Chilling Chat Episode 151: Tara Vanflower

 

taraTara Vanflower is a vocalist whose music has been described as ambient, experimental, and darkwave.

In October 1994 she became a vocalist for darkwave outfit Lycia. She married fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet.
Her debut solo album, This Womb Like Liquid Honey, was released in 1999. This was followed in 2005 with My Little Fire-Filled Heart.

Vanflower appeared on the Type O Negative song “Halloween in Heaven,” off their 2007 album, Dead Again.

She has also appeared with side projects Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra and numerous collaborations including Oneiroid Psychosis, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You, and Methadrone. The majority of her creative energy is spent these days writing. She has released Lives of Ilya and Violent Violet Part One and Two and will continue the Violet Series with several installments in the future as well as several other series that are still unfinished.

Tara is a fascinating woman and was kind enough to sit down me recently. We discussed the past, her writing, relatable fears, vampires, and her favorite curse.

NTK: Hello, Tara, thank you for chatting with me today.

TVF: Thank YOU!

NTK: You have a background in music. Do you feel it inspires your writing?

TVF: Yes. Though I also think that writing has inspired music. When I work with Lycia, I am generally given a piece of music to write to, so sometimes the music itself inspires the lyrics. But when I do solo music a lot of times, I take something I’ve written and build the sound around that.

I will say, other people’s music is an integral part of my writing though. I generally have a soundtrack of music in my head that sets a mood within the story.

NTK: What band do you listen to the most?

TVF: Wow, as of late I would say Chelsea Wolfe and Soft Kill. I listen to Drab Majesty and Black Mare as well. A lot of the music that inspires me is played by the same bands I’ve been listening to for decades now.

NTK: Did music get you interested in horror?

TVF: Not really. As a child, for some reason, my parents let me watch stuff on television that I probably shouldn’t have been watching so young…seeing as how it scared me a lot! But, I was always drawn to the old vampire films and The Omen…scared me to death but I was drawn to it.

NTK: Is The Omen your favorite horror movie? If not, what is?

TVF: I had a lot of detailed dreams when I was young about the apocalypse. I can still see some of the images in my head when I think about them. So, The Omen REALLY scared me. It’s definitely one of my favorite films. But, my all-time favorite movie is The Shining. Everything about that movie is perfect to me.

NTK: Is it the dream-like quality of The Shining which attracts you?

TVF: I love that aspect of it. I also love the lighting, the score, the absolute desolation. My favorite scene in the film is where Wendy finds Jack’s manuscript…pages and pages and pages of the same line over and over and over…and you realize right then he had been gone for a very, very long time. To me, that notion is absolutely terrifying. That this whole time she thinks he’s been more or less normal but THAT was going on behind her back. For me, one of the scariest things is the idea of losing touch with reality. It’s probably why I suffer from anxiety so much. (laughs)

NTK: You’ve spoken of your fears regarding writing and have said, “I rarely talk in detail about my editing because, truthfully, I’m insecure about it. Music I know and I’m comfortable with, for the most part. Writing? It’s like opening a diary. I am always fearful of people drawing conclusions and assuming things about what’s in the story. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to put yourself out there to be cut down.” This statement resonates. It’s like Jack’s typewritten pages in The Shining. His writing bares all. How do you use your fear and anxiety to frighten others?

TVF: That is all something I really struggle with and it’s hard because I have a pretty supportive base for my music. So, venturing off into writing has been scary, but also rewarding obviously. I think there’s a lot of moments in my books where the characters have to confront things about themselves, their situations, etc., that most of us either get to avoid or are forced to deal with and do so poorly. I think I write a lot of my own insecurities into characters (fear of death, getting older, physical insecurities, etc.) probably as a way to deal with it myself. I don’t know if I’m scaring others or scaring myself! Most of my horror, I would say, is almost more internal. That whole, “losing touch with reality,” thing I mentioned earlier…afraid you’re going to lose yourself and never come back from it. I also have moments where actual monsters are confronted, but I think the characters’ bigger horror moments involve confronting their own fears and realities. There are moments in a couple stories I actually went through, though amplified. I hope people relate to those types of fears.

NTK: Speaking of relatable fears, what’s your favorite horror television show and what’s your favorite horror novel?

TVF: Oh man, my favorite horror novel? Is it too cheesy to say I really just like dorky vampire books? (laughs) I just love it. I don’t care if it’s “good” writing or bad. Same for films. I’ll literally watch anything vampire related and find something enjoyable about it. As for good horror shows, I really enjoyed The Leftovers, which to me is horror. I like Carnivale a lot. I don’t know, to me, “horror” is a bit like being detached from reality rather than blood and gore and such. The Walking Dead, for example, was great but has gotten…um…not as great the past few seasons.

NTK: Are vampires your favorite monsters? Do you admire the way they deal with the types of fear you’ve spoken of?

TVF: Vampires are definitely my favorite monster and have been since I was pretty little. I guess because I’ve always had a fear of time passing.  I can remember being very small and sitting in my bedroom thinking about how everyone was getting older and going to die, and I made myself cry. Geez, cheery little kid. But for me, vampires have always represented absolute power. No fear of death. No health problems. Control of their environment. I’ve always sort of been jealous of that, I guess, because those are my biggest fears. I’ve always seen them as more of a sympathetic character, at least a lot of them. Some of the ways they’re portrayed are obviously more “evil” and less “human,” but I’ve always preferred the more human vampires, at least those are the kind I identify with. I envy their power and timelessness but also see the angst all that would cause, which I also relate to being the Gloomy Gus I am.

NTK: Do you bring “human” quality to the vampires you write about?

TVF: I do. To me, it’s just more interesting trying to figure out how a being with limitless time and a whole lot of power would deal with the same sort of human emotions and frailties we have. They have to have the same questions…why am I here, what is my purpose, where do I belong, etc., and to me, it’s interesting thinking about that. What would a being think who has killed countless humans, seen more years than any human gets to see—how would they react to change? What would be new or surprising to them? It’s all fascinating to me. A being that’s jaded and yet still discovering something new through someone else’s eyes unexpectedly. It’s all interesting. Of course, they would have the same types of existential questions humans have. Or, they would be deluded that they are all powerful. Or, varying degrees of both. It’s interesting to consider it all. I try really hard to make my characters react like people actually react. I try to put myself in their shoes and react the way which seems logical and natural to them.

NTK: Essentially, you’re creating a vampire philosophy. So many people ignore that aspect when creating vampire characters. I have to ask—what did you think of Twilight?

