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Open Thread: Sickles on a Railing

Sickles on a Railing

I think I planned to use this an open thread image when I took the picture on July 31st of last year.  Little bit late, but it's now serving its intended purpose.


Sunday 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 basically over, but we haven't had an open thread in forever, and 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!

Animation: Encanto and Gifts of Trauma

[Content Note: Encanto Spoilers]

I haven't talked about Encanto much because I didn't want to spoil people before they had a chance to watch it and also I'm suuuuper white and not Colombian at all. But the movie is SO GOOD and deals with family trauma SO WELL and I wanna navel gaze so here we go!

There are a LOT of ways to analyze a film, especially one as deep as Encanto. In this TED talk I will put forward the theory that the "gifts" the house bestows are reflections of trauma and that person's coping mechanisms. The "gifts" remind me strongly of how abuse survivors talk about how trauma gave us a double-edged "gift" of hyper-vigilance or a "gift" for reading people's emotions because we had to read our abuser in order to survive. The "gifts" are useful AND painful. JUMPING TO THE END, this is why it's very important to me that the family retains their "gifts" in the ending. Even after trauma has healed, we still bear the "gifts" and scars FROM that trauma. I will always be an "emotion reader" whether I want to or not.

GIFT ROLL CALL: Abuela Alma's gift is the house, but the house is a symbol of the whole family. Her way of dealing with the trauma of Pedro's death was to cultivate, protect, and grow her family--just as the house grows over time. The flipside of this Trauma Gift is that the house is *literally* tied to the family and as the family suffers, so too does the house. So on the one hand, cool magic house; on the other hand, fights means your roof caves in. Pros and cons.

Bruno is Alma and Pedro's only son. I'm sure in many ways he was looked to as the future of the family: the boy who would become a man, who would be expected to be wise and help them make sensible choices. To "see" the future--so he does. The problem is that he's deeply traumatized by all these expectations and hopes and dreams, and what he sees tends to be the normal disasters and disappointments that life brings--things he can't change just because he foresaw them! I have a soft spot for Bruno in particular because my own trauma means I can often predict all the bad ways a situation will go, and it's vexing to be disbelieved as a cynic or as someone who "wants" things to fail just because I've seen some shit.

Pepa is Alma's daughter and she grew up in the wake of her mother's sorrow. I think she tried to be sunny and cheerful to help her mother cope, and that manifested in the Trauma Gift of being able to create ACTUAL sunshine as long as she tamps down her anxiety. Her gift is described as controlling the weather, but I quipped during the movie that the weather controls her--there's a real "anxiety spiral" situation wherein she feels a negative emotion, storm clouds appear, and their appearance distresses her even MORE. So she's stuck in this trauma gift where, yes, she can make actual sunshine and rainbows when she turns "on" her determined cheer, but the rain is always lurking behind her eyes. I feel so much for her.

If Young Pepa was doing the emotional labor of the family, Julieta strikes me as doing the physical labor to keep everyone going. She cooked food to make sure her mother ate, and tried to heal her by being present and nurturing. Now her food literally heals. This is an amazing gift! Until you realize that she cooks for the whole village EVERY DAY and it seems like she can never take a day off. Do they even have any other doctors? Why would they need one? So Julieta is trapped forever nurturing everyone else.

Of the children, Isabela is the oldest. Like Bruno, she had to be seen as the "future" of the family. There were expectations that she would be lovely, that she would marry, that she would be fertile, that she would keep the family going. So she is...fertile. She grows flowers, but it has never occurred to her to grow anything that isn't "perfect", just as it has never occurred to her to be anything other than the "perfect" child and grandchild. Her dress is the closest in color to Abuela's, trying to please her. Isabela could have been growing fruitful vines and orchards all this time, but they wasted her talents on ornamentals because the family unconsciously fell into the assumption that SHE was an ornament. Mirabel has to break Isabela out of that thought process.

(Note that I don't blame Abuela or the family for these expectations for Bruno or Isabela or anyone else. These are societal expectations as much as family ones. I want to be clear on that.)

Our second grandchild is Dolores, whose gift is hyper-vigilance. She can "hear" when her cousin Luisa's eyelids are twitching stressfully all night. If you have hyper-vigilance, you know already how this is a gift and a curse. I suspect that Dolores developed this gift in part as a means of managing Pepa's anxiety; Dolores would carefully watch and listen for whatever might be affecting her mother's mood and try to stay out of the way or help however she could.

Camilo is also Pepa's child and he clearly has inherited his father's jokey style of managing Pepa's anxiety with humor. I suspect that he had an early talent for mimicry and imitations and used those to make his mother laugh. Thus his gift. There's also an aspect there of trying to be whatever the family needs at any time in order to help--and it hurts me a little how often he, himself, Camilo, isn't what is needed or wanted. My hope is that, just as Luisa learns to rest, Camilo learns that he can babysit a baby without having to literally morph into the baby's mother. That he can be useful *as himself* and not as an imitation of someone better suited to the situation.

Luisa is next, of course. She took on the burdens of the family and tried to make herself useful with manual labor. I imagine she began as a child in Julieta's kitchen, cleaning up after her mother's cooking and putting away the pots and pans. We don't see much of Luisa and Mirabel's father, but we know he chops wood. I can see Luisa out there helping him--carrying the wood away when she was a baby and then later chopping the wood herself. Her "gift" is strength and shouldering burdens. Luisa is like her mother, Julieta, trying to keep the family going by being useful. But the family is bigger now and there are more burdens to go around. Luisa takes on a whole village-worth of labor and begins to break. (I love her the most, I love her.)

Mirabel is the youngest of Julieta's children, and there is a truism (ymmv) about the youngest child being the most neglected but also the most free. She wasn't the firstborn like Isabela, needing to be married off to make babies. Unlike Pepa's children, she doesn't need to manage her mother's mood. Unlike the older grandchildren, she doesn't need to handle Abuela's anxieties. She's relatively protected from all that... the favored "baby" of the family that everyone can pet and coddle--

--but that means when it's time to bestow a Trauma Gift at her 5 year old ceremony the house doesn't have a lot to work with. Her lack of gift makes her a wonderful disability metaphor (which I love) but also in some ways means she's the healthiest of them all. She has the "gift" of being somewhat sheltered from all the trauma in her family, which is somewhat ironic given that this causes her to immediately become the focus of a buttload of trauma for being "out of the loop" of the family's gifts/traumas.

The movie involves Mirabel leaving the nursery, leaving her innocence and childhood behind, (she even suits up in a Mulan-esque sequence!!) and digging into her family's trauma closet. She learns that her missing uncle left because he had embraced his role as The Scapegoat in order to protect her. She learns that her older sisters have become The Beauty and The Brawn in order to shelter her from those same expectations. And at last she learns that Pedro's death is the source of all the trauma in the family, and that Abuela's grief-and-coping mechanisms were imperfect in ways that radiated subtle harm throughout the family--the house.

Mirabel and Alma, and ultimately the entire family, are able to acknowledge that they have been grieving-and-coping in unhealthy ways. And together they are able to rebuild the family and the house from a stronger foundation. And Antonio? He is a shy and frightened animal lover, whose gift grants him literal emotional support animals to help get him through the tough times ahead.

Anyway, seriously, I love the movie and everyone should see it maybe. And I want an extended edition in which Dolores and Camilo have Trauma Songs too, even though I understand why the narrative focused on the people it did.

News: USPS Covid Tests

There is a new initiative at the USPS where they will send 4 covid tests out to a residential address upon request. It is very easy to sign up; the only required fields are name and address. Here is the web link, but you can also get there by googling "usps covid": https://special.usps.com/testkits

Film Corner: What Lies Below

[Content Note: Sexual Assault, Grooming, Parental Abuse]

I'm feeling a little under the weather today, so it's time for Netflix and warm blankets. And "What Lies Below" on Netflix, which comes with trigger warnings for some kinda rapey/grooming stuff, via a friend. I may have seen this before but I must've been ill because I don't remember anything.

PLEASE NOTE: Apparently there's a movie called What Lies Beneath. This is What Lies Below, a Netflix movie.

The write-up says: "Back home at her lake house, a teenager begins to suspect that a sinister force lurks beneath the surface of her mother's too-perfect new lover." Ah, yes, I put it on the watchlist because Netflix kept showing a still of a beautiful beefcake man rising from the lake waters and I wanted to reward that kind of algorithmic behavior.

We open with the eye of Sauron under the surface of some dark water. It thrums menacingly and grows brighter to fill the screen, then we cut away. Not a very informative scene. Our heroine of indeterminate age (16? 17?) is at a Digger Camp waiting for parental pickup. She has an obvious crush on one of the camp counselors and is trying to hide it behind a book.

January Newsletter (2022)

Happy new year!! 💕 I'm extremely proud of myself that I managed to write "2022" on this post rather than the old muscle memory of "2021". It's January and that means: BOOK RELEASE!

