Beekeeper Review: Amanda and Chrissy Williams

The Beekeepers I’m looking at today run a honey farm called “Chrissy’s Honey Bees” and are the main characters in the 2022 movie Umma. Only two people run Chrissy’s Honey Farm, those being Chrissy and her mother Amanda Williams, with the former being the one who instigated this family business. When she was just a child Chrissy acquired a book about beekeeping, brought it home, and demanded that they start doing it. Until then Amanda had been an accountant, but she always tried to be a perfect mother, so she overcame her own dislike of bees to indulge her daughter’s hobby. Starting with a single hive, they grew the operation into a business that could provide for them both. They’re so successful at the start of the movie, when an online influencer has spoke well of them online causing an unprecedented demand for their honey, they have to expand the farm even more to keep up.

But things aren’t perfect for this duo. Amanda was raised by an abusive mother who would go so far as to use electricity to harm Amanda. This has left Amanda emotionally scarred and terrified of electricity, to the extent that she claims to have a medical allergy to electronics (It’s likely Amanda’s original dislike of bees was because their buzzing reminded her of electricity). With this background, it is no surprise that Amanda abandoned her mother, changing her family name and ignoring her cultural heritage, even creating a fictional “grandparents” to tell Chrissy about. Now Amanda and her daughter live “off the grid” on a farm with no phones, no lights, no motor cars, not a single electronical luxury. (They do use candles at home, but I don’t know if they use their own bees’ wax to make them.)

The problems they face in this movie stem from Chrissy growing up. She’s lived a sheltered life and wants more, she wants to go to college. Amanda is protective of her daughter, who has trouble fitting in, and doesn’t want her to go, but risks becoming controlling in a way that reminds her of the abuse she went through. Coinciding with all this, Amanda learns her mother has died and the ashes have been brought to her. What results from this emotional turmoil is a haunting in which three generations of women have to deal with their emotions and traumas and place in the world. Beekeepers versus ghosts is a great setup for me, but the fact that the family keeps bees doesn’t really factor into the horror plot here. At one point the bees do seem to respond to the haunting, but not in any way that matters.

In the end Amanda breaks the cycle of abuse by confronting the ghost of her mother and making a kind of peace with her, but never denying the damage done. I’d consider this a very beekeeperly move, if the bees had been in any way involved (maybe as psychopomps to help the souls of the living and the dead communicate?). And Chrissy does get to learn more about her culture and gets to go to college, but I’m sure she won’t give up on Beekeeping. Her name is in the company’s name after all.

Three Honeycombs out of Five. They’re above average Beekeepers for sure, but the beekeeping doesn’t tie into their supernatural adventure here, so I can’t go higher.

Beekeeper Review: Stinger Apini

Stinger Apini, played by Sean Bean, is a character from the film Jupiter Ascending. Without getting into the macro-level details of the movie’s sci-fi setting, I can say this much about Stinger: he’s a genetically-engineered space cop who has been demoted and posted on Earth where he lives with his daughter and keeps bees. And it does seem that he’s good at the beekeeping, a trait that may well bred into him at a genetic level. His farm not only has multiple hives, but the home is covered in still more honeycombs, apparently placed wherever the bees felt like it. From what we see, the bees have a lot of leeway on this farm.

It is definitely worth noting that the bees we see on Stinger’s farm have a certain supernatural style. They can sense royalty in a person, for example, and respond to that person’s actions, to the extent that they’ll attack bad guys to help protect the film’s main character. Stinger says, “bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty… bees aren’t like humans, they don’t question or doubt. Bees don’t lie.” But Stinger says this is true of all bees, not just his. If all this is just a fact of bees in this sci-fi world, I can’t give Stinger any credit for it.

What I can give Stinger credit for is that he’s also an excellent fighter with a long history in space battles. He even had wings up until he acted nobly (taking credit for the actions of a soldier under his command) and was punished for it. While this did result in his disgrace, and his anger over it (and his desire to protect his daughter) led to him betraying his allies, he came back around to rejoin the protagonists. He wasn’t so overcome with rage that it became a problem in the long run.

