Recurring Nightmares

July 8, 2012 in Blogging, Misc, Novel, On Writing, Paranormal, Study by pacejmiller

I’m not so sure about dream interpretation. It is possible that some dreams might have meanings, but most of mine (the ones I can remember, at least) are incoherent and senseless.

In recent times, however, I have been experiencing a couple of recurring dreams. Not the exact same dream, but dreams with the same theme. I wonder what they could mean.

In the first, which have been happening for quite some time now and come back every now and then, I would get the feeling that I have a loose tooth. It could be a wobbly front tooth that I can twist around, or it could be a dislodging molar with a gap I can play around with using my tongue. It’s a sensation I haven’t had since all my baby teeth fell out, and it absolutely freaks me out, every time.

The tooth could be looser in some dreams than others. Sometimes, it could be more than one tooth. Occasionally, I might even twist and pull the tooth enough that it comes off, and I would distinctively recall licking that empty space on my gums, horrified and panicking. I suppose with modern technology I could just get a fake tooth that probably looks better than the one it is replacing, but it’s never something I think of during the dream. I simply remember being saturated in fear.

In the second recurring dream, which only started in the last few months, I would find myself suddenly realizing that I have a major exam the next day, or the next couple of days, and it would be on a subject I know absolutely nothing about. It never occurs to me that I haven’t sat an examination for three years, or that I never studied the subject before. In that moment, I feel as though I had either never attended my classes or never paid attention, and certainly didn’t do any of the readings.

If the realization comes the night before or several nights before the exam, my initial reaction would usually be — you’ll be okay, you have essentially crammed entire subjects for exams the night before. It’ll just be another all-nighter, which is nothing new for you. But the fear of not being able to study everything in time is still there.

More recently, the timing of the exam has gotten closer and closer, and hence the fear has gotten greater and greater. A few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was on the way to the examination location and I still had no idea what I was doing. Last night, I actually dreamed that I had already missed an exam. I had three exams and I somehow “forgot” about the first one, and I still had two more in the next three days. Lucky I woke up from fright, or else there might have been a wet patch on the bed.

So what could these nightmares mean? Surely there has to be something in my subconscious stirring things up.

For the tooth dream, my guess is that I have a fear of losing my teeth. No offence to anyone out there, but I kind of do have an obsession with clean teeth. I brush religiously and can’t stand the sight of stains and discolourations. Could that be it?

As for the exam dream, it could be any number of things. It could be the deeply-seeded guilt I have accumulated over the years from doing relatively well in exams without genuinely understanding the subject. It could be from the fact that I tend to forget just about everything about a subject almost immediately after the exam finishes. But I have a feeling this is quite common.

It could be another thing. When I studying for my master’s finals  in Cambridge three years ago, it was the first time I ever felt I could not possibly complete by preparations in time, or at least not up to a level that was satisfactory to me. These final exams accounted for 100% of the grade and were all three-hour monsters. A big part of the lack of preparation was because I had spent the better part of the year working on this blog and my novels. A second reason was because I spent about half the pre-exam holiday period travelling around Europe. A third reason was probably laziness and not wanting to miss out on any sleep (I was getting soft).

I ended up doing pretty well in the end, but I do remember a pang of regret because I knew I probably could have and should have done better. So to cut a long story short, maybe it was the subconscious realization that I didn’t give it my all that continues to haunt me.

I’d like to think it’s something else: that I need to finish my novels so that the grades would not have been sacrificed in vain. Yes, and maybe do something about this blog too.


Movie Review: The Rite (2011)

March 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Paranormal, Reviews by pacejmiller

I am a huge fan of horror films, and few intrigue me more than those with ‘possession’ and ‘exorcism’ angles.  So of course I was eager to see The Rite, which was apparently aiming to be this generation’s The Exorcist.  It stars Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins and newcomer Colin O’Donoghue (great screen presence), and tells the story of the young son of a mortuary owner (O’Donoghue) who almost drops out of seminary school and is instead whisked to Rome to participate in ‘exorcism’ class, and ends up learning from an unorthodox expert (Hopkins).

I didn’t have to see the film to know that critics were probably going to savage it — few horror films these days, especially those dealing with the supernatural, are likely to pass through unscathed.  However, I thought the previews looked pretty promising, so I was kind of hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

I’ll get straight to the point.  The Rite started off extremely well, almost too well for its own good.  It was atmospheric, intriguing, chilling and rather eye-opening.  It also asked some interesting questions about religion, faith and psychiatric illness, without coming off feeling contrived.  There were some fantastically effective scenes and sequences that made me recoil in horror.  It’s supposedly ‘inspired’ by true events, though I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that.

However, at some point, around halfway through the film, The Rite takes a massive wrong turn.  I can almost pinpoint the exact scene where things start going downhill.  The point of view begins to switch awkwardly all over the place, and all subtlely flies out the window.  Instead of keeping you guessing, everything is spelled out and shoved down your throat, and genuine chills are replaced by cheap scares and special effects.  What began as potentially a new classic spiralled into just another uninspiring supernatural horror flick.


Nevertheless, I enjoyed the first half.

2.75 stars out of 5

My Career Tarot Reading

February 25, 2011 in Misc, On Writing, Paranormal by pacejmiller

I’ve always been terrified of tarot cards.  I mean, come on, in every TV show or movie that features tarot cards, things never turn out well.  People always get ‘The Devil’ or ‘The Hangman’, or something ominous.  And then they die a gruesome death.

Nevertheless, I tried a tarot reading for the first time last year after borrowing a set from a friend and former colleague.  I was at that point in my life where I had already decided on a career change, but was terrified of the unknown and what lay ahead of me.

