intertribal: (tongue)
I saw two horror movies back to back recently - Contracted and Alyce Kills (both on Netflix).  They're both like Girls episodes gone bloody, which is always interesting to me since we know how much I like the whole women-in-horror thing.  I told a friend who doesn't like horror movies the plot line of The Descent this evening and she came away saying, "I will never watch that because I can't handle gore, but it sounds intriguing."  Which of course it is!  I have come up with a new crazy theory about how watching and writing horror has made me a stronger person, but I think it needs to be fleshed out before I show it to the world.

Contracted is about sexually transmitted diseases. Alyce Kills is about being obsessed with your best friend, I guess.  The main characters of both movies are lesbians in their 20s living in some L.A.-like city, working as a waitress (Samantha from Contracted) or a menial office worker of some kind (Alyce from Alyce Kills).  Both are surrounded by an infuriating cast of realistically - sometimes absurdly - obnoxious characters.

Neither of the two are especially sympathetic, but both are - at least at first - at the mercy of larger forces, both supernatural and societal.  Samantha is a nail-biting bundle of nerves who's recently broken up with too-cool-for-school Nikki and living with her ridiculous mother, whose inability to accept that Samantha is a lesbian is perfectly mirrored by her inability to see that Samantha has contracted some terrible, terrible illness.  Samantha is not over Nikki and wants desperately to get back with her, but meanwhile she's being harassed by dweeb-leech Riley.  She's sleepwalking (nightmaring, really) through life.  Then she goes to a party and has her drink spiked by a dude no one seems to know named B.J., who we previously saw engaging in necrophilia.  B.J. rapes her.  Samantha thinks she's got a bad cold... then a bad stomach bug... then a bad STD.  But come on, people: her eyes are bleeding, her hair and nails are falling out... Samantha's turning dead, and no one seems to be all that alarmed.  The movie is an allegory about a lot of things, but I came away thinking mostly about invisibility, intense helplessness, and apathy.  Samantha definitely has an external locus of control, and unfortunately the world just doesn't give a shit about her - until, of course, she's become a full-on zombie.

Alyce is different, and in some ways a relief after the excruciating passive weakness of Samantha - except that Alyce has murderous, apocalyptic tendencies.  But Alyce, to her credit, gets shit done.  When she pushes her best friend off a roof - accidentally?  again, Alyce, like Samantha, has been drinking when the great Calamity happens and the horror rabbit-hole opens up - she quickly figures out that she's going to lie to the police about having been on the roof too.  She decides she'll have sex with a drug dealer for the drugs she needs to get the ghostly visage of her best friend out of her head.  She decides she needs to kill her paralyzed best friend (who she loves, and hates, and everything in between) before the best friend can point the finger at her.  She decides to cause a terrible scene at the best friend's funeral.  She decides to start killing people who hurt the best friend.  Etc.  Alyce, if nothing else, is a very active agent in her life.  She also makes terrible - evil, really - decisions with very little regard for others.  Both Samantha and Alyce kill people, but Samantha does so out of a combination of her slow-burning frustration with existence and more importantly, the zombie disease inside her.  Alyce, like her best friend before the fall, is hovering over the precipice and cracking up, probably because she's one of those people who doesn't really consider other people to be "real."

Neither of these are much fun to watch, and neither are beautiful in any way.  My favorite scene in Alyce Kills is one where Alyce takes home a douchey stud-muffin who's been hitting on her and can't resist inflicting minor pains on him - he'll punch her off the bed, and she gets right back up, laughing.  It's perfectly uncomfortable and hysterical in a Hole-ish way.  The equivalent scene in Contracted is horrific, grotesque, and involves maggots ("my body the hand grenade," indeed).  I'm not sure I had a favorite scene in Contracted because the whole experience is so uniformly unpleasant and sad and there's not an ounce of mirth or glory in it.  But Contracted stayed with me for longer.  These are both flawed movies that certainly won't speak to everyone, but they're certainly interesting additions to women-in-horror-the-saga-continues.

On that note, one of my favorite horror-Hole songs:

intertribal: (punk pop)

Katy Perry's Grammy's performance of "Dark Horse" was visually fucking great, but the song didn't come across so well.  Which is not to say I think Katy Perry is any great vocal talent... but I really love this song, it deserves something steadier.  I've been listening to it on repeat today.  So here you go, enjoy this super kitschy lyrics video.  Aside from the central question, "So you wanna play with magic?" the best lines belong to Juicy J: "She's a beast / She'll eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer / be careful, try not to lead her on / shorty's heart is on steroids cuz her love is so strong / she's sweet as pie but if you break her heart, she turn cold as a freezer."  Which of course, goes back to my favorite nursery rhyme: "And when she was good, she was very, very good / and when she was bad, she was horrid."

There's a lot of hate for Katy Perry -- do you ever feel like a plastic bag? -- but she's one of my favorite Top-40 pop stars.  I think I just really enjoy her imagery.  I really like "Roar." The video is quite great.  Any video that has a tiger eating an asshole earns points from me.  I love "E.T." for being as creepy as a Top-40 can be without being, you know, (too) rapey.  Then there's the songs I don't like that much, like "The One That Got Away" and "Part Of Me," but I'm still like, okay, that's an acceptable pop song that's a little different, has a little bit of an attitude.  Still have fun videos.  I like the girl, what can I say.  And I was not expecting to, considering she started off as a Christian artist.  It's okay, she's evil now (title is from a disappointed Christian, but I mean it sincerely!).  She's with the Illuminati.

And then there's "Hot N Cold."  Oh, how I love "Hot N Cold."  The veil, the raccoon eyes, the hair in her hip-hop scene.  In my alternate reality I wear pink matte lipstick, see.  I feel like Katy Perry would wear my fictional make-up line, Frantic.  And then the lyrics, of course. Yeah, you PMS like a bitch.  I would know.

On a related note:

Are you ready for a perfect storm?

Well, are ya, punk?  
intertribal: (black)
One of the most common conversations I get into with friends who discover that I really like horror movies is this: "Why are the ghosts/demons always women?"  It's an age-old question, one that I've probably talked about already, but once you point it out to someone you can't stop noticing it.  I've even noticed it in my own writing: I'm way more likely to write a female ghost than a male one, even though when you watch those shitty ghost re-enactment shows, the ratio seems to be about 50-50.  If these little testimonials are any indication, you're just as likely to be haunted by Great-Uncle Bob as Great-Aunt Millie.*

I have a few theories that I offer when asked the aforementioned question:

  • Women are more likely to be disenfranchised with limited options in real life, so their only recourse for the plethora of wrongs done to them is supernatural vengeance (c.f. the rape-and-revenge ghost movies like Shutter and Rose Red, or even that old samurai ghost story retold in Kwaidan, as well as the occasional slow-burner like Lake Mungo or Ghost Story)

  • Women are considered closer to wilderness, savagery, evil, insanity, magic, so they are either explicitly more susceptible to the supernatural or just the quicker, lazier, easier option for the creator (c.f. a whole bunch of stuff, from Evil Dead and Infection to The Ring and Noroi and The Haunting of Hill House)

  • Women are more likely to die a violent death - this goes with #1 (c.f. Ju-On, Silent Hill, What Lies Beneath, Retribution, all them Korean Whispering Corridors movies)

Demon possession movies are an extreme version of Theory #2, because demon possession in real life tends to be colored by the perception that young women are: 1) walking potential demon vessels, because they are the weaker/fairer sex, or further from God, or natural followers, or something - I really don't know, but something about Eve?; 2) really tasty demon food, sometimes because they can potentially bear the anti-Christ; 3) more likely to give in to temptation?; 4) so sweet and innocent and virginal and protected that it's more tragic and horrifying all-around (the same reason some Christians say believers are more likely to be attacked by demons: they're a more impressive conquest); 5) NO ONE EXPECTS THE LITTLE GIRL.

If you look at movies like Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism, wherein you've got a pretty teenaged girl writhing around in her nightgown and talking dirty to stiff, straight-backed male priests - and of course, the implication that the Devil has literally invaded this girl's body - you've got to conclude that there's some psycho-sexual shit going on, like the Devil is mocking and showing off our society's sexualization of young women who are, nonetheless, still absolutely required to be good girls (a lady in the street but a freak in the bed, and all that).  Like we are so used to ogling and objectifying young women, well look at her now.  Like the most grotesque and disturbing thing we can think of, as a culture, is a wicked, furious, enraged sixteen-year-old girl - precisely because they are supposed to be pliant, happy, vulnerable, something for Liam Neeson to rescue.  The irony is that she's still all those things, of course, because as the Paranormal Activity trilogy sadly reminds us, it's the demonic spirit acting through her body.

