The Dreams in Which She’s Talking Are the Worst I’ve Ever Had.

mom

She wasn’t supposed to come back. It’s been almost two years now and you’d think I’d be able to move on. And yet, every time I sleep, she gets closer to me.

It doesn’t help that I have an overly imaginative mind; my dreams are shaped the way Cronenberg makes movies. It’s chock-full of weird narratives, dialogues that make sense as I dream but seem otherworldly when I wake up and try to piece out their meaning. It’s the same for most people, I guess. Still, how many can claim to have a narrative that picks up from the previous night’s dream? Or sometimes resumes a plot point from a dream happening weeks prior?

Let me back track a bit. Here’s a few things you need to know.

  • I’m an atheist.
  • I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural.
  • I don’t believe in the afterlife.

So when last year, around her birthday, I started waking up covered in sweat, unable to move, unable to remember my dreams but convinced there was someone or something at looking at me through the crack of my bedroom door, I knew what I was experiencing was sleep paralysis and muscle atonia; I was dreaming with eyes opened. They went away as days went by and haven’t happened since, though I was worried this year again, as her birthday drew near. Nope, nothing. No sleep paralysis.

Instead, what I got were dreams. I hadn’t celebrated her birthday, this year. I was trying to move on. In my dream, I was fighting something as is often the case and it was all very Buffy the Vampire Slayer-esque and then I got a phone call. I opened my flip-phone (circa 2004) and saw that it came from my mother. I vaguely remember the words she spoke; something about being resentful of my conduct. What I remember is how pervasive her voice was. It blanketed every other sound. All I could hear was a guttural, raspy and phlegmy voice that my dream was passing off as my mother’s voice. A voice that was anything but happy.

I woke up in sweat, again. No sleep paralysis. None was needed; the dream had done its job. It took a while for me to fall back asleep and I ended up being late for work. My sleep cycle had broken, I was too deep asleep to hear my alarm. This would start happening more and more as weeks went by. My work evaluation was proof enough that these repeating cellphone conversation dreams were damaging my career.

And then last week I had a dream where my mother left me a message on my dream voicemail. Her voice was normal this time. She needed to see me. It wasn’t a bad dream and I got more sad than scared. No more dreams of her for a week, until last night.

Last night I dreamt something I often dream about: zombies. Taking over my city, eating everyone. Typical zombie movie dream. Mine were a bit different, however; they usually revolved around the story of the Ant and the Grasshopper, or a version of it at least. We weren’t literally ants and grasshoppers. You know how the story went, right? Ant works all summer, grasshopper just plays around. Then winter comes and the grasshopper has no house and no food and begs the ant for help. I was the busy ant and the grasshoppers were partying. I would be fortifying a house and at the last minute, when it was secure, I’d find out one of the grasshoppers had been bitten. I’d find out because I would finish the fortification, turn around and BAM! Grasshopper biting me, eating me and so on.

Well not last night. Last night’s zombie dream was different. I was in town with coworkers, at night. The city looked a bit like Venice, with water canals. It looked a bit like Los Angeles too, with their flood drains. We knew zombies were spreading but we were not really scared for some reason. We’d seen enough movies to know what to do, after all. Logic was prevailing over panic. A girl claimed to have weapons stashed at her place. I followed her to grab the tools when I got a phone call again. My mother. She needed to see me. I ignored the call and went inside.

I didn’t recognize the place but the girl moved through the rooms as If she did. As we went through books on a shelf instead of looking for her weapons, I had a feeling of cold dread go through me. I turned around and saw an old woman, wrinkled like she’d spent the last ten years submerged in water. She was sitting on a leather couch of an orange colour close to her jaundiced cancerous skin, staring ahead; her eyes cold, probing pools of darkness. She looked as in a trance, taking drags of her cigarette every so often. She didn’t see me. Until I opened my damn mouth.

