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  • Pearl (2022): Mrs. Murder Mayhem

    Pearl (2022): Mrs. Murder Mayhem

    Pearl is a gorgeous, technicolor daydream of a lonely, unloved girl who desperately wants to be a star so she can be loved by the entire world. She’s also aware that something is deeply wrong with her; Pearl enjoys murder-first animals and then graduating to people who reject her in some way. The first person she ever kills is her mother, who lacks basic love for her daughter-she drives Pearl hard, probably meaning well but truly never giving her a place of safety that felt like home. Her father is wheelchair-bound, unable to move or speak; Pearl often shoulders the burden of keeping him alive after he contracts influenza. This pandemic in 1918 is simply a reflection of our world today: attention-starved people vying to be stars online without any real talent, just the hard wish–however, this is a side issue though a saddening one through the eyes of Pearl. This is the story of a girl who feels much too deeply the abandonment of her husband, the rejection of her mother, and that people draw away from her when they know who she really is inside. Pearl may be a sociopath, but it seems to be a reaction to gain control over the well inside her bubbling up, taking her over the edge from a harsh existence telling her she isn’t good or lovable enough. Pearl is living through her own isolation in the middle of a pandemic and trapped by the ties that bind her to other people-her desires are pushed aside.

    Something I loved about X (2022) was that the women lived their lives how they wanted to without societal values restraining them. They were free. At the time that I saw X, I was constrained similarly to 1918 Pearl, though I didn’t understand that yet. X pushed me forward when I was afraid to put myself/my writing into the world, in a job I hated where I spent most of my time. Eventually, I decided I’d had enough and within two days, I had a new, better job that was more suited to me. People told me I had talent, though I’ve also had people pass on my work in higher echelons.

    Pearl (2022) reminded me that what I had experienced was unfair and harsh: my husband is in prison and I am living in a place I never wanted to go back to because of money constraints. I can’t go to where he is because it’s too expensive to live in that state. I may not be Mrs. Murder Mayhem (thankfully) nor do I wish truly to be a star, though everyone wants recognition and to be able to do what they’re passionate about. I am murderous with my words and have been know to be destructive when I’m hurt. In my own Nowhere Farm, I’ve been able to write about, podcast about, be showcased about the things that I care about: demons, folklore, and horror movies. I have sites that I want to submit to that are just out of my reach and in some ways, my career isn’t moving forward the way I would like. We all have a measure of ambition and just like Pearl, I have a serious lack of patience.

    Maybe people sometimes hinge their desires too much on others, but sometimes, other people can truly help us change our circumstances. It fucking hurts when you try your hardest and are told you aren’t good enough. Pearl didn’t have it in her to dust herself off, not murder anyone, and then try again. I didn’t either-not for a good eight months after I got out of grad school (the dusting off, not the murder). I felt very estranged from the community that I felt I should’ve been welcomed in with academia-they didn’t seem to value my creativity. Academia isn’t for everyone; after realizing that, I left, but I had worked very hard only to feel like I didn’t belong. I felt that my writing/my ideas weren’t good enough and that no one cared what I thought. Luckily, I found acceptance in the paranormal community and that healed those wounds for me.

    Can I even truly be angry about my husband? I chose my Howard, my good man, knowing where he was and why he was there (my husband did something stupid and dangerous in his youth). I didn’t fully understand my own agony until I saw it in another onscreen: the unfairness, the abandonment, the destructive rage of waiting for your life to begin. I can understand all her reasoning aside from the murder-she really needs to stop killing in general, but Pearl is a girl who needs help at a time in history when she especially can’t get it. In Howard, her madness is allowed to flourish because when he comes home and sees her dead parents propped up on display, it is clear he simply cleaned up her mess and continued to love her despite her sociopathy. He even descends into her level of crazy by helping find people to fulfill her desires once he cannot by 1979. Pearl explains this as an old woman in X: “there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me back then-that’s the power of beauty”. She explains it as her beauty being a form of manipulation and without it, she is powerless and desirous of Maxine’s youth. To me, it’s not beauty but love that can be a form of manipulative madness-it sweeps us up and causes us to do insane things. Pearl took sharp things then went stab-wild, and Howard didn’t have her arrested. He protected her instead.

