Let the Right One In

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Let the Right One In is a cute movie in relation to the horror genre. Given that it’s pretty gory in itself, that is beside the point that the movie drives home. The central monster that the movie plays with is the vampire, a monster of charisma, power and tremendous affect.

The vampire, unlike the cheapened iterations of it in recent trends in films, is a monster characterized by its appetite for human blood. The horror on a natural level being that the vampire presents a clear opposition the cultivated lifestyle we have where we are the modern-day top predators. This threat to the dynamics of powers to the natural order of things is further deepened by the fact that the vampire presents itself as further empowered version of ourselves (i.e. looking human). But beyond that, the movie also classically plays on much of the mythological baggage that the vampire operates on like the fact that they can only be invited into a home and not come inside without consequence, or that they burn in the light. The movie titular basis is the former of those two, and an interesting aspect to play upon in the movie.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across any kind of monster that was so polite as to need to be invited in before it can disturb your life in your own abode. The act of letting in a vampire, of letting in a horror, is unthinkable even if you knew they were one by common sense. It’s strange how the vampire is framed as something that respects or rather is bound by certain rules of conduct. But in a way, the issue of space and the vampire is kind of like the say way that the realization of horror penetrates our understanding. We only understand it the moment it has entered our realm of reference and understanding but the moment it has done so, the moment it takes that step inside, which we let it, it has power over us.

The movie presents a skew on that though. The way Oskar lets Eli into his house and even into his life; he subverts that and internalizes the horror into his life. Oskar leads a life where he is almost powerless. The disturbance that Eli brings his life is that it opened him to the realization of his weakness and his inadequacy. It’s interesting that to some degree that Eli is a sort of parallel, not unlike a mirror, by pointing out the exact things he lacks. The element of horror, once inside our space of the sacred and is internalized, reveals to us our own unconscious desires. The dynamic of coexistence with the horrible is one marked by reflection on, among other things, knowing and understanding that we are that powerless and capable of being so in the face of greater natural forces. As a means of fortifying ourselves against horrors there is a need to learn to accept them as well, almost like a means of vaccination against greater sources of horror.

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Ponty Pool

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Ponty Pool is a hard movie to grasp and most of the time through the movie you do find yourself grappling with ideas the movie puts before you and actually struggling. And I find it interesting that the movie actually centers itself on much of the same idea of language as a source of horror for society.

The kind of horror the movie plays on initially is the kind of horror that intelligible language can convey. It was interesting at first where you spend a great deal of the movie listening to the horror. In that sense the movie takes you back to the roots of horror as a narrative form. The movie even goes out of its way by employing the most distilled form of narrative there is, the spoken word. The time you spend in the movie listening to the accounts of the news correspondent outside witnessing brings to note one thing about horror and that it exists at the point of understanding. What I mean by this is that the concept of fear, horror, and revulsion begins the moment we understand. In a manner of speaking the moment we realize the horror, it is already too late in that we’ve already let it in the door. And the movie operating on that is what initially sets the tone for the horror because we spend a good amount of time letting it in already and the moment that we come to understand the nature of the horror in the movie, a virus transmutable through language and cognition, of all things, does the actual visual horror begin.

The movie for me builds off of an uncommon kind of fear we have not really explored because of the fact that it operates on the level of the abstract. There is a hidden fear that is rendered in our usage of language. We use language as a means for expression and understanding which we do by syntax and order. This is how we derive and inscribe all meaning into our conversations but, as the movie illustrates, what if that very process had taken on a life of its own. What if language was able to exert a will over us? Not like in a way that it could make us do something we didn’t want to do or physically control us but if it could make us mean something without us meaning. There is that day to day fear we encounter of being misunderstood and the movie plays that to the extreme where we are being forced to not understand as the countermeasure against the horrors. It’s unimaginable really to have a method of salvation that is available but nigh impossible.

As such, it raises the issue of the possible dangers of understanding. As human, we are apparently biologically and psychologically conditioned to learn to make sense out of the non-sense of the world; as is the basis for much of human curiosity. The movie then presents the idea of what if we weren’t supposed to make sense of the non-sense unlike what we do, out of said curiosity. The movie presents a cautionary tale of the said dangers of understanding and the consequence of knowing what shouldn’t be known. But along those same lines, the movie also presents an equally horrible outcome of the current trend of language and that is the possibility of overusing it to the point of words losing meaning. That is what it means to break a language; to have to unlearn it, learn another, and hope that the depth of meaning is the same.