“Mom?” I asked. That seemed to have broken her out of her trance but still, she looked ahead and not at me. “Fuck” she whispered. “fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!” she repeated, louder and angrier with each repetition. “FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!” she yelled, jerking upwards and turning towards me, like a battery-powered robot, as I started walking away. “FUCK NO! FUCK NO! FUCK NOOOOO!” she yelled, still not looking at me but always past me, as if she saw something behind. Her loose wrinkled skin flopped downwards, like an excited Shar Pei. Her arm raised with a cigarette in her hand, she started moving towards me, looking behind me. “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”

And I woke up. Sweat, again.

I’m hoping there won’t be many more of these. I’ve gotten used to the dream phone calls and dream voicemails. The crazy yelling and moving around, not so much. To this day, I don’t know why I have these dreams. I lost my mother two years ago to complications due to a long life battling cancer and other problems. We had our differences but we left in good terms. I told her I loved her, something I normally had a hard time doing. Her suffering ended as she passed.. I had resolved my issues with her. So why all the mental turmoil? During the day, everything is fine. I get sad sometimes but nothing so ridiculous. Perhaps my unconscious self remembers wanting real nightmares (I am, after all, a horror movie fan).

All I know is that I would rather they stop. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in the afterlife. Yet here I am, half-sleeping at night, sweating in my bed, repeating that I don’t believe in ghosts like a mantra, hoping it will stick and I’ll be able to go back to sleep. And if I know anything about horror movies, this is the point in the movie where the action really starts and the annoying atheist is shown to have been wrong all along…

Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014)

Written by Thunder Levin. Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante. Stars Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox and Kari Wuhrer.

SYNOPSIS:

Do I really need to do this? There are sharknadoes now. It’s an almost common thing; so much so, the weather report has graphs for them. Two big ones are colliding in New York. It just so happens that Fin, the hero of the first movie, has landed there with his ex-wife. They were supposed to meet up with Finn’s sister and her family. LET THE SHARK KILLINGS BEGIN (AGAIN)!

REVIEW:

I know, I know, what the hell, right? I’m reviewing The Canal harshly and then I have the audacity to review Sharknado 2? And, spoiler alert: I liked it! What can I say? I’m messed up.

The Sharknado franchise was never meant to be scary. It’s supposed to be mindless fun, the way Leprechaun or Ghoulies is fun. Have a few laughs, have a ton of bad CGI sharks and plug in a dozen cameos. Only this time, make that a few dozen cameos; I stopped counting after I had noted down ten celebrities playing themselves or minor characters in the first ten minutes. There’s Kelly Osbourne as a stewardess! There’s the Wheatons (Wil & Anne) getting killed by sharks for no reason! Is that Robert Hays of Airplane fame… piloting a plane and making a self-referential joke about it? You bet your ass!

It’s silly, it’s over the top, it features Kari Wuhrer who was my teenage crush for as long as Sliders lasted (I lie; I never finished the last season. Ugh. The hell, Sliders Season 5?). There are (eventually) chainsaws everywhere. Al Roker is explaining what a sharknado is on Live TV. There’s a dozen insults to New Jersey. Biz Markie shows up as a the owner of a pizza place. There’s even a post-credit scene that apes the post-credit scene of The Avengers. Why? Why not!

Oh gawd I just realized why Ian Ziering’s character is named Fin with one “n”. SHARK FIN. I think I’m foaming at the mouth right now. Someone help me.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Are you eating Cheetos in your boxers and wondering what Judd Hirsch looks like as an 80 year-old cab driver? Yes, the guy from Taxi drives a cab in this one. WHY AREN’T YOU LAUGHING YET?

But yes, watch it.

The Canal (2014)

Written and directed by Ivan Kavanagh. Stars Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Rupert Evans and Hannah Hoekstra.

