Film Corner: Descendants

Descendants
---

Are the Descendants movies good? They seem like the sort of thing that can't possibly be good but I kinda want to watch them anyway?

We watched the Hades song (from movie #3?) today by accident while ADHD-browsing through YouTube and what struck me the most was that, yes yes Greek god and all that, but even so he should probably not have quite so much sexual chemistry with his daughter. This is why it's so very important to vet actors properly and make sure they know how to do things OTHER than smoulder if they're going to be acting across from a character who is their child/mentee.

-Descendants 1-

Ok, so Evil Island got all the colors in the kingdom. That seems kinda right, to be honest. The first song IS a banger, but it also feels like a song you'd strip to? Which feels kinda wrong for Disney! I have conflicted feelings! We've decided that the white-haired boy is wonderfully gay and Jafar's son is transition goals. The Cruella boy has a lot of "feral Peter Pan" vibes, so I'm interested in learning who his dad is.

.....Kristin brought a lot of Glinda to this Maleficent and I'm not sure how I feel about that. That...does not look like Jafar at all. I am confused. Is this perhaps a kindly uncle who is standing in for Jafar during this scene? While Jafar is off doing something appropriately sinister? I would like to speak to the casting department just, like, in general so far.

Kissmate has had to pause to take a phone call, so I've disappeared into the wiki. I find it both mnemonically helpful and narratively satisfying that these selfish, self-absorbed villains named their children after themselves. Ok, we're back! There's a girl in a wheelchair at the prep school. I'm very invested in her!

Why is Jay a thief, this is so confusing to me. Is Aladdin his parent instead of Jafar? Did Jafar raise him to be a street rat on purpose in the hopes that he'd qualify for another lamp? I realize Mal has doubts about her mother's plan, but. This....vaudeville song and dance routine feels deeply out of place here, tonally speaking.

Jay just owned the field in Death Lacrosse and I'm so happy for him. Jane is good and pure and adorable and I love- why did she think she's ugly? That's a- why did they- huh. Carlos is precious and must be protected and also might be having a moment with this boy, Ben, I'm not sure. Can't believe we gotta break quarantine to go murder Chad, Prince Charming's son.

"Even villains love their kids...?" Oh, Lonnie.

I.....kinda wish the bitchy Mean Girl wasn't the only Black girl. Probably why they added Uma in the next one? Looking forward to that. Man, would've loved to be in the room when someone at Disney was like "it's gonna be High School Musical but with Disney Villains and some of that sweet Hogwarts private school angst." You'd think the royals would be pretty suspicious of the prince falling hard in love with one of the new villainous transfer students.

Surprisingly deep dive on having abusive parents in this movie.

Haha, welcome to Parents Day, mom! Here's a song to remind you of the time you were captive in a scary castle while certain you'd never see your father again! I feel like Belle wouldn't have all these class prejudices against the villain kids? She didn't have the same friction with her dad that Ariel had, of course, but like. She also wasn't born into the whole princess thing.

"How have you remained looking so young?" asks Aurora's mother of a powerful faery.

.....Well, shit, I love Prince Ben now.

Wait, why are they four free (and the dog) but everyone else is still frozen? Disney being brave out here, giving children the dream. I, too, would like to keep my mother in a terrarium and feed her little mealworms.

Ok, maybe this is explained in the spin-off novels or something, but how are "all the kingdoms united" and Beast was "elected" their leader, but we still have a hereditary monarchy and also Princess Audrey and Prince Chad? It can't be a courtesy title, because Audrey made a big point of being a Real Princess unlike Evie, so-

Well, the nameless wheelchair user reappeared for the final song. We'll miss you, nameless disabled girl! We'll watch the next one tomorrow, probably. I DID really like how they handled the love potion. That's about the best way to do that kind of plot, I feel!

Waiting for my pain doctor and I find myself preoccupied with how the villains were not done...how I would have done them in this movie. Even allowing for a degree of defanged-ness for the children, there are some questionable choices here!

I'll start with Jafar. Disney tried to go back to the 1001 Nights by having him as a second-hand goods dealer in the New Lamps For Old sense, but Jafar ISN'T in the source Aladdin story. Disney created him from OTHER 1001 Nights stories (the Vizier archetype) and put him in. Disney Jafar simply doesn't have the patience for the "common people" to own a pawn shop. The Disney Jafar would quickly make himself indispensable to the island's ruler and install himself as second in command, the power behind the throne, designated opportunistic back-stabber.

Speaking of rulers, why Maleficent? She was a powerful faery who fiercely valued her independence! She should be raising Mal in a Rapunzelesque tower, not ruling the island. (And with what power? She has no magic...can she still dragon-shift, maybe?) Surely in the Hobbesian hell of a magicless island of Disney Villains, Gaston (or Clayton in a pinch) would be nominal king of the people ("He's the strongest of us! And the most handsome!") with Jafar doing the actual ruling behind the handsome figurehead.

Evil Queen would convince Gaston to marry her and then carefully ignore his affairs ("They're not prettier than me! A man's eye just wanders for something new.") unless the girl got too ambitious, then agreed arrange an assassination and eat her heart. (I honestly can't imagine Evil Queen raising a daughter without killing her in a fit of jealousy; better to give her a son that she leaches off for emotional validation. Like Cruella does Carlos. I'd give Cruella the daughter/Evie.)

Honestly if Disney weren't such cowards about adding The Gay, I'd make Gothel and Maleficent partnered in a tower and neglecting their kids. (How do they conceive? They still have a shadow of their former magic. Bite me.)

Judge Frollo would also glom onto the new ruler (again, probably Gaston) and create a cult of the crown so he could consolidate power investigating the masses for wrongthink against the kingly representation of God on earth. (Frollo would HATE the two "witches" in their tower, but Gaston always waves him off as Too Serious whenever Frollo tries to urge him into a holy war against the women.)

With a king and priest-class installed, Cruella now has a reason to exist: they're going to need a fashion designer in order to look intimidating and fabulous. She would shine at this. Cruella didn't kill puppies because she was obsessed with pinning dead skin to her body! She killed puppies because it was socially fashionable! Why is she walking around looking like a patchy Grizabella from the Cats musical???

So of the main cast, we'd have:
- Mal: Rapunzelesque shut-in, not princess of the isle.
- Evie: Cruella's daughter, schooled in how to dress to impress the masses.
- Jay: Son of the vizier, taught to be calculating, cunning, and USEFUL to important people.
- Carlos: Evil and Gaston's son. Island Prince, but utterly emotionally drained from reassuring both his parents that they're the Best. Internal wreck, no self-esteem. Dressed to kill but just wants to crawl into a hole and hide. Sweet mess in need of hugs.

I assume they held back Ursula for the sequel (I noticed they were very careful to never mention Ariel or anything related) but if she's sea-witching off the island coast, put her in a coven with Maleficent and Gothel and give the witches' tower a sea-access tunnel.

@IMJackRudd. [Cruella]'d also probably be designing for the military, which would be under the control of John Ratcliffe. Partly because he clearly has a military background, and partly because none of the others would like him and that would get him out of the way.

This is absolutely correct. Gaston would want a shiny standing army. Kind of feels like Disney didn't want to portray an oppressive patriarchal government with a ruling priest-class and a military-obsession for SOME REASON.

@doordoxofficial. Where would the villainous animals from Jungle Book fit in?

Ooh. Between King Gaston, Captain of the Guard Clayton, and Royal Fashion Advisor Cruella, they're gonna be in dire straits. I'd write a "wild" corner of the island where they survive and are hunted (and hunt the hunters in turn) as part of island life.

-Descendants 2-

Alright! It's time for Descendants 2! I'm already confused by the messaging, lol. Descendants 1 ended with "I wanna be good!" and this one is starting with a dance routine on the advantages of being Wicked. Oh, it was a day dream.

Ok, so this is less High School Musical than the first and more Princess Diaries. Mal is overwhelmed by all the princessy decisions that normally wouldn't be left to her anyway, because...well, it would be overwhelming! Mal is stressed that her whole life is on display and her future planned out and...is she supposed to be a normal American girl?? Mal was born the heir to a powerful dragon-faery-queen, this sensation of ultra-exposure to the public should not...be...new??

I kinda feel like the writers of Descendants 2 didn't get Descendants 1? Mal wasn't nervous riding with Ben at the coronation because she's an Average Girl, she was nervous because she had to decide whether to betray her boyfriend or her mother. Now she's frightened by cameras!

WHY IS EVIE HELPING CHAD?! Lonnie gonna kill Chad and I'm here for it. Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie, Go Lonnie! They have a talking dog. They have a talking toxic masculinity dog. Why. This movie feels less populated than the first one somehow. The lost island doesn't have the same...color. Chaos. Creativity.

Uma has a good song, though. I would've started with this one, actually. It's strangely paced to just plop this down after the talking dog scene. Ok, I like her and Hook's boy being together. The son of a pirate infatuated with the daughter of a sea witch is very good and right with the world. And the way they turned her name into a chant was just. *chef's kiss* I wish she had a motivation other than hating Mal for getting out. The barrier was broken last time, why not use that!? Let them be motivated by freedom, not jealousy of the super-white ultra-blonde girl?

Kissmate: "...didn't most of these villains die at the end of their movies?"
Ana: "I guess that's why people keep warning me not to think about the world-building."

Oh no, they ruined Ben. She's clearly trying so hard to please him and be perfect and he's yelling at her for not being organically hand-crafted perfect and buying her perfect at the magic store instead. Asshole.

Poor unfortunate bangs! Wasn't all this part of an initiative to let MORE children out? With Mal and the others being a test case?? Why are there little hungry moppets robbing Evie?

"Ben, if you can't act a little less goody two-shoes, you'll get us caught! And definitely not our incredibly famous faces that grew up around here and are known by everyone." So Evie, Jay, and Carlos are going to drop everything to help Mal and not talk about the part where she left them forever without saying goodbye. Huh.

"I really wish I could take you with me." WHY CAN'T YOU? YOU GUYS RULE AURADON WITH BENNIE BOY. THAT WAS THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THE FIRST MOVIE.

Maybe they shouldn't have given the girls a love song together if I'm supposed to be worried about Ben and Mal's relationship being saved.

