Thursday 18 April 2024

Movie Review: Baghead (2023)

Baghead (2023) is a gorgeously atmospheric tale of female revenge masquerading as a run-of-the-mill horror movie.

Iris (Freya Allan,) a young woman raised in care and without a penny to her name, is contacted by her deadbeat father, Owen’s (Peter Mullan,) lawyer to tell her that he’s passed away, leaving his aging but still impressive pub without an owner. Having just been evicted from her own apartment, Iris thinks, ‘Hey, don’t look a gift pub in the mouth, right?’

But The Queen’s Head comes with a catch: there’s a woman in the basement.

Sort of.

She started out a woman, anyway.

Now, she’s an undead entity under the control of whoever currently owns the pub.

Just sign on the proverbial line and the pub – and the woman (who’s never named but I’m going to call Baghead for convenience –) is all yours.

Or… you’re all theirs…

Desperate, seemingly heartbroken Neil (Jeremy Irvine) shows up, begging to see her – and offers a big ole wad of cash to do it. Iris, who’s never had anything, finally sees the kind of future she’s never been able to envision before. That is to say any kind of future, funded by rich schmucks like Neil who are more than happy to throw thousands of bucks at her for a couple of minutes in her basement.

(Not a euphemism, though I’m sure we could make some kind of connection between women being enslaved by other people profiting from their talents but let’s leave that for another day.)

The one constant in Iris’s life, her best friend, Katie (Ruby Barker,) is the voice of reason throughout, warning Iris that they’re not safe – a warning that, in her desperation for something to call her own, Iris obviously ignores.

Well, not completely.

She’s a savvy, independent, modern woman. She’s smart enough, at least, to set out rules. To tell Baghead what she can and can’t do. Very smart. And the creepy-ass entity in the basement even plays by the rules.

Because it’s easy to play by the rules when there are selfish, twisted, cruel men in the world who don’t that are just too easy to manipulate.

Spiler alert: poor, heartbroken Neil is nothing of the sort.

The foreshadowing here is masterful and takes a second viewing to really appreciate. Like all evil men, Neil even tells Iris not to trust him.

Lighting is one of the areas where Baghead excels. I dislike this new trend in horror movies that goes for the too-dark-to-see-shit vibe. Dude. I paid to see a movie, I’d like to fucking see it, thanks. Baghead bucks the trend, being beautifully lit all the way through, using shafts of light in just the right places and highlighting details in the background for the perfect ambiance.

It also helps emphasize Neil’s decent into… well, his true self. As the mask slips and we see more of who he really is, the way he’s portrayed on screen changes almost imperceptibly until his hair hangs loose and wild across his face and the madness in his eyes is highlighted.

In short, the camerawork is beautiful – but not in an artsy fartsy, roll-your-eyes kind of way. It’s just cleverly shot and pretty to look at. I was most impressed by the way The Queen’s Head was treated like a character and given just as much screen time. You view other characters through The Queen’s eyes, looking down her hallways or through doorways and windows at them, making her a living, breathing member of the cast.

And no one in this movie is safe, even The Queen herself.

I cannot say enough how much I loved the ending of Baghead. It was satisfying in so many ways. You’re there, waiting for the moment Iris will be miraculously saved from her tormentor… but no. It doesn’t give you the happy ending you’re expecting – and I could have fucking cheered for that.

But then it got better.

Because you learn that the woman in the basement isn’t just a baddie for baddie’s sake. She’s been wrong a million times over. Like all powerful women through history, she was abused by men, killed when they couldn’t control her, and imprisoned when she just. Wouldn’t. Stay. Dead.

She was never the bad guy.

She just wanted her freedom.

Which was all Iris wanted, in a way, wasn’t it?

So I think it’s just absolutely fucking perfect that Baghead, trapped by the wrongs of greedy men, and Iris, trapped by the shackles of poverty, become one and the same and, in doing so, find their freedoms. As an Elder Millennial who’s watched the tide of women’s futures ebb and flow over the years, I cannot even begin to express the power behind that message.

