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The Marshes, The Basement, Anti Matter, Werewolves Unleashed, The Sixth Sense, Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker, and "Holly"
Horror Bulletin Weekly Newsletter #248
This week, We’ll look at four more movies and a short film. We’ll start with the Australian “The Marshes” from 2018, then watch “The Basement” from the same year. We’ll then stop for a wild experiment gone wrong in 2016’s “Anti Matter” and then go hunting with “Werewolves Unleashed,” a documentary that just came out. Lastly, we’ll look at a new book, “Holly” by Stephen King.
In addition, for our newsletter exclusives, we also reviewed:
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Book: “Holly” by Stephen King
“Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker” (2009)
“The Sixth Sense” (1999)
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Here. We. Go!
The Marshes (2018)
Directed by Roger Scott
Written by Roger Scott
Stars Dafna Kronental, Sarah Armanious, Mathew Cooper, Sam Delich
Run Time: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
The cast was good, and the production values were all excellent. It’s never clear how much is real and how much is supernatural; the lines are blurred, which is interesting. It’s slow-moving and stretched too thin, though. It’s not quite a winner.
Pria mentions to a coworker that she’s up for a promotion, and it’s going to be either her or Ben, but not both.
Ben wants to pick up some samples from the marshes, and Pria agrees to go along. Will is there, he’s her new assistant. They are all science students. Credits roll as everyone drives away into the countryside.
Will asks if he can get malaria out there. They stop at Darcy’s Petrol Station, and Pria talks to a man there who doesn’t approve of what they do, although she denies it. He’s a jerk.
Ben explains to Will that farmers and people have cleared out miles and miles of swampland to grow crops. They arrive and set up camp; Will points out that there’s no cell service way out here. The three take their samples.
Night falls again. Ben tells the story about the Swagman, a ghost that haunts the swamps. The next morning, they run into a pig hunter and his wife. They’re here illegally with no permit, and Pria tries to talk tough, but the hunter doesn’t listen; he’s the guy from the gas station.
That night, they hear someone in the woods right outside of their camp. In the morning, they find a pig’s head in their campfire. It’s three hours to the nearest phone, so Pria says they just need to get back to work. Will makes “Deliverance” jokes.
That evening, Pria and Will kiss and sneak off into the woods together. They have sex in the mosquito-infested weeds, and Will chokes her to death. No, that was just a dream. She goes outside to cool down, and something grabs her from behind. Or… was that a dream too?
Pria and Ben wake up in the morning, and apparently, nothing happened to her last night. Ben warns her about getting too close to Will, who is only a student.
Pria then goes off to get her samples alone. It doesn’t take long before she starts hearing things. She gets scared and goes back to camp. She’s had enough and is ready to leave, but Ben wants another couple of days. They argue, and he says he can be done in the morning; he’s been dragging this out for some reason. She gets angry and goes to bed.
Pria wakes up in the middle of the night, and there’s clearly someone outside her tent with sharp shears. She panics and runs off into the darkness, where she encounters “the Swagman” before passing out.
She wakes up in her completely intact tent in the morning. She feels terrible, so Ben and Will go off to do their samples, leaving her at the camp. Pria meets up with the pig hunter’s dog, but no pig hunters. She goes looking for the guys but keeps hearing and seeing things.
Meanwhile, Ben and Will are lost. They find their missing camera, stolen by the pig hunters. There’s a video on it of something killing the pig hunters. They all start hearing the Swagman’s whistle.
A naked man runs out of the weeds, but he’s pulled back in. The three science folks follow him and find him hanging from a tree– it’s the pig hunter! The three watch as the Swagman cuts up his victim. The man gets the pieces he wants and then leaves.
There is a great deal of panicky running and freaking out. Ben goes off on his own and is immediately caught by the baddie. They soon find him, hanging upside down. They can’t get him down fast enough, so the Swagman guts him.
