Found Footage Fail: Devil’s Pass (SPOILERS!)

Devil’s Pass was released in 2013 and was directed by Renny Harlin. It follows a college student and her team into the Ural Mountains where she intends to make a documentary about the events of Dyatlov Pass – a true event that happened in 1959.

SPOILERS BELOW! Don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Reason for filming: I’m in college and making a documentary but I’m mostly going to focus on filming my friends!

What’s the horror: time travel, monsters, secret government experiments

Does the dog die? No animal cruelty here

Gore factor: None really, except for a severed tongue and a missing hand that aren’t much to look at

Character quality: the worst

Re-Watch scale: Never again. Cue up Blair Witch Project for the 1,000th time instead.

The Dyatlov Pass is a pretty fascinating true story with a lot of conspiracy theories swirling around it. I think this is not the only movie made about the incident, so if you want to watch something about it I would highly recommend something else. I’ve seen this one, and it’s not worth it. It adds nothing to the original story, has poorly thought-out explanations for all the questions surrounding the original event, and doesn’t tie anything together in a satisfactory manner. I’ve said before I give my found footage films a wide latitude – a found footage film can work for me as long as it’s really good in as little as ONE area, but this movie is poor across the board. Enjoy reading about it here so you don’t have to watch it yourself. Or don’t. Whatever.

We start out with a Claire Danes lookalike explaining a wee bit about the mystery, and how she has come to plan a trip to the area to make a film. Nothing out of the ordinary here – it’s a project for a college class, and she has recruited the necessary assistants to help her out. There’s a film student friend and a few “expert” mountain climbers who are coming along with Not Claire Danes as guides. One of these other assistants is a female, a sound technician named Denise who we learn from a male voiceover is the only sound tech who could handle the – zoom in on her boobs – “physical” aspects of the trip. Nice job, movie. But hey, we get two females instead of only one this time around, which is fairly unusual for field trip/hiking in the wilderness found footage movies, so there you go. Here’s hoping she’s not the first to die (surprise! she’s the first to die).

A quick summation of the original incident: In 1959 a group of experienced mountain climbers organized a trip into the Ural Mountains in Russia. They went missing, and were eventually found dead at their campsite. The tent had been ripped open from the inside, and the hikers’ bodies were discovered in various odd states of disarray – half-clothed, no shoes, as if they’d left the tent in distress. Some right next to an old campire, others farther away as if trying to escape. Some bodies positioned in a manner that indicated they’d been trying to climb trees before freezing to death. Internal injuries, missing tongues, and other weird signs of violence. It’s a bizarre story, one with no answers and lots of rumors. Moving on.

Before our team can get on their way, we cut to the future, where reporters are breaking the news of five students from Oregon who disappeared after attempting to hike Devil’s Pass. Cut to recovered night-vision footage of Not-Claire-Danes (whose name is Holly, by the way) crying and talking about having bad dreams where she opens a door and gets swallowed by darkness. Yeah, I hate it when doors do that.

Then it’s back to the crew on a train barreling through the snow establishing their characters. Andy has a fancy phone with a GPS system he’s super-stoked about, and he also makes smarmy comments about someone’s tattoo – either Holly’s or Denise’s, it’s unclear which one, and since neither of them punches him in the face I still don’t know. Andy doesn’t care for Jensen the videographer, who calls his camera “Lucille” and touches it a lot.  Much macho ensues when Holly asks the mountain climbers what inspires them to, you know, climb mountains. The answers are long and uninspired.  Andy does it because it’s cool to be out there in the wilderness where things like fancy GPS systems don’t work or matter, which is weird given the long monologue he just gave about his cool GPS system. JP does it because he likes having everything he needs to live for a year being tucked into one backpack. Let it be known that both of these dudes will be ready to bail on this entire trip after one growly sound. But for now, they’re a big deal.

When they get to Ivdel, at the foot of the Ural Mountains, their first stop is at a mental hospital where they try to interview an old hiker who planned to go on the ill-fated original trip but ended up not going, but of course they are barred from doing so. The students do manage to catch a glimpse of what appears to be their man, holding up some sort of sign before some nurses smack it down. I’m guessing it said something like “Don’t go or you will all die” since we have to have someone offer such a warning up in these movies, but it disappeared quickly and was in Russian, so for all I know it said “send nudes.”

Cut to a bar where there are more weird foreboding reactions to the students’ destination. Then a bartender gives them some special shot of booze that he lights on fire and everyone waits until AFTER they have slammed it back to ask what it is. It’s something the doomed hikers drank before they left way back in the day. For some reason, this completely bums the entire team out. It’s the first of many strange reactions this team will have in relation to things they all clearly were aware of (they’re venturing out to re-create a tragic, mysterious event that resulted in death) before agreeing to go on this trip.

Flaming shot bartender offers to drive the team to their next destination. When they get there, Denise’s eyelids are frozen shut. Holly scratches the note she saw the old hiker hold up into the snow and asks flaming shot bartender to translate. Sure enough, it means “stay away.”

Flaming shot bartender arranges an interview with a woman who was a part of the original rescue team. Man, this guy is one hell of a resource for a random dude they just met. Maybe they can just hang in Ivdel and hang out at the bar while FSB explains everything. Anyway, Denise is working the boom mic here, so at least we know it’s not essential that she use her eyes if they freeze shut again. For the most part, there’s nothing new here if you’re familiar with the original story, except for the woman says they found eleven bodies, not nine, and that there was some sort of a machine out there with the final two. Holly asks this woman if she’s sure because the reports she’s read says otherwise, and the woman side-eyes her into silence. She does not, however, warn them to STAY AWAY from the cursed location, which makes me think she’s more insulted by Holly’s impertinence than she lets on. Go check it out for yourself, missy, and if you make it back you can challenge my recollections.

Soon enough they’re hiking through the snow, and it’s cold, and Holly is being annoying, as seems to be a requirement for the camera-wielding protagonist in setups like this. She leans into the conflict between Andy and Jensen, which seems very eighth-grade of her and also an unwise idea since it would be far better for everyone if the whole team gets along. One of the dudes tells Andy that Denise “can’t take her eyes off you,” and I am amazed at how much like a middle school lunch table this bunch is. Everyone just giggles like this is totally professional and fine for five people who are about to go hiking into a dangerous situation and really should be focused on staying alive. The weather turns on them, and in the next shot it’s gray and snowy.  Someone comments “this is awesome,” which it quite clearly is not.

They stop to set up camp and start a fire and eat roasted garbage and pretend to be fine with it. Holly continues to waste battery life by filming herself asking JP for food packing advice, then immediately proves how very much too late she waited to ask this question when JP pulls out a big package of freeze-dried something and Holly replies that she is vegetarian. It appears that JP was in charge of packing the food here, so why no one thought to discuss this before I have no idea. JP digs around in his pack some more and finds some macaroni and cheese that Holly can eat, which gets Holly through exactly one meal but whatever. This guy just got through telling us that he has enough in that backpack to last him an entire year, so I’m going to assume there are other vegetarian delights for Holly in there. Andy has whittled Denise a wooden dildo, and no you did not just imagine that sentence. Everyone laughs while I pray for an avalanche. Didn’t these two just meet? He couldn’t have whittled a damn flower first? Whatever. Denise asks what she’s supposed to with the wooden dildo, and Andy replies that he will show her later, and all this is done without Andy even looking up from his food, which is a really weird mood. 

It’s nighttime and Holly wastes yet more battery life sneaking up behind Jensen and asking him what he’s doing. How does ANY of this relate to her course project? Jensen is not responsive, so Holly snarks at him that if he “doesn’t like looking at the aurora borealis Denise’s tent is right over there,” and I’m starting to agree with that old Russian lady that Holly should probably go ahead now and wander off a cliff. What the fuck Holly? Hasn’t Andy’s interest in Denise already been established? Established in a disgusting manner, true, but still established. I know Denise is a friend of Jensen’s and all, but if Holly suspects Jensen really does have a thing for her, throwing that in his face at a moment in which it’s entirely possible that Andy is in Denise’s tent instructing her on proper wooden dildo usage seems like very much not the right time.

It’s the next morning and the hikers see weird footprints – they look like someone, or something, was walking around their camp without shoes, and the prints seem to start out of nowhere and stop just as suddenly. Immediately, Denise is all “I don’t like this no no no no no no” and it’s not the first time I wonder if none of these people understood what they were signing up for. This is confirmed when Holly and Jensen try to film some shots of the footprints and JP and Andy act like dicks when Holly asks them to get out of the frame. The fuck? I’m pretty sure they’re all there on Holly’s dime and Holly hired them to help her make a documentary so what’s with the attitude every time she tries to film? I hate these people.

Holly points out that there are actually two sets of these weird footprints surrounding them, and right after that Jensen says something about a Yeti, and she gets ridiculously angry about it. I don’t get her reaction here at all – she’s fascinated by this story about a mysterious happening on this mountain, intrigued enough to learn to hike in the snow and fly to Russia to figure it out, she’s speaking directly into the camera about how unusual the prints are because they appear to be barefoot when that’s impossible, then she argues with Jensen about his Yeti suggestion that the prints were probably just caused by a bear or a snow leopard which is NOT AT ALL WHAT SHE WAS JUST SUGGESTING TO THE CAMERA. She clearly stated that while the prints looked human, they were clearly barefoot, which makes no logical sense, and that is at LEAST as bizarre as there being a Yeti behind them, so what the fuck Holly? YOU ARE OUT HERE TO SOLVE A CONSPIRACY THEORY-LADEN MYSTERY for which you have entertained any number of insane scenarios already, and when someone suggests just one more insane scenario you call him an asshole and stomp away? If this were my project I’d be all “Fuck yeah Yeti prints! Film everything!” and immediately start annoying people with my demands to keep the camera running at all times. Because I’ve seen a lot of found footage movies and someone always has to be that person, and if I’m going to be that person I’m going to get a Yeti on camera in the process. And anyway, it’s clear that Jensen is just kidding, so screw Holly and also screw this weird-ass scene.

Cut to Holly in another spot talking about the footprints some more: “It’s as if something dropped out of the sky, walked around barefoot for an hour, then disappeared again.” OK sure but whatever you do, DO NOT MENTION YETIS. Scientific speculation only please- you know, like theorizing that someone with massive-ass human weather-proof feet dropped out of the sky and ran in circles for a while before disintegrating. Then Andy calls out another square to mark on our found footage bingo cards when he accuses Holly of “messing” with them and faking the footprints.

