Showing posts with label french horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label french horror. Show all posts

Monday, June 23, 2014

Notes on modern French horror

A rambling re-post from 2010. 




Am I the only person who feels sorry for almost everyone in modern French horror films? I can't be, but at the same time I am questioning why these films are so effective for inducing sympathy.

Most of the modern French horror films that have been released in America share similar features. High Tension, Them, Inside, Frontier(s), Martyrs, and Calvaire are not long films. Not that most American horror films are long, but French horror uses their compact time frames to the advantage of good pacing, which is not the case with American horror (even if both Martyrs and High Tension get a bit clunky with their pacing towards the end). High Tension, Them, Inside, and Martyrs all use the scenario of home invasion for horror, even if Martyrs flips it, then re-flips it because it is the film's protagonists who are doing the invading. Frontier(s) and Calvaire are rural horror films where the protagonists are stranded in unfamiliar territory. Inside and Frontier(s) both feature the terrorization of pregnant women as well as Paris riots in the background (because, as a French professor once told me, "the French love to protest anything that upsets them", something also seen in the 2004 Chris Marker film Chats Perches).

There is not a lot of exposition to these films. Martyrs, yet again, is the only film with much exposition at all, and is the only film that uses flashbacks throughout the film. The uniting theme amongst all these films is random acts of violence (although High Tension and Inside, with their twist endings, can be debated on how random their home invasions and violence were). But with little exposition comes little character development, and it becomes not unlike the majority of American horror films, where we are just trying to watch people in terrible situations survive. Then why feel sorry for these characters? There is a natural sympathy towards the protagonists of Inside, Martyrs, and Frontier(s). These people are shown from the beginning to already be in horrible situations. In Inside, a pregnant woman gets into a car accident and her husband is killed; in Martyrs, a young girl escapes a torture facility and is put into an orphanage where she is still haunted; and Frontier(s), a group of friends escapes violent riots in Paris where the pregnant girl's brother is mortally wounded, and she has to leave him behind at a hospital because he urges her to run and escape the police. But the people in High Tension, Them, and Calvaire are just living normal lives before they are thrusted into bizarre, violent, and dangerous situations. High Tension of course is notable for being the first French horror import to America as well as its astoundingly stupid/borderline offensive twist ending. But the basic premise is two young women are terrorized by a killer while they are out of Paris for the weekend studying at the home of the second girl's family. Them is about a couple who leaves Paris for their weekend home in the woods and is terrorized by a mysterious group, apparently kids. It has a bleak ending, to say the least.

Calvaire, which isn't discussed as much as the other films I've listed, is just strange. Good, but strange and quite unsettling at times. The film is about a low-level, mediocre singer and entertainer who performs at retirement homes and other similar places. While on the way to a music festival of some sort before Christmas where he hopes to be noticed by a producer, his van breaks down and he is forced to stay in an lonely inn run by a former stand-up comedian whose wife left him many years ago. The singer walks around the village one day and comes across a group of men fucking a pig. If this isn't unhinged enough, the innkeeper becomes convinced that the singer is his returned wife, who was also a singer, and that he must keep him there by any means necessary.  The singer finds no solace because the other people in the town, which seems to consist entirely of males, also believes that he is the innkeeper's wife. I am of the belief that the innkeeper's wife gave everyone in the small town syphilis, but nothing is said as to why everyone in the town is insane.