He’s definitely a skilled combatant and a decent beekeeper. Even his name, Stinger Apini, is cool and thematically appropriate. But look, I have to be honest. My own opinion of the very concept of royalty is working against Stinger in this review. The idea that being “royal” is not made-up bullshit but is, in fact, an actual quantifiable physical attribute of a person and makes them “better” than other people and that bees can recognize and defer to it… none of this gets PDR’s approval.

Three Honeycombs out of Five.

PDR’s Halloween Movie Criteria

What makes a horror movie a Halloween Movie? Some may just say that any horror movie will do, but I don’t agree. Alien, The Thing, The Trollenberg Terror, and many others are good horror movies, but they aren’t what I don’t consider ideal picks for setting a Halloween tone.

I will now present a list of nine boxes that a movie can check. The more of these statements are true about the movie, the more PDR Halloween Approved the movie is.

  1. The film is “spooky”. It’s about the atmosphere. The film is going for a gothic feel or trying to instill dread in some way. I feel like this is the easiest check on the list and honestly you probably wouldn’t be analyzing a movie to these criteria if it didn’t have this one for sure.
  2. The film is set somewhere that Halloween happens. This means that the movie takes place in a country or time period where and when the characters would celebrate Halloween, even if they do not within the movie. If the setting is a big city, we’re at least focused on an apartment or residences of some kind. If the setting is the wilderness, there are some vestiges of civilization such as a campground. We’re not too far in the future or too far in the past that the period nature of the thing overtakes the Halloweenness.
  3. The film is Autumnal. If Halloween is depicted within the film, this box is an automatic check, but even if it is not, the signifiers of the Fall are good too. Pumpkins. Colourful/falling leaves. Crisp evenings with the sun setting earlier.
  4. The film features children or teenagers in prominent roles. They don’t need to be protagonists, but they need to be there. They need to be actual characters who can affect the plot and potentially be affected by the threat.
  5. The film prominently features darkness. There are large sections of the film set after sunset or in dark attics and shadowy basements. It doesn’t have to be darkness that makes it hard for the viewer to see what’s going on in the movie. The effect of the darkness on the characters is what is important. The events of the movie are occurring in the dark, even if the movie is not itself dark.
  6. The film does not heavily feature elements from other holidays. Pretty self explanatory, but I feel like there will be pushback to this one. There’s a strong tradition of horror movies and slashers that are about other holidays, but if you’re trying to create a Halloween mood, you don’t want some Easter Bunny-themed murderer or whatever drawing attention to other times of year.
  7. Someone in the film wears some kind of costume or mask. Dressing up is one of the key things about Halloween, so its inclusion here basically gives a bonus point to any movie that actually depicts the holiday in action. And it nicely also gives a point to most slashers as well.
  8. Someone in the film is dead. It can be someone who is killed by a monster or slasher within the film, but it is also acceptable to have the dead person be a ghost or skeleton or something that appears.
  9. There are supernatural elements to the film that fit into “Halloween” archetypes of monsters. This is easily the most subjective item on the list, to the point where I could see it being argued as much as my main point. But it’s only a single item of the nine, so that’s fine. Ghosts, werewolves, Draculas, demons. Basically anything you’d find in a Monster Mash is a good fit for a Halloween movie. Robots and aliens can work, but when they do it’s moreso because of the spooky atmosphere than inherent in the monsters themselves, and that atmosphere was a whole different item on this list.. Similarly, things like minotaurs or dragons aren’t quite right. You know it when you see it and really only people being wilfully contrarian would fight too hard.

A movie doesn’t need to rate a full nine points to be good for Halloween. Four or five points seems like enough, really, and I bet anything six or higher would be more than adequate for the job.

I can only reiterate that this isn’t about the quality of the movie. I can say with authority that a lot of movies that check every box on this list will be crap. But they’re crap that can get one into the Halloween spirit. So now someone please go rank all horror movies by these criteria so that I may know in advance what to pick to get the Halloween feeling I crave.

But I do have to ask why I even bother? I mentioned years ago that caution tape is not a good Halloween decoration and I still see people using it as such. You’re all heathens ruining this, they Hallowest of Eens.

