Spoiler-Free Review of “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” on HBO Max: Love and Hauntings

*This is a spoiler-free review so feel free to read on!*

“We know the dangers…better than you might think.”

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the third installment of the popular horror franchise. The film is in theaters and currently available to stream on HBO Max as of June 4th 2021. It stars Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sterling Jerins, Ruairi O’Connor and John Noble. The film runs for approximately an hour and fifty minutes.

Ed and Lorraine Warren are back again to investigate the demonic possession of a young boy. After an exorcism is attempted, the demonic presence is far from gone as it begins to wreak havoc on the boy’s sister’s boyfriend. 

Here is the trailer:

The Conjuring 3 has a lot to live up to, but does the change in director and genre water things down too much or is it a welcomed addition? Let’s find out…

The Pros:

Images courtesy of HBO Max

Undeniable chemistry between Ed and Lorraine Warren.

These two are electric in the film and are probably one of my favorite couples in film history. There is something so real and believable about their chemistry with one another. They have such a strong love and relationship, which makes you root for them that much more.

I thought that both of them gave really incredible performances and their love for one another actually really lifted this film. Even during the quiet moments, you are just completely drawn to them. So many horror films center around younger stars and these two are blowing them all out of the water.

I think I would watch almost anything with them…

Images courtesy of HBO Max

Truly frightening moments.

There was this unsettling fear throughout the other two films that still haunts me even now. While I would say that this film is the least scariest out of them all, there are some moments of pure terror. The opening scene was really terrifying and some of the flashback moments had me on the edge of my seat as well.

The Cons:

Images courtesy of HBO Max

Switching genres.

I thought that this film felt like more of a supernatural crime mystery rather than straight horror. The other films were true haunted house films where this film moved away from that and focused more on finding evidence to prove that the devil really made this guy start murdering people.

In a way, I almost felt like I was watching an episode of Supernatural rather than watching a Conjuring film. This isn’t necessarily a con because I really do love this genre and Ed and Lorraine were just so strong in it so I was along for the ride.

I’m not sure if this is because the director was not the same or if the film was trying to branch off into something else to stay original and fresh, but I think that some fans may have mixed reviews on this approach. 

So am I in or out?

Images courtesy of HBO Max

I’m in!

I’ll be honest, I’d follow Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson just about anywhere and they really elevated this film for me. The chemistry between these two was incredible and they made up for some of the duller moments during the film. While it did jump genres, there were some truly terrifying scares embedded within the film and I was entertained from start to finish.

I hope you enjoyed the review and feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It in the comments section below. Thanks so much for reading and happy viewing!

Best,

Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl

DON’T TAKE THE JOB…

It was only supposed to be temporary…but when Olivia Crewe accepts a new position that seems too good to be true, she soon discovers that twelve other girls previously had the same job as her. Only none of them lasted for more than thirty days. No notice. Nothing…right before they mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

My supernatural thriller Girl Number Thirteen is out now! I hope you enjoy!

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Spoiler-Free Review of “Helstrom” on Hulu: Where’s the horror?

**This is a spoiler-free review so feel free to read on!**

“I’m not here to hold hands or save a cat from a tree or respond to false alarms….”

Helstrom is a new superhero horror series on Hulu, which premiered as part of their Huluween line-up on October 16th 2020 with 10 episodes available to stream now (approximately 55 minutes in length). It stars Tom Austen, Sydney Lemmon, and Elizabeth Marvel.

Based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe character, Daimon Hellstrom (Son of Satan), the series follows siblings, Daimon and Ana Helstrom. The estranged siblings possess supernatural abilities that aid in their quest to exorcise demons and eliminate threats, while they come to terms with their dark past.

Here is the trailer:

A horror superhero series could be filled with lots of potential, but it’s concerning that Marvel removed its name from the title. Either way, I went into this show hoping for some welcomed dark horror, along with some new unique characters. But does Helstrom do enough to earn a watch? Let’s find out…

The Pros:

Helstrom Elizabeth Marvel

Images courtesy of Hulu

Elizabeth Marvel is bloody fantastic!

I was a fan of hers already, but wow does she play this part well. She is the mother of Daimon and Ana and is showing signs of being possessed by a demon. We’ve seen show after show featuring some kind of demon possession, but I have to say that she frightened me and in a very good way.

