Paper on Film Recommendation

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I enlisted for the horror film elective class simply because I love watching horror movies. Whether or not I have watched the movie before, I am willing to watch it as long as it is a good horror movie in my standard. Suffice it to say that I kept an open mind and tried to get rid of any expectation prior to attending the class. However, I could not help but assume that the classics of horror film would be shown. I had this belief because I thought that they would be shown either for their exemplification of a good horror movie or for historical purposes. I was definitely somewhat disappointed when I realized in the beginning of the semester that the class would not include old or classical horror movies.

I express this sentiment because if there was one horror movie that I would recommend to anybody, it would be the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. First, it is by far my favorite and most memorable horror movie. I have watched a lot, and I mean a lot, of horror movies but The Shining is still the one that scares me the most. No matter how many times I watch it, it remains to have the same terrifying effect on me. I think that the fact that it continues to scare people until now makes it worthwhile to show and watch in class.

Second, all the aspects of the movie contribute to making it a successful horror movie. The plot includes character isolation, suspense and mystery. In addition, the characters deal with super-natural entities as well as mental and emotional trauma. Add that to excellent scenes, camera angles and background music as well as a great cast (i.e. Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, etc.) and you have an amazing horror movie. I honestly think that it would be useful to show the movie in the purpose of illustrating what makes up a good horror movie.

Last, I would recommend the showing of The Shining in class for historical purposes. I personally wanted to see the development or evolution of the horror genre through prominent movies of the years, and I believe that I am not the only Horror Film student who felt that way. That is why I think it would be good to show a few classical horror movies as a way of discussing the evolution of the horror genre. And I think that The Shining should be shown given this context because it was revolutionary during its time and I consider it an important milestone of the horror genre and to film-making in general.

Paper on Gender and Sexuality

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This paper will discuss gender and sexuality issues in three movies that were shown in class, namely: Grace, Voice and May. The similarities and differences among the three movies will be discussed using comparative analysis. These three movies were chosen among all the other horror movies that were shown in class because they all illustrated, at one point or another, the topic of homosexuality or same sex relationships.

First, Grace clearly depicted the topic of homosexuality through their characters. The mid-wife was most prominent lesbian in the movie because she made known her interest and affection for Grace’s mother. In addition, it was implied in the movie that Grace’s mother had a past romantic relationship with the midwife. Also, towards the end of the movie, Grace ended up in the care of the midwife and her female partner. The entire movie actually has a strong feministic theme, tackling not only lesbianism but also motherhood. Furthermore, the movie also shows female power through their characters, that the women in the movie were highlighted and depicted as dominant to the men in the movie.

Second, while the abovementioned movie provided a clear message about lesbianism, Voice portrayed the topic a bit differently and in a different cultural context. To be clear, this analysis of Voice is subjective and may not be what the movie is actually about. This movie revolves around a pair of best friends studying in an all-girl high school. One of the girls is victimized and killed by the resident spirit, and the ghost of the girl haunts and clings to the best friend in a desperate attempt to be normal and to find out the cause and motive of her death. The aspect of their relationship that is relevant to this paper is the fact that it illustrates the possessive and somewhat homosexual relationship that is familiar in Asian private school culture.

Last, May tackles the topic of homosexuality in relation to another social issue, unlike the first two movies. In the movie, the main character considers having a relationship with another girl only after the guy she liked rejected her. In addition, she opened herself to her female co-worker because said co-worker was one of the few people who were ever genuinely nice to her. In other words, May discusses the possibility of homosexuality as a result of a larger social issue, specifically, bullying and ostracism.

