Can Conversion Therapy Really ‘Pray Away’ the Gay? Stories from Conversion Therapy Survivors.

Pray Away | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

I was really expecting to have more of an emotional response to Kristine Stolakis’ documentary about the aftermath of conversion therapy. However, it’s been a few months now since I watched ‘Pray Away’, and the documentary itself really hasn’t left a lasting legacy like other documentaries have had on me. However, the topic of converting LGBTQI people through conversion camps and therapy has stayed with me.

I recall from my own upbringing that homosexual relationships are frowned upon by religion. “It is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” is a homophobic mantra I remember hearing a lot as a teenager. And this mindset and ideology always comes back to the bible and its preaching. The hatred that oozed out of friends and family when anything gay appeared on television, or if someone gay was in our close vicinity, really infuriated me. Even now in my thirties, I find this really upsetting that people can dictate whom one falls in love with, and how they choose to identify; and why? All because of an outdated book.

The documentary explores how the conversion therapy aimed to turn people straight, and the enduring psychological impacts it has had on their wellbeing in the aftermath. Some of the therapy survivors have gone on to “re-convert” to homosexuality because they realised that deep inside, they were suppressing their true feelings and desires. It also meant that they were not being honest with themselves, and they are now openly gay and proud, and feeling happier being with their same sex partners, rather than their spouse of the opposite sex that they married post therapy.

I was really expecting to have a cathartic cry like I unexpectedly did whilst watching the conversion therapy in the film Boy Erased, starring Nicole Kidman. That one really made me have a gut wrenching cry seeing the dichotomy between the son and the parents in relation to the impacts of the therapy. I remember really hating Nicole Kidman’s characterisation of the portrayal of a mother who could clearly see that her son was hurting, yet she chose her happiness over her own child’s, and all because of religious beliefs and what society “wants”.

This documentary however really didn’t make me feel anything. Jeffrey McCall, one of the converted participants of the conversion therapy claims to have found Jesus. Throughout the documentary, he is seen roaming the streets with placards of his conversion, and praying with strangers. I really don’t know how to feel about these actions to be honest. Maybe he did find Jesus, who knows? But I do feel sorry for him too, for reasons I wish not to state.

I do find that religion is really engrained in the American construct. Don’t get me wrong, there are devoutly religious people in all walks of life around the globe, but I can’t help but feel that attempting to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals is more commonly acted upon in America. Maybe that’s another reason why I probably didn’t react to it the way I was expecting to because here in Australia we don’t have such therapies that are publicly known to our community.

My personal belief is that if it doesn’t affect you, just let the other person be – don’t take away someone else’s happiness for your own selfish needs, wants and beliefs. And let’s stop bringing religion into everything.

‘Squid Game’ – A Twisted Nostalgia of Your Childhood

Squid Game: An Interview With the Giant Robot Doll

Ever since Parasite, I have become quite keen on watching Korean films and shows. For some reason, I feel like their plot twists remind me of the inner workings of my own mind, and my existence in general – just when you think you have figured me out, out I come with something to throw you off course. And it has been quite some time since I found myself enthralled and totally captivated by a foreign series with murderous and psychological thriller elements.

Netflix has landed on a gem with Squid Game. The premise of the show is quite simple – a group of troubled adults who are down on their luck for various reasons (whether it be health, financial woes, or having a history of poor decision making) are invited to partake in a series of games from their childhood in order to win a monetary prize. Unbeknownst to the contestants however, in order to win the prize pool, they must risk their lives in a string of games that are notoriously known for bringing joy to the lives of children worldwide. But there is no such thing as joy in these deviously twisted Olympic-esque games. Think about your own childhood for a second. How many times did you find yourself competing in a game of tug of war as a child? And how many times did you find yourself playing tug of war on a suspended platform with a gap between the two teams, where the losing team dangled in the pitfall and was guillotined to their unfortunate death? Never, I’d say. And I’d hope not.