The terrain is starting to look really dangerous, and I am amazed anyone gave Holly a grant to do this with no experience whatsoever. Suddenly, loud growly sounds are heard, and we can be thankful at least that they aren’t coming from various characters snapping at each other. Then they see more footprints. Cue camera static. They come across an old weather tower. Holly climbs the tower because she’s plucky and determined and has a class average on the line. I don’t know guys – I once had to travel across Houston to attend a symposium for class credit, and I chose to take a zero because of traffic, so I’m hoping this is at least a graduate-level course Holly’s doing this for. Masters thesis, perhaps? Because if this is all being done for a grade in Introduction to Unsolved Mysteries 101 then I’m thinking Holly deserves what she gets.

Holly climbs the tower, opens the door, and sees – something. I can’t tell what it is. It looks like some sort of machine and then – a foot? A dead rat? I even played it back and paused it but I couldn’t tell. Whatever it is, it makes her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower. Everyone asks her if she’s OK, and she says yes, and no one asks her what made her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower and she does not bother to explain what made her exclaim ‘what the hell’ and fall off the tower. I guess no one will ever know. I’m reminded of the old Russian lady who said those two extra bodies were found with “a machine” of some kind, though – was that what Holly saw up there? And why was it sitting next to an old foot?

They have literally been on this trip for about 24 hours and Denise is all “we need to leave right now.” It seems too soon for anyone to be this freaked out. They’ve seen footprints and heard one growl. Way to commit, Denise. Then Andy grabs Denise by the arm and mutters, “come on she’s just messing with us for her own stupid reasons” as they stomp off, and I just do not get these people at all. They have no reason to assume Holly is messing with them – usually in found footage movies when someone gets the blame for making up whatever is going on, it’s a person who is an established joker or liar – but there’s nothing to suggest this is the deal with Holly. There’s something so childish about the way this is playing out, and it emphasizes how ill-equipped these emotionally immature people are to be attempting a trip like this. I’ am full-on Team Yeti now and I know nothing about Yetis but I hope they are violent creatures.  

Now Jensen is sitting on a snowy rock, wallowing in doom and gloom. He muses about mountains he’s heard of that emit sounds which cause people to go insane and posits that maybe that’s what’s happening here and again THEY HAVE HEARD EXACTLY ONE WEIRD SOUND. What is wrong with these people? Jensen couldn’t have considered these stories about crazy mountain sounds BEFORE agreeing to this trip and declined the invitation if it freaked him out? I hate to harp on it, but it’s just so clear the filmmakers are using character dialogue to try and create the mood they haven’t created through other means, and it is not working.

Holly sits down with Jensen for a heart to chilly heart. Jensen starts describing an acid trip he had in high school. Things were chasing him and he was running. Then the cops picked him up and he was shouting about aliens. And there were sounds. Growly sounds. The same sounds he heard earlier on the mountain. And…that’s it. It will actually matter later, but not much. Holly has never taken acid, but she used to have a dream where she was drawn like a magnet to a door, and when she opened the door there was nothing but darkness that swallowed her. So one day she saw a news story about Devil’s Pass and she knew right away that it was the place she dreamed of. The place that swallowed her in darkness. And somehow this means to her that she and Jensen are meant to be there. And get swallowed. By darkness. And this is a good thing? Was it a dream or a premonition? The answer’s a ways up the trail still…

Oh hey, they made it! Holly knows they’re at the accident site because she’s seen so many pictures. I guess maps are no longer a thing. Holly plants sticks in the ground with photos of the victim’s faces on them in the exact location where they died, and spray paints red body outlines next to them, which I want to be snarky about but I’m kind of into it, really. I am surprised Andy doesn’t start yelling at Holly for trying to scare them with spray paint, though, and use it as an excuse to drag Denise into a tent where they can braid each other’s hair and make prank calls. She and Jensen film a monologue about each of the original hikers and what happened to them when they died, and this bit, at least, is pretty effective. It’s the first time Holly has filmed anything that looks like a documentary I might watch. Too bad it doesn’t last.

Then Holly notices Andy looking at his GPS with a concerned scowl. She asks him what’s wrong, and he tells her it’s screwed up, and didn’t notify them when they arrived at the incident site like it should have. Holly immediately turns the tension between them back to eleven by snooting, “I suppose you think that’s my fault, too?” at him, which, seriously, Holly? You asked him a question and he answered, why not just leave it at that? These people deserve an avalanche.

Turns out it’s not just Andy’s GPS that is messed up. So is JPs watch. And his compass. All screwed. This is the “there’s no cell service” complication for this particular FF film. JP says his compass has been with him on all his hikes and it has never malfunctioned. Andy wants to call it quits, because they reached the site hours before they logically should have gotten there, which is weird, but I have to take Holly’s side here – they all knew they were hiking to a site on the side of a mountain that has been the feeding ground for tons of conspiracy theories for decades and at the first sign of the sort of weirdness they’ve all read about in the past they want to book it? So much for the bravado these dudes were spewing back on the train.

JP, Andy, and Denise all want to pack up and hike to a different location, just until their gear starts working again because they think there must be something strange going on in that particular spot. I guess they have a point. But Denise steps all over that logic by shouting “screw your footage, Holly!” at her when SHE WAS HIRED TO WORK FOR HOLLY AS A SOUND TECH FOR THE FOOTAGE HOLLY IS THERE TO SHOOT. I mean, at least come up with a better argument than the one that is least likely to convince Holly to leave. Why do none of these people understand how basic communication works between humans?

Holly then points out that people lived for thousands of years without GPS and watches and they were fine, which is AMAZING because this is the EXACT STATEMENT Andy made back on the train describing why he likes mountain climbing so much – you know, being up on top of a mountain where things like watches and GPS systems don’t exist. Even more amazing is the fact that Andy reacts as if he has never had that exact same thought before in his life, much less just 48 hours ago and RECORDED ON CAMERA.

Then we cut to Holly filming Jensen and whining about how she’s a “third wheel on date night” when she’s around Denise and Andy, and weirdly out of nowhere Jensen starts ranting about how he can’t understand why Denise wants to be with a guy like Andy who’s such a dick. So, he does like her? What is up with this chick anyway? Literally all the audience knows about Denise is that she has boobs and her eyelids occasionally freeze. I fail to see the appeal. It probably doesn’t matter because as quick as you can say ‘emotional whiplash’ Holly and Jensen are sexual innuendo-ing each other and the scene is over.

It’s darker now, and Holly has a Geiger counter, and quips to the camera that ‘without getting too complicated’ she will explain that it’s used to detect radiation. Um – how could she have made that more complicated? Probably the same way she makes interpersonal relations complicated – hey Geiger, I bet you really wanna fuck that compass.

Camera static. There’s definitely radiation in the area. More camera static. Holly follows the Geiger around LIKE IT’S A MAGNET PULLING HER SOMEWHERE. It’s getting really dark. She finds something in the snow and starts digging. Camera static. What is that? It’s a cave! Nope – it’s A DOOR! A huge safe-like door with one of those circular lock-type handle things. To convince the skittish Jensen to open it Holly actually hints that there might be a Yeti inside, which OK, cheap shot, Holly. Jensen wants to get the others, but Holly has to create more conflict in the film and widen the already well-defined unity gap in the group by insisting they not tell the others what they’ve found.

Holly continues her quest to be the worst middle school team leader ever by striking up a gossip session with JP about Denise and Andy and I want to throw her beanie-first into the campfire. JP then confirms his own awfulness by slagging on Andy as being “not boyfriend material.” Jesus, these people are all the worst. Where are the Yetis? Wherever they are, they’re not close enough to stop this madness as JP goes on to share with Holly that Andy uses his phone camera to film himself having sex with his “trail hookups.” Holly, being the worst female ever, brushes this off with a little laugh and leaves it at that. Then she immediately offers herself up as JPs trail hookup, if he’s interested. I have no words at this point.  But I am mad this movie has actually made me feel bad for Denise. Jensen shows up so Holly has to drag him into this mess, which leads Jensen to utter the phrase ‘sloppy seconds’ and I am so done with this scene.

Except the next one is even worse, because now – we’re living vicariously through Andy’s cell phone as he talks to the camera in his tent with his shirt off. Denise is in the background, obviously naked and asleep under a sleeping bag. Isn’t it way too cold for this? And not that I went back and counted but I totally went back and counted, and exactly four minutes have passed since these two said goodnight to Holly and entered this tent so, way to go there, Trigger. You are nothing if not swift. Then he swings the camera over to “meet Denise” and PULLS DOWN HER SLEEPING BAG WHILE SHE IS STILL ASLEEP, trying to expose her breasts. I hate Andy so much I want him to die, like now. Yetis, meteors, radiation, Russian spies, I do not care. Someone just kill Andy already. KILL HIM.

And then my prayer works and the scene is interrupted by rocket sounds or gunshots or something, all praise be to the Yeti god. Explosions abound, or is it an avalanche? Oh wait – it’s both. An explosion and some gunshots that start an avalanche and goddammit it better take someone down. A dude (can’t tell who) is holding Denise’s hand to help her get out of the avalanche’s path, but Denise loses her grip and falls down and the dude just – keeps running. Oh hi, Andy. Then there’s a POV shot of some sort of projectile slamming into Denise’s face, and okay movie, finally. One down.

Yes, it was an avalanche, started intentionally. Guy-fights immediately ensue over which one of them is responsible for getting Denise killed, which, dudes, calm down, she’s dead and is no longer impressed by your toxic masculinity. Seems more logical to blame the assholes who started the avalanche anyway, but whatever. One of the guys says something about “a herd of exploding mountain goats” which I really hope ends up being a real thing as it sounds way better than Yetis. Especially if one of them takes out Andy. Jensen and JP immediately start fighting over who is right about what just happened, which seems like the most useless argument ever under the circumstances but that never stops this crew from going at each other.

Oh wait – someone broke their leg. It’s Andy! Andy broke his leg, and he’s in pain! Terrible pain! Oh happy day! This movie has taken some really stupid and frustrating turns, but this right here I’m all in for. Andy says someone needs to re-set his broken leg. Ooh that sounds painful. Let’s do it! Then the asshole has the nerve to tell Jensen to turn off the camera because HE DOESN’T WANT ANYONE TO SEE HIM LIKE THIS. That’s right – the douchebag who secretly films women while he’s having sex with them doesn’t want to be caught on camera in an embarrassing position. Keep filming Jensen! Film everything! Film like the Yetis are on their way!  

The face Andy doesn’t want you to see

The dudes take a macho-man moment to re-set Andy’s leg, and he man-screams in pain. Sweet, sweet Andy pain. It restoreth my soul. And of course, Andy has the stupidest man-scream ever. Even his moans sound smarmy and overloaded with misplaced aggression.

