Shut up or Die!

0

Veering away from the conventional zombie flick, Pontypool delivers a unique zombie story by introducing a culprit very close to man: his words and language.  Grant Mazzy, an overbearing and rebellious radio broadcast commentator, together with Sydney and Laurel-Ann, find themselves in a dire situation as a normal day at work suddenly becomes a nightmare of disproportionate size: zombies are attacking Pontypool and they have nowhere else to go.

Without giving a glimpse of what is happening outside, the setting, similar to the movie “Buried”, effectively leaves us to our imagination to picture the external chaos. Stuck within the radio station inside an abandoned church, we are left to the spoken word and Ken as our eyes as the only means of “seeing” the outside world. Like Grant, Sydney, and Laurel-Ann, we find ourselves trapped with nowhere else to go.

The sense of distance and uncertainty merely evokes curiosity from the audience to know more of the unknown, as Noel Carrol would suggest. The true horror, however, manifests itself when one of the characters finally becomes infected with the zombie virus, leaving not much room for comfort as the monster is now close and apparent. With Laurel-Ann infected with something still unknown, the personal boundaries of the characters suddenly becomes violated as what were once the comforts of the safe radio station is now infected with zombies and their virus, evoking horror in everyone.

The movie presents a unique idea of language being the cause of a zombie strain, leaving us with the only resort to not understanding to effectively combat it. However, what seems to be this far-fetched and almost impossible notion merely reflects what we have done to our language itself. As discussed in class, we have become so used to it that we treat it as merely routine and rendered most of it meaningless. It is only when we forcefully misunderstand it and become unfamiliar with it, as seen in what Grant did in his famous line “Kill is Kiss”, that we begin to understand it again and bring it back to life.

Also present in the movie is some sort of gender stereotypes particularly found in horror. For one, we see how out of the three characters, the two women are the ones who succumb to the zombie strain – something worth pointing out especially because the first words affected are those words of endearment that are more associated to women than men. More than this, however, we also see Grant Mazzy as the knight in shining armor, saving Sydney from being a monster and bringing her back to the real world.  Reading Linda William’s article, this is a way of showing how man wants to keep woman in her place in society, rescuing her from monstrosity to keep her from being who she can really be – a monster who is able to suppress man and strip him off his masculinity and power.

Pontypool ends with a scene that, instead of giving closure, figuratively blows the minds of the audience. While I personally do not know what it wants to signify, it just shows that the movie purposely wants to make itself confusing and misunderstood, for it is in doing so that we, the audience, start to think more deeply of it and begin to understand what it is trying to say.

Advertisements

Not a Girl

0

Move over Twilight and let the right one in! While I admit that I initially thought to this movie either to be a demonic possession or a serial killer movie (of which my speculations both failed), “Let the Right One In” captured my attention for its excellent manner in developing its characters and for showing a dark yet humanistic perspective of the vampire.

Oskar, a bullied boy growing up in a broken family, finds himself having a new neighbour: Eli. Essentially reminiscent of Michael from Halloween, Oskar turns to Eli for friendship and treats her as his only friend even if he later finds out that she is a vampire thirsting for human blood as required for her survival. Eli, on the other hand, does not seem to complain about her being a vampire, although she obviously does not kill people unless it is necessary.  Narrowing down the differences, both Eli and Oskar resemble each other in a variety of ways. First, both of them are outcasts of society, Eli being of another kind while Oskar is bullied by his peers. Both of them also strive for love and acceptance, with they find in each other. Lastly, both of them can be seen as monsters in their own ways. Eli for one is a vampire while Oskar constantly longs for a violent way to get back at his bullies – especially when we see him bringing around a pocket knife in his jacket. These similarities between the two characters make us understand why the two go along together very well, giving us reason to understand deeper their personalities and motivations.

“Let the Right One In”, like any other horror films, also plays on gender stereotypes. Eli, who is a girl, is the one on the surface portrayed to be the monster. More than this, however, it is also worthy to point out how Eli accepts her monstrosity, making Oskar like her for who she is rather than for who she is not. One of the striking phrases that Eli uttered, “But I am not a girl” as she was talking to Oskar captures the essence of the monstrous feminine of Barbara Creed. Yes, Eli is not a “girl”, a girl who is labelled by the patriarchal society to be weak, feeble, demure, and conservative. She is more than a girl, a monster for who she is, essentially because she breaks down this sexual barrier set by men. Effectively, the monster in Eli is haunting because of her power being able to kill and “castrate” men from their dominance.

