The Yattering and Jack: Monty Pythonesque Satire or Thatcherism Parody?

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Hell or New Jersey?

((WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS))

True story: I once participated in a writing group where one of the members wrote a story set in a space station. Once every twenty-four hours or so the remaining family members would gather at a window and wave at the family patriarch, who died in space and now orbits the station like a small moon. It was at this point that a critique mate quite spontaneously uttered one of the best critiques I’ve ever heard or will hear, capturing the essence of this story in five words.

Here they are: what a fucked up family.

Reading Clive Barker’s short story The Yattering and Jack brought back these words of wisdom. The unspoken point of this story is that the Yattering doesn’t need to claim Jack’s soul for Hell, because Jack’s life sucks so much Hell would be a relief. I’m assuming that Barker is going for Monty Pythonesqe satire or perhaps a parody of Thatcherism here. Unfortunately, my knowledge of British culture isn’t broad enough to know what he’s satirizing.

The Yattering is a minor demon given the task of driving a human crazy and thus claiming his soul for Hell. Jack Polo, the human in question, is a gherkin importer who holds the distinction of being THE MOST BORING MAN ON EARTH. That’s what the Yattering – who’s not exactly Screwtape material – thinks, anyway. The demon, who is invisible, must abide by two rules: it cannot leave Jack’s house and it cannot lay hands on Jack’s person with malicious intent.

Jack has one trick, but it’s a good one. He doesn’t show his emotions. Jack’s wife has an affair and confesses. When he doesn’t react she kills herself, which makes no sense, but whatever. Jack’s daughter comes out as a lesbian and Jack doesn’t react, happily or angrily. The Yattering murders three of Jack’s cats; it kills the last feline by making it explode like a kitty-bomb. Jack doesn’t react.

During the Christmas season the Yattering possesses the turkey while its baking in the oven, makes the Christmas tree spin like a crazy top and drives one of Jack’s daughters insane. Jack doesn’t – well, you get the idea. Turns out that crafty ole’ Jack knew the whole time. Instead of the Yattering driving Jack crazy, Jack drives the Yattering crazy. He wins. Or does he? Barker tells us what Jack wants –  he was essentially a man of simple tastes: all he asked for in life was the love of his children, a pleasant home, and a good trading price for gherkins. Jack’s daughter is insane and his home is in shambles, but he has his soul. Since Jack is portrayed as a total asshole, I’m not sure how much that’s worth.

The Yattering and Jack is an entertaining short story. The scenes where the Yattering possesses the turkey and sets the Christmas tree spinning are the highlights of this tale. Reading about the bacon fat bubbling down the crazed bird’s back, I felt impressed and more than a little jealous. Barker excels at description; his weakness is character development. Or maybe that’s unfair, as I am assuming these characters are meant to be parodies.

Like Jack himself, The Yattering and Jack has a single trick.  The Yattering is the story’s protagonist and Jack is the villain. And it works. I was rooting for the Yattering.

 

 

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Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewoof, er Werewolf

WEREWOOF

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY FROM STEPHEN KING!

((THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS))

Deciding what image to use for this week’s blog post was rough. I dimly recall seeing Silver Bullet, the movie adaptation of Cycle of the Werewolf, years ago. When I viewed the trailer for Silver Bullet, I was thrilled to see that Gary Busey plays Uncle Al, young Marty has a rocket-powered wheelchair and the werewolf is played by a guy in a rubber suit. However, in honor of Valentine’s Day I decided to use an image from my vintage 1983 copy of Cycle of the Werewolf.

A publishing experiment/gimmick set in Tarker’s Mills, Maine, Cycle of the Werewolf is an illustrated novella consisting of twelve vignettes, one for each month of the year. Every month we learn about the weather in Tarker’s Mills, because what else do people in small towns have to talk about? We also learn who – if anyone – the Beast will kill. Yes, there’s a werewolf loose in Maine!

The deaths are vintage horror dreck, Stephen King style. Young Brady flies his kite too high, and is found headless and disemboweled. Constable Neary dies in his cruiser with a bottle of Busch beer nestled against his crotch. King tells us that Constable Neary is a Busch Man because such details make or break a story. Also, the Reverend Lowe has a nightmare/wet dream wherein he and everyone in his congregation transform into a werewolf. Gosh, I wonder who the werewolf could be?