THAT'S the plot???? That after the successful test case, Ben just "forgot" to bring more kids over??? Oh, cool, the rest of the plot is where Mal "forgets" her most precious possession, the magic spellbook. Our entire plot is people just forgetting important things they would never.

The writers can't decide what flavor of queer Carlos is. I thought he was a queer boy in D1 but now I think he might be a trans girl in D2.

"If Ben doesn't love you, I'll drive you back tomorrow." BEN LOVING HER HAS NEVER BEEN THE PROBLEM. I FEEL LIKE THIS SCRIPT WAS WRITTEN BY MAD LIBS.

.....ok, I do like the Lonnie solution.

CARLOS JUST SAID "I'M THE LUCKIEST GIRL" IT'S CANON. WE ARE GO FOR TRANS GIRL EGG.

Cons: Once again, the Black girl is the villain.

Pros: Mal has a secret puberty dragon form that Maleficent apparently never prepared her for. This is why Prince Eric should've been invited. He knows how to handle sea monsters. Everyone is surprisingly chill about Maleficent's daughter having a secret dragon form.

How did this not end with Uma being friends with them??? That's breaking the After School Special RULE. Ben was supposed to make her see that he cared about the island, and she'd join them. But no, she turned away so EVIE could make the plea that was Uma's to make. I am sad. We'll do Descendants 3 tomorrow and figure out why Mal has a duet with Hades.

-Descendants 3-

Okay, get in, we're doing Descendants 3. Mal is hand selecting 4 more villain kids to come to Auradon. That seems...really insufficient given that there are now approximately 6,000 innocent kids on the island, best I can count from crowd shots.

I'm having complicated feelings about how this series has moved from "you're not defined by your parents or birth and can be whatever you want" to, like, "you're either born on the preppy side of the tracks or the colorful poor queer side". Really this is part of my problem with the Disney fandom in general: a lot of people start seeing the villains as an aesthetic and forget the fascism of Scar or the Stormtroopers or whatever, and just treat it as a design choice: pink vs interesting.

D1 was like...you can be born "good" and still evil (Audrey) and you can be born a "villain" and still be good (Mal). Now it feels like...so are you from the pink boring side of town or the interesting queer side and I'm having complicated feelings about that change.

Dizzy is taking up one of the precious 4 slots, which makes me irritated because she was supposed to go over in D2. The next two slots are a set of twins who will never speak or do anything interesting, I'm calling it now. Last and most interesting is Celia, Facilier's daughter.

Ben performs a public proposal to Mal and Audrey and her grandmother are evil and pink about it.

They've made the previously-faceless off-screen screaming Lady Tremaine an East Asian woman which...uh...isn't much of a diversity win and has unfortunate implications with her running a hair and nail salon?? I don't feel qualified to comment on this! But! I want to like this, I'm genuinely not trying to be contrary, and I'm REALLY happy that they added Celia as a Black girl who isn't evil, but every time I try to sink into it there's these really unfortunate racial issues that Disney keeps slapping my face. I'm sorry.

HADES is trapped on the island??! A Greek GOD?? Mal blows Hades back into the barrier and he stalks off.

I- You know what? I feel like this series could be a brilliant deconstruction--and maybe we're headed there with this movie!!--about how money and power corrupts even the most good-hearted. Because you have all these lovely good royal kids, Auradon- and Island-born both, going "oh, thank god, we're safe. Hades is again trapped on the island of helpless orphans. Back into our limo with the custom paint job and plates, tallyho" and I'm screaming in horror. I hope we're going there, I pray we're heading in that direction: that Mal and Ben are evil because they've been prioritizing Auradon's comfort over the freedom of all the unfairly imprisoned kids. Please, Disney, I know you can do this.

I find it interesting that Audrey is starting to dress like the VKs she hates so much. Blue in her hair, fingerless gloves, external corset, leather arm cuff. I really wish they'd made Audrey's grandmother white. We'd have one less villainous Black woman (we have 3 right now) and I feel like this...entitlement plot of "I played nice, where's my reward" would fit a white woman better.

Mal decides that they need to close the barrier for good and strand the children there forever. Because the security of Auradon is more important than freedom. So, hey, maybe Disney IS going the "power corrupts" route!

Ok, they did good with Facilier.

"For 16 years I had nothing!!" says the girl who grew up as princess of the island, lol. Like, yes, it's hard having an abusive mother. But you still ate regularly, Mal. I still think there is an inappropriate amount of sexual tension in this song between Mal and Hades.

The talking dog still exists. Why.

Evie is about to get into a smack-down with Mal and Uma if they can't get along and I'm shipping it as a triad. WE HAVE ACHIEVED BATTLE DANCE-OFF. Jay and Gil and Harry are forming a nice little triad, too. This movie is very gay. I approve of that. C'mon, Carlos, Disney Princess at him. You got this!

Ben got a glow-up with fangs and a Riker beard.

Ok, so. I both did and didn't get my wish. They do confront Mal about her actions, but it's less about power corrupting her and more about, well, her being a confused and frightened teenager who shouldn't be in charge of a country. Seriously? The moral is "you can't live in fear because you don't know where the bad will come from"? Not "incarceration is bad"? So they just...unilaterally take the barrier down. Which seems a little, uh, ok, you know what? If Disney wants to radicalize kids against incarceration, I'm ok with that. It was a little hasty at the end but ok.

I wish the moral had been less about "living in fear" (which is messy with terrorism rhetoric and covid and and and) and more about how it's not ok to protect white upper class land values by locking up everything which threatens it, but. And they took Ben's toothy glow-up away, which seems unkind to the fanbase.

I wish Celia had a song, though. How do you cast Facilier's daughter and not give her a song?

It was a nice pretty poppy ending. 4 of 5 stars. No major complaints besides all my little nitpicks. Here's hoping they destroy that magic staff and stop putting it in a museum with one sleepy guard.

Open Thread: Meaningless Symbols

I might, possibly, have been looking into creating an alphabet with absurdly complicated glyphs for letters, a la the Icelandic Palace of the Sun Letters.  These glyphs are a result of me playing around the thing I set up aid said letter creation.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

May Newsletter (2022)

Kissmate here for the Newsletter of May 2022!

April ended with a terrifying close and May's opening isn't looking hopeful either. The Supreme Court leak left us paralyzed and angry, and the senate's passing of protection measures for the justices but not anyone with a uterus made us cold and bitter. The season may be summer, but our emotions are that of a hard winter blizzard. We're doing our best to keep afloat and alert to any news on the SCOTUS, so follow @AnaMardoll for more details as we know them.

One light in the darkness: I'm passing all of my college classes for the close of the spring semester. I'm getting As and Bs (some assignments haven't been graded yet), so I have my pick of the litter for summer classes! I've already enrolled for some career-important ones, like intro to CSE, physics, and Calculus I. It's a lot for summer, I know, but each passing class is one more step closer to leaving Texas.

Cheddar is elusive, as always, but he is slooowwwly coming around. Slowly. He continues to love the pillows under the bed, and is becoming less and less nocturnal. He knows when its food time, for if we're even a little late, he'll slink out from the bedroom and stare at us from the doorway until we notice. Chip and Cookie both have played with Cheddar a bit! Chip and Cheddar will charge at each other with playful chirps, and Cookie was prancing alongside him as he was prancing alongside her! We're so happy that he's socializing with the cats well! Now to get him used to humans... we've been guiding him into a carrier one night a week and putting him up on the bed to watch television with us in a safe environment in the hopes that he realizes that closeness is safe.

Hopefully this month will be a nice reprieve from school life so I can focus on resin-crafting and helping Ana with some writing/reviewing. Fingers crossed!

Until Next Time, Keep Heads High!
Kissmate, @VespertilioGem

---
From Ana:

- I'll be posting my Into the Mist review here this month in case you missed it.
- I'm still working on the Snow White retelling as my next Grimms installment.
- We hope to get some resin items finished up and into the shop soon.
- I was planning on taking an ASL class at Kissmate's college, but that turned out to be a no because of pricing issues.

Usual Links
My Patreon: Here.
@KissmateKittens: Here.
My Ramblings Deconstructions: Here.
My YouTube Let's Plays: Here.
My Favorite Tumblr Funnies: Here.

Film Corner: National Treasure

National Treasure
---

Kissmate wants me to watch National Treasure ("A treasure hunter must steal America's most sacred and guarded document.") because he wants to hurt me, I think? (Former history major over here.) At least, I've been told this is like if Dan Brown had gotten really into American history rather than Catholic church history. I could be wrong! I GUESS WE'LL FIND OUT, thanks to Disney+.

"A treasure! Every time it changed hands, it grew larger!" That is not usually the fate of war booty, lolsob. Wildly irresponsible of George Washington to not dip into the secret buried treasure to pay our national bills, lol.

Wouldn't this sunken ship be a solid block of ice all the way through? Why is there open air to walk through? Hahah, REAL MEN don't use ink on those little roller cypher things, they use blood drawn from their own thumbs.

Nic Cage just................word-babbles his way into insisting that there's a secret invisible maps on the back of the Declaration of Independence so he can pour ink on it to see, lol. That was entire logic-free. Also: What did they do to Sean Bean's hair.

You'd think you would have realized before now that your unethical patron guy with unlimited money is a kingpin shark with guns, but it kind of feels like Nic hasn't met him before this scene, lol. They use a smuggler's hold as an exit in a crisis, which begs the question of why the special secret box wasn't IN the smuggler's hold and was instead hidden in a barrel of gunpowder.

What agreement did Nic Cage have with Sean Bean here?? Nic thinks of himself as the treasure's defender, but Sean says this trip should be profitable. Did Nic seriously offer him a share of the treasure? Bad guardian-ing, dude! Seems like it would've packed more punch of a betrayal if Sean had been reassuring him that this was for the Historical Value of it all and the Museums Etc, and then turned on him for filthy lucre. Like, usually in genres like these, the Protagonist doesn't start out thinking of themself as a "guardian" of the secret thing, so it doesn't matter! But IN THIS CASE, he does, so it's really weird that he didn't vet his backer better!

I don't know if I love or hate the wig they have Sean Bean in, but I want him to get another version in, like, pink. It's very pink somehow. Also: I really question whether that explosion was survivable.

