Yes, you may come in

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                Let The Right One In was the only movie that I have seen before being shown in class. Though I watched the American remake instead of the original, the story is really similar. To be honest, every movie that was played in class was the first time I watched them because they were mostly American in origin. Before taking this class, I really avoided watching American horror movies because their quality did not usually meet my standards. The American film industry also had the tendency to completely butcher any remake they made.  I watched Quarantine after watching the two REC films. All I could say is that the film should never have been made in the first place because it was a sorry mess of a remake. With this mindset, it comes to no surprise that I only watched the remake of this film, Let Me In for reasons other than to get spooked.  Two words; Chloe Moretz! J.

                The film was a combination of love story and horror, like an inverted and more likeable version of Twilight. When I said likeable, I meant the story was more realistic with the characters slowly falling in love because of their constant interactions with each other unlike Twilight, whose male character only needed to look good and gaze intently at the woman to make her fall for him.

 I never really understood why Eli had to ask permission before coming into a house. It was pretty important too, considering that it was the title of the movie. I guessed that it was one of the rules a vampire had to follow in their world and held ominous consequences when ignored.

                This movie switches the roles of the gender. Eli was not the stereotypical female we usually see on films like this and Oskar, our own male protagonist is a pushover. He had to be constantly encouraged by Eli before he could fight the bullies who tormented him. Eli empowered the female role in this movie and gave all the men a run for their money. Though their roles were switched, Oskar and Eli still maintained some qualities of their gender. Even though Eli was a killer, she was still a shy and reserved girl and looked even weaker than the scrawny Oskar. The constantly bullied and ridiculed Oskar meanwhile, was still the leader of the relationship in terms of guiding Eli through the social conventions of the world and protecting her from the prying eyes of the public. As I was watching the movie, I could not help but smile at how these unique characters were getting along. The screenplay was also designed in such a way that each action they were doing together was presented as a new experience for the couple, though I had some reservations when I considered the real age of Eli.

                I was glad that this was the last film we ever watched instead of the usually gory ones we had to sit through. While love is a tricky factor to incorporate into the horror genre, making it work usually turns the movie into a masterpiece. Let The Right One in is one of these films.   

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Shut up or die!

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Words are merely representations of actual concepts, yet they carry the same power as the actual object itself. They are stored in our minds and we unconsciously retrieve them during our conversations with fellow humans. While nowadays we take communicating with each other for granted, the mechanics of it are still a remarkable marvel. The movie Pontypool makes use of this quick recall and comprehension cycle and turned it into an act of infection that spreads a zombie-like virus.  When I watched Pontypool, I had no idea that it was going to beat out REC as the best film I have watched in class because it started in a dull, unassuming manner. Grant was just driving to work when an unknown woman knocks on his car window. When he asked what she wanted, she merely walked away and repeated their short dialogue. I get the chills when common actions are committed at random. Repeating what someone said to you nonstop is really freaky no matter how you see it.

            The next few scenes were quite boring. It featured Grant arguing with Sydney, the station manager about how he was leading the radio show. Grant’s method of reporting which was direct and confrontational angered Sydney because Grant was asking for trouble by badmouthing people and over reporting news articles to attract listeners. We can see here that Grant’s role was the typical domineering man whose take on hosting a radio show was to use charms and insults to gain listeners. He really did not like the fact he was still working under, of all people, a woman who wanted him to host the show in a coolheaded and guarded manner. Sydney plays the weak, female foil to Grant’s brashness and served as the mediator between Grant and the public. She was the one who made compromises and settles for something when she and Grant argued. She constantly butts heads with Grant throughout the film and the introduction of the virus did not help. I think the naturally gabby Grant could not hold his tongue even if it could cost him his sanity. He was torn between telling the world about the virus and trying to survive. It is notable that the whole film takes place inside the radio station and we only get to hear news from the outside world through calls from Ken, another member of their staff and snippets from some French forces. I realized that the movie itself relied on our comprehension skills in order for it to make sense. What a way to connect with the audience! When Grant finally figured out that the cure for the virus was simply repeating something that did not make sense, he braved the warnings and announced it over the radio. The ending was a little open ended. Again we only get to hear snippets of news broadcasts and mutterings here and there about what happened after the scene cuts to black. Our professor wanted us to watch a short ending scene. It showed Grant and Sydney and they were now in some undisclosed location and were wearing distinct clothes. My take on this is that since you cannot speak of something as they are because the virus uses comprehension to infect people, Grant and Sydney had to create a new world where the virus cannot take hold because nothing they said made any sense. This world slowly comes into reality as the scene became colorized. This movie introduces a new concept into a zombie genre but is a risky move because there were no action scenes to accompany it. I think this film is divides the critics into both sides of the spectrum but fortunately, I liked it! 

