The Old House

Trees dappled the sun on the ground.
Dogs frolicked and barked all around.
And we would play too,
In the rain, with the flu,
Till they painted the old house blue.

We played in that backyard for years
With leaves from the trees we held dear.
And we’d be there today
Had we not moved away,
So that blue paint is there to stay.

We drove past the old house last night
Expecting to see walls of white.
But since we’ve been gone
That family’s moved on
And we’ll only see blue in the dawn.

How and Why BioShock 2 Failed Me

My love for the original BioShock game is stronger than Superman’s ability to arm wrestle. I wrote a whole post about it. Even though it’s a grim setting, the world of BioShock charms me to no end. I love immersing myself in the universe and lore, and for those of you wondering, I even love BioShock Infinite.

As most gamers who have played BioShock will say, the weakest link in my BioShock adoration chain is BioShock 2. When asked about whether or not I liked the sequel, I have always just shrugged and said, “It was okay. Not amazing, but not bad.”

Well, after trying to replay BioShock 2 a few months ago (key phrase is “trying to”), my opinion has definitively changed.

I really don’t like BioShock 2.

As a gamer who likes to see games through to the end no matter my level of enjoyment, I found myself becoming more and more indifferent to finishing BioShock 2 until I eventually dropped it in favor of playing endless rounds of Risk of Rain 2.

Side note: Expect a future post about Risk of Rain 2. I just want to try out the multiplayer component before I type up a review/gush-a-athon.

If you have never played BioShock, this post might not mean much to you. I mean, why should you care why its sequel is such a disappointment if you’ve never played it? But if you’ve ever played a role-playing game (RPG) at some point, you’ll be able to understand my grievances well enough.

The first thing that works against BioShock 2 is that the wonder of the world of Rapture begins to fade.

In the original game, Rapture is an engrossing environment. It’s an underwater city that was meant to house artists, inventors, businessmen, and entrepreneurs in a world that functions like Ayn Rand’s wet dreams. However, as anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged and learned about the pitfalls of Objectivism knows, you can clearly see why everything went to shit. When exploring the world in the first BioShock, you’re just captivated by how terribly everything fell apart and the nuances of how a society like this could ever have functioned.

The second game takes place in Rapture as well, but there is nothing new about the principles of the place. It is still a decrepit underwater city that failed due to its selfish societal dictates. So the fascination with its downfall is lessened somewhat. In addition to that, since BioShock 2 attempts to incorporate new enemy types and environmental hazards in a world that has already established a history, every new aspect feels like a forced add-on.

The original BioShock was a crisp and unique monument. BioShock 2 added unwieldy lumps of clay to that monument.

The second thing that brings BioShock 2 down a notch from its predecessor is its premise. You play as a Big Daddy trying to reunite with his “daughter.”

Now, in the first BioShock, Big Daddies were the ultimate enemy types that a player could face. Hulking behemoths in gargantuan old-timey wetsuits that take lumbering steps that shake the floor (and your controller) as they protect their Little Sister charges, all the while moaning and groaning in a metallic fashion.

Big Daddies were the stuff of nightmares.They were a terrifying and ominous threat that you took on at your own peril.

In BioShock 2, you play as one of them, and while that might sound cool, it significantly lessens the vibe of what it means to be a Big Daddy.

Why?

Well, because suddenly, Splicers, the lowest form of enemies you can face in the BioShock franchise, can attack you with relative impunity.

It’d be as if you were playing a Lord of the Rings game, and suddenly Hobbits were giving trouble to the Ringwraiths.

However, that’s not where BioShock 2 fails the most.

The biggest turn-off for me while playing had to do with its RPG elements.

Now, the BioShock series features very light RPG elements in that you can upgrade your skill set throughout the game, slowly getting stronger, getting access to better weapons, and improving those weapons over time.

The first game handled these aspects well. You slowly built up your store of powers and gained weapon upgrades incrementally. Everything felt perfectly spaced out. Personally, I was always pumped whenever I got some ADAM so that I could upgrade my powers. And the new weapons were handed to me in unforgettable sequences that allowed me to try them out.

The second game, in my incredibly Below Average opinion, totally fudged this up.

Let me explain to you how the upgrade system works in BioShock 2.