Oh, hey, they used "Inuit" instead of the E-word. I do appreciate that.

He has to be told not to touch people's antiques, my god. Baby, what are you doing. "The FBI assured us that the Declaration cannot be stolen." Tsk. The FBI could've spun up a situation in which foreign terrorists were coming and they needed more funding, but I guess they were busy.

Nic tells her that he wants to examine the back of the Declaration and that if there's no map there then it's safe. But...no? Sean Bean is coming for the map because he THINKS there's a map there; it's not like it's safe if there's no map after all! Nic seems to think that Sean has a telepathic link with him, and I find that oddly endearing.

Nic has a really hard time explaining what he wants (a treasure map) for someone who has had an entire lifetime of practice at finding socially acceptable words for what he does. "You're treasure hunters?" "We're treasure protectors." Sir, your only successful expedition ended with blowing up the entire site AFTER setting a lethal kingpin on a vendetta against the Declaration. And you agreed to give him halvsies, apparently. What I'm saying is that I plan to make you turn in your World's Best Treasure Guardian mug that you got yourself for christmas, Nic.

Wait, did they both just say that the Declaration was signed on the 4th of July?!? Like. It's.... complicated? It was signed on July 4th and on July 2nd and on August 2nd and... it's complicated.

"Ian's going to try to steal the Declaration. And if he succeeds, he'll destroy it." WHY?!? It's worth millions on the black market! Why would he destroy it!? It's not even like "he'll destroy it in the process of getting the map" because the map is ON the document, if he destroys the document then he has no map! This isn't like breaking open the David statue to get a key that was hidden inside his willy!

Edison was a hack, I wouldn't be looking to him for inspo, hon.

Has it occurred to either of them that them stealing the Declaration could make it EASIER for Sean Bean to steal it from them (and destroy) (for no reason). Wait, if Nic and his boy-toy *aren't* supposed to be a couple, then why is boy-toy helping him commit federal crimes he doesn't believe in or think is wise? What is his motivation here?

I'm laughing at Nic breezing past security and all the metal detectors just because he's wearing a custodian jumpsuit. I'm guessing this movie was pre-9/11. Sean Bean's turn to evil has not been good for his terrible wig. The wig is angry.

HER PASSWORD IS VALLEY FORGE? WHERE WASHINGTON CAMPED HIS TROOPS? So, ok, she has no interests outside of Washington and is officially in need of a loving intervention--and a class on password security.

He rolled it up, oh my god, he rolled it up and shoved it into plastic. "Are you trying to steal that?!" Okay, no. I have worked register jobs. When a man in an expensive tux at a charity event is carrying something around the gift shop under his jacket you DO. NOT. SAY. THAT. You say, "sir, can I hold that for you up here while you shop?" She would be fired so fucking fast for accusing a fancy guest of attempted theft. It's not RIGHT that she would be, but she would be. So add "customer-facing jobs" to the very long list of things the writers didn't research. (They wouldn't even have the gift shop open during a fancy gala like this.)

The busybody lady from the gala has *amazing* grip strength to cling to these cars for 10 blocks. Then again, the professional hitmen have surprisingly bad aim for their jobs, so.

THEY ARE USING HAIR-DRYERS ON THE CONSTITUTION.

Riley is the emotional heart of this movie and I love him.

They're just....unrolling the Declaration in public, bare-handed, no thought about FBI or cameras, so they can use their 3D glasses....I'm crying, wow, this is such. I do appreciate the deli counter lady who let Blondie hide from her "ex-husband". Nic is whining at the FBI a lot more than I would be, as a federal criminal who stole a priceless historical artifact and then swabbed lemon juice all over it.

Oh gosh, please stop crediting Edison with anything other than patent trollery.

LOL, just once I want a parent to be taken hostage in a movie and for the adult-child to be like "haha, have fun with my Dad" and walk off because they don't actually like their parent. Okay, having Dad point out that the wood should be rotten and unable to support their weight is not actually the same thing as addressing that problem. Oh, see, there you go: the wood is rotten. Bet you wish you'd listened to Dad, asshole.

This entire movie is:

*takes two steps*
"The treasure isn't real! It's gone!"
"This has been pointless!"
"Let's give up!
"Wait!"
*finds a clue*
"The treasure is real!!!!"
*takes two steps*
"The treasure isn't real! It's gone!"
<repeat>

There's just...old Egyptian sarcophagi in the vault? You'd think they would have changed it into something a little more...portable before bringing it over to the new world.

Goodbye, Riley. We loved you very much.

Film Corner: The Green Knight

The Green Knight
---

I'm so excited! We're doing a live watch! THE GREEN KNIGHT. "King Arthur's headstrong nephew embarks on a daring quest to confront the Green Knight, a mysterious giant who appears at Camelot. Risking his head, he sets off on an epic adventure to prove himself." This live-watch is generously sponsored by @beige_wallpaper and @flapflaptho, who provided the funds so I could finally buy this on Amazon. Thank you so much!! I've been wanting to watch this for FOREVER.

I have previously read two things about the Green Knight. One, this excellent retelling by @daniel_m_lavery. Two, this other retelling by the @bettermyths guy, whose book I enjoyed very much! So I am aware of the broad strokes of the story and I am excited to see how very weird this will get.

We're starting with Lord of the Rings style whispering and I'm now REALLY GLAD that I didn't see this in theaters because I wouldn't have caught any of that without captions, lol. Dev Patel is really just the most beautiful man in existence. I think he's waking up in a brothel. He isn't a knight yet and isn't quite ready for Christmas to intrude on his sleep which, mood. His mother isn't feeling Christmas this year either, which seems to distress him a little. Really gorgeous singing sets the next scene. This movie is so visually PRETTY. Wow.

KING ARTHUR IS SEAN HARRIS!! I loved him in the Borgias. He's gonna be a great King Arthur, A++ casting already. Arthur asks Gawain to come sit with him and Guinevere since Lancelot is traveling and Gawain is alone what with his mother at home "not feeling herself" (and possibly doing witchcraft? I AM NOT SURE.) Oh wow, I had genuinely forgotten that Gawain was Arthur's nephew. Are we going with the Morgan/ana/ause mother or the Anna mother. WHICH VERSION IS KIND OF IMPORTANT, lol. I guess we'll see!

Sean Harris is just the best Arthur, so much love. He wants to repair the neglected family connection between him and Gawain, but Gawain feels insecure that he hasn't done anything legendary yet. Arthur talks about how the knights have tamed the land while Morgana-Mom does witchcraft. He asks for a tale, a myth, to entertain him and his queen before they feast, and the doors ominously fly open. Definitely getting a strong vibe of "oh, you thought this land was tamed? LOL, think again."

*rubs hands together happily*

The Green Knight approaches and I love his look? He is VERY Green Man of the forest. Guin reads the challenge and Gawain leaps forward to meet the call. Arthur lends him Excalibur which...whoa. Best Arthur. THE VISUALS IN THIS MOVIE ARE STUNNING. The sounds, too! Every sound the Green Knight makes FEELS like the forest moving. The Green Knight goads Gawain into taking his head off, then stands and picks up the head, intoning "One year hence" as Gawain looks sick to his stomach and Morgana faints. Beautiful. So good.

The crowd goes wild. A year passes and those promised "riches" of fame, popularity, and social approval are showered on Gawain. He's a hero! So brave! The picture of knighthood! But he feels listless and depressed. Arthur visits Gawain in his spiral of destruction and urges him to keep his appointment with the Green Knight. "Is it wrong to want greatness for you?" Priests offer prayers, young witches chant spells. No one wants Gawain to die.

Morgana gives him a green sash to wear about his waist for protection. His brothel girlfriend begs him to stay. ("Why must you be great? Why isn't goodness enough?") Have I mentioned the VISUALS in this film? It is ART.

Gawain gets directions to the Green Chapel from a scavenger who seems suspicious. The boy directs him into a scary forest to follow a stream. This will probably be fine! Ayup, there it is. The scavenger set him up for an ambush to be robbed. We will not be rating the scavenger highly on Yelp, I can say that much. (I want that yellow cloak so much??) Gawain manages to work himself out of his bonds, but he's bereft of horse, shield, axe, and pretty much everything else. He is also extremely lost.

He finds what appears to be an abandoned cottage and falls asleep in the bed, waking only when a young woman asks what he's doing in her bed. OH SHIT SHE GLIDES. I THINK SHE'S A GHOST. Oh god. She needs her head back. That's...that's so sad. Gawain helps her and she warns him that the Green Knight is "someone you know". The axe returns to him, though I'm not entirely sure how. This is beautifully trippy. Like a dream.

I do love how Gawain has been stripped of the outward trappings of knighthood / nobility, which definitely makes this trip seem more desperate and scary. There is a fox and I would die for it. Kissmate has named the fox "Pumpkin". God, the use of COLOR in this movie is so amazing. He just fell down a cliff and there was a single bright orange marigold and it just. Wow.

Well, see, now I don't know if the trippy things are really happening or if they're just the result of a bad mushroom trip. OH MAN, I WISH I'D SEEN THIS PART IN IMAX, MY STOMACH IS INTRIGUED.

Ooh, is this Bertilak's castle? Hahaha, his host is a bear! IS THIS THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST CASTLE. The Bertilaks are so perfectly cast, my god. I love them. How was everyone in this movie cast so well. Lady Bertilak skulks about the castle being terrifying and Lord Bertilak proposes his little gift-giving game: whatever Gawain gets in the house is to be given to the Lord. (Dear Married Couples: Do not treat your unicorn this way!)

There's a VERY interesting discussion of the color green: how it's growth but also rot, nature but also sickness. The Lord and Lady are doing an amazing job as the fae that Christendom cannot conquer or tame. I love them both. Aww, the fox is talking and it's terrifying and I love him. He's warning Gawain to turn back and go home. Gawain waiting for Christmas Day to arrive while the Green Chapel lives and breathes around him is just... wow. Chef's kiss.

