Let the Right One In

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Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every person. Who we are, and who we could be. The first is who we reveal to the world, while the one that follows is yet to be fulfilled, it is another that we keep hidden inside. Oskar and Eli both possess the potential of being extraordinary people in spite of their challenging lives. Oskar, a 12-year-old boy, is constantly the victim of bullying in school. He does not capitulate and copes with this by spending his evenings pretending that he is the bully instead of the victim. Eli on the other hand, has been a 12-year-old girl for many years, and while her nature – a vampire – requires her to kill people and live off their blood, she does so with a conscience neither killing violently nor taking more than her share. When the pair inevitably meet, the promise of a relationship soon begin to change the two kids.

In finding each other, Oskar and Eli changed the other’s life. Eli challenged Oskar to stand up to his bullies, while Oskar inspired Eli to become more human. In sharing her secrets to him she invited him into her life, and soon tore down the walls of her isolated world. There are many reasons to find “Let the Right One In” very different among all horror films, but the most outstanding I would say is the element of romantic love between the children. Children in horror film are often the most oppressed, and like Michael Myers in Halloween, remain partly vulnerable even as monsters. By definition, Eli is a monster, but in her sustained youth she remains dependent on her father for the provision of food. Most parents have expectations of their children, and while these remain unfulfilled, strain adds pressure to some children’s lives. Oskar was no ordinary kid, and when the opportunity provided itself, he found a friend (and maybe even more) in Eli. The identification of the two with each other seemed to be rooted in both’s unique position as the “other” in society, which is why Eli and Oskar found it easy to develop a friendship. The filmmakers even went as far as initiating a romantic relationship between the two to strengthen the “otherness”, as romantic love and sexuality’s acceptability remains limited to certain ages. Love then plays a big role in the conclusion of the movie. Having lost her father, Eli fled from the apartment complex to find a new home, but when Oskar was revisited by the bullies he stood up to, Eli came right back to protect him. It was an act of love, and indicated an opening in her life for Oskar. In the end, Oskar was shown riding a train with Eli inside a case possibly assuming the new role of providing for Eli like her father did before him.

Love is the main theme in the movie “Let the Right One In”, but still remains strongly under the category of the horror genre. Some might find a comparison in the movie “Twilight” as both films involved a supernatural being (a vampire) to fall in love with a human, but I believe Twilight’s horrific characteristics remain in a totally different realm than that of Let the Right One In. Let the Right One In maintains elements of the horror film, including our most recent topic – gender. It follows the basic formula: normality is threatened by the monster. Although Eli was presented as the monster in the movie, she undoubtedly was still not a very powerful threat as compared to other (male) monsters in different films. This may have something to do with her age, but also with her gender. When she was able to “infect” another person, also that of the woman species, that person was not able to handle being a monster and indirectly committed suicide. Both Eli and the woman she infected did not completely possess a typical monstrosity that struck fear in other people’s hearts. In it’s entirety, I think that Let the Right One In is a very intersting type of horror film expertly providing horror in love, and love in horror. I’m glad that we ended the semester with this film, and am now truly able to say that I’ve watched a number of different films in the spectrum of the horror genre.

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Pontypool

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When the news came out that there was a disturbance in Pontypool, Grant Mazzy the radio announcer, attempts to elucidate the details of the said disturbance. He talks with sources including on-scene reporter Ken Loney and tries to get the gory details of the situation. Grant, along with his co-workers Sydney and Laurel-Ann remain in the radio station when a mob tries to attack them. Dr. Mendez arrives along with the mob, and notices that Laurel-Ann has already been infected. The three – Grant, Sydney and Dr. Mendez remain in the sound-proof both to protect themselves from infection.

Dr. Mendez explains that a virus has infected the English language, and it has attached itself to certain words. When those infected words are then understood by the speaker, the person also becomes infected showing symptoms similar to that of a zombie. In looking at the movie’s elements, it follows that Pontypool falls both in the typical zombie movie and outside of it making use of a very different element – language. The monster, the “other” is not personified in the movie by any concrete being, and the horror remains hidden in mystery. People often fear the unknown, and it is this unconception that rattles the minds of the viewers. In class we talked about the monster being created by the self, coming from the familiar and becoming the unfamiliar. The movie Pontypool plays on this characteristic, using the English language as the carrier of horror – something so simple as the act of understanding led to the spread of the disease that would inevitably cause death. What then are the authors, actors and directors trying to convey in this movie? The only possibility I could think of was the endless possibilities that understanding had to offer: with proper use it could lead to building something great, with malicious intent it could lead to great destruction – something too familiar in hackers and codes.

