Thursday, March 31, 2016

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

* spoilers *

Bruce Wayne vows vengeance upon Superman for the havoc he wreaked in the battle against Zod, Superman just wants to save people whenever it's convenient for him. Lex Luthor wants to throw everything into chaos and reap the profits by pitting Batman against Superman. The government is trying to contain Superman and restrict him to their rules. You would think the film would be straight forward with such simple story lines, but you would be very wrong.

Full disclosure: I did not enjoy Man of Steel and I went into this film knowing I would also not enjoy it. I did like some things about it, but there are fundamental problems that make it a bloated confusing mess. The best thing about the whole film is Wonder Woman. At first, she's an enigmatic character kind of like Catwoman whose motivations are murky. Her fight scenes bring to mind Snyder's 300 that was his strength: a fighting movie with very little plot and a lot of cool visual effects. I look forward to seeing more from her character, especially since she used to fight with the humans and gave it up due to perhaps disillusionment. Alfred is my other favorite character. He's a sassy, tech-savvy drunk who is tired of Bruce's shit, not the obedient formal butler of the past. I also enjoyed Ben Affleck's Batman for what it was, but I had more of a problem with the writing than his portrayal. It was nice that he actually used his detecting skills and thought critically about the situation.

Now for the bad stuff which way outweighs the good stuff. I didn't like the pacing, the tone, the "heroes," and the convenient coincidences. The pacing is horrible. First, the film is way too long at two and half hours and it feels like an eternity. Second, if all the terrible and unnecessary dream sequences were cut out, it would be at least a half hour shorter. All of these Bruce Wayne dreams were over-long and had something laughable in them. One had young Bruce lifted into the air by bats. Another had a Mad Max style future with Superman logoed Gestapo. It way slowed down the film and took time creating ridiculous situations that didn't even mean anything. The set-up for later films also takes up time and stalls the plot. The two second cameos of Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg were mildly interesting, but needed to be cut. The title fight didn't happen until well into the film and it wasn't even the main fight. 

The tone problem is consistent through most DC films. They focus on being dour, humorless, and angsty. Even the colors are incredibly muted. I like films with some humor to cut into the drama and some actual color. I prefer Marvel movies because they have levity along with the superhero drama, color, and actually value human life (which I will get to later). Suicide Squad seems to be a step in the right direction, but it still looks dour and monochromatic. DC is obsessed with appearing gritty and realistic, but they are never rated R to keep the wide audience and end up being more unrealistic and cartoonish than their Marvel counterparts. If you're going to be gritty and realistic, then do it, but they are half-assing it and want the best of both worlds with disappointing results.

The "heroes" of this film aren't real heroes at all. Batman is up front with this admission and says he's not a hero. He does save people from the Zod fight, but then sets his sights on taking down Superman exclusively. When stealing the Kryptonite chunk, he doesn't hesitate to open heavy artillery fire on people and of course vows to kill Superman. His critique makes sense, but he ceases to really help innocents in his quest for vengeance. Superman, on the other hand, only seems to care about humans directly related to him or sleeping with him. Everyone else is expendable. It was painfully apparent in Man of Steel that he didn't care about anyone in the buildings he was smashing to oblivion. He saves a girl once in the film to further shove the messianic imagery surrounding him down our throats. The character is a wet blanket of a person and seems to have no critical thinking skills at all. Even the villains are underwhelming. Doomsday looks like a Lord of the Rings cave troll with a skin problem and Lex Luthor was a sloppy, crazed child, a huge departure from his usual character.

These two characters' conflict is solved by the shared name of their mothers in a bizarre mood change for Bruce and suddenly they are best pals. Because of the criticism of Man of Steel, it is explicitly stated multiple times that the buildings being crushed by our heroes are completely deserted. Even ones that are business buildings in a tightly packed city...Just no. There will always be people around a metropolis at all hours of the night. Then Batman has the great idea to have the main actual villain follow him back to the city to endanger even more lives. There are so many lapses in judgment and weird decision making. I'm not sure what exactly the writers were doing, but they need to hire new ones for the next films. 