Another striking point in the film is how there seems to be a reversal of gender roles between the Oskar and Eli. While Oskar, complemented by his long blond hair and very feeble physique, is portrayed to somehow be feminine, Eli, with her strong body and even foul odor at times, is seen as very boyish. This becomes very important in the movie as Eli, the girl, becomes the knight in shining armour rescuing Oskar, the damsel in distress, from his bullies.

The movie also presents to us a real-life counterpart of the horror monster in Eli: the bullies of Oskar. It is very much interesting to point out how she, as mentioned above, only seeks blood to satisfy her thirst and survival, while it looks like the bullies of Oskar, and even Oskar himself, constantly quest for blood for nothing at all and just for the sake of it. Paradoxically, we, the audience, suddenly see ourselves rooting for Eli for her ability to incapacitate the real life monsters of Oskar. This gives credit to the fact that Eli is far more capable than being a girl. As mentioned earlier, she is more than a girl.

“Let the Right One In” is definitely one of the good horror movies out there for it does not rely on loud sound effects and surprise scenes to show horror. On one hand it gives a unique storyline and on the other hand it effectively builds up on the characters of Eli and Oskar that make us, the audience, feel more embedded in their personalities. This enables us to go deeper into the horrors of the story, especially at knowing their unconventional personalities and capacities. In the end, the movie, for me, also successfully show how real life horrors parallel fictional horrors, especially at how the monsters in the horror film merely reflects the real society we all live in.

 

 

Seeing Me

0

“If you can’t find a friend, make one,” uttered May’s mom as she was giving a doll name Suzie to her child. Starting out quite slow, the movie then becomes a combination of both real life and psychological horror that obviously gives goose bumps to the conventional audience like me.

May is a very unique character not only because of her physical difference, as seen in her lazy eye, but also of her psychological disposition. Starting when she was young, she already found herself in a ver difficult situation to socialize and make new friends. Aside from being awkward in herself, especially in actions and words, she also has some sort of an extreme “emo” side with a desire for blood and pain. In fact, she perfectly fits in the realm of sadomasochism as she seemingly enjoys pain, whether inflicted by it or inflicting it, as seen in different scenes throughout the movie. One particular scene that frightened me was when she and Adam were watching a weird short clip that portrayed a couple eating each other. Strikingly, May did not even show a single sign of slight disgust while watching the film and even tried to bite Adam when both of them were in the process of having sex.

What we can see here is a character in May that is seemingly stronger than Adam and the rest of her friends. Fitting Noel Carol’s definition of horror, we immediately sense how May does not fit into our typical conventions, especially because she can be seen as very masculine in things that disgust and frightens even the most masculine of males. Society’s bullying, however, only aggravated her situation that ultimately led to the gruesome murders we have witnessed in the end. Rejected by friends and the people she values the most, she eventually resorts to desperation by turning into a gruesome monster – objectifying her “friends” and killing them for their valued body parts in the process.

It is quite interesting to see how there is a reversal of roles throughout the movie. Usually reserved as the role of men, May becomes the one who objectifies her friends, particularly Adam and his hand, to suit her own desires. Moreover, in the final scenes, we see May as both the victim and the monster. With her gaze upon herself and her doll, we eventually see how she becomes punished by her own actions because the doll simply cannot “see” her, forcing her to cut her eye off. This is very symbolical, especially because the doll, a possible symbol for the monstrous acts of May, eventually sees her through her own eyes. With this gaze, we find that both May and the doll, assumed to be the monster reflection of May, find consolation with one another simply because of the mutual understanding between the two – especially in defining norms and social categories.

In the end, May becomes horrific simply because of her power to objectify the people around her, especially men. Sharing the same eyes with the doll, May identifies herself as both the victim and the monster – one who is capable to change the conventions because of the conventions itself. While I found the movie very disturbing, I especially liked how the character of May offered me a new insight about horror, especially relating to how the genre is woman-centered and how it relatively raises the woman to new roles in society, subjugating the men around her.

Beneath Our Own Masks

0

With mercy and humanity absent from his vocabulary, Michael Myers is an all-out killing machine with one goal: to reconnect with his long lost sister. Set in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween reveals to us the mind of a psychotic serial killer moulded by a perfect combination of bad genetics, a broken family, and an unkind society.

