Cujo

I’ve spend most of this week feeling slightly bummed out and I swear to god it’s Stephen King’s fault. I know I’m way behind on Cujo’s story but I did not expect to end in such a devastating way – I guess that’s why it’s so effective. While you’ve got your eye firmly planted on Cujo, you don’t think about anything else.

Most readers (and their dogs LOL) will know the story of Cujo – and obviously I always had a rough idea of the plot, not least because it seems to be referenced all the time in other King books. It is good finally to have the details for myself. My husband said he never liked it because he felt too sorry for Cujo – and boy do I agree with that.

*Spoilers*

If you don’t know, Cujo is a massive, lovable Saint Bernard – the beloved pet of ten-year-old Brett Camber, a mechanics son. His father Joe is a dominating influence who beats his wife Charity and drinks with his neighbour Gary in his down time.

Across town (the story is set in SK staple, Castle Rock, Maine) the Trentons, Donna and Vic live with their little son Tad. They’ve got their own shit going on – Tad is haunted by the ‘monster in the closet’, while Donna is dealing with the aftermath of a pre-marital fling. Vic’s ad business is crumbling and he has to leave town just as he finds out about the affair – none of them are doing that great, what will a fateful meeting with a rabid Saint Bernard throw into the mix?

Alternative film poster for the 1983 Cujo adaptation

Well, one day of course Cuj goes for a run in the fields around the Camber home and ends up chasing a rabbit into a deep burrow. Alas, within the burrow live a family of rabies infected bats – and they’re not cool with the intrusion. Cujo gets bitten and so begins his tragic demise, via a horrific swansong of death and destruction. Bad doggie!

As events bring Donna and Tad directly into the path of Cujo’s fury, I was on the edge of my seat. It’s so effective and the final, agonising stand-off between (wo)man and beast is incredible. Donna is a brilliant character, flawed and fiesty, and hard as fuck. I love her. As Vic realises something is not okay at home and has to haul ass back to the Rock to rescue his family, Donna is taking care of business herself.

Meanwhile, Brett and Charity are miles away visiting family, clueless about the carnage they’ve left behind. Charity is secretly worrying about her son turning out like her abusive husband and contemplating divorce, while Brett can’t stop worrying about Cujo back home.

This book was very good and I enjoyed myself but I hated the thought of Cuj in pain. And I was in no way prepared for the Trenton family’s own tragedy. I don’t know why I was so invested in a perfect, happy ending. I must have forgotten who I was reading for a second.

Book details:

Cujo
Publisher: Cornerstone
ISBN-10: 0099975009
ISBN-13: 978-0099975007
Bought secondhand paperback for myself

What are you reading?

Paranoid Android

A quickie! I’m having a creative slump AGAIN so can’t be arsed to get into regular posting at the moment, even though I’ve got shed loads of reviews piling up.

I’ll get to them at the weekend I guess.

It’s just sometimes life is hard and I feel tired and slightly depressed. Not enough not to function but enough to know I’m not myself. I’m also doubting myself a lot and I hate this feeling the most.

There’s a lot to look forward to this weekend though, I’ve got a London trip with eleven girls to look forward to on Friday. It’s not my usual scene a group that big but I enjoy every one of them, so it’s going to be fun.

Last weekend we went to a Mormon wedding and it was gorgeous, so full of love and generosity. And the groom, my work bestie Josh, asked me to be his witness. Hashtag blessed to be part of his history, officially.

I’m trying to hold on to all the beauty in my life. I know I’m loved and I’m lucky and I have my health and a roof over my head. What use is there worrying I’m not good enough? I’m good enough to sign a wedding register, I can get through this week. I can get through anything – the rest of this year, Brexit, global warming – this life. I have to keep telling myself that.

I’ll shake it off and be back to normal service soon. Just give me a minute.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Crooked House

Who doesn’t love a damn good whodunit? I love all the (mostly incorrect) guessing, the red herrings and the final reveal – it’s all so deliciously satisfying. But does this tale suffer for not having a stong central character à la Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot? We’ll see.

