Tag Archives: Films

It’s More Than Just Survival: A Review of Into the Forest

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the never-ending list of films I’d like to see someday. Into the Forest was the first movie from that list I’ve watched since then, and I liked it so much that I decided to review it today.  This story does include a rape scene that I will be discussing briefly later on in this post, so consider this a spoiler warning and a trigger warning (if needed). 

 Into the Forest is a Canadian film based on a young adult book by the same title by Jean Hegland. It followed the lives of two sisters, Nell and Eva, after the west coast of the United States permanently lost power for unknown reasons and society fell apart.

One of the things that made this story unique was how few characters it has. While there were a handful of people who were briefly part of the time in Eva and Nell’s lives that was covered in this film, the vast majority of the storyline was about the complex relationship between these sisters and how hard they worked to survive on their own at their rural home.

Eva, the older sister, had been studying to become a professional dancer before the blackout. Nell, the younger sister, was preparing to take her SATs and apply for college. They were smart young women, but neither one of them had any experience in practical skills like hunting, first aid, farming, or self defence before this adventure began.

 

Ellen Page as Nell and Evan Rachel Wood as Eva in Into the Woods. ©Elevation Pictures.

 

One of my favourite parts of this  film was the strong pacing of it in the beginning. The electricity went out a few minutes into the story without any advanced warning, so the characters almost immediately needed to make major adjustments to their lifestyle. Nell and Eva had been so loved and sheltered that neither of them really understood how much their lives changed in that moment, but they were about to find out.

I’ll be honest with you: it took a while for these characters to grow on me. They were young and a little entitled in the beginning. I didn’t appreciate the way they complained about small inconveniences like not having enough spare power to play music when there were far more important things in be for them to be worried about.

With that being said, I adored the complex relationship between these sisters. Eva and Nell argued, played, dreamed, and schemed with each other just like all siblings have since the beginning of time. They had a bond that was stronger than anything else in their little world. Watching them both mature from girls into confident women together was a highlight of this story for me.

Since they hadn’t known that the blackout was coming, there was no logical way for their family to stock up on food, basic medical supplies, gasoline, or anything else that would have made their lives easier once all of the stores shut down. The few items they were able to buy shortly after the power grid failed were precious, but they were a drop in the bucket when compared to what this family actually needed in the longterm.

While I would have liked to see a little more character development, I did end up liking Nell and Eva quite a bit by the end. They proved just how resourceful they could be in a world where they could only rely on themselves and each other to stay safe. As young women who were living in an incredibly isolated area, they either had to learn to work together or risk dying alone from starvation, injuries, or the violent urges of other human beings.

Yes, that was a reference to the rape scene. I hated the fact that one of these characters had to add that traumatic experience to all of the other awful things they went through as they struggled to survive, but this is something that  regularly happens to people even when police officers still exist and can be called for help. From what I’ve read, the risk of sexual assault skyrockets after disasters of any kind.

The foreshadowing in this film was really well done in general. It was subtle, but any attentive viewer could find satisfying hints about what will happen later on if they paid close attention to the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the storyline. Since this was originally written for teenagers, I liked the fact that there were so many hints about what these sisters were about to experience. It was the right choice for this age group.

I also appreciated the fact that Nell and Eva knew almost nothing about what was going on in the outside world. As much as I wanted to know what caused the power outage and whether cities and towns had begun to get back to normal after a year or two had passed, it made sense that two young people who were living in a house in the woods far away from the nearest community wouldn’t have any way of knowing for sure what was happening elsewhere or whether the few vague rumours they’d heard were at all true.

 

Potentially Sensitive Content

As I mentioned earlier on, this film does contain a rape scene. While it was shot in an artistic manner that focused on the victim’s face instead of more graphic material, this is something that viewers who are sensitive to this topic should be aware of in advance. The rape played an important role in what happened later on in the storyline, and it was referenced later on multiple times as the characters reacted to it and the victim healed from it.

The gore factor was pretty low in general, although one character did die in a brief but bloody accident early on and there was a hunting scene later on that showed a wild animal being butchered after it was shot.

Should You Watch It?

Yes, I would recommend watching Into the Forest to both teen and adult viewers. Due to the mature themes, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone under the age of fourteen.

A Peek at My Never-Ending List of Scifi and Fantasy Films to Watch

A number of years ago I started keeping track of movies I’d like to watch once they became available to rent online.

