I’M BACK. Review 87: The Thinning (.5/5)

The Thinning Poster.jpg

The Thinning

Directed by Michael Gallagher

Starring Logan Paul, Peyton List, Lia Marie Johnson, Calum Worthy

Released on October 12, 2016

Running time: 1h 23m

Not rated (Suggested rating: PG-13 for some violence, brief strong language, and sexual content)

Genre: Action, Thriller, Teen

YouTube Red allows you to watch videos without ads while still supporting your favorite content creators. It allows you to download videos without off-site apps and add-ons. It allows you to play videos and music without the app being open or your phone being on, and supplies you with a smattering of original movies and shows. What makes these shows and movies so sad to behold is the fact that they cannot even dream of competing with even the most basic YouTube content, let alone with, you know, actual movies or TV shows in terms of actual quality, let alone relevancy. And most people who use YouTube have taken notice and decided against the ten buck monthly fee. I’m not at all surprised, as the vast majority of YouTube-Red-exclusive content is not even worth knowing about, let alone tuning into. Nothing there is in any way better than the stuff you can already watch on YouTube for free.

I should know, because I subscribed to YouTube Red for a few months purely because I was interested in seeing the first season of the YouTube Red original show Scare PewDiePie. It was kind of funny for the first episode or two or three, but then I quickly realized how repetitive it was becoming and how sharply the quality was dropping. I watched the rest of the season out of morbid curiosity (it sucked, which is a pity, because I like Pewds), and then quickly unsubscribed from YouTube Red. My interest was piqued again because Season 2 was coming out, but it was canceled. And if you eeeeeever forget, the reason why that happened is because Pewds made some jokes that hurt some people’s feewings.

So YouTube Red decided to fight their own suicide by advertising their next creation they pulled out of their red, raw, reamed asses: The Thinning, or as I’ll be calling it, The Thiccening. Unless you were using AdBlocker or have no access to an Internet-connected phone or the Internet itself, you saw it get advertised to hell and back as YouTube’s desperate attempt to save YouTube Red. Two of its stars were Logan Paul, a YouTuber I’ve never heard of, whose only legitimate acting credit is a minor role in The Space Between Us (which I’ve never seen) and whose brother has made a career out of being an absolutely disgusting asshat, and Lia Marie Johnson, a YouTuber I’ve never heard of.

To me, it was little more than a kid-friendly The Purge set in a high school. For those of you who haven’t seen The Purge, here’s the idea. In the not-too-distant and not-exactly-plausible future, the government has decided that the population has grown too large and too out-of-control, and that people now have too many pent-up anger issues that cause them to commit crimes. Because of this, one night every year, a Purge is declared. All crime is legal because this night is specifically designed to help people release their negative emotions. (But really, it’s about culling the population down a bit.) The plot of Thiccening doesn’t involve pent-up rage that needs to be released, but it does involve the government implementing population control through a test that all elementary, middle, and high school students take every year in which all who fail are sent to the gas chamber. You are punished for not getting good grades. This movie depicts a universe in which failing to pass a yearly government-authorized and -controlled test will result in your euthanization like a pitbull who just bit a guy who was sexually harassing you. The Thiccening, much like The Purge, could have been the concept for a dark comedy, a genre deconstruction, or a balls-to-the-wall satire, but no. Both The Purge and The Thiccening present themselves as something that could really happen, and say that we shouldn’t let it happen because apparently we’re too stupid to realize that we’re letting it happen. But The Thiccening takes The Purge’s basic concept and turns the stupid dial up to eleven. Rather than go The Purge’s route and try and fail to explore how normal people react to the Purge itself, The Thiccening instead has it out for standardized testing. The Thiccening’s intended audience consists of middle and high school students who hate standardized tests. Except actual standardized tests in the real world are not meant to gauge the students’ talents, but rather how well the school is teaching them. They do not affect the students’ grades. Most people with two brain cells to rub together know this. And yet, the creators of The Thiccening do not. Also, when it comes to most standardized tests, you have to be really stupid in order to fail them.

I never noticed that The Thiccening even came out. The only reason I even knew it existed after that was because someone told me that it was directed by a YouTuber I have heard of (because I’ve already reviewed his other movie) named Michael Gallagher.

Michael Gallagher, the director of the abomination known as Smiley.

Just kill me already.

BRICK TAMLAND: NO, GOD! NO, god, please no! NO! NOOOOOOOO!

We begin The Thiccening in the not-too-distant and not-exactly-possible future with some text explaining that overpopulation has caused a serious depletion of the world’s resources. To prevent the apocalypse, the United Nations has mandated that all countries are to cut their populations by five percent every year. Hey, at least this movie agrees with me that the UN isn’t this altruistic, benevolent entity that always knows what’s best for the world. While other countries have their own methods of population cutting, such as killing off the old geezers or adopting China’s one child policy (go die in a hole, Ted Turner), America has legislated that all students from first grade to their senior year in high school must take a standardized test once a year. If you fail this test, YOU DIE. Though the test is officially known as the 10-241, most people call it THE THINNING. Dun dun dun! Lightning! Boom! This text was entirely pointless, as it will just be told to us again later.

Four problems here:

One. You’re telling me that in the not too distant future that the inhabitants of Earth have gone through damn near all of our resources? The Earth is such an unbelievably resource-rich place with significantly more than enough resources for every last one of God’s children, and abundant resources we still haven’t even discovered. And the USA is one of the most environmentally diverse and therefore resource-rich areas on the planet. How the hell did we go through damn near all of our resources? Hell, the movie doesn’t even show that the general population is going through this. Hell, the general population is looking pretty healthy. Could we not have seen at least a few scenes of people actually going through hardship?  But, well, when your audience is made up of overprivileged, entitled, self-important millennials, I suppose the best way to show that there are very little natural resources left is to cast people who are not fat.

Two. How exactly did the UN force this on all other countries anyway? Just because the UN mandates it does not mean that every other country has to abide by this. How could the American people consent to this? How could the President of the United States and whatever committee decides whether or not to adopt this policy consent to this? I’m amazed that the American people wouldn’t vote the politicians that legislated the Thiccening onto us out of office and vote in politicians that would pass a repeal bill that would have a supermajority override if the repeal was vetoed. If the American people ever even heard that the UN was mandating that all countries abide by this population cut and that whatever president and committee decided to implement the Thiccening onto the USA, those politicians would be voted out of office at the next election. If this was President Trump consenting to this, he’d have been not just impeached but removed from office freaking yesterday. Hell, hordes of human rights activists would storm Washington DC and overthrow the government. Is this movie trying to say that this is what will happen in Trump’s America? Because I highly doubt it.

Third. Morally speaking, culling the inferiors out of the population is questionable at best, but history has shown us many examples of how that can be done. If someone had to die, that someone should be someone who cannot contribute to society. For example, Hitler culled the old and the mentally and physically handicapped. And the Jews, but we’ll focus on the handicapped. He was not a good guy by any stretch of words, but he made his choice out of some highly unethical application of logic. But in The Thiccening, much of the younger generation is culled due to academic inability. But in the real world, colleges and universities accept people on a variety of criteria rather than just academic success, because society needs a vast variety of people. We do need the dumber end of society to work at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. It doesn’t make any sense that someone with special talents of any form, even those useless in terms of production and innovation, would be judged purely on the same playing field as academic geniuses in a standardized test. What happens if there are genius students that excel in one, two, or three subjects, but suck at others? They’ll be culled. Standardized testing has never been an accurate form of measurement.