I have a confusion? DID THAT BASTARD JUST- Are we seeing, like, a cautionary tale/vision of the sort of person he'd be if he turned back? Oh gosh, he had a little pocket made so he could always reach down and touch the safety-sash and make sure he was still wearing it? HE'S THE GIRL WITH THE RIBBON CHOKER WHOSE HEAD FALLS OFF WITHOUT IT, OH MY GOD. Haha! I called that it was a vision of the kind of (terrible) man he could become and I'm glad.

That movie was really lovely, thank you so much for making it possible? I feel like I had a really lovely lucid dream. AHHH, THIS IS SO GOOD: The Green Knight doesn't have to discuss race to be about race.

Open Thread: Cracked Pavement

Cracks in pavement, darkened by moisture.

After a rain, the cracks retain moisture for longer, thus the highly visible cracks.

-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

April Newsletter (2022)

I am so sorry that this newsletter is so late. I like to get them out on the first of each month and now it's April 10th. I came down sick with something not-covid at the end of March and I just haven't shaken it. I keep thinking I'm getting better, and then wham it'll catch a second wind. This--as well as the various symptoms--makes us think the problem is sinus-and-allergy related, but that hasn't stopped it from kicking my ass; I actually took last week off from my day job and I try never to do that.

Here's the sitch: we've had a couple of Film Corner posts go up already on Patreon and I have a third one scheduled for Saturday. After that, I am out of content to post because I have been sacked out in bed, drifting on the waves of sinus medication--which means I haven't been writing or even live-tweeting anything for a couple weeks now. I feel really bad to have dropped the ball, but we're here now.

Here are the plates I have been juggling and which I hope to bring you soon:

- My review of a new genderpocalypse book. This was supposed to be a quick read and I thought it might be a rare decent exception to the badness of this genre. Instead, it's been a slog and truly awful. Good for discussion, bad for getting done quickly.

- I watched the LuLaRich documentary whilst sick and am thinking that this could stand for a longer live-watch. Would anyone be interested in hearing my thoughts on this and cult tactics in general?

- I'm working on a Snow White retelling as my next Grimms installment. I really like this one, even if it's taking longer than usual. Actually, that's probably why I'm agonizing over every little word--I want it to be perfect.

That's really all the irons I have in the fire right now, I'm sorry. Let me know which is most valuable / important to you first and I'll try to prioritize appropriately as soon as I'm feeling well enough to type more. Thank you so much for bearing with me through my various illnesses.

Usual Links
My Patreon: Here.
@KissmateKittens: Here.
My Ramblings Deconstructions: Here.
My YouTube Let's Plays: Here.
My Favorite Tumblr Funnies: Here.

Open Thread: Brightness Behind Clouds

Brightness through broken clouds over a road.

I originally thought I could call this "Bright Sky" but that didn't feel right when most of the sky isn't bright.  It's not really about the sun per se, though, since the whole thing is that the light of the sun is diffused over a large area instead of being in a sun-shaped spot.  Thus "Brightness Behind Clouds".

In a bit of a twist, I didn't actually forget to post an open thread last week.  It's just that until I actually get them going regularly again, everyone's used to only being used to using the once a month newsletters as open threads, and I'm kind of playing by ear whether a new open thread is called for.  Last week, with a then-empty open thread as the most recent post, one really wasn't.

The plan was to post this week's open thread on Friday, though, so . . . yeah.
 
-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so almost over, but you can still give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

The Men: Race Representation

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of police violence and childhood sexual assault. Please mind the trigger warnings.

The Men: Demons

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm and childhood sexual assault. Please mind the trigger warnings.

Open Thread: Partially Disassembled Cube on a Sweater

A four by four by four Rubik's cube with a two by two by two section of corner removed, the corner cubie itself has remains, but is rotated sixty degrees out of alignment.

Sorry about the open threads going on unscheduled hiatus again.  I'm definitely hoping to go back to having them weekly.  We'll see how that works out a week from today.
 
-

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

The Men: Queer Representation (Gay, Asexual, Bisexual, Lesbian)

QUEER REPRESENTATION (PART 2)

Post hidden under the cut due to graphic depiction of self-harm. Please mind the trigger warnings.

The Men: Queer Representation (Trans, Intersex, Nonbinary)

QUEER REPRESENTATION (PART 1)

Dedicated fans will find ways to handwave the implications of the premise: the demons are acting in bad faith, or they are alien and do not understand what is evil and what is not, or it was all a dream. With that in mind, what about the other queer representation in this book? After all, Sandra promised that "trans people totally exist and matter in this book", that "there's an important genderqueer character", and that the book is "against gender binaries". 

The Men: First Impressions and Spoilers

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

As a writer, I care a lot about writing technique and about how a novel is shaped over the course of drafts, edits, sensitivity readings, and final edits until at last the book is finished. Sometimes it is possible to imagine where edits have occurred: scenes that feel added or embroidered after the fact, characters that feel more or less fleshed out than others, details that don't quite mesh with the rest of the overall world-building.

As such, I have a theory which may or may not be correct: This book began as the story of a white woman (Jane) and her Black lesbian lover (Evangelyne), and whether or not Jane would chose Evangelyne over the man she married, with a gender rapture as the backdrop for this drama. Racially-diverse but not narrative-critical supporting POV characters were added in a second pass and fade out of the novel at about the halfway mark. Their actions have no effect on the narrative and only Jane's choice matters in the end.

Finally: mentions of trans, nonbinary, and intersex people seem to have been hastily shoved into the final draft. Sandra claims to have had a trans sensitivity reader and I believe her; my guess is that the reader knew they couldn't fix the foundational issues so instead suggested the addition of a few scenes they hoped would lessen the overall problem. I respect the effort they went to, but the eventual additions could be removed with a few swift edits and would change nothing. They're a band-aid where surgery was needed.

Enough about my theories; let's get to facts.

The Men: Introduction

INTRODUCTION

An upcoming book, The Men by Sandra Newman*, was announced on Twitter in March 2022. The book was characterized as what I have sometimes called a "Gender Plague" or "Gender Rapture" and which TV Tropes calls "Gendercide". [*Note: Sandra has stated in the wake of her announcement that she is gender nonbinary, but nonbinary people can use any pronouns we want and do not default immediately to they/them, contrary to popular belief! Since I cannot find anywhere where she has provided pronouns other than she/her, I will be using she/her to refer to Sandra throughout this deconstruction until she indicates otherwise.]

Sandra stated in her announcement tweet that "Everyone with a Y chromosome suddenly, mysteriously disappears. In the months that follow, the world gets better: safer, kinder, more egalitarian. But the book is about women who can't let go of the men they've lost, and devote their lives to getting them back."

MY NEW BOOK Everyone with a Y chromosome suddenly, mysteriously disappears. In the months that follow, the world gets better: safer, kinder, more egalitarian. But the book is about women who can't let go of the men they've lost, and devote their lives to getting them back.

Index: The Men


The Men


Source: The Men by Sandra Newman
Label: Deconstruction (Genderpocalypse)

» Introduction
» First Impressions and Spoilers
» Queer Representation: Trans, Intersex, Nonbinary
» Queer Representation: Gay, Asexual, Bisexual, Lesbian
» Demons
» Race Representation

Note: Last updated 3/27/2022.

Film Corner: Baahubali Part 2

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

It's time for Baahubali Part 2! Which we may not finish tonight because it's 167 minutes long! Note that these are on Netflix right now! You can watch them too! If you have US Netflix! Once again we get a really cool explanation of how no animals were hurt in the filming of this and the following animals are CGI. The opening credits are beautiful and show stylized stills of major moments in the first movie. I love this style and it's a great way to call back to the important moments we need to know about.

We're back in the flashback: Shiva's Father was declared king by his foster mother and the kingdom was happy and at peace. The Queen Mother is performing a festival ritual that involves walking barefoot to a temple with burning coals on her head. Trouble arises in the form of a rampaging bull elephant, but the Queen Mother and King Baahubali solve the situation with badass cleverness and respect. The people are impressed, and the elephant gets a nice saffron bath before a statue of Ganesha.

The relationship between King Baahubali and his adoptive Queen Mother is so precious to me. He loves her so much and respects her above everything else. It's just so wholesome and healthy and I love them. It's sad that the Villain is going to fuck all this up.

Film Corner: Baahubali Part 1

Baahubali: The Beginning

I've really been wanting to get into some of the Indian Bollywood movies on Netflix because some of them look amazing, so today I want to try watching Baahubali: The Beginning. I'm white and I don't know anything about the epic this is based on, just so I'm clear! The movie opens with a nice disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the shooting of this film and that the ones you see being harmed are completely computer-generated. I like that. I wish more films did that at the beginning, not just at the end.

We open with a woman carrying a baby past a waterfall. She has an arrow in her back, so she's not doing too well. She walks backwards in her own footsteps at the river-- ah! Two soldiers are tracking her. OH MY GOD, she stabbed Soldier #1 with the arrow from her back, grabbed his sword as he dropped it, and stabbed Soldier #2, all without jostling the baby. Dibs on her as my new mom. All babies should be so lucky.

She tries to cross the river, but it's not going well. She calls on Shiva to save the baby boy--he's destined for a throne and some kind of unclear revenge narrative--at the expense of her own life. The water rises over her head and she dies but still holds the baby aloft over the water. A wandering group of people notice the baby being held above the water. A man swims out to get the baby; the woman points at the waterfall and floats away, deceased. Baby is handed over to a pretty woman.

The people are confused by the discovery of a cave they didn't know about. One suggests that maybe the dead woman wanted the baby taken into the cave and up to the waterfall. New Mom tells them that is a very foolish idea and that the baby needs warms and milks. "This is my baby now. I have no children, but this one given to me by the River Goddess. If anyone of you object, I'll trample upon your necks." I LOVE HER? 2 out of 2 women so far are badass amazing.

March Newsletter (2022)

Kissmate Vespertilio here! I'm filling in for the newsletter this month because Ana has been confined to bed with back pain for most of the month so far and he was distressed at not putting out a newsletter for you all. ♥

February has come and gone with March stumbling in behind it earlier than we expected. For Ana and I, we've both been through some serious bad days concerning our pains and disabilities, but we soldier onward with the knowledge we have each other. We thank everyone who has sent us well-wishes and filled the tip jar. Words of love and small acts of kindness give us so much joy and helps us get through those lowest of low points. Thank you all!

