September wasn’t a very exciting month for me in terms of streaming. Since Uni was in full bloom, I concentrated on getting acclimated to my environment, new responsibilities and priorities, and new schedule arrangements. By the time I was finished for classes and studying, I only had energy to read a couple of pages for fun before falling into a bizarre dream-infested slumber (I have the strangest dreams, y’all). Even so, I’m mostly satisfied with whatever I did catch.
A couple films were re-watches for me as I put them on in the background while I studied (I cannot study or live in a state of silence at all due to my ADHD). I find that having dialogue or a story to concentrate on in the background actually helps my brain retain more information and it’s a phenomenal way to exercise my mind in multi-tasking efficiently. For some reason, this doesn’t work with audiobooks. I wonder if the added visual element of TV and cinema provides something concrete for me that audiobooks don’t (a potential future experiment!).
Anyhoo, there’s nothing here that I wouldn’t really not recommend, so if you’re searching for some mild entertainment things to dip into, check out my wrap-up below. As per usual, I have listed where I streamed them and any potential content warnings available for folx that may be curious.
Vaada (2005) [Eros Int’l]: A Hindi suspense thriller that starts with a husband waking up to discover his wife had committed suicide. As the cops investigate, they start realising that foul play may be involved, and thus an investigation ensues. I initially watched Vaada when it came out back in ’05. I was a teen that was obsessed with the main actor, Arjun Rampal (wicked handsome Indian actor). It’s a tough film to watch because it does have on-screen suicide and the subject matter is relatively dark, however, it was a great mystery film. The suspense is uncomfortable yet nefariously intriguing. The more that the story unravels, the easier it is to kind of predict what would happen, yet this doesn’t detract from its intense allure at all. I RECOMMEND this to folx wanting an Indian suspense film to check out. CW: Violence (fisticuffs). On-screen depiction and discussion of suicide. On-screen depiction of a person going blind (from injury). Mildly strong language. Some sexual content and innuendo. Some non-consensual sexual advances. Discussion of infidelity.
Re:Mind (2017) [Netflix]: A Japanese suspense mystery drama series about a group of eleven high school girls that awake one day to find themselves all sitting around a long dining table with their feet shackled to the floor beneath the table, uncertain of how they got there or why they are there. This had been on my watchlist for the last couple of years. While struggling with insomnia one evening, I went ahead and started watching it. This is a difficult show to describe because I enjoyed the premise. It was unique from other similar titles that I have seen and I was particularly fond of the intricate way that the little details surrounding the girls contributed to unravelling the mystery of their situation. However, it was all a bit too on the nose, which combined with the finale left me feeling mildly frustrated to say the least. I plan on doing a full review for this in the coming weeks, but as it stands, I would still RECOMMEND it because it was so unexpectedly captivating. CW: Some strong language. Strong references to and discussion of bullying, including high school bullying and vigilante-esque exploitation. Brief mentions of infidelity, inappropriate relationships between teens and teacher, deaths of loved ones. Some strong discussion of suicide (nothing is ever shown on-screen). Preparation and consumption of food. Consumption of alcohol. Brief disturbing scenes involving rats and toads.
The Clovehitch Killer (2018) [Hulu]: A psychological suspense mystery about a teenage boy who starts to suspect that his father is a serial killer that has been eluding the cops for years. Determined to decipher the truth, he begins investigating dear old daddy. This was really good. It is a slow-burn story that begins with a kid that finds some disturbing things in his dad’s truck, which raises suspicions of the unthinkable. The way that the heavily Church-going family life is emphasised in contrast to the things that his father says, which contributes to the teen’s overall confusion, was wonderfully done. It makes the audience feel the same sense of bewilderment as the kid. Even so, there is this eerie and methodically building tension that takes over one scene and one revelation at a time that makes the climax positively riveting. I was holding my breath with anticipation and yelling at the screen for certain characters to take specific actions. It was excellent. The Clovehitch Killer is supremely understated and underrated. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Some sexuality. Some strong language. Disturbing depictions of killer’s trophies of their victims. Mature themes on sexual desire and violent sexual urges. Preparation and consumption of food. Alcohol consumption.
Stoker (2013) [Hulu]: A psychological thriller about a young teen girl that loses her father suddenly in a car accident. At his funeral, her long-lost uncle, Charlie, shows up to help her deal with her grief, which in the process unlocks an ominous part of herself she didn’t realise existed. I fucking loved this film, so much so that I watched it twice in the span of 24 hours. It is heavily inspired by a Hitchcock classic, and when you take that and it combine with the absolute brilliant way it’s shot (the symbolism, the foreshadowing, the taboo eroticism), you get a film that is so incredibly fantastic. It is dark and morbid, sensual and sinister, vulnerable yet decisive. Matthew Goode’s acting as Uncle Charlie is *chef’s kiss.* But even that can’t really compare to the budding curiosity and malevolence of Mia Wasikowska’s character, India. Honestly, it was the best damn movie I’ve seen all month, maybe all fucking year. HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Strong language. Strong violence including death of a child. Brief depiction of mental institutionalisation. Strong sexuality including a questionable relationship between relatives. Brief nudity. Scene of attempted rape. Preparation and consumption of food, consumption of alcohol, and smoking.