The Conjuring is all about all this stuff, but also highlights a couple less common, but still pervasive themes:

  • Ghosts and demons and poltergeists alike attack families when the father is out of town.  Strangely, this actually does correspond to those ghost re-enactment shows.  I always assume it's because the malevolent entity thinks the father is the alpha.**  The father also tends to be the disbeliever/skeptic, compared to the histrionic mother.

  • The truly most horrifying thing we can think of is an evil mother: a mother who kills her own children.  I'm torn on whether this is seen as worse than or equally as bad as an evil father, because there are fathers-gone-rotten: Amityville, The Shining, Insidious.  I think if you look at the news media, you get the sense that child-killing mothers are worse, because maternal instinct is assumed to be stronger, and men are assumed to be violent anyway.  "Mother is God in the eyes of a child," as they say in Silent Hill, so naturally the topsy-turvy version of that Good Mother is going to be pure evil.

Put in this perspective, The Conjuring isn't really especially right-wing.  It falls right into place in a very old-fashioned, very Christian rendering of the supernatural genre.  "God brought us together for a reason," Lorraine Warren says to her husband, who admonishes the besieged family for not baptizing their daughters.  Note that it's also a very American Christianity here: the Catholic Church is no help because it's tied up in red tape, so if you want an exorcism done right you gotta do it yourself, Signs & Wonders style.  It occurred to me last night that it's really quite incredible how much American demon possession movies align with the world view of a very fringe faction of Protestantism along with other people who take exorcism and "spiritual warfare" into their own hands and are thus most likely to accidentally kill somebody in an exorcism.  The most disturbing part of the movie for me comes near the end, when the demon is breaking the possessee's bones and Lorraine says, "We are now fighting for her soul!"  This is in other exorcism movies too and I gotta say, few sentiments in horror movies seem as likely to lead to the deaths of actual people.

But I guess I've grown weary of movies like this - The Conjuring even comes complete with a creepy haunted (girl) doll that needs to be kept in a glass case, how much more retrograde can you get? - especially when even Hollywood seemed for a while to be churning out new, different types of supernatural horror movies, like Insidious, Sinister, Cabin in the Woods, Mama - not to mention the indies, like the extremely creepy and highly-recommended Lovely Molly, problematic V/H/S, Absentia, The Moth Diaries, Hollow.  I like to think that we can be more interesting.

* Speaking of Bob, David Lynch deserves credit for making one of the most frightening supernatural men ever, and one that clearly hates women, at that.
** Yeah, "malevolent entity thinks"... I know.  Can never be too careful!

ah, shit.

Aug. 12th, 2012 01:19 am
intertribal: (get back (you don't know me like that))
Reading Junji Ito's "The Will" while listening to "Come to Daddy (Pappy Mix)" by Aphex Twin at 1 a.m.?

May rank in my list of dumbest decisions of all time.

intertribal: (Default)
Last year I read this sweet little article on Jezebel, "How Tragic Kingdom Saved My Life," about the writer's therapeutic "relationship" with the No Doubt album, and I remember thinking, hmm, I'm so obsessed with carving albums up into patchwork playlists (and leave the dregs behind!) that I don't really have any especially meaningful albums.  I think that's started to change a little - I can't imagine carving up The XX (The XX) or Loveless (My Bloody Valentine) because they're like 40-minute songs - and now I have discovered The Birthday Massacre's fourth album, Pins and Needles

The Birthday Massacre is one of my guilty pleasure bands - they're so ridiculously Hot Topic with their Goth!-Alice-in-Wonderland aesthetic that they seem kind of embarrassing for a 24-year-old pre-professional - and I can't say they're musical geniuses by any stretch.  I would not have discovered them had it not been for Pandora, which suggested to me "Lovers' End" and "Happy Birthday" off Violet.  Today Pandora suggested "Two Hearts" off Pins and Needles and I was instantly in love:

Obviously I was particularly drawn to the lyrics: "Two hearts beating, one beats the other while the other just looks away."  Yesterday I admitted in therapy that I'm attracted to people that seem damaged - instead of wholesome, normal, well-adjusted, generally sane, like they could go live in a little box made of ticky-tacky and be satisfied - because I see myself as damaged and dangerous, and at least if they're already messed up, I won't feel so guilty about the inevitable damage I will do.  This is what I was thinking about while dancing (painfully sober) at a bar/club in Farragut North on St. Patrick's Day (the song I declared to be "my song": a techno remix of "Somebody That You Used To Know.").  My friend Alicia was ecstatic as we left because she hadn't gone clubbing in a while - whereas I went to Pure and The Bank in Vegas this past weekend, and besides which I feel no great difference between a silver-glitzy club and a bar with a dance floor, so there is zero novelty for me - and I just ended up feeling claustrophobic and anxious to get home, which is I guess what happens when I go clubbing sober. 

So anyway, Pins and Needles.  Is very listenable, to start with, and has TBM's trademark sound, which I cannot describe as anything other than like, deathpop, although wikipedia calls it synthrock (they say that about almost everything I like, though).  They are named after Clive Barker's Imajica, which tells you something.  They go with Jack Off Jill/Scarling and Kidneythieves in  my head-catalog.  And this album in particular sort of perfectly describes the contrasting elements in my life - the high-pitched pop of everyday tasks and my "upwardly mobile" trajectory and my happenin' friends and contacts, vs. my melancholy, downward-sloping heartbreak.  And the words.  Even the title Pins and Needles pretty much accurately describes my existence. 

From "In The Dark": "I'm in the dark, I'm alone around you.  I've never been here before, nobody here to get me through."

From "Always": "Repeating words until they're true: it slows the breathing.  Pretend they never came from you: it kills the feeling.  I'm not what you want:  you said what I never could."

From "Pale": "I'm looking at a face, a pointed chin towards the sky in arrogance./  Imitation, a fabrication, a pretty fake, but counterfeit, an empty carcass behind the artist, is there a trait of innocence?/ And much to our dismay, they're ignorant.  The more that we make up, the more it fits./  This doesn't feel right, feels like everything's further away.  Dead as the nightlife.  Hindsight, watching another mistake.  We never feel right."

From "Control":  "Two-faced, too poised to shed a tear/ A new trend: indifference."

From "Shallow Grave": "She was always good for nothing when the good broke bad.  All she's got to lose is everything she never has.  Every back turned to her./  She never fooled us because she could never fool herself."

From "Sideways": "How can you criticize when you're not here to compromise?  Words fade as time goes by without you."

From "Midnight": "I can't decide which one of us will leave here alive.  Your fingers breaking as I place them over mine.  The only thing I need is time to change your mind, I said./ I can't decide which one of us is dreaming tonight.  I'm just a shadow in the light you leave behind.  The only thing I need is time to change your mind, I said./  It's always darker at the end of every answer, like a finger down the back of your throat."

From "Pins and Needles": "It's been so long, feels like pins and needles in my heart.  So long, I can feel it tearing me apart./ It's always a nightmare, it's never a dream."

From "Sleepwalking": "Wait, dear, the time is getting late here.  I'm all washed up and graced with feigned applause, dressed in a cheap facade.  I'm looking for a place I'll never see again.  A night turns to a day, a street I've never walked on.  I was never here, just a faint reflection.  A day turns to a month, a second of affection./  Faking, there's nothing here worth taking.  Just my reflection fading on the wall, not the fairest one of all."

From "Secret": "I woke up as I waited.  Bleeding slow, there was no way to make all this blow over, so I started writing the ending.  I said too much.  And you just kept on pretending for both of us.  I could never speak anyway.  What you wanted to hear, I couldn't convey./  All the days that I've counted, you'll never know."

I don't know if Pins and Needles will save my life, but it certainly gives my inner turmoil some voice.  It's alienation in a busy city, it's walking back to the metro at 2 a.m. alone, it's being "pre-professional" at all in this city of berserker networking, it's the pure sadness of unrequited love, it's the chase.
intertribal: (i like it rough)
Katie is my favorite character of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  For a while I had a default icon that was called "because she looks like Katie."  She was the reasonable one (compared to her boyfriend Micah) in PA1, with a delicious darkward turn as she becomes possessed and kills Micah, as if telling him in the most ferocious terms, "see, this is what happens when you don't listen to me, dumbass."  PA2 reveals that she became possessed because her brother-in-law Dan "sicced" the demon on her - it was to save his wife and son, but still - and Dan gets his comeuppance and "Katie" gets "her" revenge when she comes to their big fancy house, demon-possessed, to kill Dan and Kristi (his wife/her sister) and take Hunter (the infant son).  In PA3, Katie is a child who gets dragged (literally) into Kristi's bad-idea-of-the-year "friendship" with the demon - she and Kristi both end up at least somewhat possessed and in the care of their evil witch grandmother Lois*.