Crooked House (2017)

In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.

Max IronsStefanie MartiniGlenn CloseChristina HendricksGillian AndersonTerence Stamp

Hot Private Dick Charles Hayward (Irons) is all out of sorts when his former lover, the beautiful Sophia De Haviland (Martini) turns up in his office, all red lips and jewel-coloured tones. Although the pair parted on bad terms – after a romp in Cairo – here she is asking him to solve her grandpapa’s murder. Bit cheeky if you ask me but there’s still feeling there between them so no judgement for now.

Charles flip flops back and forth on whether he should take the assignment given the conflict of interest but he eventually gives in, not least because the publicity from solving such a case, surrounding the death of a very wealthy and famous buisness man will do his one man outfit the world of good. Plus, he wants to know why Sophia left him in the first place.

Chief Inspector Taverner (Terence Stamp) of Scotland Yard gives Charlie his blessing. Which is pretty decent of him.

Lady in Red dunit

When Charles gets to Aristide Leonides’ sprawling estate it soon becomes clear that this is a family with secrets. The walls practically creak with scandal and intrigue. Right away Charlie bonds with the youngest resident, Sophia’s baby sister Josephine (Honor Kneafsey) who is something of an amateur sleuth. Bored out of her box, she looks for clues in every corner – and keeps record in her notebook.

Also living in the house are Aristide’s two bickering sons, their wives and his own sexy wife, former dancer Brenda (Hendricks). There’s also the nanny, his first’s wife’s sister, another grandson and the children’s personal tutor, Laurence. Phew.

Obviously, everyone’s a suspect.

As Charles visits each member of the family/household, one by one, he realises there are motives everywhere. Brenda was banging Laurence (John Heffernan) – therefore has a very good reason for wanting her husband out of the picture. Aristide’s eldest son Philip (Julian Sands) hated his guts. Meanwhile, Sophia looks set to inherit everything given that her grandpapa failed to sign his will – ooooooh!

Glenn Close dunit

So the question is: who?

Was it saucy Brenda with her curves to die for, skanking about with the hired help on her husband’s dime? Could it be Edith De Haviland, Aristide’s ex-sister-in-law who despised him for his coolness towards his grandchildren?

What about beautiful Sophia, who’s about to become a very rich woman indeed? Nanny (Jenny Galloway) might be pissed off about low pay maybe. And Clemency (Amanda Abbington) is a literal botanist (the victim was poisoned) – could she have knocked off her father-in-law? After all, she and her son Roger are barely keeping it together financially.

Was in one of the neglected grandkids – sly Josephine or snarky Eustace (Preston Nyman), sick of mean Gramps, hellbent on revenge or excitement? I guess all bets are off when you enter Christie’s imagination – but it’s fun trying to work it all out. Will Charles get to the answer quick enough, especially since more murders have start to happen around him?

You know what to do.

Gillian Anderson’s wig dunit

This movie looks great, the setting is exactly what you’d expect and enjoy about a film like this – and it is enjoyable, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know about it being Christie’s most twisted story but then again the final reveal is an interesting one that doesn’t pull its punches. I like it for that.

Charles himself doesn’t have much going on apart from a pretty face. He’s no Marple, no Poirot and yes, I do think the story suffers for that. I haven’t read enough Agatha Christie to know if he’s a reoccurring character but I do feel he lacks the charisma to bring this all together. His sexual chemistry with Sophia isn’t all that – and I don’t really care about the side story of their love affair.

I do love self-absorbed Magda – and Anderson is always an absolute delight. As a fading stage actress with a drink problem, she’s even more glorious. When an accident occurs and her youngest child ends up in hospital, she doesn’t even go and visit. What a dame.

The kid dunit

Likewise, super snooper Josephine is so much fun. Lurking in shadows and listening at doors, she has her nose up in everybody’s business – and I love it. I also have all the time in the world for Edith, who has her own personal shit going on.

God I love murder mystery. I want more. Way, way more.