As a Big Daddy, you need ADAM to upgrade and gain new abilities. ADAM is found in corpses scattered around Rapture, and the only ones capable of extracting it are the hideous Little Sisters. And even though you’re technically a Big Daddy, you can’t just summon up a Little Sister to follow and protect. No, you have to steal them from other Big Daddies. Once you’ve defeated a Big Daddy, you “adopt” his Little Sister, and she can lead you to corpses filled with ADAM.

Side note: Yes, the concept of taking red DNA juice from dead bodies is gross, but that’s part of BioShock’s charm.

However, it’s no small task for your newfound Little Sister to collect ADAM. For some reason, setting her down to suck up that sweet, sweet ADAM sounds a clarion call for every Splicer in a mile-wide radius to come attack you. Once you assign a corpse to a Little Sister for collection, BioShock 2 initiates this kind of defense sequence where you have to stop anyone from getting to her.

So collecting ADAM and upgrading your character becomes a long, drawn-out process that contributes nothing to the story. And to make matters worse, BioShock 2’s placement of Big Daddies and Little Sisters is super rushed.

For instance, at one point in the game, I have to confront a Father Wales. He’s this religious nut that has created a cult of followers in a section of Rapture called Siren Alley. Wales is stopping me and my character from reaching our pseudo-daughter, so he has to be dealt with. I enter Siren Alley with every intention of dealing with Wales immediately. His voice mocks me on the intercom, and I’m prepared to defeat yet another video game’s psychotic religious leader.

However, as I enter the beginning portions of Siren Alley, I see a Big Daddy leading a Little Sister along.

Any RPG player worth their salt knows that upgrading skills and gear is of paramount importance. You always tackle upgrades before diving into the story because you don’t know if and when a story mission might take you away from a place you could have gotten some much-needed skill improvements.

So what do I do?

I prepare for a Big Daddy showdown.

After defeating this other Big Daddy and taking his Little Sister, I have her lead me to as many ADAM-filled corpses as she can. Each time we find one, I prepare for the imminent onslaught of Splicers before setting her down. I lay out some traps at different entry points, buy a few health kits, and hunker down for the attack. Finally, after she’s gotten me all the ADAM she can and I’ve killed a city’s worth of Splicers protecting her, I drop her off at a vent and prepare to continue my quest to stop Father Wales.

But then my controller starts to shake and I hear the giggles of a Little Sister. Turning the corner, I see another Big Daddy and Little Sister in this very same area. I sigh, gear up for another unsatisfying Big Daddy showdown, and take his Little Sister when I’m done.

I take her to the corpses she can find me and engage in more defend-this-ADAM-collecting-machine segments of gameplay, and after two hours of playtime in Siren Alley, I have not progressed an inch in terms of advancing the story. I’m in the very same section of plaza that I was when I entered this area.

And so, after some listless slogging, I finally dropped my replay of BioShock 2.

I’m currently enjoying Risk of Rain 2 to no end.

I’ve Got Mask Mania

Okay, I’ve gone on poetic diatribes about why people should be wearing masks and social distancing during a pandemic, but can I just take a moment to talk about how much I actually love masks? It sucks if you don’t enjoy wearing one, but holy hell, I’m having so much fun with my masks. There are just so many reasons for me to wear a mask, that I thought I’d spend today sharing with you, my Above Average readers, why I, your Below Average Blogger, think they’re awesome.

It Makes Me Feel Like a Costumed Vigilante

Granted, a lot of super heroes don’t actually wear face coverings, such as Superman with his perfectly chiseled features and piercing blue eyes.

But a lot of stellar heroes do wear masks, like Spider-Man, The Question, and Sister Night. And even though I’m nowhere near them in terms of coolness, wearing a mask makes me feel like I could (in theory) be a hero.

Is this childish?

Heck yes.

Do I care?

Not in the slightest.

Masks Hide My Least Favorite Features

I’m honestly not too fond of my face.

You know how sometimes hearing your voice recorded and played back to you is thoroughly off-putting?

That’s what it feels like to see my face sometimes.

Just as my voice sounds like it doesn’t belong in my throat, I occasionally don’t really connect with the face I see in the mirror. It’s me, but it doesn’t look like me.