Ana’s wardrobe is to die for.

Helstrom Ana

Images courtesy of Hulu

Every single time she made an entrance, I was drooling over her wardrobe and then some. Ana was the stronger character for me throughout the series, but her amazing outfits definitely helped capture my attention.

The Cons:

Helstrom on Hulu

Images courtesy of Hulu

Slow, unfocused, and sloppy.

I really had high hopes for this show and the cast had the potential to really bring it to life, but the execution did not translate well. The pacing is extremely slow, the reveals are not rewarding enough, and the characters don’t have enough layers to keep you invested. 

There have been plenty of shows about demonic possession and jaded antiheroes reminding us of the good vs. evil premise that just do this better. Shows like Lucifer, Constantine, Outcast, and Supernatural come to mind.

Unworthy of the horror label.

I was actually really excited to watch another horror superhero premise. There is something to be said about the dark line between right and wrong and the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of humanity.

Unfortunately, Helstrom never really earned its horror badge. There were a few cringe-worthy scenes that were displeasing to the eye, but that’s about it…

So am I in or out?

Helstrom on Hulu 2

Images courtesy of Hulu

I’m in for the fashion, but unfortunately I’m out on this watch.

The show fell into the forgettable limbo of overdone demonic possession shows for me. The pacing was slow and there were a lot of missed opportunities. 

I hope you enjoyed the review and feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on Helstrom in the comments section below. Thanks so much for reading and happy viewing!

Best,

Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl

If you have time, I would love it if you would check out my book, Dash and Seek in the link below. Thank you and I hope you enjoy!

PLAY BY THE RULES…STAY ALIVE…

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A harmless night of fun turns deadly for six college friends but the game has only just begun. Take a mystery thrill ride right from your own living room. Dash and Seek is out now! I hope you enjoy!

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Spoiler-Free Review of “Evil” on CBS: Can another show about demonic possession survive?

**This is a spoiler-free review so feel free to read on!**

Even though shows centered around demonic possession often have a lot of potential, they don’t always last that long.  Shows like Outcast and The Exorcist come to mind, which were dark, mysterious, and terrifying in a lot of ways, but yet they were canceled extremely early.  So can Evil pave the way and break the cancellation curse?  Let’s find out!

Evil is a psychological mystery drama series that premiered on CBS on September 26th 2019.  It stars Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi, and Michael Emerson.

The show is scheduled to run weekly episodes, as it follows a non-believing psychologist named Kristen Bouchard, who accepts a second job working for a priest-in-training, David Acosta, examining potential possessions, miracles, and hauntings to determine if there is a logical explanation behind them or if they are truly witnessing something supernatural at work.

The Pros:

Evil CBS Pilot
Images courtesy of CBS

An amazing cast and interesting characters.

I absolutely love the chemistry between Kristen (Herbers) and David (Colter), who already seem to be compelling characters with many layers.  I think it works having a non-believer paired up with a believer and I expect to see a great dynamic continue between these two.

I am already a huge Michael Emerson fan (LOST, Person of Interest) and I am super excited that it looks like he will be set up as the nemesis for the series.  Emerson truly shines when he is playing the manipulative and well thought out villain and I think he can really do some damage here…in a good way!

Interesting mysteries with a premise that the audience can truly relate to.

The mysteries behind the potential supernatural occurrences are intriguing enough, but I think this show can truly stand out because it really dives into the man of science/man of faith debate, which I think is something we all look at whenever we examine something that can’t necessarily be explained at first glance.  This plot premise may be enough to allow this demonic possession to survive and it already has a lot of promising potential just from the pilot episode.

The Cons:

Evil CBS George
Images courtesy of CBS

I’m not sure if the show was trying to be funny or not?

Even though Kristen is a non-believer, she starts to encounter her own set of night terrors, but are they simply dreams or is there something evil lurking in her subconscious?  I’m not sure just yet, but some of these sequences seemed kind of silly and comical, but I’m not sure if that was the intention?  You’ll see what I mean when you get to them.

At times, the plot and backstory seemed slightly contrived.

Capturing your audience during the pilot episode is never easy for any show,  but at times, I felt like the plot and backstory were somewhat forced.  The characters are really interesting and I guess I just want to see their stories unfold naturally, but I’m only one episode in, so we will see if this improves over time.