What does my prime suspect Jillian think of this tale? Would she work it out in the first first minutes or murder it in its sleep? Find out here.

3.5/5

What Anxiety Looks Like To Me

I think about most things way too much but one of those things is anxiety itself. It can be all-consuming and exhausting. Nobody wants to spend that much time looking inward and fretting that they’re a terrible person with no potential. But that’s what it does to you – it’s the voice in your head that whispers you’re a fool with bad jokes and everyone hates you.

Living with anxiety and depression is a ride. I experience highs sometimes, not particularly nice ones that border on mania (this is usually if I’ve foolishly let my meds run out) but the lows are more frequent. I can feel them coming usually which is helpful, as I can batten down the hatches and prepare for them but in between these extremes there’s the constant doubt.

I think most people have a clear idea of what an anxious person might look like but the truth is, we’re not all rabbit-in-a-headlight eyes and wringing hands. More people than you can imagine live with anxiety and mental health issues – and they look like any one of us. Normal basically and with only one head.

Anxiety to me is a very mixed bag. I find my feelings are quite contradictory and in the past when I’ve tried to explain it to other people, I’ve told them it feels like there’s a perpetual war waged within me. Me vs. Me – it’s like the Battle of the Bastards up in here with less Jon Snow wandering around gormlessly. It’s Me, the confident, independent woman up against Me, the doubtful worry wort – the paranoid introvert who doesn’t like crowds.

I have to remind myself every day that I have a right to be here are much as anyone – and that I’m allowed to take up space.

Anxiety looks different to everyone but to me it manifests itself in intrusive thoughts and dark spots on an otherwise happy life. It’s not crippling but it does need to be kept in check. I’m getting quite good at pushing back – I have the tools to fight. And lately I’ve started to think of it from a more positive stand-point – what if being anxious is my secret super-power? What if I’m supposed to feel crap sometimes so I can recognise it in others – and be a better friend/wife/colleague because of it?

I think my friend anxiety would hate that idea – which is why I love it even more.

Daughters of the Dust

Costume Drama Month is going okay, if a little dull last week. This week’s pick however feels like a dream. It’s more of a poem than a movie – and it’s deeply beautiful. It also inspired some of the imagery in Beyoncé‘s Lemonade so make of that what you will.

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia where African folk-ways were maintained well into the 20th Century and was one of the last bastions of these mores in America. Set in 1902.

Director: Julie Dash

Starring: Cora Lee Day • Alva Rogers • Barbarao

Who run the world? NANA

*Minor spoilers*

“I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one. I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. I am the barren one and many are my daughters. I am the silence that you can not understand. I am the utterance of my name.” ~ Nana Peazant

1902, St. Simons Island, off the Georgia coast. Here we meet the Peazant family, whose ancestors were enslaved on the island centuries ago. The small community of islanders who still live there have developed their own language and culture – and the head of the family, Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day) practices African and Caribbean spiritual rituals like a boss. Their dialogue is in Gullah creole.

The island stories are for the most part narrated by the Unborn Child, the future spawn of Eli and Eula (Adisa Anderson and Alva Rogers), who Nana swears down is part of her too:

“We are two people in one body. The last of the old and the first of the new.”

Eula is about to give birth after being raped by a white man during a visit to the mainland, so relations between the couple are strained to the max. Eli laments to Nana that he no longer feels as though his wife belongs to him, while Nana reminds him that Eula is his wife and not something he can own. (Nana talks all the sense).

Both fear that the child about to come is not Eli’s – and Eula refuses to tell her husband who attacked her for fear of endangering his life. It’s desperately sad and later there’s a line uttered by the Unborn Child that reinforces this. Something like “I spent the rest of my life convincing my father that I was his”.

Don’t go chasing sandcastles

On this day however, there are other matters afoot. Some of the cousins have returned to the island from the mainland – to usher a number of the remaining family into their own travels North, where they will start their new lives.