Book News: Cinder the Fireplace Boy will release on Amazon on January 4th, 2022. If you've pre-ordered the ebook, then that's when it will show up on your reader. Paper copies are already up and ready to order now from Amazon, but I get a much higher royalty rate on my Etsy store, if you want to buy from the source!

- For those who are members of my Patreon, links have been posted over there for downloading the book so that patrons have pre-access before release.

Other News: Our friend Pepper will be moving in with us over the spring and summer. This will make the house a little crowded, but the move will get him out of an abusive home situation. We hope that his parents will eventually allow his little sister, Pibb, to move in with us. We have been getting the house ready for him, and starting up resin-work and 3D printing-work in our garage and study in the hopes that he can quit his job and do Etsy crafts full-time rather than continue to work with his mother.

All this has left us pretty busy, which is why you've seen fewer movie posts lately. That will change soon, and I'm thankful for your patience with us! I love you all and I hope we have a good new year.

My Patreon: Here.
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Film Corner: Willy's Wonderland

I'm immobilized in bed today but someone told me about a recent Nic Cage movie that's kinda Five Nights At Freddy's without enriching the FNAF guy.

It's called WILLY'S WONDERLAND. "When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy's Wonderland." We start with two parents running for their lives through a creepy Chucky Cheese / Fazzbear's Entertainment. Something kills then off screen, as one does.

Another time, another day, another place. Nic Cage's car hits a strip of nails that blows out all his tires. Stoic to the end, he silently enjoys a warm can of PUNCH soda. He hasn't said a word yet but somehow he's said everything with his cool sunglasses. A traveler picks him up and gives him a ride.

A girl of maybe 16 tries to burn down Willy's Wonderland in the middle of the day but is brought in by a local sheriff who is also her mother? grandmother? Nic and the girl meet and share a slow motion look. Unsure what that's all about.

At the local garage, Nic ponders the many "missing person" posters of adults. The garage wants $1000 to repair Nic's car, but only in cash. And there's "no internet in Hayesville" thus no ATMs. Nic isn't carrying a cool grand in cash so a suggestion is made that he "work it off". There is a feel of something sinister going on. Nic looks like he's wondering if he's going to have to take his clothes off for this.

Open Thread: Light, Mist, and Shadow

silhouette of a tree obscuring a yellow light on a misty evening

Picture was taken on December 16th.  I apologize for the open threads stopping for more than seven (and actually closer to eight) months.  As Ana noted in the December newsletter, I haven't been having the best time of late.  I hope you've all been doing well.


Sunday 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 basically over, but we haven't had an open thread in forever, and 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!

Cinder the Fireplace Boy

Cinder the Fireplace Boy and other Gayly Grimm Tales (Rewoven Tales)

by Ana Mardoll

Once upon a time there lived... a beautiful prince who kissed a frog. A cinder-smudged child who hid a secret. A princess who climbed a long braid of golden hair for love. A thumb-sized boy with the courage of a giant. And a valiant little tailor whose wit was as sharp as her needle.

These stories and many more await you in this delightful collection of classic fairy tales, lovingly retold and featuring characters who receive wonderfully queer happily-ever-afters! Let these new takes on the Brothers Grimm warm your heart and nurture your yearning to see yourself reflected in beloved favorites.

Trigger warnings and pronoun guides are provided for each story.

"Mardoll has removed instances of racism, antisemitism, and Christian moralizing while introducing queer and disabled characters... a welcome, clever update of fairy tales." --Kirkus Reviews

Tags: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Transgender, Nonbinary

Book (eBook)
Written by: Ana Mardoll
Published: January 2022
Language: English

Available from retailers below.
Amazon Kindle
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble Nook
Angus & Robertson (AU)
Indigo (CA)
Bol.de (DE)
Thalia (DE)
Mondadori Store (IT)
Book (6x9 Trade)
Written by: Ana Mardoll
Published: January 2022
Language: English

Available from retailers below.
Patreon ($25 tier)
Audio Book
Narrated by: Coming Soon!
Language: English

Available from retailers below.

Writings: Kirkus Review of Cinder The Fireplace Boy

I am extremely excited about this! Reminder that you can pre-order Cinder The Fireplace Boy on Amazon!

LGBTQ+ characters take center stage in Mardoll’s reimagining of classic fairy tales.

Mardoll’s fairy tales might sound familiar, but if readers pay close attention, they’ll notice he’s made a few changes from the classic Brothers Grimm versions. In one, a prince who makes a reluctant deal with a frog discovers the amphibian is a beautiful young man in disguise. In another, a princess falls in love with a woman trapped high in a tower, accessible only by climbing the woman’s long golden hair. In the wonderfully titled “Sometimes Hansel and Othertimes Gretel,” a woodcutter’s child identifies as a boy on some days and a girl on others. The kind woodcutter accepts the child’s fluidity, while the child’s mother is annoyed by it. As Mardoll explains in the book’s introduction, he has always loved the Grimms’ fairy tales—and has frequently given volumes of them as gifts—but found them lacking in one area specifically. “I was proud to share my love for these tales, even if sometimes I felt a gnawing hunger when I remembered how heteronormative the stories were; how much sooner would I have found my queer self if those old tales had contained queer representation?” In these 31 versions of the classic tales, Mardoll has removed instances of racism, antisemitism, and Christian moralizing while introducing queer and disabled characters. Women fall in love with women; husbands give birth to babies; and beautiful maidens use wheelchairs to get around. The tales are preceded by content notes warning of potential triggers, from the classic (“Cannibalism, Murder, Dismemberment, Execution”) to the contemporary (“Accidental Misgendering”). Mardoll also starts each story by identifying the pronouns of the characters who will appear in it.

Mardoll’s prose mimics the fabulist style of the original tales. The language is precise without delving too deeply into the specifics of character: “Once upon a time there lived a child who liked to be idle and daydream, as children often do. Their mother was very vexed by this and accused the child of being lazy, insisting that a young person on the cusp of adulthood as they were should learn a useful trade such as spinning yarn.” Gorgeous color illustrations by Dingley, which manage to feel medieval and modern at the same time, accompany the text. Some of the tales are essentially the originals with a few pronouns swapped: The Frog Prince seduces a man, and Rapunzel is wooed by a woman. The more interesting ones are those in which the characters’ queerness contributes to the plot, as in the fairly ingenious title story, which is perhaps the best in the book. The protagonist is a boy who everyone thinks is a girl. His cruel stepmother and stepsisters misgender him and call him Cinderella, and it’s only the power of a magic bird that allows him to present his true self to the handsome prince. While the reader may sometimes wish Mardoll had allowed the characters’ new traits to propel the stories in new and surprising directions, the author has succeeded in his task of creating more inclusive versions of the stories that the Grimms fans know and love.

A welcome, clever update of fairy tales that work best when they reinvent the originals.

Film Corner: Babysitter Killer Queen

I promised the live tweets would resume, so today I bring you from Netflix the movie Babysitter: Killer Queen, which is of course the sequel to Babysitter. I had a lot of complicated feelings about the first movie, because I wasn't sure if it was lampshading the trope that boy-trauma isn't taken seriously in our culture or just playing it straight. I eventually did decide that I liked it and called it "CRACKS for boys".

"Two years after Cole survived a satanic blood cult, he's living another nightmare: high school. And the demons from his past? Still making his life hell." Color me intrigued. The movie starts and we get a nice recap of the events of Babysitter, and learn that there was no physical evidence left behind. No one believes Cole about what happened and the bullying has only increased. Well, shit.

The girl he had a crush on, Melanie, who knows what happened that night was true is supportive but also urging him to clam up about the night's events since it's just not something people can really believe. We have this kind of tension between Melanie's pragmatism (very reminiscent of Babysitter Bee's advicey moments in the first movie) and Cole's dreamy optimism where he just... wants to be able to be himself without being bullied for who he is.

Mel reminds Cole of the kissing that night, but is interrupted by the appearance of her jock boyfriend. Oh, we're doing this trope of the abusive jock boyfriend needling the nerdy boy? ...or...maybe we're not? Jock Jimmy is actually really nice to Cole? I thought he would be the stereotypical asshole, but he's sweet. Huh! I... like this?? Wow! There's also a nerdy kid of color and a fat girl who is wearing the "queer blue hair highlights" but we don't see much of them so far.

We cut to class where a New Girl walks in. She's POC, wearing a lingerie dress with combat boots, and clearly doesn't fit in here. She enters the class in slow motion. She's clearly a fish out of water, and the teacher outs her as a "disenfranchised youth" trying to "assimilate back into civilized society". Wow. Phoebe likes snakes and announces that she's nine days late on her period, but that she "might just keep it now" after looking at the beautiful white faces staring back at her. I love her.

Cole heads back home and his parents are talking about him behind his back. They've got him doped up on a zillion medications trying to "fix" him from talking about the night 2 years ago. Jesus. So I don't know how I feel about this. I actually do think it's reasonable that the events of Babysitter would ruin Cole's life, and we're seeing how Cole's parents still aren't really willing to listen and engage with him. They want to be "cool" but aren't listening.

