After evading COVID in 2020, I found myself sick with the virus 2021. It started with a slight headache that lasted for 20 minutes one afternoon, then three days after, a more intense headache came with fever and body aches. Strangely enough, the day before I came down with full symptoms, I tested negative, which confused and baffled me. A few hours after taking that test, I awoke in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, and that’s when I knew something was wrong. To be honest, the fever spell only lasted a few hours, immediately after that, I was congested and two days after I lost my sense of smell and taste. The way the media has portrayed COVID, I guess you can say I was one of the lucky ones who safely recovered at home.
My 14 days of mandatory quarantine was filled with sleep during the first week and a total lack of motivation by the following week. By the end of it, I was angry and secretly unwilling to return to work after having contracted COVID at work. During all that time, I laid in bed and watched movies and television shows, but mostly movies. Mix that in with a podcast or two, followed by random YouTube videos and the endless number of times I fell down the proverbial rabbit hole.
I indulged in movies, which was the highlight of my quarantine time. I watched many films that offered overhyped trailers. I read hundreds of reviews and learned you cannot always rely on reviews or trailers. Some of the movies that were rated favorably by the audience didn’t score high on my list, but once in a while, I stumbled upon a gem that reignited my curiosity.
While I specialize in the horror genre, I did venture out and watched other genres. What I’ve recently learned about horror is that it’s becoming incredibly difficult to come across quality. Out of every five-horror movie on Amazon, Netflix, Fmovies, Shudder, and other streaming apps, at least one is decent if you are even that lucky. For the 2 weeks I spent coped up, I can say that I haven’t seen many unique and intriguing films, but I managed to piece together a list of the ones that were tolerable enough. Unfortunately, when faced with confinement, these movies or television series were merely passive entertainment until I drift off to sleep.
A Discovery of Witches 2021 (Series Two)
This TV series takes two of my favorite things, which are British television series and fantasy. Discovery of Witches crafts a seductively moody and dark show about vampires, witches, demons, fairies, time travel, and spells. This series is based on a book trilogy called All Souls which first aired in 2018. I remember watching this back then and falling in love with it, so I was excited to see season two. While it has many elements found in other vampire movies and shows, for me, this show stands apart from the rest because of the scenery, cinematography, and actors. Everyone paid their roles well and understood the assignment.
Season two picks up from where it left off, but I wasn’t as into the storyline in this part. This series is mainly set in the time of witch hunts and Queen Elizabeth I. I must admit that I got lost a bit once they time-traveled back to that period, but the show kept me on edge, wondering if their mission would be complete or if I would be left at a cliffhanger again.
If you are into vampires, witches, and a mature version of Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and True Blood; and can handle a watered-down version of fantasy romance, this one is for you. I liked this TV show it was entertaining enough, and I hope there will be a third part to close the story.
The Forever Purge
For me, the original Purge was genre-breaking when it came out back in 2013. It was a fresh new look at dystopian futures, chaos, and apocalyptic events. Although it came out around the Walking Dead hype, I thought it stood on its own and was very imaginative. This was a super successful movie, and because of that, they managed to squeeze out 5 follow-up films plus a brief television show.
What I have learned about Hollywood is that when it comes to low or reasonable-budget horror movies doing well, they see this as a blueprint to keep cranking out sequels or remakes. Look at Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Ring, Friday the 13th, Insidious, Conjuring, Candyman, Gremlins, Scream, Wrong Turn, and this list can go on and on. These movies all came from humble beginnings and were turned into money-making franchises. Unfortunately, what is often true is many of the sequels fail to hit the mark and often end up going straight to streaming or Blu-ray. If you look at the budget of many of the original horror movies list, you will slowly realize why Hollywood often follows the same old formula.
In saying all of this, I would like to say that the Forever Purge wasn’t good, but it also wasn’t that bad. I like the way the movie starts off and how they introduced some of the characters. I like the action and endless amount of violence, but at times I got easily distracted. It literally felt like the same old song and dance. Regardless of what makes this movie inferior to the original or part two, it was still better than the last two Purge movies. It was entertaining enough and on a dull day stuck in the house, it’s worth watching at least once.
Don’t Breathe 2
Don’t Breathe was one of the movies that I didn’t expect a part two from. This movie was made on a reasonable budget and came out on top with outstanding box office numbers. The quality of the first movie gives us all hope and a reason for watching part two. They increased the budget slightly, gave us back the same lead character, and hoped that this blind ass-kicking navy seal war veteran would be enough for us. Stephen Lang as the blind war veteran, is always interesting, but the story just didn’t work for me. One of the things that made this movie enjoyable in 2016 was how unassuming the lead character was. No one knew that this blind man was able to kick ass the way he did, but we also didn’t realize how deadly and determined he was to have his daughter back. He went to such extremes as to kidnap and artificially inseminate a woman, and for me, this part of the story was ridiculous but genius.