It’s the juxtaposition of the pastel coloured playground in which the games take place, and the unfortunate reality of what the outcome of each game entails that makes this series gripping. The players are all fitted in matching green tracksuits like inmates in a prison, and each has a number on their jacket. The number however could work for or against each player. In some instances decisions are made in reverse chronological order. In others it could be a matter of higher or lower that determines when you will take your turn and play the game. The sad thing is that the contestants are unaware of how they became unwittingly roped into the game, and that the ultimate decision of whether they withdraw and spare their lives, or play on and risk their lives, comes down to a collective vote – where of course, greed prevails and the games continue.

I particularly like the way in which Squid Game explores the moral compass of individuals and society. Where some think about the greater good of the collective, others thing atomically and would sacrifice anyone and everything for money. And in a time such as 2021 with a roaring pandemic taking the lives of millions worldwide, it makes us question our own motives in this unprecedented event, and how we too are like pawns on a chessboard, impacting our own lives and those of others around us. There are moments in the series where compassion prevails, but the show highlights how motivations change as the competition decreases. Allies become backstabbers. Backstabbers face karma. Karma changes people’s lives.

As I mentioned previously, the show has so many twists and turns that right when you think you have figured things out, a curveball comes your way and you are back at square one again. From the mysterious masked task master, to the hooded security equipped with guns to “eliminate” the losers (pardon the pun), as well as the aristocratic masked men themselves who bid on the winners, you’ll be left scratching your head for quite some time.

It is the general aesthetic of the show that makes it so whimsical, and the cast is just phenomenal in conveying the fear, desperation, animosity, paranoia, and the plethora of other emotions which creep in from game to game. The interspersed English also is quite effective in creating intrigue and mystery, adding to the already cryptic plot line.

This is definitely one that I would highly recommend for people to watch. But remember, nothing is what it seems. Nothing is cute. And nothing is pleasant. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the cruelty of the games.

It’s a “Ding Dong” for Season 3 of ‘Glow Up’

Glow Up series 3

A secret guilty pleasure of mine is watching shows with a competitive spirit. It doesn’t bother me if the subject matter is one that I am not particularly interested in, if it means that there is a weekly elimination, then I am definitely going to be invested for the season. And although makeup is one of the subject matters I know nothing about, nor am I a user of, nor am I necessarily interested in cosmetics, I am unashamedly a fan of ‘Glow Up’. “Ding Dong, baby!”

The premise of the show is simple: bidding make-up artists (or MUA’s as they are known in the industry) compete in weekly challenges until one is ultimately crowned the winner. The artists compete in a project with industry royalties; two get chosen to sit in the face off chairs to redeem themselves for their poor efforts, and one wins the challenge. Then, all the hopefuls participate in the weekly project where the two MUA’s in the face off chairs have a fifteen minute time penalty, whilst the others have the full time advantage to fulfill the brief. Judges Val Garland and Dominic Skinner, are then tasked to select the two worst creations for the day, whereby an elimination battle determines who stays and who leaves the competition.

This season, fans would have noticed that a new host was the face of the Netflix series. Maya Jama, took to task to present the show, and although she did a great job, I still much rather Stacey Dooley as the hostess. My favourite assignment that the contestants competed in this season was to create the make-up concept for the backup dancers for the film clip to ‘Something Stupid,’ by Jonas Blue. It’s not that the task was anything spectacular, it just comes down to the fact that that song is so damn catchy, and was one of my most played songs on Spotify prior to this season’s airing. It was interesting to know someone other in the composition of the music video than Rankin, the film clip’s director, and another notable guest judge on ‘Glow Up‘.

I also enjoyed the fact that the MUA’s were tasked to provide their services to other notable TV series. It definitely felt that there was more money in the budget for this third season of the show as the tasks seemed to be intertwined with other Netflix giants, such as The Crown, for example.

And although I didn’t hear as many “Ding Dong” remarks coming from Val this season, it was still a great competition, and the winner was the one I had my eye on from the beginning.