So am I in or out? 

Evil Pilot CBS
Images courtesy of CBS

As of right now, I am slightly torn.  I think that the characters and plot are interesting enough to keep me invested for a while, but I also feel like this show can easily fall into the trap of the weekly mysteries without any compelling plot twist at its core.

I’m hoping that Michael Emerson’s role as the nemesis, Leland Townsend, can shake things up, but we shall see.  I guess I am in about 75 percent right now, but I am looking forward to watching more episodes and I think that this show has a lot of potential.

I hope you enjoyed the review and feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on Evil in the comments section below.  Thanks so much for reading and happy viewing!

Best,

Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl

**Do you love television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Once Upon a Time, Lost, Charmed, The Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural?  Do you enjoy dark fantasy, fairy-tale retellings, paranormal romance, horror, and mystery?  Then you may like my book series, Dreaming of Wonderland…available on Amazon!  Thank you for taking the time to check it out and I appreciate any feedback as well.  I really hope you enjoy!

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Spoiler-Free Review of “Marianne” on Netflix: Bone-Chilling Terror that will give you Nightmares and then some

**This is a spoiler-free review so feel free to read on!**

Netflix has been bringing us some genuinely terrifying programming lately like The Ritual and The Haunting of Hill House, and it doesn’t look like they are stopping there, as they may have just released the scariest show I have seen in a while.  If you enjoy films and shows about witches and demonic possession, you are in the right place.

Marianne is a French horror series that was released on Netflix on 9/13/19.  The show features 8 episodes that are about 50-55 minutes in length each.  It stars Victoire Du Bois, Lucie Boujenah, and Tiphaine Daviot.  The series is in French, but you can watch it dubbed in English or in French with English subtitles.  I watched it in English and was able to get through the whole show without needing to switch over to subtitles.

The show follows author, Emma, who has had much success with her horror novel series.  The characters are based on nightmares Emma had when she was younger and when she finishes the book series, she begins to realize that the characters may actually exist in the real world, threatening her family and close friends, while desperately trying to release some kind of evil entity into the world. 

Whatever you do, be careful about saying Marianne’s name three times…you have been warned!

The Pros:

Marianne 9 22 4
Images courtesy of Netflix

This show will scare you enough to leave you with some serious nightmares.

I’m not talking about the typical jump scares we often see.  I’m talking about truly frightening moments.  There is a terrific build-up and suspense that seamlessly brings these moments to life.  The soundtrack works perfectly with these moments and you may want to consider watching this show with the lights on if you are not a fan of horror.  Seriously, I keep looking over my shoulder and I finished the show hours ago.

Terrifying characters and a well developed plot.

Before we even get to Marianne, you will notice a lot of discussion going on about the old woman she possesses.  I have to hand it to this actress, who has just completely traumatized me for life!

The plot moves fairly quickly, but once you get past the first three episodes, the rest of the show flies by, as it introduces more pieces to the puzzle, luring you in so much, that you may want to ensure that Marianne is not nearby.  The imagery is beautiful and I loved the concept of the pages from Emma’s book series appearing on screen.

The Cons:

Marianne 9 22 5
Images courtesy of Netflix

The switching of genres is slightly jarring.

As Emma returns home, we get a lot of fluff involving some drama with her friends and family that I could have honestly done without.  While some of the past flashbacks and revelations were necessary and interesting, other parts just kind of seemed forced and I almost felt like I started watching another show without realizing it.

I think part of the problem was that I didn’t really care that much about Emma’s group of friends.  There were some redeeming moments here and there, but other moments just felt filler and boring.

There was also the introduction of some comedy thrown in that felt out of place.  This sometimes made the show move slower and I’m still not really sure what the point of this was.  Luckily, the terrifying moments and plot reveals were enough to overshadow this.

So am I in or out? 

Marianne 9 22 6
Images courtesy of Netflix

I am in!  Sure, I may have nightmares for quite a while, but this show was genuinely frightening and unique.  We are left with a cliffhanger ending, so hopefully we will get a second season, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this show.