"I know you don't want to take those pills, but you gotta show your Mom and I that you're at least trying." Cole asks if he wants Cole to lie about what happened, and Dad dodges the question. "It happened, Dad. I'm telling you the truth." Dad doesn't believe him. It comes out that the parents plan to pull him out of school at midday the next day and put him in a psychiatric "academy" that sounds like committing him. Melanie convinces Cole to go to the lake with her instead.

Mel tries to reassure him that everyone is on some kind of pill and what follows is... not exactly reaffirming of OCD and ADHD, especially once Xanax and Adderall are thrown up on the screen next to "Glue" and "Porn" as things people are using to cope. Hmm. Phoebe walks down the halls haunted by a rumor that she killed her parents. She's been asked to the lake, too. (Apparently?) It seems like Phoebe is having a horror movie of her own in the background. I'm sure we'll get to that eventually.

Cole's parents show up at Melanie's Dad's place looking for Cole. Mel's Dad (Juan) is dismissive and rude, and apparently sells pot to Cole's Dad. Juan doesn't care that Mel skipped school, but does care about his missing car. K.

I... have such weird mixed feelings about Mel's friend group? They're set up to be the usual high school bullies (jock, goth, nerd) that you'd think would attack Cole, but they're honestly pretty nice to him by the standards of high school strangers! I like that, but this feels like an odd choice, given how much Cole talks about being bullied, and yet I like it SO MUCH BETTER than showing us Cole being bullied by marginalized peers, as in the first movie. It drives home that the problem is the adults, not his fellow students.

Mel and Cole have a cute "best friends in love" vibe that seems at odds with her having a boyfriend (why? she knows Cole likes her and seems to like him?) and the fact that she's reminding me a little of Bee in the first movie. Still, I guess it makes sense that Mel might consciously model Bee? Bee was beautiful and cool and neat and must have left an impression on Mel. Especially given how much Cole liked her. (But again, then, why the jock boyfriend? If she's trying to impress Cole?)

Mel gives Cole a kiss and walks out of the gas station. The attendant at the cash register talks Cole into $100's worth of Magnum XL condoms. Sigh. Good to have condoms in a movie, bad explanation of how to shop for them.

Cole of course feels instantly out of place with the beach crowd. (Phoebe is here, though it's not entirely clear how or why. She appears to have hitched a ride to the beach and then rides off on a jet ski that was... waiting there for her? Did she steal it? I'm okay with her stealing it! It's not totally clear.) Mel coaxes Cole onto her house boat saying, "You're innocent. That's what makes you so special." UH. That's what Bee said too.

Cole has no cell service out here and throws his pills into the water. I'm having complicated feelings about pills being used this way in the movie; yes, Cole doesn't need them, but that doesn't mean nobody does. You know? It's hard to talk about unhealthy pill dosing without side-swiping at healthy pill use, and I don't have an answer for this.

The kids are playing "two minutes in heaven" and they stuff Cole and Mel into a closet together. Mel kisses Cole, saying she doesn't have a boyfriend "for the next two minutes". The kids are actually *interested* in Cole's cult experiences (which I totally believe about kids) and Mel is uncomfortable, insisting they change the subject from "the Devil's book".

Cole: "I never told you about the book."

OH NO. Mel murders her friend and whoops, uh. Not only is Mel and her friends in the same cult, the original cult members are now back from the dead. OH. I noticed that Mel was acting a little Bee-ish, but I didn't realize that was foreshadowing. I still unironically like BOTH the jocks, who are really wonderfully supportive. Phoebe walks in looking for gas for her jet ski and bails. Cole takes a moment to run after Phoebe and hitch a ride out of there.

Cole tells Phoebe about the blood cult, fearing she won't believe him. "Oh, thank god they weren't zombies! I hate zombies," Phoebe says. I love her. She points out that the cult doesn't sound that different from Instagram. Phoebe and Cole adorably nerd at each other over Terminator 2 and Bear Grylls. They have silly string, a lighter, and a box of magnum condoms. This is fine. Oh, and their jet ski is leaking gas which Mel tracks by setting it on fire and blowing it up.

I still think Phoebe is in, like, a different and competing horror movie that hasn't dovetailed with this one yet and I kind of like it. It gives her a reason to be here other than just helping Cole, so I like that. Phoebe finds a southern man... playing a banjo... by a fire. He says he can give her a ride back to town as soon as his wife comes back with firewood. The guy feels dangerous, and you can see Phoebe knows that, but there's not an easy way to get away from him now without pissing him off. Familiar dilemma!

Creepy Guy starts trying to grab Phoebe and Cole shows up to tie his shoelaces together and RUN. One of the cult members (Sonya) shows up to light him on fire with a flamethrower and a perfect Xena yell, then Cole runs her over a few times with the car. Cole and Phoebe hide under the car as the rest of the cult approaches. A rattler wants Cole's face (this boy just can't catch a break!) but Phoebe catches it and uses it to scare the cultists away.

Phoebe apologizes to Cole and thanks him for coming back for her. She's got some kind of undisclosed trauma, and I love her. Cole mentions her being pregnant and she happily tells him that was all bullshit. Cole is adorable. They bond over being traumatized loners with tragic pasts. Phoebe is up here visiting her family's old cabin, which is their best bet for safety. Allison interrupts by shooting an innocent bunny and then a deer who never did anything wrong.

Allison gets herself charmingly killed through stupidity, then Max shows up and Phoebe does some impressive Matrix dodging while Cole kicks him in the dick. They get to a keyless start boat named "Jenny". Tommy Tutone is the clue to this one, and the kids speed off with Max on the attached inflatable boat. Phoebe combines silly string and fire to make kiddie napalm and that's pretty much the end of Max. I'm going to miss Max. He was really sweet in his weird, messed up way.

Mm. Now the jock boyfriend is being silly about dyslexia (he speaks in the wrong order) and being "triggered". Mel kills him with her mind, then calls Cole's dad and her dad to "come pick us up". We get a really sweet scene with Cole and Phoebe to make up for the last one. Good music, too. They make it to Phoebe's cabin which apparently hasn't been sold since her parents died despite being prime real estate.

There's a "urine is sterile" joke, which is the bane of my existence. "White Rabbit" starts up to calm me, which is a good musical choice because otherwise I was going to start ranting. Mel has a "the future is female" joke, and I'm kind of reminded of how I wasn't sure if the first movie understood that it was kind of positioning all women as dangerous. Mel was the exception and now she's not.

Phoebe has a stuffed animal that she lost when she was six. Someone put it in her locker with the key to this house and a fortune saying "it ends tonight". She and Cole are about to kiss when Cole sees a cassette player and he reminisces about Bee. I think sex happens? It's very metaphorical.

"I don't really have good luck with women. They end up being murderers." Phoebe admits that she "killed my parents" but it appears to have been a car accident so like. I don't think that's *quite* fair to take on herself. Poor baby. Cole is sweet to her, and that's nice. I do like that a lot. And then he hears his Dad (sent here by Mel) calling down through the basement floor.

Oh no. Cole and Phoebe come up with crossbows and....war paint on their faces. We could've done without that. Dad catches up with Cole and says he believes him, hugs him, and then drugs him with a syringe. Christ. I hate this man. Phoebe and Mel fights in an "old school" sequence that feels like it ought to be more fun than it actually is. Mel's cleavage is getting more and more with every scene. Mel captures Phoebe and ties her up as bait.

Cole comes back and offers a trade: his blood for Phoebe's life. Mel says she's ready to deliver... and Bee rises from the sea. She looks... different? Samara Weaving is always so pretty, but she looks wan and sad somehow, in spite of her smile. Phoebe reveals that Bee supposedly died in the car accident that killed her parents. Bee implies that Bee made a bargain with the devil to keep Phoebe alive. And to... go into service for him, recruiting souls?

Mel mixes the blood in a chalice and the others appear to drink. Bee tells them it's time and they drink. Bee doesn't drink and seems alarmed... or confused? Everyone who drinks becomes sick. Bee points out that Cole isn't innocent anymore, now that he's had sex with Phoebe. I........ was really hoping they wouldn't define innocence that way.

Bee reveals that she rigged this entire thing in order to save them, but I'm not 100% that I follow this retcon of Bee as guardian angel. She sold her soul to protect Phoebe and... all this just sort of worked out. Eh, fuck it. I'm okay with Bee being good now somehow. Maybe this act of selflessness will save her? NOPE. She drinks the blood and dies. Well, that's unsatisfying and sad.

I just hope Samara Weaving is okay. Between this movie and Ready Or Not, she's had a lot of deals with the devil lately. Cole's Dad shows up to see the supernatural stuff and promises to tell Mom that Cole isn't nuts.

Cole goes back to his regular life and is happy to lie now and tell everyone that the demons were all in his head. I.........huh. Yeah, that's kind of how life goes but it feels unfaithful to the opening stuff about being True To Yourself. Slam to credits. I'm not sure what I think about all of that, but it was a fun movie and I enjoyed it at least as much as the first one.