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a bloated mess of bad writing, dour tone, horrible heroes, and weird reasonings and coincidences. The ending is especially stupid because the audience is supposed to believe that Superman is dead despite the fact that we know the Justice League franchise is just starting. It's insulting and no one is fooled. The false emotion is wasted and again just wastes even more time trying to get the audience to feel bullshit feelings. I went in expecting horrible and that's about what it gave. I have hope for future movies, but not much. I have more hope for X-Men , Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Deadpool. DC is too busy trying to be gritty without losing profits and mimicking Transformer fights to make quality films. 

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Mini-reviews: Baby Doll and The Vegetarian

Baby Doll

Lily was kidnapped as a high school student and held for eight years in captivity. During this time, her captor "trained" her through torture, used her, impregnated her, and continued to abuse her. He grew careless one day and left the door to their prison unlocked. She took her daughter and escaped, leading to his arrest. How has life changed since she's been gone? Will her captor be able to escape punishment for what he's done?

Baby Doll is obviously an effort to capitalize on the success of Room. I've only seen the movie, but it's a powerful story (very similar to this one) but focuses on the debilitating and harmful effects of the captivity on the child who was born there. This book decides to take a different route and focuses on the mother in the situation and almost completely ignores the child who has never been outside of a cabin basement. In comparison, Baby Doll is the ham-handedly written Lifetime movie version of Room. I felt for Lily and her family, but the situations are so over the top and crazy. I just couldn't really take it seriously. The writing is quite simple and flows well, but the characters are paper thin. I think it would genuinely do well as a TV movie, but as a book, it's underwhelming.

3/5 fishmuffins

The Vegetarian

Yeong-hye is a normal housewife married to a normal businessman until she has a horrific dream one day. Afterwards, she gives up meat, refuses to cook it, and refuses to have it in her house. Her husband and family are scandalized and grow angry after they can't talk sense into her, but Yeong-hye continues to refuse meat and her behavior becomes more and more erratic over time.

The Vegetarian is a memorable book split into three parts. The first part is the best because it's from the point of view of Yeong-hye's dull husband. He wants his needs met, his house clean, and food cooked and that's about it. When Yeong-hye refuses to have meet even in the house, his whole world is thrown into disarray. His once compliant wife now has opinions and won't do everything he says. He resorts to rape, which he describes nonchalantly, and trying to get her family to change her mind. They also resort to abuse, but Yeong-hye doesn't budge. The second part has Yeong-hye's sister's husband obsessing over and exploiting her and the last part has that same sister trying to convince her to eat anything at an institution. The narrative shows how restrictive and horrible society is for a woman and Yeong-hye's only escape from it is embracing her madness. It also shows how every man in the text simply uses women in one way or another and it's completely socially acceptable. The ending is pretty sad and hopeless, but realistic in the view of the world. I loved the first part, but the other parts weren't as strong. It kind of lost its way at the end.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Places No One Knows

Waverly Camdenmar is the perfect girl on the surface. She gets the best grades, hangs out with the most popular people, and excels at track. Others view her as unflappable and icy. Inside, she is just as insecure as anyone else plus has thoughts that are offputting to others. Marshall Holt is her complete opposite. He's checked out of school. When he bothers to show up, he sleeps in class or just daydreams. On the weekends, he's busy drinking to oblivion, smoking cigarettes and pot, and maybe some other drugs. Everyone views him as a white trash loser, but he's quite empathetic and smart. His home life is difficult and he's just trying to cope. They never really interacted before until Waverly is trying to sleep using meditation techniques and a candle. She appears near him in her dreams night after night. No one else can see her but Marshall. She can be herself and free with Marshall, but her days are the same. Her emotional turmoil intensifies. She's torn between embracing her real self and continuing to pretend for others in the day.