The single common denominator between all of the films is that their protagonists are all adults. Even the clearly young protagonists of High TensionFrontier(s) and Martyrs are people in their early 20s, or at least no younger than 19. America and Japan seem to be the only countries where their horror films predominantly feature teenagers. Perhaps it is an age thing, but the older I get, the easier it is for me to sympathize with people who are closer to my age. Or maybe it is because most modern American horror films feature characters that are impossible to sympathize with or care about. It is as if the insufferable jerk amp is at 11. I understand that this is done so that the audience roots for the death of certain unlikable characters, such as Trent in the Friday the 13th re-make. And it isn't just the 00's films, although jerks in horror have gotten worse since the 70s or 80s. But it is at the point now where I find myself surprised when I feel pity or sympathy for a character in an American horror film. I've re-watched a few films in recent months, and I liked and felt bad for the group of kids in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as everyone in Wes Craven's New Nightmare; and despite knowing the ending because I re-watch the film almost every other year, I feel bad for Angela in Sleepaway Camp. There is the scene where Ricky's friend is playing "Guess who?" with Angela and covering her eyes and she answers "Burt Reynolds!" that I find to be sweet and endearing. But these are all films from the 80s and early 90s, and for various reasons, while not holding a rabid allegiance, I've always preferred the Nightmare on Elm Street series over Friday the 13th. If I have to be pressed, the only film from this past decade where I felt some pity for the characters is the House of Wax re-make, with maybe some of the kids in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane placing second. I don't know why House of Wax sticks out, although it is not a bad film. It's not like it had great characterization, but with the exception of Chad Michael Murray's character (and this may be a problem with separating the actor from his roles - although the actor seems like a douchebag, and the CW/WB has been typecasting him as the "bad boy" since the Dawson's Creek and Gilmore Girls days), I thought the characters were decent and fairly normal kids. They were friends, and there wasn't a lot of backbiting except from Chad Michael Murray's character. Yes, even Paris Hilton's character was likable, even if it was a sort of parallel-universe version of her, where some of her known or perceived personality traits were there, but in a character who was just upper-middle class instead of an heiress.

I am not sure there is a direct answer as to why the characters, and even some of the villains in modern French horror films are easy to sympathize with. Overall, they seem more human and the French do not feel the need as much to stick to the archetypes that come from American horror and slashers, whereas in America, we built them and deconstruct them only to make slightly different versions of the same thing to adapt to changing times, ad nauseam. There's an odd comfort in the archetypes, sure, but at the same time even the attempts at deconstruction are becoming tedious, especially when at best, there are only small changes in archetypes or expectations being made.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La Horde/The Horde, 28 Days Later, and the division of heroines

Repost from 2011.



Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology || Jennifer K. Stuller || 2010
28 Days Later || Dir. Danny Boyle || 2003 || UK
La Horde/The Horde || Dirs. Benjamin Rocher & Yannick Dahan || 2009 || France

I recently finished a book by Jennifer K. Stuller called Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology. Despite the somewhat academic-y title, it's a breezy read, primarily because Stuller never takes sides in the debates over whether female heroines should be nurturing and sexual while still being protective, or not (i.e., the lone wolf stereotype); at least when these debates are brought up. The book of course covers Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena: Warrior Princess, Alias, The Sarah Jane Chronicles, blaxploitation films; and in a radical turn, Dark Angel, the series starring Jessica Alba. Most of these shows and films did allow the main female characters to have romantic and sexual relationships while still fighting for good. So it is only when discussing these shows or movies that Stuller takes the former side rather than the latter.

This crossover has maybe not quite yet made it into film, perhaps because TV is episodic and you get to know characters of the course of several seasons, if you're lucky; and of course you want to see characters develop relationships with each other in some form. When 28 Days Later came out nine years ago, feminist zinester friends of mine seemed to bemoan the fact that once at the military compound and/or she falls in love with Jim, Selena is not much of a fighter anymore and is made fun of by the military men when she attempts to. She is forced to shift over to protect herself and the much younger Hannah over the dreadful fate that looms over them (i.e., rape and forced motherhood). The problem with this argument is that it ignored the fact that Selena was not a superhuman warrior, she was not prepped to become one, and she was not trained by any secret force. She is just a human who had to put up a very cold facade to deal with an ugly situation. The only hint we're given to Selena's life pre-outbreak is that she "qualifies as a chemist!" While I'm sure she would put up a very good fight if she had to battle a dozen or so military officers with a machete, she would probably be defeated. In the scene where she and Mark give Jim the exposition in the subway convenience store, she is the only one who does not share what she had to go through to survive (the actress who played Selena, Naomie Harris, said that she made up the backstory that Selena had to kill her entire family when they became infected, including a 3-year-old brother). This doesn't explain why the recently convalescent Jim sprightly takes down the military group when he is a whisper-thin thing of a man, but it is Jim's story. In battle mode, he's like the wind, and perhaps uses his smallness to his advantage. Then again, he was a bike courier and those dudes are tough. There was an alternate ending or two for Jim. One being that he died from his gunshot wound, the other being a completely alternate storyline where Jim gives himself up by transfusing all his blood to the infected Frank, bypassing the entire military compound storyline. The latter was not shot, just storyboarded.

