Title: Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil
Author: Michelle Nunley
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Length: 5 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 3 Stars
There are many urban legends of hauntings throughout Michigan. Some tell of an ominous white ghost, others of mysterious dog-headed creatures. But none is quite as haunting as that of the curse placed on the city of Detroit by a small red devilish-looking creature . . . The Nain Rouge.
A short 1200 word story that tells the tale of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, and a curse placed on the city by a small red, sharp toothed devilish looking creature. Detroiter’s call him the Nain Rouge. Based on encounters and sightings throughout history, it is said the creature appears before every disaster throughout the city’s history and long list of misfortunes.
Some curses exist for good reasons.
I was surprised in a good way by fact that Antoine was such an unlikeable protagonist. There’s something interesting about seeing how such a selfish, egotistical man reacted to a threat to his city that he didn’t believe in or think should be taken seriously. We all have our own blind spots, of course, but Antoine’s blind spots much bigger and more dangerous than most.
This story could have used a little more character development. I had trouble empathizing with Antoine because nearly everything I learned about him was negative. Yes, he was a villain, and arguably even more so than the Nain Rouge itself, but even the worst person in the world is bound to have some good in him or herself. While I understand that this isn’t the strong suite of most folktales, there was definitely room here to humanize him a tad before he met up with his nemesis.
My favorite part of this tale was the ending. It tied up the most important plot strings but also explained why this legend continues to be shared three hundred years after it was said to begin. I couldn’t help but the turn the unresolved portions of the storyline over and over in my mind to see if I could think of a good way to resolve them. There’s something to be said for a legend that could still yet have more chapters added to it!
Curse of the Nain Rouge was a thought-provoking tale that I enjoyed reading.
Smallfoot is a 2018 American children’s animated fantasy film about a yeti who is convinced that those elusive creatures knowns as “smallfoots” or “humans” really do exist.
Against the better judgement of the leader of his people and nearly everyone else in the village, he seeks out the truth about these mythical beings no matter what the cost may be to him or to his people.
As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I was intrigued. Critical thinking and skepticism aren’t topics that are typically covered by stories meant for children.
No, this wasn’t written for or against any particular belief (or non-belief) system if anyone is curious. Instead, it was about using critical thinking skills to analyze the evidence, determining what it’s saying, and then following those clues to their logical conclusion(s).
In this case, that meant accepting the possibility that Yetis may not be alone on this planet after all.
As always, I speak of characters in the past tense to avoid spoilers in my reviews. I also needed to leave certain characters out of this for spoiler reasons, so be warned if you google this film before watching it!
Channing Tatum as Migo
Migo was a young, intelligent male yeti who was determined to prove the existence of the smallfoot. His father was named Dorgle.
Zendaya as Meechee
Meechee was a young, intelligent female yeti who yearned to discover the truth. She was the Stonekeeper’s daughter and Migo’s love interest.
Common as Stonekeeper
Stonekeeper was the condescending yeti chief and father of Thorp (not pictured) and Meechee. His role in their village was both a spiritual and political one. The stones he wore on his body wrote the laws his species followed, but he also had the ability to speak to the spirit world and discover new laws when it suited him.
Danny DeVito as Dorgle
Dorgle was a dependable middle-aged yeti who was the village gong ringer and Migo’s widowed father. He took his work seriously and was always on time for it.
James Corden as Percy Patterson
Percy Patterson was a British human filmmaker of wildlife documentaries trying to get back in the spotlight. Sometimes this desire for fame pushed him into making unethical choices like bending the truth in order to get more views online.
Yara Shahidi as Brenda
Brenda was Percy’s co-worker for his show. She didn’t believe in Yetis, but she did have a strong moral code that guided her every move even when Percy thought she was being too much of a stickler for the rules.
The premise of this film was amazing. Not only were the yetis the protagonists which was a wonderful change from the typical, human-centred approach to stories about mythical creatures, Migo and his people had a well-developed and unique culture that I was eager to learn more about.
One of the most interesting things about their culture were the stones that the Stonekeeper wore as a sort of cloak around him. Each stone contained a different pictograph about something that happened in their past that had taught them a valuable lesson about how they should live.
Discovering and interpreting them was a major facet of the Stonekeeper’s job. I loved the way his reaction to that responsibility was portrayed, especially during the earlier scenes before Migo began his quest to find out if the legend of the smallfoot was true.
