Grace

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Grace would, I guess, be a zombie movie. It’s a very different kind of zombie movie, however, since the zombie is more or less helpless and incapable of really doing harm. Grace is almost a dead baby joke gone wrong.

 

Grace isn’t supposed to be alive since she was killed in her mother Madeline’s womb in a car accident, but she’s still carried to term. She came out dead, but suddenly and inexplicably came back to life, crying as a normal and healthy baby would after several minutes of Madeline pleading for her to stay. It isn’t unheard of to have dead people sort of come back to life, since modern medicine has made it possible to resusitate those who have technically died. But those are usually a few minutes, maybe hours after being declared dead. Grace has been dead for several weeks already, and then suddenly, without any resusitation of any kind, is alive. It’s a whole new way of looking at the miracle of life, though this life isn’t what you expect it to be. After all, how normal do you think would a baby who’s been dead for weeks be?

 

What Grace mainly deals with is motherhood, which generally, all women eventually want. Madeline has been trying to get pregnant for the longest time, and when she finally does get pregnant, she does everything to make sure that nothing goes wrong. A mother is often depicted as fiercely possessive and protective of her child, and this is especially seen in wild animals. Most animals would attack and kill those who dare approach their young. Madeline is in a way turned wild by the experience of motherhood, by her desperate need to be a mother. She ends up attacking and killing those who threaten to take away her child. It’s a bit contrary to the usual notion of (human) motherhood, which is supposed to be beautiful and bring people who have been torn apart back together again. Even Vivian, with her supposedly good intentions of raising Grace, is a bit wild in her need to become a mother, having lost her son to first adulthood and then death. Though Vivian is a bit different since she seems to be more fixated on the breastfeeding aspect rather than the raising aspect. Their desperation to be mothers both took them a bit too far.

 

The actual monster of this film, Grace, is deemed completely normal except for her thirst for blood. Not just any blood, but human blood. It’s a bit ironic that Madeline had resorted to a vegan diet during her pregnancy, but her baby ended up with a taste for things that definitely cannot be found in a vegan diet. You already know that something is up with the baby once it cries to life after knowing for a while that it’s been dead before it was even born. However, that seemed to be the only explanation for why the baby was…zombified. There wasn’t really any explanation for why Grace had a taste for blood, why Grace was even alive. There isn’t any strange thing that impregnated Madeline, it was pretty clear that Michael was the father. Grace was just…Grace, and everyone in the movie just accepted her as she is, and despite her monstrosity (c’mon, she was practically chewing off her mother’s breast!) everyone even tries to protect her. There’s some weird reversal. Madeline, as her mother, protects her. Vivian wants to get her in order to raise her herself, thinking that it will be better for her. Dr. Sohn only wants the best for Grace as well. Even Patricia, knowing the strangeness of the baby, still looks after her. Somehow, without really doing anything and purely relying on the instincts of the people around her, Grace manages to “invade” our world.

 

Grace was written and directed by a man, Paul Solet. This is quite an interesting take on motherhood from the point of view of someone who’s never going to experience it, and only has the women around him as reference. Men are after all never going to know what it’s like to carry around a baby, with all sorts of hormones shooting around inside telling you that you must be a mother and do everything in your power to make sure that this baby will be okay. Grace is horrfying in planting the idea that what if I, since I’m a woman capable of childbirth, turn out that way too, going a bit too far in my desire to be a mother. Or even any woman out there now.

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Rec

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I had heard a lot about Rec before watching it in class. I had seen a snippet of it in my Com100 class back in second year, and had screamed when something suddenly fell. I was one of those who had gasped when it was announced that Rec would be the next movie to be screened. Rec was the first horror film that I was watching in class that I was actually familiar with, but not so familiar that I was still terrified of what may happen.

Rec, being in Spanish, was subtitled, and it required me to open my eyes for the most part of the movie (which I tend to not do during horror films) in order to understand what was going on. The story wasn’t very complicated, and even though plots are often secondary in horror films, it was still actually pretty good. The explanation behind this movie didn’t feel forced and it didn’t ruin it at all. But of course, horror movies thrive on imagery, and with that, Rec does not fall short.

