Dead girl, dead conscience

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I was appalled by the movie Deadgirl because I could not believe a director, producers, actors and especially writers would agree to put their name on the line for such a despicable story but then again, the horror industry has to look for new concepts to shock its persistent fans. To be honest, this is not really the most disturbing movie I watched. The Human Centipede 2 really breaks the barrier in terms of completely grossing out viewers but what makes Deadgirl more horrifying for me is the dangerous message it portrays to young viewers. It goes without saying, but this movie should not be viewed by anyone below 18 because the characters are very relatable with today’s youth. I think there will never be a time when teenagers would be able to completely control their hormonal urges. These urges are either repressed or acted upon as portrayed by the characters of Rickie and JT in the movie. With the rise of Feminism and other equality rights, the social structure today effectively blurs the role of male and females in society. An offshoot of this is the misconception of what are the typical qualities an individual should possess to be called a man. Males who do not have these qualities are often alienated. The movie makes a clear point of this although the actors who portrayed the losers looked so muscular and would not stand out in a Twilight movie.

As discussed in class, this is the equilibrium of the movie but once the dead girl is thrown into the picture, everything changes. At this point, JT, the character who acts according to his feelings expresses delight in finally finding a way of  releasing his sexual tension and as for Rickie; he acts like a normal human being with a conscience. He increasingly grows frustrated as the movie progresses because his childhood crush, Joann ignores him in favor of her jock boyfriend. Although lust is the prevalent theme of the movie, the fact that the girl the boys discovered is not human anymore makes the theme more obvious as she is objectified more than what was necessary. Rickie seems to be the guy to root for as he continually rebuffs JT’s invitations to have sex with the dead girl in favor of the more normal “girlfriend experience”. In climax of the scene where Rickie was caught trying to saving Joann from becoming the next dead girl, he is finally confronted by JT who tells him Joann “would never go for guys like us” and that dead girls are the best that they are going to get.  The next few scenes were unclear so I had to research what happened. It turns out; Joann was not dying from a bite from the dead girl. Instead she was just stabbed by JT. Rickie actually had a choice of letting Joann die or be bitten by a now infected JT to become the new dead girl. From the ending, it is clear that Rickie had finally agreed to JT’s views, although he treats the dead Joann with more respect. All in all the movie was more gory than horrifying but the most terrifying part for me was the ending because Rickie was able to return to a state of familiarity after everything that had happened.

Abnormal normality.

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The movie “Deadgirl” can be described in simply one word: disturbing. The incredibly graphic imagery tends to stay with the mind even long after they roll the ending credits. For some reason, the image of deadgirl’s face haunted me for at least a day and a half. I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that she was following me or that when I turned the corner there would be a naked corpse with disheveled hair walking, no, running towards me, wanting to tear out my liver. There is just something about those snake-like eyes and blackened teeth that give me the creeps. This movie is probably one of the most disturbing, sickening movies I have ever watched.

The movie, much like the previous movie “Cabin in the woods”, revolves around the idea that the real monsters of the film are not the zombies, or ghosts, or mermen even. The real monsters are people, sentient human beings, who manipulate other people and situations for their own benefit. Especially in “Deadgirl”, the characters’ biggest problems do not come from the monster of the movie, but arise from themselves.

I think one of the biggest factors that contribute to “Deadgirl” being so disturbing is the horror of witnessing someone do something so inhumane and animalistic, without so much as a hint of remorse or self-doubt. No one really likes being reminded that human beings have the capacity to do such horrid things if they chose to. The characters deem abnormal behavior as something normal and acceptable. The familiar becomes something unfamiliar. What are they willing to do next? What limits are they about to test, or even surpass? It becomes something so unpredictable that it effectively scares the viewer. We don’t know what kind of horrible act we’re going to witness next.

The acts they commit make them more monstrous than the dead girl. One can almost feel pity for the dead girl when JT and other boys rape her. That’s one of the reasons why I personally feel bothered by the presence of the dead girl. This corpse, or whatever it is, seems a bit more sentient than the unfeeling object the characters try to portray her as. When she touches Rickie’s hand when he was trying to free her, we somehow feel that she understands what is around her. This also happens when she leaves Rickie unharmed as she escapes from the mental facility. But then again, we are often reminded that this thing is more monster than human. All it knows is to attack and kill people. It doesn’t really care what it is being done to it. Whether it is being raped or harmed, it doesn’t seem to care. The fact that I could momentarily feel pity for a rotting human corpse then immediately be reminded that it is a monster in the shape of a human being quite disturbs me.

