intertribal: (leather)
Oh, and while I'm at it: Godzilla --

-- was not as good as Cloverfield or Pacific Rim.  By a long-shot, in my opinion.  The trailer is a lot better than the movie - there's an apocalyptic solemnity in the trailer that's quite convincing, but lacking in the movie, which feels like a throwback to the 1990s' style of fluffy blockbuster without any of the humor or star power.  I really didn't understand what was going on with the plot, even though I suspect it was very simple - the movie rushed through its clumsily-delivered explanations.

The audience didn't take it too seriously either - everyone could not help laughing when Ken Watanabe ominously intoned, "Gojira," and everyone clapped for Godzilla's power move kill shot at the end.  It was the kind of movie that had L. suggesting that Godzilla should have just gone ahead and done a little salute at the end.  It was corny.

What I love about Pacific Rim is that it's scary, and it builds its world extremely well.  I bought the world of Pacific Rim as a world in which these gigantic monsters keep popping up and destroying cities, for years and years on end, and humanity has more or less altered to live with it.  The indie movie Monsters is the best example of this sort of creativity, but Pacific Rim has a bold, neon, all-in shamelessness in its world-building that I loved.  (Also, Raleigh and Mako ugh I can't)  I mean, for God's sake, the entire Ron Perlman character. Godzilla has none of that. Godzilla is bland - camo-toned and humorless and flat.

And what I love about Cloverfield is its sincere, hysterical emotion.  You hate those stupid yuppies but damn if they don't seem like real people.  Damn if this doesn't seem like what would actually fucking happen if you were living in New York City and a monster attacked.  What struck me about Godzilla was how utterly calm everyone seemed to be.  The military, the civilians - it was almost like people had to be reminded to run, to scream, to act scared.  Bryan Cranston was the only person who seemed to be articulating his emotions, and as a result actually looked a little out-of-place.

In other words, Godzilla didn't seem to believe in itself.  Which is too bad.

I will say, though, I would love to watch a giant monster movie compilation set to Iggy Azalea's "Change Your Life" ("pop out your past life and I'll renovate your future/ yeah I love your hustle baby, just let me add a little bit of muscle, baby").  Seriously, something like this set to "Change Your Life"?  Would be amazing.

iggy muscle
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: (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!
intertribal: (girl you talk too much / shut up)
Here is a thing that needs to stop:
  1. Girl violates some group norm (usually liking/going after/not repudiating a guy who is "off limits," but this varies).
  2. Group organizes revenge/punitive attack on girl that almost always involves rape.
  3. Girl commits suicide for multiple reasons (shame, hurt, desire for revenge).
  4. Girl becomes horrible, terrifying, evil ghost that picks off group members one by one.*
For one, it perpetuates and universalizes a single narrative/understanding of rape and its consequences - namely, that it is the most horrible thing that can ever be done to a woman, so much so that it actually drives her to kill herself and become a vengeful spirit in order to kill everyone involved in wronging her, like a Lifetime movie on paranormal crack basically - and for two, it is really lazy writing.  I immediately lose interest in any new plot that involves this storyline, although I do retain a reluctant soft spot for Shutter, probably just because it was the first I saw of this type. 

I understand that most Asian horror stories make revenge the driving force, and I understand that most Asian horror stories involve female evil spirits, and that this leads, "obviously," to rape-and-revenge.  It's not unlike the recurring theme in American gaming/comics/fantasy/sci-fi where the strong action heroine has only become strong because she was once raped.  But really: if you must have revenge, and you must have a female evil spirit, there are other paths to take.  Look at the entire Whispering Corridors series, which at least has girls committing suicide and becoming wraiths for other reasons, because of different wrongs.  I would say don't look at all the performance-oriented movies where the big wrong is "you scarred my face!" or "you took my spot as the lead in our girl band!" but at this point, I would rather sit through that kind of a movie than another rape-and-revenge.

* Similar, but distinct: the group kills the girl during or in the immediate aftermath of the attack (c.f. The Maid).  Similar because rape-and-revenge is still an overtone, but distinct because she doesn't actually get any chance to respond to the rape particularly, and she doesn't commit suicide.

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: (girl you talk too much / shut up)
Yes, it's two horror movie reviews!  Not very extensive ones, I'm afraid, but still!

Don't you just hate those movies where dumb Americans go off to some far-off foreign locale and end up getting sacrificed by some deceitful Paganistic locals to some dark and primitive nether-god?  So do I!  And so does The Shrine.  I thought The Shrine was going to be one of those movies until about the 2/3 point, and I kept watching anyway because the acting is decent for a shallow little horror movie and I was curious, despite my distaste for the set-up, about the eventual reveal.  But surprise!  Things are not what you would expect them to be. 

