Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Influence (La Influencia)

La Influencia (2019)
Manuela Vellés, Alain Hernández, Claudia Placer, Maggie Civantos, Emma Suárez, Daniela Rubio, Marta Castellote
Directed by: Denis Rovira van Boekholt

Oh, Netflix. Why you do this to me? Why do you make a blurb for a film look so bloody good, and then the movie so bloody bad?There is not one thing about this film that I liked. In fact, I stopped it at one point to see how long I had left (I thought it was almost done), and became so bummed out when I saw that I was only halfway that I almost didn’t start it up again. But I figured I’d finish it since I started it. I should have left it be.

HERE BE SPOILERS

The Influence is a Spanish language film made in Spain (don’t look at me like that, lots of countries speak Spanish), based on the novel of the same name by Ramsay Campbell. Wikipedia says it’s pretty faithful to the book, save some changes in the third act. I’d be interested in reading the book, since the story itself is interesting. Alicia is a nurse who comes home to take care of her dying mother (who she hates). As the film goes on we learn that the mother is a witch who used her children in all sorts of rituals. Now it seems that she’s controlling Alicia’s daughter Nora from her coma, wanting to transfer her soul into a young vessel. Hijinks, of course, ensue.

In the end, though, wasted potential is all this film is. It’s boring, most of the acting is bad, even the makeup effects are pretty crappy. And that ending… The showdown with the witch, which ends with her back in a coma all sliced up, Alicia and her husband broken and bleeding, and young Nora being tossed out the window. The film then ends with them in the hospital, locking the mother away in a room, and Nora recovering, then them driving off as a family, away from the cursed house. Now I can suspend all kinds of disbelief for a horror film. But are we supposed to believe that the cops wouldn’t get involved here? What did they tell them? That coma lady did it? That a 10 year old girl did it? I mean come on. All in all, this is a right turd of a film, and I want my hour and 45 minutes back. 2/10

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: Eli

Eli (2019)
Charlie Shotwell, Kelly Reilly, Lili Taylor, Max Martini, Sadie Sink, Deneen Tyler, Katia Gomez
Directed by: Ciarán Foy

When I first saw the trailer for this on Netflix, I was immediately interested, and put it in my watchlist. And forgot about it, like so many others. Last night, while flipping through for something to watch, I saw this again, and decided to give it a shot. I’d seen mixed reviews about it, some people loved it, others hated it. But thankfully no one spoiled the ending for me, which was great, since it really is something. I was going to include spoilers in this review, but I’ve decided against it.

Eli starts out as a rather generic, but well done, haunted house flick. Eli is an 11 year old boy suffering from a debilitating auto-immune disease. He’s basically, as one character puts it, “allergic to the world”. He and his family drive cross country to the home/hospital of Dr Horn, an immunologist, who says she can cure him. But almost as soon as Eli and his family arrive, strange things begin to happen to Eli. He sees shadows, hears breathing, and, soon enough, starts to see ghost children. Dr Horn tries to assure him that it’s only hallucinations brought on by the treatments, but he’s having none of it.

All of the haunted house tropes are there, creepy ghosts, creepy music, parents that don’t believe the kids. But it was just interesting enough with the auto-immune disease that I kept watching, and boy am I glad I did. The final payoff is ridiculous. Ridiculous good, not ridiculous stupid. The acting is mostly good all around, with young Charlie Shotwell holding his own against the adults. I’d been looking for something really scary to watch last night, and while this isn’t, it’s still very much worth your time. A very good 8.5/10 from me.

As a side note, my boyfriend, who generally doesn’t like horror films, liked this one. So I should probably have given it a higher score, just for that, hehe.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Game Review: Grim Dawn

Grim Dawn is a fantasy/horror ARPG (action role playing game) in the style of the Diablo franchise, released on Steam by the indie company Crate. Called hack and slash games for their rather simple game play, they’re actually some of my favourite games. I have about 500 hours clocked into Grim Dawn, and I don’t think a minute of that was time wasted. The initial game came out in February 2016. There are two expansions, The Ashes of Malmouth, released in October 2017, and Forgotten Gods, released in March 2019.

The story is simple enough (the world “ended” and there are monsters), but it’s so well crafted that it doesn’t matter. And if you take the time to listen to the quest givers and read the lore, you’ll realise just how dark they went with this. There’s a man who locks his family in his house and is about to set them on fire, rather than face this new world. There are journal entries laying around one of the zones, telling the story of a family of cannibals who are becoming less than human. There’s no swearing or nudity, but I still think this is one game that’s not for kids.

