Thoughts about “Let The Right One In”

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Let The Right One In is a cutesy vampire story that differs from today’s cutesy vampire stories in that it goes back to folklore and the ugly, fearsome, qualities that vampires used to have. This is where stalking and tree swinging is used for prey and not for love interests. This is where bodies burst into fire, not shimmer or glow when exposed to the sunlight. This is where elongated tongues and blood and mangled bodies replace teenage romance and angst.

Here, vampirism is considered an abject rather than something to be envious about. It is something that horrifies everyone, even vampires themselves. Eli could not find anything cool or awesome about being a vampire even after so many years. We get to see her kill a man out of the desperate need to survive, and she later regretted that decision. Because of the nature of her circumstance she has to stay hidden and the only ones that she can interact with are among the unlikeliest of people, Oskar and Hakan. Virginia, the lady that Eli infected, went through a similar experience as well. She was horrified of what she has become and she took some drastic measures to stay alive and hidden, like drinking her own blood (which she later found not to be ineffective) and staying at home. Unlike Eli, though, Virginia later commits suicide by allowing her boyfriend to open the curtains and let the sunlight in the hospital room she was confined in. Eli could not think about committing suicide even if she went through the horrors of vampirism longer and she’s technically older than Virginia.

Vampire movies are usually associated with male vampires enticing female humans out of lust or love, but this one is different because it is a vampire film where the main vampire is “female” and is being courted by a male human. Eli turns out to be actually male later on, but Oskar ends up not caring about it. He wasn’t looking to be satisfied sexually with Eli anyway, unlike Hakan (in the book). Oskar just wanted to be with someone he understands and someone who understands him. The love between them is the cute and innocent kind rather than the intense and passionate kind found in most vampire movies. Many say that it’s more likely that Eli was just using Oskar, that Oskar would eventually replace Hakan, but the director himself thought differently in an interview. He said that he saw the relationship between Oskar and Eli as a happy ending rather than a sad one. Thinking about it, Eli even tried to push Oskar away. He was initially in bad shape: disinterested, weak, cold, pale, and smelly, but Oskar didn’t mind. When Eli told him that he wasn’t a girl he didn’t care. When Oskar later knew that Eli was vampire and that he was actually a castrated male, he could have just ran away but he didn’t. He even protected Eli from being killed by Virginia’s boyfriend. And, Eli returned the favor by going back for Oskar to save him from his school bullies. More than that, the director pointed out that Eli taught Oskar a few important things: that it’s good to fight back but it’s not nice to kill. When Oskar wanted to kill so much out of hate and revenge, Eli showed him what its actually like and how awful it could be to kill. Even if I initially held the thought that Oskar was just going to end up like Hakan, I’ve always thought more that the Oskar and Eli had pure intentions for each other. They can be the most horrific couple, (imagine two kids in love with each other, they are both male, one is a vampire who needs to kill while the other is a bullied human who wants to kill) but even so, at the very least they had genuine caring and love for each other.

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Thoughts about “May”

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May is an interesting horror film in that it’s focus and main character is the monster, the abject. Unlike most monster movies, May is not the kind of monster who’s so different from everyone else. She could have turned out to be a socially normal person but she was kept back because of her troubled childhood. To me, May was marginalized at a young age mainly because of her mother’s bad parenting skills. One, the mother quickly assumed that just because a person has a lazy eye means that person will be marginalized. Two, because of that assumption, the mother put a bandage on May’s eye and asked her to pretend about it (which later led to her being marginalized). And three, the mother gave up on May being able to find human friends so she gave her a doll friend instead, with one exception that May cannot touch it. What kind of parent would have such a negative outlook on society? What kind of parent would give up and not be proud of his/her child? May grew up in her mother’s world with her mother’s weird principles, like “If you can’t find a friend, make one.”. Carol Clover refers to this as the psycho-sexual grip that produces the killer’s sexual ambiguity.

