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Review: Malevolent (2018)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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Starring: Florence Pugh, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Scott Chambers, Georgina Bevan & Celia Imrie
Directed by: Olaf de Fleur Johannesson

Netflix is killing it with their original content. Shows, mini-series and movies alike, Netflix knows content and has the budget to do these projects justice. Not the least of which is Malevolent, a horror movie about a young woman that inherited the medium gifts that eventually took her mother’s life.

What’s it about?
Brother and sister duo, Jackson (Lloyd-Hughes) and Angela (Pugh), decide to use their mother’s name to create a side gig for some extra cash. The children of a famous Scottish medium, they set Angela up to be the face who speaks with ghosts, while Jackson gets the gigs and their friends, Elliot (Chambers) and Beth (Bevan), help with the tech. They put on a show for their clients, then make off with the cash before it’s discovered that they didn’t actually do anything.

This all changes when they take on a job a little too big for their britches. Mrs. Green (Imrie) supposedly lives alone on a large estate. She used to run a girls’ school, but tragedy struck and all of the girls ended up dead, their mouths sewn shut. Now, she hears laughter and screaming and she just wants a quiet house. Jackson accepts the job, against Angela’s wishes, and the team heads to this remote estate in the Scottish countryside.

What awaits them, however, are mutilated ghost children and a revelation about what actually happened all those years ago.

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What did I think?
Like with most movies, there are pros and cons to Malevolent. The ambiance is fantastic. The setting is perfect. It’s a very well-made film in general. It actually scared me. Give me Scottish ghosts and I’m putty in your hand.

It’s a fairly typical haunted house movie. The protagonists arrive, thinking none of the stories are real. We start with glimpses of ghosts and mini-jumpscares. Then, all of a sudden, the unknown becomes known and our protags are in very real danger.

While the acting was great, the characters themselves were a little off for me. Angela is quiet and angsty — straight out of a YA novel. Jackson is unfeeling and overconfident, despite his life being in danger after borrowing money from the wrong people. Elliot is the puppy dog that follows Angela around and Beth doesn’t really seem to add much value to the plot. They’re all a little two-dimensional.

Mrs. Green, on the other hand, was phenomenal. With a base need for quiet as her driving force, Mrs. Green is multi-faceted. Celia Imrie really brings her character to life, which is to be expected of such a celebrated and talented British actress.

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Despite all this though, the relationships between the characters felt real. There were times when tears came to my eyes because the raw emotion that Florence Pugh put forth caught me off guard.

Story-wise, I’m left with more questions than answers, which I’m not a particular fan of. If it was a series and this was the first part, I’d be okay with this, but it’s a standalone movie, with no plans that I can find for a sequel. The haunted house plot wrapped up nicely, but there are questions about Angela that I’d like answered.

Do I recommend it?
Yes. While it has its flaws, this movie pulls from classic horror archetypes and introduces some twists that I didn’t expect. It’s worth a watch, especially since you won’t spend any extra money on it. You can find Malevolent on Netflix.

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Review: The Ritual (2017)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Directed By: David Bruckner

What’s it about?

Five friends get together to plan a lad’s getaway. Lots of ideas are thrown around, including hiking in Sweden. Lots of ideas are also turned down. They leave the pub without having set on a plan. As they’re walking along, Luke (Spall) decides to go into the liquor store to get some more alcohol. Rob (Paul Reid) goes in with him, still talking about the hiking trip to Sweden. Two “junkies” were in the midst of robbing the store. Rob ends up dead while Luke hides in the back.

Fast forward to four friends hiking in Sweden. They pour one out for Rob at their destination, then start to head back. Dom (Troughton) falls and tears his meniscus. After looking at the map, the friends decide to cut through the forest and make a bee-line to the lodge to cut a day off their hike.

Once in the forest, they notice runes carved into the trees. They come across several other horrific scenes before it becomes obvious that there’s something living in that forest that doesn’t like them one bit.

What did I think?

This movie was… interesting. In a good way, I promise!

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I pressed play. It’s a UK movie, so I had high expectations. I tend to like foreign horror a bit more than US horror. It’s less predictable to me since different cultures tend to have different ways of telling a story.

I loved the setting. The forest is always a great choice for horror movies. The ambiance was perfect: dark, uneven and oppressive. Director David Bruckner did an amazing job capturing this story.

The characters were relatable. You had the loser (Luke), the complainer (Dom), the leader (Hutch (James-Collier)), and the nobody (Phil (Ali)). Each actor did a great job portraying their archetype, especially Rafe Spall as Luke.

The story itself did happen to be a bit predictable, but it was done in such a way that I don’t find fault in it. I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. I expected there to be a little bit more to it. It felt unfinished.

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Do I recommend it?