The way forward, the way out for all of us is together, as one.

And, hey, if we have to burn our prisons down to get freedom, so be it.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.5/5)

Monday 26 June 2023

Code Orange: TK Maxx, Newport

Had our first Code Orange at Maesglas TK Maxx. (We actually started checking two weeks ago... we're sad, lol.) 

Mostly last year's stock but it has begun...

No, we didn't get anything this time. I do love the skeleton lounging pillow but £40 is too dear for me. 

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Sweet Home (2020) Series Review

The Evil Dead meets Resident Evil in SweetHome, an action-packed horror series from South Korea. As much I despise Netflix as a company - and I do - they actually do a great job of making foreign language shows more accessible.


This review will absolutely have spoilers so head back now if you don't want to know.

The first episode is a slow burner, but it has to be because Sweet Home is an ensemble show with a lot of characters to introduce. You meet the residents of Green Home, a rundown apartment complex, getting small pieces of their puzzles. As the show progresses, the residents - unexpectedly thrown together as the building in put under lockdown - get to know each other and form relationships because... you know, it's no fun killing them off unless it'll make everyone cry, right?

(Or, in the case of Woo Hyun's greedy misogynist, Seok Kim, freaking cheer.)

While most of the story revolves around Cha Hyun-su (SongKang) as he battles the monster growing inside him, many of the other residents have their own trauma, heartbreak, and complicated relationships. Take An Seon-Yeong (KimHyeon-Ok,) the long-suffering wife who eventually gets justice in the nastiest way, and paid killer, Pyeon Sang-Wook (Lee Jin-Uk) who’s more than he seems. My favourite character has to be the cheeky, disabled Han Du-sik (Kim Sang-ho) who whips up badass weapons for the others with whatever he can find laying around while cracking horrible jokes.

Sweet Home has all the post-apocalyptic fun and none of the tedious zombies – although, as usual, what the end of the world shows us is that people are more troublesome than monsters. Speaking of monsters…

You can’t fault the production value of this one. It has a deliberately kooky air that lightens what could be an otherwise depressing atmosphere. The CGI on the monsters, which are born from our desires and can only be killed if they’re incinerated, is well done. The Sweet Home monsters provide good jumps and plenty of gory deaths but can also be downright funny. The Tongue Monster has to be the most disturbing monster for me (because *shudder* fucked up mouths just creep me out,) while The Eyeball Monster earns the biggest chuckle.

Unlike most of the other infected, our hero, Cha Hyun-su, manages to regain control from his monster, which he finally unleashes to save the others. In the webtoon, Hyun-su turns into a “dark knight” figure. In the Netflix adaptation, on the other hand, his transformation is mostly limited to the arm that bears the scars of his self-harm and becomes what looks like a weaponized wing of blades. Instead of a dark knight, he looks more like a dark angel.

Whatever you want to call it, it looks freaking cool.

Sweet Home is a gritty, entertaining ride from start to finish, with characters (who, yes, sometimes border on stereotypical, but) you actually give a damn about. With surprises and monsters galore, it’s more than worth a binge. Even better, there are two more seasons coming (already filmed, in fact) so Sweet Home doesn’t have that one-and-out disappointment that too many Netflix shows are tainted by.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Korean manhwa to find…

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Sunday 26 March 2023

Book Review: Tentacles and Teeth (Consorting with Monsters #1) by Rowan Merrick

When I picked up Tentacles and Teeth (Consorting with Monsters #1) by Rowan Merrick, I thought, ‘It’s not my thing, but it’ll waste some time.’ Turns out… I must have more kinks than I knew ‘cause…


Tentacles and Teeth introduces a world where Fae and otherworldly creatures live side-by-side with humans. Humans, it would appear, they like to fuck and fuck hard. The main character of the novella is a confident, curvaceous human called Katarina who goes to a bar looking for exactly that… and finds it in the tentacled bar owner, Sid.