For those checked out of Twitter (don't blame you at all), newest-member-of-the-family stray-cat Cheddar has been feeling feisty lately, but overall is doing well in his new home! He has a habit of caterwauling at all times, but I've noticed he especially chirps up when Ana is reading aloud. Not sure what to make of it, but maybe we can decipher some patterns of behavior out of this and figure out this strange, adorable, squishy-faced hellion a little quicker. He did spend a few hours under the bed the other day, which is unusual but welcome. Small steps!!

The rest of the cats are adjusting as needed. Cherry has gotten some leadership power to her head and is now walking around more with eyes open and on alert to every detail that might have changed. Not sure if it's because she knows puree chicken now exists, or if she's Not Happy about Cheddar being her new little brother. Coconut still tolerates everyone at a distance. Chip chills with Cheddar at night for duets and night-time strolls. Cookie paces the house constantly, but that might mean nothing since that's her normal pattern. Crispin is... well, still Crispin. He loves to run up and say hi when we're trying to coax Cheddar into the carrier. He's also been darting into the garage lately, so we're working on a solution to slow him down from that because his standard move once in the garage is to try to wriggle up into the car engine from below. We do not know why.

For my personal news, I've been attending college and am doing rather well (insert Bruno's Knock On Wood tune). My first semester was busier than expected, but the hard work paid off with solid A grades across the board! This second semester is more credits, but so far is still manageable. Getting all A grades, studying hard, and doing extra credit when I can! Oh, also staying super safe out there too. I only have to physically attend maybe 2-3 classes, and I always mask with legit N-95 masks. So far, so good!

Current events are, too put very lightly, a real downer. To just brush on one: Abbott is a bad governor, and a horrible person, but the Republicans can't wait to put someone MORE Republican in his place. And I'm like, what? No? Can trans kids and supportive parents of trans kids get a fucking break and just live their lives without pushy-ass legislative officials breathing down their personal files? Look, I know this is preaching to the choir, but holy fUCK can't I go one year of my life without wondering why we have so many patriotic songs and lessons about how "this land is my land, this land is your land" but no one means not one fucking word of it? Just. Fuck. Off. Let me have my "pursuit of happiness" already.

Anyway, on a much, MUCH brighter note: March is the month of Spring Break, so looking forward to that little week off! Woo-Hoo! At least for me. The work of a writer like Ana doesn't have breaks like that, does it? It's usually Blocks or Hiatus. Oh well. Maybe I'll help xer out with something for you guys, hmm? We'll talk about it. Until then, you peeps stay safe and live your best! Peace!

Ana Addendum (Anaddendum?)

You all helped in making Cinder the Fireplace Boy have an amazing release month, thank you! I have contracted with a Black and Disabled narrator whom I love and I cannot wait for you all to hear his work very soon. I think you will love him as much as I do. I promise there will be posts this month and I'm sorry that things have been a slow start because of my back acting up; it doesn't normally confine me to bed for weeks at a time like this.

Usual Links
My Patreon: Here.
@KissmateKittens: Here.
My Ramblings Deconstructions: Here.
My YouTube Let's Plays: Here.
My Favorite Tumblr Funnies: Here.

Film Corner: Hellraiser 7

Hellraiser 7: Deader

[Trigger Warning: Drug Use, Suicides (multiple), Flashback Child Sexual Assault]

Kissmate continues his Hellraiser watch-a-thon:

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. This is a bad one. This one is SO bad! This is the only one I can say to 100% skip with no questions asked! This is the WORST Hellraiser movie out there, as of 2021. Why is it bad? Let's separate the shit from the shine, shall we?

Review: The Seven Towers

The Seven TowersThe Seven Towers
by Patricia C. Wrede

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Seven Towers

Patricia Wrede has been one of my favorite authors for years. I recently re-read Seven Towers in a fit of nostalgia, and reaffirmed just how much I love this story and its characters. Amberglas, the absent-minded sorceress. Vandaris, the mercenary aunt who refuses to put up with nonsense. I adore them both so much, and every other one of this ensemble cast.

This is an epic multi-kingdom spanning story of war and politics, and I love how it manages to be beautifully complicated while still being accessible to the reader. Though I should note that I was reading this together with my spouse and he had some trouble keeping the names of the foreign countries straight, so I may have been aided with the help of my nostalgia and childhood memories.

I'm so pleased this is finally available on the kindle. I noticed a couple of very minor errors, probably as a result of the conversion to ebook, and otherwise the book was perfect as of my reading in 2022. (I can't speak for content prior to this date, obviously.)

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Eichmann In My Hands

Eichmann in my HandsEichmann in my Hands
by Peter Z. Malkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eichmann in My Hands

I remember reading this in college and being entranced by this factual first-person narrative. I've just finished reading the book again on my kindle and am once again blown away by just how much information is in this book, and how accessibly it's all arranged and written.

When I was younger and reading this book for the first time, I didn't even know who Adolf Eichmann was, but Peter Malkin anticipates this issue and carefully lays out who the man was, what he did, the vast extent of his war crimes, and why his capture was so important to Jewish people and Holocaust survivors. This book is... I won't say the narrative isn't heavy in parts, because it is, but it's got a hopefulness to it that keeps it from being inapproachably sad. Malkin has a bright hope for humanity in his heart, despite everything he's been through (and there are times when his leaders do not come off well at all), and I greatly respect him for his outlook on life.

I highly recommend this book and think it is valuable for understanding the Holocaust and its impact.

~ Ana Mardoll

Film Corner: Hellraiser 6

Hellraiser 6: Hellseeker

Kissmate continues his Hellraiser watch-a-thon:

I feel like we've been getting spoiled rotten with 5 decent-to-great movies in a row. That's unheard of in a series! I'm trying to keep my hopes up, but also recognizing that it can go south with any film now. With my expectations set, let's see what Hellraiser 6: Hellseeker will give us! (*After a Long Watch*) So this is another one of those movies that is hard to talk about because of an ending twist. So here's my warning, again: If you have wanted to watch this movie before, stop reading. Go watch it. Come back and continue reading. If at any point in this write-up you are interested in watching this film, stop reading. Go watch and come back.

That said, I'm not rating it as high as Inferno. Just because a movie gets cerebral / twisty doesn't mean it's worth any weight in gold. To me, Hellseeker is a solid 6/10. There's nothing terrible about it, but my patience was wearing thin pretty fast. I'll get into why that is further on. That said, I'll waste no more time getting into the meat of it! SPOILERS GALORE!

Our story begins with our protagonist tickling his wife breathless while he's driving. Because safe driving is optional! We follow Trevor and Kirsty as they drive along the country roads. Is it the same Kirsty from the first two movies? It turns out yes! But we're not focusing on her just yet. We're following the far more interesting white man, Trevor! He loses control of the car and lands into a river. We see that he's able to save himself, but he's unable to rescue Kirsty.

Trevor wakes up in a hospital bed, and gets a shot to help him relax from a nurse named Allison. He dreams about a doctor giving him brain surgery to help with his patchy memory, then wakes up to see Allison again. She mentions wanting to do some tests to see why his head is hurting so bad, but the doctor releases him saying that he's fine and shouldn't take too many pain pills. "Don't want to become an addict and start trying to get hook-ups from the hospital!" (Ana and I proceeded to flip him off hard enough to hurt everyone involved.)

Just as Trevor is walking out, a detective stops him to talk. Turns out the car crash happened over a month ago and Kirsty has been missing ever since--they couldn't find a body in the river. Detective Lange notices a few problems with what Trevor has been saying and what reality is showing. Trevor doesn't know what to tell the detective, because what his memory tells him is all that he knows. Lange is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but there's a tension there that maybe he still doesn't believe Trevor.

This is where we have to talk about this movie's overall theme: Duality. Everything in this movie shows two sides, though not always at the same time. One small example is a man covered in tattoos and piercings. We first see him on the bus listening to loud metal music. Trevor asks him to turn it down, but the man instead turns it up louder in defiance. Later on, we see the same man walking around the police station dressed as an officer. What does this mean? Perhaps the dichotomy of rebellion vs law? Another simple example is a dog chained up next to Trevor's apartment building. The first time we see the dog, he's straining at the end of his chain barking at Trevor. The next, he's passive and whining in fear. A total difference from before! I'll try to point out what I can find, or think I find, as we come across them.

After resting at home that night, Trevor heads in to work. Almost everyone avoids him, save for a very chummy coworker named Bret. Bret is the kind of man that high-fives you like a college frat boy after you got laid last night, even though you're both reaching forty and work in accounting. In fact, he almost does that to Trevor before slinking off. "We're all here for you, Trev!" What a way to express remorse for a missing presumably-dead spouse.

As Trevor works through his ever-present headache / amnesia, he sees a curious business card on his bulletin board. "ALL PROBLEMS SOLVED" it promises. He has a vague recollection of going to a warehouse sweatshop that he went to some time in his recent past where he found a creepy shop keeper. But before he can recall much, Bret annoys him with random trivia about headaches. Frustrated, Trevor goes to get a snack and clear his head.

In the break room, Trevor begins a fight with the vending machine over a bag of pretzels. His hot female boss walks in and pushes him against the vending machine in a sexually-aggressive way that seems inappropriate for the workplace! As she makes out with him, he starts to recall that he has had sex with her before, although he doesn't remember if it was during his marriage. Or he doesn't want to. Either way, he pushes her off him and asks what's going on. "Nothing we haven't done before," Gwen says while fixing her jacket. "Now get some fucking work done. We're watching you." She motions to a camera in the break room and walks out.

Trevor goes back to his desk to see that someone sent him a loop of surveillance footage with audio that stars Gwen and himself making out loudly in the break room. After putting that away, Detective Lange calls him to talk to him further downtown. At the station, Lange says there's evidence of foul play with regards to the car crash, and asks if there was anything that happened before the crash that Trevor might have forgotten. Trevor says no, that he remembers nothing different.