May

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The 2002 American drama/horror picture May, a seemingly modern take on the mythological test Pygmalion and Galatea , depicts a macabre and grotesque imagery of the pitfalls of obsessive perfectionism and the impact of cruel marginalization on the psyche of a developmentally isolated individual. The film finds itself within the boundaries of realistic horror wherein the possibility of the events portrayed in the film happening in real life would be incredibly high. The psychological dilemma of the protagonist May falls within the precepts of abnormal psychology wherein the value of perfection being grounded since childhood by an authority figure transcends to adulthood and, as the film depicts it, a violent execution of finding perfection in an imperfect world. The persistent marginalization of May exacerbates her already damaged psyche pushing her further into isolation and violent psychosis. The movie in itself falls within the boundary between thriller and horror genres but the dramatic atmosphere juxtaposed against dim landscape of the setting purports the sense of a psychosis developing within the protagonist. This becomes a prominent focus of the film due to it serving as an auxiliary to the premise of the film. For the most part of the film, the audience would surmise that the frequency of the setbacks in May’s life would lead to some decline in her psychological ability to function as a normal individual, which in this case becomes the truth. It is only within the latter portion of the film that we truly see what May intends to do as caused by the frequent failed relationships that littered her life. The slicing and splicing of the multitude of her “friends” and “suitors” followed by the Frankenstein-esque monstrosity created at the end of the film would be the eidolon of her dysfunctional perfectionism. The movie ends with her own grotesque sacrifice of her one eye to her creation thus leading to her downfall but not before seeing her creation come to life in a Galatea-esque manner. It remains a question whether the “breath of life” in her creation could be considered a conception of her avid wishes or was it a de facto human being. Whatever the answer may be, the fact remains that the true horror in her film was no merely the breaking of her sanity and the slaughtering of her relations, but in the dedication and sacrifice she had given to the fruition of her idealistic inception of a “friend.”

Rec 2

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Similar to the format of The Blair Witch Project, the film Rec 2 was filmed like a documentary. It followed the events that happened in the first movie Rec and it was revealed that whatever that was killing the people trapped in the same building were not zombies, but rather people who were apparently possessed by evil demonic spirits. It is a horror film in the sense that it has that there is something unknown killing off the characters one by one until later on it is revealed. I find the previous movie Rec scarier because of the thought that the news crew was actually facing zombies. Later on in Rec 2 the next group of victims including a priest find out that they are facing humans possessed by the devil. However, while zombies remain rather impossible as of present, possessions have been proven to be possible. There is solid proof that such demonic activities do exist and that they happen. What probably adds to the horror element is that itself, that it is possible and that it could actually happen. Given that the phenomenon is possible, but the cause and effect it quite unknown and extremely unpredictable makes it scary. The fact that it could happen and might even be happening in the present adds to the horror factor of Rec 2. Honestly, at the beginning of the movie I thought that it would not be that good because the stigma stuck that it is just another zombie movie. It only dawned on me as the movie moved towards the end that Rec 2 is actually not ‘just another zombie movie’. It sort of tricks you into believing and preparing for a zombie film, and then it shocks you as the movie progresses. The several twists even further complicate the film, adding then subtracting characters with different backgrounds. All in all, I can say that Rec 2 is definitely a horror film.

The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is one of the movies shown in class that quite fascinated me. I consider it a good horror movie because it deals with the supernatural (which I love) and it honestly scared me to some extent. To be honest, it was also refreshing to watch what I consider a typical horror movie after the several psychological-horror type movies shown in class. I do not mean that I did not enjoy these movies. On the contrary, I found those movies interesting because they broadened my knowledge of the horror genre. However, I still prefer horror movies that are to some extent typical or familiar to me.
First, I liked how the movie was made. I think that the slow plot development significantly contributed to the build up of the suspense in the movie. In addition, the filming itself made the movie scarier. Because a lot of the scenes were slow-panning, the audience are kept in suspense and tend to focus on the scene, expecting to see something at the other end of the room. I think that this aspect of the movie made it more terrifying that it actually is. On one hand, I find that these techniques make The Innkeepers a successful horror movie. On the other hand, the movie became a bit dragging because of these techniques.
However, I was fascinated at the fact that the characters were paranormal investigators who seemed to use their jobs as innkeepers as a way to gain access into the haunted hotel. Furthermore, I found it quite ironic that in a sense the thing they were looking for was apparently the one who found them first. It is also noteworthy that the character who supposedly had more experience and encounters with the otherworldly was the one who could not compose himself in the presence of the ghost.
Finally, I liked the twist near the end when the old man entered the story and in a sense became the catalyst for the vengeance of the spirit of his lover. I also liked the concept of the ghost itself because it was very haunting in a somewhat beautiful way. In the end, I enjoyed watching The Innkeepers because it kept me engaged and made me feel thrill and horror, all of which are aspects I look for when I watch horror movies.