Gotta admit, when I picked up tentacle porn, I was not expecting one of the Fs in a FFM to be the one with the tentacles... but it works, creating an interesting dynamic between Sid, Katarina, and Fenn, the werewolf who can’t wait to take a bite out of his roommate’s feisty new girlfriend.

Still with me?

Merrick does a surprisingly good job of worldbuilding and character development in such a short time. Her world feels like a place you could step into, a place with history, culture, and rules. The characters were just as developed, well-rounded with individual personalities and goals. Tentacles and Teeth also introduces a myriad of side characters that you just know will get their own stories eventually.

And I’ll be there for every one of those.

Tentacles and Teeth is a fun and sexy little romance (yeah, there’s some wild fucking, but the relationship between Katarina, Sid, and Fenn is still sweet and respectful) that, at times, borders on the taboo when Katarina and Fenn finally get it on – in his werewolf form. Scenes that make me blush aside, Tentacles and Teeth is a good story that, really, could have been fleshed out into something more than quick smut. Although it lets itself down a little in that area, I still recommend this one for a steamy light read.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Saturday 11 March 2023

Book Review: The Antiracist: How to Start the Conversation about Race and Take Action by Kondwani Fidel

The Antiracist: How to Start the Conversation about Race and Take Action by Kondwani Fidel is a poetic memoir loaded with the kind of anguish I couldn't hope (thank the gods) to understand. It is not, however, what it claims to be. There's no call to action, advice, or guidance, which is disappointing. 

I'm happy to be a "woke snowflake." I know the stats, the names, and the dates. I've been paying attention. I'm already angry at the disparities between the way white people and black people, the rich and the poor, are treated in America. I already see how fucked up things are and that they're not getting any better. What I need to know is what, from my place of privilege (as crazy as that sounds,) I can do to help the situation. The Antiracist, despite its title, does not deliver that. 

Although The Antiracist is a powerful read, it isn't what I needed and not at all what the title offers. I would recommend it as a memoir, I suppose, but nothing more. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thursday 23 February 2023

The Rig (2023) Series Review

The Rig is a six-part series available on Amazon Prime. It focuses on Kinloch Bravo, an oil rig in the North Sea due to be decommissioned by the energy company that owns it, Pictor, that finds itself invaded by a mysterious, seemingly supernatural entity.

(As always, this review is full of spoilers so jump ship now if you don't want to know.)

Oil rigs are made for horror. They’re rough, desolate, isolated places unfamiliar to most of us. They might as well be foreign lands. Add the fact that they’re cramped places, with people living on top of each other for long stretches and you’ve got an environment just begging for disaster. Tensions run high. In tight spaces like that, minor inconveniences grow into lingering grudges – and that’s before anything goes wrong. Throw a monster into the mix…

With references to John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes, you’d be forgiven for expecting a whopping Cthulu-esque, eldritch beastie to be at the heart of the Bravo’s misfortune. I know I was. That’s nowhere near what you get with The Rig, though. It’s a slower, quieter horror but, strangely, I wasn’t disappointed. As these apocalyptic things usually go, the real monster is us. And, of course, monster gets what it deserves at the end of The Rig so, although there aren’t any tentacles or teeth, it’s still satisfying.

How’s it working out?

Not good for us.

Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, The Rig is still good horror. It’s atmospheric as hell, for starters. A lot of shows take a couple of episodes to bed in but this one gets under your skin straight away.

There are small signs of something going wrong long before the shit really hits the fan, with plenty of hints like lost signals to clue in attentive viewers. Then a mysterious fog rolls in, enveloping the Bravo (and making for some great imagery,) in and things kick off. 

I especially love shots of the rig lit up against the darkness of the fog at night. They're like something out of a dystopian hellscape and are particularly chilling. And, of course, having an "infected" member of your crew wandering around in that fog… not knowing where they are… with noises and distances being distorted… It raises the hairs.

It goes back to isolation. To cliques and old grudges. People who’ve already got beef take very little convincing when it comes time to mistrust their colleagues. So, when the fog clears, only to be followed by a shower of ash from the doomed Kinloch Charlie that acts as a carrier for the “attacking” ancient spores whose only mode of communication is… well, joining with the crew members, things get nasty very quickly.