This list has only ballooned over time despite my valiant attempts to chip away at it. The problem with watching a film is that you have to carve out about two hours of time for it. It’s easier to commit 22-45 minutes on a TV show than a few hours for something that I’m not always sure I’m actually going to enjoy.

My hope is that I might find an extra boost of motivation to watch some of these movies if I share my list publicly. Their titles are bolded and include links to the trailers for them when possible. I’m including brief notes on how I first heard of them or why they appeal to me, too.

(Yes, this list is alphabetized. I’m geeky like that).

The Age of Adeline

This reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, another movie about a character who doesn’t age in a typical fashion. It’s going to be fascinating to compare the tale of a man who aged backwards with the story of a woman who didn’t age at all.

Alpha 

As my longtime readers know, I love stories set in the distant past that are about hunter-gatherers or other similar cultures. The fact that this film is also about taming a wolf only makes me want to see it more once it’s released in September of this year.

If I like it, you all might just get a review of it at some point.

Angelica

I loved the book it was based on and do want to see how the film compares one of these days. The references to possible child abuse in the original version were so unsettling that I’ll need to be in just the right mood to watch it.

Annihilation

For some reason, I mixed this film up with Arrival a few weeks ago. I thought I’d already seen (and loved) Annihilation, but it turns out I was thinking of Arrival instead. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who I was discussing it with anymore, but my apologies for the error. This is definitely something I will be watching and blogging about as soon as I can rent it online. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite available yet.

Coco 

I adore well-made animated films like Inside Out, Wall-E, Up, and Finding Nemo.  Honestly, sometimes it feels like they were written for adult audiences just as much as children.

Coco‘s take on death and the afterlife looks particularly interesting, especially since I don’t know a lot about this part of Mexican culture in general.

Devil 

This was recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬ from Twitter. I’ve never been someone who feared stepping into an elevator, but it sure would be a scary experience if you’re riding with the devil!

The Devil’s Backbone

Also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬. You’re going to see several more recommendations from her in this list. What can I say? She has good taste in movies.

Get Out

I have heard nothing but positive things about this Oscar-winning film since it was first released last year. The horror genre doesn’t generally spend a lot of time on serious social commentary, so I’m looking forward to seeing how race and racism are discussed and dissected in it.  It honestly should be the next thing I watch.

A Ghost Story

What appeals to me the most about this one is that the ghost in it isn’t scary at all. Like The Babadook, it appears to be using “frightening” themes in order to explore love, grief, and other topics that are usually brushed over in the paranormal genre.

The Good Dinosaur

There’s something to be said for a friendly dinosaur movie every now and again.

Iceman

Yes, this is about a real person who lived and died about 5,000 years ago. I included it in today’s post due to all of the educated guesses the filmmakers and scientists made about who this man was and why he died such a violent death. While their speculation is based on all of the scientific research done on Otzi’s life and death, there is an art to putting all of those clues together.

If I lived closer to my mom, I’d gently pester her to watch it with me as soon as it becomes available to rent online. I think she’d really love it.

If I Stay

The book this was based on was excellent. I truly enjoyed reading the main character’s thoughts about the hazy place between death and life she was existing in after a horrible car accident. Would she fight to wake up from her coma or go to the afterlife to join certain loved ones who died in the same accident that so badly injured her?  There were compelling reasons for her to make both choices. While I was pretty sure which one she was going to make in the book by the time I’d finished the first chapter, it’s going to be emotional to watch those moments play out in vivid detail on my TV screen.

Into the Forest

Every few months, I ask my spouse again if he’d like to see this movie with me. I think he’d really enjoy the post-apocalyptic themes in it given how gritty and realistic the book was. My fingers are crossed that he’ll someday say yes and give it a try. If not, I’ll still watch these teenage sisters try to survive in a dangerous world where there are no longer  police officers, antibiotics, adult supervision, or electricity.

Lights Out

I honestly have no idea how I heard of this one. It looks frightening, though!

A Monster Calls

There’s no shame in admitting that I sobbed my way through the last few scenes the book this was based on. Patrick Ness is an incredibly talented writer. I just need to be in the right mood to be emotionally torn to shreds again. LOL!

Monsters University.

Monsters, Inc. was such a fun tale. I sure hope the sequel will be every bit as good. This is another one of those films that I’m waiting to watch with my spouse.

Open Grave

Recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬.

Orphan

Also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬.