Into the Forest (2015) [Showtime]: An apocalyptic drama bout two sisters that end up having to fend for themselves in their family home, tucked away in the woods, when the world goes totally and completely offline. Another insomnia-driven pick, Into the Forest was extremely difficult to watch. There is a lot of tragedy in this film and it gets underneath one’s skin and sticks there like coagulated blood until the very end. One hopes and hopes for a happy ending, but in the back of our minds we know that with a film of this calibre, it’s just not possible. It’s extremely poignant, raw, yet inspiring. Seeing one meticulous struggle after another befall the sisters is devastatingly heart-breaking, but also being able to see them continue to fight in the face of all this unfathomable adversity was quite astounding. I know that I probably would not have the strength to survive the way they did, more so if I was utterly alone. One thing to note, however, is that the film unfolds very slowly. Calling it “slow-burn” doesn’t begin to describe just how deliberately it progresses, which did make it extremely hard for me to sit through with my ADHD. So, if you’re someone that doesn’t slow movies like this, or if you have similar problems with ADHD, you may have a challenging time getting through this, I know that I did for sure. As such, I’d rate it as INDIFFERENT overall. CW: Strong language. Some sexual content. Nudity. Graphic depiction of bodily injuries. Graphic on-screen rape scene. Preparation and consumption of food. Depiction of starvation. On-screen portrayal of bugs (including close-ups). Apocalyptic devastation.
GI Jane (1997) [Showtime]: A military suspense drama that follows the controversial political experimentation of having a woman training to become a member of the U.S. Navy Seals. I originally watched this back in March 2021, and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was, so when it popped up on another streaming service, I figured I’d re-watch it while I studied. I will never get tired of seeing Demi Moore’s ripped body, not out of sexual objectification, but because it’s really awesome to see how hard she works at gaining such intense muscles. I’d love to have muscles like that one day. Anyhoo, if you’re a fan of good dramas, especially military/feminist type narratives, you may like this. RECOMMENDED. CW: Strong sexism, gender double-standards, and micro-aggressions. Highly intense military training. Strong language. Violence including brief sexual violence. Nudity. Consumption of food and alcohol.
Men of Honour (2000) [Starz]: A military suspense drama about an ambitious sharecropper who joins the Navy in order to train to become the first Black Master Diver. Men of Honour is one of my favourite films. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert de Niro have such phenomenal on-screen chemistry, which really helps to build a fantastic atmosphere of tautness befitting to the time period and the kind of tale being told. To see two individuals who have every reason to hate one another, finding common ground and mutual respect due to their sense of integrity and dedication to their love of the Navy is really wonderful. It’s a classic trope of the genre, and because of these actors it works so well here. It’s one of those films where I truly love it so much because of the characters. They completely made this a classic hit for me. The film does deal with a lot of on-screen racism, though, including racial slurs directed towards Black people, so I would keep that in mind, if you decide to see it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. CW: Strong language. Strong racism against Black folx. Graphic depiction of gaslighting and bullying. Intense portrayal of incredibly challenging military training. Some drowning. Brief graphic on-screen depictions of body mutilation. Alcohol consumption and smoking.
Scream 2 (1997) [HBO]: A slasher horror sequel to the infamous Scream, following Syndey Prescott as she tries to move on with her life in the aftermath of the first film. However, when the killings start up again, everything turns upside down in blood and gore once more. Scream is one of my favourite slasher films for many reasons, but I never cared for its sequels. Yet, when I saw them pop up on my HBO recommendations list, my love and nostalgia for the first film swayed me into watching these again. It’s not as atrocious as I remember it being. It is entertaining and has some interesting kills in it, but it can’t top its predecessor in suspense or wit. RECOMMENDED if you watched and liked Scream, and are craving a bit more of that sort of film dynamic. CW: Graphic violence, blood, and gore. Strong language. Some sexuality. Consumption of food and alcohol. Mild misogynistic dialogue.
Scream 3 (2000) [HBO]: The slasher horror round-off in the Scream trilogy shows where it all began and how it’s all going to end. The only real fun part of this was trying to piece together the mystery behind Sydney’s mum and what ultimately causes her life to end up the way it did. Aside from that, everything else about Scream 3 is mediocre at best. It was nice as background noise while I studied, as it gave me moments of pause where I literally stopped what I was doing to laugh at the cheese and horrendousness. But beyond that, it can easily be skipped. I’d only recommend this to people that are die-hard slasher fans or curious to learn about Sydney’s mum, otherwise I’m rather INDIFFERENT. CW: Graphic violence, blood, and gore. Strong language. Mild sexuality. Alcohol consumption.