Our hero is Marty Coslaw, a ten-year old in a wheelchair. Marty’s father says things like rootie-patootie and diddly-damn, which is a great way of identifying a person through dialogue. I myself don’t know any human being who speaks that way, but I’ve lived a sheltered life in New Jersey, so who knows? Marty’s Uncle Al should be locked up. Marty himself is a stone-cold killer.

Marty meets the werewolf on the Fourth of July, when he’s out shooting fireworks. Marty has fireworks because his Uncle Al gives them to him, telling his nephew to go ahead and set them off during the night of the full moon, when the killer has been rampaging. Marty shoots one of the werewolf’s eyes out with a firecracker, which proves those things are dangerous. Boy and Wolf Man meet again on New Year’s Eve, and this time Marty blows the werewolf’s brains out with a pair of silver bullets. Gee, I wonder who gave him the bullets?

Cycle of the Werewolf is pedestrian Stephen King. It’s not rock-bottom Stephen King, but it’s not good either. The art is one of the novella’s high points; comic book veteran Berni Wrightson draws a great werewolf. Mr. King and Mr. Wrightson also collaborated on the comic adaptation of Creepshow. I mention this because I believe Cycle of the Werewolf would have made a great graphic novel, but the publishing industry hadn’t perfected the format yet.

King addresses the biggest inconsistency of Cycle of the Werewolf in the afterword. Yes, the Master of Horror tells us, I know the moon cycles don’t match up. Deal with it. To be fair, this novella contains about a million other inconsistencies. My favorite is the werewolf’s eyes, which start out yellow and then turn green. Interestingly, Mr. Wrightson always draws the werewolf’s eyes as green. Logic and consistency aren’t this novella’s strong point. Neither is character development. Neither is the prose. Mr. King did his life-in-a-small-town shtick better in Salem’s Lot, and if you want to read about a monster terrorizing a small town try IT.

My favorite part of Cycle of the Werewolf is the art. I also liked the descriptive sequence of Marty hauling himself out of bed. That scene was well-done, because it required actual research on King’s part. One could view King’s werewolf as a metaphor for drug addiction; the Reverend sounds suspiciously like an addict as this novella lurches to a close, and at the time Mr. King was struggling with drug addiction. Who knows? Bottom line: if you want cheesy Z-budget horror, watch Silver Bullet. It’s way more entertaining.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King: Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex

WARNING: Do not read this story while eating lunch, like I did. Also: spoiler alert!

This is a review of the Clive Barker novelette Rawhead Rex, not the movie of the same name. All I’ve seen of the movie is the above trailer; my favorite part is when Rawhead leaps into the air like he’s doing the wave! I have combed the Internet for an animated gif of this wondrous moment to no avail.

Rawhead Rex appears in the third volume of Clive Barker’s The Books of Blood, a six-volume story collection released in the U.S. in the early 80’s. Technically it is a novelette, but I am going to refer to it as a story. The Books of Blood propelled Mr. Barker to celebrity status in horror circles. I read Rawhead Rex for the first time over thirty years ago, and still remember parts of it. To be honest, this isn’t the sort of story one forgets.

According to the online version of the OED, the meaning of raw-head is bogeyman; I already knew that Rex is King in Latin. Thus, Rawhead Rex means King of Bogeymen, and he lives up to that title here. The story opens with a man trying to move a rock that turns out to be the gravestone of Rawhead, who thanks his savior by killing him and spiking his body head-first in the earth.

Not having eaten for a few hundred years, Rawhead has a hearty appetite. He eats a child’s pony, and then the child. Pretty horrifying, but Rawhead is just getting started. Next he attacks a policeman’s car, baptizes his first follower by pissing in his face and devours another child, dragging him through a car window in a nightmarish sequence. Soon afterwards he burns a village to the ground, but is undone by the statue of a Venus figurine underneath the church’s altar. The story ends with Rawhead’s piss draining into the earth.

Rawhead Rex is visceral horror and thus isn’t for everyone. That said, this story is a ghoulish masterpiece, featuring a breakneck pace, gobloads of freaky energy and lots and lots of wonderful imagery. Barker’s description of Rawhead’s face is one of the high points of the story:

It was huge, like the harvest moon, huge and amber. But this moon had eyes that burned in its pallid, pitted face. They were for all the world like wounds, those eyes, as though somebody had gouged them in the flesh of Rawhead’s face then set two candles to flicker in the holes.

Garrow was entranced by the vastness of this moon. He looked from eye to eye, and then to the wet slits that were its nose, and finally, in a childish terror, to the mouth. God, that mouth. It was so wide, so cavernous, it seemed to split the head in two as it opened. That was Thomas Garrow’s last thought. That the moon was splitting in two, and falling out of the sky on top of him.