Cousins Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) and Yellow Mary (Barbarao) are polar opposites – V is a devout Christian (and don’t we flipping know it) – while Yellow Mary rocks up with her lover Trula (Trula Hoosier) and is cut from a more bohemian cloth. Mr Snead (Tommy Redmond Hicks), a mainland photographer accompanies Viola on the trip to document the family’s travels.

There are many stories told during this time together, as the family catch up and gather around Nana, who will be staying behind. They are differing views and tales of woe – stories of triumph and success from the mainland. Eula gains strength from Yellow Mary, who reinforces her decision not to reveal the identity of her rapist.

“I see you!”

This beautiful poem culminates in the preparation of one final meal on the beach. Eula and Eli wax lyrical on the history and folklore of the slave uprising and those about to leave must make their final decisions – is it the right thing to leave now, or should they stay and maintain their traditional values and beliefs?

Daughters is breathtaking in the way it looks – the cinematography and costuming is pure perfection – and is rich with history. It examines truly brutal subject matter – from slavery to sexual assault – and has taught me something about a culture I did not know about and had never considered.

The Gullah are fascinating and fierce – and the lessons Nana teaches her daughters are mostly common sense. Her desperate insistence that they stay connected to their unbelievable history is so important and it wrangles at the heartstrings to imagine her left behind.

All performances are lovely but there’s a certain stiffness to some of the characters, though I’ll admit it actually suits them (for example, Cheryl Lynn Bruce’s bible-bashing Viola). Cora Lee Day is the stand-out as matriach Nana, while the wide-eyed beauty of Alva Rogers’ Eula works wonderfully. You want to rage against anyone who would ever hurt her, just like Eli does.

Although I’ve seen this pop up a few times on Netflix, I never would have watched it of my own volition so thank you Jill for the suggestion. I feel enriched just by listening to Nana’s lessons, even though they’re not meant for me.

“Eli, I’m trying to teach you how to touch your own spirit. I’m fighting for my life, Eli, and I’m fighting for yours. Look in my face! I’m trying to give you something to take north with you, along with all your great big dreams.” ~ Nana Peazant

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does Jill think of Daughters of the Dust? Would she leave the old ways behind in a heartbeat or stay on the island forever? Find out here.

Get Me Bodied

I wrote this for my work blog but thought I’d share it here too because… I’m lazy.

I’ve talked about my “complicated relationship” with this old carcass I call a body before but I’ve been thinking about it again in relation to Mental Health Awareness this week because the theme this time is Body Image – and how we think and feel about our bodies.

Even joshing about it being old and decrepit sums up how I feel about my body – it’s a love/hate kind of thing and I choose to look at it with humour, something I have worked long and hard to do. Most people have low self-esteem at points in their lives and particularly when they compare how they look to the media (and society’s) narrow view of what is beautiful. The beauty of low self esteem is that it can strike at any time, at any age – and nobody is safe. Which means we’re all in it together.

For me it’s been a 40-year journey to get to a point where I love my body, even when it aches, even when I’m looking at pictures of Scarlett Johansson and cursing the fact we’re not identical twins. And even when Joan from Accounting is talking about how disgusting she is because she accidentally walked past a cupcake in the break room once. I really do see this relationship as an ongoing project, the most important project perhaps in tandem with mental health – the body and mind after all are so intricately connected.

I don’t know if there is any tried and tested way to get to a good place with yourself but I personally believe it surrounding yourself with positive influences can help enormously. For instance, only following people who enrich your life and your worldview on Instagram. Why keep up with people who make you feel bad? I unfollow as quickly as my fat little fingers will allow if I read or see something that doesn’t align itself with that philosophy. Life is hard enough, give me all the positivity and light. And no, there’s nothing to be learnt from another person’s view on your body – it’s yours alone and truly, it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks or says about it.

I also choose to dress nice (when I can be bothered) and cover myself in weird and wonderful tattoos, that’s my own personal jam – and not necessarily a recommendation. Diet and exercise are always cited as great for mental health and can help you feel better in your own skin but what you do and how often again is only your business. The gym isn’t for everybody and let me assure you it is not for me. I like a walk while I listen to podcasts.