Beekeeper Review: Max Fischer

Those who haven’t watched Rushmore in some time may not immediately think of Max Fischer as a Beekeeper, but he was, and it wasn’t a minor thing. Max was the president of the Rushmore Beekeepers club, and Rushmore is a school with a bee on its logo. One thing people definitely will remember is that Max Fischer is a bit of a jerk. That’s the point of the movie, so it gets more focus than the Beekeeper stuff. But they’re both there, and they’re not unrelated.

First, I suppose, I should speak on Max’s good qualities. He’s an enthusiastic young man with a take-charge attitude and natural tendencies toward leadership. He has a wide variety of interests, of which Beekeeping is only one. He’s a talented playwright and is also in clubs for debate and fencing and wrestling and more, many of these clubs he has founded himself. If that seems to lessen the import of his Beekeeping club, I don’t think it’s an issue. One of the pluses of Beekeeping is that it is something worthwhile that someone can do that doesn’t take all their focus, allowing for multi-tasking and multi-disciplinary learning. I know that the movie points out that Max’s interest in these clubs overshadows his performance in school, so you might say, “how can he be learning multi-disciplinarily if he isn’t even passing his classes,” but PDR doesn’t hold our school systems in any sacred regard, so if Max learns better in his clubs, I’m all for it. It’s also worth remembering that I consider skills in combat and adventure a plus for Beekeepers, and while Max may not be especially good in a fight, he has clubs where he learns skills that an adventurer would need. When he is seen in a conflict, we have to note that the bees are one of the first weapons he picks.

But Max is, by no means, perfect. He begins his tale as a self-absorbed little prick. He’s a liar and a manipulator. He routinely hurts others as he strides toward his own goals. Max is definitely a sufferer of Beekeeper Rage.

It occurred to me while making this review that the real problem with Beekeeper Rage is how often it is motivated by selfishness. By definition, Beekeepers are people who solve problems by building and protecting a community. That community is largely made up of bees, but not solely, nd when a Beekeeper gets too caught up in their own self-importance, it causes problems and hurts the community, bees and others. Note that when Max tries to turn his life around, he does so by mending the breaks he made in his community. That’s what Beekeepers are for.

3 Honeycombs out of Five. Max makes mistakes, but he’s also young, learns some lessons, and has a lot of potential for growth.

Beekeeper Review: Uncle Boonmee

Boonmee is the title character of the film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. He’s a Thai farmer who, as of the events of the movie, is suffering from a kidney illness that will lead to his death.

The film uses a dreamy logic to let one’s imagination run wild, which is neat and all, but it makes it hard for a humble Beekeeper Reviewer to get his facts straight. I like my Beekeepers to have supernatural powers, but it’s hard to judge here. For example, if Boonmee is, in fact, capable of recalling his past lives it doesn’t come up much beyond knowing that the cave in which he dies is one in which he was born in some other life. But reincarnation isn’t the only supernatural element in the film. In the time leading up to his death, Boonmee’s deceased wife comes to visit him as a ghost. Similarly, his long-lost son returns as some form of forest spirit. Before he dies he has a dream of a possible future. None of these occurrences are directly related to his Beekeeping (though he did create his apiary after his wife’s death because it was something she always wanted). He takes all such events in stride, though, which is nice.

It’s easier to judge Boonmee’s personality, and he seems like a nice guy. He appears to treat his workers well and he has less prejudice toward immigrants than others in his family. He considers his illness is a karmic retribution for having killed many communists in war, which I feel is a sign that he has prowess as a fighter (a plus in my reviews) and he has learned that violence isn’t particularly noble (also a plus in my reviews). Furthermore, he feels the karmic retribution is also for beetles he’s killed in protecting his farm, showing his respect for nature.

Before he dies, he tells his sister-in-law to take over his farm. He says “After I die, I will find a way to help you.” I kinda believe him.

3 Honeycombs out of Five.

Worth noting: The film is based on a book about a man who claimed to recall his past lives while meditating. I don’t know if that Boonmee was a beekeeper at all, but either way this movie is inspired by that man, but is not about that man, so the film’s version of Boonmee still counts as a Fictional Beekeeper.