Thanks to the booklet accompanying the deck, I learned a lot about tarot cards and got quite addicted to them, conducting several ‘readings’ for friends during office hours (we either used the meeting rooms or went down to the cafeteria).

As it turned out, they are not as frightening as Hollywood has made them out to be, though I still get scared every time I do a reading for myself.  Cards can be interpeted differently, and your future is supposedly subject to change all the time.  As they like to say in the movies, your destiny is in your own hands.

Anyway, I returned the deck and stayed away from tarot cards until last week, when I downloaded a tarot app called ‘Tarot Holic’ on my iPad.  It’s apparently the #1 top paid lifestyle app in South Korea!

The app has several types of readings, and the first one I went for was an ‘In-depth Career Spread’ with 5 cards.  What that meant exactly I wasn’t sure, but I was ready to find out.  It has almost been a year since I left the legal profession and took the plunge to become a ‘writer’.  So far I am still a student, but I’m slowly making progress, even if it’s not as much as I have hoped for.

So, I selected 5 cards by concentrating on my questions and tapping on a spread out deck.  And the results were very interesting…

(click on ‘more…’ to read on!)

Read the rest of this entry →

Movie Review: Hereafter (2010)

February 14, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Paranormal, Reviews by pacejmiller

Sure, Invictus was just okay, but it seems to me old Clint Eastwood can do no wrong these days.  There is a quiet confidence in his approach, a lovely subtlety in his pacing and pauses.  And no matter what, he manages to evoke powerful, genuine emotional responses from his audiences (I mean, come on — Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Changeling, Gran Torino…).

Eastwood’s latest effort, Hereafter, is no different.  It’s a dangerous project because, as the title suggests, the film is about death and what comes after, which makes it prone to soppy melodrama and manipulation.  And of course, the afterlife is a topic often subject to ridicule and parody, so there’s the additional hurdle of keeping the film serious without tipping it over the edge.

Somehow, some way, Eastwood delivers.  Pound-for-pound, Hereafter is perhaps not one of Eastwood’s greatest films, but it’s certainly one of his better ones — and it holds great potential to be one of his most popular films.

It tells three separate stories about three different characters — Marie (Cecile de France), a well-known French television journalist; George (Matt Damon), an American factory worker who just gave up on his old job; and Marcus (Frankie McLaren), a British boy with an older twin brother and a crackhead mother.  I won’t say much more than that except that each of their lives is touched by death and what lies beyond.

Perhaps it’s just my fascination with the film’s themes and/or my appreciation for Eastwood’s direction, but I was totally engrossed by Hereafter from start to finish.  Sceptics might have a natural bias against the film because it lays quite a lot out on the table (similar to say atheists towards The Passion of the Christ or fundamentalist Christians towards The Da Vinci Code — even though it’s fiction), but those who keep an open mind will find it hard not to be moved by at least one of the three stories in the film.  It’s a shame that many people will simply scoff at this film because of its subject matter and try to discredit it on other grounds.  I’m just glad religion played an almost non-existent role in all of this.

Anyway, I loved it.  Eastwood butchered the ending in my opinion with a pointless sequence but apart from that I found it beautiful, absorbing, poignant, and ultimately very satisfying.

4.5 stars out of 5

Classic Movie Review: The Orphanage (2007)

March 31, 2010 in Movie Reviews, Paranormal by pacejmiller

Most of the posters for this film are very disappointing, but this Spanish one's not too bad

I’m a sucker for supernatural thrillers, and for the last couple of years I kept hearing about this Spanish film called El Orfanato (The Orphanage), the debut feature of director Juan Antonio Bayona, and produced by his good friend Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and soon, The Hobbit).

I finally got around to watching it, and admittedly, the hype is justified.

The Orphanage tells the tale of a woman who returns with her husband and son to her childhood home, an orphanage, which they intend to turn into a home for disabled kids.  Needless to say, stuff happens.  I don’t think it’s a premise I’ve seen before, but I’m sure it feels familiar.

Three things that tend to be common in ghost movies: big old house, weird noises and creepy children.  The Orphanage ticks all three boxes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s going to be a formulaic, predictable horror.  The Orphanage is multiple notches above your average supernatural story for a variety of reasons.

First, the atmosphere is genuinely creepy.  It’s a film that builds up the tension gradually, using a combination of eerie stories and spooky moments.  It unsettles you, makes you feel uncomfortable.  It rarely relies on the cheaps scares that plague horror films these days.  There are also some clever tricks that I won’t divulge, but they are freaking terrifying.  There are a couple of scenes in particular that are classics in my opinion, and they always give me chills when I think about them.

Second, you actually give a crap about the characters.  Laura, the mother and the main lead, is exceptionally played by Spanish actress Belen Rueda.  You feel her pain, her fears, and her desperation.  Rueda makes her a flesh and blood, believable character you care about.  The father, Carlos, played by Fernando Cayo, has less to do here, but he has his moments too in a subtle, controlled performance.

Third, it’s a great story!  Given the premise I described above, it would have been easy for the film to collapse into your run-of-the-mill haunted house story, but there is so much more to it.  There is mystery, intrigue, twists and turns, many of which I didn’t see coming.

In a way, The Orphanage shouldn’t even really be called a “horror” as that downplays the dramatic aspects of the film.  I think the main reason the movie has done so well (won 7 Goya awards) is because of how emotional and heartbreaking it is, in a way you don’t expect horror movies to be.

Watch it before the obligatory Hollywood remake comes out! (New Line has already acquired the rights)

4.5 stars out of 5!