When Your Fate is in the Hands of Your Loved One for Your ‘Tattoo Redo’

Tattoo Redo | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

I always find myself drawn into TV shows with tattoo competitions or coverups. Netflix has just released their new six part series of some ridiculously awful tattoos in dire need of a touch up. Although each episode of ‘Tattoo Redo’ allows the audience to see three participants living a shameful existence because of poor decisions in life and desperately seeking a coverup for the botched up body art they have been sporting, it is nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

The only twist with this show is that you don’t pick the new design for the coverup – your loved one picks it for you. Having watched all six episodes in the series, not one of the participants was upset with the design chosen for them. There were participants who stated that they didn’t want flowers for their redo – and they got flowers – and LOVED it. This makes me question whether they were actually in on the design process and acted shocked when the big reveal took place.

The tattoo artists on the show are fantastic at what they do, and work well with the loved one to come up with a design to hide the nasty eyesore on the participant’s body. However, it was the hostess of the show, Jessimae Peluso and her comedic timing that made each of the episodes more entertaining. Her sharp tongue and wit made an already awkward situation of having someone else choose your coverup tattoo even more hilarious.

If you are after a quick fix of a laugh, then this is the show for you. I would still much rather watch Ink Master than this, but it does cure some lockdown boredom.

Camila Cabello Said ‘Don’t Go Yet’ … And I Ain’t Going Anywhere!

Those closest to me would know I absolutely adore Camila Cabello and what she has to offer to the world of music. Albeit not a Top 40 fan, there is just something about this Cuban-American pop singer which makes me froth at the mouth with every release of one of her video clips. “Don’t Go Yet” is no exception, so excuse me for a moment as I attempt to contain my salivating mouth from spilling onto my laptop keyboard.

Maybe it has something to do with my fascination with anything Hispanic/Latino that keeps drawing me to this pop starlet’s music catalogue. She definitely commands attention with her pocket-size stature and long big weave, and this was evident from her days as a member of the girl group, Fifth Harmony. Let’s face it – what actually has become of the other four harmonizers? Leaving the group to pursue a solo career was the best move Camila made to set herself apart from the others in the group and this definitely helped her take the world by storm with her smash hit ‘Havana’. Her latest track “Don’t Go Yet” follows suit in fusing Latin sounds with the pop elements of the western world. It has a throwback sound to the 1980s – a nostalgic decade which many artists are attempting to revive and pay homage to at the moment. It sounds like a track you would have heard blasted at a retro street party in South America, or for those old enough to have danced away at their high school formal (or prom for any Americans reading this) in the 80s; music that makes anyone who was alive in this decade want to reminisce about the good old days. Cabello’s breathy singing and staccato expression that she is synonymous with work well in conjunction with the big blaring trumpet sounds in the background. I think I have listened to this song on repeat on YouTube maybe about 1000 times since it was released, and I always clap along and dance to the infectious melody which stems from the track’s 110 beats per minute. I must say, I have busted out some dance moves I didn’t know I had in me which is a tell-tale sign of a great track serving its purpose to connect with its audience.

Speaking of dance moves, there’s some choppy and old school routines in the film clip too. In yet another telenovela inspired clip, Cabello is seen partying with family in a 1980s aesthetic gathering. From the pops of colour synonymous with this decade, to the hideous fashion trends of the day such as the shoulder padded dresses, and let’s not forget the awful hairstyles of the era, this clip has it all. It even has an LGBT+ appeal with many members of Cabello’s family members in the clip being glamorous drag queens, assisting with camping up the throwback vibe to this bygone era. I absolutely love Camilla’s dance moves in the clip – quite fitting for a decade where people lived a more carefree existence. And I think the clip is also quite fitting for our current context too where the pandemic has distanced families due to domestic and international parameters which have restricted people from seeing their loved ones. It reminds us of the importance of family and cherishing the time we have with our loved ones – even if at times they have us pulling our hair out and climbing up the walls.

I would highly recommend for anyone reading this to head over to YouTube and watch the clip. Since we cannot travel as freely as we once did, let your body feel the Latin heat, and let your mind travel to South America instead. And above all, dance like no one is watching – let’s face it, no one is watching us cooped up in our houses.

Dating Hits An All-Time Low: Could You Find Your Perfect Soulmate in a Room of ‘Sexy Beasts?’