December Newsletter (2021)

Hey, everyone. 💕 It's December and the last month of the year. I still can't quite believe I'll be learning to write "2022" soon. Let's talk and I'll try to keep this short; I know a lot of us have cooking to get back to.

One: Cinder the Fireplace Boy will release on Amazon on January 4th, 2022. If you've pre-ordered the ebook, then that's when it will show up on your reader. If you want to buy an unsigned paper copy of the book from Amazon, then they should be available to buy that day (Amazon doesn't let me set those up for pre-order). I will also have them available that day to buy from my Etsy store, which does give me a high commission than Amazon.

- For those in the Patreon $5 ebook tier, a download link will be going up shortly so that you have pre-access before release.

- For those in the Patreon $15 audiobook tier, I'm so sorry but the audiobook will have to come later this year. My usual narrator has retired and so I'm still seeking a replacement. But my plan is 100% to have an audiobook as soon as I can.

- For those in the Patreon $25 signed paperback tier, my plan is to get those mailed to you this month. I ordered an copy for myself as a "final check" on 11/22 and it's supposed to get here on 12/7. (Prime shipping isn't applied to author copies of books, and I have no idea why.) At that point, if there are no errors, I can turn around and order a bulk order that I can then sign and send out to you all. But with the holiday post office issues, I am not sure they'll get to you before January and for that I am so sorry. I hadn't factored Amazon taking 2+ weeks to ship the books to me.

Two: The feral kittens have been successfully homed, vaccinated, and spayed! You can follow their mother, @JustAnna, for future updates.

Three: Pepper is officially moving in with us and will be moving their stuff slowly over to our house over the next few months. This will get them out of an abusive situation, and the hope is that their parents will eventually allow Pepper's sibling Pibb to move in with us as well. It's a multi-stage plan.

Four: Chris the Cynic is alive and I have conveyed to her that we miss her and hope she is well. She's dealing with a lot of life things right now, which is why the open threads have stopped. Please feel free to use these newsletter posts as open threads until I can either post some more myself or find a moderator willing to do so for us.

Thank you all so much for being with us this year and into the next one. I love you all.

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

November Newsletter (2021)

Hello, everyone! It is November which means that Texas has officially switched overnight from Summer into Winter, and my Seasonal Affective Disorder has reared its head. Time to mope until March!! BUT TODAY WE WILL TALK ABOUT GOOD THINGS.

One: Remember those kittens we rescued and rehomed locally? They are doing so well! Their new cat-mom sends me videos from time to time and they have settled in and are being groomed by the older cats and have each adopted a family member to mark as their human. We are very happy about this!

Two: Live-tweets of movies will return this month, I promise! October was a very busy month because we had a garage sale (which took a lot of spoons) in order to clear out the guest room so that two dear sibling-friends of ours can hopefully move in with us soon in order to move *out* of an abusive home situation. I'm really sorry to have neglected my writing duties on this end, but I promise that will change.

Three: The formatting for the paper version of my new book, Cinder the Fireplace Boy, is almost complete! Then we can start the proofing process to make sure they're printing right and hopefully get plenty of copies sent out soon so that I can sign them and send them to you, for those of you in the signed-copies-of-books tier. I'm very excited!

Four: I am learning to make dice! The plan is for Pepper (Friend 1) to help me make the dice and then we'll sell them in the Etsy store so that Pepper can make a little money and quit their job that puts them in close proximity to their abusive mother. We're very excited about this plan!

Thank you all so much for sticking with me through October and beyond. I am so grateful.

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

Cover Reveal: Cinder the Fireplace Boy

I have a new book and cover reveal over at LGBTQ Reads! Cinder the Fireplace Boy, coming to your e-reader (and hopefully in paperback version, if the supply line gods chance to smile upon us) on January 4th, 2022!

Once upon a time there lived... a beautiful prince who kissed a frog. A cinder-smudged child who hid a secret. A princess who climbed a long braid of golden hair for love. A thumb-sized boy with the courage of a giant. And a valiant little tailor whose wit was as sharp as her needle.

These stories and many more await you in this delightful collection of classic fairy tales, lovingly retold and featuring characters who receive wonderfully queer happily-ever-afters! Let these new takes on the Brothers Grimm warm your heart and nurture your yearning to see yourself reflected in beloved favorites.

Features eight original illustrations by artist Alex Dingley.

I'm very excited about this one and I think you're all going to enjoy it. For reviewers, there is a copy of Cinder the Fireplace Boy available as a "Read Now" title at NetGalley (no lines, no waiting!) and there is a GoodReads listing up for reviews. For everyone else, here is some pretty pic-spam!

Pre-order links are here!!

Film Corner: Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

[Content Notes: Rape, Suicide, Murder]

Finally getting to watch Promising Young Woman, which I've been wanting to see since the trailer. We open with a bunch of men at a bar complaining about a female co-worker who doesn't like being discriminated against. They notice a drunk woman sitting alone at the other side of the bar and fantasize about how women "like that" are putting themselves in danger. The nice one goes over to ask how she is; she drunkenly reveals that her phone is missing, which means she can't get home via the "ride app". He offers to take her home, but takes her to his place instead and pours her more alcohol (giving her the stronger drink). (Kissmate: "I would be worried for her if I didn't know the twist.")

And now he's kissing her even though she's practically comatose while sitting up; she's clearly not reciprocating in any way. He takes her to bed and jumps on her, telling her she's "safe" while she quietly asks "what are you doing?" and says "wait" and he refuses to stop. After a pause, she sits up and asks in a clear voice: "I said, What are you doing?" Slam-cut to credits and her walking home in the morning with her heels in her hand. There's red on her shirt that seems like blood but is revealed to be a condiment. Construction workers catcall her about her "fun time last night" and she stops, looks at them, and lets it be awkward until they swear at her and stalk away.

October Newsletter (2021)

I really don't understand how it's October? I still have "write September newsletter" on my to-do list! (I guess I can check that off?) I have an announcement of an upcoming announcement and it's this: A BOOK IS COMING OUT. BY ME. YES.

The first volume of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale retellings is almost complete! I have a publishing date set (January 4th, 2022!). I have a cover reveal planned with the good folks at LGBTQ Reads! I will have pre-order links up soon! $15 patrons will receive a download of the ebook, and $25 patrons will receive signed paperback copies! There will also be purchasable things on my Etsy store! It's going to be very busy and wild and fun! I have run through my allotment of exclamation marks!

Thank you all for sticking with me through this creation process. It's been amazing and such fun and I love you. Thank you.

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

Film Corner: Seed of Chucky

Seed of Chucky
by Kissmate

I know Mother's Day isn't the same for all of us. I choose to end this day with a #KissmateWatches of Seed of Chucky, directed by Dan Mancini! Because topical! "Chucky and Tiffany are resurrected by their innocent gender-confused offspring, Glen/da, and hit Hollywood, where a movie depicting the killer dolls' murder spree is underway." Edited for clarity. I got nachos, my sweet lovely lovemate, and big bottle of soda. Let's start this!!

First impressions are everything, and our first look at the movie is.... sperm rushing to an egg that makes a CGI fetus with sharp teeth and an engraving of "Made In Japan" on its wrist. It's then born into a bright light and the next scene. We see a spoiled British child getting a present of the "ugliest doll" she's ever seen. At night, the doll wakes, grabs a knife, and starts murdering! Unfortunately, the doll awakens and it was all a dream.

Problem #1: The Main Character, Glen/da, has a running gag of pissing themselves. It happens SEVERAL times and is supposed to be seen as them being cowardly and awkward. It's just gross and unnecessary. We know he's cowardly from many other obvious clues. The living doll is woken up by the man who "owns" them so they can go on stage for their ventriloquist competition. The doll gets laughed at and is very clearly abused. (The doll's stage name is Shitface, ffs!) Problem #2: Made In Japan. Glen/da thinks they're Japanese because of the engraving on their wrist. Besides the later continuity errors, it feels very appropriative/weeaboo-ish. Like, he talks about his family possibly "serving the Emperor" or "being Zen Masters".

Film Corner: Bride of Chucky

Bride of Chucky
by Kissmate

Thursday... Funny, that almost rhymes with Bride... Let's do another #Kissmatewatches, this time with Bride of Chucky, dir by Ronny Yu! This is the first of a film duo that went for a more comedic horror genre than just thriller. Not a bad thing, but it does affect how one watches them. Now, instead of talking about how therapy would fix these issues, it's more "would a banana peel make this work better?" Anyway! Synopsis, courtesy of Amazon: "After Chucky is revived by a former lover, he transfers her spirit into a doll and enlists her help in a scheme to become human again."

Our first look is into a police evidence locker, and the tone is set up perfectly as we get good long looks at horror slasher Easter eggs. Michael's white mask, Jason's mask, Freddy's knife glove, a chainsaw, and a bloody drill. (I don't follow that last one.) We follow a cop who replaces one bag of evidence for another and drive away in the pouring rain. He calls up a woman.