Pria runs and hides, but eventually, the Swagman catches her. He smacks her and walks away, leaving her alive. She catches up to Will, in shock. “He’s feeding now. Once he’s finished, he’ll come after us.”
They set back off through the tall grass to find their camp but keep running in circles. Even when they know they’re doing it, they wind up back at the same place.
A snake bites Will, and he goes into convulsions as the Swagman approaches. Pria’s right there, but she doesn’t see when the Swagman takes Will. Pria walks through the swamp and gets leeches on her.
After what seems like hours of crawling through weeds (to us!), Pria finally makes it to the road.
A police car finally pulls up, and Ben and Will are with them. No, wait, that was a hallucination. Now the Swagman’s got her. He drags her off into the tall grass, kicking and screaming all the way.
It’s sort of “Blair Witch” in the tall, marshy grass. It’s got good atmosphere and a genuinely creepy setting.
How many days does a trip to pick up some bio samples take? They spent two or three nights there even before any action started. As a side note, they all wore the same outfits for all those days. I have no idea what a four-day-old swamp water-soaked shirt smells like, and I’d just as soon never find out. What must that sex scene have been like? Then there are all the bugs. Australians are tough people; I’ll give them that.
Was the Swagman a ghost, as Ben said? What kind of ghost needs to eat people? If he’s just a serial killer, he sure does get around in a supernatural manner.
It takes a very long time for there to be any action, probably too long. Once it does start, it’s mostly just running around in the weeds, trying to avoid a guy who may or may not be supernatural.
It’s well made, looks good, and has decent acting, but there’s not enough meat on the bones here. It’s just too slow and too stretched out.
The Basement (2018)
Directed by Brian M. Conley, Nathan Ives
Written by Nathan Ives, Brian M. Conley, Sean Decker
Stars Jackson Davis, Cayleb Long, Mischa Barton
Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was quickly monotonous. It’s overacted with the main guy working way too hard at it, seeming very forced. We grew so weary of it that after a while, we fast-forwarded to the end to see how things wrap up. It does have an interesting ending, but it’s a promising premise that was disappointing.
A man with the Gemini symbol on his shirt turns on a blowtorch as a tied-up woman screams, “I can change!” Credits roll.
We cut to Kelly watching her husband, Craig, play the piano. She sends him out for some more champagne. He drives his Lamborghini to a scuzzy convenience store and notices a headline about the “Gemini Killer Still at Large.” We see that he’s texting someone who’s not his wife. Someone in the van parked next to him opens the door and pulls him in. He’s the next victim!
Craig wakes up tied to an old-style student desk in a dark room. Suddenly, a clown marches in. Billy the clown plays circus music and juggles for Craig. Kelly calls on Craig’s phone, and the clown makes note of her address. Billy the clown eventually leaves Craig alone.
A policeman comes into the basement and points his gun at Craig. No, wait, it’s the same guy who was dressed like a clown earlier, but now he’s dressed like a cop. The cop leaves and is replaced by a detective with a hat, badge, cigarette, and the whole works. Yes, it’s the same man as well. He interrogates Craig, whom he calls Billy, about a murder last night. He knocks out a few of Craig’s teeth and makes him swallow them.
Kelly, Craig’s wife, goes to the convenience store looking for him. The clerk, Lauren, says they don’t have security cameras outside. She calls the police, who tell her that Craig has to be gone 24 hours before they’ll do anything.
Craig realizes that the “detective” he’s talking to is Bill, and that means something to him, but we don’t know what. Suddenly, he starts telling Bill what he wants to know.
Bill leaves but soon returns in a prison uniform, and he’s been waiting for revenge. At 27 minutes in, it’s clear where this is going, and I start playing games on my phone. I look over, and Kevin’s got two games going at once. This is a new level of awful. The prisoner tells Craig stories, but as viewers, we don’t have any reason to believe, or even pay attention to any of it, because Bill is obviously insane. He cuts off some of Craig’s fingers.