That night, he fears he's being stalked by a faceless neighbor. Suddenly he coughs up water and a phallic-shaped eel, and just as suddenly it's reveled to have been a hallucination. The hot Girl-Next-Door knocks on his door and shows off her new sexy cobra tattoo. Trevor isn't sure if he knows her, but she knows him! After she leaves him, he takes out old VCR tapes he made of his and Kirsty's wedding and anniversaries to watch. He's interrupted by yet another horny advancement from his boss, Gwen. She slips into his apartment and strips down. Gwen tries to record her dominating him, but leaves when he says no. But... the camera keeps rolling and is showing them making out in the chair. As Trevor tries to make sense of it, Cenobites show up kill Video-Gwen in front him. Just as he tries to help her-

-Trevor wakes up at work under Bret's glare. "Must be nice. Getting paid for doing shit." Still, Bret hands Trevor an address for a local acupuncturist named Sage. Trevor heads there post-haste for a session and tells her about his recurring headaches since the car accident. She tries to give him some spiritual advice, and that gives us a flashback to Trevor buying the Puzzle Box. We break out of the flashback for some creepy bit with Pinhead walking out of an acupuncturist body chart and skewering Trevor. "Which do you find more exhilarating, Trevor: the pain, or the pleasure? Personally, I prefer pain."

Trevor starts awake and Sage asks if he's okay. It was all another "dream". Trevor gets called down to the police station again, but this time by Lange's partner, Detective Givens. Givens aggressively asks Trevor about a massive inheritance Kirsty had--and which Trevor stands to gain, if Kirsty turns up dead--but Trevor denies knowing about it. Givens pushes, saying that no one else is alive to take her family inheritance. He's implying Trevor had motive to kill Kirsty. These two detective partners are a hell of a duo. Givens is an aggressive white man with a short temper and a potty mouth. Lange is a gentle Black man with patience and jovial sympathy. It's the definition of "Good Cop, Bad Cop". It's strange we don't see them together even though they're partners. Maybe that'll change later in the movie.

Trevor heads back to his home and is seduced by the hot Girl-Next-Door neighbor with a tattoo. This time, he gives in and doesn't say no. There's some flashes of a Cenobite hurting him and then he's awake in his bed. The hallway and dining area is covered in blood. Girl-Next-Door is tied up in a chair, clearly dead from some kind of trauma. As Trevor washes her blood from his hands, Pinhead appears in the mirror and utters a single line: "ALL PROBLEMS SOLVED." As Trevor lifts his hands to touch the mirror, they're perfectly clean and dry. No blood is to be found anywhere now, and no body in the dining room! That was a better cleaning job than John Wick's Table-For-Twelve!

Ah, but it's easy if you make the Girl-Next-Door alive again. Which she is! And now she's acting like it's very odd for Trevor to even *talk* to her, much less spend time together in any sense. She even has a very protective boyfriend that helps Trevor get the hint that she should be left alone, and she seems to like Protective Boyfriend quite a lot! Loaded with more questions than answers, Trevor heads back to his apartment, where he just missed a call from Lange who wants to see him. So guess we're headed to the police station again!

As Trevor walks and talks in the station, a couple of odd things stick out to him. One, Lange and Givens were heard talking to each other in the same room, but only Lange was in the room when inspected. Two, Bret was at the station talking to a cop and clearly giving some information, but no one will give Trevor a clear answer of what was said. With no one else to turn to or trust, Trevor heads to the hospital to talk to Nurse Allison. I'm not sure why exactly. My best guess would be that there was a cut scene where Allison told Trevor to come by if he wanted to talk. Either way, all we really learn that he definitely has clinical amnesia (which was never SAID OUT LOUD until now).

Trevor grabs Bret at work and tries to tell ask him why he squealed and what he said at the police station, but there's Detective Lange to interrupt the scene once again! He pulls out the Puzzle Box to show Trevor and talks about some blood found on it. Trevor says it looks familiar, but he can't place it (which is a LIE). Lange says he's let him off easy so far, but his partner wants to pull him in and arrest him on murder charges. Lange walks off, but when Trevor looks to make sure Lange is gone, we see Givens storming down the hallway of cubicles.

Bret takes Trevor to the break room to talk. I think we're supposed to forget there's surveillance in there, but don't worry! There's a little camera-whir noise to remind us it's still there! Bret says he's quitting as of today because he needs more money to make ends meet. He mentions that Trevor has it lucky because his wife had the real dough. Trevor gets angry, asking how he knew that and if he told the police that information. Bret denies he said anything, but he doesn't look happy. "You know," Bret sneers, "we're all here for you, Trev." It's an ironic repetition of the well-wishes that Trevor received from his co-workers earlier.

Trevor cries out from another headache while scenes of Kirsty in distress and then in anger flash across our screen. Nothing real concrete yet, but something tells me this marriage wasn't super happy. Trevor tries to hold himself up, but ends up breaking a glass cupboard pane and cuts his hand on the glass. Trevor leaves via the bus, not wasting a moment to get away. He heads to Sage to get another session in, and Sage... seduces him? Can no woman resist Trevor's blandness?! While she straddles him, Sage reaches for the ice pick and stabs him!

Trevor wakes up in an ambulance. Turns out he passed out on the bus, not at Sage's. At the hospital, he asks for Allison by name, but no one knows who he's talking about. Even her office is just an empty room. Allison comes by to talk anyway and tells him that he'll have to confront his past alone. Just as he was enjoying the talk, the nearby janitor asks who he's talking to. Turns out he was talking to the air the whole time! Trevor runs back to the bus and is hit with flashes of Kirsty yelling at him. "I know about Gwen... and the others."

He decides to make all the problems go away, to solve them, by going back to the shop where he bought the Puzzle Box. He screams out in desperation and confusion. An unexpected voice answers: "Poor Trevor. Still in the dark?" Pinhead talks to him through a puddle in the warehouse in his typical cryptic ways. He says the killer is here, but Pins won't say who it is. As Trevor leaves to make sense of it all, Bret finds him outside and puts a gun to his head: Trevor's gun. Bret vents that they had a deal to split Kirsty's money 50/50, but Trevor fucked it all up by killing Kirsty early and playing his little "amnesia" game. Now Bret is going to get back at Trevor... by shooting himself in the head with Trevor's gun. I guess to frame Trevor for Bret's "murder"? That's not the best revenge, my dude.

Trevor rightfully freaks out and runs to Sage's place, the only place he can think of. He walks up the stairs and enters her rooms, and sees her laying bloody and dead on her table, with an ice pick in her head. Just as he closes the door, someone tries to force their way in--the killer?? Trevor grabs the only weapon he can find, the ice pick, and prepares for combat. Detective Lange bursts in with a small number of police. I don't think Trevor's getting out of this one.

Detectives Lange and Givens grill him a little at the station, and it sounds like they may have found a body in the river for him to identify! Maybe his wife, maybe not. Givens forces Trevor to see a wanted poster of Trevor's face which claims he's wanted for homicide. Givens is immediately replaced with Lange, almost to the mark, but where is Givens and how did he disappear so fast? How are they entering and leaving the room so fast, and why? We're shown four pictures of four dead bodies: Gwen, Bert, Sage, and Girl-Next-Door.

Lange takes him down to the morgue, which is apparently located in the police station basement, and locks him on the other side of a set of bars which bifurcate a long hallway for no adequately obvious reason. Trevor freaks out and asks why Lange is locking him away. "I thought you believed me?!" He should be asking about this weird dream-logic architecture that we're being subjected to. "Believe?" Lange looks through the bars with an air of amusement. "I believe we're both the sum of two entirely different people!" A worm-like tendril with Givens' face slips out from Lange's neck. They laugh together at Trevor's obvious fear as he runs away. Now we know why we never see them in the same room at the same time, I guess, and how they've been able to swap places so effortlessly.

Trevor runs away and comes across a body in the corridor which I like to believe is Frank from Hellraisers 1 and 2, but we really don't know for certain. Trevor slips into the morgue and finds a covered cadaver. Perfect! It feels like all the answers are underneath that sheet! Before we can lift the veil, though, the Cenobites make one more entrance.

The building shakes. Bottles break open. Electricity flickers. Cracks in the wall break open to create a hook-like spotlight that shines on Pinhead. "It seems you've reached the end of your journey." Pinhead tells him about poetic justice and that it's time to pay the price. Trevor says he just wants to see his wife. Pinhead tells him to wait, but Trevor insists. Pinhead chains him in place in the typical Hellraiser fashion. "All problems solved? Not so simple, I'm afraid." Pinhead tells and shows him what we finally waited for.

During their 5th anniversary, Trevor gifts Kirsty the Puzzle Box that ruined her life. He seems to know what this object means to her as he has the camera ready to film her reactions. She yells at him in pain and betrayal, but he just wants her to open the Puzzle Box. (I guess he thought that nothing supernatural would happen but she'd freak out anyway because of her trauma? And then he'd use the filmed reaction as evidence that she was insane so he could lock her away and keep all her cash himself? It's not made clear in the film why he gave her the Puzzle Box.)

Heartbroken and furious, Kirsty opens the Puzzle Box just as Pinhead wanted. See, Pinhead was after Kirsty all along. She was always The One That Got Away, and Pinhead didn't like not having a perfect record. Confronted by him once again, Kirsty demands a deal. Five souls in exchange for her own: the three women Trevor cheated with, Bret, and now Trevor himself. Pinhead tells Trevor that she fulfilled her end of the deal and that now he is the one who is trapped. "Welcome to the worst nightmare of all: Reality."

So let's review the movie with new clarity: Kirsty never died. She killed Trevor via car crash and swam out of the car perfectly safe. It's Trevor who died in the river, and it's his body that is laying underneath the morgue sheet. Kirsty pinned all her murders on him and told the police that he killed himself while driving. We get a final scene that explains a lot of little things and wraps this all up in a neat little bow. Yes, even the phallic eel: it had crawled inside Dead!Trevor's mouth, and thus was felt by Spirit!Trevor while he suffers in Hell.

Kirsty turns to leave the crime scene blame-free, having gotten away with it all, but she's stopped by Detective Lange. He gives her the Puzzle Box, since it was her anniversary present and he doesn't think it counts as any kind of evidence. She thanks him and walks away, knowing that she's free but also always being watched by Hell. Never Free, Always Escaping, as it were. The End.