Make Friends

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May is a movie that showcases the sadness of living a solitary life and the dangers it poses because the lack of social interaction meant that your morality and conscience is determined by you alone. Like a true angst story that we all know too well, May is a lonely woman whose main cause of misery was her lazy eye and dysfunctional upbringing. While she had a job at the local veterinary clinic, she only does other things to meet her basic needs which is really weird considering the fact that the was already an adult woman and was living without someone telling her what to do. Her main pastime is sewing which takes up most of her free time and her only companion was a creepy doll called Suzie which had not left its glass case ever since she had it.

            The doll was really an embodiment of May herself. She can be seen by other people but she had a glass box surrounding her which distances her from getting close with other people. When she tried to nurture relationships with Adam and her female co-worker Polly, the box where the doll was kept is shown to be cracking by itself with the slits growing wider each time May interacted with people. When she finally wanted to foster relationships of a larger scale, she volunteered to mentor some blind orphans. This goes horribly wrong when one of the orphans accidentally breaks the glass box that was carrying Suzie. May had already been rejected by Adam and Polly had found another lover before this happened. Before May had the chance to fully step out of her box, she was ganged up and rejected and this time, she could not return to the box she was in and her mind snapped.

            May takes her mother’s cryptic advice literally and started murdering people to gather their body parts that appealed to her the most. I think May was only obsessed with Adam’s hand, Polly’s neck and etc. on the first place. She tried to love these persons as a whole being but to these persons, she was just too weird to be loved and rejected her. When May’s mind finally snapped, she became a collector of some sort who only wanted the specific body parts she liked and discarded the rest.

 May‘s role in the movie was almost always reserved for males but when a woman acts it out, it made the actions scarier because in these types of movies, we expect the woman to be the weak and screaming character. The part of the movie where she takes out her own eye and placed it on the Frankenstein-like monster she created was a significant and symbolical scene for me because she wanted the monster to see her using her own eye. In doing so, she hoped that this monster would be able to understand her actions and be her new friend. The monster may as well mirror the darker side of May and embody the physical qualities she desired for herself.

May had a similar feeling with Ginger Snaps except that it was more intelligent and had more depth in terms of the message it wants to convey to its viewers. I really liked how this film was written because it added a little humor to an otherwise twisted film. 

Happy Halloween

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I have never seen Halloween before because I considered it to be in the same category as the Scream or the I Know What You Did film series. After watching these types of films, I have made it a point to never watch them again unless I need to because they are too repetitive and stereotypical without it intending to be, like The Cabin in the Woods. These types of movies were really popular in the late 90’s to the early 2000’s.

After looking up Halloween on the Internet, I found out that it was a reboot of some sorts of a franchise created back in 1978 which makes it parallel to the suspiciously similar Jason Voorhees film series that was created at almost the same time. It was probably a good thing that this was the very first film I have watched of the franchise and the first of this genre after a long while because this horror film class has enabled me to look at these types of films in a new perspective. Unlike the common slasher film which normally places the protagonists in the path of an unknown killer, Halloween actually explains how and why Michael Myers became the iconic killer of the series. As I have said before in my past reviews, explaining the story in a logical manner is a big factor of how I review a film.