SYNOPSIS:

It’s The Babadook but more obvious and with genders reversed. And a dash of Sinister. Oh? You haven’t seen those? OH, ALRIGHT. A man who believes his wife is cheating on him starts witnessing random events in his house that has him convinced a boogeyman (a previous tenant who killed his family) is trying to manipulate him into hurting those he loves.

REVIEW:

It’s The Babadook. But instead of going for subtlety, it slams the ending twist the way a drunk driver slams his semi into a school bus of girl scouts. There’s no room for interpretation unlike Babadook. You’re told what is the right story. There’s no philosophizing, no ambiguity.

One could say that a positive note in this movie is the fact that the kid is not a goddamn annoying hellspawn like in The Babadook. I disagree; the beast of a thousand screams that was the kid in Baba needed to be an asshole so that we understood the mother. In The Canal, the kid is a prop. Just toss him over there for a couple scenes. Or leave the house with the kid alone. Nothing will happen; he’s a humanoid paper press.

Rupert Evans did a good job looking confused and the original betrayal scene had me pissed off and anxious so that worked. Actually, it’s simpler than this: the movie does not have any of the faults I would associate with something being a “bad” movie. It’s decent enough and there are a few disturbing scenes that will raise an eyebrow or three. It’s just that I ended up seeing it not long after The Babadook. Too bad, because it is definitely the inferior title in this case.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Have you seen The Babadook? No? Then yes. No, actually, watch The Babadook first.

Wreckage (2010)

Written by David Frigerio. Directed by John Asher. Stars Aaron Paul, Mike Erwin and Cameron Richardson.

SYNOPSIS:

Four “kids” (that are actually adults in every sense of the term) wander in a junkyard for spare parts so as to fix their broken car. Mayhem ensues.

REVIEW:

The only reason I watched this movie was because of Aaron Paul being in the list of actors and that’s probably the reason he’s in it, too. Aaron was in his second season on Breaking Bad at this point, so his name had some pull. Unfortunate, considering how disastrous this movie is.

Sub-par acting all around, cheap generic music and a plot that doesn’t made a modicum of sense; this movie, pardon the pun, is a wreck. Many of the scenes leading to the action are totally useless. For instance, there’s a long prologue with a girl being saved from a rapist by someone. Who could that someone be? You’ll never find out. There’s no tie-in or closure or explanation; it just happened. Or you have those adorable (I hate them) scenes where someone does something drastic (e.g. run) with an audio-visual montage of scenes that have literally happened moments prior. In this instance, not only are we shown the scene with the protagonist proposing to his girlfriend as a flashback five minutes after it happened but it actually repeats itself a half-dozen times. WHY?!

Could it be the writer? David Frigerio isn’t that bad: I enjoyed The Signal, also written by him. The director? John Asher… ah, there we go. John Asher mostly does filmography. His only big successes as a director was doing a few episodes of One Tree Hill. His directing career seems centered around romcoms and comedies. Not one horror title. Perhaps this is it? Perhaps it’s the fact that this movie reeks of not having a budget? Whatever it is, Wreckage ends up being a waste of time whose twist ending had me shrug.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

No.

Midnight Movie (2008)

Written by Sean Hood, Mark Garbett and Jack Messitt. Directed by Jack Messit. Stars Rebekah Brandes, Daniel Bonjour, and Greg Cirulnick.

SYNOPSIS:

Decades after a very stereotypical movie drives its director insane, a small movie theater decides to play it during a very dead night for some reason. Seriously; there’s like four people showing up. Just enough people for a slasher villain to kill!

REVIEW:

There’s a saying you’ll often hear/read that reviewers tend to use when they almost like something. They’ll say “there’s a good movie hidden in there”. Well, this is the case here. Midnight Movie isn’t good by any conventional means: its story is what happens when you mix Last Action Hero with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The actors are… bad. And there’s a kid in there. Double bad. And 99% of the movie is spent either in the movie theater lobby, the screening room or some dirty hall corridor. The dialogue is horrendous and not even goddess Brea Grant can save it.

