Movie vs. Book: The Ritual

So, I am a little behind the times.

The Ritual, a movie about four college friends reuniting to hike through Sweden and coming across an ancient, bloodthirsty creature, came out in February of this year. I even watched it six months ago when it initially came out, but before I sat down and did a proper review I knew I wanted to read the novel. Well, this past month I finally bought a copy of The Ritual by Adam Neville, and now that I’ve read it, it’s finally time to share my thoughts.

Brace yourself. They’re not very positive.

The Film Adaptation

ritual movie posterWhen the film came out earlier this year, everyone started recommending it to me. Everyone who watched it said it was new and unique and amazing and that I just had to watch it. I would love it! Well, I’ve never been one to shy away from a horror film, so I cracked open a beer and queued it up.

If you’re not familiar with the film, I’ll give a brief synopsis. Four college friends reunite to go on a hike through the Swedish wilderness to honor their friend, Robert, who died a few months beforehand in a liquor store robbery. One of the friends, Luke, was in the store when it happened and did nothing so there’s some lingering resentment from the other three toward Luke. On the hike, they decide to take a shortcut and end up lost in a forest inhabited by an ancient god that is desperate for sacrifices and picks the men off one by one. Luke ends up stumbling across a small village of people in the forest who worship the entity, a bastard offspring of the Norse god, Loki, and manages to escape before they sacrifice him to the creature.

Even just writing that, the story sounds amazing. Lost in the forest with some creepy beast stealing your friends away and stringing them up in trees sounds like the recipe for an amazing horror story. Except, whoever the hell mixed up the ingredients for this movie put in way too much “men lost and complaining in the woods” and not enough “cool monster” and “creepy cult.”

The movie was incredibly unbalanced in my opinion. We spent way, way too much time following the four friends getting lost in the woods. It’s boring and overdone. I’ve already read that story, I’ve already watched that movie. Hell, I’ve fucking lived that story myself one time when I got too drunk on a camping trip.

Also, as a woman, I could not even remotely relate to the characters, Dom, Phil, Hutch, and Luke. All they seemed to focus on was being the most masculine and the conflict was completely based on miscommunication and toxic masculinity.

Boo. Boring and overdone.

ritualmonsterThe movie really got interested when the monster actually showed its face. I remember squealing when it came on screen, as if it were some cute kitten or baby bunny that had appeared. Amazing design. Loved the monster. Unfortunately, the monster was on screen for maybe a quarter of the movie. I was way more invested in it and the cult that worshiped it than I was in the four male characters and it barely got a part in the movie. I was thoroughly disappointed. A cool movie with so much potential that just didn’t follow through.

Reading the Novel

After I was disappointed by the movie, I found out it was based on a book!

Great, I thought to myself. The novel must spend more time focusing on the cult and the monster than the movie did. Movies more often than not cut out major scenes to keep the film short.  I need to buy it and read it so I can finally hear more about my sweet, baby monster.

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Nope, I was so very wrong .

The book was even more unbalanced than the movie was. In total, the book was a little over 400 pages and we only ever got small glimpses of the monster. Also, it wasn’t until around page 260 that the cult even came into the story.

Oh, and it wasn’t a cult. It was three metal-head teenagers with authority-issues looking to spill blood. Loki and Fenris, the two young men who made up the band Blood Frenzy, had heard stories about the beast living in the woods and came to worship it while at the same time desecrating ancient churches and other modern religious altars.

While that sounds interesting, Loki, Fenris, and their other friend, Surtr, were boring and one dimensional, basic metalhead stereotypes. They reminded me of the bad kids in an after school special about peer pressure and satanism.

I had issues with all three of these metalhead younglings, but my biggest issue with the book was with Surtr, one of only two women featured in the book.

Women in The Ritual

Let’s talk about Surtr.

In the novel, Surtr was, as far as I could tell, a groupie of Blood Frenzy and Loki’s psychotic girlfriend. Although her age was never stated, based on Luke’s pondering of whether these delinquents would even get tried as adults, I’d guess she was between 16 and 20 years old, which honestly makes the last third of the book creepy for an entirely different reason.