Fourth. Reducing the population by five percent every year may not seem like much, but if this continues, the global population will have been halved in thirteen years. Within a single generation, we will be left with a quarter of the population we started with. Even if we assume that there is well over ten billion people living on Earth by the time The Thiccening takes place, reducing the population to 2.5 billion people is unbelievably extreme. Therefore, despite the institution and legislation of the Thiccening seeming to reflect a long-term project, actually implementing it as a long-term project would be highly unlikely and impractical. Also, it’s amazingly unfair to just one generation if the Thiccening is only done to them and only lasts for their generation. Also, if America considers its current demographics, five percent of the population in nearly all high school students combined. If every single high school student is culled, then the project screeches to a halt after barely a few years at the maximum, as there are no new students enrolling or graduating. And decreasing the population by 0.5 to one percent, allowing roughly half of all students to graduate, would make this into a long-term project. Even when applying The Thiccening’s logic, roughly only fifty-four of every one hundred students will survive to graduate high school.

Should you ever decide to watch this awful movie, I must warn you that this is yet another movie whose plot cannot function, let alone proceed, if you leave your brain turned on.

The day before the Thiccening test, Laina (List) is tutoring some random Guy to prepare him for said test. And Peyton List cannot act. She constantly looks and sounds like she’s about to cry, crying, or having just finished crying. She always has such a lopsided look on her face, to the point where I was thinking that maybe she was born that way and maybe I shouldn’t be so insensitive. But Guy is in full belief that he can’t pass the Thiccening test, and pays Laina four hundred bucks to give him a super-special contact lens that somehow shows you the right answers to the questions on the Thiccening test. Wait, what? How does she make these? How does she know how to make these? Is she secretly a microcircuitry and microholography genius? When did she find the time to learn this? Did someone teach her, or did she teach herself? Where did she get the teach-yourself materials? Isn’t she short on money already? How long did it take her to design these contacts? How and where does she get the materials and equipment to make these in the first place? How does she dispose of the lenses she screws up? She’s already short on money; how does she afford to make these? The materials to make these contacts would obviously cost more than 400 bucks. And she even tells Guy to destroy the super-special super-expensive contact lens after the Thiccening test. Why? Why not keep it for future use? Does it only work for so long? Does it run on battery power? Where is said battery? In the contact itself? Also, where in her house does she make these? Does she make them in her room or have a special room specially designated to make these contacts? Do any of her siblings stumble across her contact-making business and tell their friends at school, who will tell their parents, who will tell the proper authorities and get her jailed for Thiccening fraud? This is stupid!

Laina gets a phone call from her mother’s doctor, who tells her that her terminally ill mom is checking herself out to go home for her last remaining months. Laina takes her siblings to pick her up. That’s why Laina’s short on money; she’s taking care of and providing for herself and her siblings by herself, and is paying for her mother’s hospital care herself. Also, because Laina’s mom is not suffering from a disease specific to the in-movie universe, I must assume that this is a really cheap and lazy way to force the viewer to feel sympathy for her. At least Laina can summon a single tear out of her left eye and only her left eye. In case you didn’t realize this, this is supposed to be character development.

At the Governor’s mansion (this movie is set in Texas), we meet Blake (Paul), the governor’s son. Logan Paul cannot act. He always has this doofy-looking face the entire time, even when he’s supposed to be feeling tension or sadness and cannot vocally emote to save his life. Blake sneaks out for a late-night date with his girlfriend Ellie (Johnson). Ellie as a character is completely pointless, as she literally only exists for the sake of a future scene being soopur dramaaaatic. She also cannot properly enunciate her dialogue. She can emote a little better than Logan Paul, but she clearly has no business trying to act. Blake and Ellie, instead of engaging in a session of studying for the test and then a session of porking because this could possibly be their last night together, instead go to Ellie’s pool and swim in their underwear because they don’t have swimsuits. But then it inexplicably cuts back to them in the car making out. They’re completely dry, by the way. They start talking, and Ellie says that she’s scared about tomorrow. Then why aren’t you studying? As I said, you two could have spent the entire afternoon and evening studying for the test, and then you two could have then boinked to your hearts’ content in case of tragedy tomorrow. But no. Again, this is supposed to count as character development.

But then one of the security guards from the governor’s mansion shows up and brings Blake home. Before his dad starts lecturing him, he shows that he has a special little box in his office just for Pop-tarts. Wow. To spare you the awful dialogue, I will sum up the conversation for you here, with Daddy Governor in bold and Blakey Boy in italics.

You’ve got a big, super important test tomorrow that will determine your future. The results of passing or failing are drastically different. Whatever, Dad. You need to focus on studying for this test. Please forget your girlfriend, just for tonight. Whatever, Dad. Shut up. Oh, and let me drop The Thiccening’s only f-bomb. Good night, son. Whatever, Dad. G’night. Hugz. Whatever, Dad.

I get the whole teen rebellion thing, but I’m with Daddy Governor on this one. If Blake does not pass this test, he will be euthanized. I have no idea why Daddy Governor isn’t being more forceful in making his son study. Insert a picture of Dr. Evil doing air quotes saying “character development”.

The next day is the day of the test. You can tell because the school has been heavily locked down. There are black-dressed guards everywhere wearing black Jason masks and body armor and wielding truncheons. They are led by an obvious Danny Trejo wannabe. There is tall, razor-topped fencing all over the place. An American flag with only thirty stars flies. Uh-huh. Right. There are security cameras everywhere. Oh, and look at this super futuristic building design: an architect’s worst nightmare.

The students march into the school. Ha, the kid who bought the contacts from Laina gets them knocked out of his eyes onto the cement. That’s four hundred bucks down the drain, you stupid moron. All these students look surprisingly apathetic considering that there’s a test today that will determine whether they live or die. They hug their parents and walk into this TSA-like security system in which their backpacks are searched. Blake runs into Laina (he calls her Lana) and asks her for a pair of her super-answer-find-out-y contacts, but she gave her last ones to the stupid kid who lost them. Blake awkwardly walks away before Laina’s friend Kellen (Worthy) walks up to her and insinuates that their dialogue was romantic.

KELLEN: Well, it’s almost as tragic as being in love with your best friend who’s in love with the guy that doesn’t even know her name. But that’s just something I saw in a movie once.

That’s how real people talk.

Then someone raises their hand in front of the camera, but the editors forgot to remove that second from the movie. Oops.

So a guard runs some sort of scanner over one kid’s arm, but it reveals that the kid has written the test answers on his arm in infrared ink. Or something. I can’t really tell. The kid runs and is chased by the guards, but Kellen just holds up his phone to film the incident. Craphead. The guards catch the kid, and Kellen emails the video of the guards beating the tar out of the kid to a popular reporter. Oh, and the voices of the guards are all the same and obviously dubbed.

Cut to inside the school, where Blake and Ellie share one last embrace before the Thiccening test. And Ellie’s crying is the most obvious fake crying ever. Just smear your mascara and make trembly breathing sounds, and pass it off as acting.