Holly decides now would be a good time to admit she and Jensen found a door in the snow. It is not. More shouting. JP is mad they could have gone inside a bunker somewhere instead of sitting out in the cold. Then he circles back to accusing Holly of planting the footprints, which – whatever, dude, you really need to let that go. Jensen sends up a flare and makes a comment about “orange lights in the sky,” which is something that was reported in the area back in 1959. So – door and magnet dreams, acid trip growly sounds, and now orange lights. It’s all…adding up now? I guess?

It’s the next morning, and Holly displays some seriously bad judgment when the crew spots people approaching them and she starts shouting and waving and asking for help. JP points out that these hikers are carrying no gear, which makes no sense this far up the mountain, and they realize they need to leave. The climax of the movie arrives when Andy realizes he can’t make it to wherever they’re going and tells JP to leave him behind. Yay! No more Andy! There’s some back and forth while JP tries to pick Andy up and carry him but eventually Holly grabs him and tells him they have to go. She does not look particularly upset about this, and neither am I. Off they go, with JP promising to bring back help for Andy. Bye, Andy! I can only assume your death will be drawn-out and painful, and the world makes sense again.

Holly, Jensen, and JP run towards the snow-door, and shots ensue. It’s unclear where they are coming from – I assume it’s from the two hikers who were approaching them, but a camera swing in that directions shows those two being shot at also, so I’m not sure. JP gets shot while they are trying to open the snow door, but doesn’t die, so, try harder, shooters. Try. Harder.

Into the snow-door they go. JP moans a bunch, and his moans are every bit as bad as Andy’s which makes me wonder if the two actors practiced together. The noises he emits imply both “I told you so” and “this is all your fault” but with sounds instead of words. The door leads to a tunnel, which isn’t surprising. The green camera light goes on. Jensen finds a power switch and tries it out, which seems unwise, but instead of blowing them all up it just turns the lights on. JP and Jensen are still fighting about what might be going on here – JP wants to barricade the door while Jensen insists that no one is coming after them; whoever is behind all of this just wants them to die with the least amount of effort possible on their part, is his thinking. JP predicts a slow death due to starvation and hypothermia, but he’s holding his arm where he got shot so who knows JP, you might get lucky and bleed out first. A girl can dream!

Jensen states the obvious – they have to find a way out. We get some pretty cool shots of underground tunnels that fork off in two directions; there are lamps on the walls lighting the way that create nice pools of light on the walls and floors. There’s a small explosion ahead down the tunnel in the direction they were heading, so off they go in the other direction. It looked to me like one of the light bulbs exploding, and sure enough, all the lights go out at that point.  

Holly screams and when the camera swings around and catches JP in the night vision Jensen’s using again, he looks like a zombie in a straightjacket due to how he’s holding his arm, which explains Holly’s screams until I figure out who it is. Holly felt something, and she knows there’s something in there with them. But they don’t see anyone. The lights flicker on again. They walk down a different hallway and into a strange room, and more lights pop off around them, confirming it’s just the power blowing things out that’s causing the explosions. They’re in some sort of laboratory, and this is where the limitations of my video copy fail me. I was watching this on a cell phone, and that’s on top of the fact that the movie is already a little crappy in its original form since it’s found footage, so it’s really hard for me to see what’s going on from this point on. I’ll do my best.

JP gets back to man-moaning and has to sit down. Holly stays with him while Jensen wanders around, pointing his camera at the surroundings. He discovers some paperwork on a desk and calls Holly over. She says she’s seen the big book of files before – it’s page after page of documentation of people who were “killed in action.” She’s seen it in various reports and stories about the incident. All documentation stops in 1959, the year the hikers were killed. I guess that’s a clue? Holly shuffles folders around some more, and Jensen stops her when he sees a photo of some ship he recognizes as being used in the “Philadelphia experiment.” In order to help the audience, JP asks what that is. Jensen history-shames him before explaining the top-secret crazy human experiments that totally should not be documented and recorded in whatever secret laboratory they’ve found here inside death-trap mountain. It sounds like Holly doesn’t know about it either, but Jensen does not accuse her of living under a rock, like he does JP. Maybe it’s wishful thinking. There’s a rock around here big enough to squash JP, Jensen, I’m sure of it.

Jensen reveals more about the Philadelphia thing – the US Government was experimenting with teleportation, apparently, and a bunch of people were turned into mush as a result. Holly is flipping through photos now, but the version of the movie I’m watching makes it impossible for me to figure out what they are. I’m assuming it’s mush-people. Holly wants to move on, but JP can’t get up. They’re leaving him, but they’re totally coming back for him once they find a way out. So long, JP! You will not be missed.

Holly and Jensen forge ahead through another door and cough a lot. Jensen says something about a naturally formed cave. Holly calls him a spelunker. Are they flirting again? Holly finds some sort of nuclear power – box? Reactor? I can’t tell, but she immediately says “Alexander was here” and at first I think she’s reading graffiti that was scrawled on it until I remember that was the name of a member of the hiking group back in 1959. “This is where he picked up the radiation,” she says, sounding very confident that she’s right, which, OK movie. I’ll allow it if it moves things along.

They open another door. It’s dark. There’s a dead dude strapped to a table. Some military guy. Holly says something about a secret and keeping the secret and then she weirdly yanks open his mouth and FINALLY we find out what that foot/rat thing was at the top of the weather tower; it was – this guy’s tongue? Really? Now I definitely need to go back and look again because to my recollection dude’s tongue was HUGE.

Holly’s theory is that this military dude, who clearly was alive until recently, was sent to kill the five of them so that whatever secrets the mountain holds will stay secret. Then whoever sent this guy to do this had to be killed, since he knew too much. Soldier, I could have told you that this crew has figured out NOTHING and you might have kept your life. And your tongue. Oh well. Have I mentioned yet that none of this is scary? And none of it explains why the soldier’s tongue was cut out and stuck in a weather tower. Holly has an explanation that involves experiments and “letting something out” which is why the door was unlocked. Swinging the camera around the room, they see piles of bones. It’s an execution room, Jensen posits. Or rather, was. Or maybe still is given the tongueless dude strapped to a table who was clearly alive until recently. One of the original hikers had a missing tongue when they were found, so maybe this soldier is really that hiker? I have no idea.

There is a note tucked inside a pile of bones, which is jarring. A folded-up piece of paper is just nestled into a bone-pile? It’s a photo of one of the soldiers who was in that book they found of people who were killed in action. I’m not interested in this at all. In fact, I’m starting to think I’d rather watch Andy and Denise go at it back in that tent. At least I know that would end in four minutes. Did anyone save Andy’s phone?

“I don’t understand,” Holly says. Agreed, Holly.

“They don’t look right,” Jensen says, referring to the skeletons. I can neither confirm nor deny. Holly wonders if one of these freaky skeleton things is what the tongueless soldier let out. I’m sure the movie is dropping all this as clues to the puzzle, so I’m trying to put them together, but there’s a growly sound and Holly’s face in that moment sums up how I’m feeling right now:

More growly sounds. Jensen continues to ask what is that? after every growl and dude, literally no one can explain that to you, possibly not even the filmmakers, so stop asking. Honestly at this point, who cares anyway? If Mr. Growly doesn’t get ya, the tongue-cutters will, soooo…50/50?

There’s an open door Jensen thinks wasn’t open before. Through it they go. Holly thinks someone is there with them. Jensen focuses the camera on meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. There’s blood. Then Jensen spies something on a table on the far side of the room. What is it? It’s – a camera. Wait, it’s their camera? It’s still on, but the battery is almost out, so Jensen tells her to check what’s on the flipscreen quickly before the camera dies. Its Holly and Company back when they were trying to get in to interview that old hiker, and I swear at one point it sounds like someone on the recording says “Come On Eileen,” which is amusing. Holly fast forwards to see what else has been recorded, and when she hits play again, it’s a scene of her finding this camera and watching the scene on it with the crazy hiker in the window. Jensen mentions teleportation again and how it’s rumored the ship time-traveled during the Philadelphia Experiment and showed up somewhere ten minutes before it had even left, and no one was supposed to know about it, and the people involved in the experiment who didn’t die not only went crazy but somehow “changed,” so I guess the camera they just found is their camera from the future, and they are some sort of time-traveled manifestation of themselves running around this tunnel. I’m thinking of how Andy said they arrived at the accident site hours earlier than they should have, so I guess they all got sucked into some time portal right before that? It’s kind of cool, but getting the reveal via Jensen’s exposition is awkward.

There’s no time to figure it all out because we hear some crazy screams which I try to identify as maybe being one of them in another time dimension but I cannot. They come across something, or someone, in a cage, but for the life of me I can’t tell what it is. However, I have watched this whole movie now and I can tell you it doesn’t fucking matter. So let’s move on. Maybe Jensen will continue to provide ongoing commentary about everything that’s happening to help us along.

20 minutes left in the movie and finally – MONSTERS! A creepy stretchy skinny humanoid looking thing with a really wide mouth (mind your tongue, monster!) and he grabs Jensen by the forehead and  – does things. The camera (I don’t know who is filming now) pans over to see Holly swinging a chain over her head and then – swear to god – chain-flinging a couple of creatures away from her, which is HILARIOUS. We’ve gotten absolutely ZERO indication that Holly would be able to pull off a Wonder-Woman move like this, and nothing remotely super-heroish has happened at any point up until now, so this is just ridiculous. And you can tell by the way they set up the shot that it was supposed to be super-impressive. It’s completely silly.  

She runs over to the camera and talks to it like it’s Jensen, so he was filming? Who knows. It doesn’t matter because the two skittery creatures nab Holly, and much camera static and jerky movements ensue. Then they’re running, and it turns out they’re going back for JP. Skittery creatures leaping about. They’re on the ceiling. We get a shot of JP sitting in the same corner, and he’s had his hand torn off somehow so he’s sitting there on the floor sort of flapping his stump around. Jensen zooms in on it, which is a nice touch although I doubt JP would appreciate it. It doesn’t matter, because JP has either turned into a skittery creature or one just ate him. Either way a skittery creature is where JP used to be, so off we go again.

Another vault-like door. They just make it in before the creature gets them and they lock it out. Why haven’t any of the creatures killed them by now is what Jensen wants to know. There’s some sort of freaky tunnel ahead of them that looks WAY too much like the one in “Final Prayer” and I do not want to go through that again. Holly has the same idea, because she suggests turning around and taking their chances with the skittery bunch. No, Jensen says, you saw what they did to JP. They’ll do the same to us. They chased us here on purpose. This is where they want us to be. But – that is very decidedly NOT what they did to JP. They ate his wounded ass. So…try again?

