Lady Days

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In the beginning, the movie seemed more to me like a gothic, more sadistic version of Mean Girls. I could totally imagine Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams wearing heavy eyeliner, walking around your typical high school, completely isolated from the social world. Ginger and Bridgitte were your typical outcasts with a not-so-typical fascination with death. They’re like gothic cosplayers who like to dress themselves up in blood and gore and taking pictures of themselves in the most horrifying ways one could die. They didn’t care much about what other people thought about them. They were proud in presenting their fascinations at school without much regard for how huge a turn-off that would be. They could care less about the raging hormones of the boys around them. They didn’t do so much as try to at least look attractive.

They were, in modern terms, in their awkward years.

For me, the movie was a strange, over-exaggeration of an otherwise familiar and even factual human phenomenon: puberty. In the movie, Ginger and Bridgitte were in that pre-menstrual stage where they just totally abhorred the fact that they were girls. It was obvious in how they dressed up, they were disgusted by the thought of having their lady-days and would much rather lock themselves up in their rooms and think up of ways of how to kill themselves next.

Changes, however, come as they first start to draw blood.

When they encounter the strangest of creatures, Ginger finds herself covered in blood and just like in menarche, the first day of menstruation, the changes emerge as the blood begins to flow. At the onset of puberty, many physical and psychological changes occur, pretty much in the same way that Ginger changes both physically and mentally after being infected with werewolf blood. In puberty, hairs begin to grow in the same way that Ginger begins to grow weird hair in the strangest of places. Sounds familiar, right? She begins to be more aware of her sexuality and starts to improve on her wardrobe. She begins to dress in ways that accentuates her curves and begins to be more interested in boys. Like a werewolf, she devours men uncontrollably and I mean that literally and figuratively of course (Wink wink).

But lo and behold, the worst is yet to come. It is here that Ginger…Snaps.

Probably the worst part about puberty (and I’m speaking from a boy’s point of view here) would be the hormonal changes that come with it. This is especially true for girls who suddenly become so sensitive about everything. One minute they’re laughing and all of a sudden they start crying. They get angry at the littlest things that I do. They become irrational and uncontrollable (just like a bloodthirsty werewolf). And they get so miserable that they start looking like a wereworlf too (hahaha, oh no i didn’t.)

But don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against women and their PMS days. I’m barely scratching the surface when I say that it must be really difficult for women. I think it’s pretty scary too, to know that such a thing visits them monthly in the same pattern that the full moon visits the wolf.

So what then must be done?

For a girls, I guess they just try their best to be there for each other on their lady days. Pretty much like what Bridgitte did for Ginger, she was always there for her sister. She never left her side even during the times when she was beginning to go on a K9 killing spree. But I thought the movie had an even more poetic answer to that.

The cure lies with the formula.

For us boys, I think the best that we could do is to be extra sweet to our girlfriends on their lady days, or at the very least be extra nice to our girl (space) friends. I mean, the antidote came from a pretty purple flower and that I guess is symbolic to the kind of understanding and care that we boys must provide a lady on her lady days. I think it’s a sweet thought and that’s probably what could help control the beast that is unleashed during a full moon.

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Bloodbaby

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If I were to be asked what “Grace” was about, I wouldn’t begin by describing how a bloodthirsty baby would suck so passionately on her mother’s breast to the point that she rips off her mother’s nipples. I wouldn’t dare even mention how the mother would literally drain out the blood of a recently killed man and put it in the baby’s bottle for a snack. I would definitely leave out the final scene showing the mangled breast of the mother, which to me looked like ground zero of the World Trade Center. If I were to summarize the film in a way that would be easier to digest, I would say the movie was really just about giving birth. Because the image of a mother giving birth pretty much symbolizes the very theme of the movie. The other scenes, the blood and the murders were merely seasonings to an otherwise straightforward salad.

Before the movie, we were talking about how we humans have the tendency to repress many of our animalistic behaviors and desires and rightfully so because if we didn’t, our civilizations would cease to exist. What sets human beings apart is that we have the capability to control ourselves, to not be enslaved by instinct, to have the wisdom to know how to act appropriately. These desires that we so desperately try to hide within the deepest core of ourselves – our subconscious, resembles that of a baby growing gradually inside its mother’s womb. And as time goes by, there comes the point where our desires become too large to contain that it begins to creep out and take hold of us, pretty much in the same way that a baby would desperately worm itself out of its mother during birth. And this image for me, is the groundwater on which the movie flows. It is about how our deepest darkest secrets creep into our realities and take hold of our lives.