Because people suck at communication when they can use words.

The spores’ (more super nature than supernatural) attempts to communicate, while a complete failure, are valiant. They speak in terms of mass extinction events, using circles to represent the times they’ve had to wipe the slate clean in the past, with a final broken circle to show our time running out. I’m not a total idiot (Honest!) but I didn’t realize what the spores were trying to say until Rose explained it so… yeah, as a species, we’d probably be fucked, lol.

The scary thing is that we talk about it all the time. There are always memes online about how we’re in the middle of an extinction level event, but we still have to pay our taxes, etc. (haha) but we’re obviously not getting it. The Rig challenges us to think harder. To really pay attention for once. Like… what will it take? Will it take the planet physically fighting back for us to change? If the fate of the Bravo is any indication…


Our inability to communicate effectively is just one of the many layers The Rig uncovers in its short but powerful run. That, I think, more than its low-key horror or stunning visual effects, is what I enjoyed most, that there’s so much happening on so many levels, all the time – apropos, given the setting.

I mentioned the relationships already, and that’s definitely part of it. With that thought in mind, I have to mention The Rig’s diversity & inclusivity. There are men and women, gay and straight, young and old. You’ve got strong representation across the board, which was a relief. And, as an added bonus, the women don’t face constant sexual harassment just for being in a “man’s field,” which I’ll admit I was half-expecting.

What can I say? The film & TV industry’s got me jaded as fuck, y’all.

Anyway… I like that you’ve got this traditionally ultra-macho place like an oil rig but no one bats at eye at different sexualities. Like, it’s just normal, yeah? Which it is. But you expect friction from the dinosaurs (which you get about pretty much everything else) but it’s not even an issue. There are queer characters without being queer having to be part of the plot. It’s normalized and thank you very much.

While we’re talking about dinosaurs, though…

The Rig acknowledges how hard the end of oil, steel, coal, etc. will be on older generations, on the folks who’ve never known any different. It shares their pain. But it doesn’t pander to them. It says, we know. We’re sorry that your day is done but this is our future, and we have to protect it. It acknowledges the pain of one side while at the same time one hundred percent making a judgement about the right way forward. There’s no both-sides-are-valid bullshit and I am fucking here for it.

Which might not even be such a bad thing – unless you want to be doing this when you’re 65 and the sky is burning.

You feel for the plight of the Bravo because the character development is so well done. Characters you hate at the beginning, like Emily Hampshire’s Rose, are the ones you’re rooting for at the end. Mostly. Some you still want to chuck off the rig. (Cough, cough, Hutton, cough, cough.) The Rig works because it’s so emotional. So character-driven. And it doesn't hurt that the actors are damn good at their jobs. It’s well cast with a lot of familiar faces from the likes of Line of Duty and Game ofThrones. I want to mention a few standout performances.

Owen Teale’s Hutton walks into frame and it’s easy to spot the asshole. (To be fair, he always plays the asshole.) You know the moment Hutton walks in that he’s going to be a problem and guess what… he is. There’s nothing redeemable about his character. From the beginning, he’s a liability. He’s selfish and delights in stirring shit. It doesn’t matter that they humanize him later on because he’s done so much wrong through the other episodes and I think that’s important. Sometimes, you can try to wipe the slate clean, but there’s no coming back from the damage you’ve done. You have to carry that with you. And I am glad they didn’t try to do that whole earns-his-redemption-through-death crap thing at the end. Massive pet peeve.

I have to mention Rochenda Sandall’s Cat because she’s my new hero. She’s so tough and no-nonsense. You know she’s been through hell, but she doesn’t let it break her. All the way through, you’re waiting for her breaking point and a few times you think she’s reached it, but she keeps pushing through. The old white men crumble around her, but she keeps her shit together. Which is why the end is so, so much more unfair for her.

