Hello, my name is Kelley and I am obsessed with The VVitch

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I enjoy horror more than most genres, but I’m fairly specific when it comes to the type of horror I enjoy. I’m not a fan of gore. I find jump scares to be effective in the moment, but am left feeling cold after the movie is over. I want horror to sit with me, to crawl under my skin and emerge when I find myself alone, or when I’m trying to go to sleep. I like being scared, as in really and truly frightened, not just freaked out.

I’m one of those people who will go on about how horror movies aren’t scary anymore. It’s all gore and grossness and blood and pushing the envelope in terms of how disgusting a murder can be portrayed. Or it’s lazy iterations and reiterations of scary dolls and serial killers. There are no surprises, only shock value. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder how such grotesqueness can be so…boring.

I will freely admit that I’m a total cliche – my favorite horror film is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. I went through a phase when I was around 11 or 12 where I kept the VHS that my mom recorded it on in the VCR in my room and every single day when I got home from school, I’d rewind it (from the day before) and watch it while I did my homework. Every. Single. Day. In hindsight, it was more than a little strange. Still, I loved it so much and never thought I’d find another movie that bewitched me as much.

Until I saw The VVitch.

With that context in mind, I’m not exaggerating even a little when I say that there is no higher compliment I can pay a film than that.

I decided I wanted to know as little as possible about The VVitch (and I’ve decided that you should too, so I’ll keep this spoiler-free) after viewing the trailer and feeling sufficiently creeped out. I read reviews that said things like “it feels like we are watching something we shouldn’t be seeing” or “I felt like I was watching something genuinely evil” and got goosebumps and was instantly sold. (Like a totally normal, well-adjusted human!) I expected to be very scared, and I was. But it was a kind of scared that I haven’t felt for a very long time.

My mother liked horror as well, and because I was so weirdly attached to The Shining, thought I might enjoy some of her favorite movies. She thought I was too young for The Exorcist, but showed me Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie and Halloween. And then she showed me the 1976 film, The Omen. I remember that one very vividly because it was the first time I felt like I was watching something evil.

My mother raised me to be Catholic, as her parents raised her to be. She went to Catholic school, church every day, confession once a week, the whole nine yards. I didn’t go to Catholic school, but to church and Sunday school every week and to confession regularly. We watched The Omen and my mom noticed about 3/4 of the way through that I was crying. Not sobbing crying, not making a sound really. Just silently weeping, with big ol’ tears rolling down my cheeks. She paused the movie and asked if I was alright and I turned to her and said “I just don’t understand why God would let all of these bad things happen to these people. Why doesn’t he stop it?”

My poor mother probably expected this question eventually regarding real life tragedies, like war or famine, but here I was, asking some of the biggest questions you can ask concerning faith about a movie she was pretty sure I would enjoy because I loved The Shining. She had no idea what to say. I remember her stammering something about faith and free will, and said that we should probably turn the movie off. I actually kind of wanted to, but said that it was okay and I wanted to see how it ended. She hesitated again, probably thinking of how that movie doesn’t exactly feature a classic ending of good guys persevering.

I thought about that viewing experience near the end of The VVitch. Only this time I wasn’t weeping; I was transfixed. I think anyone could enjoy this film, but I also think it’s a different experience for a religious audience, no matter deep your faith lies. Even if you only believed once upon a time. Several scenes throughout left me with the same feelings I read about, like I was watching something genuinely evil. I felt like I was intruding on a real family and the terrible things happening to them. One scene in particular nearly inspired me to cross myself.

But I found myself rooting for the ending as it happened, feeling at once like it was tragic and somehow happy and the only way the film could possibly have ended. When the question, “woulds’t thou like to live deliciously?” is asked, I actually, literally whispered “yes.” Out loud.

God, eleven year old Kelley would be appalled.

Did you see The VVItch? VVhat did you think?

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Book Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Initial reviews of The Good Girl touted it as “the next Gone Girl,” and my interest wasn’t really piqued. Probably because every book with a female protagonist and a mystery have been called that over the past couple years. And then I read a couple reviews that compared it to Stolen, and my interest was very piqued.

Mia Dennett is the daughter of a prominent, wealthy judge and finds herself abducted by Colin Thatcher, a poor unfortunate soul in need of the large payment offered to him to do the actual kidnapping dirty work by another, more dangerous, man, who plans to hold Mia for ransom. Colin follows through with the initial abduction, but fears for her life after he hands her over, and quickly decides to take her to a remote cabin instead of dropping her off, managing to both abduct and save her at the same time. They stay at the cabin for months and their relationship grows from disdain to affection. Meanwhile, Mia’s mother, Eve, works with Detective Gabe Hoffman to try to find her. The story switches perspective from Colin to Eve to Gabe, and back and forth between before Mia was found and after.