Sexy Beasts' Trailer: Netflix Show Takes Blind Dates to New Level

Just when I started to think that my dating experience was losing its spark and that finding my perfect soulmate will never happen, I completely retracted these thoughts. I started to realise that others out there would go to great extremes to find love (and fame), realms and depths of the dating world I would never imagine myself ever exploring. But what made me think that my dating history is not as bad as what I thought? Six episodes of Netflix’s social experiment ‘Sexy Beasts’ will have anyone re-evaluating the reality of their own experiences with love.

The premise of the show is simple: could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?

This got me thinking about my own dating history and the number of suitors I didn’t particularly find completely attractive at first but their personalities made me want to give them a second chance in getting to know them and potentially dating them. But that is where it comes to an end – the second date. I think I need a balance of some level of attraction as well as personality, and bucket loads of emotional maturity to keep me interested. But this isn’t about me and what floats my boat, so back to the review.

Each episode begins with an eligible bachelor or bachelorette seeking romance because they are struggling to find their perfect match in the world of dating. However, much like the three candidates they get to go on a series of speed dates with, their appearances are concealed behind masks and special effects, ensuring that all participants put their best foot forward and impress with their personalities. I will give the show credit for the prosthetics used to conceal the facial features of each of the participants, but that is as far as the credit goes for this social experiment.

The episodes last for just shy of twenty-five minutes each, not providing any depth in this experiment and leaving audiences with nothing promising to say in terms of any social commentary. The audience is thrown medias res into three speed dates at a swanky bar, where onlookers are perplexed by the people in disguise as caricatures of animals and other fantastical beasts. The speed dates alternate with sudden cuts between all three potential candidates trying to woo their fellow lonesome partner, the conversations are superficial and shallow, and the contestants make crude or crass remarks about the features of each other’s masks. When you watch these dates you instantly know that it is a group of early twenty year olds who have relied for so long on their looks to score a date, but they offer nothing of merit or value to show any emotional insight into their lives when their appearance is masked and they have to rely on wit and charm alone to keep a conversation sustained.

After the speed dates, one of the potential candidates is booted off but has the opportunity to reveal their face before the other two hopefuls and the bachelor/bachelorette. Some revelations are more shocking than others with some being quite attractive, and others being just as forgettable as their personalities. From here the final two contestants go on individual dates with their potential future lover, and then the big reveal comes along after the bachelor/bachelorette has had some time to reflect on which personality he/she likes best – thus crowning and revealing their ‘Sexy Beast’.

In short, these youthful faces all seem like they were vying for some instant fame. I mean, you are in your early twenties, not in your thirties and forties desperately seeking love and have exhausted all possibilities of finding a partner. Clearly looks do matter as you were all gawking at each other when the faces were revealed and praying that they were “hot” – which goes against the premise of the show. You are meant to fall for someone based on their personality, not their looks. Also, it is interesting to see how each person thought their date was going and if they were “vibing”. Some you could tell did not get along at all and everything was forced, yet there was a perceived connection on their behalf.

All I could say is thank god I am not fame hungry and in my early twenties. It is bad enough dating in my thirties, let alone dating in the superficial world of social media influencers of this new generation of adults.

I walk away knowing that “cover the face, bang the base” does not apply to finding your soulmate; it only applies for a one night stand when you are completely sloshed and everyone is a perfect ten.

‘The Dead Don’t Die’ – A Predictably Unpredictable Tale of A Zombie Apocalypse

I cannot believe it has taken me two years to come across ‘The Dead Don’t Die’. It is a film littered with intellectual humour and topped up with a generous serving of the gore and horror of a zombie flick. I must admit though that this is not a mainstream film that a general audience would appreciate as the humour within is not for all. Nor is the metafictional element of the film to everyone’s liking, but it certainly is right up my alley. I’m so glad Jim Jarmusch’s horror/comedy creation was suggested as a potential viewing on Netflix – it definitely gave me something amusing to watch during this extended Sydney lockdown.