More happens in Rawhead Rex than in many novels I’ve read, and Barker still makes time to open with an extended introduction. Technically, starting a story with exposition is a big no-no, but there are exceptions to every rule. The start-with-action rule has more to do with our current society’s collective short attention span, anyway.

Character development in Rawhead Rex is bare-bones basic. Barker often leads with the worst traits of his human characters. Reverend Coot lives up to his surname, Detective Sergeant Gissing is a pedophile, Declan Ewan enjoys murder and monster golden showers. The humans tend to do stupid, inexplicable things. Why does Denny Nicholson charge the barn instead of calling the police? Why do Ron Milton and his family decide to take a Sunday morning drive when there’s a bloodthirsty beast on the loose? Who knows? Logic isn’t this story’s strong point. Description is, and Barker pours it on.

That said, Rawhead Rex has its own form of logic. Bullets don’t kill Rawhead, because Rawhead doesn’t know that bullets can kill him, but a small rock is enough to bring him to his knees. Barker’s vivid description of Rawhead makes it believable that there are those who would worship him as a God. He also seems to be able to dominate certain human beings with his will, an ability that is never explained.

Rawhead Rex doesn’t have a protagonist, unless you count Rawhead himself. The point-of-view of this story bounces around like a ping-pong ball. Alternating point-of-view has fallen out of style in writing circles – another writing rule – but make a list of the authors who use this technique and then tell me if it’s a stupid rule.

<Rant> I once had a short story rejected because it was written in alternating points-of-view; I had another rejected because it was told in first person present, and genre fiction isn’t written in first person present. I eventually sold both stories. From my time reading slush I have learned that markets who are extreme sticklers for such rules are often less than professional, and you don’t want to be published there anyway. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t follow the writers’ guidelines. Because you should! </End Rant>.

Clive Barker has had a long and successful writing career, but I’ve never read anything of his that matched the freakish energy of The Books of Blood. It’s a shame this collection is out-of-print, but short stories aren’t considered to be commercially viable anymore. Thus, Rawhead is gone but not forgotten. The King is dead; long live the King.

 

Bring on the Spiderpocalypse: Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground!

The first time I heard about Sarah Pinborough’s Breeding Ground was through the Seton Hill Writers’ Facebook page. Reading the torrent of vituperation and OMGS whenever this book was mentioned, I formed the impression that many people seemed to think this was THE WORST HORROR NOVEL IN THE UNIVERSE. I must confess, the prospect of reading and experiencing such a book with others energized me. However, Breeding Ground is not THE WORST HORROR NOVEL IN THE UNIVERSE. It’s not even the worst book published by Leisure. I have read three novels published by Leisure Books, and this was by far the best.

In fact, I enjoyed Breeding Ground and thought it was a pretty solid horror novel, especially the second half. If you like creature-feature horror, you should definitely read this. I will note that Breeding Ground has decent reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, including a five-star rating from horrormeister Brian Keene! Ms. Pinborough managed to break into a tough market back when the horror field was in tatters (it’s still in tatters, but never mind). She wrote six novels for Leisure Books, including a sequel to Breeding Ground, and has gone on to have a career that most of us can only envy, writing horror novels, TV spin-offs and YA fantasy series. Her latest novel, Behind Her Eyes, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller.

Breeding Ground is a direct descendant of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, a novel about a small village where a group of women give birth to a bunch of creepy blonde-haired children with telepathic powers and a group-mind. The Midwich Cuckoos was made into The Village of the Damned, a fine movie. Ms. Pinborough mentions Mr. Wyndham and his works twice during the course of Breeding Ground. Another possible inspiration is James Herbert’s The Rats, although this book lacks The Rats manic energy.

Please note that I am not saying that Breeding Ground is a perfect novel. To me, it reads like a book written in the early stages of a novelist’s career. At points the writing is rough, and there are a few unintentionally hilarious sentences, such as when a character throws his butt onto the ground. Ms. Pinborough does a good job of building suspense but has trouble with the pay-off, especially action scenes. I had trouble visualizing the spiders, although she does a fine job of conveying the fear and dread they cause in human beings.

Ms. Pinborough does a lot of things very well in Breeding Ground, also. The pacing of this book is very good, and she does a fine job building suspense. We don’t see a lot of the widows, which makes them more threatening. The second half of this book has a creepy claustrophobic energy that I admired. The way the widows’ bite rots people from the inside is great. The build-up to the amputation of Dave’s arm is truly horrific; the actual amputation itself is a let-down, but you can’t have everything.