The found footage format really works for this movie, making you feel as if you’re really in the building along with all of them, and that you’re also running from room to room trying to escape the bloodthirsty zombies or whatever they were. You really get thrown into the film, and it’s quite stressful. I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly for a while after watching the movie, and during the movie itself, I was one of those who’d scream or yelp or cover my eyes and ears when another zombie creature attacks. I think it was a really effective horror movie due to the stress it brought about, but it was still really fun to watch. I think that last bit is due to the fact that I watched with a roomful of people, and all of us were reacting. I think I’d be terrified if I was watching it alone, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

When you think about it, Rec can be a bit predictable. There are some set-ups that are so obvious, such as the little girl sort of being the source, the old lady and Colombian woman disappearing after being left in the hallway, and the empty penthouse apartment having to do something with it all. When Pablo puts the camera into the attic, it was pretty much a giveaway to the fact that there was something that the camera will see or attack the camera, but it still elicited a scream. There are so many of those moments, with a fireman falling down, the little girl spitting blood, and the guy in the hazmat suit attacking the vain old dude. A lot of surprises, shocks, “gulat” moments, but there was still the climax and highlight, and even then Rec was still effectively eliciting screams. With you being so involved due to the found footage format, the shockers don’t really disappoint.

Thoughts about “May”

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May is an interesting horror film in that it’s focus and main character is the monster, the abject. Unlike most monster movies, May is not the kind of monster who’s so different from everyone else. She could have turned out to be a socially normal person but she was kept back because of her troubled childhood. To me, May was marginalized at a young age mainly because of her mother’s bad parenting skills. One, the mother quickly assumed that just because a person has a lazy eye means that person will be marginalized. Two, because of that assumption, the mother put a bandage on May’s eye and asked her to pretend about it (which later led to her being marginalized). And three, the mother gave up on May being able to find human friends so she gave her a doll friend instead, with one exception that May cannot touch it. What kind of parent would have such a negative outlook on society? What kind of parent would give up and not be proud of his/her child? May grew up in her mother’s world with her mother’s weird principles, like “If you can’t find a friend, make one.”. Carol Clover refers to this as the psycho-sexual grip that produces the killer’s sexual ambiguity.

May grew up and found physical distance from her parents but she never grew out of them. She’s now an adept at conversing with dolls but still not an adept at conversing with people. She lacked the dynamics of love and friendship. She lacked the physical and emotional intimacy involved in a human relationship. She only had a doll friend and she couldn’t even take her out of her glass box! (I think that her odd fixation on body parts has something to do with that) She grew up following but not understanding the idea of being just like everyone else. This, unfortunately, further marginalized her. People around her were thinking that she’s just like everyone else, only to be made wrong later. This lead to further misunderstandings. In the end, nobody understands May, and May understands nobody. After a few bad encounters, May eventually gives up on hope and and starts killing off the people she couldn’t understand.

This is a horror film wherein sympathy can be drawn from the monster. May’s a modern Frankenstein. While in herself she has the capacity to choose between what’s right and wrong, she lacked the capacity to know which is which. For a world primarily composed of “normal” people, she’s the odd one out. But it’s not just her fault, in fact I dare say most of it isn’t. All she wanted was a friend, and she did what she everything she could to have one using what she has and what she knows. It just didn’t take her far enough in a world she’s not familiar with. Thinking about it, it’s noteworthy that a variety of people were in the movie yet May is the only connection between them. It tells me that there’s a world of different people with different understandings and, combining them, potential misunderstandings. In fact, further thinking about it, everything that transpired in the movie came from misunderstandings. Maybe even May’s mother had problems of her own before, we don’t know. It’s just scary to think how it’s possible that things could end up similar or worse compared to May just because some people didn’t get along.

