content by

Leah Schnelbach

Arrival and Final Destination 5 Are the Same Movie

Am I the only one who’s noticed this??? Themes, tone, even the depressive, steel-blue-tinged film stock: the (surprisingly great) fifth entry in the gruesome Final Destination franchise and Denis Villeneuve’s thoughtful multiple-Oscar-nominee, Arrival, are the same movie.

I mean, mostly.

Granted, I’m coming to Final Destination a bit late, but I was startled by the similarities between a twenty-year-old teen horror franchise and the Hugo Award-winning adaptation of Ted Chiang’s cerebral short story. Before I get into it, I’m going to spoil Arrival, “Story of Your Life”, and the entirety of Final Destination series.


[Amy Adams was ROBBED]

Here’s Another Clue for Us All: Glass Onion Is a Multifaceted Mystery

A screaming comes across the internet, and it’s me, yelling about how much I love Glass Onion. Rian Johnson’s newest whodunnit, like Knives Out before it, follows gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc as he travels into the world of the ultra-rich in search of truth and, if possible, justice. As is tradition in these types of mysteries, this is a whole new adventure—Blanc is the only character who recurs, and you don’t need to have seen Knives Out to enjoy this one. (But go watch Knives Out, it’s incredible.)

My capsule above-the-cut review is that the movie’s a blast. I laughed out loud more than at any recent film since maybe Eurovision Song Contest, and if I had to describe how it feels to watch, the closest I can come is to say it’s like you’re at a party with dear friends and you’ve  drunk a glass of prosecco too fast, and bubbles have gone up your nose, and you’re laughing and sneezing and everyone’s laughing at how ridiculous it is, and suddenly it hits you how lucky you are to have these friends, to be with people who make you laugh so hard you forget time. Watch it with your family on Netflix! Watch it in the theater, if it comes back to theaters and you have a way to do it safely amid the pandemic.

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13-ish Times Aliens Learned the True Meaning of Christmas

Lots of TV series decide they need a little Christmas come December, but they’re not quite sure how to do it. Do you talk about the big Jesus-shaped elephant in the room? Do you just focus on Santa? Do you, I don’t know, cast Juliana Hatfield as an angel, or make miracles happen on Walker, Texas Ranger?

This late-December urge becomes extra fun when sci-fi franchises try it—they don’t usually want to deal with the religious aspect of Christmas, but they still have to find a way to explain Santa and presents to aliens who are already confused enough just trying to deal with humans. Most of them fall back on humans teaching aliens about some Christmas-y lessons about “goodwill” or “being kind to others”, as in the following examples…

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Stephen Graham Jones on Writing, the Pantheon of Horror, and Clowns

Stephen Graham Jones is busy. In an earlier draft of this interview I included my comment that his work is challenging—by that I meant both emotionally, like all good horror is, but also that he’s so prolific he makes the rest of us who are trying to write things look like human sloths. But that’s just it—he doesn’t try to write, he treats writing as a thing he has to do, a job he’s dedicated to, and that’s resulted in 22 books over 30 years.

His latest? A deeply disturbing short story called “The Clown Brigade”, available exclusively on Scribd both as an ebook and as an audiobook. It was a true delight to talk with Jones about the story, the horrors of clowns, some of the real-life motivation behind Jade Daniels in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, slashers in general and Scream in particular, and Jones’ admirable writing process.

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Indy’s Back in the Brand New Trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny!

New Indiana Jones trailer klaxon! Indy’s back in a new adventure called Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny—which could mean any number of things!

Coming along for the ride are a few new villains, at least one old friend, and a new character in the form of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Helena. It looks like maybe she’ll be handing any action sequences Harrison Ford declines.

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Weird: The Al Yankovic Story May Be Humanity’s Greatest Achievement

There was a point, about half an hour into Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, when I almost choked on my Twinkie.

I was eating a Twinkie (because, come on, it’s a Weird Al movie) and a thing happened that was so goddamn funny I almost choked to death. It would have been worth it. Honestly, it might have been the best possible way for me to go out.

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Let’s Talk About What Makes Doctor Sleep Great

I keep thinking about Dan Torrance’s room.

I was surprised by Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, when it came out in 2019. As a fan of Mike Flanagan, I expected a solid work of horror, maybe with a little more emphasis on grief than one might expect. But I was still startled and extremely pleased by how willing he was to make a movie that was somehow both an epic, decade-spanning work of horror, and an intimate story of addiction. (Also I owe everyone an apology—I reread my original review of the movie and said, and this is verbatim: “despite the ghosts and mystical trappings, Doctor Sleep is not a horror movie.” What, Past Leah? What the hell were you talking about, yes it is so a horror movie! Anyway, sorry, the rest of the review is pretty good.)