Story time in a Yeti village.
I also enjoyed the reactions of the various villagers to Migo’s quest. Some of them supported him, while others were suspicious of his intentions or horrified at the thought that the stonekeeper might be wrong about his interpretations of certain stones.
Yes, there are obvious parallels between these scenarios and our world. I’ll leave it up to all of you to put the pieces together. What you should know is that despite the strong fantasy setting this film is ultimately pro-science, pro-logic, and pro-truth.
It didn’t bash anyone or anything. It simply asked the audience to think critically about what they’re told and compare it to what they’ve observed about the world around them. That is something I find incredibly refreshing.
With that being said, I did feel like the filmmakers never quite knew what to do with all of these big ideas they broke down into concepts that small children can understand. The beginning and ending were well done, but the middle sagged for me.
While I do expect animated stories to include silly scenes, there were so many of them in this film that the plot dragged on in places it should have kept up the pace in my opinion. This made it hard for me to keep paying attention even though I was interested in how everything would be tied up in the end.
Was this worth watching? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. But it is something worth putting on for small children or while you’re working on something else.
Content warning: mental illness, blood, violence, and trauma.
Us is a 2019 American horror film about a family who was terrorized by their doppelgängers while they were on what was supposed to be a peaceful beach vacation.
It was directed by Jordan Peele, the same director who released Get Out in 2017.
This is one of those films that works best in my opinion if you know as little about the storyline in advance as possible.
For this reason, my review is going to skirt the fine line between avoiding all spoilers and still managing to discuss the important social messages in this story.
Save this post to read after you’ve finished watching Us if you’re the sort of viewer who wants to know nothing at all about it in advance.
For everyone else, this will be a 99% spoiler-free review.
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)
Adelaide had never fully recovered from a traumatic childhood experience she had at the same beach her family now wants to visit on their vacation. Her hyper-vigilance and flashbacks were now threatening to derail the cheerful trip her husband and kids had been looking forward to for so long.
She was an intelligent, dedicated person who always thought through every possible scenario before making a decision.
Winston Duke as Gabriel “Gabe” Wilson
Gabriel was Adelaide’s fun-loving husband. He had a trusting, kind personality and usually looked for the best interpretation of possibly unsettling events.
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson
Zora was Adelaide and Gabriel’s exasperated teenage daughter. She was just a little too old now to still fully enjoy family vacations, especially when they involved a cottage that didn’t have Internet access.
Her hobbies included jogging and googling everything before she believed it.
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson
Jason was Adelaide and Gabriel’s son. He was approximately ten years old and still thought family beach vacations were the highlight of the summer.
His hobbies included practicing magic tricks and pushing the limits on which words his parents would add to their list of forbidden swear words if he said them with the right intonation.
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler
Kitty was Adelaide’s saucy childhood friend who always spoke her mind. Her hobbies included finding the humour in everything and dreaming of what her life would have been like if she’d waited until she was older to become a mother.
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler
Josh was Kitty’s husband. Finding the right drink for every occasion was his favourite hobby. I understood him as someone who genuinely enjoyed alcohol but who did not have an unhealthy dependency on it. He simply loved the challenge of matching drinks to people’s moods and current activities.
Some of the films I’ve reviewed in the past can be watched while doing other things that briefly take your attention away from the screen. The first clue about what was really happening here technically popped up before the first scene even started, so I strongly recommend giving this your full attention from beginning to end. In other words, grab your snacks and mute your cellphone ahead of time!
One of my favourite type of horror is anything that comes embedded with a social message. The preview for this film makes it look like a slasher flick. While there were certainly elements of that horror genre, there was a lot of thought-provoking material that couldn’t be included in that clip for spoiler reasons.
I find it difficult to say much about what that social message was or why it was so thought-provoking because of how late in the storyline it was fully revealed. What I can say is that it is a good idea to have a basic grasp of U.S. history before watching Us if you’re not already familiar with it. Don’t worry about memorizing dates or names or anything like that. Just get a feel for how that country was founded and how it’s developed over the past few hundred years.
This was the sort of story that can be interpreted in multiple ways. There are at least four of them, and maybe more than that depending on which viewers are polled. Don’t worry, I won’t be listing those theories here. What I will say is that the plot gives varying levels of evidence for all of them and I personally suspect more than one of them is right. (Maybe all of them are right!)