In zombie films, there is a divide. It can be pinpointed to the two different portrayals of Barbara in the 1968 and 1990 versions of Night of the Living Dead. 1968 Barbara, as portrayed by Judith O'Dea, was completely useless, but dealt with the new situation as some people would, which would be to have a nervous breakdown. Yeah, it's cool that in 2011 people are so inured to the fictionalized zombie world that they think that they could survive if zombies or something similar were to actually happen, but it's just a thought. See civilization and everyone you know fall apart or die, and realize that you actually have never held a weapon in your life, and we'll see what happens. 1990 Barbara, as portrayed by professional stuntwoman Patricia Tallman, becomes the hardcore version of Barbara. She breaks down at first, but becomes an almost cold and emotionless fighter. Tony Todd's Ben is more emotional in this film - he is more prone to crying. This isn't to say that Barbara won't break down later, but she shoots a fellow survivor in cold blood just because he is an asshole. There is no middle ground with the Barbaras in these two films.

Aurore in The Horde is closer to 1990 Barbara, despite being a whisper-thin (and braless) thing of a French woman. However, unlike Selena, she has had combat training because she is a cop. The Horde revolves around a small group of corrupt cops who invade a rundown building in the projects outside of Paris, seeking revenge upon a group of immigrant drug dealers who killed a fellow cop who was undercover. Not too long after the cops come upon the dealers, they realize a zombie infection has broken out. Not just within the dealers' apartment and the building, but also in Paris. The remaining dealers and cops must band together to try to find a way out of the building alive. There is a high level of distrust going on, especially from the dealers, as well as Aurore. Aurore early on is yelled at for crying, and the blame is placed on her for having the undercover cop killed, since she told him that she was pregnant with his child. It is implied that she did this just to mess with his head. She is given immediate care of the other wounded cop who has been shot in the leg.

Aurore and the wounded cop are soon separated from the rest of the group. It is soon displayed that Aurore is not someone you want to trifle with. She kills a zombie by repeatedly punching it in the head and body, then overturning a refrigerator onto it. She nearly kills the other cop, after he expresses some sympathy for her. The plot, character, and motivations in The Horde are not the most well-written. We don't know why Aurore suddenly flips and turns into a mercenary. It is likely that she has taken a lot of shit over the years for being a female cop, but why flip now? Even after the other characters notice the change in her, they still treat her as someone to be protected, when they perhaps should be more afraid that she will kill them all (and the group is soon small enough where she could). She particularly has it out for the leader of the dealers, Adewale, who she believes murdered the father of her child. The most reasonable member of both groups, Adewale is a Nigerian immigrant and refugee from the violence there, along with his more tempestuous younger brother Bol. He is the only member of the group who seems to have some sort of respect for the dead. Yet, he tends to patronize Aurore by calling her "dear", even after she has threatened his life.