    Pearl is a young woman I’m sad for, but I wept for the girl I was. I wept for anyone who feels unloved by the world, who becomes loved by their person only to lose them in some way. For the people whose dreams are unrealized, unnoticed, and pushed aside. Maybe it was poking fun at the pandemic-induced wannabe stars obsessed with themselves, but the point of the film felt like it was to round out Pearl so that we might evaluate her as something other than horny granny with murder in her veins. Her obsession with Maxine Minx comes into focus; she gets really weird really quick about that. These villainous characters, crazy as they are, are people and sometimes, it really sucks to be a human being. Circumstances can twist people into something they shouldn’t have ever become. In the end, it comes down to: don’t murder people or animals. Get help for mental illness. Don’t let yourself become dark and corrupted because you didn’t chase your dreams or live the life you wanted. Do you know what happens to a dream deferred? It rots, then becomes poison inside us.Also, Mia Goth needs an Oscar stat for her monologue that could break anyone’s heart.

  • Demon Horror: Inaccurate 90% of the Time (A Series)

  • Cursed Conduits & Dead Silence (2007)

  • X (2022) and its Prequel Predecessor, Pearl

  • Nope (2022) Movie Review

  • House of Wax: Dualism, Body Horror, and a Stupid Amount of Wax

  • Tamara (2005) & The Devil as a Young Woman

    Tamara (2005) & The Devil as a Young Woman

    Tamara (2006) is a movie I remember vividly on the racks at Hastings-I was about 11 or 12 and very interested in horror. The reason, I think, is because horror is a landscape for the imagination. Every kid loves fairytales-the more gruesome, the better; horror is an extension of that imaginative playground. Literally anything could happen and does. I was drawn to the girl in red, holding an axe and crying blood-something had happened and she was going to make them pay for it.

    Storyline

    Tamara Riley, a social-misfit and practicing witch is in love with her English teacher, Mr. Natolly. Being a non-sleazebag, he has no idea until she tries to kiss him after praising her editorial on steroid use in the school paper. Two popular boys (at least one, a jock) are pissed at her for writing it because it jeopardizes professional careers. Kisha, a bitchy popular girl dating jock-boy Shawn, sees Tamara make a move on Mr. Natolly, and a plan is formulated: lure Tamara to a motel pretending its her teacher and film her embarrass­ment for writing the article. Tragically, Tamara is accidentally murdered and the group (plus a few outliers thinking it was a regular party) cover up her death. On Monday, she’s back, she’s beautiful, and she’s pissed. Tamara’s real goal is Mr. Natolly’s love, but she extracts her revenge on those who killed her along the way.

    Duality & Tamara-as-Temptress

    Early on, Mr. Natolly talks about duality within humanity in class-we’re all capable of both good and evil. The question becomes: how far can one person be pushed? By day, Tamara is a mousy nobody and by night, a witch binding herself to the one man who’s kind to her: her English teacher. Tamara’s duality is also in her transformation via death-she is now dark, seductive, dressed always in devil red. I love her aesthetic-pointy witch shoes, and she’s the only character to wear red, which could symbolize love/passion/anger (or all three). Also, in her own fantasies about this moment, Tamara is not wearing red, but pink. Red comes after her death/resurrection. She’s also neither fully dead or completely alive, so Tamara occupies a liminal state of being (common in horror, which I never fail to point out).

    She represents youth/beauty/fertility against Mr. Natolly’s wife, who cannot conceive (and it was very uncool of Tamara to point that out). However, you have to think about the fact that Tamara is in her teens (teens are almost never actually teens in movies), so her sexualization is uncomfortable at the very least. It does seem like she’s the one sexualizing herself to attain what she thinks Mr. Natolly wants, but even the possibility of him ever being attracted to her makes me cringe. She’s a kid.