 

May

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May is a movie that at times is funny, quirky, and awkward at moments. The movie plays around with the character of May and shows that through a character like her can exist the predatory male and female gazes.

The movie explores the habits that become ritualistic in nature and how they become both awkward and a source of horror. The movie initially played out the character of May as a semi-neurotic suffering from a mild case of OCD, to a certain degree, producing in her a host of some very awkward habits and social skills. Characters like May are interesting in the horror genre because they carry an atmosphere of paranoia and unease within their gaze already, a prominent male gaze trait, almost ironic given that May is female. Regardless, the character of May presents the case of a male type of gaze learning to use the female gaze.

The movie, in the earlier, more awkward parts, explores the idea of female aggressor in a relationship. As the movie shows, the female taking on the lead and pursuing a man is rather off putting to a certain degree. In a manner of speaking, we can see that May is herself part victim and part monster as well. The point where May begins to kill off people and harvest them for their parts which she deems perfect, she is, at that point, a culmination of the male and female gazes working in tandem. Her discrimination of the “beautiful” parts of other people proves that she possesses the female receptive gaze to look and accept things but her wanting to separate these beautiful parts from the rest which is not beautiful is the male gaze denying these as part of her reality. Her being characterized by the voracious nature of her “appetite” and the power by which she empowers herself to execute her tastes is what constitutes the final monster that May becomes.

 One other thing, in relation to the awkwardness the movie conveys to the audience, is the language we use to pertain to the weird now. The weird, queer, and the horrible are now vague qualities in our language today. I say vague in that, as illustrated in the movie, the weird, at different times in the movie, is affirmed as either positive or negative qualities. This ambivalence of the language in the world is what lends the idea of blindness to the character of May, as parodied in her interactions with the blind children. This kind of blindness and general misunderstanding is likewise what qualifies into May’s own awkwardness in her moments of intimacy with the object of her affections like in not knowing what to do with her hands and not knowing where to place them. The blindness of not knowing where to place her hands is mirrored in the scene where Amy’s glass case is broken before the blind children and the children hurt themselves in the process of trying to locate Amy.

The blind children in a way represent the kind of people who are deprived of the normative sight and knowledge of society but are likewise still curious of it. To them there is a clear in present danger and us who are aware of the danger to them are often inclined to help because we are moved by our compassionate fear. It is this realization that May is inadequate and is effectively ‘blind’ as she is now that pushes her to take on the action of empowering herself with another kind of sight, a predatory sight.

One thing the movie focuses on is repetition taken as a form of a ritual. People with OCD, and to certain extent even normal people, often are compelled to repeat actions to establish a sense of security over their lives. People on the outside would often view these acts as ritualistic thinking and that there is an ascribed sense of meaning to most of these acts. The Ritual in the case of the horror film is a tool of security, a tool against the horrors, an exercise of recollection and an extremely inward looking gaze. Throughout the movie, May performs rituals and repetitions as a way of allaying her own personal anxieties from encountering her own horrors. The horror genre often in using a monster will often use a means by which to overcome the monster but, as May illustrates, at some point the monster’s own presence can overpower the method by which the monster is coped with initially. This then becomes a similar source of horror as we experience the slipping of power from us as the dynamics of power is lost.

Halloween

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Halloween is interesting in that it places the monstrous a little bit closer to home and by that I mean that as a “Slasher” flick where the monstrous is human flesh and blood but monstrous in appearance, nature, and habit.

Movies like Halloween that engage the viewer in the chase down of the victim will often play the hunter persona as that which relishes in the kill but Halloween places an interesting skew on that with a character, a monster, with unclear motives. This lack of clarity in understanding the acts of Michael Myers is grounded in the fact that he is clinically a psychopath.

An interesting interpretation of the horror’s usage of the psychopath, especially like one such as Mike Myers, is that he represents the inversion of the “Other-ing” gaze upon us. He represents the supremely human “Other” that is able to exert his will to “Other” an individual by killing them, without remorse. The process of other-ing has always been seen a process of the majority against the minority but the way psychopaths like Mike Myers comes off, he is the minority fighting against the majority and is supremely able to fight back against the majority, with monstrous vigor. The psychopath Mike Myers presents a form of the male gaze, one that is exclusionary and other-ing in nature, but also retroactive in that that is all he is seemingly capable of. The monster represents the lack of the female receptive and inclusionary gaze for those who do not belong or fit in his world of thought.