The game-play is standard for this type of game. The camera is above your character and you click the mouse to move around and cast spells. Some spells will require the use of the number keys. The looting system is also standard. If playing with a friend, you each get your own drops, which is nice (Path of Exile could take a page out of that book). What’s not standard is parts of the skill tree. There are shrines all over the map that you have to restore and that gives you a Devotion point. You can then use this point to chose stars on a constellation tree. Each constellation gives boosts to different builds (spell casting, melee, ranged, minion build, etc). I’m not sure I’m explaining this right, so let me show you.

That was the most complicated skill tree I’d ever seen since I started playing Path of Exile last week. But once you get used to it, it’s not so bad.

So if you like Diablo-like games and aren’t afraid of a little horror, then I definitely recommend this game for you. As for me, I give it an 11/10. Bloody perfect!

M.

Mel’s 5 Second First Impressions: Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son (2019 – )
(Season 1 cast) Tom Payne, Michael Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Aurora Perrineau, Bellamy Young, Halston Sage, Frank Harts, Keiko Agena, Charlayne Woodard

First, let me get this out of the way: Tom Payne as Malcolm Bright is a stone cold fox. Got it? Good, we can move on.

8 episodes of this show have aired on Global Montreal (I imagine the same amount have aired elsewhere). I’ve seen 6 of them. And really, it’s some of the best new tv that’s played in a long time.

Payne plays an FBI profiler fired from his job, despite being the best, for being overly reckless. He goes back to his home town of NYC where he’s hired by the local police to help on some cases. He has horrible night terrors stemming from his childhood. His father, you see, was a serial killer known as “The Surgeon”, and Malcolm was very traumatised by the fact. As the episodes go on, he’s trying to separate fact from fiction, as he’s having different and more vivid dreams that he thinks may be memories.

I’ve always had a soft spot for serial killer shows, so maybe I’m a bit biased, but I love this show so far. The acting is mostly good, the stories are great, the characters are engaging, and, to no one’s surprise, Michael Sheen is electric as good old dad. I for one can’t wait to watch more, and I hope it lasts on tv for a while. They tend to can shows I like quickly, so here’s hoping that doesn’t happen this time.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Haunting of Hill House (season 1)

The Haunting of Hill House (2018 – )
(Season 1 cast) Henry Thomas, Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Elizabeth Reaser, Timothy Hutton, Lulu Wilson, Violet McGraw, Julian Hilliard, Paxton Singleton, Mckenna Grace, Annabeth Gish

I don’t think I can fairly express how much I love this show. I read the novel a quarter century ago, so the details might be fuzzy, but I remember I loved it. And while the show isn’t quite a faithful recreation of the book, it’s so good that I don’t really care. Everything is wonderful, from the acting to the effects. Netflix really let director Mike Flanagan create his vision as is, apparently sparing no expense.

The story is simple, something we’ve all seen before I’m sure. The Crain family, mom, dad, and five kids, move into a beautiful, albeit a little run-down, mansion with the intention of flipping it for a great profit. But things aren’t what they seem at Hill House, and almost immediately hijinks ensue. The story runs back and forth, from the young family to the older, where the kids are all grown up. Some people might get a little confused with all the jumping around, but I found it was done well enough that I personally didn’t have any trouble. The story may be familiar, but it has just enough intrigue, plus it’s done so well, that it really doesn’t matter.

The only thing I could possibly say about it that’s negative, is that there’s maybe a few too many monologues. The characters talk slightly oddly on occasion, like they’re part of a one-man show. But really, I’m nit-picking here. All in all, it’s a superb show, and it more than deserves the score I give it of 10/10. If you haven’t seen it, and are at all a fan of supernatural stuff, sit down and watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

M.

Top 8 Onscreen Demons

Movies featuring demons are numerous, but there’s really only a small amount of them that are good. With such a high schlock content, a lot of films about or starring demons are awful, either being boring or stupid, or even both. But when done right, they can be downright terrifying.

I’ll only be including films in which the demon has a physical body, so no possession films. I’ll do another post dedicated to that sub-genre, since there are so many. So without any further ado, let’s get this show on the road. Oh, and spoiler alert, as usual.

 

NUMBER EIGHT

 Dogma

“No pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater… than central air.”

Name: Azrael
From What?: Dogma
Played by: Jason Lee
Scary or sexy: Sexy-ish (he was kinda cute back in the day, hehe)
His Goal: To negate all of existence. Apparently hell is awful.
Alive at the end?: No
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: Silent Bob killed him with a golf club that had been blessed by a priest.

 

NUMBER SEVEN

HellBoy

“In the dark I heard your voice, what did you say?”
“I said, ‘Hey, you, on the other side – let her go. Because for her I will cross over, and then you’ll be sorry!'”