The initial notion that I had about the objectivity of the “monster” affecting it’s prey radically changed when one of the characters, Sydney, became momentarily affected by the virus. Sydney was a woman, and the radio announcer Grant Mazzy – a man – was the one who discovered the “cure” to that affliction. They worked together and were able to remove the virus from Sydney. The act of understanding (the virus) here now gives an opportunity for salvation.Women are oftentimes the victim in horror movies, and in Pontypool it was no different. The naked woman Grant saw, Sydney, and Laurel-Ann were all women and even the child that Syndey had to kill was a girl. We can relate this to the view of the woman as the monster, the alien who’s source of power is different than that of a man’s. The identification of woman with the monster not only leaves her an outcast, but also a victim as seen in movie. Syndey’s guilt grew when she killed the zombie girl, and this led to her momentary obsession with the word “kill” which was an infected word. It was never revealed in the movie whether Sydney and Grant survived, but a short scene shown in between the credits lent more confusion to me as a viewer rather than clarity. This I think was a driving point in the movie’s plot regarding “understanding” and how it can bring both power and danger. I think the movie was very different from the other movies we’ve seen in class as it used a very unique element – language – to act as the “monster” of the film, and I found the movie itself as an abject in the horror genre.

May

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It is difficult to imagine more humble beginnings than those of May. How one lazy eye could have lead to a life of loneliness is absurd. We all know how mean some children can be, and it was that kind of discrimination that isolated May in her youth. When May was in grade school, she had a problem with her eye – it was lazy. To cure it, her opthalmologist prescribed the typical fix; an eyepatch to correct the eye’s laziness. May had to wear it to school, and it was that that made other school children to identify her as weird and different. May had no friends, and to this her mom said “If you can’t find a friend, make one!”. May received a doll from her mother – Suzy, one enclosed in a glass cabinet, which became the only friend May grew up with.

As an adult, May was no different. She remained in her own little world with no one to talk to except for her doll Suzy. When she met Adam, everything changed. Suzy wasn’t the only “person” in May’s life anymore. She thought Adam was perfect, especially his hands. May wanted to be close to this mechanic she saw working on a car, and even went on secret dates (that only she knew about) with him. When they finally became friends, May interacted with Adam in the only way she knew how – which was with Suzy. May would go to Adam’s house anytime she wanted. She treated him like an inanimate object. When Adam discovered May strangeness and rejected her, she became unhinged. Ultimately, the shattering of Suzy and its glass cabinet led up to the final outburst of May – where she massacred people she met to harvest from them her favorite body parts and create a “perfect” friend.

It is obvious how neglectful parenting led to the abnormal formation of May’s conscience. She is the “abject” of the film, the monster, disturbing the normal order that was established. We can use the cinematic gaze to further establish May’s character as the monster – her being the object of the gaze and Adam the subject. But is the gaze really powerful? I find that May’s initial portrayal of the monster as oppressed is such a good example as to why the male gaze is often due to fear of the unfamiliar female. May is an object, a monster, who tricks the looker into getting closer and then reveals her monstrosity. It was only when May created her perfect friend Amy that she saw a reflection of herself as the monster. A monster who like her did not see clearly. She gave one of her eyes to Amy, and saw herself from a new perspective. The film May is very different, it captures the audience and their sympathy for the lead character but at the same time separates the identities of the viewer from May, with her excessive indecency in social situations. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the whole concept of the film but while I was watching it I couldn’t help but keep my eyes glued to the screen just so that I could find out how it ends.

Halloween

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“Chaos, by its very definition, cannot be controlled. Once introduced, all order and intention is rendered useless. The outcome of chaos can never be predicted. The only certainty it brings, is the devastation it leaves in its wake.”

Michael Myers was like no other. He killed without conscience, and left a slew of deaths in his wake. He had just recently escaped from the mental facility where he grew up, and all that psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis had to do was follow the track of breadcrumbs that lead to Michael. In his youth, Michael was always the outcast, the “other”. He was bullied for having a mom who was a dancer and was ostracized in school. Coming home was no cakewalk either, Michael had a difficult home life. Michael’s “stepdad” figure berated him every chance he got, and his sister Judith could care less. All these factored in to his inclination to chaos, and manifested in his youth as violence towards his pets. When Michael’s mother was called in the principal’s office, she gave him one day of freedom – Halloween – before strict rules were to be put in place. That was the day all hell broke loose in the Myers residence.