Cop: "I got the thing. Bring me my money."
Woman: "See you soon. Oh and remember, curiosity killed the cat."

The cop, Bailey, lights up a cigarette as he waits. The temptation to look in the bag is too much, but just as he touches the bag- STATIC KSSSSH DROP CIGARETTE oh it was just the radio... He looks into the bag, this time seeing something confusing. We never know his real feelings as his throat is slit. A woman in fishnet stockings, tight leather skirt, leather jacket/corset, black collar- wow she's hot, filing her nails with the blood-covered file. She takes Bailey's lighter and struts off with the bag.

I'm going to say this now: Jennifer Tilly owns this role. She makes this whole "Bad Serial Killer Bitch" work for her, high-pitched voice be damned. And she looks SO GOOD doing it! (Whoever picked "Living Dead Girl" as her strut song gets my approval!) We see that she's into dolls and Charles Lee Ray as she "restores" Chucky to a Frankensteinesque state. We then cut over to- AHHH IT'S TED KILL KILL KI- Um, sorry, John Ritter is playing the Cop-Uncle Kincaid. If you're not prepared, it's the scariest part. (Editor's Note: John Ritter's scariest role was as "Ted" on the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

A young man named David has come courting for Chief Kincaid's niece, Jade. David seems very nice, but we learn is secretly a cover-up for her REAL boyfriend, Jesse, as David is VERY gay. "I think my uncle was in love." "Yuk! I am so over the whole uniform thing." Alas, Kincaid saw through the ploy and sent a squad car to pull them over to make sure it was all real. And they get busted. (Also, this soundtrack is so far the best one. Not to knock on the others! Just... this one is clearly having some rock fun!)

Our wonderful goth girl, Tiff, reads a Voodoo book for Dummies to bring back Chucky. It doesn't seem to work. Her new boyfriend comes by to brag about his "murder" (faked). Tiff notices the Chucky doll isn't where she left it. She bites her nails in anticipation. Oh my god, Tiff is such a Dominant Top. I can see a lot of people wanting to be her.... what's the word? Bottom? Sub? Obedient Little Fly in Her Web? IDK. Tiff ties down her "boyfriend" and while she strips, she tells him about how Chucky and her were dating a long time before he was placed in a doll. When BF comments about how he could do better, Chucky kills him for his impertinence.

It is kinda funny how they have a reunion talk while Chucky is smothering the BF with a pillow. It does seem like they were genuinely in love. Back to the teenagers, Uncle Kincaid comes by to pick up Jade from the police stop. He cares about who Jades dates because of how it'll look on him, not about how she'll be happy or safe. He's playing the best douchebag he knows: the Ted kind. For those unsure what I mean by Ted, there's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode where John Ritter plays (without spoilers) an abusive and misogynistic man. He's basically playing that some role here. Kincaid takes Jade away in his squad car while threatening Jesse. "I'm the chief of police. I can do whatever I want." ACAB.

Tiff shows Chucky around her trailer, even showing off the ring he left. "The ring I got from Vivian Van Pelt? I dumped her in the river. That thing was worth 5-6 grand, easy." He then laughs at her for being so foolish into thinking he was going to marry her. Since Tiff is a very sensible woman with an even temper, she calls him a baby and puts him into a play pen that she locks up. Chucky tries to reason that he'll marry her, really. "Sorry, I'm not into short guys." Tiff then goes into how she's been a "prisoner of love" for him. "But now it's payback time." She goes into her room and plays Crazy by Kidney Thieves while letting herself cry over the heartbreak of ten wasted years, if not more.

The next morning, we see Tiff moving a footlocker with a lot of trouble. Jesse, her neighbor, is fortunately there to help out. Yes, the same Jesse who is Jade's boyfriend. She never flirts with him, but you can tell there's an underlying tease. "Oh yeah, it's heavy, but you can do it!" The footlocker contains the body of the dead BF from the night before. So Jesse helping Tiff out is a little funny as they talk about the contents. Tiff then gives Jesse some advice: "A woman spends all day slaving over a hot stove for a man, the least he can do is the dishes." This advice will be recurring throughout the film, so fair warning.

Tiff comes back with a Bride Doll for Chucky to "marry". Chucky clearly isn't happy with her taunts. While Tiff watches Bride of Frankenstein in her tub, Chucky breaks out and starts on his revenge. This leads to her electrocution as the TV falls in the water. Chucky puts her soul into the bride doll to complete his revenge, and to have a permanent sidekick to help him get a body. Tiff freaks out at first, but once there's a goal (an amulet on Chucky's body in New Jersey), she focuses and calms down.

After calling up Jesse and promising to pay him if he delivers some dolls for her, Tiff takes this time to "doll" herself up. "Barbie, eat your heart out." Can I say the puppetry is AMAZING? Cause it is! SHE HAS WORKING DIMPLES! AND KISSY LIPS. HE HAS EYEBROWS! Jesse picks up the dolls with money on the brain. He picks up Jade and shows her the cash. "Marry me. I can put a down payment on an apartment. I'll get a job." "I say I do." She runs off to pack so they can romantically elope.

Meanwhile, Chucky is making jerk-off motions and snide comments (some fatphobic). Tiff, on the other hand smacking Chucky for being rude and commenting on how romantic it is. How did these two get together again? Kincaid, who we thought wasn't at home, tries to break into Jesse's van to plant weed (ACAB). Jesse is smart and LOCKED his van, so Kincaid has to go get the Car Lockout Tool. This gives our lovable serial killers some time to prepare quite a lethal scare. Chucky and Tiffany stab Kincaid with airbag-powered nails and toss him into a convenient bench-seat-chest. Jesse and Jade drive off, none the wiser.

Unfortunately, it's not long until Kincaid's lackey pulls them over under Kincaid's earlier order. Jade begs him to let them go. "Is it part of your usual salary to follow us around, or does my uncle pay you extra?" "Extra." (Fuckin ACAB.) Jade takes a swing at Needlenose the Cop while Chucky gets high off the planted evidence baggie. While Needlenose goes through the van, Chucky throws the bag to distract him from looking at Kincaid's "hidey-hole". It works... unfortunately.

Chucky takes matters into his own hands, as usual, and blows up the cop-car with a shirt in the gastank and a lighter as a fuse. Needlenose goes out screaming soprano. Jesse and Jade book it out of there. Now comes the interesting part: no one knows who did it. Jade thinks it was Jesse. Jesse thinks it was Jade. David thinks it might be both of them. Or neither? The news is saying that Bailey's lighter was found at Needlenose's car. Hmmm! Jade and Jesse stop to get eloped, and Chucky and Tiff talk about how they plan to take over the couple's bodies. It's interrupted with Kincaid popping out of the chest, screaming at living dolls! Tiff screams for Chucky to kill it, like if he was a spider.

While Jade and Jesse try to figure out what kind of murders are going on and who is doing them, a random couple come in and aggressively assert themselves into their room. Turns out, they're a couple of con artists who Tiff finds stealing from Jesse. Not cool. Tiff whispers to Chucky that the female thief "doesn't deserve to wear that ring". Tiff has an odd black-and-white view of love and relationships that I feel is worth going into. Tiff is a romantic who believes in sex-only-with-love. No casual one-night stands in her book. These thieves seemed ready to sleep with strangers if they were prepared to swing that way. Not to mention they was messing with Tiff's ride. They are dead meat.

We also get an odd look into the thieving couple as she bickers that he didn't take her to the right hotel where they could get better marks. A relationship where the man takes the woman for granted? That's another no-no in Tiff's book! Tiff kills them by throwing a glass bottle into the mirrored ceiling over their waterbed. As the waves of bloody water lap at his shoes, Chucky looks to Tiff and proclaims his love. He grabs the woman's ring and proposes right there. Tiff cries happy tears.

Tiff: "Wait, I'm crying! I wonder if all the plumbing works."
Chucky: "I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like Pinocchio over here. I am anatomically correct, ya know."
Tiff: "Oooh!"

Jade calls David to vent about her feelings. She's interrupted by Jesse calling David so he can do the same thing. They both believe the other is a murderer, but don't want to send for the cops. David finds this hilarious, I think. Jade and Jesse are woken by housekeeping screaming at finding the Dolls' handiwork. They still believe the other did it, to the point of trying to have the healthy conversation of "I love you, but this is breaching a limit". David interrupts with a jump-scare. David travels with them to explain that both Jade and Jesse have a terrible misunderstanding and NEITHER of them are murderers. In fact, David thinks that KINCAID is the murderer as he's only "missing" as far as anyone knows! Not a bad story!

Unfortunately, David finds Kincaid's body stashed in the very van they're riding in (Jade and Jesse don't know about this) and panics. He grabs Kincaid's gun and forces them to pull over. Now he believes they're both killers! However, the Dolls' pull out their own guns (from the thieves?) to reveal themselves. [cw: bury the gays trope] When David sees the two dolls come to life, he freaks out so hard, he steps into highway traffic. An 18-wheeler runs over him, taking him out of this movie for good. (I like to think he was rushed to the hospital and got a hot nurse boyfriend.)