This is the bleakest, most depressing school I’ve ever seen. Are there no signs around encouraging kids to be happy, to study, to read, or to get good grades? Are there no clubs or anything school-related worth advertising here? Is there no library or official classrooms?

The guards totally lock down the school, lowering corrugated metal garage-door-like things in front of every window and door leading to the outside. The test is to begin in fifteen minutes. I presume that this is meant to be a comparison to how normal schools lock down the school for a standardized test, but back when I was a young child, they locked the classrooms, had the teachers walking around in case you were cheating, had you put up a big folder in between yourself and the person next to you to prevent you from looking at the other person’s test, and had people patrolling the hallways to make sure no one got out. You couldn’t even use the restroom. Hell, when I took the CRTs in third grade, I almost pissed myself.

Laina and Kellen’s teacher, Mrs. Birch, clearly doesn’t like the Thiccening system, but wishes each of her students good luck. The two-hour tests, for some reason, are taken on iPads. I cannot think of any school district that would implement such a system. Also, the lack of a number two pencil and extra scratch paper seems pretty questionable to me. They even dim the lights. Why? The four sections of the test are math, science, language, and comprehension. No history or civics? That’s stupid. The test begins, and the one test question that we actually get to see is

3x + y = 19 and x + 3y = 1. Find the value of 2x + 2y.

That’s easy. The answer is 10. This is Algebra 1, and these kids are in their junior year of high school. The non-honors students should be in Algebra 2 now, and the remedial students in Geometry. Why is this test so hard again? People actually can’t pass this test? Come on, can’t we get some trigonometry or something? Maybe one or two questions involving a little calculus? Can we at least get a few minutes of what exactly these questions are on? Can we see some students showing their work or occasionally getting a wrong answer? How many questions long even is this test?

None of my questions will be answered, because the time dedicated to taking this test isn’t even a full minute before Mrs. Birch announces that there is one minute remaining. Wow. The test ends, and the list of kids who failed are delivered to the teachers. Yeah – they’re not rewarding success; they’re punishing failure. They’re creating a culture without natural motivation to do well. This isn’t motivation to do well – it’s fearing for your freaking life, and only needing to get just high enough of a grade to pass. As the names are read off, each student underacts their reaction. One student tries to run, but he gets tackled by a guard offscreen, and he seriously underacts his cries of pain as the guard beats the crap out of him.

You know, the first time I watched this, I thought it was all the same class in the same classroom with two teachers, rather than two classes in two different classrooms with one teacher each (obviously it was all shot in the same room at different times), so the dialogue confused me when Mrs. Birch read “And finally, [Student Name]” and then Mr. Glass announced Ellie’s name. Oh yeah, Ellie doesn’t pass and gets pulled out of the room by a guard. Again, the reactions from both Blake and Ellie are underacted. Yes, forced drama with the girlfriend getting axed, because they’re totes gonna kill her, like 4 reals. Muh sads. MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE STUDIED.

Blake calls his dad, tells him the situation, and demands that he do something, but Daddy Governor feigns concern and tells him that he’s not above the law. Blake punches a locker and goes to find Ellie.

It turns out that the kids who failed are walking toward the Thiccening room in a line. Hey, that guy just got beat up by the guards, and now he’s just holding his arm. He’s not bruised, he’s not bleeding, he’s not limping, he’s not even wincing. He’s just lightly holding his arm with a mostly blank expression on his face. Wow. Oh, and Guy got Thicced. Blake bursts through the crowd of students after Ellie. He beats up a guard with a fire extinguisher, and pounces on another guard, holding him down, and tells Ellie to run. Apparently, even when the guards’ masks are removed, their voices still sound the same. But the passing students, like total assholes, all block Ellie’s escape, letting another guard catch her and drag her away. Two other guards hold Blake in place as he and Ellie transition to the other end of the acting spectrum of having no acting ability: yelling and screaming for each other, and not a single tear being shed. All this yelling is sooo realistic. Ellie is taken away to be Thicced, and Blake suffers no repercussions for trying to subvert the law. Wait, how does that work? Even if he is the governor’s son, he still broke the freaking law. Apparently, the only specifically dictated laws are the ones having to do with this two-hour iPad test. MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE STUDIED.

Again, this movie looks pretty pathetic if you leave your brain turned on.

Cut to one year later, the day before the Thiccening. We’re introduced to two new people who we’ve never met before, and will never get to know before they are inevitably Thicced (spoilers). One is a football jock, and the other is a slutty student who has no hope of passing the Thiccening test. Slut goes to see Mr. Glass, bringing up perhaps the one part of this movie that I found admittedly a little interesting. Mr. Glass has learned to use the Thiccening to his advantage. He’s basically found out a plot point that will be revealed later, and uses this as an opportunity to trade sex for a passing Thiccening grade with presumably plenty of his female students. Then, on the actual Thiccening day, he will go back on his promise and let the student fail, and therefore die. Thus, he has gotten away with presumably many counts of statutory rape because he systematically made sure that all of his sexual liaisons get axed as soon as they realize they’ve been had. He’s covered his tracks in a particularly dirty way. Why none of the students take the opportunity to reveal this to the class as soon as they’re being hauled out is beyond me. Though this could have been much more interesting had it been a situation more specific to this reality, the fact that this happens all the time in the real world pretty much neuters whatever impact this plot point could have had. In fact, this isn’t even a plot point. It’s entirely pointless, as apart from two less-than-a-minute-long scenes, as (spoilers) this Slut gets Thicced anyway. It’s little more than a small piece of fat that should have been trimmed off a very thin cut of overcooked, dry meat.

Transition to Laina’s house, where it’s revealed that the mom has died and that Laina and her siblings will have to move out soon. Oh nose. Again, forced sympathy. Mrs. Birch stops by and offers to babysit the kids.

At the governor’s mansion, Blake is exercising instead of studying. And at this point, I don’t think I need to tell you why this is unbelievably stupid. Oh, and Blake is shirtless in this scene. Obvious fanservice so that every prepubescent or pubescent or teenage girl watching this can get super wet over Logan Paul’s face and ice-tray abs that are somehow absent of a single bead of sweat.

Slut finishes having sex with Mr. Glass and walks over to her car. How neither of them notice Mrs. Birch standing out in the open having clearly witnessed what they’ve done is beyond me. What is worth mentoning about the actress portraying Slut is this: she played little Cindy in Zoom. I see she’s making nothing but good choices for her career.

Blake decides to stick it to the system, as he films a suicide video for his dad, expressing his intent to get as many questions wrong as possible in order to get Thicced.

Laina takes her little sister to her first Thiccening.

Blake’s dad wishes him luck on his final Thiccening test and has apparently waited until now to say he’s sorry about Ellie. Blake leaves to go get Thicced. Apparently, USPS mail depositories still exist, as Blake just sticks his iPad in a big envelope and sticks it in the USPS mail depository. One of the security guards sees this happen.

Laina and Kellen see the football star from earlier being an asshole to other people and wonder how he’s still here. Maybe he’s just a closeted smart person. After seeing this, if you don’t have at least some semblance of an idea as to where this is pointing to, I fear for you as a person.