The Horde is a pretty good film. Not as good as I thought it would be, but better than most. It is interesting because of the characters of Adewale and Aurore, as well as the fact that the characters tend to fight the zombies in hand-to-hand combat. Sometimes this is because there are no weapons, sometimes it is by choice. Aurore especially seems to thrive in crushing zombie heads. However, it is frustrating to watch the characters learn, then almost immediately forget that the zombies stay down if you shoot them in the head (not unlike the doctor in The Beyond). The zombies run in this one, adding to the tension. They also strangely hoard bodies. These are all interesting elements, but not enough is done with them. It is as if the filmmakers did not know whether to make a zombie action film or something a bit more human like the old Romero movies or the 28...Later series.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My New Favorite Bad Movie: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls (1987)

Repost from 2011.
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Dir. Peter B. Harsone || 1987 || France

Revenge of the Living Dead Girls is perhaps my new favorite bad movie. I have been watching some Jean Rollin films on Netflix Watch Instantly this summer, and RotLDG is likely just a trashier retread of his films (also lacking the atmosphere and melancholy that are in Rollin's films), with perhaps only a vague knowledge of how film zombies typically work. Granted, European zombies have always been a little different. The zombies in Italy's Nightmare City and Burial Ground: Nights of Terror work together to terrorize and catch their human prey, sometimes even using tools and weapons. A running theme through the Rollin films I have watched so far and RotLDG is that the dead were brought back to life via toxic spills, so there is the element of environmentalism to these films. RotLDG is part corporate espionage thriller, part zombie film, and part revenge movie that is almost constantly on the verge of turning into a softcore porn.

The version on Netflix Watch Instantly claims that it is the "Special Uncut Edition", which cannot be true. The film only clocks in at 73 minutes and the last 5-10 minutes of the film are extremely rushed and haphazardly put together; introducing not only Catholic priests who believe the zombie girls are the work of the devil, but random townspeople who are out to destroy the three zombie girls. There are disparities to how the zombie girls look (the main one has full makeup that covers her hands, while the sidekicks do not seem to warrant the full treatment and have living human hands), disparities to how they move (slow, then fast) - and such disparities are not limited to just the three zombie girls. The humans in the film seem to suffer from intelligence and motivation issues that vary at any given moment. In one of the weirder scenes of the film, our supposed human hero who is a chemist that works for the corporation, arrives to the house of his boss because he is having an affair with his wife. Little does he know that the zombie girls just dispatched her (for the zombies seem to run on the old adage, "I'll kill your family, then you"). Our chemist, not realizing anything is wrong, proceeds to drink one glass of champagne, gives a short monologue that seems to revolve around the fantasy that he and the boss' middle-aged wife are newlyweds and she's a virgin (it includes the line "I'm going to caress my expert hands all over your virgin body")...and he fucks the main zombie girl. For the rest of the film, he only has a vague notion of what may have happened and it's apparently not that big of a deal. A messed up hand that's becoming infected? No big deal! Your cute, but dumb wife manages to miscarry her near full-term pregnancy and/or the fetus and uterus turns itself inside-out? Crazy and disgusting; but since this comes in the last 5-10 minutes of the film, this is also no big deal. I know everyone has different tolerance levels for alcohol of any sort, but one glass of champagne typically does not lead to necrophilia.

It is sometimes easy to forget as an American just how good the Europeans are with making trashy films. Revenge of the Living Dead Girls does suffer from some pacing issues, which are basically most of the corporate espionage parts. The gorier and trashier parts (such as the zombie girls having a murderous lesbian sex scene with the prostitute in the film) are somewhat sprinkled throughout the film almost as an afterthought, as if the filmmakers and editors knew that the audience would get bored. Since I cannot find even a solid page on Wikipedia on this film, it is hard to tell if there are other versions of this film out there and if this is one of the many European horror films that were cut up several times in the 1980s and have several different edits to please whatever restrictions a particular country may have against gore, violence, necrophilia, hinted male rape and lesbian zombie group sex/rape onto a female human. I would be interested in hearing any information anyone may have on this movie. I do believe that there has to be a slightly better version of this film out there (and yes, the ending is somewhat bananas in the scheme of film zombies and what they can do).