TVF: What did I think of Twilight? (laughs) Well, I actually read the books and thought they were entertaining enough. There are many holes and aspects that are illogical and cheesy to me, however, they were “fun.” The movies are great cheese! And, anytime I’m surfing the channels and they’re on, I stop if I can. Do I take it seriously? No, but I applaud Stephenie Meyer for doing her thing and getting hers. The bottom line is, I’m not one of those snobs that has to only like things that are “cool.” So, I can appreciate all levels of awesomeness, from Only Lovers Left Alive to Twilight.

NTK: You have a real appreciation for vampires. Let’s talk about some of your own. Earlier, you spoke of dreams. Violent Violet came from a dream. Can you describe the creative process from dream to printed page?

TVF: Dreams have a major impact on my life. I have really detailed dreams like movies all the time. So, a lot of times, I’ll tuck them away for future use. I had a dream one night that my friends and I were hanging out and this ominous stranger was around and vampires were running amuck. It was so detailed, again, I can “see” the places in my head still, and when I woke up, I started recalling it to my husband. About halfway through, I just said, “Man, I’m just going to write this.” It was too cool to let go. Parts of Violet Misery were also from a dream, i.e. the creepy pumpkin farm out in the middle of nowhere. I draw tons of inspiration from dreams.

NTK: You spoke of apocalyptic dreams. Do you plan to write an apocalyptic story or book of your own?

TVF: I haven’t really thought about writing in that sort of style yet. I think it might be too bleak for me at the moment. (laughs) It’s something I seriously dread, especially now that I have a kid. I don’t like thinking about being in scenarios like that. I just get panicked thinking about keeping my child safe anyway, let alone imagining what I’d have to do during a zombie apocalypse. (laughs) That having been said, who knows! Everything I write from music to lyrics to books are all about love and death.

NTK: What do you have planned for the future? Any new books, stories, or music?

TVF: We are halfway through the next Lycia recording and I have a couple solo songs coming out on comps and I contributed some vocals for some other bands. I have three books currently in the editing process which I plan to release at the same time because they’re related. And, then a couple after that to release. I have some vague ideas for future books but have been sort of avoiding them because I know they’re going to be complicated with interwoven characters and timelines to figure out. All of my books are interconnected with characters so it can be confusing trying to put them all in the right place at the right time. (laughs) I’ve got a full plate!

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

TVF: Oh boy! I don’t personally believe in curses! Is that bad? However, my husband has teased me in the past that someone cursed him because, back in the 90s, I made these ragdolls and stuffed them with all his hair he shaved off. That sounds super creepy now, but I didn’t think so then for some reason! Anyway, people bought these things and in the course of a couple years, tons of really bad things happened. Life altering things. The joke has been that someone took one of those dolls and cursed us.

NTK: Tara, thank you for chatting with me and putting yourself out there with your writing. It’s been a pleasure.

TVF: THANK YOU! This has been exciting for me because it is my first interview about writing. I’m so thrilled to be included.

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Book Review: Violent Violet by Tara Vanflower

Violent Violet is the most authentic snapshot of young goth/club life that I’ve read to date. If you want a look in to the drama, mood, and world view revolving around young, broken, baby bats, this is your look in.

Violet is an angry, jaded, tormented goth whose friendships and atmosphere cause her to spin out of control. Drug abuse, sexual violence, and drunken fights infect her world. Her savior could be a mysterious stranger she meets one night, but I was never quite sure if she wanted to be saved or not.

Roman is a man with his own damaged past. He’s quiet and mysterious, but when Violet gets into trouble with her abusive ex-boyfriend, he jumps into the fray and protects her as best he can. Usually a man that stays out of the drama, something pulls him into Violet’s despite his general distaste for her lifestyle in general.

Later in the book we meet Lux and his sensual companion Mylori, who are my favorite characters. As a vampire fan, I really want to read more about them as they hold the most interest in the story for me.

Violet is a deeply flawed and damaged character. While reading, I kept thinking how I wanted to smack her out of it, but being an elder goth, I suppose I have just outgrown her drama. She’s self-involved and self-destructs by making bad choices. Does her genetic makeup guide her, or is it a symptom of abuse that has created this world she lives in? Her drama with men can be explained in a simple line from the book, “No man she had ever been with had been kind to her.” A sad state, but one that she seems to crave as she keeps returning to this sort of man.

For those of you interested in this type of atmosphere: club life, drama, relationship train wrecks, you will love it. For those of you of the elder goth set, you might find the constant drama tedious. I have to say, whatever you feel about Violet while reading, this is a really good character sketch of a girl who does not comprehend herself. I think we’ve all known girls like this—or perhaps have been one—and all we can hope is that she realizes her worth before she self-destructs.

While this book does contain vampires, it is not inherently a vampire novel. The vampires do not show up until late in the game and while they are intriguing, they are not what drive this tale. This is a tale of a girl lost to her own faults and (I hope) going to learn some big lessons in the sequels.

Violent Violet is part of a three book series. All of these book can be found at Amazon.com.

Black History Month: Dawn by Alex Fernandez

A Review of the Webseries Dawn

by James Goodridge

Dawnthe second web series created by Alex Fernandez and executive produced by Giselle Mojica- Fernanandez, is about Redemption. A earthy visceral series with passion, intertwined with horror and witchcraft, much to this speculative writers liking.

With a real kick-ass theme by Jayson Dayall (additional sound track music by Erick Ekholm) the opening and closing titles are artwork in a stand alone sense. Dawn’s (Eva Santiago) journey makes for a interesting plot line. From evil to good, witch to vampire, and 1000’s South America to present day New York City she is still a child of the night and a compelling anti-hero. Victoria Amber as Dawn has the look and this writer feels by the end of the season after double duty as Dawn and as Viper in Body Jumpers she will have grown into the roles if not already. Anna Morck holds her own as Kassandra. In fact she holds her own so much that I would enjoy her in a spinoff series. The Hunter, played by Tom O’Brien, appears in episode 5. Marylisa Mata, as renegade witch Selena, brings a raw energy to the production.

What Gretchen Noel is to Body Jumpers I see the same in Luis Rodiguez’s character Enoch and that is a show stopper as we used to say back in the day. Funny yet you feel a sadness for his character which is a credit to Mr. Fernandez’s writing. The mysterious Caine and the regal Dante are played by Raymond S. James and Robert Youngren respectively. I look forward to more appearances as the series continues. Faith Fernandez as a Young Dawn is a jewel with potential.