The students make their way into the school, and the school is locked down. Apparently, even first graders get Thicced. They show some special video to the kids that displays some video explaining why humanity is in this situation. It’s because of global warming I mean climate change. The oceans rose and the population grew too large. They basically imply that five percent of the population has to be killed off every year (I’ve already explained why this makes no sense), but because the video is cartoon and there’s happy music being played, the kids just laugh along with the video. Not one of them is even skeptical. Come on. Kids aren’t stupid – they know murder when they see it. Oh, and these kids take the Thiccening test on tablets, too, but they sit on circular pads on the floor rather than at a desk.

Daddy Governor gets and watches Blake’s suicide video and gets pissed, so he smashes a chair. GOVERNOR SMASH!

Blake finishes his test in thirty minutes.

The test ends, and the first grade teacher puts on “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” as she reads off the Thicced students. Yes, don’t you get how dramatic this scene is? Don’t you get how symbolic this is? Don’t you get how eeeeeeevil America has become? Also, we gotta set this in Texas, the most eeeeeeeeevil state in America.

Of course, all the Thicced kids have underacted reactions to getting Thicced. And whoop-de-doo, Slut gets Thicced too! Hey, that rhymes. But Blake passes. And Laina gets Thicced! If you don’t see where this is oh-so-obviously going, I fear for you as a person.

Daddy Governor finishes his call with Not Danny Trejo, the leader of the guards enforcing The Thiccening, approving the falsification of Blake’s score.

The Thicced kids are led into a long dramatic hallway. Mrs. Birch stops the line, insisting to a guard that there must be a mistake with Laina. The guard contacts Not Danny Trejo, who tells him there’s no mistake. Mrs. Birch drops something into Laina’s hand, hugs her, and tells her to get out. I’m amazed no guards noticed.

There’s a special party for those who’ve passed their final Thiccening where they’re all celebrating. Lolz, we just saw some of our classmates get sent off to die. Let’s celebrate! Mrs. Birch sees Mr. Glass proposition a student for sex and take her off to the side to do the deed. And the student eagerly goes along with it. Uh-huh. Right.

Daddy Governor holds a political rally to celebrate the Thiccening. This hall is really, really full of people cheering for the Thiccening. By this point in time, I don’t think I have to explain why this is stupid. Daddy Governor’s speech consists of, “If you don’t support the Thiccening, you’re a parasite to be wiped out!” He announces that he is running for President. I don’t think I need to say why this is stupid.

As the Thicced students walk ever closer to their doom, I couldn’t help but notice that none of them are freaking out over the fact that within a few minutes, they’ll be dead. They get lined up against a wall, are told to strip, do so, and are blasted with some decontaminant gas. Laina slips the thing Mrs. Birch gave her into her mouth without a guard noticing. The Thicced kids are given a set of scrubs to change into.

Blake makes his way toward the Thiccening area and takes down a guard.

The Thicced children are led into a room where they are seated into chairs and handcuffed to them.

Blake gets into the control room by hiding behind the door as Not Danny Trejo leaves. But he can’t access the system because he doesn’t have the password.

The Thicced children are about to be injected with some drug. Peyton List cries one stationary tear out of her left eye and only her left eye. But Blake tears some wires out of the wall, somehow shutting down the power for the entire building. Is there no auxiliary power source? Oh, but the power stays on in the server room. Some of the handcuffs short out, and some of the Thicced students attack the guards. Laina gets out of her chair, takes the thing Mrs. Birch gave her out of her mouth, and scans it on some device at the doorway, and gets out of the room without a single guard noticing her somehow. Wait, I thought the power was out. How does that scanner thing still work?

Not Danny Trejo announces that there is a power outage and that the school will be on lockdown until further notice. He then goes down to the Thiccening room. The guards explain that the power outage shorted some handcuffs, but they’ve gotten it under control. But Not Danny Trejo points out that they haven’t even done a head count. Of course, the stupid guards’ head count shows that Laina is missing. Not Danny Trejo, knowing that the only way Laina could have gotten out was with a keycard, demands that every teacher be brought to the holding room.

A guard catches Laina trying to get out. She tries to fudge a story about her being Mrs. Birch. Despite Laina clearly wearing scrubs, she convinces a guard that she just saw a student go that way. The unrealistically gullible and moronic guard checks it out, and she attacks the guard from behind. The guard throws her off, but Blake takes him down. Where did he come from? Blake is shocked to see Lauren – I mean, Laina. Wait, how did Blake get Lauren from Laina? Laina knows she didn’t fail the test, and Blake says that he failed on purpose, but passed anyway. God help you if you still don’t know where this is going. They try to get out, but it triggers an alarm, so they climb into a vent with an easily removable cover. Blake and Laina have a “character development” scene in which they take a jab at standardized testing. Blake agrees to help Laina get access to the test scores in the reserve room. Why she doesn’t think she’ll need access to the right password to access this is beyond me. Here’s an idea: give the super-special keycard to Blake, who actually has pockets. You could drop it and never find it again and you’d be screwed.

Daddy Governor has a news interview about the situation. He brushes it aside, saying that the best team in the nation is on site.

DR. EVIL: …Right.

The best team in the nation is about to be sidetracked by two teenagers.

The teachers are all lined up and asked to present keycards and IDs. Mrs. Birch, of course, gave hers to Laina. Not Danny Trejo is about to interrogate Mrs. Birch, but Daddy Governor calls him.

Blake and Laina climb through the ventilation system, but out of nowhere, Blake falls through the ceiling and into the pool. This somehow knocks him out. Despite the fact that you float if you have any air in your lungs at all, he’s sinking. Laina jumps after him, fetches him from the pool, and resuscitates him with CPR. Yes, this includes mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Not Danny Trejo explains the situation to Daddy Governor, but the editing between each shot is so bad, I can hear the dialogue cut up between shots. I’ll explain it to you with each line it happens in.

DADDY GOVERNOR: I need you to explain to me how this is even remotely ha-led. (supposed to be “handled”)

DADDY GOVERNOR: As soon as the pow-ower is on, the thinning continue-you understand? (supposed to be “power” and “continues, you”)

DADDY GOVERNOR: The eyes of the nation ar-re on us. (supposed to be “are”)

Blake and Laina get changed. Wait, where did she get that bra? She’s supposed to be naked under those scrubs. More “character development” dialogue.

Some passing students, including a very gay black kid, complain about the situation. The gay black kid starts trying to leave, but a guard beats him up. Kellan gets it on video and sends it to the famous reporter.

While passing over a vent in the ceiling of a hallway, Laina bends over to have a look at it, but because she sucks so bad, the keycard falls out of her pocket, through the vent, and onto the floor of the hallway. Gotta censor Laina saying the s-word in a really terrible slow-mo sequence. Somehow the guards don’t notice even though it made a clacking sound as it hit the floor. Blake’s like “We can’t go down there, there’s too many of them!” but there’s a grand total of two guards down there. I think you might have a shot at taking them. So they climb down into the anatomy room. The guard hears them, but Blake and Laina don’t notice. Laina decides to MacGyver up and magnetize some metal wire to get the keycard back. I think that might mess up the keycard. The guard enters the room. Blake gets Laina back up into the ceiling and hides from the guard, but the guard sees him and they get into a fight. Cut away from the fight to Laina trying to get the keycard. Cut back to after the fight to show Blake lying on the ground with his head obscured. If you don’t see where this is going, check yourself into the nearest mental institution. Yup. Laina gets the keycard, and the guard reveals himself to her as Blake. I freaking told you.