On that fateful day of Halloween, the ten-year-old Michael became a murderer. Sounds crazy right? How could a child, one whose smile was so sweet and whose eyes were so clear, kill the people in his life? The personification of the child as the monster is so clearly a reflection of society’s disdain and rejection for children. The child in the horror film, as Robin Wood states, is almost always going to be the “oppressed” – an element common to the horror genre. Michael Myers, with his angelic face and golden hair never grew up. In the mental facility he was treated like a child – by his psychologist, his caretakers, and the janitor – even after 15 years. His physical appearance changed, but his mental state seemed to be stunted. When Michael got out of the mental facility, he looked for the baby sister he left behind many years ago. A girl who grew up to be called Laurie. In this search, he killed many people. We can use Linda William’s article on “When the woman looks”, to show that Halloween had a typical “male gaze” where the women in the film became victims, object of the voyeur. Most of Michael’s victims were female, and he attacked them at their most vulnerable – in their nakedness. In the end, all his efforts were for naught because Michael was not able to be reunited with Laurie.

I think the character of Michael Myers is very interesting, but his “difference” also made the movie Halloween not very likeable. The story of Michael Myers is one of intrigue. Much like the documentary “The Child of Rage”, it is hard not to be curious as to why those people came to be that way but, those stories do not give comfort or pleasure to anyone reading or watching it.

The Innkeepers

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For some people, life is fleeting, temporary. But to those who believe in the afterlife, a resurrection, death is inconsequential. Madeline O’Malley’s death was so sudden and unbelievable that it rocked the Yankee Pedlar Inn for ages. When employees Claire and Luke decide to investigate this haunting during the last weekend of business, they uncover more than they bargained for.

The Innkeepers movie plot was a run-of-the-mill, predictable horror story. Haunted Inn– girl goes ghost-hunting– ghost finds girl– trouble ensues. But when I saw the film in class, I was pleasantly surprised at how scary something so simple and predictable could be. I never expected when exactly the ghosts would appear, and the style of filming was so subtle that I felt I was somehow also involved in the movie. Part of the reason I was more scared than I should’ve been was because Claire, the main character, was portrayed to be vulnerable. She was a young woman who had asthma, and was out looking for the ghost of Madeline O’Malley.

Watching Claire be active in seeking out Madeline O’Malley didn’t quite give me the security that “seeing” what happens did. Claire wasn’t exactly powerless like when Angela from Rec didn’t see what was going on, but she also didn’t hold a strong “gaze”. It didn’t help that the psychic Leanne, and Claire’s co-worker Luke didn’t do much to stop her.

Although the movie was slow-paced as compared to others we’ve seen in class, there were a lot of elements in the film that made it an effective horror movie. In Linda Williams’s article “When the Woman Looks”, the author talks about the male and female gaze, and how it is used in horror film. Williams quotes another author Doane, “the woman’s exercise of an active investigating gaze can only be simultaneous with her own victimization” – which I think accurately describes the situation of Claire. I couldn’t help but notice that Claire’s courageous efforts at investigating the Inn and Madeline O’Malley (after she had been warned by the psychic Leanne) turned into a naïve decision which ultimately led to her death. The only question I have is, why? Why did the ghost of Madeline O’Malley haunt Claire? Could she have come back to life? And besides, didn’t her ex-fiance already join her in the afterlife? No explanation whatsoever was given to the viewers, and I could only assume that it was Claire’s asthma that took her in the end. I have to say, I really don’t like open endings – it’s like not finishing the end of a book – but in this case, it worked. If I’d seen Claire panicking and dying because of an asthma attack, the feeling of horror would’ve been dampeened for sure. In the end, I can say that the Innkeepers was a great movie. It made me look where I did not want to, and surprised me at every turn. I hope to watch more horror movies like that in class.

Rec 2

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Stories of ghosts, zombies, vampires and other night terrors can leave any audience in fear, but pale in comparison to tales of possession – even more frightening, demonic possession. Rec 2 doesn’t miss a beat and continues where the first Rec movie left off. As shown in the footage, the reporter Angela Vidal was the only person left from the previous investigation, but vanishes off into the dark as she gets dragged away by the emaciated Medeiros girl.

Rec 2 opens with a new team who are selected for completing the mission of Dr. Owens which is to collect blood from the original Medeiros girl. Dr. Owens poses as an official from the Ministry of Health, but is revealed to be a priest sent by the Vatican. He employs the team of GEO members to assist him in collecting the blood, but unfavorably meets obstacles on the way. They are able to find the blood sample but lose it as quickly as it catches fire and decide to collect blood from the original Medeiros girl. When they are able to capture an infected little girl in the apartment building, Dr. Owens tries to order the infected/possessed girl to reveal the exact location of the Medeiros girl – he fails in this attempt. When the group discovers a new set of people – kids exploring the situation – Dr. Owens is finally able to discover where the Medeiros girl is after one of the kids gets infected. During that time, Angela Vidal resurfaces, appearing to have escaped the horrors in the penthouse. The group are unsuccessfull in their mission, as they get infected and die one by one, only to leave Dr. Owens and the reporter Angela alive. In the end, Dr. Owens finds out the truth about Angela’s survival before dying at the hands of the already possessed reporter.