Side note: This is incredibly strange to actually type out. It makes me sound a tad psychotic. Don’t worry. I’m perfectly fine. These are just errant thoughts I occasionally get. (Oh geez, that sounds exactly like what a psychotic person would say to explain this away.)

A mask covers the majority of my face, leaving only my eyes to stare out. (Which is fine by me. My eyes are below average and good-humored, which totally jives with how I perceive myself.)

It’s a Gracious Gesture Toward Others

Lately, I’ve been working on my bows, so that I can perfect a pandemic-era salutation. It’s actually harder than it sounds. You want to come across as gracious, while not looking like you’re being abysmally subservient.

And a mask is the perfect thing to complement my courtesy in bowing.

See, what a lot of people don’t seem to get is that masks aren’t intended to protect you from getting sick. Masks are intended to protect others. When I wear a mask, I’m wearing it on the off chance I’m an asymptomatic carrier. It is a symbol of my respect and regard for others around me.

And that kind of civility really appeals to me.

I Get To Look Like Richard Nixon

Okay, Nixon is definitely not my favorite US president. In fact, he’s somewhere near the bottom in a ranking of every president that ever took the Presidential Oath of Office.

But I do enjoy coming back inside after a summer walk with my mask (I live in a place with temperatures consistently 100 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter), taking off my mask in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at the slick sheen of sweat on my upper lip, and then caustically muttering, “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” like Frank Langella from Frost/Nixon.

It’s funny.

They Come in Different Colors

Personally, I did not go on a mask spending-spree when social distancing was put into effect in March.

However, both my mother and her sisters went absolutely nuts buying a bunch of masks, of all colors and types.

My mother got me some homemade ones from a friend of hers, and those come in navy blue, light blue with rainbow flowers, light grey with white spirals, and black. She also got a few from some stores, including a plain white and a bright red.

My tias (aunts), always looking at the heights of fashion, got me silk and cotton masks made by designer Johnny Was.

Fucking silk.

I didn’t know who the heck Johnny Was was, but he makes some damn fine masks. I feel uber cool wearing his pleated and floral wares.

If you find yourself traveling during this time, be sure to do yourself and others a favor by wearing a mask when out in public. It is not only the decent thing to do, but it is the fun thing to do, too.

I think I’m going to keep on wearing masks in the future. I’ve grown rather fond of it.

I mean, clearly, since I just wrote an entire blog post about it.

Finally, Some Sister Time

I’ve missed my sister immensely.

People don’t always understand how close I am to my sister. Alya and I have been each other’s best friends for my entire life, and there is no shaking that kind of connection.

We’re so close, we’ve laughed at the demonstrations of sisterly affection in Frozen. Elsa and Anna are nowhere near our levels of closeness, and both Alya and I know this for a fact. “I mean,” Alya has said, “I think I love you so much, I would not be able to stop hanging out with you even if I found out I had ice powers and it might get you hurt.”

This particular analogy got tested during the pandemic.

Suddenly, both Alya and I were faced with the very real possibility that hanging out with each other could hurt us.

We held out for a good solid five months. Then, after assessing the risk and deciding we wanted to see each other more than we worried about getting sick and potentially dying, we arranged for me to stay with her for a week.

Side note: Yeah, we were hysterically morbid, about the whole thing.

I’ve been quarantining far more than Alya, so she got tested right before I arrived. That didn’t stop us from being nervous on the car drive over to her house. We asked each other about how comfortable we were wearing masks, what we should expect in the next few days, and a few other precautions.

That’s when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio.

I mean…were we just supposed to not sing it?

We belted out the lyrics with gusto, spraying who knows how much spit into the car, and we finally relaxed.

When we got back to her house, we were just engrossed with each other. I swear, it was like Christmas. I woke up in my specially made-up guest room every day excited to hang out with Alya. I spent every waking moment of my visit with her.

We exercised on her elliptical together, listening to the ultimate bop-master, TheFatRat the entire time. We drank coffee in the mornings and hung out in her backyard while her adorable pupsters, Ushi, lay down on the sidewalk next to us. We watched The Lord of The Rings, the extended editions, through to completion, quoting it at every turn and, if it was evening, taking a drink every time Sam said “Mister Frodo.” We tried reenacting the dance number from the “Genghis Khan” music video, only to find to our dismay that they actually used professional dancers in it and we couldn’t faithfully replicate their moves. We ate inadvisable amounts of Hot Cheetos Puffs with white wine in the evening. We drank Sauvignon Blanc and spent a few minutes trying to say it in exaggerated French accents. We cuddled with Ushi and gave her a bath in the middle of the day. And (suckily) we attended to our respective work schedules, too.