Tamara (2005) [Prime]: A horror film about a young girl named Tamara that’s constantly getting bullied by everyone around her. One night, the jocks and the assholes decide to play a terrible prank on her which leads to an unexpected tragedy. The next day, Tamara shows up at school as a very attractive lady and begins seducing folx in her enigmatic plot for vengeance. I found this on Prime one day when I was craving a horror film I had never heard of. It reminds me of Carrie with respect to the trope of “bullied girl gets revenge” type of thing. Aside from that, I wasn’t expecting much at all. The film has graphic scenes of body horror, which can be tummy curdling, and beyond that it ended up being surprisingly decent. It does the genre of horror justice by showing us how outside perception coupled with long-term abuse and superficial sense of power can corrupt even the kindest of people. On the nose? Yes, of course, but entertaining and a great dose of dread-induced storytelling, nonetheless. RECOMMENDED for folx that like horror and don’t typically get/mind squeamish as fuck body horror and gore. CW: Graphic deaths, blood and gore, including body mutilation and horror. Strong language. Some sexuality. Some strong scenes of bullying and exploitation. Brief scene of suicide. Food and alcohol consumption. Brief depiction of bulimia. Cautionary advisory for taphephobia and hemophobia.
Mindhunter Season 2 (2019) [Netflix]: A crime drama that chronicles the creation and evolution of the FBI’s BAU (Behavioural Analysis Unit) which involves two agents and a psychologist interviewing sexual serial killers. The second season was even more mind-blowing than the first. I’m unbelievably astonished by the casting of some of these killers. They could be literal twins of their real-life counterparts, and that makes this series so much better, which says a lot because it’s already bloody brilliant. The unravelling of two characters’ psyches, which play parallel to what the FBI dudes are trying to accomplish with their work just keeps adding layers of dimension to an already rather multi-faceted series. I’m sad it ended on a cliff-hanger as the fate of season three still hangs in the balance. If you’re a fan of deeply psychological and fucked-up criminal shows, that are marvellously crafted, then I’d HIGHLY RECOMMEND Mindhunters to you. Content warnings vary by episode but roughly include (for S1+2): Graphic sequences of brutal violence, blood, and body mutilation. Extremely graphic discussions of rape, torture, murder, sexual sadistic impulses, and death. Graphic nudity and sexual content. On-screen portrayals of cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and pot smoking. Suicide ideation. Attempted suicide. Strong language. On-screen strangulation and murder including death of teenagers. Sexist and derogatory references to women and queer people. Intense depiction of life-threatening panic attack. Death and discussion of serial killings of Black children. Portrayal of systemic racism of the era (70s-80s).
Clickbait (2021) [Netflix]: A suspense thriller Netflix Original series about a family guy named Nick that gets kidnapped. When he shows up in a shocking video online, it becomes a race to save him before the abductor/killers make good on their threat: at five million views, Nick dies. This was so fucking easy to binge. I like how each episode is from the perspective of someone in Nick’s life. It helps to veer away from traditional thriller dramas and it also just adds more intrigue to the potential culprit(s) behind what happened to Nick, as well as who Nick was beneath the façade of “family man.” It’s fast-paced, character-driven, and centres on the dangers of the unknown that lurks on the Internet. It made me rethink a lot of ways that I engage in shit online. Overall, if you’re in the market for a damn good thriller, I’d HIGHLY RECOMMEND clickbait. CW: Strong language. Strong violence and blood. Discussions of suicide and suicide ideation, depression, infidelity, and sexual exploitation of a minor. Some sexual content and nudity. Non-consensual drug use. Preparation and consumption of food, consumption of alcohol. Some sexism and misogyny. Racism and workplace bullying.
Criminal: UK Series 1 & 2 (2019-20) [Netflix]: A British psychological crime anthology where cops engage in intense interviews with potential suspects and participate in a mental game of cat-and-mouse. The premise sounded neat, but what really sold me was David Tennant and Kit Harrington (the guests in the first episodes of volumes one and two, respectively). Each episode follows a different kind of crime, so the interviews have to be catered to that. There are some lines that the cops get pretty fucking close to crossing, and in one instance it’s questionable as to whether they crossed it or not. Even though each segment is about forty-five minutes long, yet they go by so quickly because of how absorbed I became, making it pretty easy to binge-watch in a single sitting. I’d HIGHLY RECOMMEND this to folx that like British TV and contemplative crime dramas. CW: Discussions of rape, child abduction, murder, infidelity, and vigilante-esque exploitation. Some strong language.
The Chair (2021) [Netflix]: A comedy drama, Netflix Original Series about the first woman of colour (Korean-American) chair of the crumbling English Department at a fancy schmancy university. This was so funny, in a dry and witty sort of way, and so relevant. The various forms of systemic oppression that Ji-Yoon deals with is indicative of our current society, highlighting where change is extremely necessary. It also does a great job of encouraging discourse on university priorities versus educational priorities of students and how students are nothing more than commodities to milk dry. It’s a short serial, but there’s so much to unpack in it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for folx that like comedy dramas that tackle current political and socio-cultural issues, particularly in academia. CW: Strong language. Racism, misogyny, and sexism, including microaggressions. Some sexuality. Consumption of food and alcohol.
With October having officially arrived, my goals for the month are to indulge in spoopy, scary things, while also rewatching some films that are my favourites to revisit during my birthday (October is definitely the month of Nyan getting older and grouchier). I also hope to check out more foreign horror, as it’s been quite fun to see other countries and cultures take on this beloved genre.