The Mental Health Foundation‘s tagline for this campaign is #bebodykind and I think it’s a good place to start. But it does need to encompass all body types, even the ones you don’t personally like the look of or the ones you don’t understand. So be kind to your body as much as you can and be kind to others too.

There are lots of interesting and surprising facts to be read about a research done on Body Image here, if you fancy – as well as helpful resources if you feel you need some support.

What are you thoughts on Body Image?

A Royal Night Out

This week’s movie could have featured in last month’s Based on a True Story month as well as this one, which is a really dull fact I realise. But it is ‘Inspired by True Events’ and that makes it pretty cool in my book, even if the overall product didn’t blow me away.

A Royal Night Out (2015)

On V.E. Day in 1945, as peace extends across Europe, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are allowed out to join the celebrations. It is a night full of excitement, danger and the first flutters of romance.

Director: Julian Jarrold

Starring: Sarah Gadon • Bel Powley • Emily Watson • Rupert Everett

*Minor spoilers*

Love a princess in uniform

It’s VE Day, 1945 and peace has just been declared across Europe. The Princesses, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) and Margaret (Bel Powley) finally persuade the Queen (Emily Watson) to let them join the festivities, as long as they stick to curfew and go out incognito.

They must also be tailed by chaperones – but the Princesses take this as a massive win for their personal life development and excitedly hit London town in their best frocks. Their father, the King (Rupert Everett) makes Lillibet (Liz) promise to tell him how his speech goes down with the general public.

As soon as they arrive at the Ritz, the sisters are quickly separated from their jubilent chaperones, Lieutenants Pryce (Jack Laskey) and Burridge (Jack Gordon), who would prefer to celebrate than be working all night. Whilst they enjoy the booze and the ladies, the Princesses go rogue.

Pretty in pink x 2

Alas they’re also separated from each other and so begin two adventures for the price of one as the sisters try to find their way back to one another – and eventually, home safe.

Margaret, the more vivacious of the two, meets a couple of chaps and allows herself to be swept off to Trafalgar Square for a dip in the fountains, while next in line for the throne Liz meets Jack (Jack Reynor) on the number 14 bus. Desperate to catch up with her sister, Liz calls on Jack’s reluctant help to achieve her goals. Along the way she realises the toll the war has taken on the common man.

When Margaret ends up in a knocking shop, warding off the advances of an aggressive suitor, things take a turn (for the better I would say) – but will the Princesses be reunited before the King and Queen lose their shit?

Standing on balconies with boys

Honestly, this movie is sweet but it doesn’t do anything that exciting. The Princesses don’t get into any sort of japes that you wouldn’t expect. Bel Powley as Margaret is lots of fun but there’s not nearly enough of her character for my liking. Also, when the movie started I was excited about the lols the sisters might get in together – and there’s little of them in tandem until the end.

That said, both performances are lovely, as are those of Watson and Everett. Hardly surprising as both are practically royalty themselves. The knocking shop is my favourite setting and to be honest, thank you this film for not being judgemental about sex work. My favourite part is probably the spirited exchange between Marge and a group of ladies of the night, as they mistake her for a fellow working girl.

Jack’s story is a sad one but it is quite typical. While he has had his stripes taken away for him for showing ‘weak moral character’, he doesn’t do all that much to prove otherwise, apart from punch a few people. He’s nice to his mum Joan (Ruth Sheen) though so he can have that.

So yeah, the costuming, the setting and the VE Day revelry looks fantastic, the acting is great – and it’s got heart. It just isn’t anything earth-shattering about it and therefore I probably won’t think about it again.

You drive me crazy

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my princess think of this one? Would she leave it on its own in London or take it to her favourite brothel? Find out here.

Lady J

Yes or No_-5

This May we’re going to do costume dramas because we fucking want to. No other reason.

I do love a good costume piece, I won’t lie. All those heaving breasts and swishing bustles – delicious. This week’s pick is no exception and looks at broken hearts, vengeance and pure desperation.