Ushi and I are best buds. Clearly.

That single week was seriously one of the best of my life. The threat of potentially getting sick hung over my head for the first few days, but the opportunity of just spending time with my sister (in the house, never out and about, mind you) was obliteratingly positive. Unbeknownst to me, a knot of anxiety had slowly been building up inside of me while Alya and I were apart. But when we were together, it’s like she just pulled and poked the knot away.

Upon arriving back home, it felt like I was missing something.

We have made plans for the future, a joint birthday party to which no one is invited except us and Halloween dress-up plans to look like Merry and Pippin. I look forward to seeing her again.

At the time of this writing, I just got tested for COVID-19. It felt like the smart thing to do after returning home, and I’m currently waiting for my results. I feel fine. And honestly, the test wasn’t that bad. I think my unnaturally large nasal cavities (thanks to my grotesque schnozz) have given me the capacity to have giant Q-Tips stuck in them and twirled around for samples without much discomfort.

I think people should be careful when planning visits to their family and friends at this point, as the pandemic still looms over all our heads, but I have no leg to stand on when it comes to restricting travel. I had to see Alya. However, communication is key. Be open and honest with comfort levels and risk assessments.

And I sincerely hope that everyone gets the chance to feel as happy as I did that week.

I’ve Published 200 Posts!

WordPress has kindly notified me that as of my Meddling Kids book review (slash recommendation, since I didn’t really go in depth with the plot), I have published 200 posts on my Below Average Blog.

Holy moly.

Well, I’d like to thank the computer capability that makes all this possible, my enjoyment of the English language with all its incredibly sucky foibles, and my uncomfortable office chair.

But most of all, I’d like to thank anyone and everyone who has read a single thing I’ve written.

I feel like just yesterday I was writing an appreciation post, but here we go again.

Side note: See? This is what happens when WordPress sends me cute little reminders. I get overly emotional more than once.

I seriously enjoy the fact that people read what I write. It’s like the ultimate ecstasy and comfort at the same time.

So here’s to 200 more posts.

Knowing 2020 and the type of year it’s been so far though, I bet you anything this is the year the internet just stops working.

Knock on wood.

Madoka Magica Madness

My Dungeons & Dragons group has movie nights on occasion. It started as a way to just hang out during the pandemic. We’d hop onto Discord, pick a bad movie, and just press play at the same time. We’ve gone through Kung Fu Hustle, Mortal Kombat, and Spaceballs.

One day, I don’t recall how, but the subject of anime was brought up, and Puella Magi Madoka Magica was mentioned in the conversation.

Side note: From here on out, whenever I reference this anime, I’m just going to call it Madoka Magica.

I had never heard of it before, and neither had the majority of our party. Only two had seen it, one of them being our usual Dungeon Master, Sidney. He immediately volunteered the series as our next watch on movie night. In its favor was the fact that it was only twelve episodes long, and it was on Netflix.

Honestly, I’m not a big anime person. Often, anime series are huge time investments because the good ones have massive amounts of manga chapters to follow. I have bought a few manga volumes, notably Death Note, Fruits Basket, and Naruto. But I haven’t even made the leap to watching their anime all the way through to their conclusions.

As such, I had no idea what to expect from Madoka Magica.

Let me tell you, while it is not the most disturbing anime out there, it is definitely shocking for the genre it is commenting upon.

The “magical girl” genre is a popular one, and it basically involves a select group of girls who are granted magical powers, transform into their badass selves, and then whup evil’s ass. Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura are perfect examples of this.

Madoka Magica seeks to dismantle the tropes you commonly see in a magical girl anime. The toll the girls must accept for gaining powers is insane. The monsters they face are deadly, and, as it turns out, their transformations come at a heinous cost.