Name: Hellboy
From What?: Hellboy
Played by: Ron Perlman
Scary or sexy: Neither, really. Liz digs it, though, hehe.
His Goal: To stop the incoming Apocalypse and save his lady love.
Alive at the end?: Yes
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: N/A

 

NUMBER SIX

Sinister

“The symbol is associated with a Pagan deity named Bughuul. He consumes the souls of human children. The ancient church believed that Bughuul actually lived in the images themselves and that they were gateways into his realm. Children exposed to these images were especially vulnerable to Bughuul’s abductions.”

Name: Bughuul
From What?: Sinister
Played by: Nick King
Scary or sexy: Scary
His Goal: Infecting a child so that he/she kills their whole family, then he abducts the child.
Alive at the end?: Yes
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: N/A

 

NUMBER FIVE

Constantine

“Word is you’re on your way down. Fresh meat. Finger lickin’ good.”

Name: Balthazar
From What?: Constantine
Played by: Gavin Rossdale
Scary or sexy: Sexy (at least until John melts his skin with holy water)
His Goal: The usual demon stuff, plus mess with John as much as he can
Alive at the end?: Yes, but is sent back to hell.
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: N/A

 

NUMBER FOUR

Buffy

“You don’t know how to kill this thing?”
“I thought I might try violence.”

Name: Der Kindestod
From What?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Played by: James Jude Courtney
Scary or sexy: Very, very scary
His Goal: Feeding on the life essence of children in a hospital.
Alive at the end?: No
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: Buffy killed it by snapping its neck.

 

NUMBER THREE

Angel

“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. That was… you were so… brave!”
“You think you could say that again without so much shock in your voice? You’re stepping on my moment of manliness here.”
Name: Doyle
From What?: Angel
Played by: Glenn Quinn
Scary or sexy: Sexy (until the demon comes out)
His Goal: To help Angel save people using his visions from the “powers-that-be”.
Alive at the end?: No
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: He sacrifices himself to turn off a device that would kill a lot of humans (and I cried like a baby).

NUMBER TWO
Conjuring 2
“Your name gives me dominion over you, demon, and I do know your name! You are Valak! The defiler! The profane, the marquis of snakes! In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I condemn you back to hell!”

Name: Valak
From What?: The Conjuring 2 / The Nun
Played by: Bonnie Aarons
Scary or sexy: Very, very scary. Omg, did this thing give me the absolute heeb.
His Goal: To kill Ed Warren via a haunting he’s investigating in England.
Alive at the end?: Yes, but is banished back to hell by Lorraine.
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?: N/A

NUMBER ONE


“Easy, love. If you remember our time in Mesopotamia the way I do, you know I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

Name: Various, there are so many demons in this world, with Crowley being the most important.
From What?: Supernatural
Played by: Various, but Mark Sheppard plays Crowley
Scary or sexy: Both
His Goal: Again, various things. Crowley wants to be the King of Hell, Lilith wants to start Armageddon, etc.
Alive at the end?: Both
If not, how did (s)he bite it, and by whom?:  Those that are killed are usually done so by Sam or Dean with their special knife or gun.

And that’s it for the demons. Who (or what) are your favourites? let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you next time!

M.

Mel’s 5 Second Review: The Invoking

The Invoking (2013) (aka Sader Ridge)
Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili, Brandon Anthony, Andi Norris, and Josh Truax

So I’m not entirely sure what I just watched. By its title alone, The Invoking sounds like a supernatural horror movie. Possession, witches, demons, something in that vein. There were none of those in the film. It was also super low budget, it looked like it was filmed on one of those little camcorders. The acting was mostly awful, with perhaps only D’Angelo’s character Eric, the weird (but strangely hot) caretaker, a bit better than the rest.

HERE BE SPOILERS

The story centres around Sam, a young university student who inherits a house from an aunt she never knew. As soon as she arrives, she starts having nightmares, both while awake and asleep. She sees visions of her friends but they don’t seem to be themselves. Then the caretaker starts offing the friends, using Sam’s nightmares to make it seem like they’re killing themselves / each other… maybe? I’m not sure. I pretty much got the gist, though, that Sam and Eric are siblings, and something horrible happened to them as children. Then it ends with a cop coming to the door asking about a few kids that went missing, and we see Sam’s name, aged 14 years. Eric says no, never seen them. Cop leaves, Eric goes back inside where Sam is, and they kiss. Ew? And that’s it. The end.