If you are a fan of horror, you will absolutely be entertained and the writer in me loved the idea of characters coming to life, really reminding us that words certainly have a lot of power and we can unleash anything we want.  Although we may want to slam the book shut on Marianne…

I hope you enjoyed the review and feel free to post your own thoughts and theories on Marianne in the comments section below.  Thanks so much for reading and happy viewing!

Best,

Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl

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**Do you love television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Once Upon a Time, Lost, Charmed, The Vampire Diaries, and Supernatural?  Do you enjoy dark fantasy, fairy-tale retellings, paranormal romance, horror, and mystery?  Then you may like my book series, Dreaming of Wonderland…available on Amazon!  Thank you for taking the time to check it out and I appreciate any feedback as well.  I really hope you enjoy!

The Dreaming of Wonderland Book Series is available here!

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5 Reasons why you should watch “Outcast” on Cinemax: “Fireflies can see other fireflies.”

Do you love movies and shows about demonic possession?  Sure, who doesn’t?  However, it seems like television series centered on this are fading left and right.  Shows like Ash vs Evil Dead, The Exorcist, and Constantine have all been canceled.  South of Hell hasn’t aired a new episode since 2015 either, which leaves us with one flickering light to submerge us back into the darkness…OutcastOutcast is currently airing season 2 on Cinemax and there are only 2 episodes left this season.  You still have plenty of time to binge-watch seasons 1 and 2, however.  The show is created by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and is based on the comic series of the same name.  It follows Kyle Barnes, played by Patrick Fugit, who is surrounded by misfortune, as his close family members are possessed by demons, leading him on a path toward self-discovery and justice.  Kyle soon discovers that he has the ability to exorcise demons with merely his touch.  There has been a gap of time since we have seen new episodes, as season 1 aired on Cinemax in 2016 and season 2 just started airing in summer 2018, which can sometimes lead to a slower pace or a need to refresh our memories on who’s who in the demonic possession game.  However, the show does have many redeeming qualities and is definitely worth a watch and hopefully a pickup for season 3, which has yet to be determined.  Please note spoilers are ahead.  My top 5 reasons to watch Outcast are: 

5

Kyle Barnes is a hero you can truly relate to.

One of the things I love about Outcast is that the character of Kyle Barnes seems like an everyday guy that you would actually meet and want to be friends with.  There is nothing truly extraordinary about him and he has a humble presence.  Kyle always tries to do right by his family and frequently visits his mother in the hospital.  He also has a wife and young daughter who he loves very much.  You can immediately detect that Kyle is genuine and a good person.  This makes you truly sympathize with him when we see the people in his life getting possessed by demons.  To make matters worse, it seems like the blame always comes in his direction.  Even when Kyle discovers his abilities with the help of Reverend Anderson, played by Philip Glenister, Kyle is still the same man he has always been.  Only now, he is able to exorcise demons with merely the touch of his hand.  This is definitely more of a burden than a blessing, as Kyle realizes that he will continue to attract the attention and focus of those lurking in the darkness, targeting his family as well.

4

There is a formidable villain.

Meet Sidney.  While we still have a lot to find out about him, it appears that Sidney is the big bad on this series.  Whether he is the devil himself or something else, I’m not entirely sure, but he is always at the center of any darkness in town and sets his sights on Kyle and the Reverend, recognizing them as potential threats to “the merge,” which would give the demons a permanent home in the human vessels they are currently residing in from my understanding.  Part of what makes Sidney such a great villain is that he is so mysterious.  You are immediately drawn in and want to know more.  In season 2, Sidney is shown as more vulnerable, as his human host begins to fail on him, but Sidney is not someone to be taken lightly.  He is responsible for carving a pentagram into Reverend Anderson’s chest to demonstrate his power over him and he is fixated on shifting Kyle over to his side to use his abilities to further his own agenda.  If we think about the classic idea of good vs. evil, Sidney definitely embodies the epitome of evil.  Has he finally met his match with Kyle, however?  We’ll have to stay tuned to find out, but this is a battle I am absolutely looking forward to.

3

Strong female characters refuse to sit on the sidelines.