Again, Mr. Fernandez’s editing and FX is top notch. While it took the second episode for the series to grow on me, I’m now hooked and can’t wait for more of Dawn’s blood work for god

*********      

 Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.jamesgoodridge headshotCurrently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

Author Interview: Lily Luchesi

 

Who doesn’t love a good vampire novel? If you enjoy reading horror stories with strong female characters, lots of action and maybe a little romance, then you should check out the books of Lily Luchesi. If you’re not convinced then check out our interview with Lily:

When did you start writing?

I started writing with the goal of making it my career when I was eight years old. I had a teacher who inspired me and made me want to pursue it. I’ve always been creative, though. When I was little I used to draw quite a bit, and act out scenes with my “imaginary friends”. As I got older, I just started writing them down instead!

What are your favorite topics to write about?

Well, I will always love writing about monsters and creatures. They’ve been an obsession for me since I was a toddler and saw a vampire on an old Scooby-Doo rerun on the Cartoon Network. But I write about many deeper subjects, disguising them in between horror and action. I write about unconditional love, xenophobia, racism, LGBT+ issues, women’s rights, and the growing violence in America (particularly in my home city of Chicago).

I like strong female leads who don’t look like Victoria’s Secret models, and male co-stars who support and encourage them. Real people are flawed in many ways, so I believe characters should be as well.

What do you like best about vampires?

You know, that’s harder than you might think for me to answer. I don’t know what initially attracted me to vampires, but now that they’ve evolved so much, I think it’s an unnatural allure for danger. Even if a vamp is sexy, they’re still deadly. They might be the deadliest creature of them all, yet humans are undeniably attracted to them. I love that power they have over the human heart.

What was the first horror movie or horror novel you read?

The first horror movie I watched could be considered the cartoon version of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, or possibly Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Non-animated, that would be Carrie (the original version) when I was twelve.

My first horror novel was YA horror when I was ten, and that was The Cirque Du Freak Series by Darren Shan (also about vampires, you can see where my tastes ran). Adult horror was also Stephen King, I got a used copy of Rose Madder for free and fell madly in love with his writing.

What are some of your influences?

Stephen King is definitely a big influence. I love how so many of his books are interconnected (like with towns, characters, even plots) and that he can bring fear over seemingly innocuous things like those wind-up monkeys with the cymbals, or a painting, or even your own grandmother. It takes great talent to be able to do that.

Other horror authors who have influenced me are Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Thomas Harris, and Darren Shan.

What do you find fascinating about the horror genre?

The fact that there are so many ways to scare people! And that fear doesn’t just come from gore and violence. It comes from the shadow outside your window at three in the morning, or the scraping sound you hear inside your walls when it’s quiet, or a strange car following you down a deserted road. Fear is the core of humanity, because fear fuels every emotion. Fear spiders? Kill them. Fear losing someone? Hold them. Fear failure? Work harder. Fear is everything and to be able to bring it, even a little, is power.

What are some of the works you have available?

I am the author of the Paranormal Detectives Series published by indie horror/UF great Vamptasy Publishing. The story follows mortal detective Danny Mancini as he discovers that monsters exist and are everywhere. In the first book, Stake-Out, he finds a vampire murdering a human and it sends his life into a tailspin. Angelica Cross, my female lead, recruits him to help the FBI apprehend the offending vampire and the series goes from there.

It’s not strict horror: there is a romantic subplot that plays a big part that readers discover slowly as they go through to book five, Last Rites. It deals with destiny and humanity and the true meaning of what constitutes a monster.

There are four books: Stake-Out, Miranda’s Rights, Life Sentence, Right To Silence, and Last Rites. The series is complete as it is, with book five being the “end of an era”, so when the series picks up again next year with book six, Skin Deep, it will be set further into the future after book five ends and won’t affect those original five books.

What are you currently working on?

Well, I just released my fifth book, Last Rites, on June 14th, and am now working on editing my December WWII urban fantasy release Never Again, which is a standalone spin-off of the Paranormal Detectives Series. It follows male siren Sean Wireman (whom you’ll meet in Last Rites) as he discovers his powers, and moves on from 16th century Israel, traveling over Europe, and eventually fighting for America in WWII, where he finds terrifying monsters being controlled by Nazis. It will feature some cameos of other PDS characters, too, for faithful readers, but will hopefully appeal to an entirely deeper demographic.

Where can we find you online?

You can find my books at http://smarturl.it/LilyLuchesiAmazon (I have plenty of other stories in anthologies, all of them horror)

You can find me on social media or my official site:

http://lilyluchesibooks.wix.com/lilyluchesi

http://facebook.com/lilyluchesi

http://twitter.com/LilyLuchesi

http://instagram.com/lilyluchesi

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7369101.Lily_Luchesi

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: SUMMER VAMPIRES!

 

Summer Vampires, Oh My!

By Kristin Battestella

 

It’s SPF 1000 for these pale undead tales!

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – The black and white patina of this 2014 Persian language spooky invokes a specific fifties or spaghetti western mood. Retro cars, big old TVs, and greaser styles are transposed to a modern, mid-century rundown and post-industrial bleak with kids begging on the street, unusual hookers, an old man injecting “medicine” between his toes, and icky drug dealers. Arash is already paying for his father’s mistakes and taking guff from the rich – but a deadly vamp with a demonic voice and a belying angelic appearance rolls into town, cleaning up Dodge and making things better for the downtrodden. Fine scoring with carnival music touches and rhythmic, edgy throwbacks contrast the stillness and topsy turvy gender roles, for the fallen pimp, collapsing father figure, and absent mothers have created a vacuum for our eponymous mystery and the dark power hidden under her chador. We know the fangs and deservedly gruesome will happen amid the slow build drama or drug and sex frenzy but not when, leaving brief squishing effects, mild blood splatter, and attacking crescendos to speak for the minimal dialogue. A well-behaved stray cat parallels the titular feline predatory, yet sardonic skateboarding adds humor. Arash dresses up as Dracula, gets some bad ecstasy, and meets the real thing but retains his innocence and kindness among the cruelty – the simplicity of homemade ear piercings is much more charming compared to today’s wham bam sex or moon eyes romance. It’s an unconventional mix of straight drama and simmering horror, however at times writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour seems unsure which storyline is priority. The quirky vignettes and dialogue are nice while other scenes are pointless and the silence or music does more. This should have been a short feature or a limited series – viewers want to know The Girl better but this picture can’t rely on earlier unseen shorts or companion comic books. With 100 minutes to fill here, the structure should have been tighter, perhaps with labeled character chapters and our vamp in both senses of the word connecting them. A sagging middle dampens the impact of critical scenes, and this feels more indie cool than truly foreign film – it’s almost faux foreign with no real cultural references. Audiences accustomed to frights a minute will also be disappointed in the handful of horror moments amid the isolated interplay and justifiable girl power. Fortunately, this unusual world gets better as the protagonists go forth. Her bad frees his bad, is that a good or bad thing? There really should be a vampire drama category, and despite its flaws, this unique tale using horror to address social contradictions is worth a look. And there’s a Bee Gees poster, people. ¡The Bee Gees!