I don’t really know where to begin with this review as there were so many standout elements for me to critique and I’m still beaming with excitement as I am typing my thoughts at the moment. A short and concise summary of the plot may be an appropriate start. Set in the sleepy town of Centerville, the residents begin to notice some strange anomalies around them ranging from the unpredictable duration of the daylight, to the weird antics of their animals. However, the strangest experience they encounter is when the dead wreak havoc on their little town, and survival measures are crucial if the residents want to live to see another day. Plot wise, nothing original or mind-blowing; it’s a tale that’s been done to death. Pardon the pun. As for the metafictional element, this too actually goes nowhere, but it does not bother me for some reason. The fact that the audience is informed that this is a film and the actors are aware of it too – except for one, who claims he does not know how the film will end, was more than enough for me as Jarmusch pumped the weird factor of the film to extreme heights, and I was basking in its kookiness.

Probably the standout aspect of the film has to be the cast. Adam Driver as Officer Ronald is absolutely divine. I love how he has the same deadpan expression throughout the film, probably because he is the only one who “read the script” and was aware of what was to come. Couple this performance with Bill Murray’s witty remarks as Chief Cliff Robertson, you have two commanding officers who ironically lack any authoritative command in dealing with a zombie apocalypse. What you do get between the two though is a perfect pairing of comedic timing and banter that rolls effortlessly from their stellar portrayals of the characters. Selena Gomez also makes a cameo appearance as an out of towner who makes her way through Centerville with her two accompanying male friends, serving as a reminder that these city dwellers are a misfit in this town. Funnily enough though, Gomez who portrays Zoe in the film, is quite bomb diggity in awe of the country-twang of Sturgill Simpson and his song ‘The Dead Don’t Die’. Never would I have imagined Selena Gomez appreciating anything other than the bubblegum pop sounds she releases, but it was nice to see her sporting some daisy dukes to keep in line with the country vibe her character admires. Other notable appearances before I refer to my favourite performance in the film include the likes of Iggy Pop as the Coffee Zombie, Danny Glover as the timid and well respected Hank Thompson, and Chloe Sevigny as Officer Minerva “Mindy” Morrison. Yet in a crowd of such talented actors, one outlandish performance stood out the most. Tilda Swinton totally kills it (pardon the pun again) as Zelda Swinton, the elvish new girl in town and the owner of the local funeral home. As if Tilda’s own appearance isn’t unique enough, Zelda’s characterisation is defined by her case of albinism, ability to handle a sword, her offbeat manner in talking like an elf, and her long gaits and angular style of walking. I recall a scene where she makes her way to speak to the officers at their base and her long white hair and the plastered smile on her pale skin make her seem like she is out of worldly. But as we watch her through the window making her way to the front door, her stiff zig-zag style of walking makes her even more hilarious and odd, as any other person would have simply paved their own path to enter the building, rather than meticulously following the footpath with such sharp twists and turns. Also, the English teacher in me liked the anagram created for Zelda’s surname based on Tilda’s actual surname.

But the personal enjoyment factor in this film definitely stemmed from the witty banter and sarcastic remarks embedded in the dialogue. I think that each of the characters in the film had at least one humorous and memorable line to read, but for some reason, I really found the zombies the funniest of them all. Seeing Iggy Pop as a zombie where he sloshes coffee all over his face after he feasts on the innocent diner lady, made me laugh. If only quenching one’s thirst was as easy as throwing percolated coffee at their face. I also died laughing (again, pardon the pun) when the zombies were holding mobile phones and mumbling through their growls, “Wi-Fi…Bluetooth…Siri”. The very thought that these zombies were well versed in present technological advancements and were longing to join the social stratosphere of the internet really got a good belly laugh out of me. And I think that’s why I enjoyed the humour in this flick – you knew it was coming at you from all angles, but you just didn’t know what would be the looming punchline or joke.

Even though the plot and the meta component of this film actually lead you nowhere, ironically enough, so too does the fate of the residents of Centerville. It’s a downward fall for all.