Lady J (2018) or Mademoiselle de Joncquières (original title)

Fooled by a notorious libertine, a widow plans her revenge.

Director: Emmanuel Mouret

Starring: Cécile de France • Edouard Baer • Alice Isaaz • Natalia Dontcheva

*Minor spoilers*

Same, TBH

Madame de La Pommeraye (Cécile de France) is being courted by notorious pussyhound and libertine Le marquis des Arcis (Edouard Baer). She’s having none of it though, preferring to stay friends with the boundless cad instead. After all, she lives in impressive grounds alone since her last husband and wants for nothing. She doesn’t need a man and anyway, claims not to be fussed about the whole love and romance thing.

Unfortunately, the marquis soon batters down her defenses and manages to convince Madame DLP that he’s a changed man, done with society, preferring to stay with her quietly in the countryside. Despite doubts expressed by her BFF Lucienne (Laure Calamy), DLP (as I’ll refer to her from now on) falls in love with the marquis and they embark on their new life together.

For a time.

A while passes and although outwardly our girl swears they’re living the dream, she is forced to admit to Lucienne that the marquis is leaving her to travel for work more and more – and she’s not feeling the love as much. Encouraged to confront him and put her paranoia to bed, she calls his bluff and claims to be questioning her own feelings. He is relieved and, believing she’s on exactly the same page as him, admits he’s not been into the relationship for a while and just didn’t know how to break it to her. But they can still be best friends though, non?

Nights in white cotton

DLP lets him go and the marquis does what all good man-sluts do – he goes back to slagging it up and being commended for it. They do remain friends but DLP has a revenge plan in mind – and she’ll go to extreme lengths to teach him a lesson. But first she needs to assemble a team…

Remembering a story Lucienne has told her about the illegitimate daughter of a couple of star-crossed noble people, DLP cooks up the perfect plan. She calls on Madame de Joncquières (Natalia Dontcheva), who has also been fucked over by a genteel man – and left with precisely nothing. Along with her lovely daughter Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Alice Isaaz), she has been forced to live in a brothel and service anyone who comes along with cold hard cash.

Beauty is pain

Trusting that the marquis will fall heavily for the Mademoiselle’s epic beauty, DLP figures she’ll trick him into marrying her – thinking she’s pure as driven snow and deeply pious – then reveal that he’s married a sex worker, thus becoming the laughing-stock of Paris.

A simple enough premise, right? Well, I’ll leave it to the viewer to work out whether the plan works. I have a lot of thoughts about it. For a start, DLP is an absolute arse who has every right to be heartbroken and devastated by the marquis’ behaviour – but has no right to play with these women’s lives, even if they do agree for the money.

Mademoiselle remains almost mute throughout the execution of the plan, however is ignored and emotionally blackmailed when she admits to her mother that she hates DLP and does not wish to start a marriage based on such deceit. Both Mademoiselle and mother are treated like garbage, taken from the brothel to relative comfort, promised a healthy income in exchange for their acting skills. DLP pretends to care about them, to be sympathetic to their cause – but all she cares about is revenge.

Team Mademoiselle all the way

There’s also a double standard at play here (obvs). *Spoiler* – when the marquis finds out the truth about his beautiful and innocent new wife, he has a lot to say about it – abandoning her in the dirt and threatening to hurt her badly. The irony regarding his sexual history is not lost.

I hate that these women are considered less than just because of their professions. A profession as old as time* but in this scenario, by no means chosen. So the fact that the newly wed couple work it out and the marquis falls in love with his wife is the greatest revenge. Fuck everyone.

While I don’t like the marquis either, I like to believe that he learns to love and become a decent human being because of his sincere and honest new wife, an allegedly ‘lowly’ woman with the strongest moral compass of anyone in the story. GO FUCK YOURSELF, MADAME DE LA POMMERAYE!

The performances are wonderful throughout, as is the period setting and the costuming. I really enjoyed myself and was rooting for Mademoiselle the whole way.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my love think of Lady J? Would she banish it to the streets or love it forever? Find out here.