Kiss of the Damned – This 2013 vampire tale feels much older thanks to a seventies style opening, video stores, Old World names, European accents, retro clothes, and bonus Montgomery Clift movies on the television. Ominous music, moody candlelight, and a bleak seaside house foreshadow the blood spilling to come, and the property comes complete with an un-tempting, blood disorder maid taking phone messages for her mistress – a lonely translator who’s never available during the day and indisposed until evening thanks to a “medical condition” where she can’t be exposed to sunlight. Wink. Intercut, handicam vamp violence and edgy, intrusive music or over-emphasizing flashes, however, are unnecessary, and melancholy pain with choice pop moments or ironic classical cues do better. Blue lighting, headlights, and golden interiors accent nighttime filming, creating a stylish mature alongside the frank conversations addressing how to chain a girl to the bed. Sexy turned killer teeth, wild eyes, askew angles, and violent thrashing elevate the alluring but dangerous as the heavy petting escalates in spite of the consequences. Reluctant Djuna knows this romance could be doomed, but Paolo wants to get sucked dry at both ends. (¿¡?!) Such erotic yet creepy may be too weird for some, but this realistic vampire relationship is refreshing and fast moving – the vampire turning happens early and the entire picture isn’t a dying for love question. More time is taken for the lifestyle details on living forever, heightened senses, and the charming couple that preys together stays together. Problematic sisters and centuries old sibling rivalry parallel the role reversals and too good to be true good vampire behaviors. Biting on the club scene versus love and living posh, sisters forgetting their mother’s face, cocktail parties and a close-knit vampire community discussing why inferior humans reign and synthetic blood isn’t FDA approved – there’s just enough gore and blood to recognize the messy brimming beneath the gilded surface. The tense debate on whether they are monsters or not and why they shouldn’t self-loath gets better as it goes on with bloody slip ups, saucy conflicts, sunlight perils, and deliberate virgin blood trickery. Although some scoring and editing are rough around the edges and debut writer and director Xan Cassavetes packs a lot of flash early on in the film to lure audiences, the likable cast and fine drama don’t need anything else. This would have made a fine long form series, and I’m glad the vampire genre is growing up again with films like this.

 

Twixt – Washed up horror writer Val Kilmer (The Doors) stars in this 2011 Francis Ford Coppola directed askewer set in a sleepy town featuring zany Sheriff Bruce Dern (The ‘burbs) and a belfry with seven clocks each telling a different time. One hear tells of twelve ghostly kids playing at midnight and a thirteenth child damned, and bodies in the morgue are free for the viewing since the serial killer’s calling card is a giant wooden stake. Bat houses are totally different from bird houses, and the abandoned hotel once sheltered Edgar Allan Poe. Val’s ponytail, Fedora, and drinking hit home the hoofing it, down on his luck author – his bookstore signing is in the bookshelf half of the hardware store! He’s asking for advances so his estranged wife won’t sell priceless literary collectibles, and Joanne Whalley’s (Willow) angry video chats tops off the backwoods humor. Old fashioned lanterns, fax machines, radios, split screen calls, tolling bells, clockwork groans, and wonky camera angles accent the weird nighttime blues, silver patinas, eerie woods, and decayed buildings. Distorted movements, slow motion fireplaces, skyline perspectives, exaggerate neon signs, specific red accents, and individual lighting schemes become increasingly distorted, and Elle Fanning’s (Maleficent) a mysterious porcelain doll-like girl. At times, the Sin City-esque style seems odd for odd’s sake, but the onscreen editor wants a vampire book with a story not just bullshit visuals, and a portable table and chair, ritual writing space, and blank computer screens wink at the select all delete that perhaps only writers can understand. Yes, it’s obvious we may be in an onscreen fiction thanks to the maybe maybe not dream quality, moonlit breakfasts, and imaginary conversations with Ben Chaplin’s (The Truth about Cats & Dogs) Poe blending the titular sense of time together. Is this the creative subconscious, a story in progress, or a purgatory limbo for our author? The interpretive subtext layers the warped atmosphere, but the busy tale within a tale, life imitating art twists end abruptly with typical creepy minister prayers, snakes, mea culpa, and literary catharsis. This isn’t perfect and probably too full of itself – nobody is going to red pencil Coppola – but this didn’t deserve to be a festival blink with a delayed video release. In fact, Coppola’s intentions as a live interactive film with different versions depending on audience reaction remain intriguing, making the picture either all dream, all reality, or all inside story rather than a patchwork narrative with pieces of each. Today, this choose your own adventure concept would be a water cooler Netflix event! Of course, the industry doesn’t embrace out there film making, and one also needs Coppola’s Godfather clout and financial freedom to do this kind of hobbyist release. Many will hate such uneven indulgence, but the oddities here are worth a look.

FRIGHTENING FLIX BY KBATZ: SWEET RECENT SCARES

 

Sweet Recent Scares

by Kristin Battestella

 

Ghosts, vampires, and cults, oh my! This trio of recent tales get the scares right!

 

I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in The House – Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair) stars in this 2016 Netflix original written and directed by Oz Perkins (The Blackcoat’s Daughter). Poetic voiceovers tell of a house being borrowed by the living while dark screens and period silhouettes come in and out of focus, creating an aged feeling for our colonial house, ailing horror author, and her jilted live in nurse Lily – who must always wear white, can’t be touched, and slaps her own hand for snooping. Certainly there are obvious implications with repeated phrases, solitary scenes, one side phone calls, whispering voices, and no outdoor perspectives to disrupt our attention from the suspect footsteps and undisturbed décor. Old music with ironic lyrics, cassettes, rotary phones, typewriters, static TV antennas, and Grateful Dead shirts also invoke a trapped in the past mood implying that the thin veil between life and death is soon to be broken. Shadowed, almost black and white shots and doorways framed in darkness make the audience question which side of the looking glass we are on – slow zooms peer into the dark frames or blacked out night time windows. There are shock moments, but the one woman play design is intense without being loud or in your face. Blindfolds, old fashioned dresses, mirrors, musty papers, and mysterious boxes increase amid moldy walls and suspicious characters from our author’s 1960 novel The Lady in the Walls – creating slow burn literary flashbacks, parallel self-awareness, ghostly uncertainty, and feminine duality on wilted old age blooms versus forever beautiful flowers. Is this a linear story or are the past, present, living, and dead blending together? Again, the answers are apparent with book titles and name hints hidden in plain sight. No one eats, sleeps, or bathrooms yet this ghostly rot and repetition may take multiple viewings for full discussion, interpretation, and analysis. Although there are some pretentious arty for the sake of it moments – not the papa Anthony Perkins scenes on the TV! – knocking on the walls, a flipped up rug, buzzing flies, and a will requesting another woman writer come to chronicle this “House of Stories” are atmosphere enough without run of the mill wham bam effects. This individual horror experience remains can’t look away intriguing for old school horror fans not expecting thrills a minute and those who enjoy a seventies, no concept of time mood.