It may be because I have never really understood the appeal of slasher films in the past enough to notice its elements but as I was watching the scene where the psychologist was trying to explain Michael’s behavior, it dawned upon me that it was the lack of emotion the killer evokes through his mask that made it the defining icon of the film series. Just think, if we place ourselves in the shoes of the would-be victim, that impassive face must be the most horrifying thing you would ever see before you die. Michael Myers was a child that grew up in an environment that was both violent and repressive. He had certain expectations to meet. He did not like them but he had to put up with it with a straight face. This was a prelude to his obsession with masks. When his mind finally snapped, it was on Halloween, hence the title. As if that coincidence was not enough, he also breaks out of the mental facility on the day before Halloween to continue his murders. This film was different from the previous movies we watched in class because it takes on the point of view of the antagonist.  I was able to understand the reason why Michael committed those murders and I was able to sympathize with him, even just for a bit. When his face was still shown onscreen, I could still see a hint of emotion when he was talking to the doctor, but we do not get to see his adult face because he had his mask on the entire time. I think this was done to clearly define that Michael was the antagonist of this film. I would like to think that Michael did not entirely lose his sanity because his actions towards his younger sister indicated that he was somehow attached to her. When his sister was still a baby, Michael could have killed her but he did not.  Then again, she did not really do anything to abuse Michael, unlike his stepfather and sister. If we look at this movie objectively, it is really just about an individual trying to strike back at an environment that was hostile to him.

Chewing more than you can swallow

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Is there anything exciting about manning the front desk of a hotel? Perhaps the first few weeks the variety of guests coming in and out would be an entertaining sight. After that, small conversations with the guests are enough to get you through each day. What if you were given the graveyard shift? The only action you see would probably be drunken people needing help or sleepless guests requesting for more blankets. In The Innkeepers, Claire and Luke fight boredom by searching for ghosts of the inn where they work which has been in existence since the 19th century and said to be haunted by a certain Madeline O’ Malley who hanged herself after her husband left her. The progression of the story was slow but Luke lightened it up with his quirky statements while Claire amused us by talking about random stuff and ogling at her favorite actress.

                 The story finally progresses when one of Luke’s ghost detecting instruments pick up piano music coming from the lobby. The story is nothing new but the way that it was presented was really the defining quality of the movie. I found myself looking away or closing my eyes at a film whose ghost appears only thrice during the entire 90 minutes of its screening. Looking back, the movie’s score and cinematography was an assault to the senses. The music and slow camera movement made us expect something when in fact nothing was there. When the real ghost appeared, the camera takes a long while to pan away so that the viewers could examine it in all its grisly glory. This brings out the fact that given the proper circumstances, the senses can be fooled without anything being actually shown. While I felt cheated by being scared of the presentation quality rather than the ghosts themselves, that feeling of dread was exhilarating for a horror movie fan like me.  When the actress turned psychic made the prediction about the 3 spirits present at the inn, she was actually talking about Claire, the old man and Madeline O’ Malley. The sad thing about this whole story was the fact that the incident had to happen a week before the inn would be closed down after many years of no paranormal activity. If Claire and Luke only minded their own business, the story would not have played out like it did even if the old man had committed suicide.

                Claire and Luke are like two types of horror movie fans. Luke is the one who claims to be knowledgeable in the field yet did not have the courage to satisfy his curiosity when something supernatural is actually happening while Claire is the inquisitive one who wants to know the truth even if it kills her. Why did I say this about Claire? She really had no reason to go back down to the basement after seeing the corpse of the old man and the ghost of Madeline O’ Malley. The psychic even warned her not to go there or something bad might happen. So why did she go anyway? That is the million dollar question. Perhaps she thought nothing exciting would ever happen to her mundane life again or her curiosity far outweighed her fear at that point in time. No matter what the reason was, I think it is safe to say that if we placed ourselves in her position and disregarded what we had seen as viewers of the movie, we would have had taken different actions depending on what our personality was.        

Rec it one more time

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When it was announced that we were going to watch the sequel of REC, I had some reservations about what it could bring to the table as the first movie effectively established a high standard for its viewers. Although it was clear that the entire story was not explored on the first movie, it could have stood on its own if the Medeiros girl was replaced with a normal zombie that was locked in the apartment penthouse. But since the scenes that featured the newspaper clippings and recordings implied that there was more to the story than meets the eye, this sets the stage for the sequel.