Surtr, whose number of speaking lines I can count on one hand, was described as a short, overweight woman with with black hair. Pretty vague, right? Well, thankfully, the author doesn’t stop there! We also get to hear all about how plump and pendulous her breasts are as she runs around the forest naked and how sebaceous and creamy her vagina smells while she pins Luke down.

That’s it, that’s all we get for physical characterization. And as for her personality, well all we know is that she’s incredibly violent, unstable, and wants to cut Luke’s toes off for no reason other than her sadistic streak. Surtr is basically a wild animal, thrown into the narrative for no good reason other than to provide an opportunity to use insults like “fat bitch” and “ugly cow.”

As a lover of horror and a grown ass woman, I have no issue with that type of language or misogyny. This isn’t kindergarten and I don’t expect authors to pull punches to spare my feelings, especially when they’re talking about a character in life or death situations. However, in The Ritual it was absolutely pointless because Surtr was absolutely pointless. The story started off very male-focused and I was fine with that, until the author brought in a female character and demonstrated how little he cared about her.

Surtr was my main issue with this section of the book, but after the author included a line describing the smell of her vagina, I started noticing other little things that just pissed me off. The old woman who lived in the house and was the descendent of the creature in the woods was one hundred percent a horror stereotype. Old women, living in the woods alone practicing ancient magic? Been there, done that.

However, that stereotype took on a whole new light when I read that description of Surtr. I remember thinking, “oh, he just doesn’t know how to write women at all. Awesome.”

And then, the old woman called the creature in the forest “moder,” which means mother.

So now even the monster is feminine, which means in the last twenty or so pages of the book, Luke is exclusively fighting against feminine entities. He’s fighting Surtr and the old woman and now the ancient mother of the forest.

As a woman reading this, I was even less thrilled than I was in the beginning. Obviously, the author has some issues with women that he unknowingly unloaded into this novel. I felt alienated reading it and only finished it because the hidden misogyny only started popping up when I was almost done. When I’m less than 200 pages away from finishing a book, it takes a lot for me to not finish it.

That, and I really wanted to write this post criticizing it and the only way I could be seen as a credible critic was to finish it.

My final thoughts: 0/10, boring, misogynistic, was rooting for the monster to win.

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For a Professional Writer, I’m Super Bad at Keeping a Writing Schedule

How long has this blog been going for? More than two years at this point? And in that time only one of us has earned a punishment, and that was me. Last time I felt like I had a pretty decent excuse. I got a sudden migraine the evening I was supposed to write and ended up in bed, waiting patiently for my eyes to stop throbbing.

Well, I have officially earned the second punishment in the history of Seven Degrees of Smudde and guess what my excuse is this time? Well, surprise, surprise. I have none.

Want to know what I did today? Well, I woke up at 11 a.m., hung out with the ferrets while I watched reruns of Gilmore Girls, read the novella “Cannibals in Candyland,” and then binged the first season of Netflix’s “Frontier” in preparation to binge the second season tomorrow. It was about two beers and four episodes into this Netflix binge that I remembered what day it was. At that point it was a quarter after 10 p.m. and, honestly, I didn’t really feel like pausing my show to write. I just texted you and said to start preparing a punishment because I didn’t feel like writing.

God, listen to me. I didn’t feel like writing. I’m a professional writer. I get paid lots of money to go to work, sit behind a desk, and write things for eight hours. I’m also a pretty responsible and organized writer at work. I rarely miss deadlines and when I do, I let my team know that I’ve been delayed. And while I might not have a good excuse for being delayed, at least I know my schedule well enough to know that I’m fucked.

And yet, when I get home, I become a terrible writer. A terrible writer who sometimes forgets when things are due, like I did today.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m like this. When I was younger, I was always writing. I never stopped writing. You probably remember, Daniel, the way I always carried notebooks with me and would sit for hours writing in them. I always had a story I was working on. Granted, back then, I didn’t have any deadlines to meet, but I’m 100% positive I would have met my deadlines if they had existed. I would have met them because I always felt like writing.