So what started as a lighthearted, girlish adventure turned into this universe-ending shock-fest. Sidney, who had already seen the series, spent half his time watching our faces on the computer screen so he could see our reactions. And we were totally engrossed. We stayed up well after midnight guzzling each episode with our eyes.

I won’t necessarily recommend Madoka Magica to you, my Above Average Readers, because I’m not sure what you’d think of it. To prove my point, two of our D&D party members just refused to watch the series (Mia and Dalton). One because she had seen it already and been disturbed by the plot twists, and the other because he refuses to watch anime that deconstruct themselves.

I will, however, say that if you want one hell of a hellish time and you enjoy a bite-sized anime every so often, then Madoka Magica should be perfect for you.

A Morbid Family Tree: What Remains of Edith Finch Review

I’m actually rather fond of walking simulator games. It scratches an itch I got while playing BioShock. Exploring Rapture was more than half the fun of that game. There were actually portions of the game where I wanted to stop shooting splicers just so I could look at the environs. Walking simulators, at their best, give you the experience of discovering a story just by looking around and interacting with your surroundings. You glean the story at your leisure by seeing environmental details.

What Remains of Edith Finch stands out from the modest crowd of walking simulator games thanks to its unique gameplay elements and odd storytelling. However, unless you’re already fond of the calm of a walking simulator, I would not necessarily recommend this game to you.

I first heard of it through the power of online reviews. While researching games like Firewatch and Gone Home, What Remains of Edith Finch would get mentioned a lot. Its premise intrigued me so much, I avoided reading any more about it after that. And I finally got a chance to play through it this week.

This is going to be a spoiler-heavy review. Just warning you. It’s been out for about three years, so I’m not too worried about ruining it for anyone, but if you have any interest in playing this game whatsoever, I highly recommend you stop reading now.

Side note: Huh. Feels odd to recommend people stop reading my writing.

The game starts out with narration from protagonist Edith Finch. She is who we play as for the most part, and the story is about how she is finally returning to her old family home after years away. She wants to learn more about a curse that has plagued her family tree for generations, and the only way to do this is by exploring every room of the odd-looking house.

Whenever Edith narrates something, her words physically appear in the game. I’m incredibly fond of captions, so this was a delight for me. They’re imaginatively used too. When Edith is about to open a gate, softly speaking about her trepidation returning home, her words appear above the gate. As she pushes it open, her words are shaken away by her motions.

This quirky attribute continues as Edith explores the rest of the house. The house itself is a ginormous testament to weirdness. Piles of books are everywhere, pictures completely cover nearly every wall, cans of fish are stacked on more than one kitchen counter, and odd knick-knacks litter the shelves. Many lives have passed through this house, and it clearly shows.

When you stumble into a family member’s room for the first time, you learn that this game will take on an anthology type structure. As Edith discovers important items from each family member, their stories are told and Edith learns the true extent of the “curse.”

You might be wondering at this point about what exactly this curse is. It’s never made entirely clear, but you figure out quickly enough that it has to do with every family member reaching an unfortunate and odd end.

That said, even though the different family members tell different stories through narrative and gameplay, they all end rather tragically. However, they do take on a fantastical aspect at times, making the game experience more palatable than just a march of death.

Again, I’d like to reiterate that if you haven’t played the game, you should really stop reading at this point.

Each family member has their own story that is played a different way. My favorites are as follows:

  • A young girl has a dream that she gains an insatiable appetite. She imagines herself to be a cat, an owl, a shark, and a monster in quick succession, constantly finding herself hungrier and hungrier. The outlandishness of this notion, mixed with humor and horror, makes it one of the more memorable stories.
  • A teenage girl spends a pulpy night of horror at home alone when a masked villain shows up on her doorstep. Told in the same manner as Tales from the Crypt, you guide her through this stereotypical fright night with only a crutch to defend herself.
  • A baby’s imagination runs wild during bathtime as he leads his bath toys through orchestrated acrobatics while his parents argue in the other room. This is perhaps the saddest tale, and I did not want to see it through to completion.
  • A dejected worker at a fish factory pictures himself as the hero in an isometric adventure. The images in his head soon take over his work life to an exaggerated extent. You find yourself becoming just as distracted as he is by his grand quests.

The ending feels like it comes all too soon, and to be honest, I wasn’t happy with it.