Yeah, it’s a great B-horror movie to watch when you want something to keep you on edge, but not scare you. You can find it on Netflix, so go see for yourself and let me know if you agree or not in the comments below!

The Power of Silence: A Quiet Place Review

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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I know, I know, I’m late to the party!

Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to see a movie when it just comes out. Believe you me, I’ve been trying to see Slenderman for weeks and it’s just not happening yet. But Winters and I finally got to sit down and watch A Quiet Place, thanks to Amazon and their 40% rental discount.

We went into the movie not really knowing what to expect. I know it’s been out awhile, but we were good about staying away from spoilers. We knew that they couldn’t make noise, or else something bad would happen. We knew the oldest daughter was deaf, and so was the actress who played her. We knew that John Krasinski had written it for his lovely wife, Emily Blunt. We knew all that, but we had no idea what the movie was actually about.

Turns out, there are monsters that somehow showed up (per Wikipedia, they’re aliens). They’re blind and they’re covered in a naturally thick hide that serves as armor. They attack noise and wiped out most of humanity in a matter of months.

The Abbott family survived by staying silent and vigilant. They can communicate because they already knew sign language – having a deaf daughter, Regan – and they formulated countless in-case-of-emergency plans.

The movie begins on one of the family’s outings to gather supplies from the abandoned supermarket in town. Their four year old son grabbed a toy rocket from the shelf. As they were headed back, the boy turned on the toy, which became very, very loud. Before Lee (Krasinski) could get to him, one of the creatures grabbed the boy and killed him.

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A year later, the Abbott family is expecting another little one. Evelyn (Blunt) and the two remaining children – Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe) – take to soundproofing the basement of their old barn so that mom and baby can recover without attracting the beings. Meanwhile, we are shown exposition as Lee works in the basement of the house on a new hearing aid for Regan.

The plot follows this family’s plight for survival as multiple unexpected things start to happen – as they do when you have a wife about to go into labor and two children who are incapable of seeing the big picture. Over the course of the mostly-silent movie, we are shown the very emotional dynamic of this family. Lee, Evelyn and Regan all constantly blame themselves for the death of the youngest, Beau. Regan believes that Lee blames her for Beau’s death and thus their relationship is strained.

The acting throughout this is phenomenal. Without dialogue, each of them were able to convey exactly what the characters felt and wanted. The emotional connection between these four was palpable and brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions.

The most powerful part of this movie, however, was the silence. The use of sound – and lack thereof – was my favorite part about this movie. Sure, the beings were terrifying and the CGI was well done. We could easily relate to the family and the amount we could gather without dialogue was fantastic. But the sound. The sound made this movie.

While there is a traditional movie score in this movie – as Krasinski did not want the audience to feel as though they were part of ‘a silence experiment‘ – it is used in such a way that we, as the viewer, can still feel the silence. Every noise was deafening and caused myself and Winters to jump several times.

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Every noise made me genuinely afraid for the well-being of this family. Every single noise evoked some kind of emotion in me, which cultivated in my outright sobbing later on in the movie. But I won’t go into detail about that because I don’t want to spoil anything.

I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this movie. I have no suggestions for improvement and no criticism whatsoever. This was masterfully done. The story was captivating, the acting was superb, and the ambiance was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat.

I highly recommend this movie. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Apocalypse (Short Story)

Posted in Short Story with tags , , , , , , on November 17, 2017 by Xander Woolf

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By Xander Woolf

The day the portal opened, everything changed. The tragedy at the King of Prussia Mall was just the beginning of our end. Hundreds of thousands of people died that day. The marble floors are eternally stained with their blood.

I was there that day, shopping at Uncanny! with my best friend. I was looking for the latest issue of Faith as well as a few more Pop Figures to decorate my desk at work. I remember it all so vividly. The screams still keep me up at night.

I was sorting through the comics. I had the one I wanted under my arm, but I was looking to see if anything else caught my eye. My face was turned downwards and I had no line of sight to the doorway. I quickly glanced behind me to ensure that Mara was still on the other side of the store. She was reading the back of a new board game intently, no doubt trying to determine if it was worth $50.

That’s when I heard the first scream. The heat drained from my face as screams multiplied and amplified. I ran over to Mara as my brain swam with the possibilities of what could be happening outside the store. Terrorist attack, active shooter, someone committing a public suicide. The possibilities were endless.

Before my mind could race much longer, though, I got my answer.

The creature that crawled into the store was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen in my life. She had to stand at least eight feet tall. The skin of her humanoid torso was a translucent blue. Her hair was jet black and hung down past her navel. Her eyes were three times the size of a human’s eyes and completely black. Her mouth was impossibly large with what looked like hundreds of sharp teeth. There were pincers where her hands should have been.

Her torso gave way to one of my worst nightmares, the body of a black widow spider. She was as long as she was wide and took up the entire entrance to the store.