Now that I’m older and I kind of have the writing job I always wanted, I don’t feel like writing. I feel like sitting and watching Netflix and reading trashy horror novels.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t have as much of an imagination as I did when I was a kid. Sometimes I think it’s because I spend all of my time writing at work that when I come home it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes I think it’s because unless there is an immediately tangible reward or consequence to a task, I have no motivation to complete it, which is a common theme in my life. For example, unless I have an early meeting at work or I’m going somewhere fun, I cannot get up with my alarm in the morning.

Anyway, I hope you have fun thinking up my punishment, Daniel. Sorry for getting this up so late! I need to keep better track of myself. In other news, “Cannibals In Candyland” was just as ridiculous as it sounds.

-EMS  

 

Waiting for the Hook

173I liked the show Stranger Things.

If you’re out of the loop, Stranger Things is a Netflix series about a small town right outside a secret government base. Something happens and people start to go missing and it’s up to the town’s residents to figure out what’s going on and save a little boy named Will.

Anyway, I really loved this show. It’s a wonderful blend of three very common horror narratives: children coming of age and fighting monsters, like in Stephen King’s It or the movie Super 8; high school hallway horror, like in any 80s slasher film; and adults fighting human monsters and government corruption, like Cabin in the Woods. Stranger Things combines all of these plots to create one cohesive, highly addictive story that had me hooked as soon as I started watching it.

Now, earlier this week you brought up the show and said that you HATED it. The first three episodes were so boring you got up to do laundry while you watched. You also hated the characterization, which to be honest was one of the reasons I liked it. Anyway, my response to this was asking how far you got. You said three episodes and I said “oh, it picks up after that. You just have to push through.”

Where in the world did this logic come from? Why in the world do we force ourselves through boredom or painfully bad acting in hopes that it gets better? That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about since we talked about Stranger Things, Daniel. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it all depends on who told you to.

So looking back at my own life I’ve on multiple occasions pushed my way through something boring because someone I trusted told me it would get better. The best example I have is Parks and Rec, a show which I can say without any sarcasm actually changed my life. However, before you get to the wonderful, positive, hilarious bits of that show you have to sit through the first season, which oh my god. I could get through maybe an episode a day and that was it.

It took me maybe two weeks to get through the first season. I got through the next six seasons in maybe a month, that’s how much it picked up.

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If I had just given up when it got boring I would never have experienced the positivity and beauty of that show. Why did I not give up? Because my friend Meredith told me not to, and I believed her. If anyone else had told me to keep going, I might not have, but I respected Meredith’s opinion.

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Me reading about the Dursleys in the first chapter.

Another example is Harry Potter. Now, I don’t know if you remember this, Daniel, but I didn’t read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first. I tried, but the first few chapters were SO BORING. I just couldn’t get through it. Then, my wonderful older brother gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He told me “it’s kinda like a scary story and you like scary stories.” I gave it a try and WOW. I had been missing out!

How do you feel Daniel knowing it was you who got me into Harry Potter? If you hadn’t done that, I literally might not be married right now. Let that sink in.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of instances where I heard that I had to stick with something and it would eventually get good and it never did.

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Wanna know something? These twins,  the most iconic twins in all of movie history, WEREN’T IN THE BOOK. OH MY GOD.

 

The movie version of The Shining for instance. Stanley Kubrick ruined The Shining. He completely destroyed my favorite characters and stripped out all of the amazing characterization in order to prop up Jack Nicholson’s acting skills. I could go on, but I could write an entire spoiler filled post about how much I hate that movie.

The John Carter of Mars series was another. I read the first one. It was okay, but I kept hearing from people “oh, you have to read the rest! They’re amazing!” Actually, no they’re not. They’re surprisingly racist is what they are! I almost couldn’t finish them because I felt SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE.

When I think back to these two instances though, you know what the difference is? No one I trusted told me to give them a try, it was society that insisted these things were good. Everyone loves Kubrick so much so The Shining had to be a good movie! Wrong. Everyone adored John Carter of Mars so the sequels had to be awesome. Uh, no.