May grew up and found physical distance from her parents but she never grew out of them. She’s now an adept at conversing with dolls but still not an adept at conversing with people. She lacked the dynamics of love and friendship. She lacked the physical and emotional intimacy involved in a human relationship. She only had a doll friend and she couldn’t even take her out of her glass box! (I think that her odd fixation on body parts has something to do with that) She grew up following but not understanding the idea of being just like everyone else. This, unfortunately, further marginalized her. People around her were thinking that she’s just like everyone else, only to be made wrong later. This lead to further misunderstandings. In the end, nobody understands May, and May understands nobody. After a few bad encounters, May eventually gives up on hope and and starts killing off the people she couldn’t understand.

This is a horror film wherein sympathy can be drawn from the monster. May’s a modern Frankenstein. While in herself she has the capacity to choose between what’s right and wrong, she lacked the capacity to know which is which. For a world primarily composed of “normal” people, she’s the odd one out. But it’s not just her fault, in fact I dare say most of it isn’t. All she wanted was a friend, and she did what she everything she could to have one using what she has and what she knows. It just didn’t take her far enough in a world she’s not familiar with. Thinking about it, it’s noteworthy that a variety of people were in the movie yet May is the only connection between them. It tells me that there’s a world of different people with different understandings and, combining them, potential misunderstandings. In fact, further thinking about it, everything that transpired in the movie came from misunderstandings. Maybe even May’s mother had problems of her own before, we don’t know. It’s just scary to think how it’s possible that things could end up similar or worse compared to May just because some people didn’t get along.

Thoughts about Rob Zombie’s “Halloween”

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Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” is an interesting slasher film since it showcases an extensive study of its monster, Michael Myers. This movie is horrifying in the psychological sense that it opens us up to a world where there can be potential killers who are so oddly different, so mentally ill, that they couldn’t be saved once they snap. Michael was closed off for too long that Dr. Loomis eventually gave up on him.

Relating the movie to Carol Clover’s “Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film”, we have a killer who was heavily influenced by a bad family and environment. Michael grew up having an abusive and alcoholic step-father, an ignorant and deviant sister, and a mother who is caring but is not exactly a role model of sorts. On top of that, he was bullied and marginalized in school. Most importantly, he wasn’t given any guidance since he was left alone most of the time. This made him consider torture and revenge as a normal thing to do. This is what makes him different from other horror film killers like Norman Bates or Jason Vorhees. He acts by himself and he’s under no psychosexual grip. We never get to have an inkling as to why he did this or that. He felt so strong and free that he probably did whatever it is he did just for the heck of it. Laurie, Michael’s younger sister, is the Final Girl of the movie. She was initially a feminine character but when her friends and family were killed off one-by-one and she was left to fend for herself, she eventually turned into a masculine character, and in this movie we never get to know whether she actually defeats Michael or loses to him. *SPOILER AHEAD* In Halloween II we eventually know that she eventually kills Michael but she turns into a deranged killer herself.

Honestly, I couldn’t cheer for either Laurie or Michael in the movie. Maybe in the early parts when Michael was still a kid I could relate to him, but then everything got out of hand for him and he was portrayed to be so distant that I couldn’t care less what he does next. Same goes for Laurie. The characters felt so distant, and my reaction to that bothers me sometimes. I couldn’t care less for Laurie, should I? All I wanted was for the story to uncover more and that’s it. It’s just a movie anyway. Should we bother about staged deaths? Anyway, this is a horror film that explores the human psyche, and it shows us that much of the human psyche is unknown, making it worthy to be feared. For one, there are serial killers like Michael in real life. We do not know what makes them tick. We do not know when and where they will strike, and the scariest part about it is that real life serial killers can act so inconspicuously normal that it could be too late for anyone to discover their true nature.