Even though a lot of the show is centered around Kyle and the Reverend, the strong female characters on the show don’t merely sit by and let them steal the spotlight.  Kyle’s wife, Allison, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, ends up attacking her own daughter when she is possessed, which is horrifying to watch.  In season 2, Allison is in some kind of psych ward or rehabilitation center and is being told that she needs to accept that she had some kind of psychotic break and that only she is responsible for what happened to her daughter while in a “dissociative state.”  While Allison initially seems weak and vulnerable, she has now become a supporting force to both her daughter and husband.  When Kyle is taken away in the hospital, she demands to see his body and refuses to let other people tell her what to do.  It’s about time Allison found her voice and inner strength.  Rose Giles, played by Charmin Lee, is the wife of the Sheriff and ends up witnessing quite a lot about demonic possession, as her husband joins in on the fight and is possessed himself in season 2.  In season 2, Rose takes matters into her own hands and lures in people who were possessed so that she can eliminate the threat herself.   Finally, let’s talk about Megan, played by Wrenn Schmidt, the foster sister of Kyle.  Megan was possessed at the end of season 1 and in the beginning of season 2, it’s like she is completely broken and a shell of her former self.  She completely blames herself for her husband’s death and even jumps into the water, contemplating drowning herself.  While under the water, Megan has a change of heart and realizes that she needs to live.  We soon learn that Megan is pregnant and some view her unborn child as a potential threat, recognizing that the seed of the demon could still be present.  While I’m interested to see how this story plays out, Megan is trying her best to believe in and support her brother and be strong for her family.

2

Megan’s possession.

Since the show is on Cinemax, we get to see quite a bit of blood and gore along the way, but the scariest moment of the show for me was when Megan was possessed at the end of season 1.  The vacant stare in her eyes was so convincing and creepy.  She killed her own husband and her actions afterwards are so incredibly disturbing.  Megan begins peeling the skin off her own hand and then starts pushing on Mark’s eyeball with no reaction, which is something that still haunts my nightmares.  This is the scariest possession on the show for me and it also created a major cliffhanger as well.

1

Amber steals the show.

The best part of the show for me is Kyle’s daughter, Amber, played by Madeleine McGraw.  It’s safe to say that Amber has been through quite a lot.  Her own mother tried to kill her and she watched her father be accused of pretty much everything.  She also witnessed her Aunt Megan’s possession, which is enough to send her straight into years and years of therapy.  But Amber is not afraid and turns out to be an outcast herself, revealed in season 2.  Amber has the same ability as her father, but she is a lot less timid with it.  While Kyle tends to warn the demons, Amber just goes right up to them and burns them, proving that she is courageous and strong.  When they are told that her father is dead in the hospital, Amber keeps looking for him, refusing to listen to these lies.  She is the one who finds Kyle and tells him that “fireflies can see other fireflies.”  Amber has a lot to learn about her own abilities, but it seems like she may end up more powerful than her father.  Kyle knows that he has a huge responsibility and burden already, but he needs to ensure Amber’s safety at all cost.  Either way, Amber is a character you can absolutely root for, constantly reminding us just how capable and strong she is.  Ready to watch?

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I hope you enjoyed the list and feel free to post your own theories and thoughts on Outcast in the comments section below.  Thanks so much for reading and happy viewing!

Best,

Amy Koto, TV Fanatic Girl

@TV_Fanatic_Girl

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I am so excited to announce that my book, The Search for Alice, is now available!  If you enjoy fairy-tale retellings, paranormal romance, horror, and mystery, then this might be the book for you or someone you know!  Thank you for taking the time to check it out and I appreciate any feedback as well.  I hope you enjoy!

When Kallie Bennett, a jaded teenage girl plagued by her alcoholic mother and her peers molded out of sheer bubble gum perfection, chases after Alice in Wonderland herself, she ends up lost in her own version of Wonderland, which forces her to face her utmost fears and introduces her to familiar characters with a dark twist. Among these characters is Ches, a gorgeous vampire with a conflicted conscience, who becomes Kallie’s guide and blossoming love interest. She also crosses paths with Queen Hartley, a manipulative witch who has the power to strip away one’s memories and imagination, which brings a bone chilling new meaning to “off with their heads.” In The Search for Alice, Kallie starts to realize that her Wonderland is just as frightening as her own reality and that she cannot always run away from her problems. She must figure out a way to defeat Queen Hartley and return home before it is too late, but she soon learns that escaping Wonderland means leaving Ches behind forever.

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