The point I’m trying to get to is that sometimes there are things that you have to “suffer through” to get to the good parts, but you shouldn’t use that logic for everything. Listen to the people who know you and follow your own interests rather than those of the masses. It will save you a lot of boredom.

Well, before I end this post I’ll just say, after some consideration, don’t bother trying to finish Stranger Things, Daniel. It tapped into my love of horror, which I know you don’t share so don’t put yourself through it. I will just be alone in my adoration of this show.

-EMS

Making Friends as an Introvert

Shall I jump from one semi-angsty topic to another? I think I should so for this post I want to talk about how difficult it is to make friends when you’re an adult.

This week one of my friends and coworkers left Pullman to work in Eugene, Oregon. Of course I’m thrilled for her and wish her all the best in her new adventure, but I’ll miss her. Over the last year we’d become very close and I could count on her for spontaneous coffee runs at work and after work happy hour parties. Now she’s gone. What do I do now?

I, of course, have other friends here in Pullman, but her leaving has made me think about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. A majority of my friends are through work because I am pretty much forced to spend forty hours a week in the same hallway they’re in. So what about outside of work? Can I just go up to someone and decide “you’re my friend now”?

I wish. There are so many societal rules about what’s okay and what’s not okay and what friendships should look like, and they drive me nuts. I can’t do this because it’s creepy and you have to keep work and personal life separate. Blah, blah, blah…

As an adult I also feel like I’m saddled with a lot more self-doubt. Every time I meet a new person, especially at work, I’m worried about making a good impression. Basically, my entire life is spent wondering when I can let the crazy out. Will they find my tabletop gaming hobby cute or weird? Should I tell them my reading consists of Stephen King novels and slasher fiction? I want them to like me, dammit! How do I make them like me?

Friendship shouldn’t be this hard!

Also, as an introvert, meeting new people is impossible. A majority of my close friends I’ve either met through work or through my husband because he’s an extrovert. If I want to make friends on my own I have to go out and meet people and that just sounds unpleasant. I want all the benefits of friendship like trust and companionship without the awkward getting-to-know-each-other phase.

My introverted-ness also means maintaining friendships is really hard. I’m just not a very social person so maintaining the friendships I have in Pullman is already hard enough. Maintaining the friendships back in Vancouver or from college is pretty much impossible!

I’ve only ever actively ended a few friendships. Most of the other ones fizzled out because we physically moved away from each other. I’m not trying to ignore them, but unless I see them on a day-to-day basis, they’re just not on my mind. I know that sounds horrible and I don’t know how to stop myself. When did being a low-maintenance person become a burden? Oh, that’s right, when adulthood struck.

I feel like as an adult there’s a certain idea of what being friends means. It no longer means people that you get along with and talk with. It means people you go out for coffee with and text on a regular basis and actively go out of your way to make plans with. Honestly, that’s not who I am. I’m an introvert, a home body by default, and I would rather spend an evening reading or watching Netflix than going out for coffee, so where do I find the motivation to plan these outings? Oh, that’s right. My friends do it for me.

What I really enjoy is friendship that doesn’t have specific expectations. A friend in my mind is someone I get along with and have fun with and if I don’t see them for a few weeks, that’s fine. We’ll pick up where we left off when we reconnect. I also like friends who are as introverted and laid back as I am. One of my best friends will just show up at my apartment and let himself in so we can watch TV. I only see another one of my best friends every other week and we can hang like nothing happened. My third best friend also likes Netflixs and we’ll share what we’re watching via Snapchat. It’s no big deal. No activity needed.

Sorry if this post is a little jumbled. This has been on my mind for a while and it’s something that I struggle with. Thankfully, as an adult, I also realize that having a handful of really close friends is way better than having a wide net of casual acquaintances. I also realize that making friends through work and through my husband are nothing to be ashamed of, as long as those people make me happy. Yeah, it sucks when I meet cool people and have no idea how to turn out casual meetings into a full-blown friendship, but that’s okay. I still have a lot of love in my life.

-EMS