Well, the long-awaited evening arrived. I’d been looking forward to Brightburn with at least tenuously high expectations since Michael told me about the premise oh-so-many-months ago. The film’s situation sounded fascinating – an inversion of the Superman mythos, in which Superman is embodied in an evil 12-year-old child – and the previews looked plenty scary. Couple that with the fact that I really like Elizabeth Banks – and she’s one of the main forces behind Shrill, a show I’ve been singing the praises of a la twitter for months – and this was definitely a film I had to see when it came out. “How about we see it Saturday” Michael suggested sweetly. I replied, “I’m going on Thursday night when I get off work, whether you go with me or not.” So, I’m not quite sure if I would have put my money where my mouth was – I don’t go to the movies alone much, and I hadn’t asked anyone else along – but luckily, Michael capitulated, and after a quick four hour shift at Torrid, I met him at the coffee shop across the street and we zipped to Tinseltown, where we were two of six people in the theater to see one of the first screenings of Brightburn.Continue reading “Feel the (Bright)Burn: Strengths and Shortcomings of the Inverted Superman Mythos”
Well, unsurprisingly, it’s three in the morning and I’ve decided to write a blog post. You see, I was reading On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears by Stephen T. Asma, and his writing is so fluid, his stories so interesting, his points so insightful, that I got inspired to write. In general, I find that as I read more for my comprehensive exams, I tend to get so enthusiastic that I feel I absolutely must release some of my excitement through writing. And, I have the perfect fodder for a blog post this evening. Michael and I went to see a showing of Escape Room tonight, and we both really enjoyed the film. Given that I’ve been reading about monsters and horror non-stop over break, my mind started playing with the movie in light of what I’ve been reading, and I jotted down some thoughts earlier. So, here’s what will probably be a fairly short little post on Escape Room. I’m not one for rating or grading movies, so while I won’t give it a rating, I’ll say it’s an interesting example of a horror archetype we’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s a genuinely engaging film with (my favorite!) mostly likable characters! As such, I highly suggest you check it out. But…I’m no good at writing without spoilers, so those will inevitably follow this paragraph. Beware!!Continue reading “Escaping the Atypical Monster in Escape Room”
It was another day of mild to moderate chaos at the local video store where I work. Michael came in to procure movies that we would watch later that evening. He held up a few options in front of me and prompted me to pick the one in which I was the most interested. I immediately selected The Howling. Having never seen the film, I’d only heard it alluded to briefly in Scream, and I knew only that it was a canonical werewolf movie. I wasn’t really expecting to be scared, and to be honest, it didn’t scare me…that much. The film was a lot more well-made and in general a lot creepier than I’d anticipated. That aside, I kind of found myself wracking my brain for some sort of way to break the film apart or put it into perspective. As I watched I scribbled down notes, but I wasn’t getting the insights I’d hoped for. Despite my difficulties really analyzing this film, I think I’ll discuss in general why I like this movie, with an emphasis on the fact that it inverts the typical werewolf movie “rules” in a couple of ways and consistently highlights its own fixation on “the body” or “the flesh.” Continue reading “A Howl for the Howling”
So, a brief glance at my blog informs me that I haven’t written in almost two months. Since I like to post a weekly post, that should be some indicator about how well I’m juggling my time this semester (translation: not well at all.) However, Spring Break has (happily) descended upon me, and with Spring Break comes at least a little time to breath, and some horror-movie filled nights. Now, I’ll credit Michael: Invasion of the Body Snatchers was actually his idea. We were strolling the video store, when he mentioned the title. However, this turned out to be a fortuitous idea. More than some of the other films we’ve watched over break, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a fairly rich film that yields a lot of fun, exciting stuff to write about. In fact, I have many pages of notes, so I’m not sure where I’ll start. We shall find out! Continue reading “Invasion of the Body Snatchers Invades my Spring Break”
In a rare turn of events, I got off work early today (woo-hoo!) and had to decide how to occupy my time. I was thinking about a post I could write without re-reading anything, or re-watching anything – so I could just start writing for the sake of writing, and get a post up today before my plans tonight. And it occurred to me that while I’ve talked about evil a lot on this blog, there is a rich pantheon of evil horror characters I’ve never discussed.
One thing is for certain: not all villains are made alike, and not all behave similarly. I thought about this when considering the difference, in Star Wars, between a Vader and a Palpatine. Vader becomes pure evil, but he becomes evil because he falls; the prequels tell us that he was once the promising Jedi, Annakin Skywalker. And ultimately, Vader is redeemed. Palpatine, on the other hand, is more or less bad to the bone, as the cliché song goes. So I started thinking about all the evil horror characters who are insane, who are sympathetic, who have at least strands of humanity that sometimes surmount the darkness and show themselves a bit. And then, I thought of the horror characters that don’t have any of that – no really human tendencies, no back story, few redeeming qualities. For the purposes of this post, these are the characters I’ll label “truly evil,” and I’ve chosen five of them. I couldn’t put these five characters in order, because they’re all pretty damn malicious, but here’s the list, nonetheless, with my explanation: My five favorite truly evil horror characters: Continue reading “Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains”
I was driving from Indiana PA to Erie one night not a few weeks ago, my mind enmeshed in rapid succession of thoughts. It was dark outside, and I noticed little except for fleeting, flickering glimpses of surreal roadside images, ambiguous shadow outlines in the night, as my car coasted across 422, and then across 1-79, headed north. My CD player has been broken for months, so I was flipping through the channels, trying to settle on a song even vaguely satisfying, a melody that didn’t wink out into a barrage of static thirty seconds after I found it. Reliable radio stations are difficult to come by in some parts of Western Pennsylvania.