 

Midnight Son – An aversion to sunlight, skin conditions, and the need for human blood make for a deadly quarter life crisis in this 2011 indie gem from Scott Leberecht (Life After Pi). There’s not much dialogue early – and the DVD has deleted scenes, interviews, and commentaries but no subtitles – yet the visual storytelling doesn’t need anything uber talkative. Interesting schemes denote the false night time light with yellow lamps, neon accents, string bulbs, blue kitchen designs, and choice reds as the doctor diagnoses anemia, jaundice, and malnourishment. Rare steak isn’t doing the trick, but the sight of blood on a bandage at the ho hum night security job gets the heart racing for something tasty. Early Google research moments get out of the way in favor of painting memories of the sun, solitary vampire movie watching, checking for fangs, testing for a reaction to crosses, and having a laugh at the clichés. Loneliness, street peddlers, deadbeats, and debt – life’s already down on its luck so what’s a little vampirism? The vampire vis-a-vis for drug use and life sucks may be trite today, but this allegory has an older, working protagonist stopping in the corner butcher for some blood by the pint to hide in his coffee cup. Companionship and fantastic possibilities can be found in unlikely places, and it’s neat to see just how many things a basement dwelling vampire can really do at night. Although I like his bed with the blackout curtains, this is a potential turned bleak world – the natural awkwardness is understandable and casually realistic. Jacob’s smart, talented, and just hampered by his…health problems…and an ER opportunist is willing to trade blood for a price. Rather than shock horror exploitative, we have an intimate, invested view for the increasing slurps, bloody makeouts, and desperateness. Quick camera flashes leave room for suggestion as bodily changes, night vision, infections, and love bites interfere with potential relationships, murder investigations, gallery possibilities, and you know, trying to get somewhere in life. Can you be a good and normal vampire or is amoral violence the only answer? Though plain to some with nothing super unexpected, the simple constructs echo the mature progression, honest drama, and self-aware focus without the need for horror spectacle. This is a fine story with a small but well rounded, multi-ethnic cast, and it’s one of the best same writer/director pictures I’ve seen in a very long while.

 

Sacrifice – Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black), Rupert Graves (Sherlock), and David Robb (Downton Abbey) star in this 2016 adaptation of Sharon Bolton’s novel beginning with brisk New York pregnancy emergencies before moving to Scotland’s great mountains, rocky coasts, and end of the world island isolation for an adoption. Standing stones, jokes about mistaking “runes” for “ruins”, and talk of Druids, Normans, and ritual sacrifice pepper the scene setting job interviews, hospital tours, and dinner with the wealthy, well-connected, but secretive in-laws. A dead animal on the property reveals a buried body, and our lady obstetrician butts into the police investigation of this bog discovery, studying creepy photos and x-rays of the corpse to suggest the victim had recently given birth before her insides were excised. Quality science, Tollund Man references, and flood clues jar against trow myths, unique folklore, and inscription evidence. The authorities don’t want to hear any of that old sacrificial talk, but these mothers and lady cops are intelligent women talking about history and murder rather than men or gossip. While the well-paced, multilayered investigations may build the spooky versus facts with suspicions and tense cloak and dagger, this is not an overt horror picture. The story here feels caught in the middle when it should have been either a straight crime drama or gone with all out fantastics. There are some plot confusions as well – who is who and all the details aren’t totally clear, leaving an abrupt end with serious unanswered questions. Fortunately, surveillance, shadows, chases in the dark office at night, and lights going out add suspense. Late wives, a clinic full of pregnant but anonymous women – who doesn’t want this medical mystery solved and why? This is a small island, and not being in on its secrets can prove fatal with dangerous bridges or fiery car accidents. Body switches, clandestine interviews, identifying tattoos, hidden passages, and bagpipes tossed in for good measure seemingly tidy the case, and a likable, mature cast anchors the maternal fears and cult demands of this unique little thriller.

 

But Skip

White Settlers – A city couple moves to a too good to be true Scottish fixer upper on a medieval battle site in this 2014 British snoozer also called The Blood Lands. After the usual cool opening credits, are we there yet driving to the horrors, a somewhat shady estate agent, no phone signals, and a move in montage; the very unprepared wife realizes she’s afraid of being in an isolated handyman house without power. Of course, her jerk husband makes Scottish jokes, refusing to let up on his bullshit attitude even when there’s a scary break in and unseen attackers. The outdoor saucy, surprisingly immature and incompatible couple, and nighttime suspicious are typical clichés, and the divine scenery, historical references, and great house are never used to their full potential. When the description refers to ancient battles, one sort of expects something wild like ghosts or cults and past meets present horror – not guys in pig masks angry at the new neighbors. It’s tough to feel any of the supposed English versus Scottish subtext because the horror is so substandard. Eden Lake had better us versus them twists, and I swear I just saw this terrorizing hooligans in animal masks trope in at least three other horror house siege movies. Although flashlights and fog make it difficult to see much of anything here, and our wife has to apologize to her asshole husband for her being afraid even while she’s the superior fighter. Maybe this isn’t that bad on its own, but it’s certainly disappointing if you are expecting anything more than Brits chasing some other Brits through the woods in the dark. Nothing here is horror sentient – people go back to check the still body, bads talk rather than act to create a contrived victim escape, and who trusts the creepy little boy for help? Hello, McFly. If you didn’t want any English buying your Scottish property, why not blame the real estate lady who sold it to them? Or the bank that made the price so high? How is unrealistically terrorizing and ridiculously kicking out the new owners so you can move in going to get rid of any of the real world consequences?