Daddy Governor decides to hold a press conference.

Mrs. Birch, clearly having learned from last time Not Danny Trejo was there (credit where it’s due), pretends to hit on Mr. Glass, snagging his keycard when he’s not looking.

Laina gets to the server room by coming up through some floor paneling that any normal person would fall through, and attempts to access the computer. But apparently, she never thought that the system would require entering a password to access. So she somehow messages Kellan through that computer (because apparently Kellen can hack into the system) and asks him for the password.

Not Danny Trejo comes in and asks Mrs. Birch for her keycard and ID. She has both of them, so Not Danny Trejo leaves her alone. He asks Mr. Glass for them next, but he’s missing his keycard. He fumbles an attempted explanation, so they arrest him, get the other teachers out of the room, and beat him. We never see him again.

The power is brought back on, and Kellen gets Laina’s message. Kellen sends her freaking security footage of Not Danny Trejo logging in, and she’s somehow able to figure out the password from that. I wonder why Laina is making no effort to hide from the security cameras, which will clearly be back on now that the power’s back on. Laina learns that somehow, through some means, that despite a student’s score, some students are marked FAIL if they passed, and some are marked PASS if they failed. For example, Laina and Ellie got a 98% and 88% respectively and failed, but both Blake and the football jock from earlier got a 15% and a 42% respectively and passed. So yeah, basically this is what’s happening. If influential people (i.e. politicians, rich folk, one percenters) have children taking the Thiccening test, should that student fail, they can take a backdoor route to make their child pass if they fail, and make another student with less influential parents who passed fail. I find it very hard to believe that a test this rigid and important could be that easily cheated or manipulated. Who on the Thiccening board of directors would even approve of such actions? What a drastically oversimplified plot point.

At Daddy Governor’s news conference, it is being reported that Laina attacked four guards, killing two and injuring two others.

The famous reporter gets Kellan’s video of the guard beating the gay black guy and reports on it on live TV.

Laina sends the info she’s gathered to Kellan, who sends it to the famous reporter.

Not Danny Trejo switches through security feeds and sees Laina in the server room. She just now notices she’s being watched and runs. Not Danny Trejo and some other guards converge on her location.

Blake enters the Thiccening room and attempts to tell the guards to move the Thicced students to the rec hall where the party is going on. The guards refuse to do so unless under the orders of Not Danny Trejo. Blake, instead of thinking clearly, just attacks the guards head-on and of course gets taken down.

Laina gets captured by Not Danny Trejo and some guards. Despite her saying that she has proof that she passed the Thiccening test, she is taken to be Thicced. She is brought into the Thiccening room wearing a new set of scrubs.

The famous reporter goes live with the new info, reporting that some test scores have been falsified, throwing Daddy Governor’s entire political career into scandal. This makes Daddy Governor MAD! And one of his corporate sponsors pulls her funding. And one of his security guards all of a sudden gets a little character. Too little, too late, The Thiccening. Too little, too late.

The kids in the Thiccening room are about to be Thicced. Not Danny Trejo calls Daddy Governor for permission to commence the Thiccening. But Daddy Governor stops them and has them switch the passing students who failed out with the failing students who passed, meaning students like Laina are to be freed, but students like Blake, the gay black guy, and the football jock are to be Thicced. Not feeling so smart now, are you, Blakey Boy? Laina shares a “passionate” goodbye with Blake before she is forced out of the Thiccening room and Blake is dressed in his own set of scrubs. Blake, the gay black guy, the football jock, Slut, and all the other failing students are Thicced. What a farce. Blake’s attempted stand against the evil, corrupt system is utterly lost on the world. He’s dead, and the system has endured to kill another day. This could have been a biting end to a satire of young adult dystopian fiction, but I’ll share with you later how they screw it up.

Because, you know, they’re totally going to kill off the main character.

The lockdown is ended, and the surviving students reunite with their parents. And apparently, if you are saved from being Thicced like Laina, you do not get your belongings back. Dicks (pardon me). Laina even reunites with Mrs. Birch. Not Danny Trejo has been taken in for questioning. And I just now realized that the bodies of all the students who have been Thicced are not given back to their families to undergo funerals or burial. Wow. How unintentionally insensitive.

And of course, Daddy Governor deflects it all and places the blame entirely on Not Danny Trejo. And he has quite the underacted reaction to his freaking son dying. He and the crowd share a moment of silence.

Cut to a truck driving toward a heavily secure facility, in which a boatload of Thiccening test iPads are being factorially made. All the Thicced student wake up on a descending elevator heading towards the factory. Apparently, all the Thicced kids have been enslaved by the global corporation that makes Thiccening test iPads. Right. One of the workers removes her medical mask, revealing that she is Ellie. Blake sees her. They almost make eye contact and the movie ends. Because of course they wouldn’t kill off the main character or his girlfriend or any other Thicced kid for that matter. Because of course they had to set up for the sequel that will never happen. Because of course Michael Gallagher, Logan Paul, Lia Marie Johnson, and all the other YouTubers who collaborated on this garbage had to slap on a sequel bait ending to warrant a franchise. Wait, but if the population is shrinking every year, why does the eeeeevil corporation need to make a crapload of new iPads?

Again, this movie becomes even worse than you could ever imagine if you leave your brain turned on.

The Thiccening, to put it lightly, is terrible. Its story is a complete mess with a million holes in it and an unrealistically lofty expectation of suspension of disbelief. It’s pathetically cast. It’s pathetically acted. There is no reason to care at all because you’re too distracted by how unbelievable this movie is. It doesn’t even tell you why the Thiccening works. It’s like the Purge. Don’t question it – it just works. The Thiccening tries to sell you this idea as if it’s something original, new, bizarre, and unheard of. It presents no middle ground: you’re either a helpless victim who got Thicced or are family or friends with someone who got Thicced, or you’re a heartless, irredeemable monster who supports mass murder. It’s trying so desperately to be relevant. And anyone at all who shows even the slightest bit of apathy toward standardized tests will be hopelessly, dreadfully bored by this movie.

YouTube Red is going nowhere fast.

And they’re going nowhere fast because they keep putting out garbage like this.

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars. Because it wasn’t insulting like Smiley.

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Interesting experiences at work: September 2, 2017

So this really weird situation happened tonight.

So, I get off of work, go out to my car, get in, start it up, and I’m about to back out and go home when I see this really shifty-looking shirtless guy walking through the parking lot in my general direction. Obviously I shouldn’t have made eye contact, but I do. And right after I do so, he nods at me, as if I’ve just acquiesced to some request he’s made of me. Which is really weird. And so he starts walking toward me. Instinctively, I lock the doors.

So this guy walks up to the front passenger side door of my car and tugs on the handle as if he was expecting to be let in. Thank heaven I had the doors locked. I don’t know if he’s just a panhandler that needs a ride, or if he wants to steal my car.

I roll down my window a tad, just enough so that I can hear what he has to say, but not enough so that he can stick his hand in and open the door that way. This guy points to the little thingy on the door next to the window that goes up or down when you lock or unlock your car and says, “You got this,” as if he wasn’t expecting that to be there. As if he was expecting to be let in the car for some reason. I ask if there’s anything he needs, and he asks for five bucks. I don’t have any cash. He’s obviously disappointed, and he starts walking off in another direction.