I usually don't like to read contemporary teen novels unless they are thought to be exceptional because I just don't care about random teen drama. Add fantasy, horror, or science fiction and the romance aspect can be one part of a whole work, not the main event. However, Brenna Yovanoff is one of my favorite teen authors. Her previous books are all exceptional and she's not afraid to delve deep into darkness. So, I decided to read Places No One Knows and I wasn't disappointed at all. All of the characters are well written and engaging. The plot has just a little bit of fantasy and a lot of realistic darkness. It's different in tone and execution from her other books, but it's similar to them beneath all the trappings at its core.

The characters feel real. Waverly desperately wants to survive high school. In middle school, she repelled people with her scientific curiosity and matter of fact delivery. Others thought her a weird robotic person who talked way too much about the process of decay and other unsavory topics. her best friend Maribeth taught her how to seem more normal by using her iciness to her advantage to seem impervious and by keeping her odd interests and weird thoughts inside. She's so used to hiding herself, but the effects are seriously detrimental to her now. She can't sleep at night and opts to run to feel freedom so often and hard that she seriously hurts herself. When she visits Marshall in her dreams, Waverly can just be herself in this place out of time, away from the judgment of society. Another outlet for her real self (but in the real world) is Autumn, a brutally honest girl who just wants to be Waverly's friend. Waverly hasn't encountered this type of person before. She's so used to the passive aggression and subterfuge of the top of the societal foodchain that honesty is strange, but eventually refreshing. I felt for Waverly because she has long been conditioned that her natural state is distasteful and she felt she had to change to be accepted. Now, she's angry that the version that people accept isn't even her. It's an interesting dilemma that many can relate to: be yourself and risk being vulnerable and hurt or be someone else to protect yourself, but feel alone.

Maribeth decided to become the queen bee of the school and takes over any obstacle in her way. This book illustrates how girls deal with conflict. It isn't acceptable to be straightforward and cause conflict, so they get around it through passive aggression, creating rumors, and hurting each other socially. Maribeth is obsessed with projecting a perfect image as well, but she seems to enjoy the power hurting people without repercussion, having everyone's attention on her, and taking whatever she wants. She feels the negative aspects to when Waverly isn't as compliant as she was before, but she eventually values her social standing over that long time friendship. Waverly and Maribeth's relationship is a such a good example of how a good friendship can become toxic without even realizing it until it's too late. They were great at the beginning, but Maribeth eventually became insulting and cruel towards Waverly. Waverly knew how to handle Maribeth, appeasing her, making her think she's the one coming up with the best ideas, and making her feel like she has the most power. How is that a real friendship, especially when in return, Waverly gets backhanded comments, ridicule, and cruelty. It's never shown, but I assume the relationship became that way gradually. Waverly makes a lot of excuses for Maribeth, but then eventually sees how toxic their relationship is. A lot of this situation rang true for me as I experienced a similar relationship.

Marshall Holt is similar to Waverly. He seems to be the lazy slacker who will never amount to anything. He has completely checked out of school (if he bothers to show up) and spends most of his time with drinking, mind altering drugs, and making out with Heather. Underneath, he's quite empathetic, but his home situation wears on him. His father is disabled with a condition that may or may not be permanent. Marshall and his mother are often the target of his father's explosive anger that is really about his disability and his horrible situation. Marshall would rather drown out his feelings with substances and a meaningless physical relationship than feel all that pain. He's had a crush on Waverly for a while because he glimpsed the person she is underneath. The nights when she visits makes him want to be better and become worthy of her. They show each other their flaws and problems when they wouldn't to anyone in the real world. During the day, both ignore the other outwardly, but they long to be together. The tension during this part of the book was well done and not too angsty. Both characters are transformed by their interactions despite all the miscommunication, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings along the way.