Kelly’s friend Bianca comes over; she’s the woman who was texting Craig about their affair. Kelly knows Craig is having an affair with someone, but Bianca looks surprised and puzzled.
Back in the basement, a “doctor” comes in to treat Craig. There’s a bit of gore as Bill sews the wounded fingers back together while speechifying all the while. Bill comes back again as a lawyer who’s trying to keep Craig from the electric chair.
<Fast forward about forty-five minutes>
Billy’s now wearing an executioner’s black hood, and Craig’s in much worse shape, drooling and apologizing to Kelly and recording his last message. The Gemini Killer lights up his blowtorch, just as we saw in the pre-credit scene, and Craig screams in terror. He burns off Craig’s head with the cutting torch.
Kelly complains on the phone about the police refusing to help, but then a very familiar-looking police officer comes to her door. “It’s done,” he tells her. Bianca’s on the couch unconscious, and she asks him to “take out the trash on the way out.”
One month earlier, Kelly talks to Bill about his acting. They’re twins, and she knows he’s the Gemini Killer. “I want you to kill my husband.”
This is like one of those acting classes where the teacher makes the student work through a handful of completely unrelated scenes and characters to see how good an actor they are for a stage play. These guys aren’t that good, so it gets tedious very quickly. Jackson Davis tries way too hard to “act” here, and it’s so unsubtly bad that it’s cringy to watch. If he really had multiple personalities, he’d be a lot more subtle.
Kevin says he could forgive this a lot more if this were an indie movie, but it’s not. This was a studio production that had a writer, director, and all that stuff. How this film happened is beyond my comprehension.
For the past nine months or so, I’ve been comparing all terrible movies to Skinamarink. “It’s still better than Skinamarink” has almost gotten to be my catchphrase.
No more. In the future, everything gets compared to this boring, overacted shitfest.
Werewolves Unearthed (2023)
Directed by Ward Hiney
Written by Chad Christy
Stars Chad Christy
Run Time: 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
Spoiler-free judgment zone
There isn’t anything to spoil since it is a documentary with no plot. This outing wasn’t as strong as some of the other works by these same folks. There were fewer witnesses with their stories, less history and lore, and it seemed a little aimless. It was a little thin.
We open with a group of “monster hunters” getting set up with wildlife cameras and talking around a campfire as the credits roll. They talk about having a bunch of eyewitnesses to interview about the dogman/werewolf creature in the Ohio and Pennsylvania area.
The first couple talk about hearing the “Ohio Howl,” which is a well-known thing that you can hear on the Internet. They’re very “spiritual” people. They also talk about how haunted the area is, with a lake that flooded an old cemetery. They talk about a legendary “rivalry” between the dogman and the sasquatch. She then talks about dreams she had as a teenager. They talk about meditation and doing rituals and bring in some other ideas that go off-topic.
The next man describes, in detail, where he saw the inhuman creature. He describes it as a huge dog standing up on its hind legs, walking across the road.
The third witness is located near the previous man. We very soon cut back to the first couple, talking about twisted tree branches and other things that have nothing to do with werewolves.
We then cut to the producer calling a prospective interviewee, “We are struggling to find really pointed dogman sightings.” The caller says that most people don’t want to talk about Dogman because they’re afraid to discuss it. They talk about old stories and legends.
We then cut to an old woman who used to run a metaphysical store, “but I didn’t believe in vampires or werewolves then.” She had a man come into her store claiming to be a werewolf. He was from a pack of werewolves from California, and he was on the run from the pack.
We then cut to the film guys exploring an old rail tunnel that might have a dogman living inside. They do see dog footprints
After another interview, the filmmakers hang out in a cemetery at night, and we get lots of shots of graves in night vision. They complain about it being cold and then go back to their campfire and pray.
The first twenty minutes or so is almost exclusively a couple talking about mumbo-jumbo and magic, barely touching on werewolves, and the same couple is revisited several times.