The whole situation was weirding me out. I didn’t want to take the risk of letting this guy in my car in case he wants to steal it, but I didn’t know whether that was actually the case. He could just have been some poor panhandler trying to scrape together some cash. Weirded out by the situation, I get out of there and drive home.

It was a very strange situation. I have no idea what to make of it.

So yeah. That happened.

Interesting experiences at work: August 31, 2017

I was working at Wal-Mart today when a couple of thirtysomething ladies were leading along a small group of mentally ill or mentally disabled guys who ran the age spectrum. What happened today concerns only two of these gentlemen.

The first was this teenager who couldn’t speak very well and needed a motorized wheelchair to get around. He started speaking to me, but all I could make out was him saying “Hi” to me and some other jibberish that I couldn’t make out. I couldn’t discern what he was saying, and I was really feeling really terrible for that. Thankfully, one of the ladies came over to me and told me what he was trying to say to me. He asked me how I was. I was fine. He asked me what my name was. My name is Spencer. He introduced himself to me. His name was Hunter. He then said “See you later”, and went off to do the rest of his shopping with that lady. All the while, I was feeling really terrible for him because he had this condition, but I felt really great that I was able to brighten his day a little bit.

The second individual was an older gentleman. He asked me something I couldn’t make out, but thankfully one of the other ladies was by his side. She told me he was asking for some of the larger bags of caesar salad. I gladly went and got some of them. I brought them to him and gave them to him. He took them, and then gave me this really big, ear-to-ear, really goofy grin, thanks me, and gives me a high five.

I really love moments like that. It always feels really amazing to brighten these men’s days. I really need more moments like that in my life. It’s the little acts of kindness in life that really make all the difference, and it feels amazing to do them. And though I feel terrible for these men that have these conditions, I felt really happy that I was able to bring them even just a little bit of happiness in what must be really hard lives. In a way, I can really relate to these guys, because I have a mental illness too. I’m autistic. High-functioning autistic, but autistic nonetheless. I really do truly appreciate being able to make these guys happy.

Credit where it’s due: thanks, God, for putting these two men in my way today. I really appreciate that.

Interesting experiences at work: August 25, 2017

So, the McDonald’s inside the Wal-Mart where I work had a big grand reopening on the 25th because they had undergone some renovations earlier that month. Admittedly, I was hoping they were removing the McD’s and replacing it with something at least half decent.

They not only had balloons and streamers adorning this place (kind of fancy for this little McD’s inside of a Wal-Mart), but they also gave the first 25 people in line free drinks for a year. Duuuude, this is totally radical! I totally saved, like, 25 bucks last year because McDonald’s gave me free drinks for a year, man!

But this McD’s also had a guy dressed up as Ronald McDonald (three-foot shoes and all) come in, make balloon animals for kids, and talk about stuff. I don’t know exactly everything he was doing; I was in the middle of working at the time.

The whole gig lasted about two hours. Once 1 PM came around, Ronny Donny Boy leaves. And he leaves in perhaps the shiftiest vehicle I can imagine for a clown with such negative connotation: a McDonald’s-brand windowless van with ice cream painted on the side. Because that’s the perfect van for a pedo rapist clown to drive. Because, you know, Ronald McDonald “dispenses ice cream” into little kids’ bu – I mean, cones. Don’t look at me funny.

Screw it. Because, you know, little Jimmy, should he ever enter a McD’s van, a McD’s windowless van with ice cream painted on the side, I’d think he’d probably go in there intending on meeting Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, the Grimace, Sally McSourpuss, and all the other famous McD’s characters. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be expecting to leave this van with his butthole resembling a baby yawning.

I’m Chris Hansen with Dateline NBC.

A Quick Look: Annabelle: Creation (1.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Annabelle: Creation, and while it was certainly a little better than Lights Out and the first Annabelle movie, I still have yet to see David Sandberg make a good movie. Because Creation has his spooge all over it.

Especially when it comes to the story. While not as borderline nonexistent as Lights Out, it is as predictable and then some. Seriously, there is not a single element to this plot that I could not predict. This movie also seems to not know the difference between a plot and a goal. This movie’s goal is to tell the Annabelle doll’s origin story and connect it seamlessly to the first Annabelle movie. And by God, it’s going to do that; damn the consequences. I also need to mention that this is one of innumerable horror movies whose plots cannot proceed, let alone function, unless one or more characters make stupid decisions and things screw up. Like poor Annabelle getting hit by a freaking car that she clearly could see coming when she runs out into the road to grab her dad’s car’s tire nut. Like poor Janice going into Annabelle’s room despite being told

BRICK TAMLAND (Anchorman): NO, GOD! NO, GOD, PLEASE, NO. NO! NOOOOOO!

She not only goes into Annabelle’s room despite being told not to and basically instigates the whole demon infestation thing, but of course gets the living hell scared out of her by some spoopy supernatural fluff. And then she somehow gets the idea to go back in. Either the second or third time she goes in (my memory is a little foggy), Linda even joins her, though at least Linda has the smarts to get out of there. I also love that whenever Janice is being tormented by the evil entity (whose demonic form is played by dear Joseph Bishara (FANGASM)), she’s screaming her head off, but no one comes to help her until after the demon is done tormenting her. Even when poor little Janice gets straight-up possessed by the evil entity, nobody comes until after the demon finishes raping Janice (not really, but it may as well have, considering people’s reaction time, let alone response time). I also love how Janice inexplicably loses her polio after getting possessed. I also love that the demon has opportunity after opportunity to possess Janice but doesn’t take advantage of any of them until the beginning of the third act, instead resorting to trolling her and the audience for well over an hour.

I love a particular scene in which Janice goes into Annabelle’s room. She sees the ghost of Annabelle looking out of a window, and asks her why she is here and what she wants. Annabelle turns around, revealing a laugh-inducing demonic face, and growls, “YOUR SOUL!” How original! Janice flees the room and gets onto the electric stair chair and tries to flee downstairs, conveniently forgetting for twenty seconds that the damn jalopy won’t work unless the seatbelt is fastened. She gets the chair started and it moves down the stairs at a conveniently slow pace. It stops halfway, and Janice starts rapidly flicking the switch to get it going again. But because she sucks so bad, she sends the chair moving up the stairs. I was having a blast. And then when the chair reaches the top, we get a ten second pause before something unseen yanks her up into the dark. She falls to the floor soon after. This scene, much to the ire of everyone else in the theater, made me laugh my head off. Yes; for once, I was That Guy.

Also, at the climax, possessed Janice is walking around the house, trying to kill everyone. And throughout the entire scene, I was holding back laughter as hard as I could, thinking, Oh my gosh. “Someone be scared of me!”

I also love how the story in general feels just as small-scale and depthless as Lights Out, despite actually having a serviceable running time, explaining why the movie’s pacing is so sluggish. It could have easily been cut to eighty minutes without compromising the movie’s integrity. That also explains how thinly created the characters are. While not nearly as bland and forgettable as the characters in Lights Out, the characters in Annabelle: Creation are still pretty badly constructed. Each of the characters in this movie have one character trait that will determine how they will act throughout the rest of the movie. Seriously. Each of the orphan girls have one character trait (and two of them lack even that). Sister Charlotte has one character trait. The two Mullinses have one character trait each. And Annabelle / the demon doesn’t even have a character trait. It only has a purpose, and it’s purely focused on trolling the orphans and the audience until it can fulfill its purpose.