Places No One Knows is a surprising book. I was so emotionally invested in these characters that I felt every emotion with them. I rushed through the book in a few days because I just had to know what would happen. Yovanoff made me care about these characters even though I've rolled my eyes and put down other similar books. I think each of these three characters are incredibly relatable and I can see parts of myself in each one. I also like that is has shades of fantasy with Waverly's dreams with Marshall. It's a small touch that makes a world of difference to the characters, providing a safe, insulated place to be themselves and really connect with another person. I can't wait to see what else Brenna Yovanoff will write. In the meantime, I will read her short fiction in The Curiosities and The Anatomy of Curiosities.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tell the Wind and Fire

New York has been split into two sides: Light and Dark. They need each other, but the Light suppresses that Dark and the Dark loathes the Light. Lucie Manette is a Light magician born in the Dark of a Light magician and a Dark magician. She came to the Light city because her father was unjustly punished in a barbaric cage, left to die. Lucie stood outside of her father's cage night after night in protest and became known as the Golden Thread in the Dark. Because of publicity, the Light city took notice, released her father, and allowed her to live in the Light with every luxury she didn't have in the Dark. She fell in love with Ethan Stryker, the heir of a powerful family who rules the Light and oppresses the dark. Ethan is almost murdered by Light guards due to being accused of treason until his doppelganger Carwyn saves him on a whim. The soulless doppelganger is now loose without the collar that marks him as such thanks to Lucie's sympathy. Has she just given the rebellion called the Sans-merci their key player? Has she doomed everything she loves?

Tell the Wind and the Fire is a fantasy laced retelling of A Tale of Two Cities. I was never a Dickens fan, so I stopped at Great Expectations and only read it because it was required for school. The story is pretty well known and Sarah Rees Brennan does a wonderful job of creating her own fantastical world and characters that provoke shades of the original story. The Light and Dark city illustrate the situation and tension between the poor and rich during the French Revolution. The atrocities, people, and politics are different, but the feeling is the same. The Light and Dark city are ruled by Light magicians who only are interested in Dark magicians for survival and nothing more. When they use magic, Light magicians get a build up of magic in the blood. Dark magicians drain the blood, which is required use for their magic. Instead of setting up some sort of symbiotic relationship, the Dark city and magicians are treated as lesser. The Light totalitarian regime is complete with thugs patrolling Dark streets and killing for any tiny infraction, public cages that torture people to death to show others what can happen if they oppose the Light, restricted access to clothing, foods, and necessary goods, and social ostracizing of Dark magicians. I have tons of sympathy of those living in the Dark city, but the Sans-merci advocate using similar tactics and commit terrorist acts for their revolution, becoming the monsters they rail against.

The characters were mostly well fleshed out and interesting. Lucie is my favorite character. Every action she chooses has her survival in mind. She saved her father and became the Golden Thread in the Dark to save her father, not to become a symbol of the rebellion. Understandably, she feels like a fraud because she did nothing more to save others in the Dark city, but she does care for their plight. She sees herself as a fairly meaningless person and doesn't want to put her father in danger. Her greatest strength is her ability to care for people despite their flaws. She sees the best in people and doesn't let things blind her to seeing the situation the way it is: one group usurping another and committing exactly the same atrocities. I was frustrated with her for not being honest with her loved ones. Her thought process was pretty sound, but trust is so important and it's so typical for misinformation and half truths to lead to badness in romance situations. Carwyn is my second favorite character. He's snarky, irreverent, and pessimistic. He's the lowest of the low of both societies since doppelgangers are created with the darkest magic to save a baby from death. Everyone thinks the worst of him, so he's fine with fulfilling those expectations. Doppelgangers are supposedly soulless, but Carwyn has a lot going on underneath that impervious shell. When he opens up, it's heartbreaking and beautiful. Unfortunately, the person looks like (Ethan Stryker) is kind of dull in comparison. He isn't overly horrible and does some good things, but we learn them secondhand.