In class we talked about the special relationship that women had with monsters and horror movies. Most often, women become the victim of the monsters and other times they become the monster itself! Rec 2 is no different a horror film in that aspect, and incorporates what Linda Williams calls “the strange sympathy and affinity that develops between the monster and the girl … a flash of sympathetic identification.” Angela not only is victimized by the Medeiros girl, she is also possessed by the evil that resided in it. Linda Williams’ When the Woman Looks provides an angle as to why the woman and the monster are portrayed in similar ways, it is because of the woman’s difference from the male that makes her the victim, the monster. “What is feared in the mother: not her mutilation, but the power to mutilate and transform the vulnerable male.” “It is a recognition of their (woman and monster) similar status as potent threats to a vulnerable monster.” After all, we fear what we don’t understand. Angela never told the GEOs and Dr. Owens the truth about how she survived – she simply appeared. It was her knowledge, her experience of the monster that made her different, and in my opinion made her a good candidate to become the monster in the second Rec movie.

All in all, I really enjoyed watching Rec 2. It kept me at the edge of my seat in class most times and gave a creative and horrifying background on the origins of the infection/possession. I will always be fascinated and at the same time terrified with stories involving demonic possession, but I hope to never encounter anything of that sort. What made Rec 2 a chilling horror movie to me was all the deceit and illusion. A perfect illusion was worn by the reporter Angela, and this allowed her to be able to escape out of the prison of darkness. Being caught off-guard and unprepared in the face of otherworldly beings is something that I think I won’t completely recover from (assuming I survive the situation).

Voice

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They say grief occurs in 5 stages. First there’s denial, followed by anger, then comes bargaining, depression and acceptance. But what happens when the person you lose is yourself?

Young-eon is her school’s best singer, but is mysteriously murdered one night after singing practice. The next day she finds out that nobody can hear or see her, except for her best friend Sun-min who can only hear her voice. The two desperately try to resolve the problem and soon uncover how far the rabbit hole goes.

Death will forever remain an undiscovered adventure into the unknown, for no one has ever come back from death to tell the tale (aside from Jesus Christ, of course). When the spirited Young-eon suddenly loses her life, she is caught in a daze – unable to accept her new circumstances. She reaches out to her best friend Sun-min and pleads for help regarding the investigation of her untimely death. Following Young-eon’s death, more peculiar events occur. The death of her music teacher, and the discovery of Young-eon’s body in the elevator shaft. All these incidents point to the undeniable presence of an other. Something “other” was causing all these events to happen, after all, both Young-eon and Sun-min had no recollection of anything remotely related to those events. In a surprising twist of events, the mystery of Young-eon’s death had finally cleared and it all revolved around Young-eon’s singing voice.

Young-eon had been chosen to sing in place of her music teacher because of her talent, but unknown to her – there had already been someone who was previously “the chosen one”. Hyo-jung had the same talent as Young-eon, and was also singing in place of her music teacher in class. The affection afforded to Hyo-jung was the same for Young-eon, and is rooted from the teacher’s desire for what she had lost to larynx cancer which is a skillful singing voice. When Hyo-jung misread that affection for something more, she was persecuted by her classmates and ultimately killed herself, but could still be heard by the music teacher from the afterlife. All these people wanted a voice, Hyo-jung, the music teacher, and Young-eon, and fought fiercely for the right. Hyo-jung killed Young-eon in jealousy, and Young-eon killed her music teacher in retribution and to silence Hyo-jung for eternity, but death could not stop Young-eon from keeping her voice in the afterlife.

In the film “Voice”, it was revealed to Young-eon and Sun-min that the pair’s strong connection is the reason why Sun-min could still hear Young-eon’s voice. But once the “hearer” moves past this and forgets about the deceased, the deceased will no longer be heard and will lose his voice forever. Loss is very difficult to accept especially when what is lost is the self. Young-eon still had a bright future, but when she was treated as an “other” and a threat by Hyo-jung, it lead to her demise and the becoming of the “other” herself in death. This interplay of the “other” in life and death was very interesting to me. Ghost stories are what I find the most horrifying, because unlike monsters and zombies I find them the most plausible. The possibility of resurrection is so seductive that ghosts most often remain in the realm of the living, but once you are separated from “this world”, how human could you be or ever be again? The presentation of the familiarity of human life, and the otherness of death is what I like about Voice, but I hope to forever remain unexposed to the something “other” in death while I still live.