The Revenant

Is there any part of your mind, body, or soul that is surprised this was also recommended by @Alexandria_SZ as well‬? Keep reading, because this isn’t the last recommendation from her.

The Shape of Water

Based on what I’ve seen online, some people adored this movie. Others didn’t have that reaction. I’m withholding judgement either way until I’ve seen it for myself, and I’m trying to avoid spoilers in the meantime.

The Skeleton Key

I feel like @Alexandria_SZ‬ might have recommended this one to me as well. Maybe she’ll remember for sure either way?

The Visit

Recommended by @Alexandria_SZ‬ as well as by several other horror fans I know who deeply enjoyed it. As with most of the other horror flicks on this list, I’ll need to be in the right mood to watch it.

Winchester: The House that Ghosts Built 

I love ghost stories that are based on real people, places, events, and/o items in rour world. It makes some of the tired tropes in this genre feel fresh again. This also sounds like the kind of urban legend that would have really creeped me out as a kid.

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If you’ve seen any of these films, tell me what you think of them! Were they good? What did you like about them? Would you recommend buying them or waiting for them to show up on Netflix or similar sites?

How long is your to-watch list? If you share it, I’ll tell you what I think of anything on your list that I’ve already seen.

5 Christmas Movies That Are Worth Rewatching

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Despite the fact that I don’t actually celebrate any major winter holidays, there are still a decent number of Christmas movies that I could watch every year and never grow tired of. I should warn you that some of the entries on this list are a little unorthodox. Sentimental films aren’t my cup of tea, so I did wandered around in a few different genres to compile this list.

If you haven’t seen any of these movies yet, go watch them now.

A Christmas Story (1983)

I was a kid the first time I saw this film. Ralphie’s wry explanations of what his family was like shocked me a little. My parents never washed my mouth out with soap, for example, and I was used to be surrounded by adults who paid closer attention to my emotional needs than what Ralphie experienced.

It took me a rewatch or two to realize that the narrator was exaggerating certain parts of his childhood for comedic effect, but I loved this tale even more once I figured that out.

 

 

Gremlins (1984)

Sometimes you find the perfect gift for the holidays. This isn’t about one of those times.

Fair warning: this is a horror movie. I loved the part of the plot had to do with the stress of finding the perfect gift. It was also interesting to see what happened when the characters ignored the clear warnings they received about getting gremlins wet or feeding them after midnight.

 

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

One of the things I love about the holiday season is it’s emphasis on caring for your community and including everyone in your festivities.

Despite his sharp claws and strange looks, Edward isn’t a villain and this isn’t a horror movie. He was technically created to be a monster, but his personality is completely wrong for that role. Edward is gentle and kind.

There’s lot of love and kindness in his story after he’s discovered and cared for by a kind stranger as well. The conflict between her and a few members of her community who hate and fear Edward kept me glued to the plot until I knew how it ended.

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

What do you get when you mix Halloween and Christmas together? After the leader of Halloween Town accidentally stumbled across Christmas Town, he studied it and eventually decided to take over that holiday altogether.

I can’t say much more about the plot without giving away spoilers, but I loved the creative twists along the way. The ending was quite satisfactory as well.

 

A Christmas Carol (1999)

This was actually one of the first Charles Dickens’ stories I ever read. While I’ve enjoyed all of the adaptations of it I’ve seen over the years, this version included a few scenes from the book that were generally left out of other versions of this classic tale. I loved seeing different groups of people sing Silent Night. It added something to the storyline that was missing.

The fact that Patrick Stewart was involved was another huge bonus. I’d watch him in just about anything!

I’d love to know what your favourite holiday movies are. Hop on over to Twitter to tell me all about them today. Regardless of what you’re celebrating or if you’re celebrating anything at all,  I hope the rest of 2017 is filled with happiness and tables full of delicious food for all of my readers.

5 Horror Movies You Should Watch If You Dislike the Horror Genre

Sometimes I giggle at the fact that two people who hate horror movies somehow created a daughter who has developed a fondness for the non-gory types of it. I have no idea where my appreciation for getting scared comes from, but it’s one of the few ways in which I’m nothing at all like either one of my parents.

Will my mom and dad be tempted to give any of these films a chance after reading this post? I’m not sure, but here are 5 movies I’d recommend to them and to anyone else who isn’t a fan of the typical horror slash flick. There are horror movies out there that break the stereotypes about this genre, and some of them are truly excellent stories.