There are two types of stories here: first, the dogman, who is an animal who lives in the woods like Bigfoot, and then werewolves, which are humans who turn into wolves at the full moon. The stories are similar, but a werewolf wouldn’t be living in a train tunnel or building nests in the woods.
The production values are good; the audio and video are really well done, as are all the documentaries from Small Town Monsters, but this one is really lacking in witnesses. Most of their recent releases have had reconstructions, animations, and other things that are interesting to watch as the stories unfold; this one has very little of that. None of the stories were particularly compelling or felt like anything more than tall tales. They feel like leftover, unused footage from their other, better films pasted together to release something for Halloween quickly.
We laughed out loud at some of the stories, not because they were meant to be funny. I’d recommend watching “The Dogman Triangle: Werewolves in the Lone Star State” instead.
Anti Matter (2016)
Directed by Keir Burrows
Written by Keir Burrows
Stars Yaiza Figueroa, Philippa Carson, Tom Barber-Duffy
Run Time: 1 Hour, 49 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This had an interesting start and finish with a stretch in the middle that was a bit too stretched. The acting is fine, and the story is at least interesting, but it starts to crumble a bit when you think deeply about it. It was hit-and-miss overall.
We begin in Oxford, England, where a woman listens to an audio tape of Ana and her mother. We flashback to Ana and her mother, twenty-two years earlier in Florida. We see that someone is holding a gun to the woman’s head. Credits roll.
Ana is now grown up and a student at Oxford. She’s working on electromagnetic pulse tests for her thesis. Most of her experiments don’t do anything until test 7.17. She’s made an electron disappear– success! Nate says she couldn’t have made it disappear, so it must have simply moved somewhere. She repeats it for him, and he says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Nate brings in Liv, a hacker-type who talks about distributed computing and computer worms that will get them all the computer power they could need. With the added power, they can now make larger and larger items “go” somewhere. They use three axes in their machine, but Liv suggests they can use that to calibrate where the items will move to. Boom- it teleports. This could be the biggest discovery of all time!
They build a bigger machine. They try it on a caterpillar, and it transports just fine. Then, they use Liv’s grandmother’s cat. As Ana finds a gun in Grandma’s office, Nate asks her out. Liv reports that Microsoft has issued a patch to break her worm; they only have time for one more big test. They draw straws, and Ana gets into the machine. Ana vanishes, and the screaming starts.
Ana goes back to the lab and is stopped by the animal testing opponents outside. She says she feels fine. They’ve lost all their computer capacity, but they do have some computer models saved until they can get major funding for a supercomputer. “Everything went OK, right?” Nate is evasive. Liv asks about the tests, and Ana doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about.
Ana calls her mother about packing up her stuff to send to her. She goes back home to find her apartment is a mess. There’s someone in her room wearing a monkey mask; she tackles him, and they both fall out the window. Ana chases the guy down the street, but she ends up falling down some stairs and getting knocked out. Her laptop, credit card, and passport were both stolen.
Ana tells Nate that she doesn’t remember anything after the experiment. What happened? Nate tells her not to worry, and Liv backs him up. Liv says the cyberterrorism agency has tracked down the source of her worm to the university and may start asking questions. Ana’s not even sure how many days have passed since the experiment; she’s forgetting things, and it’s clear that Nate and Liv are hiding something.
When she leaves the building, she sees several of the animal rights activists wearing monkey masks like she saw before. The leader of the group says Ana needs to do the “right thing” and then walks off.
Later that night, Ana goes back to the lab and finds a cable leading to a strange device. Nate calls and wants to do dinner tomorrow night. He tells her to write it down so that she doesn’t forget. She admits that there’s something wrong with her memory, and he blames getting hit by the mugger. He says she has an MRI appointment in a couple of weeks, but she doesn’t know anything about that. He says she’s told him all this before and that she needs to stop the investigation.
The Vice Chancellor of the university gathers everyone together. The Cyber cops have traced the worm to this very building. Mr. Stovington is from GCHCQ, and he’s running the investigation.