A Pastiche of Horror Conventions That Should Be Buried In ‘The Hole In the Ground’

Here is a checklist of all the horror conventions that somehow seem to be in every flick of this genre these days:

1. Single mother wanting to start a brand new life with her child.
2. Family moves into a rundown house in a rural setting.
3. The child in the family is creepy or possessed to some extent.
4. A car swerving off the road because the driver was distracted by a passenger OR, something appears out of nowhere on the road.
5. The family comes into contact with another family who has lost a child or family member.
6. Member of said family seems to be the jump scare catalyst throughout the film.
7. The mother notices strange occurrences in her house and family – nobody believes her.
8. The mother attempts to prove she has not lost the plot and tries desperately to save her family.

And from this highly condensed list of horror tropes, how many exactly have been featured in director Lee Cronin’s 2019 film, ‘The Hole In the Ground?’ Would it alarm you if I said all eight?

Here is the dilemma I have with this film. I felt that the performances by Seana Kerslake and James Quinn Markey, the actors who portrayed the mother and said duo of Sarah and Chris O’Neill, not only lacked any visible chemistry between them, but that they were also quite wooden. I recall a scene where Sarah had just laboriously finished applying wallpaper to their new place and Chris comes strutting his stuff down the wooden staircase. She is neither exhausted nor particularly as pleased with her efforts as she claims to be – and the kid does not respond whatsoever to her proclamations. Then she proceeds to offer him a sandwich, making this an interaction between the two and a scene in the film which lasted mere seconds, and did not particularly build upon characterisation and plot. Add the onslaught of the horror conventions to the mix, and it was just a cacophony of noise that didn’t have an effective delivery of the plot.

However, the cinematography in the film is absolutely stunning. Even though the director threw every horror convention and the kitchen sink into it, it was still quite aesthetically pleasing on the eye. The grainy texture reminded me of ‘The Babadook’. The family decorating their new house was reminiscent of the 2000s remake of ‘The Amityville Horror’. And the driving scenes in the isolated depiction of nature, as well as the O’Neill’s various driving jump scares brought to mind the American version of ‘The Ring’. But despite these comparisons (which again signify that there is nothing original about this film), the scenes transitioned effortlessly and beautifully into one another.

There is one part of the film that still makes me laugh. In one scene, Sarah is seen removing some bricks from a wall in her house and hiding a digital camera from the mid 2000s to early 2010s, hoping to capture video footage of her son acting strangely. Girl, were you not alive in either of those decades to know that the battery life on those cameras doesn’t last for weeks? Did you not go clubbing with your mates and wanted a happy snap, only to find that your battery was dying as soon as you turned it on? What made you think that by turning it on you would have infinite storage and battery life to record your possessed child? *face palm*

So I walk away from this Netflix film thinking to myself, ‘when will directors stop overfilling their films with so many stereotypes of the horror genre?’ I also walk away thinking ‘why didn’t my digital cameras work that well?’


The ‘Fear Street’ Trilogy: A Tale of Time’s Karmic Ways In Unravelling History’s Misdoings

If you were a child growing up in the 90s, there is no way that you would never have stumbled across the name of one of the literary giants in young fiction writing. He was the man that made you dread going to sleep. He was the man who made amusement parks, libraries, the beach, and even your own home seem creepy. And, he was also the man who made common day objects turn on you, increasing your levels of paranoia when dealing with your toys, your pets, and cute garden d├ęcor like your garden gnomes, for example. He was notorious for giving you ‘Goosebumps’ – literally and figuratively, and his name is R.L. Stine. But did you also know he was the mastermind behind ‘Fear Street,’ Netflix’s recent three part horror series? Let’s see how the fictional horrors of the author we all grew up with have been conveyed on the silver screen through the interconnections of the years 1666, 1978, and 1994.