Since I try to watch even more than my usual amount of horror in October, I decided to watch The Shining and Doctor Sleep back-to-back, and came away liking the sequel even more than I did three years ago.

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Keeping Winter (And Monsters) at Bay with the Power of Storytelling: Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Last month we lost the iconic horror and fantasy author Peter Straub, whose work included collection of poetry and short stories, ten novellas, award-winning novels including Julia, Floating Dragon, and Koko, as well two collaborations with Stephen King, The Talisman and its sequel, Black House. I’ve had his 1979 novel Ghost Story on my TBR Stack for a long time now, and I thought this would be an excellent time to move it up to the top; Ghost Story proved to be an ideal October read.

I love baggy novels. I love novels that go in a lot of directions and make room for tangents and cul de sacs, and trust the reader to come with them. Ghost Story is very much on the end of the novelistic spectrum. The book is resolutely non-linear, jumping around in time and perspective. Occasionally, a few pages of dialogue between people are dropped in. Occasionally, we turn the page and find ourselves in a new mind, or a new decade.

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Let The Midnight Club Tell You a Tale of Love and Death

The Midnight Club was created by Mike Flanagan, and is very much part of the Flanaverse in tone and execution. But this outing was co-created with Leah Fong, a writer who previously worked with Flanagan as a writer and producer for Haunting of Bly Manor, as well as writing for The Magicians and Once Upon a Time. What I’ll say immediately is that this is a very good show. Every character is complex and fully alive, the acting is gorgeous, and the stories-within-the-story are fantastic. But this show wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and I’ll try to get into that below.

As usual for reviews of longer series, I’m going to give a brief overview, a few opinions, a well-marked spoiler section for discussion, and then, hopefully, stick the landing at the end. If you want to go into Midnight Club cold, click away now!

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Do We Need a Heartfelt Hellraiser?

The new Hellraiser is a fascinating entry into the modern horror canon. I liked large parts of it, and I would absolutely like to see more Hellraisers from this team, but it left me unsettled in way I was not expecting. But I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs.

First, a few facts: the new take on the Hellraiser series isn’t an adaptation of Clive Barker’s 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, but Barker is on board as a producer. The script was written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (the pair who wrote The Night House) from a story by David Goyer. It was directed by their fellow Night House alum David Bruckner, who also directed The Ritual. I mention this first, because this group knows their way around a horror movie, but also because those two films are very much part of the current wave of horror that’s actually about grief. (See also: Mike Flanagan’s whole flippin‘ career.) And that’s both an interesting addition to Hellraiser, and, maybe, a problem.

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Nina Nesseth’s Nightmare Fuel is a Scientific Look at Horror, But It’s also a Love Letter to the Genre

Nina Nesseth’s Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Movies digs into the science of how horror works and why certain horror movie tropes have reliably scared us for over a century. It would be a great read any time of year, but obviously it’s a perfect October book. And I can report some immediate results from reading it: I just watched Saw for the first time (I know, I know) and it was so much fun tracking my responses to the film, and knowing, at least a little, why my brain was responding the way it was.

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The Quantum Leap Sequel Series Mostly Sticks the Leap

The Quantum Leap sequel series couldn’t help but feel a little manufactured. Made-in-a-lab. Only because the original show was so utterly weird and idiosyncratic that any return to the story was going to feel a little over-produced. But having watched the pilot, “July 13th, 1985”, I think the sequel is off to a good start, heading in an interesting direction—and the cast more than makes up for any initial bumps in the quantum accelerator.

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Fun With Structure: Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

I begin this essay with a confession: I have not yet read all of David Mitchell’s work. I’m going to, but I live in the tension between wanting to ingest all of it so it’s in my head, and wanting to ration his books out so I always have one to look forward to. Because of this I hesitate to write about him—I know I’m missing stuff, but also I want to miss stuff.

Does that make sense?

This is my roundabout way of explaining that in this month’s TBR Stack I’m going to look at Utopia Avenue, but just one specific thread of Utopia Avenue. I’m going to dig into spoilers for Utopia Avenue, The Bone Clocks, Slade House, A Tale of Two Cities, and, possibly, human civilization.

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Star Trek: Prodigy‘s Return Date, Discovery Season 5 Plot, And More From Star Trek Day

Today is Star Trek Day, and Paramount+ celebrated with a day of conversations with the various Star Trek cast members, along with some sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, brand new images, and backstage tours. Check out news for Strange New Worlds and Picard, and read on for highlights from Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Discovery!

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