Thoughts about “Pontypool”

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Pontypool, to me, is a movie that talks about knowledge and the burden of it. Our learning experiences contribute to our stockpile of knowledge which later influences our decisions. In the case of this film, that knowledge grew to a monstrous form that it can hold a person captive to it. This can be seen through the metaphor presented by the strange mechanic involved in the film’s zombie transformation. Once a person utters an infected English word which he/she understands, that person will later turn into a zombie. The English language, considered by many to be the universal language, can be a metaphor to truths that are usually considered to be universal or absolute. Whenever we take in a fact, we can say that, in a way, we eventually find ourselves trapped by it. Appealing or not, since we understood that fact we do not or cannot dispute it. Our actions and decisions would then revolve around that fact, which would then turn that fact into something that would haunt us for the rest of our lives. For example, remember your first experience about death and how much it traumatized you and compare that to imagining being a person that will never know or understand what death means or what it entails. Death has its negative aspects which affects a person’s decision-making. Surely because of it, people are a lot more careful with what they do. Even daredevils make calculated risks whenever they do their stunts because of it. People develop phobias which are derivative to the fear of death, like the fear of heights, for one. Knowledge is usually seen as a good thing, that some people ought to be praised for having a lot of it, but Pontypool turns that into an abject, into something worth fearing to have. Imagine being a part of the movie and you started repeating a word you just said, knowing what it means to know that word, and knowing what would happen next. Imagining yourself in the shoes of Grant or Sydney in the midst of the chaos will make you wish you never knew or heard some things.

 

But a few philosophy lessons taught me that knowledge is something which is always better to have, no matter how unappealing it is. And, in this gender-stereotypical movie, Grant, the masculine male, not only actively dealt with the zombies but he also fought fire with fire by using the abject knowledge against itself, dangerously testing out words in order to confirm his theory. Near the end of the film, our protagonists find out that the way to combat the virus is to destroy one’s own knowledge of things, to reassign words to different, far-fetched meanings. By then I wondered, if everyone followed that theory and were able to go back to their tweaked state of normalcy, should the “monster” be considered destroyed or should it be considered sealed-off, waiting for another opportune time?

 

Again, I see Pontypool as a gender-stereotypical movie. Following the lectures, we have two main protagonists, Grant and Sydney, who are portrayed precisely to their gender’s stereotype. Grant is the masculine male, the active pursuer who looks the monster in the eye and tries to fight it. Sydney, on the other hand, is the feminine female, the passive receiver who gives in to the monster and accepts whatever may come after. Grant is the rough “take no prisoners” kind of guy whilst Sydney is sensitive “take it easy on the police officers” kind of gal. Sydney may not like Grant’s methods at first but she eventually ends up becoming attracted to him, since stereotypical females should like strong males. Also notice that the victimization that happened to the males were toned down compared to females in the film. We only get to hear Ken’s narration of the grisly events that were happening around him whilst we get to see the infected Laurel repeatedly punish herself as her host is trying to spread its infection. We never got to see any other gore besides Laurel’s. Also, Grant may have been a down-on-his-luck announcer but Sydney just came from a divorce and has her children to think about in the midst of the outbreak. Even though this is the case with this movie, Linda Williams and her article tells us that women can also identify themselves through the feminine monster and can find empowerment through the fearsome, manipulative power it has over its victims. For one, the film’s virus should be considered feminine because of its passive nature. Like “vagina dentata”, it only bites when it is being penetrated. In the case of this film, the virus only triggers once a specifically infected word is said and understood.

Thoughts about “The Innkeepers”

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The idea that I usually attribute to a gaze is curiosity. Whenever a person gazes at someone or something, to me this usually implies deep interest or fascination towards that which is gazed upon. So, to use this term to analyse horror movies, specifically the part in every viewing where the victim supposedly “gazes upon” the monster first confused me. I initially thought that this term was was inapplicable. Aren’t people supposed to generally feel fear towards monsters?

Before I learned about Linda Williams’ article about the woman-monster connection in horror films, it never occurred to me before that a woman gazing upon a monster could imply other things besides either a feeling of shock or horror. I don’t think that anybody could think about fear-conquering or submission when they come face to face with a monster. I remember stories of people freezing at their alleged ghost encounters, trying to look away but they couldn’t out of the sheer shock and fear they’ve experienced, and I could imagine finding myself in a similar situation given the chance. I therefore acknowledged every horror movie’s monster-gazing moments back then more as a reaction rather than an action. So, when I first saw The Innkeepers (this was before I attended horror film classes), I quickly dismissed it as nothing more than a simple and traditional ghost story.