Ana wonders if she went through the teleporter, but her soul didn’t go with her. Liv and Nate are evasive. She calls her mother, who asks her for the password. “Is that really you? You said I shouldn't trust you without the password.” Ana has no idea what password she’s talking about. We see that Ana’s mother’s house is completely empty.
Ana starts doing library research about brain damage, memory, and the mind. She wonders if human memories have mass. Memory is electricity, and electricity is just electrons, and electrons have mass, so yeah, maybe.
There’s a break-in at the lab, and everyone thinks it was one of the protestors. Ana accuses Nate and Liv of doing something to her, and she thinks they’re trying to steal her project. She wants a maintenance man to open the door to the storage room, but he says he already gave her the key, so he can’t.
The police and Mr. Stovington follow her home for some questions. He knows she’s behind the worm. She hallucinated him and the sergeant as monkey-mask men. She refuses to say anything but tells him to question the others.
The mob of protestors is getting larger and larger. They confront her about the mice and the cat. They all start chanting, “Shut her down!”
Ana goes back to Liv’s grandma’s house and steals the gun. She then goes to Nate’s house, breaks in, and searches the place. She finds the camcorder from the original experiment and watches it. The teleport went off exactly as planned, but there was some kind of instability. She watches again in slow motion and sees that she was in two places at the same time for an instant.
Nate arrives, and she pulls the gun out. She shoots him in the neck and runs outside. She tells Stovington that she’s lost her soul, but then Liv pulls her into the lab. Nate’s at the lab as well; he’s not dead, just wounded.
Nate explains that the wormhole was open for too long. The gravity field distorted the readings. They had to figure out a way to shut it down faster, so she went through a second time. Nate shows her the rest of the tape. The second time through the wormhole, the machine cut out, and there were two of her. “You’re the light that got left behind.” She’s photonic, made of light. She’s not real, which is why she’s not eating or drinking or making new memories.
The storage room door opens, and the real Ana walks out. Real-Ana admits to being the person in the monkey mask.
Light-Ana’s mother calls on the phone, and they talk about things that she remembers. Her mother sent her an audio tape of them playing the piano when she was little; she plays it. This was the opening scene of the film. The real Ana takes the gun. Nate tells her that they’ve explained all this to her several times in the past, and it never went well, so they just let her wander around in confusion.
Light-Ana gets back into the machine as the real one watches. They activate the machine, and Light-Ana disappears completely.
Ana, Nate, and Liv discuss whether or not to proceed with their experiments. Ana tells Liv to hack the system and place the blame for the worm on the animal rights people.
The early part, with the experiments, is interesting, but after Ana goes through the experiment, we see that something is off, but it takes entirely too long to go anywhere with that. The second half-hour feels incredibly slow. The resolution at the end is interesting and unique, but don’t think too hard about it.
You know, it’s entirely possible to write notes with specific details that are more than single words. That would have cleared up a lot of Ana’s confusion. Also, I have never seen a movie where the animal rights people aren’t portrayed as lunatics and weirdos.
Why did they hide the real Ana in the closet and let the light-Ana wander around out in the real world? This makes no sense. Also, why weren’t there two cats?
We liked it overall, but it really drags in the middle, and you don’t want to think too hard about any of it.
Short Film: Consurgo (2018)
Directed by Luigi Comandatore
Written by Luigi Comandatore, Txemi Parra
Stars Nicola Acunzo, Dee Imbert, Emmett McCarthy, Liliana Molina, Ricky Syers
Run Time: 13 Minutes
A naked man stands on a stool to feed his fish as credits roll. We are told, “Consurgo: To rise, to lift oneself.”
The man then gets on the train and walks through the busy urban station. It all looks pretty normal. He stops to watch a man doing a puppet show. We see that our guy runs a shoeshine business, and surprisingly enough, that’s the creepy part…
Service workers are weird people, amiright? Some people take their jobs way too seriously. Everyone knows you shouldn’t bring your work home with you.