George Romero did not in fact invent swimming and/or pool zombies. The odd and kind of cool thing about this scene is that the main zombie (the middle one) keeps splashing her hand in the water either as a sign of impatience, to signal the other two zombies as to when to attack, or to just see if the humans would hear. It is at least a sign that someone was trying.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Flesh for Frankenstein & Blood for Dracula (a.k.a. Andy Warhol's Frankenstein & Andy Warhol's Dracula) (1974)


Dir. Paul Morrissey || 1974 || US-Italy-France & Italy-France  

It is advisable to watch Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula back-to-back if possible. It is how they were made and both have the same main three actors (Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Arno Juerging) in similar roles - Kier as Dr. Frankenstein, then Dracula; Dallesandro as the proletariat servant-gigolo, and Juerging as Frankenstein and Dracula's assistants. Although the films appear to take place in different time periods, they also seem to be similar in atmosphere...and that atmosphere is bizarre, trashy, and campy. These are not adaptations to watch if you are looking for faithful adaptations of Frankenstein or Dracula. Both of these films seem to take place in some realm either before or after those stories, or almost a netherworld just outside of the original stories. It is a world that takes some adjustment because while it is laughable in Frankenstein that an actor with an Italian accent and Joe Dallesandro with his heavy New York accent are supposed to be lifelong friends who grew up together in some European countryside; by the time you get to Dracula you just kind of have to accept that Dallesandro is going to stick out like a sore thumb. Udo Kier takes some adjusting as well, although he fits into these films easier than Dallesandro, especially Dracula. For at least the first half-hour of Frankenstein, I could not shake the notion that Tommy Wiseau has been fooling us all along and is just doing a very extended impersonation of a young Udo Kier in Frankenstein. Except Udo Kier actually seems to be mentally present in his scenes, and not in space like Wiseau. 

While Flesh for Frankenstein ends on a note similar to Twitch of the Death Nerve, I find Blood for Dracula more interesting and prefer it a little more. In Blood for Dracula, Dracula and his assistant have traveled to the Italian countryside so that Dracula can find a bride, preferably a virgin. They take up with a family with four beautiful daughters who have fallen on hard times due to their father's gambling problems. They are able to keep their villa, but the daughters must do the farming. They only keep one servant - a handyman played by Dallesandro of course.  And of course the mother is insistent on allowing Dracula and his assistant to stay with them, although almost all of the daughters find him to be creepy and too sickly to marry. The family has two virginal daughters who are actually virgins; and two wild daughters who lie about being virgins, because they have both been having sex with the handyman, and apparently with each other. The wild daughters are steadfast about their lying, even when Dracula tries to insist that he does not mind if they are not virgins and that it is just something his family insists on. Dracula  finds himself poisoned as soon as he tries to drink the blood of the two wilder daughters.

What I find interesting about Blood for Dracula is that the daughters' situation or prospects is beset on all sides. Dallesandro's Socialist handyman character insists that the aristocracy is dying and perhaps the girls should learn how to work; which is not a terrible idea, except for the fact that Dallesandro's character is a rampant misogynist and a rapist. Blood for Dracula takes place in the early 20th Century, not the 19th, so it is a bit odd that there is the insistence of keeping up appearances with the mother, although it is often remarked that the family has not had visitors in years. If that is the case, then there is no need to worry about shocking society if the daughters do not marry an aristocrat or a wealthy man. The other side to this is that other than perhaps the youngest daughter, the daughters seem to be settled into the idea that they should marry up (just up, not middle or down or even for love really) and that there are no other options because that is how they were raised. The father (played by director Vittorio de Sica) leaves the film early on for London, leaving the mother and daughters to fend for themselves (i.e., remain willfully ignorant of how dangerous Dracula is). Only the handyman catches on to Dracula's nature which leads to the gory and over-the-top fight sequence at the end of the film. And Dracula is not a romantic hero, he is a conservative traditionalist and a rapist as well considering that he attacks the daughters often in mid-conversation. While one could find the end of Blood for Dracula a bit more hopeful than the ending to Flesh for Frankenstein (or see it as the Socialist/proletariat killing off one more crumbling aristocrat), I do not believe that the survivors are much better off with the handyman. The film seems to be more concerned with the Socialist argument with just a bit of subtext thrown in to acknowledge the changing times, but it does not appear that it wants to give the female characters in the film too much choice in the matter. 