This time around, the characters were not ordinary people but trained soldiers who were armed with guns and high definition cameras. I do not know whether i would be pleased or annoyed with how this second film was shot because it was more stable but priest’s reason for recording did not really convince me and was inconsistent with the secrecy that the Vatican wanted. The priest did not even want the soldiers to know who he is or what they are really going after and did not brief them with what was really going on and yet they brought cameras? I think the producers were now trying too hard to make the movie as “amateurish” as possible that however absurd the reason may be would be good enough. Aside from that, the normally noisy zombie horde on the first film was nowhere to be seen. At various parts of the movie, they would suddenly appear seemingly from their homes and attack to offset the guns the soldiers brought with surprise tactics. It was finally revealed that the Medeiros girl was controlling the infected. They were not zombies but possessed people. This was a big crossover and was a good addition to the film. Like what was discussed in class, the producers were dealing with how to take the movie to the next level because the characters and us, the viewers could never go back to a mundane story after the horrific events of the first film. They had to go deeper to bring a new level of fear. Many films nowadays bring out sequels due to the unexpected success of the first movie but the sequels usually fall flat because the story line was unprepared for a second movie or the writers ran out of ideas and forced out the story in hopes of riding on the first film’s success. REC was planned to have two movies from the start and this paid off. In expanding the story into a case of possession and experimentation by the Vatican, the second film for me, was able to match the success of the first film in terms of the concept and originality. Although the story became more fantastic than I really preferred, it was logical which was what really mattered. REC2 really brought out something new to the dying zombie genre which was good considering the fact that I am a big fan of this genre. 😀

Voice it out

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Voice was the first Asian horror movie the class got to watch. Having watched many movies of this genre, I was kind of disappointed when I heard that it was a Korean movie and a part of the Whispering Corridors series because I have seen the preceding films of the series namely Whispering Corridors and Wishing Stairs. The plots of these movies required some time for digestion as opposed to the in-your-face horror movies that Thailand and Japan makes. The films in the franchise have the same setting of an all-girls school and the stories are influenced by this type of environment. What is notable about these films is that they tackle issues that are rarely talked about in the open but are acknowledged to be true problems in the environment of an all-girls school. Since Korean censorship is particularly strict about portraying their culture in a bad light, the Whispering Corridors series was both liked and hated by the Koreans for its willingness to expose the flaws of their society.

Voice talks about the relationship of a student Young-eon and her music teacher which turns sour after Young-eon was killed. At first, her friend Sun-min thought it was the teacher who killed her, but as the story progresses, we see that the sweet-faced protagonist is not what she seems. Talking about this film at a horror movie fan’s standpoint, there is nothing scary about this film, in fact, the concept of the protagonist being killed by a piece of paper at the start of the movie ruined what good impressions one may have about the film. As what was discussed, this movie depends on the qualities of a female actress to bring out the emotions needed, particularly Korean females. Their strict society represses all explicit matter during their teenage years which makes them seem more innocent compared to teenage Filipinos who are more outspoken. Hearing voices from the dead or facing problems at home are not things you normally keep to yourself but since their society frowns at people who speak about such things, they only shared it with their closest friend. During this period of physical and mental changes in an environment without males, normal relationships with friends of the same gender may turn into something else. As this is yet another issue that is not approved by their society, they are struck by both guilt and longing for maintaining such a relationship. Now that I have thought about it, there are some parts of the story I do not really understand because I have not been placed in a similar environment. The concept of hearing the voice from someone close to you who is dead and a ghost not visible to the human eye is also something uncommon, even in the standards of horror films, which brings me to the conclusion that this movie is not a horror film as it is a film about the unhealthy relationships fostered by this type of environment. Their repressive society makes students cautious about sharing their personal lives which is why they only share this with their closest friend. If their friend forgets about them, they lose someone who can speak out for them which counts as an extension of their own voice.