The man did, in fact, “lift himself up.”
The story really made no sense until the final shot, and then it all came together really nicely. Well done!
Hellraiser VI: Hellseeker (2009)
Directed by Rick Bota
Written by Clive Barker, Carl V. Dupre, Tim Day
Stars Dean Winters, Ashley Laurence, Doug Bradley, Rachel Hayward
Run Time: 1 Hour, 29 Minutes
Spoiler-free judgment zone
Like the previous sequel, this one doesn’t have nearly enough Pinhead or Cenobite action. It’s like they aren’t the main focus, even though it’s supposed to be a Hellraiser movie. On the bright side, it does have a little Pinhead, Kirsty is back, which is cool, and the movie itself isn’t too bad.
After the credits, we cut to Kirsty, from the first few films, along with husband Trevor. He drives poorly and ends up crashing off a bridge into the river. He gets out, but she dies. He later wakes up in the hospital. He wakes up again strapped down on a very nasty-looking operating table as a surgeon cuts into his skull. The surgeon pokes pins into his exposed brain “to help you remember.”
He wakes up again at the hospital with a full head of hair, so that either didn’t happen or didn’t happen recently. Allison, a doctor, is there when he wakes up. She says it’s probably the morphine for his ongoing headaches. Detective Lange comes around, and he says Kirsty is “missing.” On the way home, a barking dog scares him.
Trevor goes to work but has flashbacks. We get a flashback to him going to a dirty factory full of weird things. Trevor’s boss, Gwen, grabs him by the arm and gets sexy-rough with him in the break room– they’ve been having an affair for some time now.
Detective Lange now suspects that the car may have run off the bridge intentionally. Trevor’s starting to doubt his own story now. At home later, Trevor sees a dark figure in an apartment nearby and goes into seizures. A big eel comes out of his mouth, but when he wakes up– it was nothing. There’s a knock at the door and a slutty woman from the building flirts with him.
Trevor sits down and watches an old video of their anniversary. In the video, he gives Kirsty a present. He pauses the tape when Gwen comes over for more bossy sex. “Don’t make me beat you,” she threatens. He’s not really into it, so she leaves in a huff. Then Trevor sees something strange in his video camera.
A guy at work gives Trevor the number of someone to straighten out Trevor’s head. It’s Sage, an acupuncturist. He flashes back to meeting a man who gave him a strange puzzle box. Pinhead arrives and sticks Trevor with one of his own pins– or was that yet another hallucination?
The police call back and mention that Kirsty had a large inheritance, so now they think Trevor had a motive for murder. When he goes home, the neighborslut is all over him again; she wants to be tied up. He does so but, again, has weird hallucinations. Afterward, he finds bloody handprints on his walls and the girl dead in his kitchen. He goes to wash up, and then the girl is gone. He goes to her apartment, and she’s just fine.
Detective Lange wants to know about his relationship with Gwen. He says that she’s his boss, and that’s the end of it. He also has the puzzle box. Trevor doesn’t really remember it. He starts having more and more hallucinations. He goes looking for Dr. Allison, who may or may not actually exist. Pinhead talks about Trevor facing his demons.
Trevor walks home and watches his coworker kill himself. He then goes to Sage’s house, and she’s dead too. The police storm in, catching him with the knife in his hand, and arrest him. Trevor starts hallucinating the police torturing lots of suspects of various crimes and seeing lots of familiar faces.
Lange reports that they found a body in the river, so he takes Trevor to identify the body. Lange splits into two cops, and Trevor goes on into the morgue, which isn’t a normal police morgue. The walls split open, and Pinhead shows up again. “It seems you’ve reached the end of your journey. You must atone. Now it is time for you to pay the price”
Chains and fishhooks sprout from the floor and hold Trevor in place. Trevor gets his memory back. He gave Kirsty the puzzle box and forced her to open it. Trevor was just a tool to get to Kirsty, which is what Pinhead really wanted all along. Except Kirsty made a deal with Pinhead to get him five souls, and so far, he’s gotten four of them. We cut back to Kirsty shooting Trevor in the head, which caused the car to run off the bridge. In reality, she got out of the car, but he died. He’s the fifth soul.