Kbatz: Buffy Season 7

 

It’s Very Messy, but Buffy Season 7 Ends Right

by Kristin Battestella

 

The seventh and final 2002-2003 twenty-two episode season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer certainly has its ups and downs with new slayer potentials creating multiple storylines amid the nostalgic series reflection. Most of the year is uneven at best with too many characters and a plodding pace. However Buffy’s big finale remains a sentimental must see for long time fans.

Vampire Slayer Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is hired by Principal Wood (D.B. Woodside) at the new Sunnydale High school where her sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg) attends. Unfortunately, there’s little time for construction manager Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendan) to work or reformed witch Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) to return to college, for ex-watcher Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) reports that potential slayers all over the world are being killed by The First Evil. The Hellmouth beneath the high school is stewing, putting vengeance demon Anya (Emma Caulfield) on the outs with the evil community and testing vampire Spike’s (James Marsters) inability to deal with his newly earned soul. As the public abandons Sunnydale, the small Scooby army is joined by former Trio hostage Andrew (Tom Lenk) and Slayer bad girl Faith (Eliza Dushku) to fight against the ancient Turok-Han vampires and The First’s ruthless disciple Caleb (Nathan Fillion).

The seventh season opener “Lessons” is a pleasing re-introduction to Sunnydale High School, its creepy basement, and the suspicious new principal with an office directly above the Hellmouth. There’s certainly some residual energy on the grounds, and it might have been interesting to stay with this renewed school paranoia. Let Buffy be the occasional adult as new school evils and fresh characters arrive to replace those departing. Scenes from the earliest seasons haven’t been in the opening credits for some time, but numerous references to prior Buffy years pepper the foreshadowing, soul revelations, and demons under pressure. Although the plot is convenient, “Same Time, Same Place” perhaps admits last season skewed too dark – the gang is down to Buffy, Xander, and Dawn before the Scoobies come together again for more yellow crayon reminders. Our main girls help each other heal in similar but parallel separations, and this unique episode with no billed guest stars shows what Buffy can do with a total bottle episode. “Help” also mirrors Buffy’s beginnings with invisible girls unnoticed and hanging at the morgue on a school night. The bullying and suicide conversations are slightly after school special, but in Sunnydale, it’s easier to consider the slayer way or something spooky rather than normal human resolutions. There are demonic twists for sure, but the cryptic predictions build real world life and work better than all the dark metaphors. “Him” does the high school love spell again, complete with the old Sunnydale High cheer leading uniform and A Summer Place music. Despite annoying Dawn moments and dated then cool lingo, this is a self-aware revisit with all involved in the crushing gone awry. In contrast to these lighthearted back to Buffy roots, “Conversations with Dead People” halts the paranormal life moves on potential with a solid mix of supernatural catharsis and deceptions. The isolated vignettes layer multiple foundations while the tension, possessed house, and too good to be true afterlife conversations remain intimate angst and personal horror.

Sadly, most of this season Buffy is disjointed with anonymous potentials detracting from the core gang. With only one big bad lacking the usual Buffy seasonal structure, this could have been a much shorter year, yet the previouslies each episode get longer. That two minute recap eats into an already short forty-three minutes with credits, providing less time for the important things amid ominous cliffhangers and toiling games. Cluttered characters and too much exposition add to the increasingly messy timeline – some episodes continue right where the action leaves off while others never acknowledge gaps in time. Continuity also plays willy nilly with a non-corporeal baddie touching people or objects, leaving viewers to weed out what is fact, error, important, or meh. It’s tough to appreciate the taunts and changing face of The First as actual badness thanks to tired scripts and an over it apocalypse feeling. Such convenient even lazy writing is surprising when Buffy is usually so well interwoven. Season Seven is undecided on whether this is a reset with the global youths or an inward goodbye wrap. Buffy is welcome to do either, but the apathy on choosing makes it easy to tune out now just as it did when the season originally aired. “From beneath it devours” mantras come up empty, and “Beneath You” is a filler attempt at combining good character conversations with monster of the week unnecessary. This is supposedly the bad before bad was even bad, yet it hasn’t been mentioned since Season Three and Buffy doesn’t realize this is The First until “Never Leave Me.” Pieces of episodes have great scenes, but “Bring on the Night” is all talk. Real world school cancellations and residents leaving town finally come in “Empty Places,” but Faith takes everybody to the Bronze, Giles doesn’t trust Spike, Spike doesn’t trust Giles, and peeps be disrespecting Andrew by stealing his Hot Pockets!

Fortunately, the girl power confrontations and women in charge conversations about much more than boys increase the Hellmouth consequences in “Get It Done.” Who The Slayer is and how the job can be redefined finally get back to the First Slayer roots – although such good pieces can be tough to swallow when the obvious First Slayer answers from earlier seasons are selectively ignored. Past slayer angst, vampires both friend and foe, period William the Bloody flashbacks, and motherly conflicts do right in “Lies My Parents Told Me” with deep seeded memories and oedipal mother/slayer sons kink. Not to mention the self-aware jokes on the speeches and confusions about the chip, a trigger, a soul, which one the military gave Spike, and which one is off, on, or making him kill again but not anymore. The wasting time arguing on how to argue comes to a hilt with “Touched,” but not before a speech from Spike interrupted by a speech from Willow cut off by a speech from Faith saying the time for speech giving is done. Thankfully, this entry is about each couple having their moments before the end, and it is indeed touching as well as groundbreaking with steamy interracial sex scenes and equal lesbian action unheard of on American television lo these fifteen years ago. Though commonplace now, it’s another reminder of how important Buffy The Vampire Slayer really is, and “End of Days” takes up the mantle with Sword in the Stone inspiration and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade old lady guardians. The bombs and magic weapons are slightly episodes of the week for Buffy rather than penultimate heavy, but old friendships are reconnected and everyone has their time with what’s really important – like explaining what happened to Mr. Kitty Fantastico! The series is able to say goodbye with a message on whether you win or not being up to you, but there’s a chuckle. too: “What’s your name?” “Buffy.” “No, really.” The prophetic gems and potentials come full circle in the “Chosen” finale by facing the fear of being alone with an eponymous army changing the call to fight against evil. Naturally, it wouldn’t be a Season Seven drinking game without one more speech, but a course of action is finally taken and Dungeons & Dragons is played in the calm before the battle. While some fighting and effects are hokey or crowded, there’s also a cinematic flair with superb moments from the original Scooby Gang – save the world and go to the mall. The slayers make the rules, take it to the evil, and kick ass. It’s an excellent culmination to the series with huge tearjerker moments and a totally fitting goodbye to the Hellmouth, “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign and all.

