Pontypool

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Pontypool. It’s a funny name, really, and you wouldn’t really think of it as terrifying. It certainly doesn’t sound like the title of a horror film. That in itself is quite interesting, as is the premise of this entire movie. Like Rec and Rec 2, Pontypool is a zombie movie with an interesting twist. The twist here is in how people get infected by the zombifying virus: it is carried in language. It’s a bit hard to initially grasp how a virus of some sorts can be carried around in words. Words are infected, not the air that you spew out when you say a word aloud. The words themselves, and how you understand them, are infected. It’s terrifying as in trying to find the answer, in trying to understand what’s happening, you may already be slowly getting infected yourself. The strange virus latches on to you once you understand the word, and it isn’t even just one word, it changes from person to person. The proud, educated ones would then be the first to go, and the illiterate ones are probably safe. Indeed, the joke about the brainless ones being the safe ones apply here.

 

The movie plays with the meanings of words. The first infected words are supposedly those words which have lost their meaning because they were so overused or misused. For example, terms of endearment. Eventually, the English language is infected. The virus is supposedly carried and passed around by understanding certain words, but the infected words come from a group of words that have supposedly lost their meaning. We humans have this need to understand everything, to have an answer for everything especially when we start becoming desparate. Ignorance hardly seems to be the first solution you think of to a problem such as this one. The premise of the movie is very intriguing, and you just want to understand how it works, exactly, but it’s terrifying because there’s an implication that something terrible will happen to you if you do understand. The final scene of the movie really is very puzzling, and doesn’t seem to make sense. I was trying to figure out what it meant exxactly after watching it, but then it seems to be that the reason for it was that it didn’t make sense, and you’re only safe because it didn’t make any sense to you. And they’re only safe because it didn’t make sense. But it seems like the world is doomed, because eventually, the virus will find its way to all languages especially since all languages are somehow linked to English, and you just can’t not understand anything from now on.

 

The idea of having a virus spread through something as intangible as words is terrifying. It’s something that you cannot even control, since it’s very difficult to identify what word will affect you, and what word will affect the person you need to talk to. It’s something that can drive you crazy as it goes against your instinct to try and understand everything…if you try to, you’ll probably end up dead. Once you figure out what can kill you, you die.

May

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I remember May from my high school days. I didn’t see it in the cinema, but my classmates had a copy and we saw parts of it. We watched the part where she gouges out her eye and when she murders the punk guy. I remember not really wanting to watch it because it was rather gory for me. And well, I was right, it was a rather gory movie, and equally creepy.

 

Most horror movies have a protagonist or at least a character that you can relate to, that you can empathize with. May doesn’t really have that. May is the protagonist, but she is the monster as well. It’s established from the very beginning that she is an Other, not simply because she’s a woman but because of her strangeness. She seems to get her strangeness from her mother, who may not be as twisted as May, but is somehow getting there. At first, you feel sorry for May and perhaps even relate to her as the quirky girl, but May eventually drifts further and further away from you as she slowly transforms from an awkward girl to a murderous psychopath. May is an Other that we can initially relate to, especially since she’s the protagonist, but eventually, she becomes so strange that even we have to turn her away. We relate to May’s longing to be accepted, but we are unable to accept the lengths she goes to just to gain a friend. May becomes a person we do not want to be friends with at all, and so we shun her as well.

 

When you look at May and the things she wants to do, it’s all basic human needs. We all have the need to be accepted and the need for belongingness. However, so-called normal people usually lower their expectations and attempt to be more “normal” or fit more into the standards of others, in a way “othering” themselves in an attempt to belong. May does something contrary to this. Instead of giving in, she continues to demand more from the people around her, she refuses to settle for anything less. May didn’t want anything less than perfection, and this made her monstrous. In wanting to find and create the perfect friend or companion, May became a monster. No one was good enough for her, and now everyone was in danger because none could please her. May’s standards of perfection were impossible, and she is unable to comprehend the fact that others had standards too. Others weren’t really allowed to exist in May’s world as themselves, but rather as imperfect parts that have to be put together in order to create the perfect creature.