Ridiculously Scary Zombie

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There is something about Pontypool that makes it almost unbearable to watch for the first half of the movie due to a single plot twist near the middle. At first, we all thought that this was another zombie movie which leans more on the drama side of things rather than the action or horrific images of zombies. When it was revealed that the infectious zombie disease was not spread through the traditional, yet effective method of bites, but by simply saying an infected word, a small part of me instantly deflated of all tension, and thrill. The movie built up so much pressure and when the twist revealed that by saying an “infected” word, you somehow become a zombie, all sense of horror was dispelled as I thought that the rest of the movie will become a comedy.
It just seemed so ridiculous that by saying an infected word, you become a mindless zombie. It was even more ridiculous than the movie “The Happening” released in 2008, which is basically a movie about how plants took revenge on humanity by releasing toxins in the air which somehow make a human kill itself. It was all so ridiculous to even consider, genocidal plants, infectious words that turn you into zombies, all of it
However, when I stop to consider about it and I mean really consider about it, isn’t the whole “zombie bites human, human become zombie” thing ridiculous as well? How could an ordinary virus, turn a dead body into a walking, feeding machine, making it immune to pain and any sense of self-preservation? Isn’t it as ridiculous as infected words?
The thing is, fear is arbitrary for a lot of people. However, there is one kind of fear that I think is universal, the fear of the unknown. If the events of Pontypool actually became reality, right now, isn’t that enough to start your “Oh My God Imma Die” Alarm in conjunction with your “This can’t be Happening Alarm”?
We all express ourselves by using a form of language, and the language of speech is the most easiest and frequently used form in the world. Say one day a horrific event occurs and one cannot speak for fear initiating the infection process through a random word. Pontypool displayed exactly what happens in that event, panic will overcome any other emotion making one more prone to infection. The virus or whatever that is, was even more scarier than imagined for it also infects through understanding the word. If a command was given to you, “Do not think about the word Kill”, of course the word Kill will eventually pop up into your mind. The human mind is so complex that it doesn’t work like you want it to. And if a certain mysterious and unknown virus somehow targets and exploits this weakness directly, isn’t that more dangerous and terrifying than a werewolf, or even a vampire. Those things you can fight against, but the virus which targets thought? Difficult. Extremely so. Pontypool, taken to a deeper level, is truly a terrifying movie that explores how the human mind can deal with something that it does not know to defend against and the movie does it beautifully.

Let the Right Vampire Movie In

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Let the Right One In features a Vampire love story that differs largely from the Twilight series. It is definitely darker and disturbing with a tinge of sweet innocent vampire romance. The viewer is provided with the touching innocence of a child experiencing his first love that is coupled with the haunting, reimagining of the immortal story of the vampire, a story which the vampire really deserves. Love here is the root of the horror. We never know if Eli looks at Oskar as friend, boyfriend or dinner. Like Bella, Oskar willingly accepts a vampire into his home and consequentially, his life in general. It is interesting to note that almost all those who strike a relationship with a vampire, are commonly troubled, cast out by society and generally discontent with their lives. Bella, well Bella is plain weird and Oskar is a shy, unhappy and bullied child from school, and both are living with divorcee parents. The vampire acts as a sort of escapist reality for their own less-than-perfect world, and presents an entirely new world full of new thrilling adventures. The dynamic of the male vampire, female girl is also switched around; instead we have a girl vampire coupled with a human boy. Oskar wanted a friend who for once does not endanger him physically and emotionally. What is ironic is that he found a friend and safe place in a vampire, a creature supposedly a thousand times more dangerous than 500 bullies combined.

The love story is not too overdone too. The relationship between Oskar and Eli is purely friendly, innocent and cute at the same time. With one touching scene Oskar asks Eli to be her girlfriend, it mirrors the sad, heart-breaking reality of a lonely soul seeking out to another lonely soul, only more immortal. Furthermore, the film is not without its shocking and unnerving moments. There are many scenes wherein Eli attacks and drinks blood from random people in brutal animalistic fashion. And the transformation to a vampire is highlighted too. There is a scene of one of Eli’s surviving victim spontaneously combusting in a hospital.

The film does not lack in the disturbing department either. By the end of the film, Oskar runs away from home with Eli, and one can’t help but notice that unless Eli turns Oskar into her own, Oskar is still going to age. This mirrors the fact that Eli at the start of the film is assisted by an old fart that helps her get fresh blood by murdering random strangers. What if that old man, 60 years ago, was a similar young hapless boy who happens to fall in love with Eli too? This leads us to a dark realization that Eli and Oskar’s story maybe a dark cycle all along.