Yet the minor details there make the movie complex and delightful. Rarely do we ever see women in horror movies being portrayed as the kind who are interested in, and in the case of this movie, obsessed with, monsters. Claire, the female protagonist, is different from the usual woman shown in most horror movies. She’s the kind who doesn’t enjoy girl-to-girl chatting and gossiping, she would rather hang out with guys and talk about ghosts. She’s the kind who gets scared, just like everybody else, but doesn’t cry or cuddle up in a corner or grab the nearest guy’s arm to bury her face on; even if she was asthmatic she could carry on by herself. On the other hand we have Luke, our male protagonist, the kind of guy who is nice and all but is weak and wimpy. We can say that even if he lied about his ghostly encounters, he’s still a guy that can be interested in paranormal stuff, except he couldn’t own up to it unlike Claire. Later on in the movie we are revealed to this somewhat reversal of roles. To me, Claire turned out to be more the traditional man than the traditional woman, and Luke the other way around.

The scene that intrigued me the most with relation to the Linda Williams article was the part where Claire and Luke went to the basement, where Claire supposedly sees the ghost of Madelyn but Luke couldn’t turn around to see it as well. Luke, the one who is supposed to be the man in the film, was supposed to see the ghost first along with the audience. Instead, Claire, the supposed woman in the film, sees it first, and the audience never got to see the ghost there. Luke was the one who became paralyzed and eventually ran away like a little sissy. Claire, in her final moments, gazed upon the ghost but never submitted to it unlike the traditional horror movie woman. What I took from that experience was that we were being told that what we understood about the female (or male) gaze was wrong, we do not truly understand. The film was telling us that, the truth of the matter is, the female gaze isn’t so different from the male gaze, and it shouldn’t be. Both of them are open to the supposed exclusive traits of men and women, knowing that exhibiting manliness does not actually require a person to be male as well as exhibiting womanliness does not actually require a person to be female. 

Thoughts about “REC 2”

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REC 2 is a sequel that I’m glad to have watched, and it feels impossible to try and talk about it without mentioning REC knowing that they’re so close to each other, like, literally just hours apart.

Talking about gender issues, the victimization and objectification of females is present in both films. This is a lot clearer to see in REC 2 though. One reference to this is the two guys and the girl. The two guys were playing with a sex doll whilst pressuring the girl to come along with them. Aside from the sex doll already being a subtle reference, the way the two guys treated the girl throughout the movie also showed objectification. The guys never cared about the girl and what she feels, they just used her and her stuff (camera) to make things a bit more fun for themselves. Another reference is the Medeiros girl and the very subject of possession on her. The fact that she was treated as a vessel to be possessed by a demon to spread demonizing infection shows objectification. Also, instead of being immediately exorcised as a possessed person that needs help, she was treated as an experiment in order to find antidotes for future possessions. There seems to be an attempt at ambiguity in that last part though, questioning whether or not how the girl was treated was justifiable. After all, the priest disguised as a Ministry of Health person later said in defense that the Medeiros girl’s possession spreads like a virus and they (the Vatican guys) felt that they needed an antidote in order to stop other people from getting infected. This reminds me about the last part in the Cabin in the Woods where the girl protagonist was made to choose between “The World” and his guy friend. Nevertheless, it was clear that the Medeiros girl was treated as a means instead of an end and this was enough to tell me that she was treated badly.