In the movie, we see different characters each of which have their own repressions that in the movie manifests themselves in different ways. The main character, Madeline, was a vegetarian who probably didn’t know she had such a passion for meat. Her denial of meat manifests itself in her unconscious interest in watching animal slaughter, in how her mouth was watering when her husband was having steak and ironically in her anemic daughter. She denied herself of red meat and figuratively and literally, this repression showed itself in her bloodthirsty daughter that would dig in deep when suckling, so deep in fact as to draw blood from her mother’s breast. Madeline, before she got married, was a lesbian and had a relationship with her midwife and this probably explains why she was so platonic when she and her husband make love. She denied her own sexuality and this manifested in how lifeless her relationship was with her husband.

Her mother-in-law was also a repressed mother. She had an obsessive-compulsive disorder and the death of her son probably triggered her obsessions. She missed being a mother and this is probably why she was always breathing down the necks of the couple. Her insistence of them to go to a hospital was also a manifestation of her tendency to be a control freak. When she got herself a breast pump, or when she made her husband suck on her breasts, those were probably manifestations of her deep desire to be a mother once again.

The movie says a lot about a very human truth that as human beings, there are many things that we have to deny ourselves in order to be accepted into society. We cannot act based on our whims and that there are many animalistic desires that we hold dear in our figurative wombs. These desires that we nurture within us are things that are not so alien to us. They “carry our genes” and “have our eyes” and would probably also “carry our last names.” We are the things that we show to the world just as much as we too are the things we do not show. We are one with our repressions in the very same way that for 9 months, a mother and a child were one.

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.

Sick

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What makes a horror film horrifying is that it amplifies reality and distorts it into impossible shapes and sizes that would make us wet our pants if ever we find ourselves in it. We take comfort in the fact that whatever horrors we may find on the screen, such things will stay there. We are made brave by the fact that we are on this side of reality and those monsters and nightmares cannot possibly cross over to wreck havoc in our world. We feel safe in knowing that we control the horror, that after an hour or so, we step out of the Case Study Room, back into our real world and we can begin pulling ourselves back into our sanity.

But what if we realize that our reality is worse? That the horror film we just watched makes a mockery of what really happens in our world? That the horrors in the film are caricatures of the nightmares that haunt our reality?

If we think about it, sex slaves, sadomasochism and rape (even gang rape) are things that we can find in our own real world. Such horrors are not limited to imagination and fantasies. We can read about them in newspapers, blogs and history books even. These are things that we do not have to conjure up in our minds. They are very much real, as real as the laptop on which you are viewing this.

In history, we hear about the stories of comfort women who during the Second World War were raped and tortured in ways that were more horrifying than the way that JT raped the Dead Girl. In the many war stories in our history books, it is not uncommon for us to read about the stories of how invaders would violate the women and even the children and the elderly in their subdued societies in ways that even JT, in all his animalism, would find disgusting.

I would even go as far as to say that this horror film is horrifying not because it portrays a distorted reality but rather it dials down reality. Sure, it was horrifying to see the Dead Girl being raped over and over again, but honestly, we’ve heard and seen worse.

Sure, one would say that this story’s different because the girl is incapable of dying. I wouldn’t say she was immortal because immortality is symbolic of never ending life. I wouldn’t call her situation living. In her case, her immortality was more of a form of never ending death, one she couldn’t escape from even if she died. But this aspect of the Dead Girl sort of pacifies the horror of her situation. When we see her being raped, we think that hey, she’s not a fully functional rational being. She was depicted as a failed experiment that was abandoned in a deserted hospital. Her lifelessness and animalistic characteristic further dehumanizes her and in some way that makes the image of her rape more acceptable.

Because imagine replacing the dead girl with sane, innocent and rational women. Imagine the same situation but this time to a woman who is fully aware of the horrors that are being done to her. Imagine the women pleading and crying for mercy to men who would not have any of it. Imagine the image of this kind of torture and rape being done to young girls and helpless elderly women. Imagine this kind of profanity being done to women who could actually die from all the physical abuse.

This movie was indeed horrifying. But isn’t it more disturbing to realize that our reality is worse? How disturbing would it be if we realize that JT was but juvenile excuse to the real barbarism humanity is capable of?

Offensive was how sir described this movie. I realize now just how huge an understatement that was.

True Horrors

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I wasn’t expecting Cabin in the Woods to be what it was. When I first saw the previews of the movie, it showed plenty of blood and gore and I thought it was going to be another one of those slasher films. The difference perhaps was that the slashing and bashing in this particular film was going to happen, well, in a Cabin in the Woods.