The first of the three films to be released was ‘Fear Street: 1994’. When I first started watching this film, I started getting vibes from another cult horror series from the 2010s; ‘Scream’. Lots of fresh faced actors looking to make their names known to us all – some with great acting prospects, and others, not so great in their acting abilities. Nevertheless, this first instalment was engaging, and allowed me to have a throwback moment to my childhood in the 90s. Visually, we all travelled back in time to a decade where bold fashion statements when print on print was #trending. It was actually quite nice to see a time where people actually spoke to each other, not having their faces submerged into the little handheld and portable communication devices that our modern society cannot live without. I also particularly liked the grunge and pop songs that made the soundtrack in this first instalment – very fitting for the decade in focus. In fact, what I particularly liked was the massacres that took place in Shadyside’s mall, and how it branded the place as the murder capital in the United States. The polarizing Sunnyvale, the neighbouring suburb where all is as pleasant its name suggests, becomes entangled in this longstanding feudal legend that has seen these two suburbs at war since the witch hunt murder of Sarah Fier in 1666. Is Shadyside cursed as a result of the murder of this witch? Only time will tell… But to wrap up the first feature film, my favourite part was the emergence of murderers past and present who haunt the residents, and how much like the liquid metal, shapeshifting T-1000 in ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day,’ they come back to life, no matter how many attempts have been made to destroy them. Add to this the relationship between Deena and her closeted girlfriend, Sam, the audience starts to ponder why the spirit of Sarah Fier is so heavily invested in this relationship.

When it comes to the second film in the series, ‘Fear Street Part Two: 1978’, my interest plummeted dramatically. I attribute this to the fact that I am sick to death of seeing slasher films set in a camp scene, where the teen mentors die off one by one, only after having had their dose of sex and drugs accordingly. Not much of a critique on this one as I vehemently did not like the campsite concept, but I did like the revelations of the backstories of some of the murderers from the first film. It is also worthwhile mentioning that the events from the campsite are narrated to the teens from the first film by Ziggy, whom the audience finds out is actually C. Berman, a survivor from the attacks at the camp. Killed but later resuscitated and brought back to life, she begins to spill the beans on what happened to her and her friends back in 1978. Some of the revelations worthy of piecing together the link between the films include: Officer Nick Goode from 1994 was a camp counselor at Camp Nightwing; Ruby Lane’s diary reveals that Sarah Fier’s hand was severed in a deal with the devil in order to be granted eternal life; and a map that leads to Frier’s house was discovered, where the names of the Shadyside killers are carved into the stone wall beneath the property. It somehow appears that the events from 1666 foreshadowed what was to come in the years following. But we still have one more film to get through to tell us what happened all those years ago that has seen a suburb cursed for centuries on end.

Come the final piece of the puzzle, ‘Fear Street Part Three: 1666’, all that has happened before suddenly begins to make more sense. Sarah Fier was mistakenly trialed and murdered for being a witch, and the allegations that she and her closeted lover Hannah have had against them, are all as a result of Mad Thomas. It is he who has made the deal with the devil as a result of murdering a reclusive widow and stealing her book of black magic, and subsequently framing Sarah and Hannah, whom he saw making out in the forest – a forbidden love which tore them apart. When trialed for witchcraft, Sarah lies and confesses that she is a witch and has made a deal with the devil and that is why Union (the region before the split of the two later suburbs) was plagued with misery, thus sparing and sacrificing her lover from death. Her dying words also indicate that she will never let the truth go unknown and that history will reveal what Thomas did to the town of Union. Flashforward to 1994 for the second half of the film, Deena realises that she is Sarah and that the descendants of Mad Thomas were heirs to his legacy and continued the acts of savagery on the town with murders and massacres. It is through Deena that Sarah’s final words come to fruition, as Nick Goode is revealed to be a descendant of Mad Thomas’ and that he needed to die in order for the curse to be lifted and for the other returning murderers to disappear for good too.

Overall, I looked forward to the weekly releases of each of the three films and piecing together the storyline, albeit through some silly fictional plots. It reminded me of my childhood where each week I would buy a brand new book in the ‘Goosebumps‘ series. Looking back at these three films, what stood out to me the most was that time heals all wounds and nothing ever remains a secret, concepts which are applicable in my own family history too. However, the penultimate summary of this trilogy, and by far the best line from any of the three films is, ‘Goode is evil’. I love how the pun has so many deep underlying truths, both in the fictional world, and our actual reality.