I really love PA1, enjoy PA2 mostly for the big "Fuck U" it allows Katie to give, and am not such a fan of PA3.  I think this is because I didn't like the story that the creators (who changed from movie to movie) eventually laid out to explain what happened in PA1.  Witchcraft - especially of the matriarchal "coven" variety - in horror always sets off an alarm in my head: "this is a women-are-evil story."  That's accentuated in the Paranormal Activity franchise by the special importance given to the firstborn son, who everyone will go to extreme lengths to protect and who is apparently Blue Moon rare (girls in this family are basically throw-aways, especially if they can't be broodmares).  By contrast, Katie is sacrificed by her brother-in-law because she's nothing to him - she is an expendable, mother to no one.  Dan's teenaged daughter from a previous relationship, Ali, is the only one who says "hey, this isn't fair to Katie," and Ali is also safely tucked away on a field trip during Katie's rampage.  And while I liked the potential that Paranormal Activity had to be Katie's Good Girl Gone Bad (kind of Laura Palmer in reverse) story - even if witchcraft and a special son had to be involved - PA2 and especially PA3 show that there's nothing unique about Katie.  The same thing happens to her sister.  They get possessed and go bad because they're women (and I will note that the possession scenes always read very "rape-y" to me), the end. 

There's a perspective shift too.  In PA1, Katie and Micah are both leads, and you're in each of their headspaces; because the "paranormal activity" revolves around Katie and she's an adult, she might be more the main character than Micah.  PA2 is very decentralized - it's also very shallow in the sense that it's in no one's head in particular, and all the characters are ciphers.  In PA3, the boyfriend of Katie and Kristi's mother, Dennis, is the lead.  Katie and Kristi are children and not especially emotive ones, and their mother Julie is a non-entity.  The next closest thing to a character in PA3 is Dennis's male videography buddy.  It's interesting that in PA3 Katie and Kristi are basically there to be "creepy little girls" with incomprehensibly creepy behavior - "little girls are creepy," as my roommate says - whereas there's nothing creepy about Hunter, the baby boy in PA2, and the audience is simply meant to feel protective of him ("that poor baby boy," etc.).  PA1 sets itself apart from its sequels because we actually get to be in the headspace of the eventual-possessee, to see her as a three-dimensional human being instead of just a "creepy little girl" or a blank mother-type placeholder (in Kristi's case - who is Kristi?  God knows!). 

Men are do-ers in the Paranormal Activity franchise.  Micah is dense and foolish, but he is the macho take-charge investigator - and this trait of his is sort of mocked in PA1 as Micah bombastically insists that "no one comes into my house and fucks with my girlfriend" and Katie's just like, "you don't have power here" (his defensive reply is something along the lines of "don't tell me I have no power").  In PA2, Ali is the investigator, but she's not an actor, and she apparently wields zero influence over any other character, making her relevant only as an info-dumper.  Dan, the brother-in-law, is the only actor, and shows piss-poor decision-making - firing the maid for saging the house, ignoring video footage that he himself arranged, and ultimately transferring the demon to Katie.  Dan is actually absent during most of the movie (when the women of the house are being afflicted with paranormal activity), and it falls on him to make up for his failure to be the responsible man of the house by saving Kristi and Hunter and sacrificing Katie to the darkness.  Dennis, Katie and Kristi's would-be-dad, is neither a dolt nor an asshole, and is more of a protector for Katie and Kristi than their own mother.  He's heroic and self-sacrificing, a sensible investigator, and the good-guy foil to the human villain, the evil grandmother (there are no human villains in PA1 or PA2, and I think this does change the dynamic of a horror story - just ask Stephen King).  And of course then there's the biggest do-er of them all: the demon.  With all the marriage talk in PA3, the demon is definitely male.  But whereas the human men of Paranormal Activity all (arguably) mean well as they try to fix this situation that their women thrust them into, the human women are either corruptible to the extreme or just irrelevant, and in all cases unable to even try to protect themselves or their loved ones.  Their bodies are the battlefield for the war/pissing contest between the human men and the male demon. 

The demon always wins, and it's through the demon that the human men are killed by the women in their lives.  The visual effect is different, though: on screen, it's psycho bitches on the loose (with the only really affecting death, at least for me, being Micah's at the hands of "Katie").  It's too bad that Katie's actions at the end of PA2 probably aren't Katie's at all.  I would have preferred her to be taking revenge on Dan and Kristi - if only subconsciously, if only with the last smidgen of Katie that still existed within the bloody Katie-shell - but it was probably just the demon being demonic en route to obtaining that precious little boy. 

"Jennifer's Body" - Hole
"Arsenal" - Kidneythieves
"Climbing Up The Walls (Radiohead cover)" - Sarah Slean
"Behind Blue Eyes (The Who cover)" - Sheryl Crow

*: Fun fact - Lois is my maternal grandmother's name!  This is why one of my middle names is Louise.  Because my mother didn't like the sound of "Nadia Lois."  WITCH! 
intertribal: (black tambourine)
Taken from [ profile] handful_ofdust, who had some great answers. Seriously.

Day 1- Your first horror movie: I'm sure it was some Chinese horror movie that I saw on the Indonesian RCTI channel.  Something with jiang shi - jumping vampires, most likely.  These guys.

Day 2- The last horror movie you saw in the theater: Either Insidious or Scream 4.  Both recommended, both better than I thought they'd be.

Day 3- Favorite classic horror movie: I actually don't know that many classics, but I do like The Innocents, which is a delicate, almost "lacy" creep-fest, and The Curse of Frankenstein, which IMO depicts Victor Frankenstein as the slimeball that he is. Does War of the Worlds count?  Because I enjoyed that as well.

Day 4- A horror movie you thought you'd love and didn't: This is relatively rare for me because I tend to like horror movies almost by default.  But I didn't love The Prophecy (thought I would because I like religious horror and Constantine) - mainly I just couldn't retain interest in it - and I didn't love The Quiet Family (thought I would because I love Happiness of the Katakuris, Takashi Miike's bizarro remake) - I think it was almost because it didn't live up to Happiness.  

Day 5- Favorite horror remake: Tough question.  I absolutely love Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre.  One of the first truly beautiful horror movies I saw - kind of remade what horror could be, for me.  But I also really like Happiness of the Katakuris, Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, Jack Finney's 1978 Invasion of the Body-Snatchers (Donald Sutherland's final scream?  Scared.  The.  Shit.  Out of me.), Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, the 2010 The Crazies, and of course, Thir13en Ghosts, which is just too much fun.

Day 6- Favorite vampire movie: Interview with the Vampire, probably.  I also really like Blade.  For some reason I don't really consider Herzog's Nosferatu to be a proper vampire movie...

Day 7- A horror movie you think no one has seen: I'm not very good with obscure movies.  I think not a lot of people have seen The Ceremony, which is the best low-budget/indie horror I've seen in a while.  Has anybody here seen Bungalow 666?  It's Indian.  Circle of Eight is a horror movie I wish no one had the opportunity to see, because it is that bad (it served as an antidote to Ju-On).  Apparently Bloody Disgusting thinks that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is obscure, and that movie rocks!  "Six more days 'til Halloween!  Halloween!  Halloween!"  Yeah, I drive people nuts with this movie.  I don't know, though - Screen Rant's list of obscure movies is hilariously sad (SuspiriaAuditionIn the Mouth of Madness?). 

Day 8 - Favorite foreign horror: Something Japanese - probably Noroi: The Curse.  It's become my favorite of its ilk.  I also really like Ringu (but so sad!) and One Missed Call (cheesy-wheezy, but has screams).  Oh God, and Retribution.  Or basically anything by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Day 9 - Favorite supernatural horror movie: What the heck kind of question is this?  Pretty much every horror movie I love is supernatural.  Okay, how about Candyman.  There!  It's my welcome-to-grad-school movie.

Day 10 - Horror movie everyone loves but you don't: Too easy: Pan's Labyrinth.

Day 11 - Favorite horror/ comedy: Probably Shaun of the Dead.  This is the first horror movie I ever saw that actually made me ROFL.  Me and Yue were basically going nuts while watching the scene I linked to.  Runner up: Cabin Fever.  Bronze: Trick 'r Treat.  Tin: Infection (I know it looks like pure horror, but it's really absurdly funny).  And we already know I love Happiness, right?  Right.

Day 12 - Your most disturbing horror film: I agree with [ profile] handful_ofdust - Martyrs is very disturbing.  Also disturbing to me were Marebito and Ju-OnMarebito is unsettling, and Ju-On just fucks me up.

Day 13 - Favorite zombie movie: Probably 28 Days Later, although I am also very fond of Pontypool and Romero's borderline brilliant Land of the Dead.

Day 14 - Favorite indie horror movie: I'm really bad at figuring out what's indie.  I'll say Lake Mungo.  Which I am VERY ANGRY that they are remaking for an "American audience."  It is Australian.

Day 15 - Favorite monster movie: Cloverfield, or Alien.