    Mr. Natolly represents Tamara’s conscience (or perhaps conscience in general), acting purely out of kindness and good-heartedness throughout the movie, culminating into his suicide to save his wife from Tamara. (Though Tamara is the is the focal point, she’s also barely in the movie-I would’ve liked to see her more in the role of antagonist.)

    Their Reckoning

    Tamara is out for blood and pulling out all the punches, including ones below the belt. We see her make her father pay for his incestual desire towards her-she makes him eat glass (his alcoholism also drove her mother away). Patrick is a habitual rapist, drugging young women-he and his buddy, Shawn, have their reputations destroyed by having sex with each other-a rather homophobic “punishment” (horror at this point in time really wasn’t understanding of its own harmful biases yet or why a scene like this is a huge problem). Kisha tries to stop this, but Tamara turns her “greatest sins” psychic power on her to see she has an eating disorder: bulimia. It’s not okay the way Tamara uses people’s pain against them, especially with Kisha and Roger. Roger had a history of self-harm, which she ridicules and makes him “finish” his suicide attempts on air in front of everyone. Roger was the happiest to see her okay and genuinely apologized for the part he played. He got arguably the harshest punishment when he, like Chloe and Jesse, was lured to that ‘party’ under false pretenses.

    So we have this dichotomy of the good-for-her movement in horror versus the bullied-becomes-bully pipeline. Power can make bullies of us all and turn us into what we’re not, the film seems to say. On the other hand, what happened to her was tragic and a horrifying ordeal, so she is their reckoning and they got what they deserved (though deeply problematic in execution).

    The Body as Destruction

    This movie has great body horror moments, though it doesn’t center around it. The body is used as a site of destruction because some people’s greatest sins are against themselves. We have Roger sawing off literal body parts-his ears, tongue, and eyes in response to self-harm. We have Kisha eating herself to death/forcibly vomiting in a sickening sequence because of her bulimia. Her nails also became shudder-inducing due to her biting them uncontrollably. Tamara’s body experiences rapid decomposition as she understands that magic has made her evil. (Side thing: there was so much queer subtext between Kisha and Tamara that goes unexplored. Chloe was originally supposed to have a crush on Tamara in the original script and its like, why are y ‘all afraid of lesbians?)

    Sacrifice & Consent

    Though an interesting character, Tamara’s motivations are juvenile-she may have died for Mr. Natolly, but that doesn’t mean she’s entitled to him. His heart is with his wife and furthermore, love spells have a serious lack of consent. Tricking someone via magic is never the way to someone’s heart, especially if they are in love with someone else. In Tamara’s defense, she is a teenager-her brain isn’t done developing yet. Doesn’t excuse her behavior or the cringe-y seduction dialogue, but it explains her deeply selfish mindset. Once prey, Tamara is now a predator on a healthy, loving relationship. This makes Mr. Natolly’s sacrifice for his wife’s safety mirror Tamara’s but also eclipse it because he’s acting out of unselfish love. All Tamara does is make mind slaves out of people and robs them of their free will. (I still wish she’d had more screen time anyway.) Also sad Kisha was never able to fulfill her implied apprenticeship via sequel.

    I love Tamara (2006) because it’s 2000’s horror, which has its own distinct feeling (along with way problematic content, unfortunately)-this are also somehow feels like Halloween, which I never shut up about. Ultimately, it’s a tragic story about a girl without comfort in the world, misconstruing a teacher’s praise for attraction simply because he was a decent human being to her. She turns to magic, which makes her pay a hefty price, and she doesn’t get what she wants anyway. I hate that the world is filled with Tamaras-everybody needs love. Not everyone understands the occult or their own sacrifice in search of power. (I’m not saying all magic is evil, but anything not fully understood is dangerous, ESPECIALLY if you don’t know what you’re doing.)