Holly throws a rock or something into the tunnel and it lights up for a second and again I think of Final Prayer and I really (SPOILER!!) don’t want to see someone get digested again. But nope, it’s some sort of teleportation tunnel. They find ancient drawings on the wall, indicating whatever the tunnel is has existed for centuries. Jensen keeps throwing out theories. Aliens. Other portals all over the world. The monsters traveling around in time through this portal. “It makes sense,” Jensen says. No one agrees. Jensen’s flashlight dies, and in reaction to this Holly immediately says she can’t see, and yes, that’s how it works, Holly. Light go out, lady no see.

Now the camera is back in night vision, and we see the footage that was shown on the news coverage at the beginning of the film. Holly talking about a dream – the dream she talked about with Jensen back in her flirting days about magnets and doors and darkness. More monsters please – the movie makes no sense and it is seriously slowing back down to a crawl.  Jensen makes more suggestions – the monsters skitter back and forth through time regularly, and are the cause of basically every weird UFO or creature sighting in the universe, I guess, which is a seriously anti-climactic conclusion to some seriously good conspiracy theories and UFO sightings. I’m not buying it. Stick to trying to solve the mystery right in front of you, Jensen, and leave the rest to another found footage movie.

Jensen’s suggesting mind power to escape the bunker or wherever they are and there are still fifteen minutes in this thing. As soon as I have that thought Holly says “We’re going to die here Jensen” and, yep, she read my mind. Maybe she teleported into my head! If she did sorry for all the hate Holly. But in my defense, you aren’t much fun to watch. Maybe they can get Claire Danes for the sequel.

They stand on the edge of the portal or whatever it is and Holly quotes Slaughterhouse Five. Thanks for reminding me of a way more entertaining story I could be focusing on right now, lady. They hold hands and step into what becomes a very bright light. Cut to their legs in the snow outside the portal and HOW ARE THERE STILL TEN MINUTES LEFT IN THIS MOVIE?

Two mountain climbers approach their frozen legs. Russian military swoop in with guns and try to send them away. “But they found all the hikers already,” says the male climber. “Who are they?” The soldiers try again to shoo them off, and then the female climber starts to argue. “We want to help,” she says. Shoo shoo away, the Russians say. Then they drag Holly and Jensen’s frozen corpses out of the camera frame, while the female climber questions them, what are they doing? How can they just move the bodies away without investigating the crime scene? They don’t even know who these two are! Ah, hello, old Russian lady from the beginning of the film who knew there were eleven bodies found on the side of the mountain back in 1959 and not nine. Nice to see you again. *Wink*

One of the soldiers picks up the camera – still filming – and carries it into the snow cave with the bodies. We see Holly and Jensen being wheeled into the facility on gurneys, where Russian military is now bustling about, sitting at the same empty tables Holly and Jensen found earlier (or is it…later?)

A soldier tries to store Holly and Jensen’s bodies “with the others,” but are instructed by the man with the camera that “Dr. Mintenko” will want to take at look at them separately. Into the old tongue-cutting room we go, this time busting with more military. Someone’s body is on a table but I can’t see whose – whoever it is, the men are noting how odd the clothes are and how they’ve never seen outfits like this one. JP? Andy? Denise?

Someone instructs the guys to put Holly and Jensen’s bodies into a special room. Yeah, the meathook one. First one, then the other body is hung on the meathooks, and we can see that they are now freaky and skittery-looking and frozen. “Let’s get out of here,” one of the soldiers says. “This place gives me the creeps.” Off they go, and the camera gets tilted a bit as if it’s been tipped over. But it’s still filming. We see more clearly that Holly and Jensen are now freaky skittery creatures. As we somehow manage to zoom in on the two frozen corpses, their heads slowly tilt upwards, and the camera focuses in on a tattoo behind freaky-Holly’s ear that I think is supposed to confirm it’s her. So I guess Holly is the one Andy made a smarmy comment to way back in the beginning of the film when there was still a sense of hope that this movie might make sense.

The end. Who cares.

This movie is a damn mess, and it’s a shame. There’s a good story to be told about what happened on Dyltalov Pass in 1959, but this ain’t it. The characters are awful. The plot twists make no sense. And none of it adds anything to the lore of the original story. All I can suss out is that Holly and Jensen definitely time traveled back to the original incident and that’s how the Russian woman saw “a machine” (their camera) and two extra bodies. Whether or not ALL of the crew time-traveled is unclear. Is it possible they were all a part of the original nine? I don’t think so, because it seems the movie would have then added five extra bodies to Russian lady’s count, not just two. But it does appear that there was some sort of time jump they all experienced when arriving at the accident site. But even that is unclear. And the presence of the skittery creatures seems unnecessary – if the movie had just left it with Jensen and Holly being stuck in some time loop where they have traveled back into the past and in the present are encountering themselves throughout the trip leaving weird footprints (although the freakiness of the footprints requires them turning into skittery creatures) as they time travel in and out of the portal stalking themselves, I guess I could have accepted that. But this movie bit off way more than it could chew – vegetarian or not – and in the end it just puked out a big old mess. Do not recommend.

Found Footage Fave – Home Movie (SPOILERS!)

SPOILERS AHEAD! Don’t scroll if you don’t want to know.

Home Movie was released in 2008 and was directed by Christopher Denham. It’s the story of the Poe family – parents David and Claire, and twins Jack and Emily – who have moved to the semi-isolation of the woods in upstate New York to live the good life. However, as a compilation of home movies reveals, there is more to their decision to leave the city than meets the eye, and as the children’s behavior becomes increasingly bizarre, David and Claire try with an alarming lack of effectiveness (and, truth be told, logic) to bring the kids back from the brink.

Reason for filming: Mom buys a video camera to record her notes regarding her patients, but Dad just can’t resist staging happy fun-time films with the fam.

What’s the horror: Creepy kids, psycho killers

Does the dog die? Yes, and also the family cat. And some frogs. In other words, animal lovers beware.

Gore factor: Fairly low in my opinion, and I’m not big on gore myself. For me, as long as I have warning that it’s coming and I can decide on my own whether or not I want to witness it, I am good – and there were a few scenes where there wasn’t warning in this one, but they weren’t too visceral.

Re-watch scale: Regular rotation. As I mention below, I watched this one three times in a row the first day, and can easily see myself keeping this one in heavy rotation. It was an immediate favorite.

This is a slow burn home-grown horror film; in the end, there’s nothing supernatural happening here. Just two increasingly creepy kids paired with two increasingly stupid parents. Mom is a child psychologist and Dad is a pastor, and the irony is thick with these two – although pairing a psychologist’s clinical approach with a faith-based response explains some of this. Mom and Dad cannot agree on what they should do here, because their different belief/faith systems keep colliding. It’s hinted that this has been an issue in their marriage from the start, but up to this point has only been a meet-cute conflict until they’re in the clutch, at which point the cracks start to show and eventually break wide open. Keep that in mind kids – no matter how hot the pastor or the child psychologist is, you need to sit them down and flesh out how the two of you intend to raise kids before actually creating one or more with that person. Just sayin.

The cautionary tale continues, as what starts out as preferred isolation on the part of the twins progresses past sullenness (which we see right from the start – never do we see Emily and Jack even remotely happy) to menace. At each turn, Dad becomes more manic about putting on a happy face for the camera – dressing up in outfits for each holiday, mugging for the camera, and continuing to laugh and cajole no matter how little response he gets from his children or irritation he gets from Claire. Claire, too, appears as clueless as David for quite a while – it’s clear they enjoy each other’s company far more than they do their children, and they seem to assume that if they just mug, smile, and cuddle MORE these kids will come around. They do not. I can’t say I blame Emily and Jack for this, at least not for refusing to join in with what is obviously feigned happiness and enthusiasm – kids see right through that shit, and so does the audience.

Soon Dad is reduced to drinking too much, forcing the kids to pray at Thanksgiving dinner (which they respond to with coordinated bomb-drop attacks on forks, glasses, and eventually full plates of food) and finally seeing the light about the situation WAY before Mom the Child Psychologist does. The true motivation for the move to the country is revealed when David shouts at Claire that their relocation “didn’t work” – the kids were going downhill back in the city, it seems, and have not gone uphill by moving to the actual hills. In fact, they’ve been expelled from school and done some bad things to family pets by Christmas morning, and David has taken to calling them psychotic. He ain’t wrong, but boozing it up and screaming at Claire ain’t gonna fix a damn thing. Nevertheless, he persists.

Claire responds unsurprisingly, but rather unethically, by deciding she is going to “treat” her own children, rather than taking them to a neutral third party to figure out what’s up, which is what she should have done. The reasons for this are revealed in another fight between her and David – they’re both embarrassed and ashamed of the damage their kids have caused in the past, and may have even moved away to escape some of that attention. So, Mom would rather try and treat the children herself rather than admit to an outside party that her kids are fucked up. In fact, it’s likely both Claire and David are aware of how two fucked-up kids would damage their own careers – a fact we can suspect is not lost on the way-too-smart-for-their-own-good-and-anybody-else’s children.

Of course Claire’s “treatment” fails miserably, and although the medication she prescribes (which isn’t consistent with reality as psychologists can’t prescribe medication but whatever) chills the twins out for a bit, it isn’t long before Emily and Jack are up to their old antics again, this time taking the kid from school whom they chewed on in a bathroom before and upping the stakes by putting a trash bag over his head and tying him to a table (Mom and Dad, are you paying attention? Because there’s a thing called foreshadowing that you might want to ponder here).

After that little attempt at murder, Claire and David can hide no longer – cops are called, and the kids are busted for the little psychopaths they are. In another required-for-the-story-but-in-no-way-would-happen-in-real-life glitch, the cops decide to let the twins stay home with their folks one more night (yes, after attempting to suffocate a kid to death these two get one more night at home) before being hauled away for whatever fate awaits them – it isn’t clear what that is, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because OF COURSE the kids turn on their parents and wrap this all up once the coast is clear. Soon enough, Mom and Dad are the targets of the twins’ psychosis, and there’s enough rope and trash bags around to put an end to this saga in an unnerving final scene, replete with a callback to one of Dad’s bigger blunders – reading a bedtime story to his already creepy kids involving a dinosaur, paper bags worn over heads, and the eating of children. Oh, and Dad’s ridiculous let’s-show-my-disturbed-children-how-to-pick-a-lock-and-tie-a-tight-rope-knot-to-show-how-cool-I-am display works out well for neither parent here, either.