Breeding Ground‘s biggest flaw is its inability to create realistic characters, encapsulated by the book’s protagonist. The kindest way to describe Matthew Edge is that he’s not a very bright man saddled with an extremely rudimentary understanding of women. I took what I thought to be irrational dislike of Matt in the first chapter, and then discovered I was spot on.

When Matt’s pregnant wife Chloe gets sick, he doesn’t even notice until she starts telling him to go fuck himself and eating raw meat. Matt takes pains to tell us that he doesn’t care about his wife’s appearance, and then goes on to describe the flaws in his wife’s appearance in minute detail. This leads me to believe that he does, in face, care about his wife’s appearance. Chloe responds by paralyzing Matt with her newfound mental powers whilst simultaneously planning a night out with a girlfriend in Birmingham. At that moment I felt good for Chloe, because I’m sure taking care of Matt is a full-time job.

The happy times come to an end when Chloe gives birth to a widow, a bloodthirsty mutant spider. Matt runs away with piss dripping down his leg, one of the book’s many high points for our hero. He soon makes a quick recovery, finding a change of clothes and a quick bite to eat. If the barber shop was open, he’d probably get a haircut also, because you have to look good for those fellow survivors. Note that there is another character in Breeding Ground that shares the same philosophy.

Sure enough, when Matt meets other survivors, he’s immediately attracted to twenty-year old Katie, somehow managing to shove all thoughts of his beloved Chloe aside. The spiderpocalypse might snuff out most people’s sex drives, but Matt is made of sterner stuff. He spends a lot of time wondering if the new object of his affection likes him too, but soon Katie starts acting funny, sort of like Matt’s ex-wife before she gave birth to one of the mutant spiders that have, you know, taken over the earth. Matt doesn’t make that connection, but he does sulk when she stops paying attention to him.

Will Matt and Chloe/Kate/Rebecca/??? live happily ever after? Will Nigel win the Best-Dressed Man of the Spiderpocalypse Award? Will the widows eat everyone on earth? Read Breeding Ground to find out!

Bring on the sequel!

Horror Story

Horror Story is the first Bollywood horror movie I’ve ever seen. It’s nice to learn that the tropes of the horror genre are universal, even when the movie itself isn’t so great. Don’t get me wrong. Horror Story is entertaining and has a few good jump scares, including one that made me shriek so loud it startled my cat. But the story is – well, you’ll see.

Seven attractive young people are busy getting drunk at a bar because one of them is going to America. They decide to spend the night in a hotel that’s supposed to be haunted. That’s pretty much your plot, right there, which is one of the movie’s problems. Nobody has any agency or even much of a personality. The Final Girl doesn’t drink, which good for her!

Once at the hotel, our hapless youngsters immediately start breaking the tropes. Nobody has sex but they split up all the time, even after one of them observes that the evil spirit only kills stragglers so maybe they should all stick together. Eventually our heroes discover that the hotel used to be a mental institution that was the final residence of Maya the Witch, who calls the petrified youths on her cell phone to let them know she wants to kill them all.

Maya doesn’t quite measure up to my favorite evil witch of all time, Bathsheba of The Conjuring, but she really hustles. There are seven youths, so it takes her awhile to whittle the crowd down to a manageable size. Luckily, these young people are really dumb, which helps. Eventually the survivors discover a way to banish Maya, which is good, and then decide to split up, because that makes no sense at all. I try not to root for people to die in horror movies, but Horror Story strained my resolve.

I enjoyed Horror Story. It’s a movie with plot elements but no real plot, but who cares? It looks good; there’s nothing I hate more than a gritty, grainy movie where you can’t see shit. Bottom line: there are worse ways to kill 85 minutes.

WNUF Halloween Special

I grew up during the 1980’s, a very special decade. We had Ronald Reagan, big hair, Satanic Panic, video arcades, Bruce Springsteen, heavy metal, Freddy Krueger, petting zoos, VHS tapes, monster truck tournaments, Beautiful Mount Airy Lodge, help-a-child foundations (all that’s needed is a desire to help and a clean criminal record!) and cheesy commercials for hot dog joints, to name just a few.

The WNUF Halloween Special starts with a news broadcast, where we hear all the local news – dirty attack ads in governor races, a local dentist giving money for Halloween candy, a Christian group claiming that Halloween is evil. The Halloween Special itself, which takes place in a supposedly haunted house where a young man killed his family and claimed the Devil made him do it, doesn’t start until about twenty minutes into the movie.