  • Ginger Snaps (2000) & Puberty Politics

    Ginger Snaps (2000) & Puberty Politics

    Right away, we see these two sisters are pretty disillusioned with life and have a very close bond: together, in this life or the next. A beast of some kind stalks Bailey Downs, eating dogs and leaving them torn/bloody. Both girls, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, are outcasts and seek revenge on a bully-this leads to a chance encounter with the beast, who scratches Ginger. Soon after, changes begin: her period (maybe cramps) becomes unbearable, her wound grows fur, and she has hungry urges she needs to satisfy; drugs and sex do nothing. Tearing living things apart consumes her as she delves deeper into her own bloodlust.

    Puberty

    Everything in this movie is pushed forward by the women-men are backdrops since puberty, for them, is quite a different ballgame. It’s just one of the ways it sucks to have a uterus (the nonbinary/trans aspect unfortunately isn’t depicted in this movie but anyone who has a uterus in general can confirm). Everyone wants puberty to come, with their bodies filling out and awkwardness disappearing, but without the side effects. The werewolf contamination has given Ginger something she lacked: confidence. She loves the new attention to her body but also realizes the double standard: she’s also being objectified and classified by men: “slut/bitch/tease or virgin next door.”

    The struggle is very real-the scene where Brigitte stands, daunted by all the feminine products that exist for women is such a real moment. Everything gets very weird, very hormonal and then boom: casual objectification, even at inappropriately young ages by grown men. It’s a lot.

    The Wolf Within

    “Somethings going on-like, more than you just being female.”-Brigitte

    Brigitte and Sam, the guy who accidentally killed the beastly thing, trace it back and realize: full moon + bitten = werewolf. (Brigitte tells him its her turning to protect Ginger’s privacy). Now, Ginger’s puberty appears to be accelerated by her wolfing out. She is ruled by instinct alone and a threat to everyone around her. The wolf brings out several things in Ginger that women aren’t supposed to be: aggressive, selfish, lustful, angry, and terrifying. Ginger is the nightmare incarnation that any patriarchy should fear-and she’ll tear you to “fucking pieces”.

    There is a serious difference between the puberty/objectifi­cation of men and women, but a werewolf doesn’t have to play by any rules but her own. We see Ginger get physically violent, not just verbally, the way women are taught to channel their aggression. Its no longer ‘boys will be boys’-more like boys will be chew toys. Outwardly, the men see the ‘sexy’ side of being a werewolf in her shape, in Ginger’s embrace of her animal carnality. The audience sees the truth: crazy, weird, ugly side of the’ puberty-as-werewolf’ allegory.

    Though awesome, Ginger’s transformation is not without its casualties (figuratively and literally). Her deep mistrust of men makes her lash out and hurt men who are kind to her sister, like the janitor. There is no pedophilia grooming happening, but she kills him for perceived inappropriate behavior anyway. Kindness, to Ginger, is a tactic to get one’s defenses down. The same fate befalls Sam, who tries to help Brigitte as she infects herself to stop Ginger’s rampage.

    Living in Shadow

    Arguably, Brigitte lives in Gingers shadow- Ginger is considered prettier by boys (while Brigitte is ignored), is able to stand up fer herself, and binds Brigitte via blood pact. By choosing life over the “ultimate ‘fuck you”’ of deaths, Brigitte chooses herself and leaves Ginger’s shadow. And why not, really? Ginger definitely chose herself. I didn’t see Ginger’s death coming, but it fits this narrative. (Side note: their mom is so ride-or die for them, and I love her. All the adults may be cringe-y, but they are surrounded by a support system of people looking out for them, though they assumed the girls have more normal problems.)

  • The Hallow (2015) & Irish Changelings

    The Hallow (2015) & Irish Changelings

    Heed the Warnings

    “Hallow be their name, And blessed be their claim. If you who trespass put down roots, Then Hallow be your name”. I feel it’s a really common story: foreigners coming in, ignoring warnings, fucking around and finding out that with the local lore, nobody was joking. A man moves in with his young family (wife and brand-new baby boy) to the edge of a forest. Everyone tells him to stay out of the forest or at least keep the iron bars on the windows; he does neither. “If you trespass upon them, they’ll trespass upon you”; ; Colm leaves the fairy tale book; this is a culture shock/dismissal of cultural beliefs as fantasy. I suggest you know what you’re dealing with and pay heed if in an unfamiliar place. Our world is a strange place.