Tell the Wind and the Fire is a fine book that I expect from Sarah Rees Brennan. It has adventure, darkness, romance, and emotion. The first few chapters were fun to read because Brennan just throws you into her world and then gives some backstory a little later. I personally like it and enjoy trying to figure out the world before it's spelled out for me. I hope it will become a series, but I haven't seen anything confirming it. I would like to see what happens to the world afterwards since it would be a large departure from A Tale of Two Cities. I've seen some people complain about the plot being predictable, but that's what happens when it's based on a previous work. I look forward to whatever Brennan writes next.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Southbound is an indie anthology horror film that connects each story with at least one element (like a character or setting) as well as some skeletal creatures and the radio host. Each segment is suspenseful and engaging on its own as well as how it connects to other parts of the film.

* The Way Out

Mitch and Jack are on the run from mysterious creatures for an unknown reason. They stop at a diner for gas and food, but keep returning to the same diner when they try to leave. The small town inhabitants of the diner don't seem to be surprised that they keep returning, even teasing the men when they return, which makes the diner even more ominous despite its boring and rundown appearance. The skeletal alien-like creatures are creepy from far away and downright frightening up close. The damage they inflict is shocking, but there's no explanation as to why they are after the men or where they came from. The ending is a bit underwhelming, but torturous for the characters in a more subtle way.

* Siren

A band's van breaks down in the middle of a deserted highway. An older, pleasant looking couple offers them a ride to their house and a tire and they unfortunately accept. This segment is my favorite because it taps in to how creepy perfect nuclear families from the 50's are. On the surface, the couple and their lumbering twin sons are perfectly pleasant and attentive to their guests needs. The only person not under the thrall of their hosts is Sadie, who is already on the outs with her group. Her perspective wedges her apart from the rest of the band even further and it's clear that she's the only person who even suspects something is amiss. The creepiest scene is when the family serves them the most disgusting and rancid looking meat as if it's normal while Sadie refuses to eat. Her bandmates can't scarf it down fast enough, throw up black sludge, then start acting strangely. The whole thing is surreal madness and descends even further after dinner is over with matching outfits, cult weirdness, and a bear trap.

* The Accident

Lucas is too busy looking at pictures of his wife on his phone to notice the road and hits Sadie (from Siren) at full speed. She's in bad shape: leg broken, bleeding profusely, and obvious internal injuries. He frantically calls 911 and the supposed dispatcher and EMT lead him to an abandoned hospital where they coach him through operating on her. This is the most tense of the segments because this woman's life lies in the balance while these disembodied voices alternately instruct. mock, and confuse him. The most disturbing part is when they ask him to cut Sadie open and compress her lung with his hand to somehow save her. While this a disturbing segment, I find it odd that Sadie's fate (whether she lives or dies) is implied to be deserved as it is the same as her friend Alex who died in a car crash and her friends said as much in the last segment. This part seemed wrong to me since I don't agree that it was strictly her fault (and it also smacks of shaming her for being sexual) and Lucas is rewarded with a new car, new clothes, and freedom.

* The Jailbreak

This segment features Danny, a guy who has been looking for his sister Jessie for a while. The bar he busts into isn't the conventional sort as the bar customers aren't strictly human. He finds his sister and leaves with her, despite her not wanting to leave. This segment is entertaining because of the demon barfight, the revelations Jessie reveals, and her surprising reaction to her brother's concern. She likes where she is and doesn't care about the horrible things she's done in her past. It shows that not everyone suffers in horrible places and not all bonds of blood are solid or mean anything. Even with the supernatural aspects, human evil is the most chilling element. Not the best segment, but fun to watch.

* The Way In

This segment starts out as a home invasion film and then it becomes clear that Mitch and Jack attack this family as revenge for a horrific act committed against Mitch's daughter Katherine. Some surprises break the same old tropes and it explains why the two look like they do at the start of the film and what they argued about. The film starts where it began, implying that the characters are doomed to repeat their deaths or traumas until they learn to make the right decisions. It continues the tradition of the morality plays of older anthology films like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt in a more nuanced and unexpected way.