Edith’s last night at the house is explained, and yet not explained, the ambiguity of the curse being left to the player’s imagination. In addition to that, it is revealed that the words of Edith’s narration were written for her unborn son. She apparently died during childbirth, and the game ends with her son visiting her grave.

That said, the individual stories of her family members are incredibly moving and engrossing without overstaying their welcome. I’d play the game for those moments alone.

I rate What Remains of Edith Finch an interesting-walk-with-engrossing-gameplay-and-story-elements-that-made-my-jaw-drop-so-often-I-got-a-bruise-on-my-chin.

Mystery Nostalgia: Catch Those Meddling Kids

I’m not quick to trust new authors, so when I do find myself wandering past the shelves of a bookstore, it’s a big deal. I look at covers. I look at titles. I read synopses. I’m typically a “completionist” type of reader, so once I start a book, I’m saddled with finishing it.

A few months ago (pre-pandemic), I was walking along the aisles of a Barnes & Noble looking for potential purchases. I’d already picked up a few favorites, so I was ready to find something new. What should catch my eye but Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids.

Right off the bat, the title, cover, and synopsis grabbed my attention.

I didn’t watch that much television in my childhood, but you can bet one of the few shows I did make a point of watching was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? My sister and I would sit together and watch old reruns of the Hanna-Barbera original for hours when we were being baby-sat by our aunts.

And as anyone who has watched an ounce of Scooby-Doo knows, “meddling kids” is a very familiar phrase.

Already inclined to try out the novel, I picked up Meddling Kids, bought it, and gave it a read.

It was even better than expected.

Former teen sleuths have to revisit an old case of theirs after years of being apart, with all the stereotypical tropes a mystery like that might entail. However, the plot twists are especially delicious, with certain Cthulhu-esque horror elements being liberally borrowed from. And while the characters might fit into set roles, they also diverge from what you would expect, with all the self-aware humor you could want.

I seriously don’t want to spoil the plot for anybody because it’s that good. It’s satisfying and fun without being too heavy-handed.

However, more than the plot, Cantero’s writing style really captivated me. He has this bead on pop culture that leaks into his writing and makes it feel like readers have a window into characters’ inner thoughts. It’s almost akin to the manner in which Stephen King details how his characters think. For example, one of the characters has an intense crush on a girl with curly orange hair. Every time Cantero describes that hair, even though the metaphors start to blend together after a while, you can feel the depth of emotion behind those feelings.

And the references he makes are insanely cool.

Maybe I’m the only dork who think so, but holy hell, he drew more than a few chuckles from me thanks to them.

Occasionally, his writing will devolve into a script-like structure, where he writes a character’s name and then just types what they say.

For example…

Amanda: (Slowly) I’m not sure how I would feel writing like this, but it worked for Cantero.

At first, this sudden change in style and structure startled me and pulled me out of the story. But he does it often enough and in moments where it just fits seamlessly with what’s going on, that it starts to feel natural. I grew to appreciate the risk he took in doing that, especially as it lines up with (I assume) his love of pulpy cinema.

Meddling Kids is an incredible read, and I can’t believe how lucky I was to have just stumbled across it. It was like finding a diamond in the rough.

Actually, scratch that, it was like finding a diamond in a pile of diamonds.

Because if finding Meddling Kids has taught me anything, it’s that there are so many talented writers out there who don’t get enough love from readers. There are so many stories out there waiting to be read, it’s giving me chills.

5 Disturbing Moments in Kids Movies That RUINED Me

Strange things can creep you out when you’re a kid. But one thing I’ve noticed is that when I saw something that freaked me the eff out as a child, it stuck with me for a while.

As in, to this day, I’m still unsettled at the initial object of “terror.”

My wild imagination coupled with my penchant to lie in bed reminiscing over distrubing images makes for an unpleasant combination.

Anyways, today, I thought I’d go over some scenes/images/characters in kids movies that scared the hell out of me even though I don’t think they were supposed to.

Side note: And my parents thought they needed to keep me from watching R-rated movies. If only they had taken a look at these purported children’s movies.

Be prepared for some distubing pictures up ahead. You’ve been warned (albeit briefly).

The Fireys – Labyrinth

Stuff of nightmares, am I right?