The only two characters that have any semblance of depth at all are Janice and Linda. These two characters, despite their dumb decisions, are the best part of the movie, as well as the only two actors in this movie with a shred of talent. I’m sure the other actors have talent, but they are either barely in the movie (like poor Miranda Otto), or suffer under David Sandberg’s poor direction. Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda are legitimately good. Well, Lulu is better, but Talitha is pretty good too. They, and the conversations they share, are easily the best part of this movie. I love the sisterly bond they share. I love how they so easily work off each other to create two characters I actually came close to caring about. I would have cared about them had they not made stupid decisions. Unfortunately, David Sandberg’s crummy direction gets to them too in the third act. Janice gets possessed by the demon – in the same way Bathsheba possessed Carolyn in The Conjuring – and tries to kill everybody. Because that’s totally what possessed people do. And the most obvious problem with this scene was this: possessed Talitha Bateman in Annabelle: Creation is nowhere near as creepy as possessed Lulu Wilson in Ouija: Origin of Evil. Seriously, the scene in which Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander explains what it’s like to be strangled to death is one of the creepiest scenes I can think of in recent years. Also, Lulu Wilson was so effective in Ouija 2 because she had the amazing Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair. But Talitha Bateman, while good, cannot measure up to Lulu Wilson. Couldn’t the two have switched roles?

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the first Annabelle movie, the ending to Creation will be ungodly confusing. It’s a good thing I watched the first one the night before, or else I would have fallen prey to this too.

Oh, and I should probably mention that David Sandberg cannot go one movie without giving his wife Lotta Losten a cameo. That’s not really good or bad, it’s just something I noticed. Also, Alicia Vela-Bailey, the chick who played Diana in Lights Out, has a cameo as a demonified version of Mrs. Mullins.

And now we come to the horror aspects. Knowing David Sandberg’s approach to spoopy sequences like the back of my hand (crap, didn’t notice that mosquito bite there – SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH), I predicted that almost every single spoopy sequence would feature decent cinematography, but also one or more flimsy jumpscares. Those that didn’t end in said jumpscare(s) would still feature at least one. And I was absolutely right. Almost every single spoopy sequence followed the same formula. Maybe the steps to the formula were done in a different order each time, but it was still the same damn formula. And while Annabelle: Creation wasn’t quite at the same level of David Sandberg’s Jumpscare Porn as Lights Out, the Jumpscare Porn was still undeniably there to quite an extent. Though I will be the first to admit that some of these jumpscares were actually pretty effective, the fact that 95% of the spoopy sequences featured one or more jumpscares made the movie feel just like Lights Out: predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. Worse, every last jumpscare felt entirely unnecessary and took away from whatever tension any of the spoopy sequences might have built. Every single time I got to a spoopy sequence, I thought to myself, Oh, oh, here comes a spoopy sequence. It’s getting super quiet. And since David Sandberg is at the helm, I know that there’s gonna be one or more jumpscares. So I’m just sitting there waiting for the jumpscares. That’s not fear of an evil entity. That’s anticipation of a jumpscare that may or may not happen. And that’s not scary. Getting super quiet to anticipate people for jumpscares that may or may not happen is not scary, especially if this is the case every single time a spoopy sequence rears its ugly head. It’s predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. And this is something that David Sandberg does not understand. AND I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME UNDERSTAND WHY SO MANY HORROR FANS ARE PRAISING HIM FOR BEING LIKE EVERY STUDIO-PRODUCED HORROR MOVIE EVER WHILE PANNING BRILLIANT MASTERPIECES LIKE THE VVITCH AND IT COMES AT NIGHT. IT IS BEYOND INFURIATING. I wouldn’t be getting so pissy about this if I wasn’t aware of David Sandberg’s directing style and his ways of trying to scare the audience. I know exactly what he’s going to do in every scary sequence he ever creates. It’s not as if I expect anything good from David Sandberg; after all, he started his career making short horror films on YouTube. Because that’s totally a sign of talent. Oh, and I should mention this: there is one very prominent scary sequence that doesn’t actually feature a massive jumpscare. It’s as if David Sandberg was attempting to throw off Lights Out‘s detractors by having one single solitary instance in which he was being unpredictable. How low. How cheap.

And when you compare it to The ConjuringAnnabelle: Creation looks even worse. Though the scary sequences in The Conjuring did indeed involve jumpscares, the jumpscares in The Conjuring duology were necessary, expertly placed, and further accentuated sequences that were already freaking scary to begin with. And the scary sequences were executed in a variety of interesting and unique ways. No scary sequence was ever going to be the same as another. The Conjuring, while also being a studio-produced horror movie and being legitimately scary in its own right, was not all about the scary sequences. It was about its characters, how they interact with each other, and how they handle a series of events that spiral increasingly out of control. It featured a cast of interesting, unique, developed, lovable characters that you legitimately cared about and sympathized with.  That’s what made the movie as scary as it was: the scary sequences involved characters that you actually cared for and sympathized with and did not want to see die. The movies themselves were made to be good movies first, and scary movies second. And the subject matter that The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 were about was handled with care and love, and required actual thought, effort, and heart to bring to the screen. They were lovingly crafted, and while still covered in studio bullcrap, they respected the real-life events that they based themselves off of and they respected their audience. That’s what made The Conjuring and its sequel legitimately great movies. Oh, and they both had the fantastic James Wan in the director’s chair.

And the worst thing about Annabelle: Creation is that as an installment in the The Conjuring franchise, it, like the first Annabelle movie, is entirely pointless. The Annabelle doll was scary as hell in The Conjuring. It was so much scarier when we had no idea of its backstory. It was scary enough on its own, but it was even scarier when we could only speculate where exactly it came from and how it became a conduit for a demonic entity. That’s what makes Alien: Covenant so disappointing as well: we didn’t need to know where the Xenomorphs came from, or who they were created by. They were scary as hell on their own, and the idea that we could only imagine where they came from made them even more scary. Knowing what stories not to elaborate on is just as important as knowing what stories to elaborate on. Annabelle the doll, much like the Xenomorphs, has been effectively neutered. Well, I guess the correct term would be spayed.

My mistake – this is the worst thing about Annabelle: Creation. There’s this really stupid and pointless sequence in which Sister Charlotte shows Mr. Mullins a picture of her and three other nuns in Romania. When Mr. Mullins tilts the picture the right way, you can also see Valak the Demon Nun from The Conjuring 2 in a doorway next to the four nuns. Mr. Mullins even questions Sister Charlotte about the other nun, and Sister Charlotte says she doesn’t know. This scene has no bearing on the plot, and is never mentioned again. I presume this is just a really terrible ad for the next Conjuring spin-off: The Nun. Yes, Annabelle: Creation literally is stooping to selling ad space for future movies in the Conjuring franchise. That is effing pathetic.

