Let the Right Vampire Movie In

0

Let the Right One In features a Vampire love story that differs largely from the Twilight series. It is definitely darker and disturbing with a tinge of sweet innocent vampire romance. The viewer is provided with the touching innocence of a child experiencing his first love that is coupled with the haunting, reimagining of the immortal story of the vampire, a story which the vampire really deserves. Love here is the root of the horror. We never know if Eli looks at Oskar as friend, boyfriend or dinner. Like Bella, Oskar willingly accepts a vampire into his home and consequentially, his life in general. It is interesting to note that almost all those who strike a relationship with a vampire, are commonly troubled, cast out by society and generally discontent with their lives. Bella, well Bella is plain weird and Oskar is a shy, unhappy and bullied child from school, and both are living with divorcee parents. The vampire acts as a sort of escapist reality for their own less-than-perfect world, and presents an entirely new world full of new thrilling adventures. The dynamic of the male vampire, female girl is also switched around; instead we have a girl vampire coupled with a human boy. Oskar wanted a friend who for once does not endanger him physically and emotionally. What is ironic is that he found a friend and safe place in a vampire, a creature supposedly a thousand times more dangerous than 500 bullies combined.

The love story is not too overdone too. The relationship between Oskar and Eli is purely friendly, innocent and cute at the same time. With one touching scene Oskar asks Eli to be her girlfriend, it mirrors the sad, heart-breaking reality of a lonely soul seeking out to another lonely soul, only more immortal. Furthermore, the film is not without its shocking and unnerving moments. There are many scenes wherein Eli attacks and drinks blood from random people in brutal animalistic fashion. And the transformation to a vampire is highlighted too. There is a scene of one of Eli’s surviving victim spontaneously combusting in a hospital.

The film does not lack in the disturbing department either. By the end of the film, Oskar runs away from home with Eli, and one can’t help but notice that unless Eli turns Oskar into her own, Oskar is still going to age. This mirrors the fact that Eli at the start of the film is assisted by an old fart that helps her get fresh blood by murdering random strangers. What if that old man, 60 years ago, was a similar young hapless boy who happens to fall in love with Eli too? This leads us to a dark realization that Eli and Oskar’s story maybe a dark cycle all along.

Let the right one in is surely one of the best and memorable rom-horror films out there. 

Advertisements

Pontypool, pontypool, pontypool,

0

Never have I been so confused in my life when I watched Pontypool. It is not your common zombie film. It is really far from it. For one, the virus is spread not through air and open wounds but by infecting a language. Secondly, the terror is not based heavily on fast-paced gore, but exists more on a mental, thinking level. The premise is that through understanding of the infected words, it causes the host to mutter a word over and over until he/she becomes driven mad, becoming a mindless transceiver of repeating words. I actually think that it will spread more effectively than your average zombie virus. Since humans need language in order to express themselves, it would be too difficult to contain the virus as it does not merely reside on the physical level like common viruses do. Rather, it lives and propagates in the realm of understanding. Soon enough, people will panic, paranoia will spread. And a certain disconnection will occur as we could not express and converse with others (either for help or comfort) in the way that we are used to, something involuntary like breathing which sometimes we don’t even have think about.

As such one of the themes in film includes the power of human language, dangers of communication and how helpless we can be if it was targeted for destruction. With the virus in movie originating in terms of endearment in words such as “baby” and “honey”, one can imagine the extent of the damage that can be done. Furthermore, it is in understanding of phrases and words that we become infected.  In the face of impending destruction, how can we not understand a specific word previously understood? Grant Mazzy, in memorable scene with a slowly maddening Sydney Briar, tells her repeatedly that kill is kiss. It is by doing this that they discover that the virus can be cured. By the end of the film, in an attempt spread the cure, he gives a very inspiring yet senseless speech. “We were never making any sense” Ultimately, the film tells us that though words hold definitions, it is still us, the creators and the users, who give it shape and meaning. This is perfectly summed up by the post-credit scene. I’d like to think that even though, realistically, what happened in ending were the deaths of Mazzy and Briar from the bombs, they were able to escape to another place or world they have shaped for themselves through twisting the language. This made me think about a statement by the doctor earlier in the film: “The virus affects our words, shaping our very reality it its wake.” (or something like that).