While the exact reason for the twins’ pathology is never even remotely explained, we do at least get a hint or two that it’s been going on for some time through the eventual exposition Dad provides during that fight with Mom. For me, that was enough. I don’t require too much of found footage films in this or many other regards, because of the suspension of belief required to enjoy the genre at all – the old why would people keep filming while being chased through the forest thing will rarely, if ever, be resolved satisfactorily, so allowing leeway is a requirement of the genre. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with FF horror that can throw a movie off-track, but for me it’s just about balance – what a movie lacks in logic CAN be made up for with good camera work, acting, or tension, for example; and good camera work can make up for a lack in logic. And while the reasons to continue filming are weak here, the tension this movie builds makes up for it.

And there’s something to be said for that final camera confession in which Claire and David engage – it’s questionable why they even feel the need to do this, as so far there has at least been the pretense that the movies they’ve made were for purely personal or work-related reasons. Why do they need, at this point, to sit down in front of the camera and discuss what’s happened that day, and what’s going to happen in the morning? And Dad’s weepy, pathetic breakdown over never being able to see his kids again rings more than a wee bit hollow – is he overacting for the camera in case it becomes evidence, and he wants to look like a compassionate loving father whose only concern has ever been for the well-being of his kids, rather than someone partially responsible by failing to pay proper attention to the situation? Claire acknowledges the bizarre folly of making this last home movie, as if even she has finally figured out what has at least possibly been part of David’s motivation all along – a cover-up for his own complicity in his kids’ crimes.

I personally found this to be one seriously dark, sinister film, and although it was clear from the beginning that the parents were going to end up being victimized by these kids – there was never ANY indication that these two had an ability to properly analyze the situation and act appropriately – the HOW that was going to happen kept me just enough in the dark to stay on the edge of my seat. And when the shit went down, damn, those kids were scary enough to make me feel for David and Claire who, while clueless, flawed, and even downright stupid, still didn’t deserve what they got in the end. And of course, it happened right when they’d finally come to see the light about their demon spawn, and consequences were about to take place. The end.

The actors who played the twins – I believe they are twins in real life – were so believably creepy that I kind of fear for their sanity and hope this movie didn’t scar them for life. I’m fairly sure it didn’t, since I was prompted to look them up on Google to see if they showed up in any news articles about psychotic murder sprees and came up blank in that regard – just IMDB pages and the like, with not a lot of credits for either one. That’s a shame, because they both knocked evil-kid psycho-babies out of the park here, and deserve more work. They were downright menacing from start to finish, with a particular blank stare and cold plotting precision in their affects that made their actions all the more chilling. They seemed, in other words, the epitome of dead inside, and that just ain’t something anyone expects to see in kids this young, actors or no.

It’s the kids’ completely blank affects contrasted by Mom and Dad’s downright childishness in the earliest film clips that sustain the movie’s slow burn. The more sullen and withdrawn Emily and Jack become, the more manic the parents behave, giggling like schoolchildren with forced oh aren’t they just the cutest little devils responses to the children’s escalating behaviors. Jack throws rocks at Dad’s head? Force him to rake leaves as punishment, then undo any level of authority that may have afforded you by turning it into an isn’t this funny let’s mug for the camera while you do it game that immediately provides Jack with the upper hand when he finds and caresses a huge dead bug and completely creeps you out so that you shut down the camera. Emily glares at you with pure hatred while hiding behind her homemade fence plastered with a “no parents allowed” sign and you demand, with ever-increasing ineffectiveness, that she come out from behind it? Playfully place her in a wheelbarrow and giggle while she refuses to acknowledge anything you say, keeps her eyes closed, and totally poses as a corpse complete with arms crossed over her chest while you behave as if this is the funniest thing you’ve ever seen – all while acknowledging that your child DOES THIS REGULARLY and you’ve reinforced it every single time. It’s clear neither Claire nor David has the ability to generate and maintain any sort of authority, and while this may not be the whole reason for the kids’ psychosis, it surely doesn’t help.

It’s no wonder that by the end of the movie, the kids have completely turned the tables on them. Pun intended, as the final act involves the twins commanding the videocamera, using all the pills Mom’s been pumping into them to drug her and Dad into a stupor, and using the lock-picking and knot-tying techniques Dad taught them to restrain them on the kitchen table with garbage bags over their heads. Meanwhile, Emily and Jack sit on either side with paper bags over their heads and knives in hand just like the dragon in Dad’s poor choice of a nighttime fairy tale. We don’t see them eat them like the dragon does in David’s titular tale since the camera cuts out before they do, but the movie has hinted enough that that’s likely to happen – when the twins are caught first biting each other, then later chomping down on some poor kid they trap in a school bathroom – to heavily imply Mom and Pop are about to get gnawed.

There are enough callbacks like this final visual reference to a story David read for them near the beginning of the film to make up for some the movie’s illogical moments, in my opinion – I don’t like it when a movie explains too much and leaves nothing to the imagination, and in thinking about and reviewing the film I am satisfied with the small attempts made to tie the film together in its entirety. Is it perfect? No, but few horror films are anyway, and perfection is boring. I think this one wraps up neatly enough, and ends on a sinister note that stayed with me long after viewing. In fact, I re-watched it right away and then a third time the same night, because this one had a lot of what I love about the genre: the feeling I am really watching found footage of some awful something, entertaining characters, decent acting, a building up of suspense that actually goes somewhere, a satisfying ending, and a desire to re-watch the film. This one had all of that in spades, and I highly recommend it.

From Hair to There

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Some of you may remember that I recently wrote about wanting to change up my haircolor again (because it’s been at least six months since I’ve inflicted any real damage on my tresses, which is unacceptable). At the time I wrote about it, I shared the following photo as my inspiration:

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As you can tell from the pic of my fringe at the top of this post, I didn’t quite get there, but allow me to explain (and share more photos)!

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This photo was pretty unfocused originally, and I had to work hard to get some clarity out of it, but I liked the view of the haircolor so I made it happen.

The stock photo of the haircolor is from the Goldwell Color Zoom 2017 collection – my stylist had just returned from some big hairstyling shindig when I flipped through the Goldwell lookbook she’d brought back from the event while waiting to get my hair cut about a month ago. I’ve always wanted to do really crazy, unusual color, but I’ve never been able to due to the jobs I’ve held. Well now I work for myself, so I can do what I want – but I still wanted to ease into it and do somthing that incorporated wild colors but still appeared acceptable while meeting with potential clients or particularly judgmental family members (I actually don’t have any family members like that, in fact on my side of the family everyone will love it and possibly go out and get the same thing to done to their own hair – but my father-in-law, who isn’t particularly judgmental, also is not very fashion-forward, as you can imagine, so he might have something to say). So, I thought something like that photo might be a nice place to start, since when you look at it you see some wild colors but it’s so blended it comes off more interesting than outrageous.

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This photo is a total cheat; I layered a different picture of the bangs over this one because in the original photo they were parted in a funky way, and I actually layered a second copy of my hair over the first one because my hair is so fine and flat and I wanted to give it some volume. Terrible I know, but I couldn’t help myself.

You can see that the end result doesn’t look too terribly much like the advert photo, but that isn’t really a problem for me because I didn’t expect it to. I understand that photos I show a stylist are merely guidelines and that everyone’s hair is different and will therefore look different from a photo; not to mention that if anyone understands how much editing goes into a picture before it gets seen by the general public, it’s me, so there’s that. Who knows how many Photoshop and lighting tricks they did to get that much depth and and drama out of the original result. But my biggest surprise upon sitting down in  my stylist’s chair yesterday at 10:00 AM to get going with this was that the Goldwell book, which included instructions regarding the proper hair dyes to use to get the look, did not in any way mention any sort of blue color. I was convinced the hair in the photo had blue in it, but my stylist pointed out that the hints of what appeared to be blue were actually silver, and she showed me the instructions to verify that. The colors used were neon red, neon yellow, and silver (I don’t remember the actual color names, but I’m sure they were awesome as all color names tend to be – bright papaya or nuclear lemon or something like that). So, no blue. Okay.

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I must do blue hair someday; or maybe green. Or both, more likely.

One thing that has always baffled me a bit about hair stylists is how they often – at least in my experience – don’t explain well the consequences of the choices their clients make when they come in with an idea about a cut, color, or other process they’ve chosen to undergo. Or maybe it’s just me, and everyone else knows to ask for such information. I always end up thinking of that scene in Death Becomes Her when Meryl Streep has just chugged the magic, youth-inducing potion down and Isabella Rosellini tells her there’s just one warning, and Meryl looks at her in her fabulous Meryl way and says, “NOW a warning?!” When I got my may-or-may-not-have-been-a-good-idea perm, I was told after it was done that I shouldn’t pull my hair up or back or out of my face/off my neck IN ANY WAY for at least 48 hours, and if possible to go longer than that. I don’t know, that just seems like something I should have been told before we got started, mostly because it sent my mind reeling to think what could have happened to my perm if the stylist had forgotten to off-handedly throw that  little nugget of vitally important information to me as I walked out the door (I mean really, I came so close to not being told something that could have resulted in me wearing ponytail-head-looking hair for the next six months. Really?!). Or getting a ‘custom’ short cut that entailed getting regular trims every two weeks if I wanted the ‘structure’ that was, in fact, the ‘custom’ part of the equation (‘structure’ in this case was the magic word that made the difference between looking like I had a super-cool, edgy short style or hair that had been gnawed on by wolves). You know, stuff like that.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my ‘custom cut’ of 2011.

Well, what I wasn’t told this time was that the process of getting these “very thin little highlights of color” woven into my hair would take four hours. Now, I love my stylist (whose name is Gracie, by the way), and give or take a few years here and there where I cheated on her, I’ve been going to her for close to 15 years, so this isn’t so much a complaint as it is an observation. And I do think the process took longer than even she expected (because again, everyone’s hair is different and will take or lift color differently), but when I finally asked about how much longer it was going to take, she explained that to do the funky colors involved stripping the hair first of color, and going through the entire bleaching process and then doing another entire coloring process (which involved coloring, washing out, toning, etc) after that. Perhaps I should have known this, but since the only color I’ve ever done involved adding dark brown to cover gray or bleaching a bit to get some highlights, I had no idea, so a process I expected to take, an hour and half, tops, ended up taking four, and since I got there at 10 AM I was absolutely starving by the time we got done around two o’clock. I was also pretty irritable, which is not usually an emotion I feel when visiting a salon. If I’d known it would take that long, I would have been better prepared. And brought snacks.

So okay, if you’ve read this far you probably kind of have had the experience I had of waiting four hours for my hair to be done. You’re welcome.