Watching this film, as a woman, makes it more uncomfortable in my opinion. You see this thing which isn’t human but is in the shape of a woman get violated over and over. But it doesn’t seem to mind or doesn’t seem to care. Heck, it could even possibly enjoy it, based on one of the first scenes where Rickie and JT visit the dead girl. This is unsettling not only for the reason that women are disturbed by the image of a girl getting raped, but also for the fact that it doesn’t seem to be too concerned about it. Once again, something abnormal is made normal by one of the characters. And that is something we can’t really accept and we are all the more horrified by it.

The Cabin in the Woods: Familiarity and Unfamiliarity

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“The Cabin in the Woods”, as the title suggests, is a horror film about five friends who travel to an isolated cabin having no idea of the terrifying events that await them. At first, when I watched the trailer of the movie, I thought that it was just another typical slasher film like most films where the characters die one at a time in their own way until the main protagonist is left on his/her own. However, as I watched the latter part of the movie, I realized I was completely mistaken since there were still a number of twists and turns throughout the plot. I absolutely loved it because both the horror and comedy genres blended really well with the storyline. I am not even surprised that the film performed really well in the box office thus, receiving generally favourable reviews and making it one of the highest grossing films of the year.

In the first part of the film, I was actually quite confused upon seeing scientists in some kind of laboratory and as a bird bumped into what seems like a force field. Also, it was when an intimidating old man appeared in a gas station that things started to become a little creepy. As I continued watching the film, there were feelings of familiarity and unfamiliarity within me. It had a sense of familiarity for the reason that killing the characters sequentially in a particular way as a result of summoning the zombies was very cliché and predictable. Moreover, the five friends were also stereotyped in such a way that they were identified specifically as the whore, athlete, scholar, fool and virgin, who all suffered based on the horror they have chosen in the basement. In contrast, upon being introduced to the underground facility where the said scientists were actually the ones responsible for the deaths of Dana’s friends, the feeling of unfamiliarity comes in. In effect, this unfamiliarity leads to the emotion of horror which the film wishes to impart among its audience.

David G. Hartwell’s major streams of horror namely horror being a moral allegory and fantastic were also evident in the film. The army of nightmares released by Dana and Marty and the Ancient Ones under the facility best manifested horror being fantastic. Although there was somewhat a lack of originality with the plot, I really appreciated the creativity of the special effects used especially with regards to the monsters. Moral allegory, on the other hand, was best described by the scene where Dana pointed a gun at Marty, believing the Director that the world would be saved if he was killed. Moreover, fatalism also played a significant role in the movie since the characters died chronologically in a specific way. Now, knowing that the scientists in the facility were the ones who should be blamed for their deaths, I began to question who the actual monsters in the film were. In addition to this, the people who betted and chose what monster will be summoned and how each character will die can be considered monsters in themselves. I think what makes the film a genuine horror film was the fact that the acts committed by these people were truly horrific and inhuman. In the end, I believe the film hoped to leave us with an important message that the true monsters originated  in humanity itself.

Cuarentena!

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Rec was a combination of various horror themes that work well in themselves, zombies, a creepy setting that you’re trapped in, a point of view that puts you in the victims’ position, put them all together and you have this horror film that is a thrill ride, and a welcome change from the previously heavy movie, Dead Girl.

When it was announced that Rec would be the next film to be screened, I was shocked to see so much of the class excited, maybe because they’ve seen it before or have heard good things about it, anyway, it got me very excited. I initially thought that the title was Wreck, and I was expecting a sort of disaster movie or a monster movie sort of like Cloverfield, because of the camera effect used in the film. Watching Rec was like being in those amusement parks where you have these haunted houses and you have to pull yourself together to get out, but in their case, there was no exit. There’s this feeling of impending doom that got even me stressed by the fact that these people were trapped in this apartment complex.  That first appearance of the infected, with the effect of the narrow hallway leading up to that open space in the room, it was very tense, add to that the creepy look of the old woman.