Day 16 - Horror film with a great soundtrack: I love The Hills Have Eyes' soundtrack (the 2006 one) and The Shining theme scares me the most, but for this question I'll go with Mulholland Drive.  Which, yes, counts as a damn horror movie.  I really, really love Angelo Badalamenti's scores.  This is Lost Highway's, and this is "Laura Palmer's Theme."

Day 17- Favorite 80's horror: Just a horror of the 1980s decade or horror that somehow represents the 1980s?  The Shining, probably.

Day 18 - Favorite horror movie filmed in black and white: See my answers to the classic question.

Day 19 - Best use of gore: The Descent.  I'm normally not a fan of "extreme" cinema, but it worked for The Descent, which isn't exploitative and feels realistic (the characters that manage to fight and embrace the gore are the ones with the most baggage/issues). 

Day 20 - [One of your f]avorite horror character[s]: Lim Ji-oh of Whispering Corridors.  A total BAMF of a high school girl (without being sexy), an artist, and an individualist of the Luna Lovegood variety.  I also really like Richard Dees of The Night Flier, although he's kind of a douche.

Day 21 - Best horror franchise: I'm going to go out on a slight limb (because the third one has not been released), and say RecRec 2 builds very well on its punch-in-the-face predecessor.  There's no mistaking Rec world.

Day 22 - Best death scene: I'm going to say the first death from Ringu / The Ring (honestly, I like both movies).  It scared the SHIT out of me the first time I saw it - and continues to scare me to this day - but I just love the transition from "two high school girls gossiping about boys and death curses while alone in a house at night" to "wait one of them really is cursed" to "the phone!" to "oh, it's just her mom" to "SON OF A BITCH THE TV JUST TURNED ON."  Coupled with the actual death scene, of course.  Anyway, this is what I mean.  Or Ringu, if you prefer.

Day 23 - A great quote from a horror movie: "Born in lust, turn to dust. Born in sin, come on in." - Storm of the Century

Day 24 - Horror movie character that describes you: I've always felt a little bit of kinship with Trish Jenner from Jeepers Creepers.  Slightly hysteria-prone but still able to get shit done, some anger issues, willing to sacrifice herself for family members.  Likes poli-sci majors.  Etc.  I think I also have a bit of Marlena Diamond in me, from Cloverfield.  "Sarcastic outsider," you know?  But I suspect that a quiz would call me Clarice Starling.  We have a lot of the same issues.  I think we're both deep rollers.

Day 25 - Favorite Christmas/ holiday horror movie: GremlinsGremlins until to the end of time.  But, the original Black Christmas is also wonderful.

Day 26 - Horror movie for a chicken (subtle or non-gory horror?): The Others, The Changeling, The Blair Witch Project, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Signs, Insomnia, The Skeleton Key, Paranormal Activity.  Of course, what I consider a "subtle" horror movie is usually a serial killer movie (like Zodiac, or Perfume: Story of a Murderer), and those are always gory...

Day 27- Your guilty pleasure horror movie: I have a lot of these.  Silent Hill probably takes the cake though.  I mean, you got the hate coming from horror movie aficionados, from the video game's fans... and I'm all "whatever."  I also like the Resident Evil series more than I should.  If Deep Blue Sea counts as a horror movie then that is also included.  And a lot of the After Dark Horror Fest movies - Gravedancers, etc.  Rose Red is another one that I really enjoy, even though I know it has serious plotting issues. 

Day 28- Horror film you'd like to see remade/ rebooted: Pumpkinhead deserves a reboot.  I would be willing to help.

Day 29- Worst horror movie: Well, there's a lot of dreck on SyFy, but that stuff is kind of expected to be dreck, and forgiven for it.  However, I'm not a fan of the Amityville franchise.  Partly because of the whole "hey this is fake even though we all said it was true" thing, partly because of the involvement of the Warrens, and partly because the story itself is just ridiculous.  I also really dislike 1408.  I sort of can't believe how many people think this movie is great when it reads like a bland, passionless joke of a horror movie.  

Day 30- [Three of y]our favorite all time horror movie[s]: Candyman, Noroi: The Curse, and... Kwaidan, since that was really what got me started on "good horror."
intertribal: (Default)
I feel like I haven't been to LJ in a while, but that isn't really true.

Dude I'm dating came back from Morocco recently - said there were some nice scenes of police beating protesters because they didn't have the proper permit to protest, of course.  Also, there's a large, beautiful mosque in Casablanca that is built on artificial land on top of the Atlantic - it's architect didn't take into account that the Atlantic will someday come back and bite that artificial land in the butt, eventually sinking the mosque.  It also cost the country a lot of money and displaced a bunch of poor people without compensation.  He also tried to climb this mountain, but failed.

Saw X-Men, don't have anything to say about it beyond what I told [ profile] cafenowhere (Leland Palmer as Dean Rusk?).  Yesterday I watched an interesting little extremely low-budget horror movie on Netflix called The Ceremony (don't ask me what's up with that cover), about a guy graduating college who finds that his roommate has left behind an odd little book surrounded by a ring of burning candles.  Being concerned about fire safety, the main character blows the candles out, and being a curious student, starts reading the book, which turns out to be a history of a ritual used to summon Satan, here "the man in the white suit."  Of course he reads some unfortunate parts aloud and things start happening around the house, culminating in a phone conversation where he tells a friend, "The furniture, it came alive.  It had to be contained."  It takes its cues from Paranormal Activity and had some interesting touches, particularly when the main character learns to his horror that he can understand as well as speak the language being spoken by the presence in his house.  It's creepy, it has a cast of essentially one person, and it's well-made on a shoestring budget.  Good job, director James Palmer.  Horror fans, check check it.

I've been putting all my writing efforts into the novel, which is now at 77,000 words.  Unfortunately, it's nowhere near finished, so looks like I'll be overshooting that 100,000 word goal.  This is how it's getting done: I made an extremely detailed outline of 10,000 words, and I'm writing it scene by scene, often out of order.  I do foresee problems with flow and continuity and a believable evolution of characters, doing it this way, but at least it's getting done this way, right?  I'm going to quit my job in July to devote the rest of the summer to writing this thing before I move to D.C. to start graduate school. 

Had a David Lynch moment today while driving to work.  We've had construction in the left lane of this one big swerving road for a month now, so all the regular commuters automatically drive in the right lane even before we're told to merge right.  But today there was a new big flashing construction sign telling cars that the right lane would be closed up ahead, so go into the left lane.  Everybody's like, wow, maybe they finished the left lane and are starting work on the right lane?  And after about a mile of driving in the left lane, with no sign of construction on the right, the old familiar big flashing sign pops up telling cars that the left lane was closed, so we all scoot back over to where we started.  Calisthenics for cars, I guess.  Speaking of David Lynch, I'm trying to convert my mom to Twin Peaks.  It's going... interestingly.  One of my tactics is comparing it to our favorite shared show, the British cozy-mystery series Midsomer Murders.  They both feature a gamut of weird people in seemingly-innocuous, scenic small towns, grisly murders, and supernatural undertones.  If you're unfamiliar with MM, I've always thought it was what Hot Fuzz was tipping its hat to.  MM is also one of the few TV shows to ever make me cry (in the episode "Green Man," which is very environmentalist).  Someday I'll do an ode to my favorite MM episodes, cuz it's a wonderful show.

I'm almost done with Alan Heathcock's Volt (one more story to read).  Also almost done with Godforsaken Lord of the Rings (two more chapters).  

Here's an acoustic version of Korn's "Freak on a Leash," with Evanescence's Amy Lee.  Shut up, I don't shop at Hot Topic!  Also, Evanescence did a cover of "Thoughtless" that I like, but a lot of Korn fans are all "what the fuck this song has to be full of AGGRESSION and RAGE D:<" and I'm like, whatever.  

intertribal: (black tambourine)
Okay, laughing a bit at all the people vigorously claiming that AMC's The Killing isn't a Twin Peaks rip-off.  Granted, it's a remake of a Danish show that I haven't seen, so either the Danish show is ripping off Twin Peaks and the American show is ripping off a rip off, or the American show is ripping off Twin Peaks all by itself.  Yes, there's the ridiculously ripped-off tagline, but the point of no return for me was the scene where the dead girl's father finds out that his daughter is dead while he's on the phone with his wife, who's at home in the kitchen.  It is sad and dramatic (the dad does the whole Mystic River thing, the mother is screaming at home).  But it felt so very "done before" to me because, look:

That scene (with Grace Zabriskie as the mother) was sort of the defining moment in Twin Peaks' pilot, and I could not believe that The Killing did something so similar.

