H A L L O W E E N

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Halloween is a prequel/remake of the 1978 horror film of the same name, directed by the (aptly named) Rob Zombie. This 2007 version follows the life of Michael Myers, from his childhood of horror to his life in isolation. Having murdered his mother’s boyfriend, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend on Halloween night when he was 10 years old, Michael was sentenced to isolation under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis.

This half of the movie was the more interesting half. Though it showed michael in the early stages of being a cold-blooded killer, it as able to create a kind of relationship between the audience and Michael. The verbally abusive father, the negligent sister, the offensive schoolmates, the suicidal mother were all successful in garnering sympathy for Michael from the audience. This added backstory on how and why he became the way he did really gave the audience a chance to identify with him and to understand the very realistic factors that lead to his murderous ways.

This was as far as the depth went though, sadly. Only the character of Michael was really depended. The rest seem to be introduced just to be taken out soon after. Once the second half of the movie was entered, especially when they introduced the teenage girls, it was hard to distinguish one from the other. But, most disappointing aspect of the second half was Michael’s hair. No, not because it was dirty and greasy, but because it covered his face the whole time. This made it difficult to sustain the feelings of sympathy and connectedness to Michael because he was now just a monster – no longer a person we could relate to.

Linda William’s idea of the active gaze can be applied here. Usually, in horror movies, the woman is seen as passive, as victim, as punishable for her gaze. Laurie, being the subject of the gaze, is portrayed as an outspoken but loving daughter and friend. She is in no way portrayed as fearless and strong. As a matter of fact, while her and her friends were walking down the street and they noticed he was lingering around them, both her friends try to tell him off while she does not. That is what makes her actions in the end all the more surprising, all the more unconventional. As Williams mentions when talking about the active gaze, women are refused this gaze of activity or control and punished if they try. The fact that Laurie was more concerned about defeating MIchael than running away was very telling of her use of active gaze. It was the psychiatrist that found himself close to death while Laurie was the one who pulled the trigger. The sweet, babysitting daddy’s girl defeats the monster. Again, like Claire in the Innkeepers, Laurie is a atypical portrayal of a female horror character. But being a woman myself, I am happy to see women portrayed as more than just the victim but also in a way a hero in their own right.

Dare I say, “you go, girls.” 

Macabre Ragdoll

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May is a drama horror film about how May, a social outcast, finds a new friend. May is a quirky odd girl who has no friends because of her lazy eye.  Growing up, her only friend is Suzie, a glass-encased doll. The drama revolves around how May wants to have new friends. She wanted to have a boyfriend. She even befriended a loner blind child. The film shows how May explored her sexuality (with Adam and Polly) and tried out new things, such as smoking

 

One of the central theme of the movie is sewing/surgery and macabre. May works at a veterinary clinic, assisting with surgeries. It is evident in the film that may is fixated with certain body parts of the characters.  May said that a perfect friend can only be made of all the perfect parts of people. Since she cannot find friends who would actually like her for who she is, she made her ideal perfect friend by making a Frankenstein ragdoll, Amy, made of mutilated body parts of people: Adam’s hands, Polly’s neck, Blank’s arm, Ambrosia’s legs, and her own eye. The most disturbing part of film is when she removed her eye. In the end of the movie, it was very surprising that Amy became alive.  Indeed, if you can’t find a friend, make one.

 

The film also tackles the concept of the gaze that involves relationship between the looker (powerful) and object of the gaze (powerless). The image of the male gaze is subverted when the guy is not the active looker; instead he is the passive looker. May constantly stalked Adam by following him wherever he goes.  Usually, men stalk women and pursue them. Men are the aggressor in the relationship. In the film, May was all over Adam to the point that she wanted a sexual relationship with him. Surprisingly, Adam refuses to have sex with May even though he easily could have. For me, it is very odd for a man to pass up on such an opportunity. I think Adam was emasculated since May was very aggressive and a more “weirder” or “psycho” than him. May was aroused watching the Adam’s film about a couple who make love and literally eat each other up.   In addition, May got so excited telling the story about a dog she operated whose guts burst and spread all over, while Adam stares in disgust. In summary, the film breaks the image that women are powerless victims. May is a terrifying monstrous-feminine. 

Halloween

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I find that you can easily divide the movie into two halves, the first is the childhood of Mike Myers, and the second is after several years when he has grown into a behemoth of great size and strength. 

