Reviews included so far...
1. Crimson Peak
2. D&D: Honor Among Thieves
3. Yellow Wallpaper
Review by Syd Couick
Crimson Peak is a 2015 gothic horror and romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is famous for his visuals. The film follows the main protagonist Edith, played by Mia Wasikowska, who after her father’s unusual death, marries the mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe and moves with him into a dilapidated mansion with his sister, Lady Lucille.
While staying, strange things occur, Edith can see ghosts, an ability she’s had since the time her mother’s ghost came to warn her about going to Crimson Peak when she was a child. She encounters many ghosts, ghosts of women, even one with an infant, who are angry with the occupants of the mansion. Edith searches everywhere for its secrets, careful to avoid Lady Lucille who isn’t fond of her and seems jealous of her new sister-in-law having the attention of her brother. What Edith finds is truly disturbing. As she makes an escape, she realizes why the land the mansion is on is called Crimson Peak.
This movie is one of my favorites. Mia Wasikowska is one of my favorite actresses in the Alice in Wonderland film directed by Tim Burton. Trigger warning for the surprise incest at the end, but besides that the shock throughout the plot leaves watchers' jaws dropped and eyes wide open. Something new is discovered around every corner which personally left me saying “What fresh Hell?!?” more than I’d like to admit. The movie isn’t too graphic, and it keeps a consistent speed and good amount of suspense throughout so viewers don’t become bored. I absolutely recommend this film for a movie night with friends or with your dog or with your mom to scare her.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Review by Dr. Edward Royston
I’ve previously shared my thoughts on video game adaptations, and adaptations of tabletop games may have an even worse track record. Do you even remember Battleship (2012)? Let’s all take a moment of silence in honor of the sacrifices Rihanna has made. Really, aside from the wonderful Clue (1985) with all its different endings and warnings about communism and red herrings, movie adaptations of tabletop games have ranged from forgettable to downright terrible. Dungeons & Dragons (2000) falls into the latter category. It’s offensively bad, not just to fans of the world’s first roleplaying game, but also to just, like, normal ass people who want to enjoy a fun movie. It’s best to not even talk about its loathsome sequels.
Thankfully, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) joins Clue in the pantheon of actually good tabletop game movie adaptations. Indeed, like Clue, one might even call it a great movie.
Why is D&D:HAT actually good, and maybe great? It’s because the movie isn’t just an adaption of a tabletop game, it’s also an adaptation of the very successful MCU formula that began with Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): take a crew of misfits and screw-ups, send them on an epic quest to save civilization from the bald and tattooed forces of evil, and liberally pepper the whole thing with tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating jokes. D&D: HAT one ups that formula by replacing Hollywood’s worst Chris (Pratt) with Hollywood’s best Chris (Pine) and doing the whole found family theme without drenching it in schmaltz and Cat Stevens music. And while its main villain is about as interesting as your average MCU baddie, she stays mostly in the background and gives Hugh Grant ample room to ham it up as a smarmy con-artist turned Lord of Neverwinter.
As an adaption of the MCU formula to a different intellectual property, D&D: HAT will delight those normal ass people who just want a fun movie. You don’t need to know the paladin’s level progression to laugh at Regé-Jean Page asserting that he does not “traffic in colloquialisms.” You don’t need to have read every entry in Drizzt Do’Urden’s Guide to the Underdark to laugh at the antics of Themberchaud, the morbidly obese red dragon.
And as an adaptation of the D&D tabletop game, it will delight longtime fans who know every entry in their Monster Manual, Players’ Handbook, and Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. Don’t worry about dreaded beholders being reduced to silly guard dogs. The monsters, magic, setting, and their lore in this are on point. Displacer beasts displace, Time Stop stops time, and Neverwinter lies south of Icewind Dale along the Sword Coast. Yes, technically it’s against the rules for a druid to wildshape into an owlbear because the latter is a monstrosity rather than a beast, but such a transformation falls under the “rule of cool”. So does casting a black man to play the setting’s most iconic magic user. As one of those longtime fans myself, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed D&D: HAT. I hope it goes on to spawn sequels worth talking about.
The Yellow Wallpaper
Review by Cortney Queen
Are We Maintaining Our Progressivity?
You read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman. You experience Jane’s descent into madness—shall I dare say madness?—while she endures postpartum depression. You hear John address her as “girl” and “silly goose.” You read, “But what is one to do?” and suffer in silence with Jane. You can’t do anything. You can only sit and wonder how men of that time genuinely believed in the most senseless, featherbrained ideology: man should make the decisions because man knows best.
Gilman crafts the story in such a way that allows the reader to see the absurdity in the “rest cure.” Not only that, but readers can pick up on the several reasons Jane continues to suffer: John is never home, he ignores Jane’s obvious wants and needs, and he addresses her like she is a “little girl.” There is an obvious skewed power dynamic, and it is clear Gilman argues against it. One hundred and thirty-three years later, though, a story that advocated for women’s autonomy has become a horror film. Gilman’s message is muddled. Once again, women are depicted as “crazy” or “insane.” The opening scene shows Jane throwing her baby out of the carriage…yes, you read that correctly. While not textual accurate, I suppose tossing a crying baby out of the carriage serves to heighten your senses and create a suspenseful mood. Throughout the film, viewers are met with eerie silence and odd scenes of Jane roaming the yard. Modifying Gilman’s story to fit into the thriller genre was a poor choice. Instead of focusing on the social message, viewers are wondering when the next jump scare is coming out or what “odd” and “crazy” action Jane will take next. The movie seems to up play those dysphemisms we have fought to avoid when discussing mental health crises, especially for the feminine population.
As a reader of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” I could argue that the moments of silence and focus on Jane’s isolation highlight Gilman’s message. The concern, however, is raised with viewers who are not avid 1800s American Literature readers. Would they be able to pick up on Gilman’s message? Or would they view Jane as another “woman gone crazy?” If you are up for the task of watching a ninety-nine-minute movie with not much substance, I would advise you to take a moment—it is a short story after all and not a novel—to read the story before indulging in the film. Only then will you be able to appreciate the eerie silence, the blank stares, and the haphazard roaming.