So when I read reviews like "What really stands out for me, in this age of cookie-cutter procedurals, is how The Killing dramatizes the devastation a violent death has on a family, a community, on the people involved in the investigation" and "not as much about a young girl's murder as it is a psychological study of what happens afterward, how a tight-knit community tries to recover and how a dead child's mother, father and siblings learn to deal with their pain in their own private ways" my reaction is, have you seen Twin Peaks?  I get that two shows can be aiming to do something similar but not only is the approach the same, it's practically the same dead water-logged high school girl, secret life and flings with the town's most powerful grown men and BFF and inconstant boyfriend and all.  But no demon.  Which is a shame.

Cuz it's the tone of The Killing that really sets it apart from Twin Peaks.  It's basically Twin Peaks minus the humor and minus the supernatural.  It's all grim, all the time, with no moments of insanity or absurdity.  I do like the lead actress and the subversive undercover cop (the closest thing this show has to a break from the mundane, grim norm), and it's certainly not bad in any technical way, but it's nothing special.  Twin Peaks is special, and it's actually its particular supernatural trappings that make it so.  Randomly inserting people that happen to be vampires and werewolves clearly does nothing for a show; what I mean by supernatural trappings is Twin Peaks' embrace of the truly not-natural and not-normal and not-scientifically-objective, the "half light" in between spaces and times and states of consciousness/rationality, if you will.  And that stuff is not uniformly anything.  It's definitely not uniformly gloomy.  Like the dreams and the death omens and love and unusual ways of grieving and people who talk to inanimate objects and fish-coffee and secret government projects and inhabiting spirits all that "other" crap that's a part of human experience and human understanding.  Watching Twin Peaks was like finding a kindred spirit, for me.

On the other hand, I was watching Luther the other day - a BBC show with only six episodes in its first season - and while it doesn't have the same sort of prestige touch as The Killing and has been received poorly by the British press, it's the more interesting crime show IMO.  For one, it has Idris Elba as the lead (and yes, this is the main reason I started watching).  For two, it has a serial killer named Alice Morgan who's the self-described matter-destroying black hole to Elba's bright sun.  She kills her parents in the first episode but because there's no proof she's free to go, and she's like this recurring narcissistic ghoul that sort of tries to help Idris Elba's character resolve his personal problems but goes about everything very badly - Alice is great.  My favorite episode was the fourth, and actually it wasn't either of them that made that episode - it was Nicola Walker, who played the wife of a man she thinks is a recovering small-time crook but is actually a serial killer.  The scene where she finds out what her husband's done in a police investigation room is great in a way that Grace Zabriskie's Twin Peaks scene is great, though of course with very different emotions on display.  And Nicola Walker's ending... well, you can see what she does in this fanvid, although it doesn't do her justice.  She was a great emotional pivot.
intertribal: (baby got a poison gas)
Low is from Duluth, Minnesota, and its anchor is husband-and-wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, who sound great together.  I'm not really sure how I'd describe their sound, but I'll throw out some adjectives: ethereal, heartfelt, electronic but still homey, and harmonious. 

I owe my knowledge of this band to that lovely little horror movie The Mothman Prophecies, which is another example of horror done right.  They collaborated with Tomandandy (whom I knew of because I own the creepy-yet-triumphant score they made for the remade The Hills Have Eyes) to make the song "Half Light."  I was so enthralled by "Half Light" that I started referring to "the half-light" in passing in my stories.  When I first saw this video was when I was starting to make the mental shift to the idea of writing horror, so this video - I was particularly fixed on the "EARTHQUAKES HAPPEN PLANES CRASH PEOPLE DIE CAN'T EXPLAIN" part - is sort of my emotional and aesthetic base.

From there I got to Drums and Guns, an album of Low's that sort of received mixed reviews from long-time Low fans.  Not being a long-time Low fan, I really enjoyed it.  As the title indicates, it's kind of an anti-war album as a whole, although it's more of an overarching response to state-sponsored killing ("Murderer") and the effect of destructive violence ("Violent Past") than a rant against anything specific. 

"Violent Past."  Be warned, my mother once asked me to shut this song off because she thought it was "off-key."  I guess I'm not so sensitive, because I love it.  And this is my favorite line: "All I can do is fight, even if I know you're right."

"Murderer."  This is a fan video, not an official one.  This song is a heart-stringer, for me - "Don't act so innocent, I've seen you pound your fist into the Earth and I've read your books.  Seems that you could use another fool.  Well I'm cruel, and I look right through." 

"Breaker."  When Low makes official music videos, they look more like this.  YouTube commenter marfis78 gets it right, though: "That's exactly how they want to look you **** : the dumb folks applause while their leader can't get enough."

"Take Your Time," which I added to my post about people who despite their huge contributions to safeguard the lives of others still don't think they've done enough, is my current favorite off Drums and Guns.  My mother's obsessed with it too.  I told her "I didn't want to expose you to any more Low after your reaction to 'Violent Past.'"  I've probably listened to this song about 100 times in the past week.  I just think it's really beautiful in a really... poignant, almost painful way.  Alan Sparhawk's voice really comes through on this one.

I got two other albums recently - The Great Destroyer and C'mon.  "Monkey," off the former album, seems to actually be one of their most well-known songs, because it was in some Mickey Rourke B movie.  It is I would say one of their more accessible songs, a solid alt-rock piece:

Off C'Mon, as of now I love the folksy, lyrically bizarre "Witches", which is just asking for a nice literary horror novel to go with it: "One night I got up and told my father there were witches in my room.  He gave me a baseball bat and said here's what you do: When you have finally submitted to embarrassing capture, take out that baseball bat and show those witches some pasture."

And here's the lovely "Especially Me," which showcases Parker's voice: "Cuz if we knew where we belong, there'd be no doubt where we're from.  But as it stands, we don't have a clue.  Especially me, and probably you."

Scream 4

Apr. 30th, 2011 06:46 pm
intertribal: (baby got eight more lives)
I saw this earlier in the week.  I enjoyed it.

I haven't seen Scream 2 or 3 (and don't feel any great need to), but Scream is known for being an intelligent, meta-ish slasher horror.  I appreciate Scream's place in horror history, even though it's not on my list of favorite horror movies.  Scream 4 isn't going on that list either, but for slasher fans, it's definitely worth seeing.  It's all kinds of meta, and I loved the final identity of the killer.  Loved it.  It reminded me of one of my stories, but I won't say which one.  Neve Campbell's Sidney and Courteney Cox's Gale are the best part of the franchise - Sidney is older and wiser here (she's about 32) and Gale is jaded and bitchy; Gale's cop husband Dewey is trying to be a responsible adult but really, it's all up to Sidney and Gale.  Dewey is in the land of alpha women, a sea of final girls.  They're the focal point from start to finish, and it's kind of fun to watch these girls/women negotiate - sometimes violently, sometimes collaboratively - where they stand in the women-and-chainsaws pyramid.  Also, Hayden Panettiere's Kirby was surprisingly cool.  The teenagers actually somewhat reminded me of my high school collective.

intertribal: (this chica right here gotta eat baby)
I'll write a "real" post about grad school decisions soon, but for now I just have to say that Insidious, the new "it's not the house that's haunted. it's your son" horror movie, is really good.  It isn't deep, although it helps that they hired real actors (I really like Rose Byrne, although Barbara Hershey had a vital role as the believer mother-in-law and I loved Lin Shaye's psychic lady character), but it's a lot of fun.  The young people in my theater all went through the three motions of horror movies numerous times: 1. hold breath, 2. scream, 3. laugh nervously.  The whole thing was kind of like going to fake haunted house attractions around Halloween, except you're not the one running, and it's scarier. 

The plot itself is sort of reminiscent of Poltergeist and Ink and Silent Hill and the woefully underrated The Dark, but what really impressed me about this movie was the step-above horror imagery.  The "Darth Maul" demon and its shock appearances are the most obvious example, because depicting a demon without some kind of human shell (the possessed person, or vessel) is rare, and this manifestation was very stark and visceral - his first appearance had the girls in the next row screaming bloody murder - but a family of 1950s ghosts were actually equally striking.  I have never seen ghosts depicted in this fashion (Ghost Hunters would call it a mix of the "tape loop" style of haunting and an intelligent haunting) - very disturbing, and very undead.  Almost uncanny valley.  The whole "other" realm of The Further hit a lot of sweet spots, horror-wise, as well - and as a horror writer, that sort of thing is always interesting to me.  It's something I need to get better in, because I feel like my creepiness is very derivative, even though I'm kind of afraid to improve in that regard (haha).