The first half of the film, showing the young Michael, effectively builds the tensions surrounding his life growing up. His tendency to kill animals, which according to Dr. Loomis is a precursor to much horrible things, aggravated by his family’s poor and broken situation, makes us somehow understand what makes up Michael’s psychological situation that turns him to be the monster that he is. However, it is hard to understand why Michael never grew to be normal again even with attempted rehabilitation, leading us to a possible hypothesis that he is really genetically programmed to be a monster with no mercy in sight.

What strikes me the most is Michael’s very weakness: not having his self-created mask on his face. Masks, except for Halloween masks, are usually worn to hide the imperfections of the one wearing it and also to conceal the true identity of someone. For Michael, he says that wearing a mask makes it possible for him to hide his ugliness. However, I see this as something much more symbolic in a sense that we are all actually wearing our own “masks” to conform to what society represses in us, looking better and much more civilized in the process. What is behind our masks is another story, for it possibly shows how we all have our own secrets, our own “ugliness”, in which we do not want to show to others and to our society. We all have our own secrets, true, and sometimes we also have desires and thoughts that are very ugly and uncivilized, things we cannot show and therefore hide behind our masks. These make me remember that man, according to Thomas Hobbes in his book Leviathan, is innately evil and chaotic, contrary to what Aquinas claims that he is inherently good. The movie, in its show of too much blood and violence to satisfy the audience, also probably reinforces this idea especially when imagining the unrepressed man freed in society.

Towards the end, we also eventually see the hero as Michael’s sister, Laurie, who is completely opposite of what monster Michael has become. Because of her very young age, she probably did not experience the same oppression and hardships that Michael faced, adding to the fact that she was adopted by a relatively affluent family. As Carol Clover in her article says, we see Laurie as the “final girl”, the one who we identify with and root for to kill and castrate the monster from his masculinity. Because of this, the hero now becomes Laurie, a girl, instead of the conventional male figure being the “knight in shining armor”, breaking our preconceived notions especially on gender stereotypes and male supremacy in society. For the constantly criticized slasher film because of its poor quality, this is one strong redeeming point: the female salvages the community from crumbling and breaks the monster apart, becoming our unexpected hero.

Halloween is really just your typical contemporary slasher film with a killer wreaking havoc in a community. However, I liked how the movie depicts the early life of Michael, showing us where he grew up in and the relationship dynamics he went through. Nevertheless, inasmuch as we think of slasher films as purely for entertainment, it still gives us a lot of insights and truths, as seen above, that challenges our state of normality. In the end, even before judging Michael and his killer tendencies, we have to first look within ourselves and ask, “What am I hiding beneath my own mask?” Who knows, the next Michael maybe beside you.

(In fact, Michael Myers is more than just a work of fiction, he actually is very real and exists in our world. It is interesting to note about this 15 year old kid in the US who recently killed his whole family and intended to even kill more people in his church. Sounds familiar? link -> http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/24/cops-teen-killed-family-went-to-church/)

Curiosity Killed the Cat

0

“Curiosity killed the cat,” as the old saying goes. Whether the cat really died, this saying presents a universal truth for man: he has a natural and innate sense of curiosity that pushes him to unravel the world’s greatest mysteries from science and math to even religion. While this has propelled man to go forward, it can also kill as the saying goes, like what we have seen in the movie “The Innkeepers”.

Probing on the haunting story of Madeline O’Malley, innkeepers Claire and Luke see themselves in their last chance to have a ghostly encounter in the centuries-old Yankee Pedlar Inn. However, they find out that their curiosity does not only trigger paranormal activities in the inn, but also of a number of deaths including Claire’s. As a result, we come to question who really the innkeepers in the film are. Is it really Claire and Luke or is it the centuries-old ghosts that live in the inn? The answer naturally tends towards the latter.

The slow pace of the film naturally evokes this sense of curiosity within the audience, aching to want to see more. Unlike Rec 2, the unhurried build-up also allowed us to delve more not only in the hallways of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, but also in the lives and characters of Claire and Luke. In fact, I would like to presume that the screenplay allows us to directly immerse in the mind of Claire, feeling what she feels amidst her youthful vibe and the dull setting: anxious and curious.