As is fitting, the WNUF Halloween Special comes complete with commercials for carpet joints, local dentists, bad TV shows and petting zoos. I watched a lot of TV in the 80’s, and can tell you the commercials are spot-on. As the night progresses and the kiddies go to bed, the commercials get weirder and more risqué. The special has been recorded on VCR, and the watcher fast-forwards through the duplicates.

The actors and actresses of this movie look like real people, not airbrushed gods and goddesses. Frank Stewart, the narrator of the Halloween Special, has messy hair and the sleazy appeal of a used car salesman. His guests include a pair of fake psychics and their pet cat, along with a priest who becomes increasingly terrified as the night goes on. They have a call-in séance where a caller tells us that Iron Maiden rules and White Lion sucks. It’s amateur hour, but Frank soldiers on, even though it becomes obvious that something’s in the house.

I wouldn’t call the WNUF Halloween Special found-footage because technically the footage isn’t found. But it has links to that genre; other influences include The Amityville Horror and the BBC mockumentary Ghostwatch, which I reviewed last year. The commercials get a bit annoying, but this is a movie worth seeing, if only because it takes us back to the 80’s, that magical decade!

Four Flies in Grey Velvet

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Say you’re a drummer in a rock ‘n roll band. You have a stalker, a mysterious older man who follows you everywhere. Instead of going to the police or arming yourself with a weapon, you confront your tormenter in an empty movie theatre. The man pulls a knife, and before you know it he falls to the ground, seemingly dead. But, wait: a second stalker takes pictures of the entire incident! Do you: a) go to the police; b) suspect someone is setting you up; c) go home and try to forget it ever happened?

Roberto – the main character of Four Flies in Grey Velvet – is the biggest damsel in distress I’ve ever seen in my life. He is utterly without agency. When it turns out that the second stalker is a homicidal maniac who wants to ruin his life and then kill him, he does nothing. Roberto refuses to talk to the police, but tells no less than three people –he doesn’t even know one of them! – his sad tale. After hiring a private eye who hasn’t cracked a case in years, Roberto tries to get on with his life, even after someone breaks into his home (too many times to count), threatens to strangle him, leaves murder photos at his dinner parties and kidnaps his cat.

Soon Roberto’s wife Nina can’t stand anymore and leaves. Nina’s cousin Dalia stays, and pretty soon Roberto – whose philosophy seems to be this – is in the bathtub playing footsie with her. In the meantime his pet homicidal maniac is having a grand ole’ time, going on a murder spree.

Four Flies in Grey Velvet is mediocre Argento, which means it’s still better than 90% of the horror movies out there. The plot is sketchy, throwing in some silly pseudoscience, and I found Roberto to be an unlikable hero. There’s a point at the end when the killer is happily chewing the scenery, and the dubbing ends and I didn’t understand half the monologue. That’s okay, because – spoiler alert! – the killer is crazy, which is all you need to know. I’ve noticed that Argento recycles plot elements in his giallo, so parts of this movie were familiar. However, Four Flies in Grey Velvet is stylishly shot and the movie itself is quite entertaining. The final scene in particular is great. Early Dario Argento is always worth a watch.

Freddy vs. Jason

Freddy vs Jason

When I was in high school, A Nightmare on Elm Street was the biggest horror movie franchise around. Evil Dead 2 and Return of the Living Dead were great, but they kept on pumping the Freddy movies out. I saw the first five Nightmares in the theatre. The only horror franchise that rivalled it was Friday the 13th, and I saw a bunch of those flicks in the theatre also.

The first Nightmare was a great movie, but after that they all blended. There are exceptions. I recall The Dream Warriors because of the hit Dokken song and because one of the kid’s dream power was that he became a wizard because he played D&D. I recall the Friday the 13th movie where Jason fought the girl with telekinetic powers. And of course, there’s the famous Where’s the Fuckin’ Bourbon (Google it!) scene.

Freddy’s mad because all his kids at Elm Street have forgotten about him. He reanimates Jason by pretending to be his mother. Jason shambles over to Elm Street, where a bunch of teens are having a beer party. Do kids even do that today? Anyway, Jason kills one of them. Freddy gets blamed, which gives him power. He’s back, baby!

Meanwhile, the Final Girl’s boyfriend escapes from the psychiatric institute he’s being held at. All the kids from the last Elm Street massacre are being held against their wills, being force-fed a drug that stops them from dreaming. Apparently constitutional rights don’t mean anything where Freddy’s concerned!