 

May indeed is a horror movie in that it causes horror in the viewer. Her actions are horrific, and what makes them even more horrific are her motives behind them. May does not see herself as doing something wrong, rather she believes that she is doing something right, and even that she is fixing something. But unlike villains and antagonists of typical stories, May’s reasons for wanting to “fix” things are purely personal. She isn’t really trying to clean up the world in her own twisted way. She couldn’t care less about other people or the world in general, so long as she gets what she needs in the form of a friend or a lover.

The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is a classic ghost story, where you have the ghost of someone haunting the place where they were killed. It’s a lot like those stories that your friends tell you during while you’re travelling to well-known “haunted” place, or maybe those that you might read on creepypasta and the like. And it’s something quite relatable, as we all pretty much know what it’s like to get bored and look for some sort of adventure. It starts out with two bored hotel employees just trying to get something interesting out of their last day on the job, and of course, they get exactly that. It’s exactly what they’re looking for, and more than they bargained for.

 

Ghost stories usually explanations for why they happen. In The Innkeepers (and in most ghost stories), the ghost is wherever it is because it was killed there. However, most ghost stories include a reason for why they go after certain people, and The Innkeepers kind of lacked that. Or perhaps I simply missed it, since the movie was really quite dragging for me. There wasn’t much happening, mostly just the two friends talking. I thought that things were going to become a lot more interesting and action-packed when the two other guests arrived, but it wasn’t much. I think they were a bit underused, actually. They could have been incorporated in the story more, especially the old man. Again, it could just be because I was bit sleepy when I saw the film that I failed to make all these connections. I usually expect movies to wake me up, but since it kinda seemed that everything was repeating itself, I tended to space out.

 

The Innkeepers did a lot of building up, and there were certainly moments where I was on the edge of my seat and half-covering my ears expecting the ghost or at least something to suddenly come out of the dark corridors. It’s a movie that’s really creepy to watch on your own, because it tends to make you paranoid of all the little sounds. Most horror movies (or any movie genre for that matter) tend to be a lot better when seen on the big screen, but this one would probably be the scariest when watched very early in the morning on a laptop, alone in a strange motel room. However, I think the climax fell a bit flat. It’s quite sudden and ends almost as soon as it starts, though you tend to keep your hands up and block your eyes until you’re sure that the credits are rolling. Medyo bitin. But it’s the kind of movie that will freak you out once you find yourself in situations similar to it, when you find yourself in a creepy and rather old hotel with barely anyone else there.

 

The Innkeepers plays with the gaze, where the characters try to hold on to the power by being the ones to look but ultimately, the one being looked at triumphs. Or it can be looked at this way: Claire is the one who is being looked at, and the one who was looking all along was the ghost of Madeleine O’Malley. Claire has been watched all along, and when she tries to turn the tables and be the one to hold the gaze, she is punished. Claire, the emotional female, does not listen to reason that tells her to leave the place already, instead going back to save the old man. Meanwhile, her guy friend has already left. The reasonable, logical guy has already left the building, and since Claire stayed even though shouldn’t have, she got punished by being locked in the cellar and apparently dying. It’s sort of implied that she too will become a ghost in the building. Because she wanted to look, now she gets to do just that to whoever the next poor soul to try to look for ghosts in that building.

Pontypool

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Pontypool is quite possibly the most ambitious horror film I’ve seen in a while, with regards to the “monster” of the film. I don’t quite know what to peg this film as, if we’re going to get specific. I suppose the closest thing we can call it is that it’s something of a zombie film, in that people get “infected” and infect other people. Only, this form of infection is different from everything else done before. Unlike practically every other zombie film where the infection is simply transferred through bodily fluids, and perpetuated by some mutant disease (the perfect example being 28 Days Later) in Pontypool, the infection is caught through words. Yes, that’s right, the invisible, intangible, but very much real force that is language.