Some hardcore fans of zombie films would not welcome its sometimes confusing dialogue, lack of any fast-paced survivalist zombie action and gore and overview scenes of the impending apocalypse in general.  The movie entirely happens only in a radio shack, and what is happening to the outside world is graphically described merely through radio communications. However, I think it offers a smart way of delivering the zombie genre, and uses this topic for experimentation and examination, at the same time offering a bit of social analysis along the way. 

MAYbe this time its a girl

0

How far would we go and what would we give to feel loved and connected? This is one of the questions which popped in my mind after watching May. Mutilated limbs, ears, legs, hands and eyes aside, it is ultimately a sad morbid story of one young misunderstood girl seeking to establish long-lasting relationships primarily because of her weird personality and lack of any well-established social skills. Long periods of isolation and loneliness can definitely drive a person into madnesss. The closest to a meaningful conversation that May had shared was with her doll, her only friend since childhood whom she can never even touch because of the glass case. I thought that the film also mirrors Halloween in some point that it shows how the killer, through interactions and relationships with the wrong people, mixed with their own internal psychopathic tendencies and obsessions, is slowly pushed to the verge of killing, finally committing one, and going through a series of murders.

It is also interesting to note that May is one of the few, if not, the only female villain serial killer in all of the movies we have watched so far in class. Usually, we are accustomed to more masculine killing machines. (e.g. Michael Myers) The female is usually reserved a place in horror as a screaming, almost helpless protagonist with whom the male audience can still relate to. That way, they can attribute their fears to said protagonist without endangering the masculine outlook by casting a male. Thus, it is interesting to see a woman in a villain’s role as opposed to being the usual typecast protagonist.

Furthermore, one can take notice that May as a woman, adds a vulnerability that casting a male in the movie cannot provide. Women tend to seek more company as opposed to men, who occasionally have more solitary tendencies. As such, the movie cannot be more effective if say, a male is casted to fit into the story. And if such case is possible, the results would be entirely different.

Holloween

0

One film which indisputably depicts conventions of the Clover’s final girl is Halloween. For the first major minutes, the film closely follows the backstory of Michael Myers and how he came to be known as a cold-blooded serial killer. The main plot of the film involves Laurie Strode, Myers’ estranged sister escaping from his [loving] clutches. Her character is a perfect example of a Final girl. She exhibits the basic characteristics that Clover has coined for the term: for one, she has a shared history with the killer, being his estranged sister for 15 years. Secondly, while she is still depicted to possess certain longings and hedonistic urges, she does not engage in vices such as sex, smoking and drinking as compared to her peers Annie and Linda. She therefore, as Clover points out, does not possess the static feminism and sexual overdrive of other female characters in the film.

The audience will have a shift in affinity for Myers and Laurie in two planes: (1) as a literal focus of the film and (2) in terms of their male and female roles. The first major part of the film focuses solely on recreating Myer’s character. Rob Zombie, himself wanted to “flesh” out the character and provide a backstory in order to tie the character’s origins from a mindless killing machine to that of a psychopath slowly driven to insanity by his environment and his own internal problems. From this, it can be said that the viewer is given more familiarity and therefore forced to provide more empathy for the character. Conversely, the next half of the film focuses on Laurie’s perspective herself as she faces a threat she does not fully understand. As tension rises, she screams, runs and stumbles on her flight to survive.