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See the little peek of silver in the fringe? And my husband pointed out to me that I made my lips look ‘enhanced’ in this photo with too much editing. I tried to fix the problem, but much like real plastic surgery, it could not be repaired. Whatever, I still like the way it shows the color, even if it gives too many of my Photoshop secrets away. And yeah, if I wasn’t both cheap and chicken (and married to someone who’d divorce me if I did it) I’d plump the hell out of my real lips too. 

The end result is not quite as dramatic as this photo, as I’ve done two things here – Photoshopped the color vibrancy, natch, but I also shifted my side part from the left to the right to really show the color. Gracie did a great job weaving the color into my hair so that when it’s parted properly, you get hints of interesting color rather than being bombarded by it, but if the wind blows or I change the part to the right side (which I never do) you can see the bright colors lurking just below the surface. The end result is pretty darn cool, although overall it came out far more  red-and-yellow than I expected (if I allow my mind to wander, this takes me to some dangerous places such as McDonald’s, OR the school colors of my former workplace, which are, you guessed it, red and gold – so I shut that internal dialogue down quickly). The silver is there, but it’s quite subtle – in the pic above you can JUST see a hint of it in the fringe, and there’s a long strip of it going down the left side that you can’t really see in any obvious way unless I pull all my hair over to show it off. I realize this was the point, and that I explicity told Gracie to work the funky in in such a way that I could still pull off looking ‘normal’ from a distance (and I do like the idea that if I really want to go for funky I can just part my hair to the other side) but it is a bummer that the silver, which is soooo pretty, doesn’t really show unless I try very hard to show it. That is what I asked for though, so I’m not complaining.

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Another little peek at the silver streak

Anyway, this definitely introduced me to the world of truly funky color, so from here who knows where I’ll go. I do think I’d like to do some blue at some point. And another fun side note – my husband didn’t even notice the change. As long as I do not cut my hair short again, he really doesn’t care what it looks like. I do think I had Gracie cut the bangs too short this time; I thought with the new funkier colors I’d like an edgier cut, but as usual I had her go a touch too short and the end result isn’t the best on me (I am terrible about this – any time a stylist shows me a haircut and asks if the length is OK or if I want to go ‘a little bit shorter,’ my answer is ALWAYS ‘a little bit shorter.’ It’s not so much that I want shorter hair as it is my frugal side kicks in and I think, well shorter means I can go an extra week without needing a trim. So there it is).

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Color TOTALLY enhanced here. Like, times ten.

In the end, I like it. It’s a bit more ketchup-and-mustard than hip-techno-mermaid like the original photo (okay, so it’s a lot more ketchup-and-mustard), it’s still something fun and different, and it’s opened me up more to the possibility of doing something really fun and crazy somewhere down the road – who knows what I’ll do next! As long as I don’t cut it short, apparently, at least my husband won’t complain.

In other news, I have more wig reviews to edit and upload, I finally landed another client for tutoring, and I’m heading back for a short weekend retreat to the Ruah center tomorrow. Happy almost the weekend, everybody!

Quick Pics of My Stitch Fix

Helloooo everyone, I know it’s been a minute, but I’m busy as usual and only have a little sliver of time in which to catch up. I’ve taken a lot more Oh My Gauze shots, both posing and leaping, and the Wings Over Houston Airshow was last weekend and I took about 2,000 shots at that. But for now, I’ll pop in here to share a few photos of the clothes from my October Stitch Fix box, then upload some of the other photos later. Let’s get to it:

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The wig here is the Robin by Noriko in Chocolate Swirl; the shoes are the “Fang” flatform sandal from TopShop (cute, but sadly, not comfortable, so I only wear them in photos for the most part)

So what we have here is the Kut From the Kloth “Kate” boyfriend jean, and the Collective Concepts “Lidy” poncho cardigan. The jeans are nice; when I took them out of the box they felt really stiff, but they are 1% spandex and do have some give, so when I got them on they were comfy, just a little heavier than my usual denim. There was nothing wrong with them, but no real reason for me to keep them, since I have all the jeans I might need at the  moment and these look exactly like a few pair of those. Plus, as you can see, they were a touch too big on me. The poncho cardigan was a keeper; it’s fairly light and will go everything. So that piece stayed.

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This is the Crescent “Spooner” Cross Back Top, and I can certainly see why my stylist sent me this shirt, since it’s khaki and loose and a little hippie-ish with the fringe trim, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I think the fringe around the bottom might actually be too heavy for the fairly sheer material of the rest of the top, making it hang a bit awkwardly when it should just flow. Plus, that fringe hits me at an awkward spot and accentuates my widest area more than I’d like. Cute, but no. And yes, it’s very wrinkly, but remember it did come in a box. Moving on.

Last shot:

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Snake-print slips-ons from Vans. And sorry about the weird face I’m making here.

Another pant by Kut From the Kloth, this one’s called the “Siena” Cropped Pant, and although they’re a little snug around the hips (making the side pockets stick out a bit), they are very light and comfortable and with the spandex in them should stretch a little with wear. I may take them to the tailor and get the pockets sewn shut, which I often have to do with chino-style pants that have them. It’s a minor detail, but it makes a big difference in how the pants fit and look once they stop poking out like that. The jacket is not from Stitch FIx, but it is another Oh My Gauze piece – it’s called the Rome jacket and it actually had two very long “tails” in the front that were just begging to be tied into a waist knot, which is something I refuse to do. So, I had my tailor chop the long bits off to create a shorter jacket all around, and I really like it now. Tailoring makes a big difference, people! #themoreyouknow

That’s actually all the shots I have from this shipment; you may have noticed I only took pictures of four items when they are always five things in each Fix, and if so, good for you for being observant! But the fifth item was a chambray, long-sleeve, button-up top, and since I’ve not once liked myself in any top like that I’ve ever tried, I didn’t even bother to put it on. Plus, it was buttoned all the way up, so I would have had to unbutton it to get it on, and it wasn’t worth the effort. Yep, I’m that lazy.

Here’s to the end of another busy week. More pics later!

Pause for Gauze

Last week I mentioned that I’d become obsessed with an online store called Oh My Gauze, and at the time I said I’d take some pics of my new outfits eventually, so here’s part one of me fulfilling that promise. I’m also going to link to items when I can, so you can go check them out if you want (some of the pieces I bought were discontinued and are no longer for sale through the store, although many times you can find them on eBay). You’re welcome.

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Photography nerd alert: this is a composite shot – my upper body is from one photo while the lower body is from a different one.

I say part one because I seriously bought a lot of pieces from this store in the past few weeks. About 8 items are at the tailor right now, because in tops and dresses especially OMG clothing tends to run a little large on me. I’m skinniest in my shoulders and torso area, so with the generous sizing of this brand those things can look sloppy even though they’re already intended to be loose. Pants and skirts, though, are generally fine, although I did take one skirt in for alterations as well, because the balloon hem combined with big pockets made it a little heavy and it was pulling the skirt down (the waist was a little big, but it wouldn’t have mattered had the skirt not been on heavy side).

I will say that my outfits were a big hit at the tailor’s; it was a holiday here today so a lot of parents were taking their kids in for alterations on this or that (no idea what sort of kid-events go on in October, but there sure were a lot of people there) and as I kept coming out of the fitting room with more artsy, funky outfits, women began to notice and ask where I got all this fabulous stuff. I told them, of course; I have no need to keep a good thing secret. Since my last beloved baggy-clothing store, CP Shades, shut down, I certainly want to send OMG as much business as I can so I don’t lose another manufacturer that I love.

This past Sunday I decided to throw on some of the new clothes and shoot some photos; but pictures of me just standing around in outfits isn’t of much use to me beyond this blog, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do some jumping shots I could have more fun with. Little did I know how fabulous these clothes would be when they are in motion! Sure, I knew they were made to move and flow, but they created such amazing shapes I almost jumped myself to exhaustion playing around with it all. If you’ve followed my blog or Flickr page at all, you know how much I love using fabric in my movement photos to create interesting shapes, but most of the things I wear in those photos aren’t things I’d be caught dead in day to day. With OMG I have finally found a clothing line that works wonderfully in jump shots but that can also be worn out of the house! Heavenly.

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Yep – right after the shutter snapped that shoe hit the ceiling

Those pants are called the Ida pant and they are a new style to the store. I about died when I saw these, as I’d seen pants like them all over the Lagenlook boards I’ve been following on Pinterest, but as I mentioned last time, usually this stuff is pretty expensive. The Ida pant is only $63, though, so they were really affordable. They are amazing, and in spite of their general craziness they look great on; not bizarre at all, just interesting, and almost like a skirt if you don’t look closely at them. Comfortable and fun and no one else I know is going to have a pair of these. Moving on.

The top is called Vanna and I have two of them; as I mentioned earlier, OMG’s tops can often be big on me, and even when altered their slouchiness can weigh me down and make me look like I’m drowning in clothes, so a top like this is perfect for me. A flowier top balances my skinny torso out with my bigger hips, and this one with the cropped length gives me a waistline. It’s also very easy to wear; like most of OMG it’s a throw-it-on-and-go affair.

Some of their items, though, are not so convenient:

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PS – I had NO makeup on during this shoot as I’d spent the whole day in the pool, so I thought some funky glasses would detract from that. Not sure if it did or not.

OK, this is another new piece from them called Jeane; they call it a dress but it’s actually more like harem-pant overalls. Some of you know how much I love overalls and have been lamenting their lack of cool-factor since the 90’s, so a combination harem pant and overall seemed to be a slam dunk for me. However, the entire jumper is resting on those tiny little straps, which are basically shoestrings that tie in the back, and they are not up to the job, in my opinion. First of all, I despise anything that ties in the back (bathing suits come to mind; I love the look of a halter-style bathing suit top but they almost ALL tie at the neck and I just can’t stand that. And yes, I’ve been looking at a lot of bathing suits lately, too) and secondly, those skinny little straps don’t feel resilient to me at all. Plus, the first time I washed this one of the straps came ‘unthreaded’ (not sure what else to call it) and I had to use tweezers to force it back through, so they are not secure at all. I started to send this one back, but then I took these photos and realized how amazing the whole thing is, so I took it to the tailor and asked her to replace the shoestrings with something more sturdy that I would not have to tie. I don’t think I can get the straps in the same green, but I told her black would also be fine.

See what I mean, though, about the pictures proving that I really need to keep this piece? It takes some amazing photos – only one of which I’ve had time to edit (trust me there’s more):

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My eyes went really wonky in this shot, so I ended up actually copying the left one and pasting it over the right one, then flipping it horizontally. I still look weird here, but not nearly as weird as I did before. Sorryboutit.