Trevor uncovers the body in the morgue, and it’s himself. We cut back to Kristy, who told Lange that Trevor shot himself in the head. Lange says Trevor was most likely the man who killed those other four people.
Lange gives the puzzle box back to Kirsty; he found it in the car.
This was Kirsty’s final appearance in a Hellraiser film. This is the second movie in the series that feels like they made a whole movie and then decided to insert the “Hellraiser” stuff into it later.
Actors and directors sure seem to like movies where the main characters are insane and hallucinate a bunch of stuff, but they’re rarely fun to watch. It’s just a bunch of disjointed crap that happens as we wonder what really does and doesn’t matter to the plot.
It was pretty awful. Worse than “Hellraiser: Inferno,” and that’s saying something.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Stars Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams
Run Time: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a second viewing for both Horror Guys, and it was interesting catching things that were missed the first time around. It’s very well made and cleverly done. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t listen to or read our spoilery synopsis first. Go see it pure and uninformed.
Anna Crowe flirts with her husband, Malcolm. He’s just won a major award from the mayor for his work in child psychology. She says he’s sacrificed a lot, including her, to make such a difference. They’re both a little drunk and a little silly– until they notice someone is in their house. There’s a naked man in their bathroom; he’s one of Malcolm’s former patients who blames him for ruining his life. The man pulls out a gun and shoots Malcolm and then himself…
The next fall, Malcolm watches a little boy, Cole Sear, leave his house. The boy runs into a church, and Malcolm has to hurry to keep up. Malcolm catches up and introduces himself. Cole asks if Malcolm is a good doctor, and he answers, “I was once.” Malcolm goes home and finds Anna asleep.
Cole’s mother, Lynn, gets a shock when she finds all the kitchen drawers and cupboards open after she left the room for only a few seconds. Cole doesn’t appear to have moved, so how did that happen? We cut to Lynn and Malcolm sitting in the living room, waiting for Cole to come home from school. Cole loves his mother, but he’s not too happy to see Malcolm. They play a question-and-answer game where Cole explains some things. “You’re nice, but you can’t help me.”
We see that Malcolm and Anna aren’t really speaking. He apologizes for showing up late for their anniversary dinner date as he sits across from her at the restaurant. He says he’s having trouble keeping track of time as she silently finishes up her meal, mostly ignoring him, and grabs the tab to pay before he can reach it. She angrily says, “Happy Anniversary,” as she gets up and leaves.
The next day, Malcolm and Cole talk some more. Cole says he thinks he’s a freak. “I don’t want to be scared anymore,” he says. Lynn finds some papers that Cole wrote that upset her. Cole’s teacher says that their whole city has a lot of history; Cole says they used to hang people on the site of the school. His teacher soon thinks Cole is a freak, too.
Back at home, Malcolm is confused about a locked door to the basement where he works. At a birthday party, Darren and Tom lock Cole in a tiny cupboard, where Cole isn’t quite alone. His mother soon finds him but can’t open the door until Cole passes out.
The doctors all say Cole is fine. Malcolm comes to the hospital to see Cole, and Cole asks Malcolm why he’s sad. Malcolm explains that he once made a mistake with one of his patients, and he’s not the person he used to be. Cole says he has a secret. “I see dead people.” “Walking around like regular people. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead. They’re everywhere.”
Lynn finds scratches on Cole’s back that she can’t explain. He’s had cuts and wounds before, and she attributes it to bullying at school. Cole gets up to pee in the middle of the night, and we see someone in the house with him; it’s a crazy abused housewife ghost.