A lot of reviewers have been critical of the "final act," when Insidious goes beyond a standard haunted house movie and into something more fantastical, but I bought the transition and don't see why anyone should find it all that ridiculous.  The subject matter is the paranormal, after all, something that isn't "understood" in any conventional sense, and horror movies have always taken great liberties with the afterlife and the psychic realm.  The spoofed Ghost Hunters characters are rather amusing - a rare instance of comedy, I might add - and some of the psychic contraptions are pretty outlandish, but they didn't take away from the "no holds barred adrenaline thrill ride," so I file that under "why the hell not."  Paranormal investigation units are a popular thing on television right now - way more so than church-sanctioned exorcisms, for obvious reasons, although Hollywood still force-feeds us those - so they're fair game for a horror movie, and for that matter I was glad that the movie didn't dwell too much on the whole skeptic vs. believer thing, and that the mother-in-law sprang right up with suggestions that didn't involve a psychiatrist.  I say this because given the whole 1/3 of Americans believe in ghosts thing, it's astonishing how common it is to see horror movies where no one believes the protagonist, and no one gets heebie-jeebies until it's too late, and people are barely even superstitious.  At any rate, the PG-13 rating shouldn't dissuade horror fans. 

Again, there isn't much lurking under the surface of Insidious.  It's not social commentary.  There's no agenda.  It's not meta-horror in the manner of Fear and Blair Witch.  It's just a tense, spooky horror-adventure that does its thing really well, and that kind of vintage horror is my sort of junk food.  Good on James Wan for going beyond Saw, which did not need any sequels.  Hopefully we don't get stuck with Insidious VI: Return to the Further.  
intertribal: (when I get what I want)
This article, on film schools teaching screen writers not to write female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, inspired me to make a list of movies that do pass the Bechdel Test.  Then a theme developed among the movies that I came up with.

: Helen and Bernadette. 

Topics of conversation: Their research.  Poverty and housing developments and the way the city is divided up to maintain class segregation.  

Mulholland Drive
: Betty and Rita.

Topics of conversation: Rita's identity.  Betty's auditions.  A car crash, a murder mystery.

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Everyone (there are very few male characters).

Topics of conversation: Each other, the scenery, existentialism, class, disappearing into fucking rocks.

Silent Hill: Rose, Cybil, Dahlia, Christabella.  Arguably Sharon, arguably Alyssa, arguably the Demon.

Topics of conversation: A missing child.  A haunted town.  Keeping the community safe.  Religion.  Demons.  Motherhood.

28 Days Later: Selena and Hannah.

Topics of conversation: Taking drugs to not care about being raped.  The infected.  Survival. 

Suspiria: Suzy and Sarah.

Topics of conversation: Strange developments at the dance school.  The weird teachers.  Dead students.  Their investigation of the mystery.

Yes, in horror movies, to quote one Bechdel Test reviewer, "they have more important things to talk about."  Another point is how frequently women are featured in horror movies, often alongside other women.  I suspect the ratio of women to men ends up being a lot higher in horror movies compared to movies in other genres, even in unlikelier scenarios like Drag Me To Hell (female antagonist, female protagonist, male bystander - a formula that's very common in J- and K-horror), although here I focused on female friendship/partnership. 

To some extent this is as B.S.-y final girl stuff, but as these movies indicate, not always.  Maybe horror filmmakers just like seeing women on the screen.  But seriously, in a world of all-male casts, where are they in horror?  Few and far between.  I think of, like, The Sixth Sense, and The Thing.  And The Sixth Sense just has two male protagonists, but an array of female characters.  2001: A Space OdysseyPredator?  But get ghosts and dark magic involved (as opposed to vicious killer aliens), and it's a woman's game.  Interesting that even for the "masculine" subgenres of horror (aliens, serial killers), the most authoritative movies have female leads: Alien, Silence of the Lambs.

Anyway, I'm sure plenty of people have written about this, but I really haven't read enough "scholarly review" of horror movies.
intertribal: (a friendly hate)
One of the most enduring characteristics of U.S. foreign policy, it seems to me, is a complete disregard for other states' sovereignty coinciding with a very stubborn insistence on American sovereignty.  At best it's Julianne Moore's character in The Lost World: "She has to touch it.  She can't not touch."  At worst it's Azathoth on the loose.  There are exceptions of course - most of the African continent appears safe from U.S. foreign policy, for better or for worse - and there are regions that are particularly prone to recurring U.S. infection (as one of my college professors said, "pray to God that you don't have oil").  Related is the characteristic to respond to a dog bite with a machine gun.

So the U.S. now has military aircraft and ships edging closer to Libya.  Because "all options are on the table."  And "they were held back until Friday because of fears that the Libyan government might take its diplomats and other Americans there hostage."  Oh dear.

As usual, people in the military are trying to drag their feet.  Why?  "There is no appetite for assigning ground troops to any mission," and "any United States military presence could undermine the legitimacy of the Libyan revolt as an internal, grass-roots movement" and "Qaddafi supporters — and even those across the Arab world who do not like the dictator — could denounce American action as being only about oil" and the problem of "the limits of force and the difficulties and complexities of contemporary military operations."  (European countries continue to be wary of their colonial legacy, too, something that can't be said of the U.S. - "what colonial legacy?" ba-dum-bing)  And of course, it would play right into Qaddafi's hands.  What would happen after the "crazy" man is gone?  Would we ("the U.N."/"NATO"/"coalition forces") stay to make sure things don't get out of hand?  Would we perhaps set a date for free and fair elections?  Or how about sending some nation-building experts?  Well, we'd need to find somebody good to replace the crazy before we could leave (maybe somebody like the fine gentlemen featured in this book).  And suddenly, aw, another itty bitty American colony.  And the U.S. would succeed in, once again, vanquishing a bottom-up democratic trend in the Middle East.  It is, as always, Congress and certain think tanks - left and right - who are pushing for action

Humanitarian intervention is tricky, yes.  But what's happening in Libya is not genocide.  It's a conflict between pro-regime and anti-regime forces.  There is an opposition force in Libya that wants to get Qaddafi out themselves.  There is no indication that they're slowing down or giving up, and it is impossible to know whether or not they'll succeed.  David Cameron's bombastic remarks about "not leaving the people of Libya to their fate" (too much Lord of the Rings, Prime Minister?  Gondor "called for aid," remember) are belittling and unnecessary.  The possibility of self-determination is not out of the picture here.  Not until the U.S. takes it out of the picture by taking the conflict into America's own hands.  Does that mean "sit around and do nothing"?  No.  Believe it or not, a whole range of possibilities exist between thumb-twiddling and invasion.  Humanitarian aid to opposition forces and civilians is a very good idea.  Working with refugees along the borders is another very good idea.  Military intervention is not.  Military aid in the form of training and ammunition and strategic planning might be a good idea, but I'm not convinced the U.S. would be capable of restraining itself to the level of "consultation" when trying to overthrow a regime (the U.S. has a better track record in that regard when trying to help a regime suppress opposition).  Maybe if we start calling this a "covert mission" the U.S. will restrain itself, although that would mean the involvement of the CIA.

What do the people in Libya want? 
This happy ending, however, is marred by a fear shared by all Libyans; that of a possible western military intervention to end the crisis... one thing seems to have united Libyans of all stripes; any military intervention on the ground by any foreign force would be met – as Mustafa Abud Al Jeleil, the former justice minister and head of the opposition-formed interim government, said – with fighting much harsher than what the mercenaries themselves have unleashed.

Nor do I favour the possibility of a limited air strike for specific targets. This is a wholly popular revolution, the fuel to which has been the blood of the Libyan people. Libyans fought alone when western countries were busy ignoring their revolution at the beginning, fearful of their interests in Libya. This is why I'd like the revolution to be ended by those who first started it: the people of Libya.

So as the calls for foreign intervention grow, I'd like to send a message to western leaders: Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy. This is a priceless opportunity that has fallen into your laps, it's a chance for you to improve your image in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims. Don't mess it up. All your previous programmes to bring the east and the west closer have failed, and some of them have made things even worse. Don't start something you cannot finish, don't turn a people's pure revolution into some curse that will befall everyone. Don't waste the blood that my friend Ahmed spilt for me. (via: Please Don't Intervene)
But who cares what they want, right?  It's a shame the U.S. isn't more of a vampire, really - that way we'd have to wait to be invited in.
intertribal: (sit down shut up)
Shakespeare: Private First Class Shakespeare falling in for inspection, sir!
Fairweather: Corporal Fairweather falling in for inspection, sir!
Captain Jennings: Very good.  Hmm.  Doesn't do to let standards slip, Corporal, you have a responsibility to these young men.
Fairweather: Yes, sir.
Quinn [unseen]: AAAHHHHH!
Captain Jennings: What is that god awful racket?
Shakespeare: That's Private Quinn, sir.
Captain Jennings: Why is he not here for inspection?  Sergeant!  Why is Private Quinn not here for inspection?
Sergeant Tate: ...
Captain Jennings: Right.  Well done, men, you fall out.  I'm gonna go have a word with Private Quinn.
Fairweather: Please don't do that, sir.
Shakespeare: He'll kill you, sir!
Captain Jennings [incredulous]: I'm an officer!