Analyzing it though, there is really nothing new that is brought up here. You have the general setting of most horror movies, trapped in a certain environment, then you have these infected people who have the capacity to be like zombies and infect other people. Though there is not much new to the components of the movie, the presentation of everything was just great. The tension throughout, the horror in the eyes of the people trapped, it was felt by the viewers. I guess that’s what I love about horror movies, unlike in action movies, where you have the same set-up everytime, this bad guys takes the girl of this retired spy, and in the next movie the bad guy takes the spy instead, it is repetitive. With horror film, despite the same aspects seen in different movies, the emotion that is brought about by the different movies, the horror, is still refreshing everytime. I remembered the scene where i jumped off my seat was when the fireman feel from the staircase with a loud thud, I searched about the facts about Rec and it said that even the actors didn’t know that there would be a person falling from the stairwell. The horror I imagine that the actors had at that time, was similar to what the viewers felt, and in some way shows how horror film, despite having same themes, and styles, still have a couple of tricks up its sleeve to surprise you and make you jump out of your seat.

I loved Rec because I really felt genuine horror, maybe not for myself, but for the victims in the movie. With it being a sort of documentary styled movie, you get to think that these are real people trapped in this horrific tragedy that is unfolding before their eyes. There were shocks, there were creepy kids, and scary Asians, but in the end, after the title of the movie finally appears, Rec leaves a lasting impression on you. On my way to the car, I can’t help but imagine, what it would feel like if I was the one in that position, trapped, in a scary apartment complex, it was an enjoyable kind of stress, and now I understand the very positive reaction from my classmates before the movie.

Nights with the Living Dead Girl

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Before the film started, it was said that Dead Girl won’t be a very likeable movie, and looking back, it really does its best to make you not like it. Discussing with a friend before the start of the movie I said, “I bet it’s something about necrophilia!” I guess i should be thankful that it’s technically not, but it still deals with some very gruesome topics of discussion. No matter how weird you and your friends are, these sort of things naturally won’t pop up in conversation. “Ok, what ifffff.. you find a zombie girl that’s handcuffed in an abandoned hospital, naked, what would you do?” That’s really the first time I’ve ever typed that sentence in my life, and still faced with this issue throughout the movie, you wonder, how could these boys do these things?

As most people have mentioned, I believe the horror isn’t just in the fact that there’s a zombie that can infect other people by biting them but when someone engages in sexual intercourse with it it’s all fine and dandy, the horror lies in the reality that there is a possibility that somewhere something as crazy as this, something as gruesome as this is happening. Man, with all his achievements and with all the opportunities around him still isn’t content, there are still those few who are tempted to doing these gruesome things. You see pointless killings, cases of rape, robbery, and you wonder how these people can do these things? In Dead Girl, you have these desperate guys, mesmerized by this creature that they discovered. Being a man, I understand that they do have needs, some urges, after all they are human, and I guess the repression couldn’t be contained anymore by JT and Wheeler, with Rickie doing his best not to let his other friends see what is boiling inside of him as well. I’m not really sure what the movie is trying to be, if it’s trying to have this deep social context in it, or is it really just a crazy horror film, and it’s just the viewer that finds the movie, somewhat so real, which makes it that much more horrifying.

What gets me everytime I watch a horror movie is some missing plot points, and I know from experience that I shouldn’t expect much, but still, not being a regular horror movie viewer, I get caught up in looking at the plot points that weren’t explained fully, like the girl in the gas station, it seemed so random that she would out power two guys, and the disappearance of the infected, but thankfully clarified again in class, horror film is not really the best place to evaluate plot. What was said about not explaining key points in horror films, I thought that it worked well in Dead Girl, yup there’s this zombie, we don’t need to know where she came from, she’s just there. I think looking back, in The Cabin in the Woods, it is a bit corny when the whole thing was explained, sacrificing to please the old Gods, but if you look at it as a tongue-in-cheek horror nudge than a serious plot point then it’s not so bad.
In the end, Dead Girl was a pretty bitter pill to swallow, but still, a pill that, with all the rape, blood, intestines, and cliche high school students, does bring in a scary thought for the viewer. It’s not the monster that we should be afraid of, it’s the capacity of the human being to do evil. One of the parting shots of the movie was the dead girl running away in the fields; I thought that it was such a telling symbolism of how the monster, yes she did eat up those who abused her, but still, running away from what happened, far from those that did horrible things to her, comparing it to how the guys treated her, it’s as if she was more afraid of them than they were of her.