The shoe match here was great; those are from Urban Outfitters and are always on sale two for $20. I have a ton of them and find uses for them all the time, aside from photos (I learned long ago that bare feet are not the business for jumping shots unless you have pretty ones and can point your toes well; shoes make for a more flattering photo without the distracting dragon toes or, in my case, super-long skinny feet that look awkward). This was one piece people at the tailor’s place today were really freaking over how cute it is. Really unique; I just hope she can fix the straps to make it more manageable.

And while I’m thinking about it, I want to link here to another fabulous clothing discovery I recently made: Sleevey Wonders. I’ve always hated having to wear full-length tops under sleeveless dresses and things, but I also am not a big fan of sleeveless things (I just like being more covered than not; I’m not modest, I just think covered arms are prettier). Sleevey Wonders give you, well, sleeves, without the bulky top attached. Brilliant! They aren’t cheap, but for me they’re worth it. So far I have a blue mesh one and a white jersey, and I’m going to be picking up an ivory one soon. I wear the two I already have all the time – including in the pictures above. Moving on.

Now this next item is also unusual, and I was uncertain whether or not I’d like it, but in the end I’m glad I tried it out:

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This is a color I’d generally never wear, but OMG is having a sale of discontinued colors right now that’s up to 50% off, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy this in a more wearable color (for me, anyway) and pay twice as much. So, chartreuse it is. I paired it with a pair of Chico’s Black Label satin cargo pants and a long-sleeved tee from Ann Taylor Loft, and bingo – I really like this look. It’s especially nice how well all this stuff goes with so much of what’s already in my closet – it’s not my first time at the artsy-flowy-fashions rodeo, people. Remember my Free People obsession of about a year ago? Most of what I bought from there works great with this stuff too, so my wardrobe has literally doubled over the past three weeks. It’s a little overwhelming, but it’s all good. This can also be worn on it’s own as a dress, by the way.

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Also good for leapin’ – YEP!

Speaking of overwhelming, I had to quit editing outfit shots after these last two, but believe me, there’s more where this came from.

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The hair is Laine by Rene of Paris, by the way

The top here is called Lynn, and it’s a narrower cut that didn’t require alterations for me. They also make a short-sleeved version of this called Grace that is great under other things. The whole line has some really interesting hemlines – there’s lots of angles and asymmetry that makes layering really eye-catching. The pants are pretty fabulous – they’re called the Osprey and I kept resisting buying them, because the price was around $85 and I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much when the sale pants were around $30 – finally they also went on sale and I snatched up two pair (in this color, called Fig, and also in Bone). I will say these pants looked AWFUL right out of the box, and I thought I’d made a mistake until I washed and dried them and they fell into place. The shoes, by the way, are another pointy-toed flat slide from Free People that I bought recently – so comfy and so unique with the shiny fabric. Love them.

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Simon is also impressed

I have a lot of really fantastic jumping shots to process later, and more outfits for a future post, but I did want to go ahead and show off some of this stuff now. I think I’ve calmed down on the purchasing for awhile, but I definitely plan to go back often and add to my collection when I can. Dressing has been so much fun the past few weeks, and I think you can see why – this stuff was made for me. And comfy, and easy to clean (machine wash and dry), and affordable! Love.

I’ve also got some self-portraits to share that I’ve edited recently, but I’ll upload those later. For now, enjoy the rest of the week, and I hope you have as much fun getting out of bed and putting on clothes as I do!

Video Wig Review: Colette by Jon Renau in Colors 4-33 and 130-131

I wonder if anyone’s at all interested in older wigs with all the new fall styles that have come out recently…if not, oh well, since I’ve not bought anything since school started.

Collette is a very cute wig even if it isn’t new; it has a strange, zip-zag part which I guess was a “thing” back when this style came out, but you can’t really tell since the hair fiber is a little thick and the zig-zagginess really doesn’t show. But the part is a monofilament one and looks realistic, and overall I think this style is quite convincing as one’s real hair. Colette has been discontinued but it can still be found online; most of the places I found it had it on clearance for about $150. I had her in two colors, obviously, so I’m showing both of them together here.

Stitch Fix Quick Pics: May

How long have I been using Stitch Fix now? I think it’s been about a year. At first, I went back and forth over keeping my service or cancelling it, but they’ve really been sending me some great stuff the past few months, and it’s become my primary way of buying clothes now since I don’t shop nearly as much as I used to (in stores, that is – let’s not kid ourselves I’ve stopped shopping completely).

While my room was set up for photos the other day when I took a bunch of macro florals (I’ll show those in a separate post later) I threw on some of the stuff I’ve gotten from them recently to share here. Keep in mind I didn’t edit these shots except to process them from RAW to JPEG, so they’re not up to my usual standard, but it seems fair to do them that way since it shows the clothes themselves in the closest representation to what they look IRL, rather than adding all my usual bells and whistles. My mug is also SOOC which bugs me a little, but hey, I am willing to suffer for you, people. Oh, and while I was at it, I put on some of my new wigs to change things up in the pics. So here we go.

First up is the Minna Crew Neck Top:

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Minna Crew Neck Top; Gap Authentic Boyfriend jeans; Seville by Noriko wig in Banana Split-LR

The shirt is more orange than it came out in the photo; it’s a true orange and white print, not red-orange. As with pretty much everything SF sends me, I took this out of the box and thought oh HAIL no and started to shove it back in there, but then remembered that I needed to try everything on since those nice people went to all the trouble of packing this stuff up for me and I should least put it on once before casting it off the island. Besides which, I never like anything SF sends me right out of the box, but usually find that I do once I get it on – and this top was another example of that phenomenon. The solid orange sleeves and shirttail are a stretchy jersey knit, which you know I am always a sucker for, and the printed front and back panel are some sort of silky polyester – which usually bugs me as I don’t find it comfortable, but it worked OK here since it was just the bodice and not the whole top. I got it in an extra small, so it was a touch tight in the armpit and chest areas, but not so much that it wasn’t wearable (just a little difficult to get off and on) and it looked great. Put this one down into my ever-growing pile of Stuff I Got From Stitch Fix That I Never Would Have Bought On My Own But Really Like Anyway, because I’ve already worn this top twice and I just got it five days ago. Moving on.

Next up is the Analisse Anorak Jacket:

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Analisse Anorak Jacket; Under Skies shell (also from a Fix I got it a long time ago); Destroyed Wash Straight Leg jeans from Ann Taylor Loft; necklace from Free People; Oprah Wig by Mica for Jessica Lin in Color 6

This jacket came from April’s shipment, but since it was clean and hanging in my closet I decided to show it anyway (I also got a really cute crochet sweater from April’s box that was in the dry clean hamper, so I didn’t show that one). This is a very light rayon jacket that is easy to carry around and throw on when needed; my only complaint is it has all these various ties and zippers and snaps that get annoying and aren’t particularly useful. I never see the point in this MacGuyver-style clothing that can be added to or taken away or converted at random. I get that camping and hiking-style wear has need for all that stuff; but when it’s a faux-outdoors jacket like this one I feel like we’d all be better off if the manufacturer didn’t play like we’re ever going to take this thing camping and leave all the shenanigans alone. I actually cut the waist tie from this one (which could  be used to cinch the waist but I would never wear a jacket that way and the ties were so long it would just come untied every five seconds anyway) and am considering cutting out the one at the bottom because it’s long also and is always banging around my knees – and again, why do I need to cinch the bottom of the jacket, exactly? Exactly. Aside from that ramble, this is nice and light and goes with everything. Love it.

Here’s two pieces put together – the Adam Crochet Detail Top and the Mea Lace Skirt:

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Adam Crochet Detail Top; Mea Lace Skirt; Lucky Brand Fairwayy Sandal (not a typo); Caitlyn wig by Rene of Paris in Coffee Latte

First of all, yes I am over-posing there which makes me look like I’ve twisted my body in some weird way, but whatever. The skirt may be lacy but it’s still casual in style and very comfortable, and an over-the-knee length which means I will actually wear it. I like to have at least a few items like this on-hand that can be dressed up on those very few occasions where I need to do so, but this can also be worn quite casually which is nice. The top was only kept because it goes nicely with the skirt; it’s cute enough but a bit fussy for me, and the cotton fabric isn’t soft or stretchy at all and requires (gasp) ironing, which to me is synonymous with dry-cleaning. It’s also pretty transparent, so although for the photos I didn’t require a cami underneath IRL I will – and there’s this lace panel in the back that hits right where my bra strap would show so that’s another reason a cami is needed. However, it is a cute top and it wasn’t too expensive, and I love me some white tops I can throw on with anything when in a hurry, so it stayed. The sleeves are also a nice touch with the elastic that gives a cute pouf to their 3/4 length.

Oooooh guys, I really love this next one – it’s the Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt:

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Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt; Sweater from Ann Taylor Loft; Braided Circle Scarf Necklace from Nordstrom; barely visible Dayna Point Flat from Free People; Amanda wig by Jon Renau

I got the skirt in my April shipment, and when I saw online that I was getting something called a “geo print” skirt I recoiled in horror. Not exactly my style. But the print is small, and the colors are lovely and spring-y (mint green, soft tangerine, navy blue and white) and it has enough of an A-line that I can actually wear this even though the material is clingy (jersey knit maxi skirts are usually a problem for me). I’ve worn the hell out of this since I got it, although when looking over my photos I realized that the point-toed flats I like to wear with it don’t look nearly as good as I thought they did, since the skirt’s so long all you see are these two little pointy witch feet poking out, and it’s odd. As Cher Horowitz says, always take a photo of your outfits, people, you’d be surprised what you find when you do.

Last but not least is a dress I almost didn’t keep, but my  husband commented that it was pretty, so I changed my mind. My face looked really goofy in this shot and I wasn’t willing to put out the effort it would have taken to photoshop a different head onto my body, so I just cut it off instead. Moving on – it’s the Briar Printed Maxi Dress:

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The color is also reading green here for some reason; the bodice is a true gray and the paisley print is far more green than the light blue it appears, sorryboutit.  The cut on this one is pretty narrow, but I guess my recent weight loss has been significant enough in the hip/thighs that I can actually pull this off. It is a jersey knit (score!) and super-comfortable, and this is another one I started wearing right away.

Now – here’s my one complaint about my recent shipments that I have to mention. Guess what else came in May’s box that I didn’t take photos of or keep? Say it with me people – FREAKING SKINNY JEANS. I have received a pair of skinny jeans at least three more times since begging Stitch Fix to quit sending them to me, and every time they do I have to send them back and miss out on the 25% discount. I am starting to think they are doing it on purpose just to mess with me. Once again I left comments online when checking out, repeating my request to stop receiving them, but so far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The ones they sent me were a color other than black at least, I’ll give them that after they sent black ones 2 or 3 shipments in a row, but the color was hardly unique – a light faded denim. Plus, they were $160, the most expensive item in my box by far. They fit nicely and were comfortable, but of course I sent those suckers back. So, once again no 25% discount for me since I couldn’t keep the entire Fix. Sigh.