So what the hell happened? Here’s what I think. I think it’s one of those “it’s all in her head” things. Her “friends” are actually her father and other siblings (or father, mother, brother, I’m not sure), and Eric and Sam killed them when they were kids, as seen in Sam’s nightmares. It doesn’t explain the incest, but I think it explains everything else.

After all that, did I like it? Not really. Did I hate it? Not really. It’s one of those generic films that you see, shrug off, and forget 5 minutes after it’s done. It gets a very “meh” 4/10 from me.

M.

Mel’s 5 Second First Impression: The Shannara Chronicles

The Shannara Chronicles (2016-present)
(Season 1 cast) Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett, John Rhys-Davies, Aaron Jakubenko, Daniel MacPherson, Marcus Vanco, Emilia Burns, Brooke Williams, James Remar, Jed Brophy

the-shannara-chronicles

I read about half of the first book in the series more than 12 years ago. I don’t remember much about it, nor do I know why I stopped reading it, since I was really enjoying it. I do remember enough, however, to know that this series takes place in the second generation of books. Wil, our hero, is the son of Shea, the youngster in the first books (of which there are 3, I think). I’ve recently re-bought The Sword of Shannara, and plan to read it soon, which has me wondering how much more of this show I want to watch before I do so. But for now, let’s talk about the first episode, the two-hour pilot, called Chosen.

They certainly packed a lot of info into that 2 hours (or hour and a half, once commercials are removed). There are no less than 5 characters that seem like they’re going to be important, although with already one unexpected death under their belts, it may be that this show is going to be more surprising than anticipated. Which is good. The acting is pretty good all round, if a little melodramatic at times. The effects look pretty stellar so far, the makeups on the demons are great. The only thing I’d have to say about it is that it seems to be the same old story again. There wasn’t much that happened in the show that wasn’t in The Lord of the Rings and other such titles. But, this was only the first episode. I’ll definitely continue watching, and hopefully it’ll grow it’s own two legs to stand on.

M.

Mel’s Books: December

Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs
Written by: Barbara Mertz
Read by: Lorna Raver
Notes: Super interesting, fun read.
Score: 10/10

The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: I’d always wanted to read a book about this, and I’m glad I finally did. The lives of the normal people back then is just as interesting as the lives of the leaders, and it’s time they got some love. The lecturer talks like Sid the Sloth from Ice Age, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might at the beginning of the class.
Score: 9.5/10

Serial Killers Abridged
Written by: RJ Parker
Read by: Me
Notes: Short snippets on 100 different killers. The writing was very amateurish, but I still enjoyed it.
Score: 8/10

Masters of True Crime: Chilling Stories of Murder and the Macabre
Written by: Various, edited by R Barri Flowers
Read by: Tara Ochs
Notes: The narrator was a little meh, but the stories were very well written and interesting. Many cases I hadn’t heard of in this book.
Score: 8/10

Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval World
Written by: Robert Garland
Read by: Robert Garland
Notes: 24 lectures about 24 different moments in history. Very cool approach to broad history. There were a few of the lectures that were kinda boring, but on the whole, a very interesting course.
Score: 8.5/10

The World’s Most Evil Psychopaths
Written by: John Marlowe
Read by: Eric Meyers
Notes: A good mix of famous killers and obscure ones, this book was well written, well read, and interesting.
Score: 9/10

M.

Mel’s 5 Second First Impressions: Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones (2015 – )
(Season 1 cast) Krysten Ritter, Rachael Taylor, David Tennant, Mike Colter, Carrie-Anne Moss, Erin Moriarty, Eka Darville, Wil Traval, Robin Weigert

Jessica-Jones

So, I didn’t want to watch this. I saw the previews, and meh. I love a lot of stuff to come out of the Marvel Universe, but the tv shows have all left me cold. But then I realized David Tennant is in it. Playing the villain, no less. So after talking to a few friends about it, I decided to finally go ahead and give it a shot. I’m 3 episodes in, and here’s what I think so far:

– My friend was right; David is much too rapey for me to find him yummy in this show.
– Unflinchingly shows what it’s like to have PTSD, hard to watch at times.
– The acting is pretty good all round, which I really wasn’t expecting from anyone save David.
– While Krysten is doing a good job in the role of Jessica, the character is a little abrasive sometimes, and hard to like or care about. I hope she changes a bit as the show goes on.
– I really hope we see cameos of other superheroes. So far we only got a mention of The Avengers (“the green guy and his crew”), I hope we get more.
– Kilgrave’s powers are so awful, especially in the hands of a psychopath. But it did make me daydream for a solid half hour at least about what I could do with power like that…

So, all in all, I did enjoy the episodes, but I’m not 100% sure that I’m going to like the show as a whole. I guess I gotta keep watching to find out!

M.