Every year a group of bloggers and I write about fearless fictional women to celebrate International Women’s Day. Each of these bloggers will be featured on my blog this year. The blog-a-thon started with Michael of My Comic Relief and, after my post, will go on to feature Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2 and Jeff of The Imperial Talker. Here’s my contribution to the Blog-a-thon this year!
Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho opens in the warm home of a quaint British town, a home where main character Eloise basks in her vintage-inspired bedroom listening to music from the 60s. The opening scene is so reminiscent of life sixty years ago, in fact, that we may suspect that we are in 1961, not 2021, and because of Wright’s ability to establish a scene we may also feel like we’re temporarily inhabiting a much more idyllic time period than our own. Certainly, that is what Eloise/Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) imagines, the main character who we meet in the film’s beginning. Ellie has just been accepted to fashion school, and we get the impression, based on her excitement, that a glittering life in Great Britain’s fashion hub looks just as perfect, just as idyllic, as the 1960s do in her eyes. But sometimes attractive surface appearances mask a more insidious lurking reality—a fact which may be true of Soho in general, and is definitely true of Soho in the 60s, a reality that Ellie will soon find out.
I live diagonally across the street from a cemetery. On my more or less daily quarantine walks (note: I started writing this piece in mid-March 2020) I circle the suburb across the street from me, and I consider, often, walking into that sprawling, silent space of the graveyard, navigating the maze of granite and marble while I both recognize the (ephemeral, fleeting) moment and admit, to myself, that a headstone that will stand in for all the components of my life is my irrevocable fate. I’ve dreamt about graveyards multiple times; in my dreams they represent the bleak and macabre, but also the unavoidable. As a child I used to bemoan not just my inevitable death but eternity; the prospect of endlessness was too frightening to fully accept. I believe, now, that time is a construct that makes life more comprehensible to finite beings; to that end, eternity is less the condemnation of disastrous endlessness and more a contrived concept that we use to try to understand the workings of a universal consciousness that is always beyond our complete grasp. Of course, I hadn’t considered all that around age seven or eight, when my mind was reeling with a problem that resisted a solution: an eternity of anything sounded awful, but there was no alternative to eternity. Even if humanity disappeared (a terrifying thought), time would still go on – and there was at least some possibility, I reasoned, that my soul would have to experience eternal time. If not, eternal nothingness sounded even scarier.
Before I started studying horror as a path toward getting a doctorate, I’d never heard of Tod Browning’s Freaks. In fact, I’d only vaguely heard of Tod Browning. I’d seen his 1931 rendition of Dracula, featuring Bela Lugosi, one fall night quite a few years ago, when Tinseltown was doing a double feature of Browning’s Dracula, followed by the far superior Spanish version of the film shot the same year (on the same set, but at night, with a different director). I suppose back then I thought of myself as a bit of a horror connoisseur, but perhaps I was basking in my own ego – and that ego was eclipsing all my knowledge of what I didn’t know. Because what I’ve learned since I started reading about horror is that Tod Browning is considered a central auteur in the horror field. In terms of horror cinema, he’s easily one of the genre’s founders, and with good (varying) reasons. Continue reading “My First Viewing of Freaks (1932)”→
Michael and I were just sitting around on a slow Saturday afternoon, without much on the agenda. While horror movies tend to be night-time fare for us, the feeling of an afternoon movie on a warm June day just sort of says summer vacation (present summer vacation for me, imminent summer vacation for Michael), so we decided on a 12:10 showing of Ma. My excitement about the film was considerable, but my trepidation about the film regarded the possibility that all of the really shocking, provocative elements of the film may have already been showcased in the trailer – I thought. I was prepared – similar to the situation I experienced with Brightburn –to see a film that didn’t offer much beyond the preview attractions. And while it is true – we get a glimpse of a lot of gore before the movie – there’s so much more to the film than the previews indicate, and Octavia Spencer captures a complex, layered, troubled character with unquestionable perfection. It’s hard to call Ma the best horror movie of the spring, with gems like Us and Pet Sematary gracing the screen, but it can certainly compete. As a heads-up, I have all but given up on writing spoiler-free reviews, so my apologies, but spoilers will abound in this piece.
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.
It is just a
screen. I tell myself. Nothing
but some actors playing out a ghost story on the screen. You’ll be 35 years old in a couple months—you
can do this. My self-assurance
slowly lapses into condescension as I secretly lambast myself for being so afraid. After all, do I not write on a horror
blog? Am I not focusing my dissertation
on some element of the horror genre? Some
of this stuff is, indeed, second nature to me –werewolves and vampires have
never scared me, and I’ve seen The
Shining at least fifty times by now—but something about a well-made ghost movie,
one that I haven’t already watched on repeat, really has the ability to de-stabilize
my zen. With the right directing and producing
– the appropriate manufacture of jump scares – I can find myself fighting the
urge (and sometimes giving into the urge) to cover my ears and eyes as I’m
watching a particularly suspenseful horror film. It’s rare that I react this way, but it does
occur—which, I might mention, is another reason I love the horror genre. For as many of these films as I’ve seen, the right
one still has the power to scare the $#!+ out of me.
As I’ve been off working hard at life, Hollywood has been working even harder to create a deliciously rich amalgam of Spring horror movies and to thus to pull me back toward my long-neglected blog. The list that Michael and I started composing after watching horror movie previews turned out to be too noteworthy to ignore. Couple that with the fact that I’m feeling chatty lately (more in the mood to shout from a roof top, less in the mood to crouch in a corner) and you have a recipe for my first self-composed blog post in exactly three months. I don’t claim this to be an exhaustive list of all-things-horror being released in the next few months, but I’m trying to be fairly thorough with the rather abundant supply of scary that’s headed toward the theaters. The first two entries on this list are films I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, and the rest are films that haven’t been released yet, but that I’ll be sure to see when they are released. For your ease-of-reading, I’ve arranged the films by release date, accompanied by trailers. My discussion, of course, will be slightly more thorough for the two films I’ve already seen. In any case, here they are: five films to consider if you need a (decidedly terrifying, unnerving, exhilarating) movie night any time soon.
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
When I was thirteen, my family and I took a trip to Florida. I certainly wasn’t too old to love Disney World (I’m still not) but I was most excited to visit Universal Studios. After all, commercials for Universal Studious basically consumed cable tv stations in the mid 90’s, and my imagination took flight when I saw the commercial for the Jaws ride. Out of the depths of murky nothingness, a giant shark rises beside passengers in a boat, its face partially distorted by the flamboyant, spasmodic flashing lights that eclipse its visage and make the shark look more than a little surreal, and infinitely menacing. I was simultaneously horrified and titillated by the prospect of actually riding the Jaws ride and experiencing the enormous, foreboding shark for myself. Continue reading “In the Jaws of a Classic: An analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws”→