Voice

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To be honest, I have a personal bias for Asian horror movies. I tend to enjoy their concepts and cinematography much more than Hollywood horror movies. In addition, I tend to prefer the Asian versions of films over their American remakes, such as The Grudge or The Ring. Even outside the horror genre, I appreciate the Asian-made movies more than their American counterparts, such as the romantic movie My Sassy Girl. I think that I have this personal bias firstly because I can relate to Asian culture more than American culture and secondly because I become much more terrified and even traumatized by the characters and scenes in Asian horror movies.
Even though the statement above seems quite masochistic, it only means that I like horror movies simply because they are terrifying, so the scarier the movie the better. Voice, as mentioned in class before, is part of a series of Korean horror movies with similar plots and settings. I have watched another movie that is also part of the series, specifically, Wishing Stairs. The two movies were quite similar in the sense that both were about a pair of female high school best friends who end up competing with or for each other. Despite the fact that the plot was not original and the horror scenes were quite predictable, Voice was still an enjoyable horror movie.
I liked it first and foremost for its typicality. Because the entire movie was almost predictable, I was able to detect most of the “horror” or “surprise” moments. Because of this, it built up the suspense and I ended up being scared because I opened myself to the scenes. What I am trying to say is that its predictability contributed to its success as a horror movie. This thought probably makes more sense when taken in the context of classical horror movies, such that their plots are almost identical. In my opinion, about 50% or more of horror movies revolve around characters going into a situation in which they know nothing about and then there are latent supernatural events wherein the characters become collateral damage. However, I think that most horror movies have similar plots precisely because those kinds of stories are successful in bringing horror to their audience.
Second, I enjoyed Voice because of despite it not being original, it still managed to have unique plot twists or original character concepts. For example, I liked the fact that it dared to portray the loving but somewhat possessive and even slightly homosexual relationship that is seen in all-girl high schools. Furthermore, it was fascinating to find out that the ghost was actually an student who was also significantly connected and even obsessed with the music teacher. These are the kinds of situations that make Asian films unique and, for me, successful horror movies.

Ponty Pool

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I think that one of the elements that make up what I consider a good horror movie is the atmosphere it portrays. I also think that the atmosphere – whether or not the over-all environment complements the theme of the plot – greatly influences the movie and its message to the audience. In my opinion, the atmosphere that was illustrated in Ponty Pool really contributed to its feeling of isolation and desolation. In addition, this helplessness that not only the characters but also the audience feel turns into utter horror as the movie progresses.

The movie revolves around a team of radio broadcasters that inadvertently become involved in an epidemic that devastates their town. Because the team is quarantined and strongly advised to stay inside the radio station, it is only through listener calls and media information that they are aware of the chaos happening just outside of the building. I think that this factor, along with the environment of the town being cold and uninviting, complement the plot quite well. Also, the fact that the characters did not see what was happening nor have concrete proof that the entire thing was not a hoax added to the horror aspect of the movie.

For me, the most interesting and fascinating aspect of the movie is the concept of a non-viral contagion that turns the infected into zombie-like creature. This was so intriguing because it was a novel interpretation of the common zombie apocalypse scenario, and it went even further by relating it to a current global phenomenon, specifically that the use of language in the present times has been abused to the point that the meanings of words have become distorted or “infected.” I think that the movie beautifully illustrated such a philosophical concept into a concrete and tangible event in the form of a literal global apocalypse triggered by infected words.

Even though there were moments in watching the movie that I got lost or found it hard to understand what was happening, it is a worthwhile movie for the horror fan who is looking for something unique. I think that Ponty Pool is the kind of horror movie that is interesting when it is watched and becomes scarier when it is analyzed and thought about after watching it.