The dolls take charge and evade any police on their tail. Jade and Jesse get monologued at about the whole plan to move into their bodies. Afterwards, they kill an old couple to steal their RV. The police are looking for the van, after all. We see Tiff moving around the RV, cooking and baking for Chucky while dressing Jade up in makeup that Tiff likes. Jesse, the current driver, sees how the dishes are piling up and gets a clever plan.

Chucky: "If I'd known that marriage was so great, I would've NEVER waited this long to tie the knot!"
Jesse: "Not much of a housekeeper."
Chucky: "Tiff! Those dishes aren't going to wash themselves."
Jade: "You were nice enough to cook. Least he can do is wash."

Tiff explodes like the goth bombshell I know her to be. Chucky explodes back and the screaming match begins. Jade and Jesse use this distraction to shove Chucky out the window and Tiff into the oven. They used no words to coordinate this. Give them a hand, guys!! Jesse crashes the RV (oops) where Jade is still tied up, and a blackened Tiff springs out of the oven to attack. Jesse comes to her rescue and manages to get everyone out before the RV goes up in a ball of gasoline-fueled fire.

We're not done yet, though. Jade and Chucky run off while Jesse grabs Tiff and follows after. Chucky makes Jade open Charles Lee Ray's casket to get the Voodoo Amulet that will help the Dolls'. Jesse calls him out and the two men make a hostage exchange. Chucky wounds Jesse and gets two guns! He ties Jade and Jesse up while Tiff watches. Something is telling her this isn't right. As Chucky chants, Tiff asks for a kiss. During the kiss, she takes a knife and stabs Chucky. "Don't you see, Chucky? We belong dead."

Jade frees herself and Jesse, then embraces him. Chucky didn't like the stab, so he fights with Tiff for a bit. It ends with him stabbing her chest and leaving her to die. That was enough for Jesse to swing a shovel at Chucky to put him in his own grave. A cool detail is how Chucky is grossed out by seeing his own rotten corpse. It has no reason to be there, but it is fun to watch him freak out and squirm at how unpleasant his own dead body is.

A cop comes by, finding Jesse and Jade pointing a gun down a grave. When he looks down, he's very surprised at what he sees. Jade takes his gun and shoots all the bullets into Chucky's body. "I always come back! But dying is such a bitch." The cop on scene tells the two lovebirds to go home. He knows they didn't do it and will try to help them. He looks at Tiff, all burned and messy. When he tries to pick her up, she starts screaming! As she wails, her stomach bursts with blood and a small, sharp-toothed baby crawls out of her skirt, crying in anger! The End!

Holy Fuck, that ending is always so weird! Either way, that was a fun, comedic romp through a Chucky movie, and I was glad to be here! They knew how to use their Jennifer Tilly, let me tell ya! Great puppetry, great effects, great dialog, great everything! Worth a watch, indeed! 9/10, I didn't pull all the jokes in here, so you have something to look forward to when you watch it yourself!

Film Corner: The Silence & A Quiet Place

The Silence & A Quiet Place

[Previously on Twitter!] Dear Hollywood: Please stop casting hearing actors as Deaf characters. It takes me out of the movie so quickly when the Deaf character so clearly isn't, and it's almost always really easy to tell, so miss me with the whole "ANYBODY CAN ACT ANY PART" because that's not working.

We're watching The Silence on Netflix even though it has a hearing actress as a Deaf character AND the plot is bonkers-bread, because we thought it could at least be good ASL practice for me. IT IS NOT. Kissmate had to leave the room when they signed "sweetheart" (the endearment) as "sugary chest-muscle". Not the same thing! Not the same signs! It looks like they googled the sign for "sweet" and the sign for "heart" and stuck them together without realizing that "sweetheart" has its own unique sign.

Oh my god this movie is so bad? They've encountered the attracted-to-sound monsters (they look like little pink dragons) and they're sitting in their silent car trying to figure out what to do and they KEEP TALKING when they could be signing! They all supposedly know ASL!!

Setting: Monsters attracted to sound are killing everyone on earth.

Characters: Wholesome multi-generational family who all know ASL.


Why not just have them all sign and subtitle the signing the way you would subtitle any foreign language? Why are they talking out loud? Oh thank god, they finally did that: Stanley Tucci signed a sentence and they subtitled it. Thank you, Fictional Dad. (The fact that it took them THIS LONG to think of that is just!!) They're....they're randomly alternating between signing (good, quiet) and talking (bad, deadly) and it's....why would you do this thing, my friends. Why.

Dad (signing): "Listen. They can't see, only hear."

Daughter: (spoken) "Dad." (signing) "I know how to live in silence."

No? Honey? You don't? Like, Deaf reviewers have pointed out that Deaf people don't know how much sound they're making, because they can't hear it. It feels like they wanted her hearing-loss trauma to be, like, a special super ability and it is making me Uncomfortable. Several of you are telling me that The Quiet Place does this better and so I guess I need to watch that. (I had previously avoided it because of Pregnancy Trauma, but I can deal.)

They- They clearly wrote the words first and then tried to do literal sign-for-word translation. Instead of writing the sign language first and subtitling it with an appropriate spoken English translation. So, like, he just said "I know you may hate me for a long time" and did the sign for "long" and the sign for "time", but you wouldn't combine them like that. They did "time" as in a watch-time, not timeline-time. Kissmate says the signage here would be more natural to say something like "I KNOW YOU NOT-LIKE ME FUTURE" than to do the tapping-wrist sign for wristwatch time.

Mom and Gma are talking rather than signing, because... I don't know why, lolsob. There's some intrigue with grandma being on the verge of death due to mysterious cigarettes and an (asthma?) inhaler. They're very coy and unclear about it all. The family finds a house in the middle of nowhere that they hope to use to take shelter. The owner gets herself killed by dragon-bats so, hey, free house for our protagonists. They're still alternating signs and whispers. Mom nearly gets herself killed by dragon-bats, so Dad turns on a nearby woodchipper and the dragons fly accommodatingly into the chipper. What a convenient coincidence!

This is an extremely nice house they just inherited through contrived coincidence! Mom's wound looks bad. Gma announces that she needs antibiotics. I am wondering how you know it's bacterial and not, like, a toxin or venom or poison or whatever. Now they are signing WHILE talking even though the Deaf girl isn't in the same room, and there are bats outside, and I JUST.

Dad and Daughter have walked into a nearby town (how did they know where to go?) looking for antibiotics. A menacing man stands on a roof and stares at them. Surely he has better priorities than two drifters. OH MY GOD THE DRAGONS LAY EGGS IN PEOPLE'S TUMMIES. EW EW EW. The menacing man meets them outside and asks them to join his flock, "The Hushed". Daughter signs "he's weird" and I'm like...honey, he might be able to read that, you know.

Instead of wisely being like "yes, absolutely, we just need to drop off these meds first and then we'll come back to hear your sales pitch", Dad and Daughter blow him off so presumably he's going to swear vengeance and haunt them for the rest of the movie. Nobody in movies has any goddamn sense for how to manage an apocalypse except maybe Kurt Russell in THE THING.

Reverend Creepy has come to the house with 6 adults, so instead of inviting them inside (where they can surround and contain them) Dad goes outside all by his lonesome. I assume Dad will soon die. Cult Leader pressures Dad to "join us" and then adds "the girl is fertile". Kissmate is screaming. Dad walks back into the house. Me, I'd lie my ass off and be like "naw, her uterus was removed after a car crash" because fuck THAT. Dad comes back out with a shotgun that he can't use because, you know, there's dragon-bats. The cult silently mocks him and walk off into the evening.

Weird detail: The cult cuts peoples' tongues out, but... you can still make noise? So you're running the risk of infection or bleeding out, AND making it harder to eat, for NO benefit in terms of increased silence. At night during a thunderstorm, a little girl with a missing tongue (see: cult) shows up on their doorstep. Everyone tends to her while Daughter sleeps alone in her room. The girl has been booby-trapped with dozens of phones which start ringing. Meanwhile, a phone has been taped to Daughter's window. Chaos ensues and many phones meet an untimely end in a bucket of water.

If they care so much about fertile girls, why send a girl as the suicide-phone-vest victim? You'd think they'd send a little boy. Or a moderately large cat. I don't know. Whatever. Daughter gets kidnapped by cultists. Gma runs after them, manhandles the cultists to the ground, and screams to call the dragons to her. It's a very touching sacrifice, ruined by Daughter being re-kidnapped two seconds later. Violence ensues. The family stabs the cultists to death. Now they walk north because the dragons can't handle cold. Daughter's boyfriend texts her. She smiles.

Daughter voice-overs that "we know the vesps don't like the cold. But will they evolve and adapt as I did?" I- You- No. No. That was bad and it should feel bad. I won't watch A Quiet Place tonight, but I will soon, ok? It's sadly hilarious to me that after an ENTIRE THREAD about a movie being bad because the signing is balls and the Deaf character is clearly hearing, randos are still replying to me that "it's called ACTING! anyone can play ANY PART!" Clearly hearing actors cannot *act* Deaf, that's the problem!