Let the right one in is surely one of the best and memorable rom-horror films out there. 

Pontypool, pontypool, pontypool,

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Never have I been so confused in my life when I watched Pontypool. It is not your common zombie film. It is really far from it. For one, the virus is spread not through air and open wounds but by infecting a language. Secondly, the terror is not based heavily on fast-paced gore, but exists more on a mental, thinking level. The premise is that through understanding of the infected words, it causes the host to mutter a word over and over until he/she becomes driven mad, becoming a mindless transceiver of repeating words. I actually think that it will spread more effectively than your average zombie virus. Since humans need language in order to express themselves, it would be too difficult to contain the virus as it does not merely reside on the physical level like common viruses do. Rather, it lives and propagates in the realm of understanding. Soon enough, people will panic, paranoia will spread. And a certain disconnection will occur as we could not express and converse with others (either for help or comfort) in the way that we are used to, something involuntary like breathing which sometimes we don’t even have think about.

As such one of the themes in film includes the power of human language, dangers of communication and how helpless we can be if it was targeted for destruction. With the virus in movie originating in terms of endearment in words such as “baby” and “honey”, one can imagine the extent of the damage that can be done. Furthermore, it is in understanding of phrases and words that we become infected.  In the face of impending destruction, how can we not understand a specific word previously understood? Grant Mazzy, in memorable scene with a slowly maddening Sydney Briar, tells her repeatedly that kill is kiss. It is by doing this that they discover that the virus can be cured. By the end of the film, in an attempt spread the cure, he gives a very inspiring yet senseless speech. “We were never making any sense” Ultimately, the film tells us that though words hold definitions, it is still us, the creators and the users, who give it shape and meaning. This is perfectly summed up by the post-credit scene. I’d like to think that even though, realistically, what happened in ending were the deaths of Mazzy and Briar from the bombs, they were able to escape to another place or world they have shaped for themselves through twisting the language. This made me think about a statement by the doctor earlier in the film: “The virus affects our words, shaping our very reality it its wake.” (or something like that).

Some hardcore fans of zombie films would not welcome its sometimes confusing dialogue, lack of any fast-paced survivalist zombie action and gore and overview scenes of the impending apocalypse in general.  The movie entirely happens only in a radio shack, and what is happening to the outside world is graphically described merely through radio communications. However, I think it offers a smart way of delivering the zombie genre, and uses this topic for experimentation and examination, at the same time offering a bit of social analysis along the way. 

MAYbe this time its a girl

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How far would we go and what would we give to feel loved and connected? This is one of the questions which popped in my mind after watching May. Mutilated limbs, ears, legs, hands and eyes aside, it is ultimately a sad morbid story of one young misunderstood girl seeking to establish long-lasting relationships primarily because of her weird personality and lack of any well-established social skills. Long periods of isolation and loneliness can definitely drive a person into madnesss. The closest to a meaningful conversation that May had shared was with her doll, her only friend since childhood whom she can never even touch because of the glass case. I thought that the film also mirrors Halloween in some point that it shows how the killer, through interactions and relationships with the wrong people, mixed with their own internal psychopathic tendencies and obsessions, is slowly pushed to the verge of killing, finally committing one, and going through a series of murders.

It is also interesting to note that May is one of the few, if not, the only female villain serial killer in all of the movies we have watched so far in class. Usually, we are accustomed to more masculine killing machines. (e.g. Michael Myers) The female is usually reserved a place in horror as a screaming, almost helpless protagonist with whom the male audience can still relate to. That way, they can attribute their fears to said protagonist without endangering the masculine outlook by casting a male. Thus, it is interesting to see a woman in a villain’s role as opposed to being the usual typecast protagonist.

Furthermore, one can take notice that May as a woman, adds a vulnerability that casting a male in the movie cannot provide. Women tend to seek more company as opposed to men, who occasionally have more solitary tendencies. As such, the movie cannot be more effective if say, a male is casted to fit into the story. And if such case is possible, the results would be entirely different.