Good movie about the machine of war that I think Virilio would approve of, personified by a deep muddy trench filled with soldier-skewering barbed wire (so that's where Silent Hill got it from), soldier-eating mud, and suspicious red mist that seems too sentient to be gas.  Also nicely absurd, and Charlie Shakespeare's character reminded me very strongly of my novel's protagonist, so that was fun to sort of "see him in action," so to speak, in an alternate universe where he's a British soldier in WWII.
intertribal: (this chica right here gotta eat baby)
But for the first time in The Two Towers, I'm actually enjoying it.  I trudged through Rohan and Helm's Deep and Fangorn Forest and Isengard.  Trudged.  Could not care less about Merry and Pippin.  Could not differentiate between Aragorn, Legolas, Theoden, and Eomer.  Had to force myself to read anything at all, and didn't understand why things were dragging on and on.  Teeny tiny bits of poetic description do linger - the Men looking at the weak River Isen - and the Ent-Entwife saga was amusing, if rather essentialist.  I loudly proclaimed to my family that I preferred the movies to the books, whined to my friends, etc.  But now I'm in hellish country with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum - and I actually really like it.  Keep in mind that I don't enjoy the Frodo-Sam-Gollum parts in the movies - so dreary and drab, so full of Elijah Wood looking drugged - and I've always been a relatively crazy Viggo!Aragorn fangirl. 

I think Tolkien is actually better at writing about doom and gloom than he is at writing about happy things, or battles, or conquering heroes.  We'll see if my assessment of this changes, but I was really getting tired of listening to Gandalf scold Saruman at Orthanc.  I feel like there's a certain... honesty in how Tolkien writes about Frodo/Sam/Gollum and their strengths and weaknesses - Frodo with the weight of the ring just doesn't give any thought to Gollum's state of mind, Sam has admittedly uncharitable and unreasonable thoughts about Gollum, and poor Gollum (who wants to eat birds and corpses) just wants the Precious, so that he can be Gollum the Most Precious One.  And they all do things like "grovel heedlessly" when confronted with danger, because fuck, what are they gonna do against a Nazgul?  I feel like I can understand all their respective emotional anguishes - whereas the characters in Book 3 just kind of seemed like depthless, emotionless props/war-machines that occasionally became hungry.  Kind of like Orcs, but Good Orcs. 

Plus, Tolkien's description of these doom-gloom parts of the world near Mordor is great in a fantastical, pseudo-Lovecraftian kind of way.  Here's Gollum talking about bringing the Precious (I mean the Ring...) to Mordor: "He'll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world."  Here's Tolkien's description of the land near Mordor: "the lasting monument to the dark labour of its slaves that should endure when all their purposes were made void; a land defiled, diseased beyond all healing - unless the Great Sea should enter in and wash it with oblivion.  'I feel sick,' said Sam.  Frodo did not speak."  Ah.  And here's the Dead Marshes: "The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy surfaces of the sullen waters.  Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers." 

And here's my favorite part so far (possibly of the entire thing), also from the Dead Marshes:
"I don't know, said Frodo in a dreamlike voice.  "But I have seen them too.  In the pools when the candles were lit.  They lie in all the pools, pale faces, deep deep under the dark water.  I saw them: grim faces and evil, and noble faces and sad.  Many faces proud and fair, and weeds in their silver hair.  But all foul, all rotting, all dead.  A fell light is in them."  Frodo hid his eyes in his hands.  "I know not who they are; but I thought I saw there Men and Elves, and Orcs beside them."

"Yes, yes," said Gollum.  "All dead, all rotten.  Elves and Men and Orcs.  The Dead Marshes.  There was a great battle long ago, yes, so they told him when Smeagol was young, when I was young before the Precious came.  It was a great battle.  Tall men with long swords, and terrible Elves, and Orcses shrieking.  They fought on the plain for days and months at the Black Gates.  But the Marshes have grown since then, swallowed up the graves; always creeping, creeping."
It's almost like all the stuff that's happening in the kingdoms of Men is B.S. that we're not even getting the straight story about (rather we're reading the Gondor Textbook about the History of Middle-Earth, if you know what I mean), and the story of these three small creatures tries to tell it like it really is, from a perspective that also somehow transcends their particular turmoil and stretches into real mythic poetry.  I'll be very curious to see how this evolves in Return of the King, but for now color me really surprised at how this is shaking out. 
intertribal: (grim reaper)
I sort of recognized the name Daniel Drezner, though I'm not sure what I've read by him.  He seems to be that extremely rare rock star poli sci theorist, at any rate, Samuel Huntington for the digital age.  In any case, he has written a book called Theories of International Politics and Zombies, and he has a little bite-sized tidbit up in Foreign Policy, which is trying to be a rock star poli sci publication (difficult when people like me can never remember the distinction between you and stodgy podgy Foreign Affairs): "Night of the Living Wonks."  He's trying to mockingly figure out how different IR theorists would predict the world would respond to zombies.

So (American) realists would say:
How would the introduction of flesh-eating ghouls affect world politics? The realist answer is simple if surprising: International relations would be largely unaffected. Although some would see in a zombie invasion a new existential threat to the human condition, realists would be unimpressed by the claim that the zombies' arrival would lead to any radical change in human behavior. To them, a plague of the undead would merely echo older plagues, from the Black Death of the 14th century to the 1918 influenza pandemic. To paraphrase Thucydides, the realpolitik of zombies is that the strong will do what they can and the weak must suffer devouring by reanimated, ravenous corpses.
(American) "liberals" would say:
Provided that the initial spread of zombies did not completely wipe out governments, the liberal expectation would be that an international counterzombie regime could make significant inroads into the problem. Given the considerable public-good benefits of wiping the undead from the face of the Earth, significant policy coordination seems a likely response... Quasi-permanent humanitarian counterzombie missions, perhaps under United Nations auspices, would likely be necessary in failed states. Liberals would acknowledge that the permanent eradication of flesh-eating ghouls is unlikely. The reduction of the zombie problem to one of many manageable threats, however, is quite likely. Most countries would kill most zombies most of the time.
And neocons (they're their own category?) would say:
Neither accommodation nor recognition would be sustainable options in the face of the zombie threat. Instead, neocons would recommend an aggressive and militarized response to ensure human hegemony. Rather than wait for the ghouls to come to them, they would pursue offensive policy options that take the fight to the undead. A pre-emptive strike against zombies would, surely, be a war against evil itself.
I'm not really sure what to make of this, except I think he may be underestimating zombies' disruptive capacity.  The whole thing is clearly an attempt to get "young people" to care about political science, by the way: "interested and intelligent students of world politics should use their own brains -- before the zombies do." 
intertribal: (stu and tatum; scream)
After good to poor experiences with Showtime's Masters of Horror, I decided to watch the first season of NBC's Fear Itself on Netflix.  Both are TV series that consist of hour-long stand-alone horror stories directed by various people.  Quite a few of the Fear Itself episodes are directed by people with horror pedigree, but save for a few cases, there's really no point in choosing the episodes by their directors.  Some good directors made some schlocky Fear Itself episodes, and some directors who've done schlocky things in the past made some good episodes here.  As I see it, Masters of Horror episodes took more conceptual risks and had a greater chance of being frightening.  On the other hand, most of the risks didn't pay off, and a lot of the episodes seemed like "what is the weirdest way I can get T&A in here?"  The stories in Fear Itself work with much more traditional monsters, but did more within this constraint.  So my experiences with Fear Itself were more like great to poor; I guess that's kind of an improvement.  Masters of Horror lasted two seasons.  Fear Itself only lasted half a season, and some of the later-season episodes were never aired. 

I didn't watch one episode - "Family Man" - and I only watched five minutes of another, "Spooked."  So I won't discuss those.  Of course, there is huge subjectivity in the following reviews, but I think this entry actually says a lot about my taste in horror and narrative, so there ya go?   I think the main take-home point is that I want to give horror stories the benefit of the doubt. 

Terrible episodes first.  "Eater" is basically a supernatural version of Assault on Precinct 13.  Except the assault is being done by a single cannibal/serial killer who eats people's hearts and thus their souls.  The main character is a ridiculously jumpy and incompetent female rookie cop.  The police precinct has no security.  The plot makes preposterous leaps.  The episode implies that Cajuns are cannibals.  I don't even know.  This was just painful.  You're better off watching the X-Files episodes "Fresh Bones" (with bonus awesome post-colonial stress disorder!) and "The Gift" (sympathy for the cannibal).  Similarly, instead of watching the terrible episode "Community," just watch the X-Files episode it's obviously based on, "Arcadia."  Both are about a supposedly perfect suburb that requires its homeowners to live by ridiculous rules, or else.  Except "Arcadia" is funny and the monster is scary, and "Community" is just long and draggy and preachy, and there's not even a real threat ("you'll be in breach of contract!  OH WOE").  "Chance" is about a guy who starts impulsively killing people that piss him off one day.  He seems to have an evil doppelganger.  Either way, totally noxious main character who freaks out about destroying evidence and then kills more innocent people.  He finally accepts his evil doppelganger.  Ick.  "Echoes," about a guy who thinks he's the reincarnation of a 1920s thug, isn't really shit, it's just really boring - but YMMV.  I tend to think reincarnation/living-history stories are boring.  They're right up there with entertainment!ghosts. 