This was a headtrip and a half. Whatever you keep expecting, the movie pulls the rug from under you and keeps going! (That is both a praise and a critique.) It took the previous movie's idea of a Hellraiser afterlife, mixed it into the main story from the Hellraiser 1 and 2 plotlines, and got a great story thread spinning! The only thing that falls flat is the execution. The amnesia angle wasn't made obvious, nor was the month-long time jump, nor was the actor's reactions. Trevor had the same bland confused reaction to everything, which was "I'm sorry, what?" and that will just puzzle the audience more if they're already lost! This movie needed to give us a more solid anchoring point than Trevor, is what I'm saying. Otherwise, like I said, this movie's worth a watch or two.

(Ana's Note: Trevor is played by Dean Winters, who I know is a better actor than this. I'm not sure what happened here, because it feels like he's sleep-walking his way through the film, and the film suffers for it. I would love to see a remake of this with clearer writing and more enthusiastic actors. Credit where it's due, though: Kirsty and Pinhead brought their best game, as always.)

Film Corner: Hellraiser 5

Hellraiser 5: Inferno

Kissmate continues his Hellraiser watch-a-thon:

This movie falls into a particular category of films. The category of "say too much and it's spoiled" or "the best way to experience is knowing nothing beforehand". Of course, that makes this hard to write about, so here's my only warning: If you have wanted to watch this movie before, stop reading. Go watch it. Come back and continue reading. Furthermore, if at any point in this write-up you become interested in watching this film, stop reading at that point. Go watch and come back. You have been warned. For those leaving the reading, I give it a sweet 9/10! This has to be one of my favorite Hellraiser movies so far! For those staying, let's get started, shall we?

SPOILERS GALORE!

We start the first scene with our protagonist, Detective Joe Thorne, playing chess against a professor while a fast-paced basketball game continues in the background, and gives us our "music". After winning (and gloating), Joe goes into the locker room to get dressed, suited up for work, and take a little bump of cocaine! Coke was the number one drug in the 1980s after all. Can't forget it! Oh wait, this movie happened in 2000. (Ana's note: But it sure does FEEL like a classic 1980s flick, and I mean that as a compliment.)

He narrates noir-style about how he's always loved puzzles as a child and had a real knack for solving them. "I learned that careful examination of how and what and why would inevitably lead to understanding, even to control." Ah, proving yet again: ACAB. But, unlike copaganda, this movie wants us to agree that he's a bastard! We're taken out of the way to see his failures, shortcomings, and misdeeds. When he wins at chess, he smugly announces his win and pockets the old man's money. He tries to engage with his cop-partner with word puzzles that mostly go over his partner's head, and feels superior every time he stumps his partner. At a crime scene, he secretly takes the dead man's cash from his wallet and steals cocaine from a secret book stash. And you should hear the slimy way he justifies picking up sex workers off the street while his wife is none the wiser! In short, there is NO way in which Detective Joe Thorne is not a bastard!

Getting back to the narrative, Joe is called to a crime scene where a man named Jay Cho has been murdered with giant hooks and chains. Ring any bells? Joe pokes around, uses some slight of hand to steal the cocaine vial, and notices the Puzzle Box underneath a lit candle. Inside the candle looks to be a child's finger! Set inside the wax! Seemingly no reason for it! As Joe mentions it, the camera zooms in on his face and I swear I was waiting for the NCIS or any of the CSI theme songs to start up. It felt like the perfect commercial cutaway! Instead, we see Joe rummaging through Jay Cho's personal effects. He takes $300 cash and the Puzzle Box before heading home.

His daughter lays asleep in her bed and we see his wife tried to wait up for him, but he just got home so darned late. His wife asks if he's home for the night, but Joe just leaves saying that he caught a case. He starts narrating as he drives. "I believe in loyalty and fidelity. I understand the concept. My parents have been married for 40 years. But I live in a different world. Most marriages fail. Most men just leave. I know that would kill her. But if she doesn't know, if doing this keeps me coming back, then who's to say what's right and what's wrong?" Joe picks up a sex worker named Daphne off a corner and takes her to a hotel. He shows off his magic slight-of-hand by making money and coke appear out of thin air. She's all for it as she stays with him all night long.

As she rests post-coitus, Joe heads to the bathroom with the Puzzle Box and opens it quite easily. He walks out of the bathroom to...not the motel room, but a child's room? A child cries out for help and he can't help but go look for them. But instead of a child, he finds two Cenobite Ladies named the Wire Twins out in the hallway. They lightly push him against a wall and make out with him, even pushing their hands underneath his chest skin and rubbing his muscles directly! Of all the scenes in this series, this one has felt the most pornographic and sinful. Especially since he's not experiencing any pain from the bloody muscle-rubbing; it's all pleasure! But Joe hears the child cry for help again and breaks free of the twins to rush to help the child. On the stairs, he's met with a Torso-Only Chatterer coming to gnaw on his ankles! Joe manages to dodge all three and runs to the front door to safety! He hears the child cry for help one last time, but he puts his survival above all else. Joe opens the front door and finds Pinhead! Pins grabs at Joe's face, we hear a ripping, and-

Joe wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel, with not a scratch on him or hair out of place. The Puzzle Box lays before him, and Daphne lays on the bed asleep. Everyone is untouched and unharmed. Odd. Usually when the Puzzle Box is opened, one is ripped apart with hooks and chains, like what we saw with Jay Cho. But Joe goes to work and goes about his morning like usual.

At work, he learns that the child's finger in the candle wax came from a living child. He worries over the case some more before getting a call on his private number. Daphne begs him for help over the phone before being killed brutally. Joe rushes over to the motel room to check on her, and sees her hanging in the shower with her throat slit open. Joe tells his partner, Tony, that he stayed with the woman last night and did cocaine with her. His prints are all over the room and on her. He begs Tony to help him clean the room before calling the body in. Tony is hesitant, but ends up helping anyway. Joe, to make sure that he has all the pieces in his hand, plants Tony's pen and cigarettes in the room secretly. As Tony calls the murder in, Joe sees another finger in the shower. A child's finger with no stiffness.

Joe goes to check on the prints that were found on the Puzzle Box. One set belonged to Jay Cho, but the other is a hard find. Joe forces the AFIS technician to run under his own specific parameters to get quicker results. There's 7 million print cards and AFIS can only go through so many at a time, but we immediately get results! The most accurate match is a piercing artist named Leon, who works at the Stigmata Studio. Joe heads to Leon's workplace and grills him for info. Leon is pressured into giving up that the Engineer, an underground Mob Boss known only by his pseudonym, owns the Puzzle Box. Cho stole the Box when he couldn't afford the Engineer's price. Joe promises he'll find the Engineer with or without Leon's help. "Hunt for the Engineer and the Engineer will hunt you," Leon mutters.

Detective Joe leaves Stigmata Studio, feeling he found enough here to go forward. He goes to his cocaine hook-up named Bernie who runs an ice cream truck. They have a lovely chat until Joe mentions the Engineer. Bernie looks confused and says he doesn't know an Engineer. Joe doesn't believe him, so he slaps Bernie around and threatens to take away his van and therefore entire operation. Suddenly, Bernie knows a lot about the Engineer! Mostly just stories, nothing anyone can say for certain is true, but it's more than nothing! It's genuinely unclear if Bernie was lying before or if he's only just now "remembered" the information. Is it being fed to him supernaturally?

We learn that a pimp named Terry who worked for the Engineer received a girl from him and Terry fell in love. Terry wanted to marry the girl, but the Engineer said no. Terry defied him by eloping with her to a cabin in the woods to start a new life together. But one day, Terry came home and found his girl was gone. Terry got pissed and tried to hunt the Engineer down. "Hunt for the Engineer, and the Engineer will hunt you." Terry never found the Engineer, but the Engineer left behind little presents to let Terry know that the Engineer still had his girl: locks of hair, jewelry she wore, and even body parts. One day, Terry came home and saw his girl sleeping in bed like she never left. When he moved the covers back, there was only a note where the body should be and her head on the pillows. "You win, Terry. I kept what I needed. The rest is yours." Joe tells Bernie to keep his eyes and ears out for fresh information about the Engineer's location, and to get someone to tell him where the Engineer is by the end of the day. Joe hurts him one more time, and walks out of the ice cream van.

Joe and Partner Tony have a drink in the bar to cool off from the day's stress. Tony starts asking for any information that Joe might have found out, but Joe gets a little defensive. "What's really on your mind?" Tony mentions that he feels bad wiping prints at a crime scene and wants to come clean to the captain. Joe, anticipating this move, asks Tony where his pen and cigarettes are. Tony gets confused, but Joe tells him that they were at the crime scene, so probably already in the evidence files. Joe threatens to tell the captain that Tony is the one who slept with the dead sex worker, but if Tony does as he's told then Joe will vouch that Tony was just shaken by what he saw at the scene and forgot those items while they searched the motel. Blackmailing your partner: always a good idea!

Tony rightfully calls Joe a scum bag and walks out of the bar. A child walks into the bar and hands Joe an unmarked tape. Joe puts it into the nearest VCR he can find and hits play. On the tape, Bernie is shown being whipped bloody by the hooks that Leon had in his office. A faceless Cenobite with only a mouth and black tongue was doing the whipping, and we see it lick a child's finger before putting it in the cash register of the ice cream van. Joe tries to show the tape to his boss and partner, but now there's nothing there save static. Joe tries to convince them that something was there, but his boss stops him and tells him to visit the department counselor, and this request is not optional. Joe is reluctant, but does so.

The counselor, Dr. Gregory, is a former episcopal priest that asks a lot of simple questions that shake Joe. The line that really hits home is "Close-up magic. I bet your daughter loves that." Joe never thought to use those little slight-of-hand tricks to entertain his child. He says he uses them to entertain himself, but there's also the sex workers he uses it for. Never with his wife and daughter? How odd. This further proves Joe is a self-absorbed asshole. He asks to reschedule the meeting, and the good doctor agrees. Joe rifles through missing kids' files in hopes it'll bring something up, but the only thing that happens is someone being arrested has the appearance of the faceless-licker! When Joe catches up to him, it was all a trick of the mind: the guy's face is fine! But we do get word of the ice cream truck's whereabouts.

