s 7th outing but this is my first time meeting him. He is a damaged soul (but of course) haunted by a series of events that claimed the lives of several of his colleagues. He’s also just out of broken relationship that might not be as over as they think – though most of his woes are only touched upon briefly because our anti-hero has more on his mind, namely the uncovering and capture of Norway’s first serial killer.
The tale of The Snowman kicks off with the disappearance of a young mother. In her place is a small snowman constructed on the front lawn, her pink woolen scarf wrapped around its neck. Inside its belly is the missing woman’s mobile phone. This disappearance corresponds conveniently with a letter received by Harry Hole from a killer calling himself The Snowman – but where is the woman? And who is The not-that-terrifying-sounding Snowman?
What follows is a series of missing women, some of whom turn up dead and dismembered pretty quickly – at every crime scene Hole finds SM’s signature: a snowman. Hole entrusts his brilliant new colleague Katrine Bratt with the task of finding a connection between all the women and she does: all are mothers and have dealings with a very discreet clinic where all the kids are patients. Hmmm.
Luckily for Norway, Hole is a dog with a bone and will stop at nothing to catch The Snowman. Unfortunately, there are lots of suspects and subsequent accusations about who is responsible for the murders being thrown around, some hitting closer to home than others. Will Hole get his man? Or will the case kill him in the process?
I enjoyed this well enough. There’s a lot to like about it, even though by the climax I felt a little fatigued, there are three prime suspects who all turn out to be innocent. I had an inkling in the back of my mind of who it was but it feels like forever before we get there.
Hole is a weathered and fucked-up character with demons in his past. He is the best in the business, unorthodox in his approach, something of a loose cannon and because of all this he has lots in common with some of the best literary detectives.
The female characters are pretty liberal though they’re judged harshly for some of their behaviour through the eyes of The Snowman. Their fates are definitely of a misogynistic nature and that’s the point here. I’m not sure if Katrine Bratt goes on to appear in any of the later books but she’s a strong character despite the fact that an awful lot of effort goes into describing her looks. Rakel too is pretty fun, even if she can’t keep away from Hole for love nor money.
All in all, this is good gory fun and I might be tempted to pick up another Jo Nesbo in the future.
Publisher: Vintage (6 Nov. 2014)
Bought paperback (new)