Oh, I almost forgot about "The Circle," which is also terrible.  But this one deserves its own paragraph.  Premise: a writer goes to a cabin with his wife, who has secretly invited his agent, publisher, and editor to come stage an intervention, because there's been no sequel to his ultra-successful gory horror novel.  It's Halloween.  Two creepy little girls come to the door - in the prologue you've already seen them being victimized by some horrible witchcraft ritual - and give them a book, The Circle.  They all think it's the writer's sequel, but the writer insists he doesn't know what it is.  The Circle's text reveals that the events of his first book, Blood Thirsty, are going to come true in this cabin - that is, black goo is going to start possessing people and turning them into zombie-demons, a la the ridiculous movie Mortuary.  The black goo eats the publishing people.  The writer's infected with it, but not his wife.  Then a witch comes to the door and explains that she wrote Blood Thirsty for the writer because she loved him, and because he took all her success and refused to leave his wife, she's now carrying this whole mess out as punishment.  And at this point I'm just like, "Sigh." Only Dario Argento gets away with evil witches, ok?  We are living in a post-Charmed era.  Coupled with the whole "horror writer whose works come true!" claptrap, "The Circle" felt like a really retrograde episode - just like "Eater."  Backward social norms, regressive horror.  Just no. 

Thankfully, the other half of Fear Itself is a lot better.  "Something With Bite" sees a werewolf getting brought into a vet's office when someone runs it down.  The werewolf dies, but not before biting the vet, who discovers that becoming a werewolf is the best thing to happen to him - he eats better, has sex with his wife, generally is in a better mood.  The subplot has to do with people being torn to pieces by an unknown assailant.  It's a cute episode.  Kitschy as all hell, but cute, and the only one that tries to be funny of the entire season.  "Spirit Box" actually scared me because all ghost stories scare me.  It's about two girls that decide to contact spirits for fun and get the ghost of a cheerleader who supposedly committed suicide.  This is not original, although there's a decent twist at the end that I only guessed a couple minutes before it was revealed.  But it's executed well, and I absolutely loved the main character, played by the fantastic Anna Kendrick (her Jules is probably my actual favorite character in Twilight).  She plays a pseudo-goth swimmer, and she says the line I used as the title.  "The Sacrifice" also isn't terrifically original - about a group of guys that ends up stranded in a fortress-village run by a few creepy-sexy blondes and a Nosferatu-ish vampire - but it's an engaging episode with a nice twist.  The episode's not called The Sacrifice for nothing, and just goes to show that a little three-dimensional characterization goes a long way. 

Then we get the three that I considered really good - a cut above, and worth watching on their own.  "In Sickness and in Health" has a hell of an opening - on her wedding day, a bride who's rushing into marriage gets an anonymous note: "The person you're marrying is a serial killer."  The whole thing feels like an urban legend put to screen, so you know this is going to have to resolve itself with a bang, and that it does.  If you want a good example of building narrative tension within a very tight setting, look no further.  I think if the entire season of Fear Itself consisted of these last-minute plot twist episodes, it would get old.  But this one is witty and pulls it off.  "New Year's Day" is the series' zombie story, but if you have zombie fatigue, do not let that turn you off.  The main character - who I related to so much it was almost creepy, esp. in the context of what happens - wakes up on New Year's Day with a terrible hangover.  The apartment's dark and there's sirens going off all over the city.  Zombie apocalypse!  In the dark, she decides to go back to the scene of last night's New Year's party, because she's in love with the host of the party.  Shit happens, as you see bits and pieces of what really went on the night before.  There's another last minute twist in this episode but it works so well and I did not see it coming at all.  Original, emotional.  Fantastic episode all around. 

Though it does make me wonder if I just couldn't really relate to the episodes I deemed terrible, which seemed to be told from a fairly male perspective (two of them were about a Joe Schmo who's afraid he's turning into a killer) that I found boring and tedious.  Question mark?

And finally, my favorite episode, "Skin & Bones."  The husband/father of a ranching family has gone missing in the mountains with a couple ranch hands - but then he comes staggering back to the ranch.  Just a bit changed.  He looks totally ghastly and emaciated, claims to be hungry, but throws away platters of food.  Oh snap, he's turned into a wendigo!  Wendigos are my favorite monsters of all mythology, and if I see one in a story I'm almost guaranteed to love it.  This was a slightly different rendition of the myth from others that I've seen - the wendigo being a malignant "spirit of the lonely places" that offers life to dying people who are already "too angry to die."  Turns out this guy's wife was sleeping with his brother.  The wendigo-dude is actually really creepy - creepy-looking, creepy ass howl, creepy gliding across the floor - and then you throw in the little son going, "Don't hurt him!  He's just sick!" and the wendigo telling the Indian ranch hand not to be tempted to kill him, since no one will believe the Indian guy over the rich white rancher... wow.  Really fun, and really gruesome.  It turns out this was directed by Larry Fessenden, who is as obsessed with wendigos as I am, and has already made two awesome movies (Wendigo, The Last Winter) about them.  But this was really different from those movies, and I wouldn't have guessed it was him.  Good to see you're at least making different kinds of wendigo movies now, Larry!

Plus something I realized?  Here's a monster whose body is both very identifiably masculine but very identifiably monstrous.  Most of the time when you get a male villain in these stories he's just an ordinary man with an ax or a chainsaw (or a bad set of teeth).  When you get a female villain - not in Fear Itself, but in other stories - it's often her body itself that's monstrous, broken or fucked up in some way.  I mean, contrast just the appearance of Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman and Sissy Spacek's Carrie.  I haven't really thought this through and there are probably dozens of exceptions, but it just occurred to me while thinking over "Skin & Bones."  It would make some sociological sense, after all.  Men are active wielders of powerful weapons.  Women are bodies, and a monstrous woman is a deformed body.  Or something like that. 

But the main thing Fear Itself has going for it?  The theme song, "Lie Lie Lie" by Serj Tankian of System of a Down.
intertribal: (strum strum)
I feel like I need to give a shout-out to Lacuna Coil and my favorite album of theirs, Karmacode.  Lacuna Coil is sort of a gothic rock Italian band with two lead vocalists, male and female.  The first song I ever heard by Lacuna Coil was their cover of "Enjoy the Silence," which at the time I thought was pretty theatrical but still fun.  So I downloaded a couple albums, Comalies and Karmacode.  Comalies has some good stuff too - "Heaven's A Lie" and "Angel's Punishment," which believe it or not is not an Akira Yamaoka Silent Hill song - but I prefer Karmacode's overall vibe.  It's a later album, and I think it's a bit more complex musically and a bit more diverse in terms of influences.  They're tending toward the sort of "Arabia Goth" that Arcana currently pwns, which is fine with me.

As much as I like Arcana, though (they make excellent background music for writing purposes), a very deep place in my heart responds much more to Lacuna Coil.  For sure this is where that twelve-year-old on a quixotic quest for romance in DBZ lives.  She's silly, but she's a part of me, y'know.  I love that Lacuna Coil is theatrical and "dark."  I love that they make me feel open-hearted and weirdly weepy.  I love that they sort of seem to belong in Hot Topic.  I think the feeling that I get listening to, say, "Without Fear" or "Devoted" is the feeling I want to, like, evoke in The Novel, for example.  Does it fit conceptually, does it fit the setting or the plot?  Not really.  Ahahaha, how Twilight-ish do those song titles sound?  Following is the video for "Within Me."

I think this goes along with my recent worry/wonder if what I'm really writing is Twilight-esque - and by that I don't mean inspired by Twilight, because the plot was conceived before I heard of Twilight.  I mean treading similar paths.  I'd change nothing, mind you - it is what it is, and I believe in it - but I just kind of wonder if there aren't superficial similarities.  They're probably too superficial for me to worry about, but sometimes the whole humans-and-fabulous-monsters thing pops out at me. 

I should also add that this entire entry makes me fail as a "goth" according to various scales (I'm already on thin ice for not liking The Crow or Tim Burton!), but whatever. 
intertribal: (stu and tatum; scream)
I'm watching Tooth And Nail, which is one of those After Dark Horrorfest attempting-to-be-indie horror movies.  It's a post-apocalyptic cannibals vs. non-cannibals movie, and it isn't very good or original, except for this: I am totally rooting for the cannibals. 

Q.  Do I fail by default?
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