And this is just creepy. 
(I am not commenting much on the hand that Andy Warhol had in making these movies, because it seems as if it was in name only; besides the presence of Joe Dallesandro, who was one of his people. If one was expecting a set of films with pop-art sensibilities, they would be somewhat surprised that both films were shot in neutral tones. I guess better to see the eventual blood, gore, and Udo Kier's blue eyes with.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What I have been watching lately: Jean Rollin, Red State, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story...

Repost from November 2011.
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I should be working on papers right now, although I took an extension on them for Winter Break because of intermittent severe headaches and vision problems leftover from my concussion in October. I have no control over when they happen, and unfortunately they keep happening when I want or need to write or do research. My papers, as I predicted in October, are on Jean Rollin, classical French film theory, and I also have one on Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon that I have been sitting on, unfinished, since the day before my concussion. I have been on a French film and surrealist bender this quarter. I have been watching a lot of Jean Rollin's films this year and this past month. While my paper will only be focusing on The Rape of the Vampire and The Night of the Hunted (one of his three "zombie" films), I have still been watching anything of his that interests me or that I can get my hands on. The only one of his films that I cannot recommend at any level is Zombie Lake, which oddly enough, is his fairly straight zombie picture...I say "fairly straight" because it does have a story line where one of the Nazi zombies has reunited with his pre-teen daughter...although the Nazis were assassinated during of course, World War II by the villagers, and the film seems to take place in 1980, which makes no sense if the daughter is ten years old. Zombie Lake was also one of Rollin's lowest budgeted pictures, and that's saying something if you have ever seen any of his movies or read much on his films. It is one of the few Rollin pictures where you can tell that it seemed impossible to make the most of what little money there was.


Yeah, I don't know either. At least the Italians made their zombies look all arts & craftsy, what with the papier mache faces.

I think I discovered Rollin at a good point, considering for the past couple of years or so, I have been quite bored with horror at times. While Rollin has his obsessions that anyone will notice if they watch enough of his films, including how entrenched he is in surrealism well after its time as an art movement was over; I like how unconventional his films are. His endings are rarely happy and even if certain films end relatively well for the characters, there is still a sense of melancholia or even a looming sense of death. 

Speaking of unconventional horror films, I watched Red State last weekend. I am not a Kevin Smith megafan. I liked his movies when I was a teenager, but now I tend to see every other one if it sounds kind of interesting. Red State is not a perfect film - it is not subtle in its message, it's final message is kind of mixed, Melissa Leo's acting was over the top, and the opening scene at the high school bugs me to no end because that is not how a public school teacher acts in any era; but it is unconventional. It is almost like Full Metal Jacket how abruptly it switches gears, tone, and the characters we follow. Who we expect to live just based on horror conventions, likeability, or even logic is defied. The only other good thing I can say about the film is that John Goodman is awesome in it. I have missed seeing John Goodman in movies.

I have been watching a lot of bad TV this past week since last Monday night I had the worst headache I have had since hitting my head. My doctor says it is okay if I watch stupid things. So I was bedridden for a couple of days watching nothing but the second season of The Walking Dead so far and whatever episodes of American Horror Story I could find on Hulu. 