Another thematic object that comes into play is the usage of masks in the commission of the entirety of the horrors. The fixation of Mike Myers on masks relates in a manner to the kind of gaze he possesses. The clown mask he earlier on has is replaced by the more stoic and featureless rubber mask, almost signifying a sort of forced maturation in his gaze from the playful to the predatory. As a child, wearing the predatory mask, the Other-ing male gaze, it was almost a queer mismatch to his child’s features that raised flags of concern but did not merit wary in most around him because they expected that a child would not be able to support or understand that kind of gaze. The moment he reached maturity and came back to the town, he finds now that he is now able to fit into his mask and that the gaze he possesses is one he has internalized.

The setting of the movie itself is one that is auspicious to the ideas of the gaze and the mask as a tool of the gaze with Halloween being a celebration of masks where for once in a year many seemingly take on masks themselves without giving much thought as to the gaze that it provides them. For individuals like us where removing our masks affords us another kind of gaze to return to, the case of Michael Myers shows that there is no other kind of gaze to return to. He had discarded his female gaze because it was a gaze that he had already learned to mistrust.

Innkeepers

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Innkeeper is a very awkward movie to experience and I mean awkward in the sense that the movie spends a lot of time on one thing to the point that you feel awkward looking on. I guess I can call the movie novel in proving that the movie’s narrative has a dynamic power over you in demonstrating that it can cause you to feel awkward and by demonstrating that it has power over what and how long you are supposed to look at something.

Among other things the movie is about sensing as seeing, seeing as a form of knowing and knowing as a dynamic of power. The movie plays with the viewers in that, coming into the movie where you fully expect horrors leaping out at you left and right and fully on guard, it spends an ‘awkward’ amount of time where you not being scared at all. There are points in time that it seems to raise false scares and alarms, seemingly dulling your sense of fear, if you will. That false sense of security brings down the viewer’s defenses to the levels of unpreparedness that the horrific encounters later are all the more frightening.

The film when it comes down to what is present, introduces the horrific element, the monster of the film, as the ghosts that are encountered by the viewers only in the later third of the movie. Ghosts are a very interesting literary element regarding the dynamics of horror with the human nature of knowing. The ghosts are presented as these phantom forces initially and only later do they make themselves visible even to the viewers, almost quite suddenly. The idea that there is this existence that is beyond your ability to perceive and conceptualize is the basis for the drive for human curiosity and the human process of self-revelation is characterized by curiosity spearheading us into intrusion into the unknown, seeking it and making it known to ourselves; a completely active, penetrating process. The Ghost, however, is the very embodiment of the fear generated from the inversion against human curiosity where that which can be known, no matter through what phenomenology, cannot be known unless it wants to be known. This takes away from the human the power of knowing as simple cognizance.

The ghost plays on the philosophical principle of aletheia, or the state of disclosure of the world in such a fashion that it can be made intelligible and basically cognizable to the human being.  A society based on humanist principles such as our modern culture denies the ghost simply because the ghost is pictured as an aloof reality that can only be known when it wants to. Wanting to be known is the wrong term for it rather, the ghost is horrific in that it is a reality that has full control and full will over its presence in the reality of the world. It violates our current norms of exploration where the only limits we have ever experienced when it comes to knowing have always just been our own.

This inability to the willfully penetrate the reality of the presence of the ghost is the manifestation of a power taken away from us, a castration of sorts where we, with our gaze, are rendered helpless to the behest of the horrific.

Voice

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Asian horror is not unlike most horror in that we encounter the horrible out of a cosmic kind of justice. The premise of Voice is that even as departed spirits we are able to produce a presence, an affect on the people that remember us. The manifestation of which is the voice of Young-Eon on Sun-min.

Asian horror often does play the card of cosmic justice where the so-called victim in the western hemisphere takes on the roles of either the arbiter, the criminal in need of punishment, or even the ghostly witness of the cosmic wrong-doing. But the movie Voice is different in that it not only plays all those character but goes beyond it. It is a movie about wanting to live above all things, despite the impediment death brings. It is about keeping, having and maintaining not only a presence in the world but also having to power to affect changes to the world as proof of not only our existence but of that we live.