Surprisingly though, I was totally not expecting a fruit bowl of monsters to come sprawling out of nowhere. Every kind of nightmare was present in this film. You have your zombies, your creepy Sadako-ish ghosts, ginormous reptiles, eerie mists and every other kind of monster one’s imagination could come up with.

If I were a younger boy, I would have chucked this movie out the window. If one nightmare wasn’t scary enough, what more if you had the Merman working side by side that creepy girl with a mouth for a face to scare you out of your pants? But as I grew older and more… mature (?) I have come to the elusive realizations that truly, there are no monsters in my closet; that the Boogeyman is nothing but a story used to manipulate my juvenile mind. So I guess you could say that after watching this film, yes, I was still very much capable of sleeping peacefully at night.

Looking more closely at this film however, one can come across a thought that could be truly disturbing. Notice how in the movie, there is this company that works like any other office. They have employees that come to work everyday, sipping a cup of coffee, making small talk, cracking green jokes here and there about a foxy new officemate, sharing future vacation plans, sitting in a desk, training interns, worrying about what to have for lunch. At first glance, it would seem like just any other office. But is it really like any other office?

Perhaps at its operational level, it does, but when one looks at the core of the company, what it’s really doing, one would come across a true horror. This office is not like any other office at all. Because unlike your ordinary firm, this one is in the business of killing, or rather, sacrificing people.

Sure, one can argue that they do what they do because they have to; because if they didn’t the world would be devoured by gods a million times our size. Sure, one could say too that what they are doing is justified and perhaps would go so far as to say that it was necessary. Take time however, to observe how they go about their business. They do so every so casually. They do so as if it were animals they were slaughtering. They do so as if they no longer put any mind into considering that it is the lives of people that they are manipulating and putting into their hands.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is a true horror. To find the most basic of human dignities toyed around like that is to me something that creeps me out. To witness just how aloof and indifferent the company workers are towards the work that they do. They bet on peoples lives, for crying out loud! They party with champagne and loud music while on their background is the scene of an innocent young girl being hurled around to her imminent death.

What makes this movie a true horror film is not in the plethora of monsters that it hurls at you. It’s not in the blitzkrieg of man-eating creatures that spew the guts of their pray towards the screen. It really is in the fact that the human mind could be capable of tolerating such inhumanity in the killing of another person. That such a deed could even be legitimized and deemed necessary sends chills up my spine.

Again and Again and Again

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It wasn’t my first time to see this movie. I remembered seeing it at a friend’s house and never being able to finish it. Downloading the movie was futile too since I couldn’t remember the title. From then on it passed from memory. During our first session, when I found out we were watching this movie, “Triangle”, I thought it was going to be about shipwrecked sailors, trapped on a deserted island, doomed to be devoured by zombie pirates. As it went on, however, I began to recognize familiar scenes. I could totally empathize with Jess when she said she felt like she’s “been there before” when they first stepped into the eerie ship. Like her, I too felt like it wasn’t my first time being on the Aeolus. It was like meeting an old friend and I was glad to finally have the opportunity to finish the movie and to have my many questions answered.

I guess you could say that at that point, I too was having my own “Triangle” moment. Just like Jess, I too was stepping into familiar rooms, looking at the faces of familiar people, witnessing familiar horrors. I was just really happy to be on this side of the screen and I could not, for the life of me, imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, especially Jess when she finally realizes that the masked murderer was no other than herself.

And that is truly horrifying isn’t it? I mean, it’s scary enough to find one’s self being chased around by a deranged murderer. What more if one finally discovers that that murderer is himself? Add to that the fact that the cycle seems to go on and on and on. There is also the fact of having to kill one’s friends and to witness them die at one’s hands again and again and again. I cannot possibly imagine such a scenario in my head. The very thought is horrifying to me at so many levels.

With all that being said, we could already conclude that this is indeed a horror story. But I think there is more to the horror that transcends way beyond the murder scenes and the ideas of being murdered by one’s self over and over again. The true horror lies in the loss of real genuine freedom. It is as if Jess was exercising her free will in trying to change her fate and of her friends by trying to, at least in her mind, break free of the cycle. But we, the audience know that all her decisions are futile, that it did not matter what she did. She will always end up at one part of the story wether it be on the yacht, the luxury liner, washed ashore, in her house, in the car about to drive into an accident or on the brink of whacking herself to death.

As human beings, we boast our independence, our reason and our free will as the pillars of our humanity. This is what makes us superior to other creatures, what makes us truly human. Is it not true horror to find all of these things taken away from us? What is more horrifying to a human being than to find himself no longer human?