    What ensues are kidnapping attempts; rooms being messed up, paranormal activity (slamming doors). Even the cop who investigates it tells the story of the sidhe; a “conquered people driven from their sacred lands with iron and fire” though he says he doesn’t believe. Iron is known to repel fairies, who aren’t the cute little Victorian figures everyone seems to think they are. That image came from a romanticization of what fairies are.

    Other phenomena:

    -took a picture of a creature near the woods; at least the flash illuminated it

    -dog acting strangely, sensing something else with them

    -inside the baby’s sheets, they find this blackened/twisted mass of growth; almost looks cancerous

    -the forest messes up their frequencies in the car radio, breaks it down as a trap, scratches in the car; camera flash as modern fire? Too much light nevertheless.

    Modern Man’s Nightmare/Folklore

    I also see this as a modern man’s nightmare; unable to understand, to protect one’s family against the things that go bump in the night. Unable to stop them from taking his son. Also body horror with the man’s transformation into that of the Hallow from eye poisoning. Also that poor puppy; I hate the trope of using the death of an animal to show the ruthlessness of someone/something; in this case, it is something unlike us that claims people as its own. I listen to folklore about an area when I am told it; it tells us about what people fear, what possible exists there, and how these people relate to each other (as a folklorist, I know stories tell us so much more about people than is understood. Even if I didn’t believe, they clearly do for a reason. Something is happening, we just don’t know what.)

    Complete Dismissal of Women’s Fears

    We also the complete dismissal of the woman’s fears, which irks me; like, she was right about needing to leave. She felt uneasy about all of it. If my husband dismissed me, I’d be packing my bags (granted, I have psychic abilities and have had terrifying experiences with dark places). We also see this mistrust between man and wife about the identity of Finn; she hides from him believing he is ill (which it’s clear from his appearance he is). Her mother instinct to protect her child is overriding her trust in her husband. This movie feels like a cis-gender man’s fever dream. Powerless. But at the end, we see Adam using his new abilities as one of the Hallow to find the child/return him to his mother and he has his dog. The trust is reestablished at the end when Claire takes the Finn Adam is holding instead of the one she is, seeing the logic in what she told him before: “Why would they just give him back to us?” Adam’s final acts are that of a protective father made Hallow while Claire escapes into the sun. The fake Finn dies by the morning light.

    Reclamation

    I love this idea of reclamation, of the forest very literally triumphing over the creations of man-the way it takes back the car and essentially possesses people is novel. ‘We’ll take you and make you part of us’, essentially. The black ‘blood’ of the forest also denotes evil; fairies are thought to be pretty but investigations in such areas yield that fairies are probably squat, troll-like beings or even jinn-like, wrong in their shape to the human eye. So in this way, they are unfriendly to humans because of their blood being able to change human cellular structure/possessing/make you become us thing. We’ve got some similarities to the demonic, which is a human’s worst nightmare if you think about it: bigger, stronger, more intelligent, able to possess and break down the body. Adam’s transformation is some excellent body horror; he has branches coming out of his skin, which is a practical effect mixed with CGI (for movement to watch it grow out of him) and branches coming out of his face wounds. His eye is weirding me out too, the way it has “healed”. Cora is way creepy too, like a Silent Hill reconstruction of a little girl with glowy eyes. It’s almost sad the way these creatures covet the light in their darkness. Enjoying the creature design for the rest of the Hallow and pretty close to how I imagine fairies; gnarled, probably ugly, forced underground.

    Fear of the Changeling

    We also have this fear that your child isn’t actually your child; it was believed changelings are actually an enchanted piece of wood to look like your child or a disguised dying fairy. This probably had more to do with explaining disability/deformity in children to avoid guilt/punishment for destroying them. “Well, it’s not my child!” We see this same thing in Crimes of the Future (2022) when a mother kills her son because he eats/digests plastic, but her justification is that he isn’t her son, that he isn’t human and therefore, had to die. There are also many stories of people disappearing because they were kidnapped by fairies and either enslaved there or marrying one, but it’s never a good or beautiful thing. Being taken to the fairy realm is a very bad thing, which is why so many ways of avoiding it and not pissing off “the good people” were invented. People wanted to believe (and some still do) that we have power over the unknown element in such creatures.