The true appeal of these films to me lies in the questions they ask the audience to answer about grief, regret, humour, friendship, and love. A story doesn’t have to be a happy one in order for it to make me see the world in a different light or question some of the assumptions I’ve made about life works in the past.

I’ll include a gore rating on a scale of 10 for each of them so you’ll know which ones to avoid if you truly can’t stand any blood at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Babadook (2014) Gore rating: 0/10.

Years before this tale began, the main character’s husband was killed in a car accident while she was enroute to the hospital to give birth to their son. The storyline picked up years later while she is struggling to raise their son, who has behaviour problems, alone. The Babadook was a monster who soon moved into their home and couldn’t be dislodged no matter how hard they tried to make him go away.

This isn’t your typical horror movie. In fact, it has a lot more to do with grief than it does with anyone harming or being harmed by a supernatural creature.

My first experience with grief happened when my grandmother died. I was seven when she passed away, and it was the first time in my life I realized that I and everyone I loved was going to die someday.

What I love the most about this film was how it explored all of the ways grief interrupts a family’s daily routine. You only need to bury a loved one once, but you’ll be faced with their loss over and over again over the coming days, weeks, months, and years. There is no escaping these moments, and they will often pop up on otherwise good days when you least expect them to.

How, then, do you live with the shadow of grief – or The Babadook – always with you? When you discover the answer to this question, you’ll know why I love this film so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coraline (2009) Gore rating: 0/10.

When a little girl opened a secret door in her home, she discovered a parallel world that was surprisingly similar to our own at first glance. It was only when she met the hidden members of that world that she discovered it’s dark secrets.

Not everyone is as who they appear to be when you first meet them. Sometimes they surprise you in wonderful ways, and at other times they reveal scary sides of themselves. I loved the fact that a kids movie addressed this so openly. It isn’t something I’d recommend to young children, but the storytelling is perfectly creepy for older kids.

The price Coraline would have had to pay to stay in the other world was a nice touch as well. Telling you what it was would give away too many spoilers, but it was exactly the right amount of horror for this age group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Others (2001). Gore rating: 0/10.

This is my favourite ghost movie of all time. The plot followed a woman who was living in an old house with her two young children while awaiting news of the fate of her husband, a soldier. After doors began to unlock themselves and the curtains in certain rooms began to get flung open when no one was near them,  she soon became convinced the house was haunted.

Not only was the storytelling top-notch, but I loved the questions The Others asked the audience to ponder. What happens when you can no longer trust your own memory? How should a parent react to a child who is beginning to develop his or her own ideas about how the world works? How do you communicate with a ghost who refuses to acknowledge your existence? How long would you wait for someone you loved who may or may not even still be alive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the Right One In (2008). Gore rating: 3/10.

Vampires are supposed to be many things: violent; bloodthirsty; unnaturally strong; immortal. This one happens to be a petite 12-year-old girl named Eli. After the main character befriended her, all of her secrets began to be revealed.

The scenes that lead to this rating were limited to a scene where Eli feeds on an adult man and another scene where a character is treated for an injury at a hospital. They were both brief, but you may want to skip this one if you can’t handle seeing any blood at all.

For everyone else, this was a fascinating look at how people treat those they sense are different in some way. I really enjoyed how the writers explored the pain of social exclusion and what happens when someone has a secret that is so big it can’t easily be contained.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cabin in the Woods (2012). Gore rating: 7/10.

This is by far the goriest movie I’ll be recommending to you today. Do not watch it if you are squeamish.

One of the things I love the most about Joss Whedon’s storytelling is how talented he is at turning stereotypes on their head. Everything from what happens to characters who have sex or who will die first once the bad guys discovered the cabin full of vacationers was upended in this funny – if occasionally slightly bloody – film.

The plot was much more complex than zombies finding innocent people in the woods. I can’t say much about it without giving aways spoilers, but I can tell you that the zombies were released from an underground facility and that there were  technicians working there who were placing bets on everything from who would be killed first to what would happen next.

This is the kind of film that should be watched by anyone who has ever watched a horror movie and shaken their heads at the senseless and often downright ridiculous decisions the main characters make in those kinds of plots. Nobody ever thinks they’d react the same way in that situation.

I enjoyed the commentary from the technicians almost as much as I did the twist ending. If you don’t already know what a Joss Whedon ending can look like, be prepared for something completely unexpected.

Happy Halloween to all of my readers! I hope you found something worth checking out in today’s post