Striking about the movie is how it perfectly fits both the articles of Noel Carroll and Linda Williams, pertaining to curiosity and gender respectively. The movie perfectly shows how we, as humans, are naturally curious especially to things that do not fit within our normal categories and aim to make the unknown known to us, in this case the paranormal. Like Claire, we too felt a “detective-like” feel from the movie, curious to know more about what happened to Madeline O’Malley and the paranormal occurrences in the hotel even if it elicited fright and horror within us. We also realize that Claire goes to the extreme to satisfy her naturally curious disposition, going too far that even the audience see themselves literally shouting off their seats for her not to go any further down the basement. She even goes against the stern warning from the psychic Leanne Rease-Jones to run away, eventually resulting to her death. Going to Linda William’s article on gender and the gaze, we see how Claire, in confrontation with the monster, is eventually punished for her naturally curious disposition by getting killed in the end.

However, there is still hope for man as seen in Claire. Told to flee the premises right away, Claire goes out of her way to the third floor to warn the old man who just checked in that day. This small act in the film personally goes a long way for it shows that the selfishness of man to protect his own life is overrun by a sense of responsibility and humanity, especially in the case of Claire.

The film is one of the more conventional horror films that we have watched in class, owing to the fact that it falls perfectly aligned to our discussions of horror. Nevertheless, the film made me understand deeper the natural curiosity innate in man by being put in Claire’s shoes and allowing the movie to take me where it wants me to go. While the ending is somehow depressing, especially owing to the fact that Claire eventually gets killed for her quest to know the unknown, it nonetheless gives me an important life-lesson (it’s hard to imagine horror, of all genres, giving you a life-lesson) that is hard to forget: be careful what you wish for.

Left for Dead

0

There is personally nothing much more exciting than having a first-person point of view of a demonic possession outbreak with priests and the SWAT involved – a scene that makes me think more of the apocalyptic zombie scenarios that a lot of young adults lust for especially when one has played the Left For Dead franchise. Without needing much of an introduction, REC 2 continues where the first REC left off: intense, fast-paced, and horrifying. With an excellent story line that effectively picks-up on the bits and pieces left from its prequel, REC 2 is personally one of those few sequels that arguably lives up to the hype and excitement of its predecessor.

What is missing from the movie, however, is the usual convention of having a female lead. Instead, we are immersed into the lives of 4 SWAT officers and a doctor priest, Dr. Owen, who are in the quest of obtaining blood samples from the demonic subject, a Medeiros girl. However, just as in the first movie, we see the eventual deaths of all characters in their hopeless quest to find the blood sample for an antidote. To make matters more disturbing, Angela Vidal, thought to have survived her initial attack, is actually the demon using the body as a vessel to the real world.

What is amazing about REC 2 is how we are given a renewed hope of conquering the unknown demonic creature that preyed on the characters in the first REC, including the very vulnerable personalities of Angela Vidal and her cameraman, who can be considered as the foil of the SWAT team. With the emergence of the concept of the knights in shining armor in the persons of the SWAT team and the doctor priest, the audience more or less expects at least a tough fight from this all-star cast against the zombies inside the apartment. However, few chances of hope were immediately extinguished by unfortunate events as the fate of this testosterone-filled “all-star” cast eventually became a hopeless cause similarly seen in the first movie. With this said, we can see how the notion of fate comes in the movie – no matter what we do, no matter who we send, we just can’t do anything about the horrors present in the circumstances in the movie.

For me, REC 2, like REC, also delves deeper than not being able to do anything– especially at how it portrays the monsters in the movie. Like what I have said about the previous REC film, it is as equally horrifying that there are more monsters present in the movie than we know of, especially at seeing how far man will go to protect himself. In the film, we see how the people trapped inside the building, despite their desperate plea for help, were shot at by government and police officials safely destined outside the building. In fact, one can see how the SWAT team sent inside the building were treated merely as pawns, even going further to trick them into thinking that what they were dealing with just a normal everyday scenario that they can easily get out off. From here alone, we see how the “demons” can also transcend from those who are possessed to those who are completely sane and normal – everyday people we confront with.

Just as what we have also discussed in class, the film is able to depict the normal and abnormal coming together. An everyday normal life of a SWAT team is suddenly disturbed by an abnormal force in their everyday operations, a familiar sight turning to a very unfamiliar one. Their situation does not really fit in any of man’s everyday categories, which forces them to quickly adapt in their own ways that will forever scar them in return.