I’ve always enjoyed titling pieces on this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a more appropriate title for a movie. And I say that because when you walk into the theater to see It Comes at Night, I’d highly advise you to surrender all expectations. At a glance, this suggestion may come across as a criticism, which is not my intent. I actually really invested my attention and energy into this film as I watched it, and I commend its originality, especially in a sometimes murky sea of similarly constructed modern horror films. I have nothing scathing to say about it, but I think someone sitting in front of me and to my left said out loud as the credits were rolling, “What the fuck was that?” To be sure, the type of story you’re expecting from the fairly elusive trailer is not the story you’re likely to receive. Even the title of the movie seems crafted to intentionally deceive. At the end of the day, because I always like to define horror broadly, I’ll say that yes, I’d situate It Comes At Night in the horror genre, but in many ways I found it highly unlike the horror I’m used to. Bearing that in mind, I can’t help but talk about the film without giving away more than the trailer intends to reveal. I also have a tricky habit of just saying whatever I want about a film on this blog, which often entails including spoilers (sorry). So I’m not sure how much of the plot this post will ultimately reveal as I sit down to write, but know that by reading it you’re going to have information that the trailers don’t give you. I will give you more warning about major spoilers. With that in mind, continue if you dare. Continue reading “It Comes at Night – And You’ll See None of This Coming”
With the mass-produced barrage of horror movies available to us – sometimes formulaic, sometimes cheaply made – it can be tempting for the jaded horror-goer to presume that nothing is truly scary anymore. I offer no new argument, after all, when I contend that in our increasingly sensationalized visual culture, we become (or at least risk becoming) desensitized to so many horrible things, immune to so much tragedy. It takes far more, at least from a visual standpoint, to scare us than it did sixty years ago (a fact that will be evident to anyone who compares The Haunting to an Eli Roth film). This may not be the case universally, but it’s a general rule. And still, scary movies are manufactured, and the passionate horror fan does encounter, every now and then, a film that is particularly, unexpectedly scary. Such was my experience with the film Sinister, released about two weeks before Halloween in 2012 (although I saw it much later ). Granted, Sinister is not as artistically scintillating as my two favorite horror movies of reference – The Shining and It Follows – but it’s still a well-made, incredibly unsettling film. When I told Michael I wanted to write a piece about it, he reassured me that he wouldn’t be upset if I re-watched it without him; one time was enough for him. So I sat down tonight, in my little Indiana apartment, with a focusing question in mind: What makes this film so scary? While I may discuss other things in the post below, I am particularly interested in exploring possible answers to this question. Continue reading “What Makes Sinister So Scary?”
While much of the world sits in judgement, furrowing its eyebrows at M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, it’s a film that’s near and dear to my heart. Significantly, I didn’t even realize that was the case until I embarked on a Shyamal-a-thon this week and revisited many of his films after years of separation. The Village, released in 2004, came out when I was a wayward sophomore in college. In stark contrast to popular opinion, I liked the film so much I bought a copy of the DVD (which I didn’t watch much after that). Despite my love of film and literature, my memory can be shoddy and I don’t always remember movies after I’ve seen them. The Village, however, lingered in my mind long after the initial viewing. As Michael and I watched it yesterday, I found myself able to predict almost every plot turn despite the time that’s lapsed since I last saw it. A film has to be good, at least in my eyes, for me to remember it that well. So I guess this piece is an attempt to defend the film – or to share why I like it – by pointing out the questions it raises, the tensions it explores, and why I think it’s so damn clever. As per usual with M. Night, his tricky surprise ending will be revealed to give me full range of discussion and analysis, so brace yourself for spoilers. Continue reading “It Takes a Village (to Lambast a Filmmaker)”
Michael and I have been talking lately about the phenomenon of hating. Of course, hate is prevalent in all sects of life, and more problematic in some sects than others. But when it comes to the arts, and films specifically, people love to hate. Witness the new female-driven Ghostbusters film: it’s brilliant and funny and original, but people get this weird high off slamming it on the internet. The same goes for the Star Wars prequels: any attempt to re-visit the highly successful plot of the first three films was certain to be met with some contempt, because our proclivity to love has an opposite proclivity to hate. And I think the same observation could be made with M. Night Shyamalan. Continue reading “Sensing Brilliance in the Sixth Sense”