 
The first half of the film really set it apart from the typical serial killer-slasher horror film because it gives you an origin story for Mike Myers.  When his psychologist comments in his lecture later in the film that Mike is a perfect combination of nature and nurture creating a psychopath, it only confirms what you see in this part of the movie. It is quite clear that Mike is a troubled child; normal kids do not kill and mutilate animals (which is one symptom of the childhood psychological disorder of conduct disorder/oppositional defiant disorder. This disorder is a prerequisite for the adult disorder antisocial personality disorder, more commonly known as psychopathy or sociopathy), even under stress. You see what his family is like and how he is bullied in school. I find that you could really sympathize with him to the point that when he goes off to kill the bully and his family in his house you could understand why he’d do such a thing. Even though those were quite heinous murders, as a viewer, you could still feel that to some extent he was justified in doing so and that he was reacting how poorly he is treated. He is not portrayed as just a “pure” bad guy (like Freddy in the latest A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, for instance, who was an abusive pedophile even while still alive), rather Mike Myers’ backstory adds a certain dimension to his character. 
 
The second half of the film fit in more with the standard serial killer plot, Mike Myers goes to a certain town and kills people one by one. Except he isn’t there for the express purpose of killing people, but to look for his baby sister, Laurie. (Now, I could understand why he returned to his hometown to find her, but how on earth did he recognize her after fifteen years? She was adopted unofficially, her name was changed, and she doesn’t look a thing like her baby version. I view this as a small hole, but oh well.) This motivation seems quite different from the typical serial killer, who seems to be driven by purely evil intentions, such as revenge or the pleasure of killing. For the most part, Mike kills those who upset him or get in his way, or to achieve his goals.
 
The violence of Mike’s murders was undeniably excessive and served to emphasize how cold and uncaring he was. There are two points with regard to his murders that are of note – his use of masks and murdering teenagers as they engaged or after they engaged in sex. 
 
It can be noticed that everytime Mike kills someone, he wears a mask. When he talks to his mother and little sister, he purposely  takes off his mask, but when he has to interact with his father or sister, he seems to prefer to have to keep his mask on. When he is a child, it seems his mask creates an alternate persona for him. It adds a distance between him and his victim. His real face, as a child is described by his psychologist as “angelic”, but this seems to be his “real” mask. When he puts on his artificial masks, the clown, the plastic mask, or any of his papier mache masks, it seems to show who he really is inside, cold, emotionless, and detached. Eventually, he stops removing his masks and stops connecting (even talking to) with people. The only time he removes his mask in the second half of the film is when he tries to tell Laurie that he is her long-lost brother. I find it hard to say definitively whether he wears his masks for the purpose of detaching himself from his actions or to create a greater feeling of fear in his victims. Personally, I think that as a psychopath, Mike wouldn’t care a bit about what other people thought about him and wears the masks for his own sake, to be who he truly is inside. Whatever the reason behind the mask, it gives Mike power over his victims because he is able to stay unaffected by events behind his mask, while his victims are scared and unable to look back at him with the same clarity as he. 
 
It also seems to be a theme in the movie for Mike to kill teenagers who are having sex. It seems too coincidental for Mike to come upon them while they are or after they have sex, besides there is no such thing as coincidence in movies. It seems to be a moral allegory against pre-marital teenage sex, where Mike punishes these teens very brutally because they had sex. But more than just punishing both teens equally, the females in the pairs seem to undergo a more tortuous experience. Mike spends more time with the females, scaring and humiliating them more. It’s as if the women committed a worse crime by having sex, which I find is simply sexist, but is the prevalent view of society today – it’s understandable for guys to have lots of sex because they are in possession of a stronger sex drive than women, but women are supposed to be pure and virginal, else they are sluts and whores who deserve no sympathy.

Deadgirl

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I first heard of this movie during my zombie movie phase around 2 years ago. Critics and reviewers seemed divided on it, some said it was utterly disgusting, others said it was rich, a good movie, essentially. I find that it is both.
 
Deadgirl is a disturbing film; I doubt anyone will argue against that. But I don’t think it was the blood, gore, violence, or the sex (itself) that bothered people the most, but how Deadgirl is treated. While Deadgirl is but an empty shell of who she was before, she was still, one way or another a human. Yet, JT even in his initial fascination upon her discovery, never really thinks of her that way. He soon makes her his sex toy, unleashing all his repressed sexual energy on her. She shows her off to Wheeler and seeks to replace once she gets too disgusting. The movie is blatant about Deadgirl’s absolute objectification. 
 