All in all, though, a successful shipment. I continue to wear most of the pieces from SF regularly (except the fabulous jeans I got a year ago that are now way too big), and they’ve certainly been sending me fun boxes of stuff. So, the subscription continues. Now if I can just get them to STOP WITH THE SKINNY JEANS I’ll be all set.

Oh, and if you liked this review and want to sign up for the service, consider using this link so i get credit for it. Until next time!

More Love for Zenni Optical

I wrote a longer review of Zenni Optical about a year or so ago, but I took it down and now I can’t find it. Since I recently bought two new pair of glasses from them, and I hadn’t taken any photos in a while, I went ahead and snapped some shots of them and will do a quick write-up. I also took some more fun photos that I’ll edit and share in a later post, so let’s move on.

For the second year in a row, I chose to buy my yearly pair of glasses in an optical shop, and for the second year in a row my $600 glasses have ended up thrown in a drawer while I wear my $130 glasses from Zenni instead. So, you know, lesson definitely learned there.

The reason I wanted to buy my glasses in a store this year (LensCrafters, with whom I’ve never had a problem) was because I cannot get the absolute thinnest lens available through online sources due to my need for a progressive lens. The lenses I got at LensCrafters were a 1.74-index lens, and the highest I can get at Zenni is the 1.67. When I wrote up a Zenni review last year, I took some comparison photos of my 1.74 lenses vs. the 1.67s, so I’ll share those again:


1.67 Zenni lens


1.74 Lenscrafters lens

That’s a pretty big difference in thickness, something to consider when your prescription is strong (I’m -7 in one eye, -5 in the other), and yet for two years in a row I’ve preferred my Zenni frames with the thicker lens to the thinner ones. This year, it was all about comfort. I was pretty convinced a thinner lens would be more comfortable; my previous Zennis felt fine, I just thought the lighter lens would feel even better. The glasses I got were cute enough, the service and prescription were fine (as I said, never had a trouble with LensCrafters)  and yes, the lens was thin – but after five months wearing them I still had not completely adjusted to them, and they always hurt my head, especially where the temple pieces hit the back of my ear.

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Cute but OW

I don’t know if this is because these frames did not have spring hinges, which is something I’ve always insisted on but somehow forgot to check this time before I bought them, or if they were just never a good fit. But after giving it five months and getting numerous tension headaches, I decided I was going to have to buy a new pair, so back to Zenni I went. I made sure to get frames with spring hinges, and at Zenni I always go for the more ‘expensive’ frames (which at Zenni means $35), since mine are for everyday wear and have a thicker lens; once again the glasses I received did not disappoint. They needed a bit of adjusting with a blow-dryer to heat up the plastic and bend them into shape, but once I did that they were perfect from the get-go. And infinitely more comfortable than the $600 Tory Burch frames I bought this summer. Go figure.

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Zenni frame #189715 – my favorite of the two. Oh yeah, I bought two pair. Don’t judge, they were cheap.

Once again the prescription in both pair was perfect, even with the added progressive no-line bifocal. In fact, I’ve always felt I see better with the 1.67 index lens than I do with the thinner 1.74 – things appear sharper and more crisp, but maybe I’m imagining that. And as you can tell when you compare both photos, it’s not as if my eyes look more magnified with the thicker lens, or really that in looking at them on my face you can tell any difference in lens thickness. So fine – my obsession with thinner lenses is finally put to rest.

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Zenni frame #637721 – in spite of the fact that in this photo it looks like I’m trying to do so, I don’t believe these glasses have the power to hypnotize you

I sprung for the express shipping like I always do, and had my glasses within a week. Easy-peasy. And honestly, soooo much more comfortable than my store-bought glasses – have I mentioned that already? And I only forked over $254.65 total for both pair, as opposed to the $600 I spent for one pair at Lenscrafters over the summer. So once again, I’m a happy Zenni customer, and the backs of my ears are finally sore no longer. Everybody wins!

And yes, regular blog readers, I’m still playing around with the new Topaz plug-ins I bought over Thanksgiving break, so I think these shots are guilty of skin over-softening, but I’m still getting used to the best way to use the new tools. More interesting photos later, when I have time to process them. Another busy week coming up with the end of the semester looming, so I  may not be able to do any editing until next weekend, but we’ll see.

Stitch Fix Pics!

I got my latest Stitch Fix today and decided to take more detailed pics of the shipment so you could get an idea of what to expect if you ever sign up.

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It’s a box – YEP.

There’s something about getting these shipments that’s just fun, like getting a birthday present every month – even if you’re someone who already has enough clothes as it is. They do have a nice presentation:

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Your  box has five items, as I mentioned last time, and the items are geared to preferences you specify when you fill out a profile on the Stitch Fix website. Your selections are also made based on feedback you give the company after you receive a “fix” and tell them what you liked and didn’t like about what you received. Since this is my third shipment, the choices have gotten pretty decent.

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Since I also have a close friend with a Stitch Fix profile, we’ve noticed we get the same items in our packages from time to time, but paired with different wardrobe suggestions to better match our profiles (our styles are completely different). This is one way they get more mileage out of the idea of a “fix” consisting of only five items; they make suggestions about how to wear each piece. I pretty much ignore this part of the shipment, but again, it’s a great way to present the clothing:

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You try on the items, pick what you want to keep, then stick everything else into a prepaid shipping bag and drop it off at the nearest USPS mailbox; easy-peasy. If you keep everything, you get 25% off the entire order. There’s a $20 stylist fee for each fix, but you only get charged for that if you send the whole shipment back. If you keep even just one thing, you get to deduct the $20 from the total.

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I even took a pic of the shipping bag; I am nothing if not thorough

As I mentioned last time, you can choose a budget for your shipments so the prices are within a comfortable range for your pocketbook. I started out with a low range and didn’t care for the pieces I received, so I upped it and was much happier with the second batch of clothes. My second fix was around $375 if I kept the whole thing (which I didn’t), this one was considerably lower at $219 (that’s with the 25% discount for keeping it all). Not sure why there was such a difference,  but I get the feeling Stitch Fix’s stock isn’t all that varied (as I said my friend and I are getting a lot of the same stuff in our boxes, just presented with different outfit ideas and often in different colors) so I guess they just do the best they can when it’s time to send your box out (you can be on a set schedule or request fixes at random times – I choose to get them monthly).

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I’d actually requested no more jewelry after what I got in the first shipment (it was a really cheap-looking necklace), but as you can see, one showed up again. I chalk this up, again, to being a bit limited on what they can ship. I have no proof of that, it’s just my suspicion. Coming up with five things once a month can get difficult if you can’t throw a necklace in there every once in awhile. I ended up liking this one anyway, so I kept it.

I also kept the black pants they shipped me; they’re called the Emer High Waisted Cropped Trouser, and they have a strange feel to them, almost like ski pants. But even though they’re basically a stretch pant or legging in a thicker material, they’re actually kind of flattering, and I like them. The silk shell here (called the Lydie Crochet Detail Split Neck Silk Blouse) is the one thing I didn’t care for, but if I sent it back I’d lose my 25% off and the total for the items I kept would come to $214; by keeping it and getting the 25% the total came to $219. For only $5 difference in price, I figured I’d go ahead and keep it, see if I ever end up wearing it, or if not just give it someone else. I’m actually not a fan of wearing silk, though, so probably it  will end up in someone else’s closet eventually (and yes, I know I’m making some silly poses here, but accentuating the positives and de-emphasizing the negatives of one’s body for full-length portraits is a bit of a silly art, one I’ve perfected to the best of my ability even if it is a bit ridiculous):

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The shoes are new too but are not from Stitch Fix. They don’t sell shoes.

Up next is a fabulous vest with an aztec print that I love. It’s called the Ashlie Graphic Knit Sleeveless Cardigan, and I admit I was excited about this item before I even opened the box. I’ve learned that as soon as your “fix” ships, you can go the website, check your profile, and see the receipt for all the items in the shipment. Then you can go to Google and type in the item names and find some of them. I found a lot of other bloggers who reported getting this piece in their shipments, so I knew what it was going to look like. But it’s even better in person. I’m also wearing the Adrianna Circle Bib Necklace here, and one of my own t-shirts. The shoes are the Hopewell moccasins I got from Free People a while back and mentioned in a previous post.

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Had to make this outfit twirl a little

OK I had to throw this next outfit in here even though only the pants & necklace are from Stitch Fix. I wanted to show my fabulous new moto jacket, which is from Ann Taylor Loft of all places. Also, if you like that t-shirt, it’s called the Lani California Tunic; it’s nice and long and A-line and has a hi-lo effect that keeps it from being boring. I got it at a little local boutique, then decided I wanted more of them and found a few places online to buy them – you can find it here or here.

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Pardon the goofy pose; who knows how I end up standing the way I do

As you can see, I’m going to get a lot of wear out of these pants even though I never would have tried them out on my own. I’ve mentioned it before, but that’s one of the things I like about Stitch Fix – that the process motivates me to try things I end up liking but never would have given a second glance in a store.

The shirt in this next one is from Stitch Fix; it’s called the Danes Ribbon Trim Tie Neck Top. The jeans were also from Ann Taylor Loft ( I can’t find them on their website anymore or I’d link them), and interestingly are some I normally would have ignored but tried on for the hell of it and ended up liking:

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I’d like the jeans better if they were a darker wash, but they only came in this color and white (I bought the white too). The top is fabulous, and pretty much made for me. I’m not thrilled with the fabric, which isn’t as soft as I’d like, but overall it’s cute as hell and I love it.

Since I was taking photos, I decided to throw a leap into the mix. And while I was at it, I added my new purse into the shot (it’s a Coach I got on sale at Dillard’s last week – yeah, I’ve been shopping a lot lately. I think it’s all the home-repair stress):

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I was too lazy to move furniture out of the way and roll out the backdrop, by the way, but hey, you can see the new carpet. It’s great to jump on. And yes, that’s a random dog toy or two at my feet. At least you know we keep them entertained.

Anyway, that’s the entire fix, and as I already said, I’m keeping the whole thing. I’ve got three days from receipt of the shipment to pay for it, and the opportunity to give more feedback when I do so the stylists can tailor my next shipment accordingly. Not sure why I felt the need to write about this process again, and am less sure why any of you should be interested in reading it, but here it is anyway!