I was not a total fan of the first season of The Walking Dead. I maintain that the first episode was wonderful. But if I have to remain diplomatic at some level, I will say that the even numbered episodes were terrible, while the odd ones were better. Other than Rick being Sheriff Exposition for the first five minutes of the second season premiere, the first episode of this season was pretty good. Unfortunately, it has become tedious and like a spinning tire*. I look forward to this week's episode if it means opening up the zombie barn and maybe losing a few more characters. The series likes to project things, then take several episodes, if perhaps another season to get to the issue and/or resolve it. Lori's pregnancy for example. What is being projected this year from the main characters and secondary or even tertiary characters is Rick's leadership, the issue of neglect, and the idea of splitting up the group. Shane and Andrea, obviously. Daryl in last week's episode (and Daryl truly needs to ditch the group, even if it means taking boring old Carol), and in the second episode, T-Dog, even if he reneges on the idea later. What I find weird about T-Dog's "fever" thoughts is that he is right - he, Dale, and sometimes even Glenn are sidelined because of their age (Dale) and races (T-Dog and Glenn). Women on this show are sidelined altogether. The Walking Dead is not exactly Lost, where we learn about each character every week. Granted, Lost was not a perfect show either and harped on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer love triangle for several seasons, but at least each character got his or her individual episodes! And maybe The Walking Dead is going in that direction a bit this season, where we followed Shane and his adventure to get medical supplies to help Carl, and last week's episode with Daryl in the woods, but it was too little and did not establish much beyond what we already knew: Shane is likely deranged, and Daryl is a badass...and oh, he's not as racist as his brother Merle because he has saved T-Dog at least three times by now**. I think they fired last season's writers and replaced them with even worse writers. But yeah, the group will at least temporarily disband before the season is over. And maybe Lori will finally tell Rick about her pregnancy and/or her time with Shane, and maybe The Walking Dead will finally have a Maury Povich-based episode. And I guess Daryl better watch it since characters played by noted indie character actors do not live forever on this show, as this season has shown yet again.


We know that Shane is crazy because of the shaved head, vacant stare, mouth agape, and furrowed brow.
American Horror Story is at least fun-bad and thoroughly entertaining. It is truly the most batshit live-action television show I have ever seen. The pregnant wife eats a brain like it's no thing! There is a teenage boy stuck in 1994 who frequently speaks of Kurt Cobain (just Kurt Cobain, never Nirvana), Quentin Tarantino, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro; and the depressed neo-Blossom Russo-dressed teenage daughter of the family nevernever asks him his opinion on the more recent and terrible movies Pacino and DeNiro have been in! I have never been one for haunted house stories, but American Horror Story takes your average haunted house story and amps it up several times over and then combines it with at least one other horror story or trope every week, usually more than one! It is hard to say if there is a bigger meaning to this show, I doubt it even knows. The classmate who told me about this show said it was Ryan Murphy's gay revenge on America. We keep discovering the lives of the previous inhabitants who are now ghosts of the house. There is the drunk surgeon-turned-abortionist-turned-mad scientist and his wife, two nursing students, a gay couple, a woman who was raped, the pregnant mistress maybe, the male redheaded twins...but we also have the people from the home invasion episode, and rubber man who may or may not be a ghost. I mean, I guess redheads have been persecuted throughout society. Some people believe that everyone on this show is a ghost! We will eventually find out that the house was built on an Native American burial ground, because why not?

American Horror Story is also fun because most episodes feature at least one "hey, it's that guy!/lady!" moment. 


Rubber Man, Rubber Man. Does whatever a rubber can...except not.
* Yesterday, I read this post at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog that discusses how bloodthirsty zombie movie fans and movie characters are these days. I would not say that I am a bloodthirsty zombie fan or that the characters on The Walking Dead are bloodthirsty (although that is another inconsistency, especially with Rick). I would like The Walking Dead to be a watchable show that like in the first episode, does consider that the zombies were people once. Overall, I would like a good story and some characters I could care about and who are maybe more thoughtful or intelligent. The only thing The Walking Dead has been somewhat good at displaying is the tried-and-true story method of humans being just as dangerous to humans as zombies are, if not more so.

** 2011 seems to be the year of the (good) redneck in horror. I finally saw Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a couple of weeks ago because it surprisingly came to the indie theater in town (I guess because it takes place in West Virginia, and I live about 40 minutes away from the West Virginia state line now). I was worried that it would not meet my expectations because I have been anticipating this movie for almost two years, but I also had no idea what the film was about past the trailer. It was a good, fun movie that was surprisingly sweet and had some interesting twists to the story and characters. And yes, the film was quite gory at times. So there are surprises out there every once in awhile. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

What I've been watching lately in four sentences or less

Repost from 2011.