(Doesn’t hurt that she kicks Hutton’s ass, either…)

And, of course, there’s poor tragic, villainized Baz (Calvin Demba) who just wanted to understand. To listen and protect. At the end, there’s really no need for Baz to die. He knows there’s nothing he can do. He knows that the collective entity made up of spores might not even let him back in. But he stays to try - and fuck if that’s not the  fucking moral of the story. Yeah, we’re all fucked... but shouldn’t we fucking try anyway?

Which is kind of the point, isn’t it? The whole point of The Rig seems to be that it’s too late.

It’s. Too. Late.


Hard truths, y’all. When the Doomsday Clock is just 90 seconds from the end, and you’re watching The Rig, and it’s giving you a visual representation of your own demise – the one you’re drinking and fucking and eating and buying like crazy to ignore – it really hits you. It’s entertaining but also fucking hard. It’s the feels. All the feels.

There are no fans left for shit to hit.

I can’t express how stunning The Rig is to watch. It’s eerily beautiful in places and just straight up enchantingly mesmerizing in others. I could watch the spores dance among the flora they created for hours. At the same time, watching Leck’s (Emun Elliott) tattoos bleed away as his fillings were forced from his teeth evoke a very visceral response. It’s hard to capture both a sense of otherworldly magic and pure body horror, but The Rig does.

If The Rig doesn’t get renewed because it’s too costly to make, you’d understand. That kind of SFX can’t be cheap. But I’d like to see it get another chance. Give us another chance.

Overall? The Rig is sombre but not despairing. It’s dark but not dreary. And it never does what you expect it to do.

I still would have liked a big fuck off monster, though… Maybe next time?

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Saturday 11 February 2023

Sorry About the Demon (2022) Review

Sorry About the Demon (2022) is a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy from writer/director Emily Hagins. It follows recently dumped serial quitter, Will (Jon Michael Simpson) who's duped into renting a house from whiter-than-white Ken and Tammy Sellers (Dave Peniuk and Sarah Cleveland) who see nothing wrong with striking a deal with the demon who inhabits their house: the life of their precious daughter, Grace (Presley Allard,) for the life of an unsuspecting stranger. 

"No money down!"

Too bad the demon in question, the unfortunately named Deomonous, doesn't much care for their choice in sacrifices.

Poor Will... I spent the whole movie waiting for Deomonous to say, "You are a loser, Will." The voice actor, Tony Vespe, has the perfect voice for a sarcastic symbiote. 

My childhood overachiever/adult burnout, neurodivergent TikTokers will feel Will's plight. (Or is that feel attacked by Will's character? Lol.) He's the guy who takes up a million new hobbies - or, you know... intends to... tomorrow, maybe - but never sees anything through. Until Deomonous sets its evil little eye on Will's ex, Amy (Paige Evans.) 

The thing I love most about Sorry About the Demon is how casually Will just copes with the ghosts who inhabit the house and are manipulated by Deomonous. Because, hey, any Millennial knows that living with a couple of ghosts is worth finding a cheap place to rent! Evil demon in the basement? Sharing the telly with a ghost? But look at the size of that house! Sign me the Hell up!

Sorry About the Demon isn't just customer service cringe and light slapstick. There are some genuinely creepy moments and, even though it never presumes to take itself too seriously, it still manages to maintain an eerie ambiance throughout the laughs. There are good fake outs and even better stings. I can't decide if my favourite moment comes when the female ghost reaches out from underneath the bed to grab Will around the throat (gets me every time) or when a kitchen cabinet swings open to wallop Will's annoying hipster friend, Patrick (Jeff McQuitty) in the face...

In addition to droll humour, sympathetic characters (except maybe Patrick, screw that guy,) and decent horror, Sorry About the Demon includes a couple of good nods to horror classics like Poltergeist and The Exorcist and even manages to wind things up with a happily-ever-after. 

Sort of. 

We stumbled across this one after seeing exactly no advertising for it, which is a shame. People need to be out there bigging up Sorry About the Demon because it really is one of those hidden horror gems flying under the radar. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