  • The Folkloresque in The Ritual (2017)

    The Folkloresque in The Ritual (2017)

    The Folkloresque as a Concept

    I love the folkloresque; this is when a movie or tv show/book, etc. uses a tale that feels like folklore but isn’t based in anything that exists in folklore. It’s a storytelling element using folklore examples to be creative and bring in a story/aspects of a story that have no factual basis-like, we know from the stories that Loki got around, as did every Norse god and goddess, but do we know if he had a self-obsessed bastard son? No, not at all. The folkloresque allows for better stories as a complete exaggeration and/or building off existing actual folklore (real folklore states that Loki exists-this story builds off that this is his son).

    Obsessed With Own DivinityThis movie takes their own spin on Norse mythology and introduce this new character into the mythos; a creature who only wants to be recognized and worshipped, choosing the cowardly, sifting through their memories to find the spineless. This bastard son of Loki is obsessed with his own divinity, perhaps because it is in question or because this creature was born knowing it isn’t as powerful as other gods, which is vaguely sad.

    Creature Design (Backstory and its Inhumanity)The young woman who talks to Luke tells me the creature is a god, ancient, one of the Jötunn (giants), the bastard child of Loki whose name is not spoken. They worship it, and in exchange, living beyond natural life without pain or death-their servitude buys them the removal of fears once causing cowardice. She says his ritual begins tonight, and tells him it’s a privilege to worship. You’ll kneel before it, or it’ll tree you, essentially (not much of choice here). Luke is told that his pain is great and that’s why he was chosen.The hands give the idea of humanity while the sheer size of it negates that; like nocturnal animals, it operates best under the cover of night. [I swear, I will never be a forest adventurer or cave explorer after movies like this, The Blair Witch Project (1999), and The Descent (2005). Seems miserable.]One of its special talents seems to be hallucination, but the eyes give it away (common in supernatural entities); the creature design is fantastic because it inverts where you think its eyes should be to show his inhumanity (they come from his abdomen instead of his head). He also has a rather horse-like antler appearance and often stands on its hind legs. It gave me Sleipnir vibes, but probably not since Sleipnir is male (wouldn’t put it past Loki, though; technically, Sleipnir is his son but incest has not stopped them before.)

    Luke escapes but first goes upstairs (Why Luke? That can’t be the way out), sees an entire room of supplies robbed of the murdered dating back to maybe colonial times, and it isn’t really explained what’s happening in the worship weird room but the dried up bodies in there are still alive? Luke burns those bitches and hits the older lady in the face without hesitation (illiciting a laugh from me because there’s no hesitation now, is there, Luke? Also it was so abrupt.) An idea I had is that the bodies upstairs are their once-decaying bodies and through the ritual (which isn’t seen-pissed about this because it was probably fascinating), they gain new bodies-less prone to death, sickness, pain but not really because the girl who talked to him got her eyeballs removed for her trouble of talking to Luke. It appears Luke kills her out of kindness before the Jötunn can? Luke makes it out and screams at the creature who roars at him. It could be a funny moment of dominance but instead is played by the actor as an act of anger/fear/desperation/everything he experienced because of this thing and dominance. He escaped. Take that, nameless Jötunn!

    Those That Worship Him

    I find it strange that the group wouldn’t be automatically suspicious of the crude fire lights and the people in the structures. It isn’t my instinct to think I won’t end up chained in the woods (which might be a woman thing), so I’d tread carefully before just bursting into the nearest structure. The sounds of worship alone coming from upstairs are enough to make you never go near any woods ever again.