The objectification was not limited to Deadgirl (who never even gets a proper human name) or the objectifying to JT. Joann is also objectified when JT and Wheeler try to replace her, and when Johnny and Rickie fight over her and want her for her sexual services. Rickie might never act upon it, but in his head he also wants to use Deadgirl for sex. I find that he might act self-righteous about not playing with her like the other guys, I don’t think he is really that much better than any of the other guys. This became apparent in the last part of the film when he takes advantage of Joann being bitten and making her his replacement Deadgirl, instead of doing the honorable thing anyone would do for a fellow human, and giving her back to society, telling her family that she is dead, letting her have a funeral, putting her to rest. 
 
Finally, one of the most disturbing parts of Deadgirl is that Rickie, JT, and Wheeler are all average guys. Rapists, kidnappers, and others who are reported to have performed heinous things against women are depicted as mentally ill, sick, or having some sort of traumatic past, but, in fact, most of the men who these things are normal guys. It might be disturbing to think about for guys, and downright scary for girls, that every man could do the things the characters in the movie did. And they do.
 
The things like what happen to Deadgirl happen everyday. Female objectification is no joke. It is like a springboard for violence against women because when you can view someone as an object, you can do anything to them. Women are raped, forced into sexual slavery, and mutilated all over the world. I find that the things done to Deadgirl are probably even mild compared to reality, at least Deadgirl is at least on some level, dead, and doesn’t have to deal with the psychological and emotional trauma involved. And while most people don’t go and act out to the same extremes, we all objectify the women around us, and watching Deadgirl made me feel every bit worse about it. It would be nice if we could just set women free like Deadgirl at the end, but as this is the real world (and ingrained into our culture and thinking), so it’s not so easy.

Grace

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In the movie Grace, you can’t help but ask, “How far can a mother go for her child?” While, this is normally interpreted in a positive way, the movie twists motherly love into something positively freaky. It might not have been the first time I watched the movie, but Grace still bothered me immensely. It made me seriously question why I (or anyone) would want to be a mother.
Society teaches all young girls that motherhood (and of course being a wife) is part of their destiny. We’re taught to caring and nurturing that we might easily adapt to this role in the future. We’re taught to want it, almost desperately, especially when our biological clock is supposed to start ticking. Madeline embodies this need. You could tell from the opening scene that the sex was purely for procreative purposes (at least for her), there was no indication that it was a moment of intimacy between Madeline and Henry, as she seemed focused on something beyond them. To her, nothing seemed more important than getting her baby. Even when the baby is supposed to be dead, she still wants it. Even when Grace turns out to be a bloodsucking, flesh-eating zombie baby, Madeline still wants her and sacrifices everything for her. Maybe I’m being selfish, but is it really reasonable to give everything, blood and body, for someone? Her actions seemed to reflect a Christ-like martyrdom and an immense, incomparable love. It felt unreasonable for me, but that seems to be how motherly love is represented in this movie – immense and unconditional.
Love, of course, is great, but the brand of love shown in Grace bordered on obsessive, neurotic, and altogether too unhealthy. This was not just on the part of Madeline, but with Vivian as well. The role of mother seems to have a prime place in her life as she doesn’t seem to share a strong emotional connection with her husband, in the sense that they are partners trying to live out their lives together.Vivian is way too attached and controlling. She couldn’t let go of her fully-grown son, and when he dies, transfers her smothering attention onto her daughter-in-law. And when that doesn’t work, she seeks to be a mother again by trying to take Grace away. It’s no small wonder that Madeline avoids her as much as possible.
Granted, motherhood isn’t that extreme in real-life, at the very least the chances of having a monster baby is pretty miniscule. But being a mother, with all its joys and the satisfaction women get from fulfilling this role, is still about sacrifice. That was the most salient and unforgettable point I got from this movie. So, while motherhood may be for some women, I’m starting to feel it’s not quite for me.

Cabin in the Woods

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I’m pretty sure I heard of Cabin in the Woods before, but it never appealed to me. The title made it sound like a typical, lame horror film. Many films nowadays simply follow a standard plot with typecast characters and the typical shock moments, but don’t offer anything  really new to think about, but once the movie gets going, though, you realize that it is far from normal. I felt that in the same way Puella Magi Madoka Magica rethinks and makes you re-evaluate the Shoujo genre of anime, the Cabin in the Woods does the same with the horror genre. More than the action, the plot, or even the array of monsters, I find that the most interesting part of the movie is that it plays around with the stereotypical horror movie. 

 
Cabin in the Woods has many aspects of the typical horror movie – a group of young people in an isolated area, a creepy location, a basement of creepy stuff, and a monster (or a group of monsters) intent on murdering the helpless group, who are forced to flee in terror, in the most painful and brutal way possible. Yet the story isn’t quite so mindless or the attack so random. Cabin in the Woods twisted the story in a way that the murders were only part of a bigger more insidious picture. This made the movie a lot more interesting and fun. Actually, the way the movie played out poked fun at how horror movies are nowadays. 

