Monday, July 15, 2019

"SCARE ME IN THE SUMMER" Reviews from Watsonville


Who likes to be scared over the summer?

Also, fall? And winter...

ALL THE TIME!

*raises hand*

I have three reviews coming up today. One is for a fabulous Gothic story by Laura K. Curtis (coming in October, just in time for Halloween). One is for the third season of Stranger Things. And one is for the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House.

A DARKER SHADE

STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE

Two of these things were super scary. 

One was not. 

Let me know if you agree!



1. A DARKER SHADE by Laura K. Curtis

As you all know, I love scary stuff, especially atmospheric Gothic tales.

Throw in a haunted house with secrets aplenty, and I'm totally in love.

I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy of A DARKER SHADEThis wonderful story by Curtis hits all of my high points...excellent writing, suspenseful mystery, super creepy paranormal elements, a bit of romance, an intriguing family, and a heroine filled with grit and determination.

I love the isolated Maine setting, including a brutal winter that any New Englander knows all too well. A DARKER SHADE is a haunted house story in the best possible way for horror fans...filled with many secrets and an unfolding family history that is both tragic and horrifying. Eerie dreams, unexplained accidents, chilling visions, and unseen forces are driving the events at Rook's Rest.

Molly Allworth--with a Romani heritage and plenty of common sense--is the perfect protagonist. She is determined to protect the Prescott family she cares for, regardless of real or imagined threats.

Curtis has created a remarkable Gothic with this book, and I hope she will follow it up with many more.

Highly recommended. Available for sale Oct. 1. Available now for pre-order.

Grade: A

Is it scary? HELL YEAH!


2. THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE on Netflix.


WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

This came highly recommended by multiple people. It took me a while to carve out time for a binge-watch, but I'm happy I saved it for a summer project.

The single season on Netflix includes ten episodes that jump back and forth from the past to current times, and follow the Crain family--parents and five children--as they navigate life in the presence of...

...what? Mental illness? Evil spirits? Ghosts who can't let go?

I sometimes find time jumps irritating and unnecessary, but I must say this was extremely well-done. The poor children who are traumatized by this haunted house carry their memories (and the consequences) into adulthood in a believable and terrifying way.

And when I say terrifying, I mean TERRIFYING! I had to turn off the TV a couple of times because I was scared out of my mind. That's an embarrassing admission for a horror genre-lover, but this show crushed it.

The acting was superb, including Timothy Hutton, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Annabeth Gish, and a cast of amazing child actors who impressed the hell out of me.

The build-up of suspense and horror was as well-done as I've ever seen on film. Walking slowly down a dark hall--which is now the most obvious horror element--was fresh and new and jump-worthy. (Yeah, I jumped out of my seat.)

The ghosts were horrifying, the monsters were horrifying. 

This series was horrifying. *huddles in corner*

I also loved the complex and believable family dynamics going on, and the resolution which included love and family loyalty.

There were a couple of spots that needed a bit of editing--some dialogue that went on too long, some scenes that could have been somewhat abbreviated. But overall, I found this totally engaging and effective.

Highly recommend. 

Grade: A

Was it scary? Gulp. *whispers yes, don't talk too loud or you'll disturb the ghosts!*




3. Stranger Things Season 3 on Netflix

**WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, DON'T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE SHOW YET!**

I have very mixed feelings about this. Troubling feelings. I hate to even bring this up, because I love quirky stuff. 

Love love love the quirk.

Wes Anderson. Buffy's unexpected musical. Shaun of the Dead. Mixing horror and humor together is usually my thing.

However, it needs to blend and not be choppy. And yeah, I get it. That's a challenge. 

Also a challenge is weaving together multiple storylines and making it all work.

So, true confession time.

I actually did not like the first six episodes of Stranger Things Season 3. Episode seven was getting better, and the final episode was fantastic.

Was it enough to make it worth watching the whole season?

Probably...yeah. I'm a Super Fan and that made it worthwhile.

Nevertheless, there were some major fails at the beginning. So, here it goes...

1. THE MONSTER WASN'T SCARY

I know. It's hard to make a scary monster. Even with excellent special effects. But Seasons 1 and 2 did an extremely good job by building up the fear, anticipation, growing apprehension of the unknown.

The monster in season three looked like a big steaming pile of uncooked hamburger meat.

Just...no. Totally didn't do it for me at all.

Was it gross? Yeah, sort of. Was it scary? No, not really. Ugh.


2. THE MALL WASN'T SCARY

In Seasons 1 and 2, the setting (The Upside Down) was freakin' terrifying. But Season 3 did not capture that terror. The mall...no. The underground facility...no. The hospital scene was scary, but nothing compares to the The Upside Down.