We loved the original because we slowly got to see the layers peeled away to uncover the truth behind the people robbing a blind war veteran and the secrets he hid in his house. Don’t Breathe part two gave us hope as we watched this same man in the father role he always wanted, but even with that, the story got too convoluted and dismissible. Don’t Breathe 2 had 5 years to cook up a decent story but didn’t hit the mark. Once again, I will say it’s a decent watch, but surely it isn’t for the invested horror or thriller movie addict.
In the Earth
This movie was actually perfect and is a trippy ass film that leaves you wondering. Many people compare this to Mandy and Annihilation, so if you like those two, you might like this one. I would say that In the Earth also reminds me of It Comes at Night for the mere fact that it was filmed in the woods. Plus, it incorporated the idea of a pandemic, science, nature, and folklore.
This film, of course, is about a virus and scientists searching for a cure. The movie starts with a scientist and a park scout who go to check on another scientist in the wood doing research. They haven’t heard from this scientist in weeks, so they decide to check on her and bring new equipment to the research site. Unfortunately, things take a wrong turn when the two are attacked and left to the mercy of a stranger in the woods who takes advantage of them. The two then go from one extreme to the next after escaping the lunatic who entrapped then. Finally, they find the scientist they were looking for but soon realizes that her research has possessed her. This is one worth seeing at least once, for even with a small budget and being filmed over 15 days, I still saw a quality storyline, excellent acting, and great cinematography.
Queen of Spades
The 2021 version of Queen of Spades is now on Amazon, and I had to watch it because I was introduced to the Russian version back in 2015. I would say that the 2015 version was actually good but didn’t pick up much traction in America. The 2021 version of the Queen of Spades is definitely a miss, which makes me wonder how they came up with such an unseasoned horror movie when they had such a rich blueprint to go by. I said that the 2015 Russian version was very good, but it wasn’t great. I’d hoped the newer westernized version would hold the key to a great retelling of this story. For me, this version was filled with western tropes that made me sleepy. If I had to rate this movie, I would give it a C and stress that it’s worth seeing at least once.
A Glitch in the Matrix
This is a documentary directed by Rodney Ascher, who has done several short films and has worked on a shortlist of movies. I have come to know Ascher for his two other documentaries, one called Room 237, which details a list of conspiracies and behind-the-scenes knowledge about The Shining and Stanley Kubrick. He also directed the Nightmare, which addresses sleep paralysis. I will add that both documentaries were well done, and Room 237 is a film that I have often revisited by choice. One element of Ascher that I love is how he dives into human psychology, conspiracy theories, folklore, and storytelling. I saw A Glitch in the Matrix a few months ago and found myself watching it again during quarantine.
This documentary goes down the rabbit hole exploring the simulation hypothesis. It’s thought-provoking but also an argument provoker. I can see friends and co-workers arduously arguing their beliefs regarding the simulation hypothesis, our proximity to the surreal world, and the many uncanny valleys we find ourselves in. I don’t go around believing everything that is feed to me, especially in the form of documentaries or films. I think that everything is biased, and everyone has an agenda that they want you to believe. What I like about A Glitch in the Matrix is how the theories presented lead us to questions reality and what it means to exist as a human in the 21st century.
Alone is a thriller that can be categorized as a stalker or road horror; you immediately know that Alone is about an extreme incident that happens to someone while driving. This movie is attention-grabbing, leaves you at the edge of your seat, and draws you in. This movie starts off with a woman named Jessica, who appears to be moving across the state after the passing of her husband. She has packed up her belongings and is towing her goods in a U-Haul hitched to the back of her car. Somewhere along the way, she encounters a character who intimidates and stalks her. The one thing about this movie that I like is that they didn’t try to pull the same old dumb female trope. Jessica does all the right things when trying to allude the creep. She puts up a fight to save her life that drives the idea that no matter how good your defenses are, sometimes bad things can still happen.
Another plus about this movie is the serial killer cliché. The man who stalkers Jessica is as creepy as they get, with his wire glasses, mustache, bulbous nose, Ned Flanders intonation, and Buffalo Bill glare. This guy looks like a serial killer or a kid snatcher, and she spots it right away. I refuse to detail how the movie escalates but let’s just say that this movie had the best cat and mouse game of 2020.
Marianne 2019 (French TV Series)
I remember when Marianne came out on Netflix back in 2019 because I watched it when it first premiered. I revisited this television show again and wasn’t disappointed. Marianne is a story about famous horror writer Emma, who weaves a tale about a witch name Marianne. Through a chain of events, Emma and a small group end up in her childhood town trying to unlock the mystery of Marianne while fighting to stay alive. Every year Netflix tries to introduce more horror content around October, and Marianne was one of the fan favors similar to The Haunting at Hill House or Locke & Key. This series feels special and doesn’t give me the feeling it would be a show that drags on; although it ended in a way that made me wonder what would become of the lead character, the story felt completeness.
Look out for my Ode to horror coming out in October.