Allow me to digress for a second to touch on two things I found quite funny in the film. First was that the main characters worked in a radio station, one of them being a DJ. They actually talked for a living. Talking was their primary source of income. It is so incredibly ironic because by the climax of the film, we learn that talking might actually kill them. But it transcended the matter of simply losing a job and not being able to sustain yourself, it got to the point where talking as a means of getting yourself out of imminent danger (like asking and explaining just what on earth is going on) becomes dangerous itself. The main characters are trapped in a situation where the only way out is also the trapdoor. I find this a very interesting aspect of the film, because it makes the situation a lot scarier, when you realize that there is practically no way out. It’s not like they’re trapped in a place and handcuffed to a pole. There’s still a lot of room for things to happen that could lead to an escape. Someone could come to the rescue. Or our heroes could find something sharp, destroy their shackles and free themselves. No, in Pontypool, the saw and the shackles are the same thing.

The second thing I found funny was how easy they made it for the main characters to escape this dilemma. They were just simply given the ability to speak and understand a different language – French. For me, it just seemed way too convenient for the film to be set in a place where a big percentage of its inhabitants are bilingual, thus, not necessarily eradicating the problem, but buying everyone a lot more time.

Understanding. In the end, this was the explanation as to how things were happening. The movie never explained why these things were happening, but it did try to explain how. Apparently once you understand the word that’s infected, you get infected as well. I liked the end, it threw me off completely, and I guess it tied up the entire film by having the last scene be something that doesn’t make sen, thus making it difficult to understand.

May

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May was a particularly interesting film because I’d always felt that a horror film was a horror film as soon as it made you feel anxious, uncomfortable, scared or at least grossed out. Although throughout much of the film, May was a very strange girl, with strange hobbies and obsessions, none of them really stood as as disturbing enough to give the film a horrific feel. I wasn’t at the edge of my seat, nor was I writhing in disgust. Instead, I was left with a sense of wonder. It was beginning to look like either a B movie, or one of those that didn’t exactly take themselves too seriously. In any case, May’s tone was different, perhaps a little less Takashi Shimizu and a little more… Tim Burton?

But underneath the stylistic difference lies a classic horror film story. That of the abject, a monster born of a person, a woman no less, marginalized for her “abnormality. Pinned down as a freak, May is monstrous even before she experience the heavy blows of life. Even before May starts going full-on Dr. Frankenstein mode, hacking other people’s arms and legs off, she is already marginalized as a child for having a lazy eye. From then on she has difficulty making friends, which leads to the development of her odd personality. As she grows older she becomes more and more detached as she deals with life alone, her only friend being a doll, and perhaps Polly, the promiscuous bisexual girl (who turns out to be a pretty bad friend anyway, but more on that later).

Something I’d like to point out now about the Polly character is the mere fact that she was made to be a very promiscuous bisexual woman (a pretty offensive stereotype for bisexual women, might i add) and thus she gets “punished” for this behavior in the end, when May decides she is a terrible friend, with a really great neck… and by that I mean May finds that the best punishment is to use Polly’s neck to complete her Amy monster, a collection of all the best parts of May’s worst friends. I think it is very important to note the way the film portrayed the handling of Polly’s promiscuity and sexual behavior that deviates from the supposed norm.

Another thing to note is that May as the abject was repressed by those around her for her strange fetishes. When she wanted to do strange things sexually with Adam, he refuses and leaves, and she suffers from this. May symbolizes those that we do not understand, and those that we fear, especially because she hits a little too close to home. Everyone’s been at a point where they thought they were a freak for liking a certain thing or a certain way, and so they’ve hidden these things deep down, for fear of being judged or ostracized. May becomes an example of what happens when you push the limit, and when you are pushed to the limit as well.

Thoughts about “Let The Right One In”

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Let The Right One In is a cutesy vampire story that differs from today’s cutesy vampire stories in that it goes back to folklore and the ugly, fearsome, qualities that vampires used to have. This is where stalking and tree swinging is used for prey and not for love interests. This is where bodies burst into fire, not shimmer or glow when exposed to the sunlight. This is where elongated tongues and blood and mangled bodies replace teenage romance and angst.