Overall, I thought the story was okay. The shifting perspectives definitely made the story more interesting, but the shifting time device made it a little confusing, especially because it seemed to exist to purposely confuse the reader into a surprise ending. It doesn’t count as a surprise ending if the story is misleading to the extent that it doesn’t quite make sense.

This definitely isn’t a light-hearted read (just like Gone Girl, hey!), and is actually pretty damn sad, but is still worth checking out if you’re in for a cold night and want something to keep you (kind of) guessing.

Classics & Cocktails: A Streetcar Named Desire & Stella Artois

A Streetcar Named Desire is the 1951 film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tennessee Williams play of the same name.  The plot revolves around the ambiguous Blanche DuBois, a schoolteacher who moves in with her sister, Stella after losing the plantation that had been in the DuBois family for generations. Blanche takes an immediate (and mutual) dislike to Stella’s husband, Stanley, a brutish and abusive man who is suspicious of Blanche and resents her influence on Stella as it impacts their marriage. As the story progresses, we see that Blanche is not the innocent Southern Belle that she pretends to be, in regard to both her mental health, sordid past, and behavior toward men.

I read the Tennessee Willams play in college, so I was familiar with the storyline (and surprised to see how the ending was changed in the movie.) Still, I’m glad I finally watched the film. I thought the Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando were terrific (and couldn’t believe how handsome Marlon Brando was, since my only exposure to him has been The Godfather.)

Now, admittedly, Stella Artois is not a cocktail, but seemed apropos nonetheless since I have been known to shout “STELLAAAA!” whenever my husband doesn’t respond to my initial bellows of his name through our three story house to get his attention. That’s how you know a film is a classic, kids. When you quote it despite never having seen it.

Next up: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Classics & Cocktails: Citizen Kane & Rosebud

My husband and I were discussing movies and realized that there is basically a laundry list of them that we should have watched by now according to everyone. So that is exactly what we’re planning to do in 2015. We thought it would be fun to invite anyone who wants to come over and pair each film with a classic cocktail. And because we (meaning me) are total dorks, we’re giving this viewing experience a name: Classics & Cocktails.

We began our deep dive into classic cinema last Friday with Citizen Kane and the “Rosebud” cocktail.

Citizen Kane is widely regarded as the best film of all time. I took a few film classes as electives while earning my undergrad degree, and each professor just assumed that, as students interested in film, everyone had already seen it. And it seemed that most had.

It was written by, directed by, and stars Orson Welles as Charles Kane, an arrogant press tycoon whose death and last word, “Rosebud,” prompts an investigation into his life in an attempt to better understand his elusive character.  But as one of the men perusing his belongings says, “I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life.”

The word “Rosebud,” it turns out, would be a great place to start, though the investigation ends without anyone figuring out what the word meant to Charles. We learn about his interminable rise to wealth from an impoverished childhood, his marriages, his business, and how he became increasingly reclusive as he aged. And we learn at the end of the film that Rosebud was the name of the sled he was playing with the day that he was permanently taken from his childhood home against his wishes. A gold mine was discovered on their property and his mother sold it, set up a trust for Charles to receive when he is 25, and sent him to boarding school so that he could be properly educated.

“Rosebud” is a symbol to Charles, the same way that the green light is a symbol to Jay Gatsby. Both represent what could have been if the circumstances of one’s birth were different. Both signify that despite eventually coming into great wealth, some of the most basic things germane to hope and happiness remain elusive throughout ones life because they cannot be bought and cannot be obtained again.

I enjoyed Citizen Kane very much and am really glad I finally watched it.

Next up: A Streetcar Named Desire

Book Review: How To Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

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Here’s the description from the publisher:

“Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”

Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation’s premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.

George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other’s soulmates. When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am always a sucker for a love story, and this one didn’t disappoint. I liked Irene and George separately and together. I laughed out loud throughout the story, and blew through it in two sittings (it would have been one if I started it earlier in the day, but I stayed awake as long as I physically could. Have you ever fallen asleep while reading and dropped a book on your face? Fun stuff.)

I was a bit confused about the relationship between their mothers.  Their plan seemed strange not only because…well, it because it is a strange idea, but because it meant voluntarily separating from each other when they seemed to be inseparable for years. I also didn’t really understand why their feud lasted as long as it did.

All in all, a really fun book that I recommend reading.