And again, seriously? An indie movie theater shows an old movie that has driven its director mad, a movie that is linked to a hospital mass murder event that has occurred five years prior, and the only people to show up are a couple of bikers, the cop investigating the issue and the one doctor who didn’t show up at the hospital the day of the massacre? Really? I get it, I get it; having more people who be too complicated for what feels essentially like a college movie troupe’s small movie.

I did state that there was a good movie in there and by now you’re probably asking where it could be. Well, here’s the thing; the idea behind the story is not bad. It’s actually fun to watch at certain moments. Sure, the bad guy has a deadly corkscrew as a weapon (what?) and yeah, the fact that he can walk in and out of the movie has been already done in other movies. And yet, there are still moments that feel right and original. The stereotypical 60s hippies are clichés but still fun to watch in a meta sort of way. They’re stereotypical because characters in the 60s were that exact way. And later on, when the final girl makes it to the movie world, what happens to the characters is interesting and has you asking all sorts of questions.

And then the ending is thrown at you and doesn’t make sense and you’re back to groaning.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

Nah. Read the plot summary online, go “ah, that was clever”, then move on.

Coherence (2013)

Written and directed by James Ward Byrkit. Stars Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling and Nicholas Brendon.

SYNOPSIS:

A dinner party. A comet. Strange things start happening. Is everyone still who they say they are?

REVIEW:

I’ve read on the movie prior to watching it and while it’s something I never usually do (I hate spoilers), I’m glad I did in this instance because it helped me appreciate this movie for what it is. I can be a petulant snob in regards to movies sometimes. This annoys people because I get snobbish about B-Movies and Troma-type stuff. But I digress; what I mean to explain is that I love the performance of movie-making just as much as the movie itself. This is why I will often discuss at length about the merits of the cinematography, soundtrack, colour palettes, links between scenes, etc. With Coherence, I got a treat. A juicy piece I can chew on.

See, Byrkit wanted to make a movie without the hindrances of the typical movie-making business. No crew, no script. Only improvisational actors, a house and some notes. He wanted to develop a story over the course of a few days of shooting. One that would invoke dread without using effects. And this is what he’s accomplished. Essentially, this movie is the perfect example of what I want in horror: a dread that comes from the unknown and not from exposition.

So, the movie. Actors would get a couple pages of back-story, moods and goals (things to act/talk about that day) but no script, no dialogue, nothing. It was up to them to improvise and lead the story towards each of the respective goals. The fact that they didn’t know what was happening or who was actually who they said they were made everything feel natural and real. I was watching friends wondering what was happening. In a sense, it felt almost like I was watching a documentary. And when things got weird, I believed that the characters were as confused as I was. They were processing the information the same way I was because they didn’t know the ending. They hadn’t read it.

The idea worked and perhaps this is due to the fact Byrkit specifically chose actors who were good at improvising and staying believable.  Any other troupe of actors might have failed. Here, it worked great.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the story. I don’t want to spoil you too much because it’s definitely a story that is best served unaware so I’ll simply state that it has a lot to do with Schrodinger’s cat. Except that in this case, there’s more than two states and the comet is Schrodinger.

The only flaw in this movie is of course the quality of the film itself. Without a crew and a proper filming location, the movie suffers. Poor lighting in many of the scenes creates an atmosphere but also feels terribly dark. There were many moments, especially outside, where I had no idea what was actually happening. Sound isn’t too bad, however. I’d say the main drawback to having actors improvising in an environment without marks and cues is that many scenes ended up with six of more people talking at the same time. That got annoying at times. Still, despite these drawbacks, it’s definitely a great experience.

SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?

If you’re a fan of suspense, of “theater” dialogues. If you enjoy philosophical horror/weirdness, yes. If you enjoyed Pontypool, yes. If you need things to absolutely go bump in the night, no.

Two Ave Romeros and Three Spatter Noster for your delicious sins!

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