Rec It Real Good

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Rec is a perfect example of how to make a good mockumentary. There have been many attempts in the past like the Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity series, and some others, but none have come as close to Rec when it came to inflicting real horror. I liked it because the idea was perfect with the concept of the movie. The hand held camera made the scenes so shaky and chaotic and it was perfect because it made me really feel the hysteria that was going on in the building. The lack of special effects and deliberate lighting made it really scary too. There were parts where the lights would come on suddenly from the camera and the effect was just terrifying. The sudden illumination of the zombies followed by their roaring and running towards the screen was a really scary sight.

I usually don’t like it when towards the end of the story they have a deliberate explanation of what was going on. Usually, I’d prefer it if they just let me figure it out for myself or have my own interpretation, but I thought they did a good job in this movie. I thought it was interesting how there was this girl, mistaken to have been possessed, who in reality may have just had a contagious disease. I thought it was a truly scary zombie film because there were so many scenes that literally jump out of the screen.

I didn’t like the fact that it was in Spanish though. I think it would’ve been scarier if it were in English. I thought the subtitles forced me to remove my hands from my eyes and that totally left me vulnerable to many scary scenes. I didn’t like the subtitles but maybe that’s what made it scarier for me, the fact that it forced me to watch the movie diligently.

On a deeper note though, I thought that this movie has some very important implications and it says a lot about the behavior of man. Sometimes, man can be too ambitious that it goes too far in dealing with things that he does not understand. In the movie, there was an obviously sick girl for whom a doctor was trying to find a cure. So contrary to the directive from Rome to kill the girl, he proceeds to conduct experiments on her. He keeps her in the apartment and does all sorts of tests on her. Ultimately, the doctor does not find a cure and even discovers that the disease is contagious. Eventually, the fact that the girl was kept alive is what allowed her to propagate the disease many years afterwards.

I know that the doctor’s intentions were good. He wanted to find a cure to a disease that was so unknown. But sometimes, it is also important to remember to know when to stop, to recognize one’s limitations, to draw the line between doing good and just being simply insane. But I guess the doctor did not know that. He let his ambitions get the best of him and that is what ultimately consumed him.

Triangle

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As a self-proclaimed fan of horror I always assumed I had a firm grasp on what a horror film was actually constituted of. I was pretty sure I had the understanding that the presence of a ‘monster’, whether it was in the form of an actual monster, a ghost, an alien, or a human pushed to insanity or demonic possession, was what made a horror movie a horror movie. Even the Blair Witch Project, which never really showed you the ‘monster’, showed you that there was something tormenting the protagonists, and there was something that was to be feared.

So when the first film shown in our horror film class was a film that did not contain any sort of monster that terrorized the protagonists at all, but instead a situation or, if I may, a destiny that was terrifying, that opened my eyes and made me realize how much broader the horror genre was and ultimately how much more powerful it is, in that it can tap so many other branches of fear that we don’t even realize sometimes.

The absence of a ‘monster’ in this movie shifted my views and stirred some very interesting emotions in me. First, the presence of a monster in a horror movie means that the protagonists are somewhat in charge of their fate, that they still kind of have the power to destroy the monster, and that they can tap into whatever it is in themselves to destroy the being that is threatening their lives. However in Triangle, the ‘monster’ is an unknown force encompassing the world of the main character. It’s something seemingly inescapable and unbeatable, as the structure of the story appears to be that of a spiral, constantly expanding, with every twist turning into a trap that digs the protagonist in a deeper hole, but also making the world a bigger one. The structure of the story is somewhat a paradox in that as the range of the world in which the protagonist is trapped in gets bigger, that certain feeling of entrapment gets worse.

At first, I judged the film based on the usual horror movie formula, and how it didn’t seem to fit it so much. For example, although the pace of the film in the beginning, and the way the main character acted were indeed gloomy and sad, the coloring and tone was unusually bright for a scary movie. Also, the way the girl acted in the beginning seemed a little cliché, where she was the “strange misunderstood” girl who had a lot of problems but would be the special one who would eventually survive in the end. But I learned that all these things would add up in the end. It was really interesting to see myself get proven wrong for judging her in the beginning when it’s revealed that the way she acted in the beginning came from something incredibly significant after all.

Lastly, I enjoyed how the film didn’t try to explain itself. And I especially liked it when the only sliver of an explanation was when the main characters talked about the myth of Sisyphus. It wasn’t really an explanation for what was going on, it was more of a way of setting up for the audience that something like this was going to happen.

It’s a very interesting movie, and although there are still some plot holes I find that it is incredibly well done. Despite not being a fast-paced ghost movie, I find this to be one of the most terrifying movies I’ve seen in a while.