Ok, I promised you all that I would watch A Quiet Place since it has a similar plot to The Silence but has an actual Deaf actress and not just hearing people pretending badly. Yes! Right off the bat, the first communication in the movie is ASL signed and subtitled. Correctly! Very pleased! Minor criticism so far: a lot of the camera work is close up on the faces so half the signs are lost, and therefore hard to follow. But they seem right? Righter than The Silence.

OH HOLY SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK. OH MY GOD. That monster was WAY CREEPIER than the little pink dragon-bats!!

Wow, they're really doing an amazing job establishing a family that DOES NOT TALK. Amazing.

Okay, um. I do feel a little like they're interweaving the tragedy of the apocalypse (real, valid) with the "tragedy" of the family not being able to talk to each other anymore, and I don't like that? I want MORE signs, if that makes sense, and less tragic silence. They... they aren't communicating a lot and I realize that some of that stems from the massive tragedy they've endured both in the general apocalyptic sense and in the personal sense, but it feels like *some* of that failure to communicate is because they tragically Cannot Talk, and I don't really like that. It makes me think of movies where disabled people hate their wheelchair because it's "constricting" when in real life most disabled people like our mobility aids because they let us *move*.

I guess another way to say what I'm saying is... The Silence had bad ASL (very very very bad) but they at least signed sentences. The people here, so far, are more...meaningful looks, nods, a word or two. Not full sentences or conversations like I'd expect. Hell, *I* use more ASL than they do, and I'm just learning. I love being able to use signs to communicate what I want when my stutter is acting up or we're in a situation where we can't talk. It feels *freeing*, not constricting, to be able to communicate your thoughts in more ways than one! Maybe the issue is just that this is occurring against a tragic apocalyptic backdrop. Maybe I need this in a romcom format.

Ok, they're signing a little bit more now, so I like that!

Madam, your water broke FIVE MINUTES AGO and now you have a baby, please explain.

Okay, see, The Silence had terrible ASL but it had some good ideas? They introduced the concept of "phone bomb" so now we're very curious why these folks haven't tried that. Set up a phone to go off, attract the monsters, and snipe them from a nest. Or dynamite. Or gasoline fire. We have IDEAS. This movie seems to be more about living with / coexisting alongside the monsters, and it feels a little like the humans accepted that and gave up a bit too quickly. ALSO, MAYBE CLOSE YOUR FUCKING FRONT DOOR SO THEY DON'T CRAWL INSIDE.

No, but all you needed to do was hold still and stay quiet!! How is that so hard!!

Ok, the ending was very boss, though.

Very good signing, extremely glad they had multiple ASL experts assisting, very pleased with the Deaf actress who was wonderful. Not sure what else to say so I'll just sign (ha!) off here.

Film Corner: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

We have a few hours until parents come, so it's time to watch Crimson Peak for the first time on Netflix. The live-action Alice in Wonderland actress starts off by telling us that ghosts are definitely real and she saw her first one when she was a 10 year old girl and it was her mom. I've been informed that this is a Ghost Movie I should be able to watch. We'll see.

OH THAT IS NOT OKAY WHAT THE FUCK. *coughs* Okay. Um. That was a well-done ghost scene. Terrifying without a jump-scare, which is hard to do and I respect! Ghost-Mom (who looks like a Femme Grim Reaper in a good way) snuggles up to her in bed and tells her to Beware Crimson Peak.

Kissmate: "Do I know that guy?" Me: "It's Channing Tatum, imagine him with space opera elf-ears." (Editor's Note: It is not Channing Tatum.) A group of catty women compare Alice to Jane Austen ("she died a spinster") and Alice says she'd rather be Mary Shelley ("she died a widow"). Kissmate: "She also lost her virginity on her mother's grave so go live that dream, girl!" Those mutton-chop Ariel sleeves on her dress, I die.

Her manuscript is read and dismissed by an older man who wants her to include a romance subplot because she's a woman. Stab him with a fountain pen, Alice! She's figured out that she needs a typewriter because her handwritten is too feminine and gives her away to the misogynistic reader looking for a reason to dismiss her. Then Loki's actor walks in. Kissmate is stammering. Tom Hiddleston immediately establishes chemistry with Alice because he likes her ghost story!

Tom is some kind of...clay baron? His clay makes the strongest bricks and tiles, but they've over-mined the area and have to dig deeper. Tom has a new clay machine that he wants to show off to...investors? The investors are dismissive jerks to him. "In America we bank on effort, not privilege." and I start screaming and laughing until I fall off the couch. Kissmate politely pauses the movie until I recover. American exceptionalism never stops being amusing.

AHHHHHHHH okay Alice's- sorry, *Edith* is her name, so I will endeavor to use that from here on. Edith's dead mother-ghost comes back to scream at her about Crimson Peak some more. A maid interrupts to say that Tom is here. Tom convinces Edith to go to a fancy dress party (that her father is at and that she didn't want to go to) with him in order to help him with all the Americans that he doesn't understand. Edith likes wounded puppies and men with sad faces, so she agrees.

The party-ladies are catty at Edith because they want to land Baronet Tom for themselves, but Tom only has eyes for Edith and asks her to dance. (Kissmate, gasping: "Is- Is this a Jane Austen novel now?" Me: "I'm pretty sure that (waltzing) candle has gone out a couple times." Kissmate: "It's a trick wick and let me have this.") This is great and we love it. The American girls are livid that Edith has snagged Baronet Tom with her blond and bookish wiles. I love the entire scene. It is so good.

Edith's Banker Dad doesn't have a good feel about Baronet Tom and his sister. He sends a private eye to check them out because "something doesn't feel right about them." Channing Tatum talks about latent images in photographs and thinks ghosts are a function of... impressions left in the earth and minerals. Or something? I am not following this technobabble well AT ALL.

Tom and Edith go to the park for a walk and his sister Lucille talks for a bit about how nature is just things dying and feeding on each other. It's utterly ludicrous and makes no sense and I love it? (Edith likes butterflies but Lucille says they only have moths where they live. The moths, she says, eat butterflies. But you just said you don't have butterflies?? Whatever, it's ominous and great.) Lucille and Tom have an Ominous Conversation about Edith being "too young" but Tom wants to go ahead with The Plan. We don't know what the plan is, of course.

At a dinner party, Tom seems about to propose to Edith but Banker Dad wants to talk to Tom and Lucille about the results from his Private Eye. Banker Dad says "that document" is why he doesn't like Tom. Dad explains no one else knows this, he's the only one, and if anything happens to him they'll get away scot-free. Oh, Dad, you're not very genre-savvy are you. He offers to bribe them to go away; surprisingly me utterly, Tom agrees. He breaks Edith's heart over dinner whilst announcing that he's leaving to return to England alone. For extra cruelty, he makes her cry by criticizing her manuscript overly-harshly.

Oh, there we go! Tom takes the next morning to murder Banker Dad in the baths. (Kissmate: "No, that's the sister!" I genuinely can't tell!) (Editor's Note: It was, indeed, the sister!) Meanwhile, I'm informed that's not actually Channing Tatum as the actor who is the Childhood Friend love interest, but they could be twins, my god. Tom wisely pretends to come clean with Edith, writing her a letter explaining that her father insisted that he "break her heart" and that he did so in order to prove to her father that he really loves her. Edith runs to his hotel room to find him. Edith has a brief moment of perfect happiness with Tom's confession of love before police show up to take her to the morgue to identify her father's deeply mangled corpse.

This morgue scene is troubling to me in ways I'm struggling to describe. Childhood Friend believes there may have been some foul play but Edith has an emotional breakdown and prevents him from examining the body further. Tom takes her under his sheltering wing. I can't quite get a handle on Edith's personality; she's wise yet childish, unfeminine yet overly sentimental, logical yet emotional. She doesn't like the gentry (calls them "parasites") but daydreams about the first Baronet she meets. I'm not saying there aren't people like this or that she's unrealistic, but it's hard for my autistic mind to get a...grip on. She's slippery in a way that doesn't feel familiar to me personally. I guess it's supposed to be innocence and inexperience coupled with trauma.

Edith returns to England with Tom as his bride, where the manor gates are rusted and the land is orange clay. The elderly servant who greets them reacts to Tom's announcement ("this is my wife") with "I know sir, you've been married a while." Ominous. A doggy shows up and Edith immediately imprints on it. LOL, I was *joking* when I said she likes wounded puppies!

THE MANSION HAS NO ROOF? No, no, no, I am staying at the local Motel 6. "The wood is rotting and the house is sinking." PLEASE DO NOT LIVE HERE. (Kissmate: "The house is literally breathing and bleeding.") Did... did he reveal all this to her first? Tom immediately runs up to his workshop, which is always a good sign in a young happy marriage.