In the end, REC 2 tries to quench our thirst for more, especially when the first installment of the series left us curiously hanging with more questions than answers. Come to think of it, the great thing about the movie is the fact that it actually leaves us in the dark – leaving it to our own creative imagination to think of what is going to happen next in every move made by the characters and eventually in the ending of the movie itself. In this way, the movie does not need an ending – because its “ending” is also a new beginning that induces the creative imagination in our minds.

 

Slowly Fading Away

0

The first Asian horror film shown in class, the Voice reminds me of Triangle in a way on how its story line goes, especially when the lead character discovers herself as the monster she is fighting all along. Young Eon, a top singer of an exclusive high school for girls, is suddenly murdered one night after a song practice in an exclusive-girls school. With her spirit still lingering and trapped within the campus, she finds comfort in her best friend Sun Min who only hears her voice. After certain revelations transpiring throughout the film, we eventually notice how Young Eon has a double-edged personality, turning from good to bad in the process.

While I highly appreciate how the movie attempted to create the plot twist, the execution was really short of smooth sailing. For me, the flashbacks were properly sequenced but the manner that the movie shows it, that is whenever Young Eon crosses a hallway, is kind of lame and could be done in a better manner.

Diving into the movie, it mainly talks about relationships, particularly at the level of deep affairs between individuals. In the movie for instance, Young Eon initially faces this horror in relationships: being forgotten by her best friend, Sun Min, as she starts to hang out and interact more with a new friend, Cho Ah. The particular act of Young Eon losing her voice to her only communication line to the living world can be seen as really difficult, more so horrific, for her, especially because it will eventually happen sooner or later as Sun Min gradually accepts that her friend is dead. At this surface level, we see how the notion of being separated from the people we love is truly horrific especially given the context of our own relationships with others.

More than this, however, the movie becomes even more horrifying with the element of extreme jealousy in relationships as can be seen at how Hyo Jung and Young Eon killed their rivals for attention. In this manner, we can see how a normal and somehow lovable girl like Young Eon can be changed psychologically and emotionally because of such unfortunate occurrences, on top of the possible notion that she is really schizophrenic. This reached the pinnacle when Young Eon, as desperate as she is, killed Cho Ah and assumed the body of her best friend, Sun Min, in the end. While it may be argued that Young Eon is just psychologically incapacitated and that the movie portrays a psychological stream of horror, the movie shows to us how one can become truly a selfish being in our own ways, which can be motivated by the quests for love, jealousy, revenge, and attention.

Bearing the personal notion of the movie being under the stream of psychological horror, we can see that while the scenes from the movie are not actually far from reality no matter how absurd and weird the characters like Young Eon can be. Just look at the news and we can already see jealous lovers killing their rivals, husbands killing their wives, wives castrating their husbands, and so on. In fact, it is true at how people can go so far because of love and relationships to the point that they change personalities: from good to bad, from serene to violent, a real horror that every one of us can see and can be – a proof that this horror movie is just an abnormal representation of what the human being can be.

Transcending the overall cinematography, the movie offers interesting views about Asian horror and the overall horror genre itself. First, there are no significant male casts in the movie unlike in the other horror movies we have watched where there is always a minor male character. The film is practically dominated by females even in the aspects of friendship, love, and relationships, which can be seen in most horror movies. Be it an attempt at power, a punishment, or a tool for submission as in Linda William’s article, the movie in particular shows to us how Young Eon suffers for her being a “bitch” especially in meddling with the music teacher and how she eventually confronts her doomed fate when she sees the monster as herself (the “gaze”) by transferring in the living body of Sun Min in the process.  Next is how the movie shows to us the dynamics in relationships, especially within the context of the friendships between women and somehow touching on lesbianism. Lastly, the movie offers very little explanation on what is really happening especially to Young Eon (why she is trapped within the school, how she can move herself to a new body, why she has a dual personality, and a lot more), unlike other Asian horror films like Shutter and The Ring that give closures in the end. This gives me the notion that the movie also touches on the fantastic stream of horror – that we ultimately cannot really know the sources of the unknown and can do nothing but to accept what will be. In the end, Voice gives me the audience a very weird and chilly feeling after watching it, especially at how Young Eon transformed from being the good to the bad, catalyzed by her voice metaphorically slowly fading away to those important to her.