Kind of sort of counselor Buffy almost has a real job, yet she looks like she did in the first season – just with better symbolic white clothing. High school is a familiar setting, but she’s older, wiser, able to deal and admits to dating hottie dead guys. Buffy has some undead therapy, too, a sit-down examination on her inferiority complex about her superiority complex. The Slayer must always isolate herself, and Buffy feels unqualified for any proper life position. Good thing she has bigger Hellmouth concerns! She doesn’t want any legacy, for what she does is too important for the world to know about it, and Buffy becomes increasingly snotty and defiant despite doing little to fight The First. Her catatonic breakdown late in Season Five seemed a better crack under pressure with fewer roundabouts and rogue fighting getting people killed, and this disservice pulls Buffy a touch too far astray. Deep down she’s still not over killing Angel way back when, and it understandably takes Buffy sometime before trusting Spike again. Luckily, she comes to defend and rely on him, inadvertently confessing she previously had feelings for Spike. The audience has to conveniently forget that Spike told her about Nikki Wood in great detail as Buffy also seems to forget, but amid all the apocalypse crazy, these relationship pauses give Buffy the clarity she needs. Yes, it is a speech about unbaked cookie dough, however, it’s easy to forget how young Buffy really is because she’s been through so much. This time the end of the world is coming round and Buffy realizes she has her whole life ahead of her and it’s okay to not be ready for whatever else there is. She doesn’t want to be the one and only, so she faces self-doubt, embracing a new comfort in her own skin alongside a mature frankness with Spike. Of course, Buffy never was much with the damseling, but now she has to learn how to be just like everyone else.

 

Vampire Spike is on the case trying to unravel what’s happening in his own head in “Sleeper.” Double Spikes and The First’s non-corporeal switcharoos are confusing, but Juliet Landau’s Drusilla disguise helps make The First feel more real as Spike isn’t handling the remorse of his newly acquired soul too well and hanging out near the Hellmouth for The First’s taunts add to his torment. Spike’s crazy basement talk comes in handy, however, and his brief past with Anya is addressed amid multiple questions about his chip, evil brainwashing triggers, and his soul reprieves. His previous attack on Buffy is put front and center to start the season, as Spike knows he has no right to ask for help from her. It’s eerie to see him biting people again, reminding the audience his struggle over his previous villainy will get worse before it gets better. Does he still need to be on a leash or should his chip be removed? Spike drinks to avoid all the household’s human temptations but insists he is there to become good enough and do what Buffy wants. The Initiative chip was done to him, but he sought his soul, and Spike feels good fighting bad guys. He wants Angel’s pretty charm that calls for a champion strong enough to wield it. Spike, a hero, whodathunkit?! He remains loyal to Buffy, literally sniffing her out when she’s tossed from the house, and he’s not fooled by her seeming acceptance of defeat. Spike and Buffy have it out once and for all, coming to a deeper understanding of who each is and what they are together. Even if you aren’t a Spuffy fan – I love both characters but still don’t know if I like them together – there are some endearing late-season moments between them.

Unfortunately, I don’t feel sorry for Willow learning her lesson via a mystical English retreat, and it’s incredibly frustrating that this uber powerful witch who can poof anything better is knocked out of the fight and made awkward again over contrived can’t or won’t magic hang ups. Let her face the bad memories at home and get back into a lighthearted academic usefulness as in the earlier seasons, for Willow has no right to distrust anyone or call out others for any evilness. If potential slayers are making ready, then where are all the other magic experts and trainees for Willow to host or join? If all these characters are doing nothing, why not school other magically inclined people like Dawn, Anya, or Andrew to Wicca power? It’s as if Buffy doesn’t know what to do with Willow’s magic beyond the lesbian sex metaphors, but at least her relationship with Iyari Limon as Kennedy can be realistically portrayed without that wink. Sassy Kennedy acts tough, but the superior potential attitude feels try hard, and the spoiled rich girl is taken down a notch after pushing Willow to do more non-sex magics. Likewise, the uneven “The Killer in Me” is riddled with unnecessary Initiative throwbacks and a repressed grief Willow as Warren hex due to the new lady romance. Been there, done that, and still “So, so tired of it!” Thankfully, Xander has mellowed in his old age, becoming a single parent figure comfortable with himself, his job, and driving everyone to school. His past jerk behavior isn’t forgotten and Xander objects to still being called Buffy’s boy, however, he’s a firm voice of reason, fortifying the house in construction as well as alleviating fears with humor. Xander relates to the potential girls waiting to be chosen, knowing their struggle to be so near but just outside the spotlight. He repairs his relationship with Anya and trusts Buffy even as he pays a hefty price for his loyalty and refuses to let Willow magically heal him. Through it, all Xander’s in good spirits and ready to be there at the end – if only because it is his job to bring Buffy back to life after each apocalypse.

Anya isn’t doing too well as a vengeance demon and spends the early episodes as a magical support plot point before the bemusing Old Norseth speech, subtitles, and period flair of “Selfless” complete with a cute revisit to “Once More with Feeling” and an explanation about the bunnies contrasting her dark and gruesome vengeance deeds. Demon fun with Kali Rocha as Hallfrek and consequences from Andy Umberger as D’Offryn or not, Anya must decide which side she is on with wild spiders, lingering feelings for Xander, and head to heads with Buffy coming to the hilt. I’m not sure where in the series, but we should have had her backstory episode much sooner instead of Anya as merely Xander’s girlfriend who admittedly does little but provide sarcasm. She uses her demon connections, gets into the interrogations, and applies her poor bedside manner when telling how ripe and overcrowded the house is. Her hair changing stir crazy leads to some fun moments with Andrew, who agrees her hospital supply robbery with Jaws quotes makes her the perfect woman. Sunnydale is all kinds of screwed, but Anya isn’t leaving town for this apocalypse. Besides, she’s spot on in saying Dawn isn’t good for anything. The teen still needs to be rescued or babysat a few times, but she does seem to find her place as a junior watcher style researcher. Of course, that doesn’t mean her information is well received, and her idea of developing a demon database based on detective work rather than last season’s out of hand use of magic is ignored. She’s growing up and has some humorous moments, but it makes no sense how her mystical same blood of Buffy means she is not a potential slayer. Despite wise youth observations about no one asking for help when they need it or that is isn’t evil that makes vampires with or without souls love or hate slayers, there are just too many people making speeches already, and if Dawn was mentioned as being secreted away to safety with the unseen good witches coven in England, her absence would not have been noticed.