Let’s be honest, the whole of Labyrinth is pretty terrifying. From the stalkerish Goblin King to the tunnel of hands, it is a nightmare fest. But nothing made me squirm in discomfort quite like the Fireys.

These “playful” critters torment Sarah on her journey, and they have this terrifying song-and-dance number where they cavort around like demons from the fires of hell. They even kick their own heads off and play with them like hacky sacks.

I haven’t seen Labyrinth in years. And I’m not planning to. While I am very curious to see how I’d feel about it as an adult, those damn Fireys are keeping me away. I don’t think I’m going to touch this movie with a ten-foot pole.

Artax in the Swamps of Sadness – The NeverEnding Story

He literally died of sadness…and part of my heart did, too.

If people thought Mufasa’s death in The Lion King was traumatic, then they never saw the way Artax died in The NeverEnding Story.

On a quest to save his land, Atreyu and his loyal horse, Artax, have to travel through the Swamps of Sadness. These swamps are incredibly dangerous because it can make you feel so sad, you become so heavy, you sink into the treacherous muck.

Atreyu is protected from the Sadness thanks to the amulet he wears (called the Auryn). But his horse has no such protection.

Artax slowly starts sinking into the mud, and at one point he just can’t move at all.

This moment scarred me because Atreyu is screaming the whole time, trying to get his horse to stop feeling sad. Also, since I had read the book, I knew exactly what Artax was thinking as he sank into the mud forever.

E.T. – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Come on, he looks kind of freaky.

Don’t judge me.

I know E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a classic film, but as a kid, E.T.’s design freaked me out.

I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Both my boyfriend and I shared this distaste in our respective youths. It impacted our enjoyment of the movie as a whole.

However, the two of us have largely grown past this, and we can watch the film and appreciate it for what it is.

But whenever I’ve seen the movie on my own, I always wonder who in the world okay-ed E.T.’s appearance in a children’s film. I’ve seen better lovable aliens in sci-fi horror movies.

Rat Bellies – The Secret of NIMH

Ouch.

Overall, I actually very much enjoy The Secret of NIMH movies, but that first one was incredibly dark, and it’s only now that I look back at them that I realize this.

If you haven’t seen the first film, I would highly recommend it to you. There’s just one part that made me absolutely squeamish. When recounting the rats’ time at the National Institute of Mental Health, we’re treated to a montage of flashbacks showcasing these experiments. And boy, they did not hold back. The image of rats getting injected in the belly has been forever imprinted in my memory.

I don’t know why this moment in particular stuck with me. It just did. And later on in the film, when the evil rat Jenner gets sliced in the stomach with a sword, I had flashbacks.

The Elderly – Spirited Away

Yubaba wants my soul.

Look at the detail given to Yubaba’s facial features in Spirited Away, and I think you’ll be able to understand why she scares me.

That’s right. “Scares.”

She still does.

Every indent on her lips denoting where her teeth are located, the brightly jeweled rings on her fingers, the massive wart in the middle of her forehead, her clawed nails, and the menacingly pale eyeshadow she has applied all contribute to making her the most feared elderly woman I’ve ever encountered.

And Spirited Away is by no means lacking in freak-out moments. Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs, the gigantic needy baby, and No-Face’s gluttonous rampage are all disquieting moments.

Yubaba takes the cake when it comes to the scariest of them though.

5 Movies I’ve Had To Drag My Sister To See

My sister is a reluctant moviegoer.

She wasn’t always like this. Going to the theater with my father used to be a weekly thing when we were children. That all changed when we saw Dragon Wars.

If I’m being one hundred percent honest, it was my idea to go see Dragon Wars.

But come on! It looked like an epic fight between dragons in a city, Godzilla-style. I was and am very partial to big monster movies.

However, what we ended up watching was a massively disappointing film with terrible writing and acting that barely scratched the surface of what a monster movie could be. It was corny, cringe-worthy…in short, it was a bad-movie-night movie.

And my sister hated it.

Seriously, I got more enjoyment from watching her disgusted and disbelieving expression than I got from watching the movie itself.

But ever since then, Alya has distrusted my taste in movies. No matter how much I tell her that I’m aware they are bad movies and that I think they’re funny, she thinks I have terrible taste when it comes to film-watching.