Tony is waiting for Joe and says it's just as he described it. Joe tells everyone to get out as he goes through Bernie's phone. Terry left a voice message telling him to meet up at the end of Old Mining Road. Tony mentions that they haven't found the finger, but Joe opens the cash register and shows everyone where it was. At Tony's questioning glance, Joe exclaims that he saw it on the videotape. You know, the one that no one else saw because it magically deleted itself. Tony looks worried as Joe starts getting more tense.

They head to the Old Mining Road and come across a Western-themed casino where the room is smoky and everyone is wearing cowboy get-up. No one speaks and the only sound is chips hitting the table. I have a hankering for beans and beer while watching Maverick. Joe offers to play poker while asking about a name he's heard. Sure enough, the owner of the name comes forward. Mr. Parmagi is a tall man that comes off as very intimidating. He's calm and unwavering while Joe seems unhinged in comparison. Parmagi tells Joe that he's not the Engineer, but he knows Joe is caught up in one of the Engineer's games. Joe sees a faceless-licker walk out of the room and runs after him. After getting lost in the woods and running past a Chatterer-Torso, Joe meets two of Parmagi's guards that kick his ass.

Parmagi approaches and Joe stubbornly tells them that he's going to find that child. "I suspect that's the object of the game," Parmagi says and returns Joe's gun to him peacefully. Tony finds Joe one second later and gets him out of there at top speed. He even turns the sirens on to keep Joe awake, but Joe tells him to take him back to the squad. Joe bangs on Doctor Gregory's door saying they need to talk. Joe swears he's going insane and is even afraid to sit down. He starts talking about how he heard of the Engineer when he was first on the force, but thought it was a campfire story to scare the rookies. But today, he started hearing his name again. Joe demands to hear what the doctor knows. Doctor Gregory tells him a story which boils down to: a cop tried to hunt the Engineer and committed suicide at his desk when he couldn't take it anymore. What was important was that the detective had the Puzzle Box with him when he perished.

Doctor Gregory laments that he never got to see the Box himself, so Joe places the Box in front of him. Doctor Gregory admits he's done some research on the Box and says it's the Lament Configuration and that, when opened, the person who opens it is dragged into Hell. Joe: "Oh, they didn't drag me into Hell." Joe says that he's been seeing the Cenobites ever since he opened the Box, but he's not been dragged anywhere. Doctor Gregory tells him that maybe they really are here in the real world with them, since the Box summons the Cenobites to get you. "I believe in this Box."

Joe leaves on that note and heads home, suddenly very worried about his family. His wife tends to his wounds but a phone call interrupts his thoughts. His wife answers and manages to only get the briefest of info. Something about how his mother and father had a visitor that was an engineer? Joe gives his wife a revolver to protect herself and their daughter as he runs out to try to stop the Engineer from doing whatever he plans to do with Joe's parents.

He runs into the nursing home with a great urgency that the lady behind the desk can't seem to notice or match. Even pulling his badge out doesn't work as she still tries to get him to sign in the visitor books. As Joe makes his way to their room, his head spins into giving him double vision. A patient becomes two women walking by him! A man in a wheelchair with hooks in his cheeks wheels past while giggling with a child's voice. When Joe does make it to his parents' side, his mother doesn't even look up at him or welcome him. She asks why Joe never visits anymore, tells him that his father gets worse every day, and how they hate it here. His father is bedridden with tubes in his throat to help him breathe, so he's not much help.

Joe looks his parents over and seems happy that they're both okay, but is on alert when he hears a child begging for help. Joe's mother practically orders him to put "that thing away" when he draws his gun, but he pays no mind as he bursts into a nearby room. We're in the childhood room again? Pale white walls and washed-out colors surround Joe before the door closes and locks. He hears the brutal murder of his mother and possibly father on the other side, but he's unable to help. He bangs against the door, trying to break it down, and then-

Joe opens his eyes to a ringing telephone. He's at his home, with his wife tending to his wounds. His wife answers the phone and manages to only get the briefest of info. Something about how his mother and father had a visitor that was an engineer?

Instead of doing as before, he leaps out of bed and races down to the nursing home. He even races past the desk lady and the guard with his gun out, which proves to be a bad idea: just as he gets to his parents' door, the guard demands he drops his weapon. Realizing that he's maybe a touch out of line here, Joe follows orders and tells them gently that he's a detective and he's looking for the Thornes. The lady tells us that they've been missing since dinner and they called the police an hour ago. Joe enters the room and searches for anything out of place. All he finds is a bed covered in blood and a gift-wrapped box with two child's fingers and a note with an address inside.

As Joe leaves the scene, Tony catches up to him. Joe tries to ask him for help, but Tony says that the captain wants to see him. See, the only person who even thinks it's this "Engineer" is Joe. The only other connection to every other murder is Joe himself. He knew all the victims and had info on Bernie's crime scene that he "found" on a blank tape. Either Joe is losing his hold on reality and is committing crimes without realizing it, or Joe is just a normal murderer and his "losing hold of reality" is an act to cover his crimes. Either way, Tony's been told to bring him in. Joe refuses and starts asking the classic "Do you really think I'd kill those people?" question, which leaves Tony to answer with the equally classic "Maybe? maybe not? does it matter what I think?" answer. Joe fist-fights Tony off him and drives off, now feeling truly alone. He heads for the address the Engineer gave him and bee-lines for the room.

Inside are painted-over windows, a locked-in-place telescope, and a phone. Joe watches the faceless-licker kill a helpless Tony and stuff a child's finger in his mouth. The phone rings with the Engineer on the other end. "Six murders. Six fingers. Four more to go." Joe begs him to just say what he wants. "I want you to go home." Joe rushes to his wife and daughter, but it's too late. They're frozen to a pillar and dying slowly. Joe tries to go to them, but they break apart at his touch and shatter. Doctor Gregory walks out, with his cross pin now turned upside down. "It takes hours to die from exposure. Hours, in which no one came home."

The doctor says that they ran the fingerprint from the finger in Tony's mouth (the first one that wasn't burned) and found a match. The child is Joseph Thorne, our protagonist. It's his fingerprint, but how could it be his finger? Joe laughs in his despair and confusion with at least one thing becoming clear: "You're the Engineer." Doctor Gregory smiles and replies, "It's a good a name as any." The doctor shifts before Joe, turning into Pinhead. "I am not the killer. To find him, you must go back to where it started. Go home." Pinhead disappears.

Joe takes his shotgun and blasts his way through a door. The room is the childhood room again, but now there's a boy named Joseph. His mother calls for him and the boy walks downstairs. Joe follows, scared and confused at witnessing his childhood playing out before him. His father sleeps in front of the television while his mother bakes brownies. As Joe tries to call out to his young mother, the house shakes and begins falling apart, aging. The boy fades away while the mother stays, older now. Her eyes are gouged out and bloody. As she attacks Joe, his father appears the same way. Joe is forced to kill these facsimiles to protect himself, but it's clear he's upset by his actions.

As Joe stumbles to the open window in the bathroom to close it, he's jumped on by Daphne. She's sporting her slit throat and bloodied underwear, so she looks exactly like her corpse. Joe kills this facsimile too, not as fazed. Then Tony is in the hallway with literal daggers in his back. Joe looks so guilty as Tony accuses him of lost trust, but he goes down with one more shotgun blast. Bernie, the ice cream truck driver informant, gets his hits in too. Joe still tries to apologize, but his shotgun speaks a little louder. The Cenobites he passes to the final door don't even reach for him as he opens it. He's defenseless, out of ammo, and freaked. But at least he can save the boy, right?

In the final room, a dark room of inky blackness, Joe finds a small boy that looks familiar. Is it his younger self? The faceless-licker walks forward and exposes his real face: Joe's face. Joe was the killer. It's a cerebral twist that Pinhead explains to Joe. His fleshly desires and sinful actions have been destroying his innocence and spirit. There's no God's Rules here that he broke. There's no Holy Scriptures that he failed to read or keep. Joe was a person who took a love of puzzles, games, and riddles and twisted it into ways he could extort, abuse, and control others. Because he was a terrible person, he's now going through this version of Hell, one made just for him by him. Joe perishes by his own hands, by his own twisted hooks. He's ripped apart as the killer version of himself watches with hatred in his eyes.

Joe wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel room with the Puzzle Box only inches away. He gets up and checks on Daphne in bed. "C'mon, haven't I earned my money?" she mumbles sleepily. Joe smiles a little, happy to see she's okay, and walks out with an apology. He goes to work with a new outlook on life and a new appreciation of what he has. Joe jokes around with his coworkers before answering his phone. Daphne is on the other end. She begs and pleads for her life as she's being killed, just like in the beginning. Instead of reliving another 24-48 hours of Hell, a horrified Joe takes out his gun and commits suicide in front of everyone, not caring who sees.

He wakes up on the bathroom floor of the motel room with the Puzzle Box only inches away. Joe doesn't walk out to Daphne this time. He walks out to his childhood bedroom and sits on the bed as his narration closes us out: "I lived in a world of facts, of a reality that I thought I understood. I believed I was the center of the design and I was certain that I knew all the answers. But now I face the truth about what I've done to hurt those around me, and in hurting them, what I've done to myself. I've confronted my own demons, and now the only thing I know for certain is that I will live with them forever." The End. Not For Him, But For Us.

There are a LOT of levels going on here! Lots of symbolism and different ways to take this and UGH it's so good! The movie did good by making sure we weren't on Joe's side from the beginning. He was an asshole who was a controlling prick and had no business being that way, and unapologetic up until the end. Any information about any of the crimes is given to us after he opens the Puzzle Box, meaning that it was all in his head / in Hell rather than in reality / Earth. The symbolism is a touch on the nose, but it gives us insight into how Joe feels about others or even how they feel about Joe. Pinhead wasn't really a huge part of this movie, but that's okay in my opinion. Pinhead isn't the slasher villain we come to see; he's not like Freddy Krueger or Chucky. He's more like a dungeon master or a dominant, making sure everything is going according to plan and hurting in just the right ways. I like him better as the Engineer rather than an active role.

I have a theory that after a lot of torture and realizing where he went wrong, Joe wanted to punish himself in a unique and terrible way. Pinhead did say it was a Hell of Joe's own making. That can have a lot of meanings! Anyway, my rating stays high at 9, and I hope you all had as much fun as I did!