 
Triangle and Cabin in the Woods have a completely different tone and vibes, but one striking similarity is that the actions of the characters were so severely limited that you could hardly call them free. In the Cabin in the Woods, the group of vacationing college students were manipulated, mainly through drugs it seemed, into playing their needed roles for the ritual. It felt completely unfair because (1) none of them were anything really like stereotypes the ritual sought to punish and (2) it’s such a cruel thing to want to kill and sacrifice people just because of their youth or anyone for that matter. I find that the freedom of even the staff controlling the scenarios was curtailed. They seem to make a game of the whole affair, but they are just trying to save themselves and the world. So, while to some degree I can agree with Marty that a society that sacrifices people isn’t right and should be changed, I couldn’t have made the decision that he made. True, a society that thrives on violence and killing needs to be changed completely, but I find that destroying everything and everyone isn’t quite the proper solution. I don’t know what he was thinking (maybe the weed got to him), but it was like he didn’t feel the actual gravity of the situation; he pretty much sacrificed everyone he knew and loved at that moment. I definitely couldn’t do that if that were me.
 
The last few moments of the film, where Marty and Dana sit and ponder the destruction of the world, really bothered me. They surrendered to fate and had calmly accepted their deaths, even though they struggled tooth and nail several minutes ago. Somehow, it felt like the destruction of the world was meant to feel inevitable. After all, it was not just the American ritual that failed but the two others as well. Although at first it seemed like fate seemed to be on the side of Marty and Dana as they found a way out of the lakeside cabin, in the end fate led them to their end. 
 
Though it did not leave a heavy feeling, the ending was still very depressing in its own way.
 

Triangle

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While Triangle was certainly not a screamfest and not something I’d typically think of as horror, but the fact that it was shown in class made me reconsider it. After all, if a movie is shown in a class about horror films, you’ve got to think about it in those terms. It was mundane at first, but the opening scene made you feel that things were not going to be as they initially seem. The deeper and deeper you get into the movie, the more horror you feel for the fate of the characters. They are forced by some unknown power to repeat the same fate over and over again, unaware of the on-goings, except for the main character.

 First, having to experience being shipwrecked and stranded on a mysterious ship is a terrifying experience then an unknown assailant appearing out of nowhere to murder everyone. But when it seems like the nightmare is over, she discovers that it has just begun for a new batch of her friends. As she watches everyone, including another her, a clarity forms in her mind. The same thing from before is happening. She has to try to change the fate of her friends again and again, but to no avail. She is stuck in some sort of cycle where she tries her best to save people, but cannot seem to even make a dent on things. The experience must have felt like a never-ending nightmare, where the more she tries to escape or change things, the more trapped she feels. She seems powerless to affect the outcome. Yet, she cannot choose to just escape from the ship, Triangle, when given a chance or even commit suicide, because she has to try to save her son.
She is put under a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological strain, the most any single character does in the film, precisely because she is the only one to survive the whole ordeal. I think the irony is that she might have the most freedom in a sense, because she knows what’s going on, but at the same time, she has no freedom because regardless of what she does, she can’t affect the inevitable outcome, the death of her friends. And that is essentially what is terrifying about Triangle. As modern humans, we are so used to being in control of our lives. Unlike humans in ancient times who relied and prayed on gods for things like protection, food, a cure to a disease, or a safe and successful childbirth, we rely on science and technology to deal with everyday problems. To be stripped of her ability to do anything of worth was terrifying. It was a fatalism nightmare.
And although, I’ve felt more scared from other movies, Triangle left a very heavy feeling afterwards. I found myself pondering the sad and hopeless (but at the same time hopeful – it is hope after all that drives her, for if she really did lose hope, she wouldn’t keep trying to save everyone) fate of the main character. I think I felt the effects of the movie more after the lights turned on. One way to think about horror (as a classification of movie) is as a feeling. And I eventually felt it when I sympathized with the main character. With that, I felt that Triangle was effective as a horror-inducing film.
Triangle used the fantastic as the basis for the events that occur, so I found myself asking several questions during the movie. How did she enter the loop in the first place? How many times has she actual gone through the loop? Who is the creepy taxi driver? What is it with the ship that caused this loop? Why her? And so on. But even after much speculation, I don’t think you can arrive at any conclusions. In fact, the only conclusion I came to was that it was a painful, heartless, and to an extent random. And I think that’s why it’s even scarier. It makes you feel that, you never know what’s out there so there is no assurance that you can’t get sucked into a similarly ordeal.