This means that I frequently have to drag her to see movies with me. And while it does pain me to have to cajole my own sister to have a good time in a theater with me, it does come with its perks.

I get to witness my sister’s sudden reversal of opinion when I take her to a good movie. This has happened on more than one occasion, and it’s especially enjoyable the more my sister thinks the movie will be bad.

So for today, I thought I’d run you through the top five movies I had to force my sister to watch and that she ended up appreciating.

Let’s do this.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

To be fair to my sister, she wasn’t entirely against watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We both had a fondness for the original Apes film with Charlton Heston, so there was precedent for her enjoying this type of genre.

It was a late night though, and my asking her to come with me was a spur of the moment decision. After a few oh-I-don’t-knows and are-you-sure-this-will-be-goods, the two of us went to see it.

The big crowd in the theater surprised the two of us, but what was even more surprising was how much we enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t just fun, it was good. The two of us shared shocked glances when Caesar first spoke, and we were riveted the entire time.

While my sister remembers this as that one time I convinced her to see a late-night movie she enjoyed, I remember it as a rejuvenation of my love for the Apes movies. I watched every subsequent film more than once in theaters, with the trilogy becoming some of my favorite movies.

District 9

Alya seriously thought that District 9 would be a dumb little sci-fi movie. Don’t blame her though. She had not paid a single ounce of attention to any of the trailers or marketing schemes for the film. So she went into this one blind.

I on the other hand had been watching this movie’s progress for a while, knowing it was the kind of science fiction I could really bite my teeth into.

The movie horrified us, but it also engaged us with its shocking portrayals of alien immigration and the connections it was unsubtly making to real-life comparisons.

Alya specifically remarked to me when we left the theater that she hadn’t expected to feel so much while watching this movie. I got a spring in my step after that comment, even though I myself had nothing to do with making the film.

All I had done was manage to convince my sister to take a break from homework to go watch it with me.

Watchmen

My sister thought I was a complete crazy person the day I saw Watchmen for the first time.

See, I had been a long-time fan of Alan Moore’s phenomenal graphic novel, so of course I’d take an immense interest in the film adaptation.

I was so interested in seeing the movie, I was willing to go see the midnight premiere for it even though the next day I had an exam to take in my AP World History class.

Side note: I had to fight my parents to see this movie. I basically promised them I would get an A.

I remember Alya, studying for a class of her own at night, watching open-mouthed as I left the house at 9 pm to go see the movie at midnight. And when I came back home at 3 in the morning and she had fallen asleep while studying at our dining table, her mouth fell open once more when I woke her up singing the movie’s praises.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t complain as much when I asked if she would see it with me one more time.

Afterwards, she expressed an interest in reading the comic book, and now the two of us can quote it at each other all day long.

Star Trek

Both my sister and I are huge Star Wars fans, but only I ever made the jump to Star Trek. My sister saw one episode of The Original Series (the one with the meatball monster) and thought it was stupid.

So I was asking a lot from her to go see the new Star Trek movie with me. She was groaning the whole time, from my pre-movie bathroom break to buying popcorn to sitting in our seats.

But then that opening sequence commenced, when Kirk’s dad saves everybody aboard the USS Kelvin in a suicide maneuver, and Alya’s eyes were glued to the screen. And when the opening title appeared on the screen with the Star Trek theme blaring in the background, she half-whispered, half-yelled, “Holy shit, that was so good!”

How To Train Your Dragon

If there is one thing my sister loathes more than any other kind of bad movie, it’s a bad kids movie. She is used to Pixar-quality kids movies, always has been, so when she watches some low-bar, DreamWorks Animation shit, with pop culture references up the wazoo, a vein pops in her temple.

So try to imagine her initial fury at my audacity in asking her to watch How To Train Your Dragon with me.

But, as those of you who have seen the movie should know, it’s not your typical DreamWorks fare. It does not strive to make itself relevant with popular trends; it just tells a sweet story about a boy and his dragon.

During the montage of Hiccup trying to train Toothless, Alya leaned over to me and said, “I want a Toothless!” with hints of a squeal in her voice.

And that was the start of never having to beg her to watch a How To Train Your Dragon movie with me again. Though she was less impressed with the sequels, she was invested in the characters enough to always give them a shot.