Southbound is a solid addition to the horror anthology genre. While there are some flaws here and there, it's a chilling journey across a dusty, deserted highway that could be pretty much anywhere in the US. Each segment has a different focus and a slightly different horror sub-genre, but the connecting points make the whole work cohesive.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

If she knew someone was trying to kill her, Zoey Ashe wouldn't have been outside in the freezing cold trying to get her cat off the roof of her trailer. The Jackal/Hyena/Shark (he hasn't really settled on an alias yet) is lurking around with millions of viewers waiting for his moment to pounce. Will Blackwater (sporting a fancy suit) saves her and brings her to the explosive, overwhelming world of Tabula Ra$a. This strange city is garish, loud, and mostly lawless. Zoey's biological father Arthur Livingston is a wealthy entrepreneur who amassed his riches using a combination of legal and illegal means. Zoey doesn't want anything to do with him, but she's mixed up in this trouble anyway. She caused the deaths of a couple of people coming after her who were followers of an internet sensation named Moloch. He takes great offense and vows to kill her, asking his followers to bring her to him in return for praise. Everyone with an internet connection is either after her or willing to be entertained by her death. What's a girl to do?

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is a fun book that sucks you into its fucked up futuristic world. It's stylistically similar to David Wong's John Dies at the End series except in science fiction instead of horror and with a female protagonist. The story takes place in the nearish future and features advanced technologies. Cars drive themselves. Advertisements are holographic. Google Glass-like technology is everywhere. The drive to record everything about one's life is even more prevalent than today. The stream website that is the most popular is called Blink and almost everyone watches and/or records their own Blink streams. Also, weirdos have tech-based enhancements to their bodies to make them stronger, faster, produce electricity, and a whole slew of nightmarish things. I loved all the technology and how it infused every day life. Most of it is a logical evolution of technology we see today or the expansion of present burgeoning technologies.

The characters are full of sarcasm and irreverence and the odds are stacked astronomically high against them. All of the characters are quirky and interesting in their own way. Zoey was just a regular trailer park resident scraping by with her stripper mom. Her self driving car barely works and her cat, while somehow still lovable, is stinky and contrary. Her whole world gets turned upside down with her father's death. People are after her in the first place because of his riches and one mysterious object everyone wants. Zoey went from trailer park girl to the richest, most privileged girl (plus America's most watched) in the course of a few minutes. She's drawn into all of this trouble because of her hated father and she has no choice but to ask his posse of fancy suits for help. I liked Zoey a lot. She doesn't know how to navigate this world and tries her best. I think she should have listened to her fancy suit posse a few times more than she did, but I thought she made pretty good decision throughout. She didn't let the newfound wealth get to her head or alter who she is. I also really liked Will Blackwater, fancy suit posse member and alcoholic extraordinaire. He does whatever it takes to get the task done, but he isn't without humor. His past is dark and twisty plus he doesn't sugarcoat things for anyone.

David Wong is amazing at what he does and I can't stop reading his books. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is similar in tone to his first series, but sets itself apart with the focus on science fiction and different types of characters. I love this urban fantays/science fiction that he writes. It isn't epic or grandiose and I can see real people living in his books. I will read anything he writes. I'll be reading This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don't Touch It while he finishes the third John Dies at the End book. Fans of his first series, The Unnoticeables by fellow Cracked writer Robert Brockway, or Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim series will enjoy this book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Women in Horror: A Head Full of Ghosts

The Barrett's are a normal family who live in  New England. All of them are devastated when Marjorie, the 14 year old daughter, exhibits signs of acute schizophrenia. At first, they opt to use conventional psychiatry and psychology for treatment, but when her condition worsens, her father John feels that his new found devotion in religion is the key to her health. He believes his daughter is possessed by demons and modern medicine can't help. Merry, the youngest daughter at 8, is just confused. She has no idea what's wrong with her sister and becomes annoyed that no one pays attention to her anymore. The family's lives get turned upside down when they become involved in filming a reality TV show called The Possession about exorcising the demon from their daughter. Is Marjorie really possessed? Is she faking or is she simply mentally ill?