The doppelgängers were simultaneously frightening and fascinating. Yes, there were logical reasons given for their existences. Somehow figuring out what those reasons were only made them scarier to me. I really liked the way they quickly evolved from generic bad guys into something much more than that.
There was one subplot that I wish had been given more attention and development. It involved the inclusion of rabbits of all things. I still haven’t been able to figure out why that particular animal was added to such a dark storyline. It’s a minor criticism of something I really enjoyed, but I do wish they’d either been cut out of the plot altogether or, even better, given more opportunities to get tied in with everything else.
The characters occasionally pivoted from terrifying experiences to brief moments of humour. That was a pleasant surprise, and it was one of the many reasons why I enjoyed Us so much.
So long as none of the content warnings involve things that you personally avoid watching, I recommend Us to all adult viewers.
Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review.
The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself.
La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is a famous spirit in Mexican and Latin American folklore.
She was a spurned wife who got revenge on her philandering husband by drowning their two young sons. After she died, she was refused entry to heaven because of this act.
I will make no comment about the rest of her story or any similarities or differences between it and this film. Feel free to read more about the legend of La Llorona ahead of time or start watching this with no additional knowledge of her tale at all. The plot works nicely either way.
Anna was a young widow who was raising two children as a single parent. A social worker by trade, she was well-versed in normal child development and how children react to frightening experiences.
Roman Christou as Chris Garcia
Chris was Anna’s imaginative and impressionable son. He loved pretending to chase away bad guys.
Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen as Samantha Garcia
Samantha was Anna’s independent daughter. She loved dolls.
Patricia Velásquez as Patricia Alvarez
Patricia was the mother of two of the children Anna had on her caseload. When Patricia was accused of abusing her children, Anna attempted to figure out what had really happened.
Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera
Rafael, a former member of the clergy, was the person Anna turned to for help when all of her other attempts to figure out what really happened to Patricia’s children and why her own children were in danger had failed.
Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona
La Llorona was the spirit who had killed her own children in a fit of rage.
Her identifying features are obscured for spoiler reasons.
Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper
Detective Cooper was a police officer who sometimes worked on cases with Anna. He had also struck up a friendship with her and her children over the years.
Tony Amendola as Father Perez
Father Perez was a local priest who had experience with La Llorona.
I had mixed feelings about this film.
The foreshadowing was strong and easy to spot. If not for the grim subject matter, this is something I’d play for young film buffs who wanted to learn how to pick out clues about future plot twists early on in a storyline. There were plenty of examples of this scattered throughout the early scenes.
Obviously, La Llorona’s story must involve the deaths of children given the legend that inspired this film. The backstory of why La Llorona began killing other people’s children after she died was shared with the audience clearly. I’m being a little opaque on the topic for spoiler reasons, but know that much of it was implied instead of outright shown. Honestly, murdered children is a grim enough topic that I’m glad the filmmakers stopped where they did.
I wasn’t a big fan of the way the plot ignored previous character development and rules that had been set up earlier on about how this haunting worked. For example, one of the minor characters developed a grudge against someone else in the storyline. This conflict built up for a large part of the storytelling process only to be suddenly abandoned for reasons that were never explained. It lead to plot holes that I found unhelpful.
There was also contradictory information about what the living could and couldn’t do when interacting with La Llorona. Sometimes she was written as a spirit so consumed by rage and regret that every shred of rational thought had been torn out of her centuries ago. In other scenes, she behaved in ways that directly contradicted that character development. Either interpretation of her could have worked, but it was confusing for me as a viewer to never know which Llorona we were going to get.
With that being said, this was a wonderfully scary and atmospheric tale. There was never any doubt in my mind that La Llorona was a malevolent spirit. Her intentions were straightforward and easy to understand even if her cognitive abilities were not. This was refreshing, especially in a genre that sometimes veers too far in the direction of romanticizing ghosts.
It would have been nice to have stronger character development in general. No, I wasn’t expecting the characters to spend the first half hour talking about their hobbies or dreams. This was a heavily plot-based story, and I respect that. But knowing about who the characters were as individuals would have made the storyline more memorable.
If you really love ghost stories and can overlook a few plot holes, I would recommend The Curse of La Llorona.