*Respect sex workers.

Haunting on Fraternity Row – I Watch Them So You Don’t Have To

Welcome to the second post in my I Watch Them So You Don’t Have To series (see #1 here). I thought it might be fun to share some of the lesser recognised horror ‘gems’ I stumble across, just because.

I’m quite sure nobody else really cares but I do. I love the idea of people getting the films they want to make made, usually on a shoe-string budget – and I want to appreciate them for what they are. The movies I choose to include in this series all have a little something I like, even if it’s difficult to define what that is.

Sure, we’ll explore some shaky pieces, hence you maybe not wanting to dedicate your own time to them – but don’t worry, I got you. I’m aiming to regularly review an indie horror as often as possible. Aren’t you lucky?

Let us begin…

Haunting on Fraternity Row (2018) or The Party Crasher (UK title)

A fraternity house throws their big “Winter Luau” party but when fraternity brothers and coeds begin dying horrible deaths they discover an evil entity has taken over the house.

Director: Brant Sersen

Starring: Jacob Artist • Jayson Blair • Shanley Caswell

*Minor spoilers*

The premise here is simple: a gang of super douchey frat boys are throwing one last party before they graduate and disperse separately into the real world. The theme is Winter Luau and nothing’s going to stop it going off with a bang. Not even an ancient curse on the frat house itself, no sir.

No sorority stereotypes here, no way

Well, Haunting on Fraternity Row begins with dozens of college stereotypes, the boys themselves are almost all stoners and scumbags, there’s the heinous Queen Bee, the sluts, the girl next door and the med student. The pitiful pledges and the gross teen brother who’s gate-crashed the luau against his older sibling’s wishes. They’re all here, basically – and you know what, as rotten as most of them are, there are a couple of stand-out characters that I actually wanted to root for.

As the boys and their pledges prepare for their big party, they wind up in the basement where they uncover a secret room via a crudely crafted tunnel. In the room they find an old chalice that head douche Tanner (Jayson Blair) claims for his own. Unsettled but otherwise distracted by the promise of booze and babes, the gang get on with it. With the exception of Dougie (Ashton Moio), who’s the only one smart enough to do some Googling.

Why not trust the guy in the RAD cap?

Turns out there was an incident in the house in which the previous owner killed all his dinner party guests, then his wife and himself. And it might well be that he hasn’t quite crossed over yet. Could his demonic soul be connected to the chalice – and are our teens in big trouble? You bet your oiled up bikini bod they are!

Luckily everything is caught on camera, as several of the pledges are tasked with capturing all the fun. But before the carnage begins, Nice Guy Jason (Jacob Artist) is too shy to approach his long-term crush Claire (Shanley Caswell), who likes him back. BFF Maggie (Molly Tarlov) is pushing her to get a life (and into Jason’s jocks), while pining over Tanner herself.

Meanwhile, Grant (Cameron Moulène) tries desperately to please his overbearing girlfriend Liza (Claudia Lee), who’s daddy is going to set him up with a hedge fund career once college is done. I must say that I’m not mad at some of the character development. Often in college movies this kind of detail is overlooked so you’re cheering for these 2D idiots to be slaughtered – in this case, you actually will some of them to live.

“He’s behind you!”

I’m firmly on Team Dougie as he’s the only one really interested in uncovering what the fuck is going on. He’s a practical soul and I appreciate that, unfortunately his drug usage goes against him and nobody believes him. Dammit. I also love Jason and Claire, two decent humans with the rest of their lives in front of them – if only they can get out of the house. Maggie is a total babe too, probably the most well-rounded female character in the piece.

Effect wise we’re talking extremely low-budget but at least it doesn’t play its hand too soon or too much. As the students are picked off one by one, there are some choice horror moments. What I feel about this movie is that its creators love and appreciate the horror genre, spinning a tried and trusted horror trope (frat bros & coeds) into something a little fresher, if not completely original.

It might not change the world and it might not leave a lasting memory but there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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