Now none of this is going to change your life.  It's not Candyman or Japanese or anything.  It would be a great entry in the After Dark Horror Fest or a great episode of Masters of Horror or Fear Itself, if those shows were still alive.  A neat little short story.  A worthy contribution to horror as fun schlock.

Absentia is a strange beast, completely lacking in horror movie context and almost directionless.  The characters and setting are great, and refreshing for horror - two young adult sisters (one a former drug addict and one pregnant) just muddling through life in working class California.  Nothing glamorous.  The pregnant one has a husband who's been missing for seven years, and is declaring him dead in absentia.  She's also having horrible "lucid dreams" about him.  The former drug addict has now found Jesus.  You think it's setting up to be a demonic possession type thing.  It's not.  Really, really not.

This one feels much less put together than The Shrine.  It is flawed.  And considering what it turns out to be about - the tone is bizarre, subdued and unsettling and sad, something more befitting a ghost story perhaps.  But I feel like Absentia is both going for and accomplishes more, emotionally/intellectually, than The Shrine.  Probably because I am a sucker for horror movies that try to be artsy and sensitive.  But there really is something here, particularly about the rationalizations we tell ourselves about people that go missing. 

Both on Netflix Watch Instantly. 
intertribal: (i'd rather die)
Jan what are you watching?
 me indonesian cryptozoology show
 Jan ok
i'm getting ready to go get some lunch soon
 me yum
 Jan you think?
 me no
i think they're hunting for a giant
or a giant something
the fuck is that?
 Jan idk
but it's cryptozoology
maybe it's an alien
 me mm
 Jan or a leftover dinosaur
or a variation on the burrito
 me ok
 Jan really?
 me giant burrito is swimming in caves in eastern indonesia
 Jan yummy
big party time
 me kinda slimy i would think
this is the most ridiculous conversation we've ever had
 Jan maybe it wears water proof tortillas
ok, i'm out of it
 me clearly you want a burrito
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: (this land)
He was one of the very few "YA" authors whose books I liked as a middle-schooler.  Also some of the first sci-fi and fantasy I read.  Interstellar Pig was assigned by an English teacher in 7th grade.  I read several others (Blackbriar, I sort of remember).  The one that made the most impact on me, though, was The Beasties, because of the whole pro-"monsters" angle.  I should re-read it, in fact.

Apparently he died in Thailand
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: (baby got a nobel prize)
This is why racism remains a "thing" in my novel, which is post-apocalyptic (and I don't even have the apocalypse coming from across borders - it's just part of social organization in Junction Rally, as it has been for all its years of existence).  The Yellow Plague: Asians and Asian Americans in Post-Apocalyptic and Zombie Fictions by Bao Phi:
But like many brands of American horror and action genres, popular post-apocalyptic and zombie fictions tend to veer towards straight American male fantasy - many of the fictions and films in the genre operate under the assumption that, if all hell breaks loose, all issues of race, class, and gender are (supposedly) irrelevant compared to basic human survival - and consciously or otherwise, most leaders that emerge in these imagined post-racial scenarios are straight, white alpha males. In the Western pop imagination, there seems to be a desire to wipe the difficult questions of co-existence off the table - and what better way to do that, then to imagine a situation where five to ten random (and mostly white) strangers must fight off mindless brain-hungry hoards while trying to divide the bullets, bacon, and fresh water into equal shares? Where the musings and philosophies of fancy pants artists and social commentators like myself are next to useless?

Let's say that North Korea or China suddenly launched an attack on present-day America, like in the video game Homefront or the upcoming remake of Red Dawn. The popular, traditional white male western narrative would then position a white hero leading a resistance of people against the invaders, and our race wouldn't matter - because we're all Americans right?

No. History has taught us is if that shit went down, and Asians in Asia attacked America, the first people who would be fucked would be Asian Americans. We'd be imprisoned without due process, called traitors, tortured and murdered in the street. And yet none of this is ever explored in post-apocalyptic scenarios where Asians bring about doom. I guarantee you, if a science-project-gone-wrong in North Korea causes zombie apocalypse tomorrow, you can bet it's the Asian Americans who won't be getting their share of beans at the survivalist pot luck.
I think this argument - on the emotional/psychological desire for an apocalypse to "wash away" people and structures you don't like - is perfectly applicable to post-apocalyptic fiction that isn't British and isn't even all that "cozy" (i.e., involves cannibals and zombies and killer flus).  Some of the comments imply it better fits the American model anyway.  Related: "AEnema" by Tool: "Some say we'll see Armageddon soon/ I certainly hope we will/ Learn to swim, see you down in Arizona Bay." Who reads cosy catastrophes? by Jo Walton:
I argued that the cosy catastrophe was overwhelmingly written by middle-class British people who had lived through the upheavals and new settlement during and after World War II, and who found the radical idea that the working classes were people hard to deal with, and wished they would all just go away.