Another particular characteristic of the film is that it is one of those remakes which provide an origin story of a killer/monster. One could ask if this de-familiarization leading to subsequent re-familiarization undermines the scariness of the monster. Should we know the monster or should we leave it a mystery? After all, doesn’t a certain shroud of mysticism and sense of unknowing add to a horror film and curiosity of the viewer? This could be a topic raised for movie-goers regarding the characterization of their movie monsters. Can we still maintain his/her scariness by want to understand more of the character by introducing his/her backstory? Or do we leave him as a mindless killing machine? Personally I think the answer will depend on the preferences of the viewer. Furthermore, the resulting effectiveness of the character to elicit fear will still depend on other factors of the movie other than this. This remake, for example, even though it allows us to sympathize for the Myers, especially in the beginning, grounds the character closer to reality. There were themes that include bullying, parental verbal abuse and psychopathic tendencies, which are phenomena not really far from what is and can actually happen in real life. Thus, it makes Myer’s story “more frightening” in that sense.

Innkeepers

0

In modern horror cinema, most filmmakers often forget the importance of character development. In slasher films, for example, each particular individual has a preset trait: the jock, the virgin, the smartass, the slut and the joker. These reused and recycled characters are even referenced and made fun of in the film Cabin in the Woods. Such character tropes have been used hundreds of times. As such, the viewer can’t help but feel disillusioned and separated from these characters, instead rooting for the villain as he slaughters them one by one, which is problematic because these characters are the supposed protagonists, the ones we should actually want to cheer for. Hence character development especially of the protagonist is indeed a crucial element in horror. And this is exactly what The Innkeepers provided.

In order to develop a character well, the film has to showcase the personality, quirks and the way the character interacts with others. In order to achieve this, it would also need a longer build up process. Claire was molded perfectly so as a character that the audience can sympathize with from her little quirks, her bored disposition up to her frightened expressions. As such, I feel as a viewer to connect more to the story, much more to “horror” if I am totally immersed in its characters. The plot was simple enough, just another one of the old abandoned haunted locations.

After I thought I would never be traumatized by another horror movie ghost ever again since Sadako from the ring, well The Innkeepers proved me wrong. It is not only how the way Madeline’s ghost looks like but also on the build leading up to her appearance that generates chills. Although some would argue that the film can be draggy at times, I thought that the cinematography was done in good taste. The lingering shots of empty dark corridors, creaky doors, and slow panning of the camera from one point to another resonate fear throughout the movie. In order to the film to work though, I believe you must totally be immersed into the environment to grasp the chilly feeling that the hotel gives off every night. Also I also commend the amazing score which actually comprises more of unrecognizable noises. Part of the film tries to exploit the fact that the audience will try to squint their ears too understand the sounds coming from Claire’s recorder, only for it to actually consist of gibberish noises. Furthermore, part of the film exploits the expectations of the viewer for something to actually appear or happen, making it unpredictable at times.

The Innkeepers is a rare type of film emerging in horror cinema today that does not depict excessive amounts of gore, and I can still say does not rely on cheesy jump scares as its highlights. That being said, it will prey on your senses.  It will unman you with its first few hours of light-hearted comedy, only to suddenly strike you in the gut for the last spine-tingling part of the film. 

[REC]reate

0

REC 2 is one of those rare sequels wherein it still manages to retain the established atmosphere (at least for me) and the scares of its predecessor all the while effectively providing an additional aspect that works. Like the first movie, it still retains the found footage cinematography, superb acting, claustrophobic set, Angela Vidal, oh and of course, zombies. Only this time, the audience is provided an explanation as to the origins of the infected. Furthermore, there is an increase to the number of characters holding a camera, this include the SWAT and from the bunch of teenagers. I particularly liked the increase in numbers in terms of perspective because it added dimension and depth to the events inside the isolated apartment building. The story picks off right after the events of the first movie. The SWAT team was to accompany a doctor to get blood examples from the infected people. Later on, it turns out that the doctor was a priest from the Vatican dealing with demonic possessions. He was appointed to get a blood sample from the first host of the virus, the Medeiros girl who was trapped and contained by another priest before on the penthouse of the apartment to find a cure for the demonic possession. Things escalate further when another group of teens sneak into the apartment via a manhole leading to the underground.