The movie puts the idea of a ghost somewhat on the pedestal by making it out to be a pitiable existence. A thing that is able to experience a world but not have the power to change it. As such the ghost is not an object of the horror. The ghost later becomes a horror when it takes on the form of the phantom force setting our world into motion. But beyond that, the ghost as a horror frightens us because it represents exactly that which is out of place in the sensory aspect of our world. But the dynamic of the ghost and the horror it facilitates is different in that unlike physical horrors that are able to penetrate our realities and simply frighten us by being there, the ghost is an experience mitigated by our being receptive to it and in a sense our own fault for being open to it.

The movie presents the ghost as a being of malcontent. The ghost in that regard represents the grappling with of humanity over our own mortality of all things and the Ghost is the hidden projection of wanting to continue even over death. The ghost represents the fear that the lifetimes we live just might be insufficient in time in order to fulfill our desired existence. The ghost then becomes a being characterized by malcontent and ambition over life.

But the movie makes one crucial distinction about the ghosts in Voice; the ghost’s existence and its pre-existence, the point when it was human and alive, are seemingly different phases of its life. It’s almost as if the Ghost is the only phase of existence capable of reflection upon its existence as a ghost and its previous existence. The ghost is able to look back farther in life and as such represents the culmination of a specific person’s being even his mistakes. This almost characterizes our life as a phase of existence devoid of the ability to look back. The ghost is then a representation of regrets and a reminder of things yet done.

The movie plays out a difficult dynamic between the ghost and those that experience it because the identity of the actual victim in the narrative is passed around because of the shadows of doubt. The Asian horror genre as a subset of Horror presents reality as one being with the spiritual at all times, where the horrible lives and resides right underneath our noses.

Rec2

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Rec2, in the wake of Rec, is telling of how the genre of horror works. For one thing, there was less to expect and to find cryptic as the movie goes in earlier with an exposition of the events that lead up to the sequel. But also, as having watched the first movie, I still found the scares and panic moments quite fresh and also still quite vivid. No matter how often you see something in the horror genre, if it still manages to cause that feeling of absolute dread and shock, it’s still working.

I liked how with Rec2, the movie managed to tell and explore a new angle that the movie’s franchise just barely explored in its earlier iteration. The religious aspect coming into play in the horror genre is a very interesting dynamic. On the one hand, we had the horror genre’s titular key characters like the zombie-like possessed horrors being the corporeal and manifest fear to the audience, but on the other, religion plays that intangible and passive tool on the side of humanity. It’s interesting how in the horror genre we always think that the opposite of the source of horror lies within the opposite of the spiritual spectrum, religion.

Classically always about Good vs Evil, the horror genre has built religion up as a literary device that, while being often passive and inert, is that enabling factor, that empowering trope against the monster. However, that moment where the Horror and the Religious clash is, in itself, a moment of violation of your close personal inner sanctum. Religion works within that sanctuary of our humanity where we find many of the roots and fruits of the lives of virtues we cultivate and the intrusion and clash of the benign in that space, like it does with Rec2 is what makes a lot of the imagery in the movie jarring like the confining of the teenagers and use of another to call out the demon. Horror almost always manages to call into question that thing we call morality and evaluate it.

Another thing the Rec series is peculiar for is that it makes use of a unique circumstance where it manages to pull off the fusion of two kinds of horrors like the zombie and the possession. The movie is grounded in a culture where religion is, in fact, a norm and as such, the Christian West; the genre of horror has its own place in such a society such as the polar opposite, although that’s not to say it isn’t taboo. A country like Spain, where religion is a norm, is seemingly as receptive of the ideas and the implications of horrors as they are to the benign influence in their lives. In such a society, the zombie, which is often an aimless, soulless, animated corpse is made scarier by making it out to be a possession, admittedly a shadow of the aspect of religion and the spiritual. The idea of possession is frightful because the experience talks about the omnipotence or the potency of the supposed Evil God. Like the existence posited by Descartes in his philosophy, the Evil Genius, the supposition of the Evil God that is able to mislead us and manipulate us is the consolidation of the fear of having destiny, your destiny, ripped from your clutches.

What’s also interesting about Rec and a host of other good pieces of horror film is that these horror films do not simply serve as an inoculation of sorts. We come into movies like those and half the time we are expectant that the movie will end with a supposed attempt at a return to normalcy where the characters much like a human body is after a vaccination, is better off, well informed, healthy and happy. Movies like Rec, where there is no happier ending where the scales aren’t tipping back, for me, constitute an important ‘what if?’ case for the genre.