‘A Classic Horror Story’ – An Amalgamation of the Genre’s Tropes with Messy Meta-Commentary

Here’s another trailer that caught my eye when it popped up in the ‘Recently Added’ row of films and shows on the streaming service, Netflix. The general aesthetic of the trailer for ‘A Classic Horror Story’ instantly intrigued me as it indeed resembled the cinematography of horror films from bygone eras I became accustomed to watching during my adolescent years. A hint of nostalgia beckoned me to watch the film as it reminded me of horror classics such as ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘ and ‘Cabin In the Woods’. In addition, the fact that it was set in Italy also piqued my interest as I have only seen comedies and dramas during my annual attendance at the Italian Film Festival – commentary that is actually mocked and addressed in the film itself about the lack of Italian horror films out there. But is this Italian horror flick going to be a game changer in our appreciation of the genre? Sadly, I think not.

A pastiche of the horror conventions is interwoven into the storyline of a group of rogue travelers who find themselves carpooling together through Southern Italy. There is the tech-savvy and artsy one, the couple fleeing to elope, the mature-aged traveler, and the central character Elisa, who is travelling to have an abortion. Of course the group will have transportation issues as their RV swerves off road, with the road all of a sudden mysteriously disappearing behind them, and communication via cellular devices is instantly lost. Finding themselves in a barren field with only a dilapidated house nearby, the group instantly begins to feel like they are under surveillance. It is from here where the audience begins to see the homage paid to some of the aforementioned films, but ‘A Classic Horror Story’ amalgamates the slashing, the cult-like followings, the sacrifices, and the final girl conventions, to remind the audience that they are watching a film-within-a-film. This meta-commentary of the genre would have been effective if indeed there was some sort of commentary made. Instead, the audience is left wondering what the purpose of this take was by directors Roberto de Feo and Paolo Strippoli. It felt like the duo was trying to replicate the success of ‘A Cabin In the Woods‘ with the surveillance aspect and the comedy it infused with being watched, but I do not think it completely worked out for these two Italian directors.

The films itself has some amazing scenery which assists with conveying the feeling of being trapped in a remote region of Southern Italy. One of the scenes that comes to mind to support this is of the last supper-esque tribute towards the end of the film where Elisa’s hands have been nailed onto a wheelchair, as she takes her place at one end of the epically long table. Adorned on either side of the table is a ‘family’ of cannibalistic-like people, all dressed in the same sepia-coloured palette of clothing, whilst the only pop of colour is a bold red fashion statement by the matriarch at the head of the table. A mixture of longshots and panning shots of the remote field support the notion of the isolation that Elisa must be feeling whilst enduring an onslaught of torture. It also has some other wonderfully shot scenes where the sheer brutality of the torture porn keeps your eyes transfixed to the screen – or shielding your eyes for protection, if you are one who cannot stomach a bit of blood and pain.

But my biggest headscratcher is the ending. I understand that the people on the beach are also furthering the concept of being watched as they all hold up their phones to record the events taking place in the final scene. It appears to me that the comment being made here is that society acts as a bystander during moments where atrocities are committed, and drops its moral compass, rather than stepping in to support the victims in these situations. It could also be suggesting the fact that technology and social media have put a wall between individuals and society, as people hide behind a screen and interact virtually rather than traditionally through face-to-face communication. I did slightly get a Shyamalan vibe with the ending, reminiscent of ‘The Village,’ where a fence divides the horrors of the fields with the pleasures and freedom of the ocean. But the common denominator with both sides of the fence is this concept of surveillance.

Just hours after having viewed the film, I am still left wondering if Elisa served her mother’s wishes and followed through with having the abortion. The ending I find is left open to interpretation and this question could be taken however one pleases. But to surmise if I think this is a film worthy of a Friday night fright session, I will ask myself a series of questions, and let you be the judge of your own viewing destiny. Do I think that the directors executed a great homage to horror classics? I would say it was a mediocre attempt. Do I think that the meta-commentary brought insightful discussions to the table regarding the horror genre? I would argue not. Do I think that the film is visually arresting? I would argue yes – to some extent. And as for whether I would watch it again? I would probably pass.