As much as I’m hammering this movie, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I still legitimately like the vibe between Janice and Linda, and I really like the setting, as well as the atmosphere to a certain extent. The sound design is actually pretty good. And I am so happy that David Sandberg didn’t write the script. Also, I even have to cut Annabelle: Creation a little slack. After all, last year, the Ouija franchise managed to pull off a complete 180 and make what should have been an even worse installment in an already dead franchise into one of the best horror films of 2016. So they tried to do the same with Annabelle and right the biggest wrong in the Conjuring franchise. No pressure. But to do that, you really needed a better director than David Sandberg. Getting Mike Flanagan to succeed Stiles White was a fantastic move, but they needed to get someone far better than David Sandberg to replace John Leonetti. Maybe they should have gotten Mike Flanagan again.

It’s a failed attempt to fix a big mistake, and they could have actually fixed the mistake with a much better director and a much better writer. And I’m giving Annabelle: Creation a 1.5 out of 5.

“Gender” in Its Modern Definition has a Dark History.

The idea that gender is little more than a social construct and that male and female are fundamentally interchangeable was pioneered in 1955 by a sexologist named Dr. John Money. Dr. Money coined the modern usage of the term “gender”, referring to it as not your biological sex, but the sex you identify with as a result of social and cultural constructs, pressures, and expectations. To show you where such an idea gets you, allow me to enlighten you with the story of a two young boys.

On August 22, 1965, two twin boys by the names of Bruce and Brian Reimer were born to Janet and Ronald Reimer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After they were both diagnosed with phimosis (when the foreskin cannot be pulled all the way past the head of the penis), when they were seven months old, the two were to be circumcised. Unfortunately, the operation was performed using a highly unconventional method of cauterization, and Bruce’s penis was burned beyond surgical repair. Brian was not operated on, and his phimosis eventually fixed itself without surgery.

Bruce’s parents, knowing that his future happiness and sexual function were in serious jeopardy, took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967 to see a sexologist by the name of Dr. John Money. He was a pioneer of sorts in sexual development and gender identity. He believed that a person’s gender was not necessarily his/her biological sex, but the sex they identified as a result of social learning and cultural pressure. He believed that if a boy was raised as a girl and socialized enough to be a girl, then that boy could fundamentally be a girl, as Money believed that there were no innate differences between male and female, despite the entire field of human biology proving him wrong. Money and the few physicians he could get to take his theories seriously believed that though a penis could not be replaced, an artificial vagina could be surgically constructed.

Dr. Money told Bruce’s parents that Bruce would be more likely to achieve sexual maturation as a girl than as a boy, and suggested that Bruce undergo sex reassignment surgery and regular hormone treatment. For Money, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to test his theories, as this was a case in which two identical twin boys were involved with one being raised as a girl. Brian would make for the ideal control because the brothers shared the same genes, family environment, and intrauterine (inside mother’s uterus) environment. Bruce would make for a perfect test subject, as he had no abnormality of prenatal or postnatal differentiation. The parents consented, and Bruce underwent a bilateral orchidectomy. His testes and what remained of his penis were removed and a very basic vulva was constructed. He would urinate out of a hole in his abdomen. In his preteen years, he would undergo estrogen injections to induce breast development. Bruce was reassigned as female and renamed Brenda.

Over the next decade, Dr. Money would annually see the Reimers in Baltimore to consult them, assess the overall outcome, and psychologically support them. But what these visits truly entailed was something I still can hardly believe. Under the guise of believing that “childhood sexual rehearsal play” was imperative to the development of a “healthy adult gender identity”, Dr. Money would have the twins imitate sex acts involving “thrusting movements” with “Brenda” performing the role of Bottom. “Brenda” would get “down on all fours” with Brian coming “up behind his butt” with “his crotch against” his “buttocks”. Another time, “Brenda” would have his “legs spread” with Brian on top. Dr. Money would also force “Brenda” and Brian to remove their clothing and engage in “genital inspections”. On at least one occasion, Dr. Money took photos of the two performing these activities.

Though Dr. Money touted this experiment as successful, “Brenda” never truly ended up identifying as a girl, and described his visits with Dr. Money as traumatic. Brian even ended up becoming schizophrenic. Not only were these sessions with Money highly unpleasant for both “Brenda” and Brian, but Money was either ignoring or concealing evidence that “Brenda’s” gender reassignment was not going well. Their parents even routinely lied to Money and his lab staff that the gender reassignment was going splendidly. After Money started pressuring the family to bring “Brenda” in for surgery in which a supposedly fully functional vagina would be constructed, the family discontinued the visits.

Contrary to Dr. Money’s reports, “Brenda” never did identify as a girl. He was the target of severe ostracization and bullying by his peers, and neither the frilly dresses nor female hormones ever made him feel female. By the time he was 13, “Brenda” was going through severe depression to the point of being suicidal, saying that he would kill himself if his parents ever took him to see Dr. Money again. Following advice from his endocrinologist and psychiatrist, “Brenda’s” parents told him about his gender reassignment in 1980, and “Brenda” accepted his male sexuality when he was 14, renaming himself David.

By 1987, David had undergone nearly enough treatment to reverse his reassignment, including regular testosterone injections, a double mastectomy (removing whatever breast material he had), and two phalioplasty (penis reconstruction) operations. On September 22, 1990, he married Jane Fontaine and adopted her three children.

In 1997, he told his story to Milton Diamond, an academic sexologist who convinced David to tell his story in an attempt to dissuade other physicians from treating other infants similarly to how Dr. Money treated him. David went public with his story, and journalist John Colapinto published a Rolling Stone article and eventually a full-length book about David’s story, titled As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.

Dr. Money responded to this exposé in the way that you would expect: he blamed the media response on “right-wing media bias” and “the antifeminist movement”, claiming that his detractors believed “masculinity and femininity are built into the genes so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen”.

I know that this seems like it’s going to end happily. I wish it did. I wish I could be shaking David Reimer’s hand right now. But David Reimer never truly recovered from Dr. Money’s experiments. After years of a difficult relationship with his parents, debilitating depression, unemployment, financial instability, marital troubles, and even Brian’s suicide in 2002, David, at the age of 38, killed himself with a shotgun on May 4, 2004. David and Brian’s parents both stated that Dr. Money’s methodology is what killed their sons.

Dr. Money eventually died on July 7, 2006 from Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Money is still seen as an innovative pioneer of the idea of sexual fluidity and “gender” being a social construct. He published over 2000 articles, books, chapters, and reviews, nearly all of which were positively received and are still referred to as scientific gospel. He received over 65 worldwide honors, awards, and honorary degrees. He is still lauded as a progenitor of the gender fluidity movement.

And despite leagues of blind believers in this idea, to this day, there is not, has never been, and never will be even the slightest shred of evidence for the existence of “gender” (as Dr. Money defined it) in humans, or the entire animal kingdom for that matter.

So remember, kids: when you use the term “gender”, you’re using the speculative-at-best terminology of an insane scientist who committed human experimentation, psychologically, emotionally, and sexually tortured a pair of twin boys, drove them both to suicide, and not only got away with it, but is still lauded as one of the pioneers of the ideas of 1) sexual identity being only a state of mind and not a biological constant and 2) sex reassignment, to this day.

There’s a special place in Hell for people like him.

As for David and Brian Reimer, may they rest in peace.