Anyway, Jason kills a bunch of teenagers at a rave in the cornfield. Freddy realizes that Jason’s not going to stop chopping up his kids, so he decides to take matters into his own, er, claws. So it’s machete vs. claw, winner take all. Game on, baby!

I never saw Freddy vs. Jason, because at a certain point I lost interest in both franchises. It just seemed like a dumb idea to me. Luckily I was wrong. The writing isn’t half-bad, and this movie is much gorier than I expected. Alas, nowadays the day of the indestructible slasher is done, replaced by found footage and zombie flicks. Those were good times, but they’re gone forever. I liked Freddy vs. Jason, perhaps because of nostalgia. This is the movie that marked the end of an era, the slasher movie’s last hurrah, and it’s only fitting that it ended with lots of blood.

Bad Ben

Bad Ben

Why are there so many found footage movies out there, and why are most of them so awful? The answer to the first question is money; they’re cheap to make. Of course, the plot usually consists of four or five bad actors walking around the abandoned hospital/lunatic asylum/haunted house in Technicolor GoatGreen light, waiting for the evil spirits/demons/ghosts to kill them all. I’ve reviewed a number of movies like this in the past year, and most of them are bad. Grave Encounters is the exception to the rule, but much to my surprise Bad Ben – contradicting its own title – is pretty good also.

Made with security cameras and an iPhone, Bad Ben cost $300 to make (according to IMDB). Compared to most low budget found-footage, this is a masterpiece. The main character has agency and does more than wander around the abandoned house/hospital/mental institution for an hour and twenty minutes. There is actual suspense, thanks to a few jump scares.

Tom Riley buys a house cheap at a sheriff’s auction. His plan to resell it and make tons of money hits a speedbump when it turns out the house is haunted. Doors open and close, furniture moves around and a shadowy figure stalks the grounds. Using the security cameras installed in every room of the house, Tom tries and fails to catch the culprits in the act. Undeterred by the locked room in the basement, the satanic altar in the attic and the creepy kid’s drawings in the living room Tom soldiers on, deadpan, a middle-aged guy with a habit of filming himself in his boxer shorts.

Tom has a dilemma. As he tells us, he can’t leave because he’s sunk every penny into buying the house. So he tries to deal with the escalating craziness, with mixed results. Nothing works but luckily not much seems to phase Tom, who apparently has aspirations to be a vlogger. Why else record yourself? Tom – the only person to appear in Bad Ben – talks to the camera as if it’s another person (‘why are the lights off? I left them on.’) and generally underreacts when most people would run screaming for the door.

If you like found-footage movies, give Bad Ben a try. It’s better than 90% of the found footage movies out there, a number I just made up. Bad Ben’s success (???) spawned a prequel and a sequel, neither of which I’ve seen. Warning: if you want to see Bad Ben, don’t watch the trailer.

I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House

If you enjoy horror movies that rely on atmosphere and the slow buildup of suspense, you will like I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. If you are the type who likes action-oriented horror, you will be bored to tears. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is an effective ghost story, although the writing is sketchy in parts. Translation: if you think too much about this movie it falls apart.

Lily is a young hospice nurse who is taking care of Iris Blum, a horror novelist. Ms. Blum, who isn’t quite right in her head and insists on calling Lily Polly, lives in a spooky old house in the middle of nowhere. The house is dark and creaky, making all the sounds an old house makes. There’s a tiny little television and a corded phone and black mold on the walls – by the way, did you know that if black mold is toxic it can cause hallucinations?

The house also contains Polly, the subject of Ms. Blum’s most famous potboiler, The Lady in the Walls. It’s not clear if Polly is real or a figment of Ms. Blum’s imagination, but pretty soon Lily starts seeing her also. Polly walks forward, with her back turned towards you. I have no idea what that means, but it’s a spooky image.

Indeed, the atmosphere of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is very spooky. At the start of this movie I thought the chair nailed to the wall in the kitchen was floating in mid-air and couldn’t figure out why Lily didn’t react to it. There is a lot of imagery like that here, and much of the spoken dialogue is almost poetic. I believe Lily is sometimes quoting from Ms. Blum’s books, but am not sure.

I thought I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House was a sad movie. Lily is a timid woman, living in a secluded house with only a woman with dementia for company. She might as well be alone. We learn that Lily almost married, but her partner called it off. So now she sits alone in the house, slowly rotting.