Malcolm talks to Cole the next day; Cole sees three dead people hanging from the ceiling at school. Lynn wonders why their apartment is always cold. She gets angry that Cole moves her stuff around and then denies doing it.
Cole tells Malcolm that he’s the only doctor who can help him. “How can you help me if you don’t believe me?” Malcolm remembers Vincent, the crazy patient who shot him. Could he have had the same “condition” that Cole has? He plays back some old audio tapes of his sessions with Vincent… Yes, Vincent could also see dead people.
Malcolm, now more of a believer, asks Cole about the dead people. He suggests the dead just want to talk. Malcolm catches a man he doesn’t know visiting their place. Could Anna and the man be seeing each other?
It gets cold in Cole’s room, and he sees a strange girl puking there. Cole cranks up his courage and asks her if she wants to tell him something. The next day, Cole and Malcolm go to the house of the girl who recently died. Cole goes upstairs, and the girl shows him a box. He takes the box downstairs to the girl’s family and gives it to the dead girl’s father. “She wanted to tell you something.” The man opens the box, and inside is a videotape. He watches the tape along with many others, where it is revealed that her mother had been feeding her poison.
Cole suggests that Malcolm could try talking to his wife in her sleep; “She’ll listen to you, and she won’t even know it.” “I’m not going to see you anymore, am I?” Malcolm has done his job; Cole isn’t afraid of the dead people anymore– he knows how to handle them.
Cole tells Lynn that he’s ready to talk to her now and tell her his secrets. He tells her about the dead person standing next to the car. He tells her some things he shouldn’t be able to know about her own mother, and she believes him.
Malcolm goes home to Anna, who is watching old wedding videos. She’s asleep, and he does talk. She mutters, “I miss you. Why did you leave me?” We cut back to Cole: “I see dead people. They don’t know they’re dead.” Malcolm suddenly realizes it when his wedding ring Anna was holding hits the floor: he’s been dead all along. We flash back to the shooting a few months back, and Malcolm died from it.
“I think I can go now. I just needed to do a couple of things.” He says goodbye, and so does she, still asleep.
This is really well made. It’s got good character drama and a weird situation, but it seems that it’s all leading up to something, and of course, it is. This was only my second time watching this, and a lot of things are noticeable on the second viewing that are obvious, but I never picked up on the first viewing.
The acting, directing, and really, everything here is good, but it’s the ending that really makes the film.
…and it’s absolutely worth a rewatch if you’ve seen it before.
Book Review: Holly by Stephen King (2023)
Written by Stephen King
Buy it: Amazon Link
Holly Gibney is a private investigator, first introduced in 2014’s “Mr. Mercedes.” In this book, she starts investigating a missing young woman who had no real reason to go missing, according to her mother. As Holly digs into the case more deeply, complicated due to being set in the worst part of the COVID pandemic, she learns that the recent missing person may only be the tip of the iceberg. Could there be an actual serial killer on the loose that the police didn’t even notice?
It could actually be worse than that…
To be completely honest, I haven’t read a King novel since “Under the Dome.” I was in no way familiar with Holly Gibney, Mr. Mercedes, or any of that. Even so, the book was easy to follow, and any references to past cases and activities were quite clear to me. You do NOT need to read the previous books in the series to get everything you need from this.
It’s more of a mystery novel than a horror story, with the mystery turned inside out. We know who is doing it early on and gradually learn why. But Holly doesn’t know what we do, and we root for her as she pieces things together. The serial killer’s actions and methods definitely lean more toward the horrific, so be warned.
There have been some people who complain that the book is too political. It clearly doesn’t shy away from bringing in COVID, Trump, and anti-vaxxers into the story, but those things all really happened, and they are relevant to the plot, so I see no issue with it. I think setting the story in the middle of COVID was actually a really interesting thing to do, and it added a lot to the book.
I absolutely enjoyed the novel and recommend it to mystery fans and fans of Stephen King as a storyteller. For horror fans, it may be a little light, but it’s still very good!
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