Here, vampirism is considered an abject rather than something to be envious about. It is something that horrifies everyone, even vampires themselves. Eli could not find anything cool or awesome about being a vampire even after so many years. We get to see her kill a man out of the desperate need to survive, and she later regretted that decision. Because of the nature of her circumstance she has to stay hidden and the only ones that she can interact with are among the unlikeliest of people, Oskar and Hakan. Virginia, the lady that Eli infected, went through a similar experience as well. She was horrified of what she has become and she took some drastic measures to stay alive and hidden, like drinking her own blood (which she later found not to be ineffective) and staying at home. Unlike Eli, though, Virginia later commits suicide by allowing her boyfriend to open the curtains and let the sunlight in the hospital room she was confined in. Eli could not think about committing suicide even if she went through the horrors of vampirism longer and she’s technically older than Virginia.

Vampire movies are usually associated with male vampires enticing female humans out of lust or love, but this one is different because it is a vampire film where the main vampire is “female” and is being courted by a male human. Eli turns out to be actually male later on, but Oskar ends up not caring about it. He wasn’t looking to be satisfied sexually with Eli anyway, unlike Hakan (in the book). Oskar just wanted to be with someone he understands and someone who understands him. The love between them is the cute and innocent kind rather than the intense and passionate kind found in most vampire movies. Many say that it’s more likely that Eli was just using Oskar, that Oskar would eventually replace Hakan, but the director himself thought differently in an interview. He said that he saw the relationship between Oskar and Eli as a happy ending rather than a sad one. Thinking about it, Eli even tried to push Oskar away. He was initially in bad shape: disinterested, weak, cold, pale, and smelly, but Oskar didn’t mind. When Eli told him that he wasn’t a girl he didn’t care. When Oskar later knew that Eli was vampire and that he was actually a castrated male, he could have just ran away but he didn’t. He even protected Eli from being killed by Virginia’s boyfriend. And, Eli returned the favor by going back for Oskar to save him from his school bullies. More than that, the director pointed out that Eli taught Oskar a few important things: that it’s good to fight back but it’s not nice to kill. When Oskar wanted to kill so much out of hate and revenge, Eli showed him what its actually like and how awful it could be to kill. Even if I initially held the thought that Oskar was just going to end up like Hakan, I’ve always thought more that the Oskar and Eli had pure intentions for each other. They can be the most horrific couple, (imagine two kids in love with each other, they are both male, one is a vampire who needs to kill while the other is a bullied human who wants to kill) but even so, at the very least they had genuine caring and love for each other.

Rec 2

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Rec 2 picks up right where Rec left us, but with a significant difference: it’s a different camera, and it’s more than one camera. Perhaps its because you are more prepared for what’s coming because you are familiar with the style of the movie, and you more or less are aware of how it’s going to startle you. But perhaps it’s also due to the slight change in perspective. In the first Rec movie, we run around with Angela as one person, as cameraman Pablo. We are really thrust into the story and the terror that the characters are going through, because in a way, we are part of it. We are a character in the movie. In Rec 2, we are jostled from one camera to another, from one character to another. Thus, we are constantly pulled in and out of the movie and it becomes a lot less personal.

 

Rec 2 offers more of an explanation as to why everything is happening. Rec and Rec 2 are generally both zombie movies, but it’s interesting this particular “zombie apocalypse” came about. In both movies, the infection is spread by bites as in typical zombie movies, but how it actually began is very different: a possession. Religion is the last thing that one would think expect from a zombie movie, much less be what caused the zombie invasion. In a possession, a demon takes over the body of a person, a host. However, once it moves from one body to another, the previous body is left alone albeit perhaps a bit weakened or even dead. There is usually no “leftover residue” in the form of a weird illness that eventually turns the body into a blood thirsty zombie.

 

The interesting thing about this installment is that the protagonists are mostly men. Men are supposed to be the logical ones, the problem-solvers. The men in Rec 2 eventually figure out what’s happening, but they are unable to really solve the problem. Despite their best efforts, they still fail. Angela, who we had originally cheered for, turns out to now be the monster to be feared. Everyone fears being backstabbed or having the tables turned on them, to find out all of a sudden that the person you had trusted turns out to be the one you should have been avoiding all along. Woman turns out to be untrustworthy after all, an Other that should be feared and shunned.