In the classic cosy catastrophe, the catastrophe doesn’t take long and isn’t lingered over, the people who survive are always middle class, and have rarely lost anyone significant to them. The working classes are wiped out in a way that removes guilt.
And from the comments (man, this is so why Zombieland did not work for me):
On a bad day, it could even be secretly, guiltily desirable: all those people who fit so well in the modern world, but didn't know how to deal with *real* change, would be swept away. And the people who knew how to prepare would be vindicated. The reader is implicitly in the category of people who can deal with change, of course, by virtue of having read the book.

The desire to be freed of social constraints and to get fat off humanity's detritus crosses the economic divide.  
Pop Agitprop from Cheap Truth #13, published in the 1980s, a series of scathing reviews by sci-fi authors, of sci-fi authors - I think this gets to the heart of the problem with a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction very well (and is related to that terrible Dodge Ram commercial as well, re: the sheer amount of self-stroking misanthropy that goes into crafting a post-apocalypse):
The gem of this collection is Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned," a sequel to his commercially successful novel THE PEACE WAR. In this ideologically correct effort, radical Libertarians defend their realm from an authoritarian army. Thanks to their innate cultural superiority and a series of fraudulent plot Maguffins, they send the baddies packing with a minimum of personal suffering and a maximum of enemy dead.

First, and very characteristically, it is post-apocalyptic, conveniently destroying modern society so that a lunatic-fringe ideology can be installed as if by magic. Vinge avoids extrapolating their effects on society, because society is in shambles.

John Dalmas contributes a decent male-adventure Western. Unfortunately this story pretends to be SF. It is set on yet another colonial planet lapsed into barbarism, a fictional convention that allows SF writers to espouse reactionary social values without a blush of shame.

Dean Ing's recent novel for Tor, WILD COUNTRY, takes a similar tack. This book, the last in a post-apocalypse trilogy, is a meandering series of shoot-'em-ups. Its hero is an assassin. The villain is a gay heroin-smuggler, as if an America devestated by nukes did not have enough problems. Ing's hasty depiction of future society is grossly inconsistent; ravaged and desperate when the plot requires desperadoes, yet rigidly organized when Ing suddenly remembers the existence of computers.

The book is a Western, set in a West Texas conveniently returned to the robust frontier values of Judge Roy Bean. Men hold their land, with lasers if possible, while women raise corn and keep the home fires burning.

The book is speckled with maps, diagrams, and lectures on the Second Amendment, which, one learns, "absolutely and positively, guarantees citizens their right to keep and bear arms."  Like his fellows, Ing treasures this amendment, the last remnant of the American policy that he is willing to respect. There isn't much mention of, say, voting, or separation of powers. Power resides in the barrel of a gun, preferably the largest and shiniest possible.
No We Can't by Hunter (this one is political, but I think it ties in nicely with the apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic, vision, and the desire for this vision to actually happen - thanks to [ profile] realthog for linking it):
Past-America could provide at least some modest layer of security to prevent its citizens from descending into destitution in old age; we in this day cannot. Past-America could pursue scientific discoveries as a matter of national pride, even land mankind on an entirely other world; we cannot. Past-America was a haven of invention and technology that shook the world and changed the course of history countless times: whatever attributes made it such a place we cannot quite determine now, much less replicate. Public art is decadent. Public education is an infringement. Public works are for other times, never now.

America of the past could build highways and railroads and a robust electrical grid. We cannot even keep them running. Of course we cannot keep them running: that was past-America. That past America had a magic that we modern Americans cannot match. Perhaps it was beholden to Satan, or to socialism, or merely to some grandiose vision of a better future, one with flying cars or diseases that could actually be cured, with proper application of effort. Whatever the case, past-America was wrong and stupid, and we know better.