I stood as still as I could as the creature crept forward. She grabbed the closest person to her, an unfortunate employee who hadn’t hid well enough, and crushed his body in an instant before feasting on his head. Mara reached for my wrist and pulled me into a dressing room left over from when the space was a clothing store. We looked at each other, wide-eyed, as she placed a finger at her mouth to warn me not to make any noise.

The screams were muffled in this dark space, but they still rang in my ears. We heard crash after crash in the store beyond the door and we knew the spider lady was destroying the place looking for everyone and anyone who might be in there.

I pulled out my phone and sent a frantic text to 9-1-1, detailing, “Attack at KoP mall, send help.” I didn’t receive a bounce back message, so I could only assume it went through.
I could have sworn I heard gun shots at one point, but couldn’t be sure.

It was hours before the screaming stopped.

I looked at my phone to find that it was nearly midnight. Mara and I looked at each other and nodded. We couldn’t stay here forever. We’d make a run for the car and get as far away as possible. We both pushed ourselves up off the bench; my body was stiff from keeping still for so long. Mara made sure I stayed behind her as she carefully opened the door and peaked out. Once she determined the coast was clear, we crept out of the room to see the destruction laid before us.

I clasped my hand over my mouth to keep myself from screaming.

Blood had sprayed everywhere. I forced down a gag at the smell of sticky iron. At our feet laid the half-eaten bodies of people Mara and I had gotten to know over the years of coming to this store. Mara pulled me along with her as tears started to stream down my face. We exited the store to find half eaten bodies everywhere. The scene was more gruesome than I could have ever imagined. There was more red than I ever wanted to see again.

We proceeded through the mall slowly, so we wouldn’t make too much noise. Our shoes stuck to the ground with every step. We passed two demon spider lady corpses. They were both slumped on the ground, riddled with bullet holes.

We made it out of the mall without drawing any attention to ourselves and began to run once we hit the parking lot. I fumbled for my car keys and dropped them as I tripped over some uneven ground. I hit the ground hard and immediately started feeling around for them in the dark.

As my hand landed on my keys, I looked up to see a demon spider lady staring right at me from back where we’d just come. She looked just like the one in the comic store, but she was covered in blood.

I grasped the keys and forced myself up. I broke into a run once more and caught up to Mara, who was almost at the car. We jumped in and I turned the key as hard as I could.

Without looking, I backed up out of the spot. The car smashed into something large, but it didn’t sound like another car. I didn’t dare to look as I put the car in gear and sped away.

We got back to our apartment without any incident. We packed only essentials. Mara grabbed the bow and arrows that she always said she’d teach me how to use. I grabbed every blade – decorative or not – that we kept in the house. We packed the car and never looked back.

Today we’re still in hiding, but the majority of the human race has been enslaved by the demons.

The Urn (Short Story)

Posted in Short Story with tags , , , , , , , on October 25, 2017 by Xander Woolf

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By Xander Woolf

The unusual stillness of the night set in me an eerie calm. My bedroom was dark but for the moon beams that flowed in through the curtainless window. I could not sleep. In fact, I sat upright in a hard wooden chair next to the closed window. My vision was fixed on a single red star in the sky. I could not look away until, several hours later, my cat knocked a book off of my desk, jarring me out of my trance.

I placed the book back on the desk and gave Salem a gentle pat on the head. My room was fairly mundane but tonight it felt ethereal, almost magical. The air felt so delightful on my skin that I decided to pull off my pajamas and crawl into bed naked. I fell into a dream-filled sleep almost immediately.

The cave in which I found myself was damp and dreary. I descended into the depths without so much as a second thought. My eyes strained to see in the darkness, but my feet were sure of each step they took. I could hear waves crashing on a distant shore. The stench of saltwater was so strong, it stung my nostrils. I did not know where I was, but I did know I was meant to be here. I was destined to find whatever lay below the surface.

I walked along for what felt like minutes, but could have been hours based on the ache in my legs. The air changed from humid and warm to crisp and chilly. As I descended, the sound of waves was replaced by a low snarl that could have been breathing or snoring. I shivered with excitement.

After the last few steps, I found myself in a massive cavern, lit by torches of blue fire. I continued forward, still unsure of where the snarling came from. It echoed off the walls, filling my ears at an alarming volume, but no creature was to be seen. It was at its loudest near the middle of the cavern, where there stood a pedestal holding a single clay urn decorated with foreign symbols. The urn was smooth to the touch, but seemed to vibrate beneath my fingertips.

A warmth ran up my arm and I was overtaken by the urge to break the urn open to see what was inside. Out of nowhere, there were whispers in my ear. The language was unknown to me, but I knew the whispers coaxed me on. I felt calm as I picked it up. The cavern grew deathly silent as I lifted the urn over my head, anticipating my next move. Without a second thought, I threw the urn to the ground.