D.B. Woodside’s (24) Principal Wood is quite interesting for Buffy, a character not quite friend or foe who should have been used more – even as a suspected mini bad for the first half of the season. Wood knows more about Buffy than he admits, calling her school record checkered while he describes himself as a snappy dressing, sexy vampire fighting guy. He knows Spike is a liability but lets his personal history with the vampire cloud his judgment as they begrudgingly fight alongside each other. Sadly, Wood ends up just kind of there, with too much busy and inconsistency in “First Date” interfering with his revelations. I still also want more of Eliza Dushku as Faith, an inexplicably late arrival to Season Seven who’s right that she should have gotten the FYI on The First. Faith opines that Buffy protecting vampires makes her the bad slayer and now she is the good one who chose to serve her time. It’s delightful to see her really meet Spike not exactly for the first time, and their bantering about who is the more reformed bad – not to mention Faith’s chemistry with Spike and Wood – was spin off worthy for sure. The best parts of “Dirty Girls” are the ones without Buffy, and the good and evil religious parallels add to the saucy and Faith’s kinky reminiscing. Buffy should have used the lingering resentment between who is the real slayer in charge to the fullest, and The First appearing as Harry Groener’s Mayor Wilkins helps Faith face her past. She admits she enjoys being part of something bigger, even if a weapon that could be hers of course really belongs to Buffy, and in the end, Faith goes from defensive about her slayer burden to encouraging the man interested to “have a little faith.”

I recall Nathan Fillion’s (Firefly) Caleb as being more important than he actually is, and his evil priest with the dirty slayer girls metaphors also could have been a mini bad face to The First early in the season instead of a mere five episodes late. Caleb has some great warped sermons with evil reversions on the Last Supper, communion, wine, and blood. His misplaced righteous defines who’s good, bad, clean or bad folk. Unfortunately, the hammy quips are too tired, and explanations on his mergings with The First to gain his super strength are almost an afterthought in the second to the last episode. So, The First wants to make all humans soulless with such merges but needs a buried ancient weapon to do this slayer mojo reversion. We could have used that information just a little bit sooner. Likewise annoying, sorry not sorry to say, are the potential slayers – Amanda, Annabelle, Molly, Kennedy, Rona, Vi, Chao-Ahn, Chloe, Eve, Colleen, Shannon, Laverne & Shirley. Even Buffy can’t remember the names of what is said to be thirty odd cardboard placeholders with iffy accents and terrible style. Their number, abilities, who they are, where they sleep, and who did or didn’t tell who what and when remains ridiculously confusing. The potentials admit to having squat in “Showtime,” and the desperately unprepared girls are a terrible little army with entire scenes of fearful debates on their said unpreparedness. Buffy takes too long to realize the slayer line changes and First impostors infiltrate the unknowns far too easily. By “Potential” Spike’s trigger is still in doubt yet he gets neck and neck with these girls during their little slayer boot camp. School and training are unrealistically balanced, as are bruises and injuries so serious one episode but gone the next. As the first episode aired after the series’ winter break, “Potential” also resets any strides made with more round and round vampire studies that ultimately go nowhere.

Outside of the perhaps understandably absent Oz and Tara, nearly everybody who has ever been on Buffy has a goodbye moment, including each Big Bad, Elizabeth Anne Allen as evil witch Amy, and James C. Leary as the fun and floppy eared demon Clem. Special guest star Anthony Stewart Head’s authority as Giles is desperately needed, but brief suspicions about him regarding The First are unnecessary and hollow. His usual voice of information is mishandled as well, with Giles’ Watcher wisdom cast aside for plot contrivances. Fortunately, David Boreanaz’s brief crossover as Angel has more clarity with mystical tokens given and pissy jealously over his no longer being the only vampire with a soul. Bittersweet moments come with Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers and Danny Strong as Jonathan, however, I am completely over Adam Busch as Warren and The Trio as villains. Tom Lenk’s Andrew starts weak with lingering what’s his name Tucker’s brother clichés, and my word Buffy gets ridiculously finite with too many pop culture references and geeky fan service, making this annoying character annoying indeed. Thankfully, Andrew – a “guestage” who bakes as his reform from evil – is not wrong when he says this season is Episode I boring, and props to his Dalton as Bond appreciation! Though a fun departure before the big final episodes, “Storyteller” uses Andrew’s video camera point of view for more meaning than it lets on underneath the Masterpiece Theatre ironies, retro video style, and need to document the slayer legacy with embellished liberties. Some B plotting out of the unique viewpoint loses steam, but Year Seven could have opened with the in media res here. This hour captures Buffy’s not taking itself too seriously tone despite the demon bads – something this toiling season often forgets – and everything gets up to speed with revelations to the camera confessor as it should be.

But say hey, it’s 2003 and they have cell phones now! Well, one shared flip phone that’s left behind by teen girls and gets reception in the basement – yeah right! – but it’s those corded landlines where you must remember the numbers to dial that are really scary. Series from this era were probably the last ones where world building could be so isolated with no newspapers or television reports necessary. Online police scanners could have been handy, however primitive internet searches result in nothing but unhelpful Geocities web pages. People need to explain what Googling is, and looking up “evil” on your work computer is never a good idea. The Bronze and its hip music moments should have been retired a long time ago, and certain fashions and weak monster effects shout Y2K. Buffy also strays from its own style with borrowing from Vertigo or The Terminator. Fatal opening montages featuring worldwide potentials strive for exotic edgy but end up mere Run Lola Run copies. The scoring is also embarrassingly noticeable, swelling for each of those redundant speeches. There are some fun splitscreen effects to visually accent the hysteria, but the perpetually beat up yet unrealistically repaired Summers House is too crowded and inadvertently symbolic of this busy Buffy season. Camping out in the damaged Magic Box could have interesting, and maybe Xander’s apartment on that higher floor might have been a bit more secure against the anonymous Bringers, lame Turok-Han vampires, or demon of the week easy. At least they admit one bathroom in the house is a problem, and hehe, Zima.

Today, Buffy’s final leg would have been twelve episodes tops – eight with no punches pulled. I want to zoom over all the superfluous with only a viewer sense of loyalty to carry through the forgettable hours yet can only take so many episodes at a time. However, it’s odd to complain that Buffy doesn’t know what to do with itself this season since the series is must see exceptional television overall. Year Seven makes me want to go back and marathon my favorites, and I repeatedly stopped and started this rewatch several times – only going forth with the last few shows once Buffy was expiring from Netflix as a lazy excuse to continue. Season Seven is both nostalgic good and rocky tough, but all the negatives know when to take a backseat as Buffy The Vampire Slayer ultimately ties itself together in one final, pretty bow.