This was the first sequel that we watched in class, and I think that it’s a good standard to base other sequels on. Unlike REC 2, lots of other horror movie sequels these days feel as if they were made only for the sake of continuation or closure. It’s as if one is thrown into the exact same thing all over again where the scares are recycled and the victims are of the same kind. There is no escalation, only a repetition which doesn’t contribute much to the series as a whole. Now from what I saw, REC 2 tried to do differently by showing new ways to evoke the tense, claustrophobic feeling from the first installment. Also, it filled in a lot of questions raised in REC 1. These traits coupled with a higher sense of energy made me see REC 2 more as a “main course” and REC 1 an “appetizer”. With that in mind, REC 2 is a movie that can stand on its own. I still remember that first time I watched it with my friends which was from a few years ago. I honestly thought that what we were watching was the first REC movie and I only noticed the mistake after knowing that the title on the file was wrong and also not noticing the small number 2 on the opening title of the film! (I torrent, please don’t hate O.O)

Thoughts about “Voice”

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If there is one thing that “Voice” reveals to us guys about female-to-female relationships, it is that it’s a much bigger mystery than what we thought it to be. I mean, Young-eon and Sun-min’s relationship felt so intimate that it probably takes just a little push to already call it a homosexual one but it’s not, or I think it’s not. The “I love you” part at the end is more a question than an answer since girls do it all the time to each other as a friendship (?) sort of thing! Also, Sun-min has never even been to Young-eon’s place. Also, Sun-min also never really knew much about Young-eon. All they did was hang-out at school and take an absurd amount of pictures together in one-standings, the usual tradition among females. It’s a triple mystery then for me: 1) are they lovers in the stage of innocence or are they the best of best friends? 2) how are they so close to each other given the previously cited information about them? and 3) why do girls take so many pictures with each other?! Number 1 is very important to us guys since we need to know whether we are being “friend-zoned” or not, hahaha.

I call this whole “girlfriends” thing a “I know why but I don’t understand why”. I just hope my reasoning’s reasonable. Maybe the girls in class who watched this are also puzzled. I don’t know, I’m just a guy in a guy’s world. Maybe the girls are also confused on how we guys treat each other, bro-codes and stuff. Or maybe it’s because it’s the fourth installment in the Whispering Corridors series. Or maybe it’s all solely Young-eon’s fault! After all, she is revealed to be a crazy manipulator of sorts! Maybe Sun-min would’ve acted more understandably to a guy like me if she wasn’t being swayed by Young-eon’s charm.

Who would’ve expected Young-eon to be crazy? I bet nobody! There wasn’t a slightest hint nor reason, it was all just revealed in the end by her supposed alter-ego which no other ghost has. Maybe it was a demon or something, I hope so! I believe the story still holds that way and it’s a lot scarier that way. Cho-ah said that a ghost only remembers what he/she wants to remember. If that is true and assuming that it is also true that Young-eon actually WANTED her mother to commit suicide and she actually WANTED to torment her music teacher, then why did she not remember that from the beginning? Why did she remember loving her mother if her alter-ego said she hated her?

It’s important to note that this is a movie about females, which, I reiterate, still doesn’t shed any light for a guy like me. It’s noteworthy that the presence of males in this film is near zero. I can only remember two male teachers, and they are sleeping in the couch being mocked and ridiculed by their female students. And where the hell is Young-eon’s father? I don’t know if I missed any hint in the movie but I typed ctrl-f-father or ctrl-f-dad in Voice’s Wikipedia article and nothing showed up. There are just mothers, even for Sun-min when she was being picked up near the end.

Overall, I liked this movie mostly for it’s story and most especially the relationship between Young-eon and Sun-min and also Sun-min’s character. Yeah sure it’s hard to understand but at some parts the movie can be heartwarming nevertheless. Sun-min really cares that much for Young-eon that she hangs-out with her as much as possible, even at curfews or closing times, even if Young-eon was reduced to just a voice, just to ease the problematic situation Young-eon’s in. It’s a lot harder than it looks since we the viewers were able to see Young-eon and Sun-min wasn’t. And the part where Sun-min remembers the good times she had with Young-eon and she runs back to her crying out that she will always remember her, I found it really touching. On the horror elements, not so much. Except for the first tense moment where there was a shadow constantly appearing behind Young-eon, everything else was “meh”. But it’s alright since it’s another new experience for me.