The shatter was deafening. My world began to shake. The air grew hot. A deep and menacing laugh filled the cavern as the ground began to open beneath my feet. I lost my footing and began to fall, the first inkling of terror entering my chest.

I awoke in my bed with a start. I looked down at my naked form to see that I was covered in mud. Salem began to growl and hiss. My eye was drawn to the corner of my bedroom. A dark figure loomed there, unmoving. My heart jumped into my throat as I cowered against the headboard.

“What are you?” I managed to whisper. The shadows moved with it as it glided forward.

“I am death,” it whispered back. It’s voice was not a voice so much as it was a rumble that I could feel in my bones. “I am destruction.”

It stopped at the edge of my bed.

“With your body,” it continued, “I will finally destroy this world.”

I let out a piercing scream as slime-coated black tentacles reached out and encircled my body.

Together Forever (Short Story)

Posted in Short Story with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2017 by Xander Woolf

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By: Xander Woolf

He broke up with me. I can’t believe he broke up with me. No, I won’t believe it. He can’t break up with me. I love him too much. It’s not fair. My love burns eternal. There’s absolutely no way I’m letting him break up with me. NO.

He will be with me and only me. I’ll make sure of that. I just need a few things to… convince him.

First thing’s first, I need to learn his schedule down to the second. That way, I can figure out the best possible time to approach him and bare my heart. I’ll wait outside his house in the morning and mark down the exact time he leaves for work. Then I’ll sneak into the building so I can keep an eye on him. I need to protect him from all the whores that he works with.

Second, I’ll need some rope. If he won’t listen to reason, then I’m going to have to make sure he can’t get away so I can tell him everything I absolutely need to say. I need to make sure he’ll hear me. I should get some duct tape, too. That way he’ll have to listen without talking over me, like he always liked to do.

Hmmm. Maybe I should pick up some knives, too. That’ll be fun. I can play, maybe scare him a little bit. I bet he’ll find that such a turn on. We’d talked about knife play before, but never got the chance to do it. Oh, he’ll love the idea. Once I’ve convinced him to be with me forever, I’ll bring out the knives.

Yes.

This plan is brilliant. It has to work. And if it doesn’t… Well, if it doesn’t, I don’t know what I’ll do.

***

Oh, there you are now. Perfect timing, there, my love. Have I ever told you that you look so cute in your suit and tie? With your little briefcase. I could just eat you up, you’re so adorable.

That’s right, come a little closer.

Oh, now don’t struggle. You’ll just make this harder for both of us if you struggle. We both know you’re stronger than me, but I came prepared.

See? That’s why you don’t struggle. When you wake up, you’ll be so surprised.

God, you’re heavy. When did you get to be so heavy?

I’m sorry I have to tie you up in the trunk, but I can’t risk you misunderstanding me and leaving. You need to hear everything I have to say, otherwise none of this is worth it.

***

Oh, good, you’re awake. I was starting to worry. Oh, no no no. Don’t struggle. You’ll hurt yourself if you do that. Those ropes are tied pretty tightly. I also bolted the chair to the floor to make sure you can’t fall over. I’m so thoughtful, I know.

Stop trying to scream through your duct tape. Nobody is going to hear you and it’s getting a little annoying. Besides, if you keep trying to scream, you won’t hear what I have to say.

HEY.

I asked you nicely to stop screaming. Look what you made me do. I can’t concentrate if you’re screaming, baby. I brought you here for a reason. I’m sorry for my outburst, but I just need to say what I came here to say.

What’s that noise? Is that your cell phone?

It is! Who’s calling at this hour?

Who’s Jackie Lane?!

You have a date with someone already?

Oh, no no no no no. Not on my watch. How did I miss that? I’ve been so vigilant.

We were supposed to be together forever.

Who the fuck is Jackie Lane?!

No no no.

We were supposed to be together forever.

If I can’t have you, Jackie Lane certainly can’t.

Oh no no no.

We were supposed to be together forever.

Why do you make me do these things to you? All this blood.

We were supposed to be together forever.

And now we can be.

Top 10 Things that Scare The Bejeezus out of Xander

Posted in List with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2017 by Xander Woolf

Growing up, I was a scared kid. I mean, I was scared of everything. Put me in a dark room, near a clown, around some bugs, and I was a crying, blubbering mess. Every single night I went to sleep, I would think, “Tonight’s the night the ghost is gonna decide to get me.”

I forced my siblings to leave the bathroom light on so it would pour into my bedroom. Nightlights weren’t enough. It had to be the bathroom light or my bedroom light. I slept in a fully lit room for about a year in middle school.

It was bad.

Now, I’ve tamed those irrational fears.

Well… most of them.

Check out what I’m scared of now.

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