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The Fall of the House of Usher (1929 || Dir. Jean Epstein || France)
Not nearly as surrealist as some would have you believe.

Blood and Roses (1960 || Dir. Roger Vadim || France)
A slightly more heteronormative-incestuous take on Carmilla, but still interesting.

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966 || Dir. Robert Bresson || France)
Poor donkey.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011 || Dir. Joe Johnston || USA)
The most watchable and fun out of the Marvel Studios films released this year. No daddy issues ('sup, Thor?), and it doesn't take itself too seriously ('sup, X-Men: First Class?). It honestly has Cap jumping a ramp on a motorcycle, away from an exploding Nazi camp. Cap runs away from explosions quite a few times in the film, so it almost cancels out the terrible creepiness of the first 30 minutes consisting of Chris Evans being made to appear shorter and skinnier through CGI.





The Awful Dr. Orloff (1962 || Dir. Jess Franco ||France-Spain)
Jess Franco's first film, a slightly sleazier retread on Eyes without a Face. It's not a very entertaining retread and the era it takes place in is indeterminable.

The Spirits of the Dead (1968 || Dirs. Roger Vadim, Louis Malle, Federico Fellini || France-Italy)
European artsy-sleazy takes on Poe stories with pretty people? Bet you didn't know Fellini could do head decapitations, did you? I would like to frame most of the shots in Fellini's segment "Toby Dammit" and put it on my wall because that man could do Technicolor. The anthology is pretty good, although Malle's story isn't that great except for being able to look at Alain Delon and a brunette Brigitte Bardot.

Faceless (1987 || Dir. Jess Franco || France-Spain)
Another retread of Eyes without a Face by Jess Franco, this one being better, if a bit repetitive and drawn out. There are nods to The Awful Dr. Orloff.

Flyboys (2006 || Dir. Tony Bill || USA)
A dull movie that takes itself too seriously, despite what the trailer would have you believe sometimes (i.e., guy running away from explosion on top of a zeppelin). I fast-forwarded through much of the last hour and was a better person for doing that. Someone should have told James Franco that there were no frosted hair tips during World War I.




Punisher: War Zone (2008 || Dir. Lexi Alexander || USA)
The most comic book out of all comic book movies - the colors, the over-the-top violence and characters (complete with bad NYC accents for the villains), the cinematography  - all comic book. Sometimes the film drags a little, but then there's another insane set piece. 

Don't Open 'Till Christmas (1984 || Dir. Edmund Purdom || UK)
I watched this because the guy who played the dean in Pieces stars and directed this movie. I guess if the idea of a serial killer killing people in Santa suits sounds good, check it out. Otherwise, I can't recommend it because that's really all the film is: killing Santas and some police procedural - it's as if the movie was being written as it was filmed. This movie makes Silent Night, Deadly Night look profound.

Burnt Offerings (1976 || Dir. Dan Curtis || USA)
Many of the daytime scenes were very washed out looking and I am not totally sure why. It's perhaps better than most haunted house movies, if a little slow sometimes (this is a high compliment from me, considering that I've never been one for haunted house films). The ending is quite good and dark.

C.H.U.D. (1984 || Dir. Douglas Cheek || USA)
Not a terribly bonkers horror film, but it has a good "future stars" cast, good special effects, and it fits in well with other early 1980s gritty NYC horror films.




Children of the Corn (1984 || Dir. Fritz Kiersch || USA)
While I haven't read the short story since I was probably 12, this is not a good movie. It's like a moralistic, somewhat dull, and ballsless version of Who Could Kill a Child?. The film also has this bizarre dichotomy of the two good, non-cult children being cute, while the majority of the children in the cult are either awkward-looking or ugly.

The Bride Wore Black (1968 || Dir. Francois Truffaut || France)
Bet you didn't know that Truffaut did semi-Hitchcockian revenge films, did you? This is not a bloody film, but quite clever.