    The older lady’s wound looks oddly like a swastika; a clawed mark representing who will be saved and who will not; there aren’t very many women in there (we see a grand total of two). Dom is beaten the shit out of, prepared for sacrifice-and the younger woman covers Luke’s ears so he doesn’t have to hear his friend’s torture. An oddly kind thing to do, given the circumstances.

    Man, what a creepy locale; the fog, the animal head shrines, the trees; later, torches are a nice touch. This deity brings them back to the old ways.

    Rituals/Worship

    I loved the ritualistic elements and how this creature captures and kills people then puts them on display as its own ode to itself; like how obsessed are you with yourself, my dude? The shrine itself in the house is also deeply unsettling in its humanly inhuman-ness; the human parts + animal parts = hybridity (making me think this deity’s mom is human). Fun fact: demon narratives talk about animal/human hybridity in sightings, most likely because demons use this since they know it freaks us out to see things that are sort of like us but also not, feeding into the uncanny valley (if it looks too human but isn’t, it gives us weird vibes).

    “That’s witchcraft”-Phil; I don’t see any reason to think that. Clearly, it is worship at work in the form of ritual (but the same thing could be said for Christianity but because we recognize those rituals, we don’t fear them)-other than the runes, the home denotes nothing of the kind. Seen throughout the forest/in the house, we see runes: we see othala (inheritance/home), algiz (protection/self-defense), berkana (birch/birth/beginnings), nauthiz (need/necessity/restraint). Now if he had been looking at the runes specifically, that would be a good assertion since they are associated with witchcraft. But no, Phil, you were just judging their shrine thing.

    Personally, if I was a deity (or demi-god), I’d have humans worship me; they are the perfect worshippers because though we can be brave, we can also really not be though it didn’t seem to work out here since the one who was marked a coward found courage within himself.

    Cowardice

    The main character, Luke, is marked as a coward by the creature who sifts through his consciousness/dreams. And what’s odd about the way this deity chooses people is that it has rendered all of these men to be cowards with its dark presence; we find them pissing themselves, crying in a corner, naked and submitting to it. You would think they’d all make the cut of coward when it appears since we see the deity combing their dreams and/or memories, which brings the humans to such states of disarray. Not much bravery to be seen here, mates. Denial also seems to be a main theme for Luke; he wraps himself in it, convinces himself of whatever he’s hiding from that it simply isn’t that way.

    Also, the commentary on this man’s “manhood” is going over my head; as a cis-gender woman, I’ve never felt the need to jump in and be the hero or that it was ever expected of me (gender roles are weird). This man is wracked with guilt over what the didn’t do to help his friend; my thought process on the whole situation is that fear can be paralyzing no matter the gender. Shock makes people act strangely and even completely different in times of extreme stress/fear. We also see isolation of the coward as theme; supernatural entities (that are malicious, anyway) tend to separate the person they want from a larger group. Survival of the fittest as a theme also emerges; Luke, though cowardly at one crucial moment in his life, is the fittest to survive this nightmare.

    The Forest as Threatening

    We also see the forest almost like its own character come up in a lot of such stories; Robert Frost wrote that, “the woods are lovely, dark, and deep”-well, sometimes. The forest is magical at times but usually threatening in horror. A place covered by trees makes one think of hiding something from sight or it makes one wonder who is in the forest with you if the threat is human (this trope comes up in thrillers); the fog adds to this effect. The trees give me this net-like vibe, like they’re prey caught in this thing’s web/trap. The runes carved into the trees denote this new deity’s connection to Norse mythology and also seem to show ownership-this place is claimed.

    “Well this is clearly the house we get murdered in.” I love self-aware commentary though really, the friends die throughout the forest. The house functions a little like the Blair Witch house as an omen of bad things to come, complete with a shrine to the child Loki didn’t seem to want (why else would it be so obsessed with itself? That’s not a loved kid right there.)

    The music adds another layer of visceral fear; almost like that insistent voice inside yourself telling you something is wrong growing louder combined with an inhuman sound as cacophony-fear of the forest/fear of being surrounded by nothing but trees on all sides, unable to see the threat as it comes. There is no escape.

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