Edith takes a moment to remove her hat, which gives her a glimpse into the local insect population dying in the corners and... a ghost in the mirror. The ghost takes an elevator up to a higher floor. Lucille shows up to say hi and is generally pretty frosty to Edith and refuses to give her a copy of the house keys. (Kissmate: "Is there incest going on? I think there's incest going on.")

THE PIPES BLEED. Lucille talks with Tom about the dog. It was "left out" to die and she draws a comparison to the scraps it lived on with the scraps they're surviving on. Edith sits in the bath and plays fetch with a ball the dog found. Did the dog come with, like, another bride in the past? And that's why it has a ball in the house? NO NO NO NO ABSOLUTELY NOT. A red ghost that seems very unsteady on her feet visits the bathroom to scream at Edith.

Edith wakes up and goes downstairs to talk to Lucille, who tells her about their childhood and their utterly terrifying mother. Lucille doesn't admit to killing mother, but her eyes tell us she has. Back in America, Childhood Friend sees that Banker Dad's last check in his checkbook was written to Tom. He broods moodily. Edith goes up to the workshop and like Tom's little toys, which causes Tom to kiss her passionately. Lucille interrupts in a very pointedly interrupty way. This is why we don't live with our incest-sister after marriage, Tom.

Edith wakes up in the middle of the night to find Tom missing. She goes out with a red candle to look for him so we know shit's going down- OH MY GOD NO FUCK OFF RED GHOST. NOT OKAY NOT COOL. Just- Just a red face trying to push its way out the door. Edith opens the door and finds wax cylinder recordin- NO NO NO NO. THERE IS A RED GHOST CRAWLING THROUGH THE FLOOR TOWARD HER AND KISSMATE AND I ARE SCREAMING IN UNISON.

EDITH GOT IN THE ELEVATOR BUT ACCIDENTALLY WENT DOWN INSTEAD OF UP AND THIS IS THE BAD PLACE. THERE IS SCREAMING. DO NOT LIKE. Edith finds an old travel case that says "E.S." and the name "Enola". Enola Sharpe? (Tom's surname is Sharpe.) Somehow we smash-cut to outside and Tom playing with his clay-digging machine. Edith runs to him and asks if anyone has died violently in the house. Tom puts her off without answers.

Tom muses for a bit then off-handedly drops that people 'round here call the place "Crimson Peak". Would've been nice to know that earlier! Or Ghost Mom could've been more specific!! Edith stands on the moor and sees a red ghost pointing into the distance. She wakes up coughing blood. WHAT. Is it the tea he keeps feeding her? THERE IS A RED GHOST IN MY BATHTUB. NO. NO.

Ok, look, I am not a superstitious person but if a ghost tells me to "leave here now" then I am GOING TO THE MOTEL 6. Tom and Lucille tell her that she can't leave the house (well, not permanently -- Tom is taking her on an outing to the post office) and secretly whisper "how does she know about Mother?"

The post office apparently doubles as the local Motel 6, and a storm keeps Tom and Edith there overnight. Meanwhile in America, Childhood Friend meets with the Private Eye. Private Eye has a newspaper clipping about a Lady Sharp being slain in the bathtub in 1879. If only I remembered what THIS date is supposed to be, lol. Mother? Previous wife? Gonna go with Mother. Ah, yes, there we go. Her own children were left motherless, et cetera.

There's also a civil document noting that Tom is already married, which is why Banker Dad wanted him to dump Edith and leave. The bride's name was Pamela Upton, 34 year old "Spinster", married to 20yo Thomas Sharpe. Lucille Sharp was a witness as was Benjamin Williams (the elderly servant who seemed confused?). The marriage cert is dated 1837? Wait, that can't be right. 1837 for the marriage but 1879 for the Mother's death? I must've read one of those wrong, sorry, hang on a moment. Ah, okay, the cert says 1836-1888. The witness signature is '87.

If he was 20 in '87, then he would've been 12 in '79 when his mother died. I think I did that right. One of the legal documents appears to be in Italian and Edith just got a mysterious letter from Milan. INTERESTING. Back at the post office, Edith asks if they couldn't leave the mansion forever please. She left *her* house, why can't he leave his? She names some pretty cities and he pauses meaningfully when she rattles off "Milan". INTERESTING.

Okay, I do not mean to be That Guy, but what does she SEE in this guy besides the wounded puppy eyes? Like, yes, Tom Hiddleston is very pretty, but what do they TALK about. ANYWAY, they have the Good Sex while Kissmate opines that the lesson of Rebecca and Crimson Peak is to know exactly who you're marrying before you marry them. They go back to the manor and there is SNOW ON THE FLOOR, I am sorry but MOTEL 6.

Lucille nearly has a breakdown at the two of them having slept at the post office and just about kills Edith with a hot pan. She recovers by claiming she was scared for the two of them being lost in the storm. Edith sees a key that says "Enola" on Lucille's key ring and swipes it. GOOD GIRL. I'm starting to think that these sorts of stories have to happen to young teenage / twenty-year-olds because at this point in my life I would out-bitch Lucille or Danvers or whoever you like. Like, bitch, get out of my FACE.

The letter from Milan is addressed to "Lady E. Sharp" but it's for Enola, not Edith. Oh god. Edith has a useful flashback to Banker Dad regarding all the places Tom tried and failed to raise money in. Milan was one of them. THERE IS A BODY IN THE CLAY WELLS IN THE BASEMENT but Edith doesn't see it. Lucille notices the Enola key is gone. She tracks down Edith and conspicuously leaves her key ring for Edith to put the Enola key back. IT'S A TRAP.

Edith combines the wax cylinders and a gramophone that she found in Enola's luggage. Pamela's voice coaxes Tom to say she loves her. Tom hedges and recites childish rhymes instead. Pamela's voice explains on the cylinders that all "they" want is her money for their infernal clay machine. Edith sees pictures of the dog, the tea, and... a baby? "The poison is in the tea!" Edith is smart enough to run for the doors, but a snowstorm prevents her leaving. She collapses and wakes up in bed.

Lucille feeds her breakfast while Edith refuses to drink the tea. Tom shows up and takes the tea away, telling her never to drink it. Okay. He has brought her Mother's wheelchair. Tom and Lucille have a fight about their Murder Plot and Lucille kisses him and insists that he never leave her. Meanwhile, Childhood Friend is at the post office and on his way to the manor. Do British people have food that isn't tea and poisoned porridge? NO NO NO THERE IS A RED GHOST WITH A BABY.

Edith is gentle with the ghost and asks what Enola wants. The ghost points through a door. Edith walks through and hears Lucille singing. OH, that's an incest handjob. Lucille pushes Edith over a ledge and six whole inches of snow broke her fall. She wakes up with Childhood Friend binding her wounds. Not-Channing is thankfully smart enough to notice that the wedding ring has been ripped off Edith's finger and is on Lucille's hand now. Bless him.

Lucille and Tom corner him, so Not-Channing spills the beans. Their mom was murdered when Tom was 12 and Lucille was 14. Tom is married several times over and has been poisoning his wives. Lucille stabs him under the arm and he bleeds out, thus removing my favorite character from the movie. Goddammit. Tom takes the knife and asks the doctor "Show me where." To...make it quick? or to fake his death? I'm not sure. Apparently Not-Channing is fine despite two stab wounds. Well, bless him.

Meanwhile, Lucille burns Edith's writings while waiting for her to sign her fortune over. Why is Edith signing? I would sign "FUCK YOU BITCH" as many times over as I needed. Ah, Kissmate is happy that he was right about who murdered Banker Dad. It was the sister. That's enough of a revelation to make Edith pen-stab Lucille. Tom burns the Money Paper and offers to Lucille that they can leave the bleeding house. Lucille stabs him in the face and he dies while crying tears of blood.

Lucille barrels around screaming and waving a knife at Edith and see? THIS is why I don't like ghosts! Vampires and werewolves would be HELPFUL in this situation, but ghosts? They don't get involved when you really need them! Again, I feel like this is why gothic horror really requires *young* women because if Jessica Chastain ran at me with a hatchet while hissing, after all this shit, I would laugh and ENJOY cutting her to pieces with my little butter knife.

Just go in the house and lock the doors! She can die of exposure out here! Laugh at her from the upper floor windows! Throw a chamber pot at her! Do you have chamber pots? Edith kills Lucille via shovel and walks into the snowstorm with a surprisingly resilient Childhood Friend, who I'm pleased to see is still alive. I assume they will marry and have fat pretty babies.

I do appreciate that movie avoided cheap jump scares! And I did like that the ghosts were red like the clay, that was good. I will say that I am a HUGE baby about ghost movies and this was nice because all the ghost scenes were pretty well telegraphed, there were basically no "jump-scares" where they come at the screen, and the music didn't "BLARGH!" at you too loudly. Like, we still screamed! a lot! But it was manageable. I don't know what to do with the Incest Murder Baby part, that was weird. Uh, trigger warning for a barely-mentioned dead baby in the past?

Just a reminder that this is the best post ever written about this movie: Movie Yelling With Nicole.

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