Could you make a mall scene scary? Yes, you could. There are ways to juxtapose quirky, creepy mall images with a monster. But this show did not do that.

Mall Setting: FAIL.

3. WHO THE HELL WAS HOPPER?

Hopper used to be serious, somber, tortured. So very tortured.

He was a big goof-ball in this season. WHAT THE HECK IS UP WITH THAT? Goofy with Elle--I get it, adding humor into the teen-parent relationship. But the fear about her safety which was a huge part of the past seasons was totally gone.

Also, the ridiculous scene in the restaurant waiting for Winona Ryder to show up?

WHO IS THIS GOOFBALL? Ugh. 

Redeeming Hopper scene: The final episode. Damn. 



4. PACING TOO SLOW

First six episodes dragged.


5. THE QUIRKY STUFF WAS FUNNY, BUT IT MADE THE SHOW FUNNY NOT SCARY

I love quirky. You know I do. But Stranger Things is supposed to be a horror/sci-fi show.

Too many tongue-in-cheek jokes, musical moments, and quirky banter turned this season into Quirky-ville and not Scare-the-bejimminies-out-of-me-ville.

Not a good balance of horror and humor. Too much kooky stuff. (I can't believe I just said that).

6. DIDN'T FEEL PARANORMAL OR CREEPY. NOT ENOUGH SCIFI.

Related to #5. This hardly felt like a sci-fi show at all. Totally disappointing for me.

7. ELLE WAS A NO-SHOW

Elle spent most of her time making out with her boyfriend and having a completely freakin' ridiculous "Cinderella-Makeover Scene" in the mall.

OH MY GOD!

I wasn't sure if this was Stranger Things or a dumb teen movie. Sob.

I WANT BAD-ASS ELLE BACK, PLEASE!


Now for the good stuff! 

1. STEVE

Steve is the best. His character was one of the bright shining spots of this season. He has grown so much, still filled with teen vulnerability and confusion, but also courageous and loyal.

LOVE HIM SO MUCH!

And he and Robin and Erica were absolutely the strongest part of this show. Sheer perfection. The perfect balance of bad-assery and humor. Well done.

2. ROBIN, THE ICE CREAM GIRL

Robin, Steve's new sidekick at the ice cream shop--who just happens to be actress Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke--was flat-out phenomenal. Amazing acting, perfect complement to Steve and Erica. Complex character filled with surprises.

Also, BAD-ASS and SMART. She took over the part that Elle used to have.

LOVE ROBIN!

3. ERICA--"YOU CAN'T SPELL AMERICA WITHOUT ERICA"

Where the heck did she come from? Why haven't they used her character in previous seasons?

She was the bomb! Wicked snarky, smart, funny. So much sass. Hot diggity damn.

LOVE ERICA!


4. MURRAY AND ALEXEI

Best chemistry on the show, hands-down, was this bromance between Murray and Alexei. They stole every scene they had together.

I was not happy about the sad ending for Alexei.

Also, Murray had my favorite quote for the season...

"I hate children." Hee hee!


5. THE FINAL EPISODE

I got chills and bawled my eyes out. The scene where Elle is reading the letter from Hopper was one of the best TV scenes ever. So heart-felt and emotional and tragic. Insanely good. This single scene made the whole season worth watching.


A few final thoughts...

The Nancy and Jonathan scenes were pretty much throw-aways.

Billy was the scariest part of the show. Scarier than the monster. And I loved his redemption scene at the end. That was well-done.

The eye-rolling scene where Dustin and his girlfriend sing the "Neverending Story" was quirky and weird and sort of cute, but also way too long and a huge disruption. I'm not on board with ST turning into a quirky hot mess instead of scary-as-hell scifi horror.

Overall feelings about ST3...it had a split personality, and it showed. Couldn't decide what it was trying to do. I hope ST4 gets back to basics...science fiction/paranormal horror.

Leave the musical numbers to Buffy.

Also, please for the love of God--no more Cinderella teenage makeover scenes.

STRANGER THINGS 3: Was it scary?

No, not really. Bits and pieces were scary, but overall it did not capture the terror of the previous two seasons. 


That's it!

Hope all of you are having a scary summer.

Let me know your thoughts about Stranger Things, The Haunting of Hill House, and A Darker Shade. Let's chat!

Love,

Nina/Penny


2 comments:

Heidenkind said...

For me this season of ST was more about nostalgia and it reminded me of the YA “horror” novels that I read when I was in middle school in the ‘90s. That’s why I loved the mall scenes because if that’s your reference they were spot-on.

I totally agree about Steven and Robin and Erica. Erica’s the best! How has she been a character this entire time and we didn’t know about her??

Penny Watson said...

Erica needs her own show!