We are told all the things America cannot do. We have yet to be told any vision of what we might still be able to do, or what hopes we should still retain, or why our children will be better off than we were, or why we ourselves will be better off than we were a scant few decades ago. Perhaps the very climate of the world will have changed, and the sky will be hotter, or the storms will be bigger, but none of those are things we can do anything about. Perhaps there will be nuclear disasters, or oil spills, or epidemics, or perhaps a city here or a city there will be leveled by some unforeseen catastrophe; we can be assured of it, in fact, but none of those things are things we can expect to respond to better next time than this time. Those are not, we are told, the tasks of a nation.
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: (Default)

Some people have commented on the seemingly heavy-handed politics of Monsters - the issue of border-crossing and the Wall and of course, Mexico being an "infected zone" that must be kept at bay - and the most awkward lines of dialogue are the ones that try to straight-forwardly discuss the idea of America building walls and sealing itself in, and how different America looks from the other side of the Wall, and we "forget all this" when we're in our "perfect suburban homes."  But that's extraneous stuff that's not at the heart of the movie.  Monsters goes beyond any current political issue.  It's really about coexistence/extinction/evolution, and the possibility of understanding an alien that isn't a humanoid little big-eyed bugger but looks like Cthulhu. 

Serious kudos to the decision not to make these aliens totally horrific, by the way.  They do kill people, but for them it must be like swatting at flies, and they do other things besides kill - they hang out in lakes with fallen aircraft, they moan plaintively, they lay their pretty glowing eggs in trees that the U.S. military then chemical-bombs, they turn off televisions, they communicate with each other through gentle touch and look like ethereal, celestial beings. 

It's sad that people have said nothing happens in this movie - I'm guessing because aliens aren't popping out every other minute and having fist fights with the main characters - because the movie shows that a great deal has happened since the alien-carrying space probe landed in Mexico and North America is continuing to change.  It's a bottom-up movie, which means we don't see the U.S. president frowning over the situation with his cabinet, and we don't see people living in underground shelters or totally extinguished or anything - because this is about how life went on in Mexico after the aliens landed.  One of my favorite bits was a five-second clip of a Mexican info-cartoon for children showing a happy little Dora-the-Explorer-like girl putting on a gas mask and standing in front of a wall, behind which a googly-eyed, unthreatening squid monster dances around.  Those kinds of details make Monsters remarkable.  

A Mexican port official explains that if you have money, you take the ferry to the U.S., bypassing the alien-infested infected zone, and if you don't have money, then you "go by land."  Third-world-first-world relations continue pretty much as they always have, with passport drama and bribe drama and "why do your friends have guns" drama, as an industry of illegal infected-zone crossing has developed.  In a lot of ways Monsters is more of an "Americans trapped outside America!" movie, but it's a Grade A example of that subgenre, neither making things unrealistically easy or unrealistically hard, and not making it about Evil Dangerous Mexicans threatening the Poor Innocent Americans.  But then there are moments where the movie rises above that subgenre - when the leads find an ancient pyramid that's been grown over by jungle, for example, leading you to wonder if our civilization will also be overtaken by these new lifeforms.  But who can say?  What little we see of the U.S. implies that the American people have an inflated, confused perception of the aliens' threat level, because they don't have to deal with the aliens on a daily basis.  But the people of Mexico have been living within spitting range of the infected zone for six years now (the wall protecting the U.S. from the infected zone is made of brick, and the one protecting Mexico from the infected zone is more like a very tall fence), and they're not going to leave because their work is here, their family is here, as a taxi driver explains.  They've also started to pick up some things about the aliens' life cycle and behavioral patterns, and the aforementioned friends with guns explain that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone - this doesn't quite work out because there's so little bridge of understanding between the "creatures" and the humans, but these scenes of altered, adjusted life - after the running and screaming is over, as the director says - is really what I watch sci-fi for, and Monsters hits this out of the park.  I bought this world.  Detailed, believable, and intense.  Nothing like the ridiculousness of Avatar.

Also sad are the comments I've read saying this is just a relationship movie.  I don't even know what to make of those comments, honestly.  So many sci fi movies feature heroes with love interests, but I doubt anyone said that Transformers was a relationship drama.  The two leads develop a bond that can't be consummated, because she's engaged.  Is it because they have actual conversations and think about their lives?  It's not as if the action stops so that they can stare into each other's eyes.  It's baffling to me that anyone could think there was too much relationship drama, but sort of reminds me of a couple discussions in SF/F lately about how if you include a sex scene or too much relationship stuff then a book somehow jumps out of SF/F and becomes romance - yet another "issue" that I cannot wrap my head around (does that mean Updike wrote romance?  it's laughable, the obsession with formulas that some SF/F fans have). 
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: (bottoms up)
Chuck Klosterman has this interpretation for why we're living in a zombie moment (I remarked upon this a couple nights ago, when I noticed two different zombie video games being advertised on TV):
In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.
I'm pretty sure zombie fiction is popular because it's an adrenaline rush to live vicariously through people who are slamming axes through other people-not-people's heads.  That had to be part of what it was for me.

Five years after 28 Days Later blew my mind, I think I'm exhausted of the genre.  I just don't think much can be done with it, after all.
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