One of the reasons why I think REC 2 works is that it offers a new explanation to the zombie origin. It is not merely scientific, but rooted in Catholicism. Indeed the virus is spread through biting and scratching, yet it is also a demonic possession of some sorts. It was interesting how the film tried to reconcile these two things.  Not only that, we could look at it in the reverse. It added something fresh for the priest exorcism demonic possession genre. Which is I think says a lot about Spain as a Catholic country, the country in which the film was made. One comment though is that I think the film would be more effective in terms of eliciting scares if the audience can identify more with Catholicism since a majority of the spine-tingling scenes would be more effective if one believes in the devil, etc. Other people I’ve talked to who are atheists did not like the fusion of the zombie genre and the exorcist. They felt that it was forced. Another highlight of the film was its final moments. I especially applauded the “the light blinds you” segment wherein the characters could only see a door, a well and Medeiros in the dark, heightening the chilling factor in the movie. And of course we have Angela Vidal to thank for contributing to the marvelous twist in the end plus her great lungs for maximum fear factor.

Overall, the film would still please many fans of the first film, albeit the added religion aspect can turn off for some. I would definitely like to see a real sequel to REC 2 though. ( REC 3 is meh for me)

Voice

0

If Ginger Snaps is a werewolf movie centered on the relationship of two adolescent teenage sisters, then Voice is a supernatural film that revolves around numerous female relationships in an all-girls high school (Best friends, acquaintances, rivals, lesbian student and teacher, mother and daughter). These relationships fuels and adds to the complexity of the plot. The main protagonist, Young-eon, having been killed earlier by an unseen force, discovers she is a ghost the next day. The only one who could hear her is her best friend Seon-Min. She tries to save her relationship with her by communicating through voices and at the same time unravel the mystery of her death and the identity of her supernatural killer. Her killer turns out to be the spirit of a former student Hyo-Jung in love with her music teacher and possible rival to Young-eon’s voice (they both had similar singing voices), the same teacher that tutors Young-eon. Meanwhile Seon-Min befriends another student, Cho-ah, who tells her ghosts might be lying as they remember only what they want. Things turn for worse as we discover Young-eon has split-personality disorder and caused both her mother and the teacher to commit suicide: with the latter in order for Hyo-Jung to lose her voice.

This is probably the first South Korean horror film I’ve watched. I have this feeling every time I watch Asian horror that there has to be some sort of unexpected twist in the end concerning the main protagonist. True enough, it has met that expectation: Young-eon is evil! As much as I enjoyed this twist, I did not understand how Young-eon could turn so evil all of a sudden. But I guess we have to accept the split-personality disorder angle, highlighted in the scene wherein her ignorant self has a confrontation with her evil version. This was a “WTF!” moment since she displayed the exact opposite traits throughout the whole film.

I did not like the film as much as other Japanese asian horror films. Though one could notice similarities in plot, some parts of it were really fuzzy especially the flashback scenes. The death and scare scenes also came out raw, half-done and considerably boring and negates the great build up provided by the film’s excellent yet haunting score. Among examples were Cho-ah’s death by light bulb, music teacher’s death by cello strings and Young-eon’s at the hands of paper. Paper! They blew it towards the end and I think it lost most of its horrific quality towards the end. The first scene wherein Young-eon was first haunted by a dark outline was really effective and scary since it heightens anticipation of ghost’s appearance. Unfortunately, the film did not capitalize on that and fails to generate anything resembling a genuine scare, attributing to the relatively weak parts.

There is one redeeming factor in the film though, and that lies in the portrayal of life after death. It is rather perfectly poignant that when we die, those who we love are the only ones who could hear our voices. Should they forget us, we shall lose our voices to. This would hit a spot for some aspiring philosophers out there, a topic from which we could derive a deeper horror: it would seem as if our existence would depend on the ability of another to sense, hear, feel and see us.