A Head Full of Ghosts is a complex book that tells its story in a variety of ways. The story is being told to a best selling author who is writing adult Merry's account of the events. Some scenes are in present day with Merry chatting with the author, but her account is told through the eyes of her eight year old self. Even assuming Merry remembers everything accurately (which she admits she probably isn't) and isn't lying, she doesn't really know everything that happened. She was eight and protected from a lot of what went on behind the scenes and the decision-making processes. Of course she cared for her sister, but after a while simply became annoyed that no one really paid attention to her any longer. No one plays games with her anymore and her boundless energy is now seen as an annoyance since her sister has been sick. When horrible things start happening, Merry is of course terrified but has no idea if her sister is faking, possessed, or mentally ill. All she knows is that Marjorie isn't a fun playmate anymore and has no idea if the things she perceives are real or just imagination heightened by fear.

As a result of her sister's situation, Merry's parents are also very different people. Her father John is suddenly devoutly religious and prays for long periods of time. Merry is mostly confused by it because it was never part of her life. Now she feels deficient in her father's eyes and scared of his fervor. The religious leaders that come to supervise and exorcise take complete control. If he's capable of finding such an extreme "solution" to his daughter's problem, what else is he capable of? Her mother Sarah doesn't agree with the religious solution, but she's desperate to find a cure. She isn't happy about the TV show or the exorcism, so she turns to drinking heavily and becoming moody. The TV show portrays her as confused and barely there, but she always tried to keep Merry and Marjorie (to a lesser extent) from being exploited or scared. I found Merry's narrative rings true. She's just a normal kid, not some super smart, precocious adult version of a kid and it's refreshing.

This brings us to Marjorie. Most possession stories are about fear of girls turning into women, including becoming sexual, defying authority, and simply existing. This one seems to be no different. Marjorie is 14 years old, just around puberty. She used to be cheerful and eager to write stories with her little sister, but now, she wants some privacy and a life away from her family. Like normal teenage girl, she is contrary and sullen. Unlike a normal teenage girl, she is prone to fits of violence and other strange behavior. The most memorable one is after she's been sick, she graphically and messily masturbates while on her period and then urinates and defecates on the carpet. This is the most extreme and disgusting version of this type of scene in fiction. It really boils down to fear of women's sexuality by showing normal sexual expression in a grotesque way. In The Exorcist, it was Reagan stabbing her genitals and shoving her mother's face in the wound while spewing obscenities. A Head Full of Ghosts does the same thing, taking it to further extreme. She also does the requisite rebellious things turned up: physically fighting her father, obscenities, cursing the church, etc, which are an exaggerated version of normal teenage rebellion. It seems like Marjorie is faking for much of the novel, she admits it herself. However, she may be lying or delusional or possessed. I like that Merry and the readers by extension never definitely know which one.

In addition to this account, a blog by an annoying horror fan (who also turns out to be Merry writing under a pseudonym) analyzing and commenting on The Possession and descriptions of scenes from the actual TV show (edited from actual events or re-enactments aired on the Discovery Channel) are included in the story. I love how meta the story is in analyzing and picking apart itself so I don't have to do it (but I did a bit anyway). The entire narrative is through Merry's eyes. The ending throws the veracity of literally everything into question and I like it. Some may see the entire novel as pointless at that point, but I enjoyed the journey. I don't find the book scary, but it is unsettling. The suspense is built at times, but sometimes huge revelations are stated plainly. A couple of the scenes are practically burned into my brain and I enjoyed Tremblay's unique writing as he layered the story deceptively through one point of view. He took a genre I don't enjoy and made it interesting to me. It still has misogynistic elements, but it's hard to get away from when it's an inherent part of the genre. I can't wait for his next book, Disappearance at Devil's Rock.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins