Let the Right One In

0

Let the Right One In was a movie that had me wondering for the first part of the film just who or what the monster was going to be. At first I thought it was going to be Oskar. He had all the ingredients to become a Halloween-Michaelesque monster hellbent on a quest of revenge and blood. He was constantly bullied, did not seem to have any real friends, was fixated on knives and let’s face it, he looked kind of creepy.

As the story progressed however, another potential source of horror was emerging in his newfound friend Eli. Eli was a character that was very difficult to make out. She was very kind, very gentle, but was surrounded by a cloud of mystery. Slowly as the plot developed, so did Eli and her monstrous nature was eventually revealed. She could perform superhuman feats, she was attracted to blood, and she was never seen in the sunlight. Obviously, Eli was a vampire.

Reconciling the fact that Eli was a monster with her appearance as a young, soft spoken girl was difficult. The monsters in the other movies we have watched were extremely obvious. There were the ghosts in The Innkeepers and Voice, the possessed people in Rec 2, and even May as herself. But Eli was different. Even though we see her kill people, it does not come naturally to hate or fear her. We can see that she is merely acting within her nature and is trying to survive. Additionally, Eli really is a good and caring girlfriend to the creepy yet gentle Oskar. Eli also just seems far too innocent to be considered a real monster.

The innocence of Eli however cannot discount the fact that she is indeed a monster. According to Linda WIlliams, to the traumatized male, the woman and monster are both completely other “with impossible and threatening appetites that suggest a frightening potency.” Eli then represents a power that we as the audience are not used to seeing. She does not have the masculine frightening characteristics that most monsters have or even that the juxtaposed Medusa has, but Eli still has the combined power of monster and female that can leave the male feeling powerless.

This sense of horror in the face of something completely other and devoid of a a phallus is humorously seen in the scene where Oskar peeks at Eli changing to see that she indeed is castrated. This is extremely interesting as Oskar is never truly surprised or horrified by Eli throughout the movie except when he sees just how “other” she really is. The sense of powerlessness in the face of the female or monster is also seen in how Eli is the protector of the timid Oskar. Oskar is a gentle, but weak boy who had to be convinced by Eli to finally stand up for himself. Also, at the end of the movie, Eli rescues Oskar from his tormentors, cementing his place of powerlessness in the face of Eli.

Pontypool

0

From the onset, I got the feeling that Pontypool was going to be a very unique horror movie. Yes, every movie we have watched in class so far is very different from each other, but Pontypool had a movie indie-high-concept vibe. After the first twenty minutes or so of the movie was spent mostly within the confines of the radio station, I realized that the entire movie would never leave the basement radio station. I began to ask myself where the horror was going to come from. I was thinking that the movie faced a very tough task ahead to inflict horror upon its audience if the horror itself was completely outside the visual range of the movie and was only made manifest in the form of audio reports from eyewitnesses.

Pontypool for me can provide the audience with a very visual representation of Barbara Creed’s idea of abjection. There are two ways in which abjection is presented in the movie. The first is the separation between the radio station and the horrors outside. The second is how language was invaded by the monster, creating a very unique crossing over of borders that I’ve never seen before in any other movie.

The separation between the radio station and the mysterious horrors throughout the rest of Pontypool is the most obvious form of abjection and separation in the movie. Inside the radio station, the people are safe and isolated from the ever-degenerating situation outside. Inside the radio station the normal and acceptable thrive. The only connection the people within the station have with the outside is through spoken communication. Despite the horror felt by the radio people because of the mystery of the events outside, one can imagine that the people in the radio station are also in a way happy and relieved that they are not a part of the events outside. They are happy that they are separate from the horror, with language being their only link to the outside.

This all changes when the border between the radio station and the horrific outside is broken. A member of the radio station eventually morphs into a zombie followed by a whole army of zombies invading the station, bringing with them all forms of images of abjection such as vomit, pus, and blood. At this point, the border dividing the normal and abject is crossed and the monster becomes very real to the radio people, who were previously safe with language as their only connection to the outside.

This language however is where the second border is crossed by the monster. What was previously safe and normal turned out to be the very carrier of what was horrific. This created a very unique kind of monster. Whereas other films make use of the border between man and beast or between evil and good to create the monster, Pontypool breached a completely new border by having the horror cross the border between man and language. This is especially horrifying for the radio people because their one connection to the outside world which they were hiding behind became the very object of horror for them.

May

1

May has a long starting period of equilibrium filled with more horrifyingly awkward social situations than actual horror. The typical awkward-girl-hunky-yet-secretly-weird-guy paradigm goes on for about thirty minutes with only undertones of horror being felt, delivered mostly by the lingering gaze on the creepy doll of May. In fact, the horror was so hard to grasp initially that my seat mate was questioning whether May was going to become the monster or if it was her lesbian co-worker. As the movie progressed however, we saw May slowly transform from an awkward yet amusing and charming girl into a crazy monster hellbent on a bloody mission.

May is a horror film that approaches the role of the female gaze from a completely different angle. In most horror films, the female characters are portrayed as mostly helpless victims, subject to the powerfully domineering gaze of the males and monsters. May is initially a victim of the male gaze. She is non-threatening, seemingly weak, and pretty much putty in the hands of her newfound gore-loving boyfriend. In effect, she is not threatening at all. This all changes however once her doll breaks and her sanity along with it.

Her position from that of a helpless female immediately shifts to that of something resembling a position of a powerful male. May becomes fed up with constantly being the victim and decides that people aren’t worth her time anymore and that she is better off creating a “perfect person” using various perfect body parts of people she knows. Her gaze and actions become extremely male, even overpowering other males. She starts doing something that many males do, she objectified her victims by cutting them up into individual parts with her gaze. She identified the perfect torso, legs, neck, pelt (for the head? I don’t know that part was kind of weird), and finally hands to create her own Frankenstein-esque monster.

Throughout the stage of the movie when May is the most powerful character, even more powerful than any male she come up against, she is shown as completely in control and determined to fulfill her goal in a very masculine manner. This continues all the way until the very end of the movie when her monster does not “see” her and she believes that the only way to fix this is to give the monster her eye,which she believes is perfect. Once she starts approaching the mirror, scissors in hand to gouge out her eyeball, she returns to bring a female character. May’s masculine cold and efficient demeanor is replaced by crying and terror which becomes uncontrollable as she looks at herself in the mirror. It is at this point where we can see the gaze between the female and the monster. May confronts herself and stares on in horror, but does not look away. May’s gaze takes on a third stage here, a gaze of female power. She wrests control of the situation and looks on at herself as the monster in horror. Her crying stops a moment before she plunges the scissors into her own eyeball – she has gazed at the monster, herself, head on with a female gaze and what follows is the resulting punishment from staring at the monster.

Halloween

0

Halloween is a horror film that takes the point of view of the monster. Some of the movies we have watched in class have the monster as something completely other, as something that is completely mysterious. Examples of this are the zombies in Cabin In The Woods, the possessed people in the Recs, and Dead Girl. In these movies, the monsters being embodiments of this otherness invokes in the viewers a sense of guilty pleasure as the nature of the monster is slowly and frighteningly revealed. Despite the the viewer’s fascination with these otherworldly monsters, the viewer is also horrified with it. These monsters torment, hurt, and kill the people in the movie. It is not natural for the viewer to sympathize or root for these monsters. Instead, the viewer sides with the victims despite their fascination being placed on the monster.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have also watched movies in class that take the point of view of the monster. Examples of this are Triangle and May. In these movies, the monster is also filled with mystery and intrigue. The nature of these monsters are slowly revealed as the plot unfolds, holding the viewers in an iron grip until the movie ends and the monster is fully revealed. However, with the monster also being the main “protagonist” in the movie, the viewers are also naturally drawn towards them. I don’t mean to say that the viewers actively root for the monsters as they are still committing frightening atrocities, but that the viewers can somewhat sympathize with the monsters. Additionally, as the monsters in these movies are both women and essentially victims of their own plight, we can’t help but be upset with them for hurting others. They are perceived as helpless, victimized, and unusual.

Halloween also takes the point of view of the monster. It is similar especially to May in that a reason behind the madness of Michael Myers is shown at the start of the film. He is portrayed as a child perpetually close to a breaking point, eventually boiling over on the night of Halloween in which he murders everyone in his house except his baby sister. He still retains some of his innocence however as he seems to be completely oblivious to the evil of his actions during therapy. He can be thought of as a mixture of both external and internal factors combining to create a merciless, uncontrollable killer.

Fast-forward to his escape from asylum and Michael Myers is an unstoppable behemoth of death. He becomes a monster with little to no hint of humanity. This is where Halloween differs from any other movie we have seen so far in class. Despite the movie being from the point of view of the monster, the viewers do not naturally sympathize or root for the monster. It does not really even seem that he is a victim of a situation or of his own madness. The mask he wears separates the viewers from what little humanity he may possess and portrays him as a bloodthirsty killing machine. The result is a relationship of distance and disgust with the audience, who are left wondering when someone will finally destroy this monster who no longer evokes any sympathy.

The Innkeepers

0

The Innkeepers was perhaps the most terrifying movie I’ve watched so far in this class. As soon as there was the first hint of the monster, there was never a scene that was not frightening. As soon as one scary scene finished, it quickly bridged into the next terrifying scene. Even though most of the scenes never actually have anything scary appear, the film had me shuddering in mere anticipation of the next scare. Additionally,  the Innkeepers also had a fantastic score that had me shuddering from the get-go all the way until the very end.

For me, I believe the two elements that contributed most to the horror-emotion of the film was the invasion of space and the slow pacing that occurs throughout the movie.

The invasion of personal space is not immediately evident in the Innkeepers, but I believe that this was a prominent feature of the movie. The fact that the horror takes place in a hotel points to an invasion of space. A hotel is a place that a person has never been to before, that he doesn’t really know much about, and a place that is supposed to be safe. By entering a hotel, a patron is entrusting themselves to the hotel. A patron trusts that a hotel will be a place where they can rest and be at peace – a place they can call home in unfamiliar territory. The movie then proceeds to break this trust by introducing that the hotel is not only haunted, but is also unsafe. Naturally, this hotel would no longer be a “home” to the patrons and because a source of horror. The trust between patron and hotel was broken and in this supposed sanctuary, horror occurs.

The most obvious example of the invasion of space in the film was during the scene in which the ghost was next to Claire in her bed as she was trying to sleep. There is perhaps no place in a person’s life that is more personal than a bed. A bed is where one is most vulnerable to potential dangers. All the dangers that could befall a person while he is sleeping are normally suppressed by people so that they can feel safe and sleep. The appearance of the ghost in the bed breaks all of this by causing a bed to become a location of horror.

The pacing of the movie was also a very important contributor to the horror. The plot of the movie is extremely simple and generic, but the plot was able to sustain the movie because everything took so long to unfold. More importantly however, the slow pacing of the movie really raised the tension of the movie. Throughout the movie, the mystery is slowly and laboriously revealed, drawing the audience in ever nearer. The pacing of the film allows its audience to be held captive for the entire length despite all of the terrifying scenes just so that their desire to satisfy their curiosity can be satisfied, which naturally only happens at the end of movie.

Rec 2

0

Rec 2 was a movie that linked up fantastically with its predecessor. While I really enjoyed Rec 1, I was aware that my enjoyment was a shallow one. In Rec 1, the plot moved slowly, the characters had no depth, and there were many (intentional I presumed) plot holes. I believed that the plot holes were intentional as that makes it consistent with “The Fantastic” stream of horror which offers no explanation for the source of the unknown. The only “explanation” given in the Rec 1 was that the possessed girl in the penthouse must have something to do with the zombies, although nothing was confirmed. What was given to the viewers in Rec 1 was nothing but a series of thrills and scares, which left me on the edge of my seat. I left the movie feeling thoroughly frightened, but not at all impressed by the other aspects of the movie. In effect, it was a bunch of shallow thrills.

This perception completely changed when I watched Rec 2. Rec 2 was a continuation of Rec 1, set merely an hour after the first movie ended at most. Many of the plot hoes were answered and this story seemed to promise more flow. Perhaps the biggest reveal was when the film revealed that all the people in the building were in fact possessed people and not zombies. Upon learning this, I prepared myself to be frightened to death because the one thing I fear the most in horror movies is when possession is involved. There is nothing quite as scary as something that has a possibility of being true and actually happening to me.

For some reason however, Rec 2 did not frighten me, not as much as Rec 1 did at least. Sure, there were plenty of scenes that left me burying my face in my hands in frightful anticipation and the mere thought of possession is enough to keep me up at night, but Rec 2 just didn’t seem to cut it for me in terms of experiencing horror. After reflecting on this curious experience a little bit, I realized that I wasn’t so scared because the characters were male.

The characters weren’t just male in appearance, but everything about them was masculine. They carried massive weapons and had combat training but most importantly, they had a mission. The characters weren’t an adorable woman running away from morbid zombies frantically crying for her life all the way, which invoked sympathy in the audience. Instead, the male characters faced the horror head-on, actively seeking it out in order to accomplish their mission. This defeated any sense of fatalism and entrapment that was found in Rec 1 which made the first movie so terrifying. In Rec 1, there was no escape, there was no chance of survival, and there was no explanation – that was what made Rec 1 so scary. In Rec 2 however, none of the horrifying elements were present. Given, the imagery was disturbing, but it felt more like a battle between good and evil rather than a futile fight for survival against insurmountable evil.

Overall, I felt that Rec 2 was a superior movie to Rec 1 as it closed many plot holes and had more direction, but it definitely can’t match up to the horror invoked by the first installment. As such, I enjoyed Rec 1 more.

One Voice

0

Voice was a more traditional-type horror film I think as compared to most of the other films we have been watching recently for class, Rec aside. Despite it being a Korean horror film, many of its elements were congruous to the traditional western type of horror films that we are used to seeing on TV and in the movies. If I were to tune into this movie and watch a ten-minute segment of it, I would immediately be able to identify it as a horror. This is opposed to if I watched a ten-minute segment of Ginger Snaps or Grace, which I would not normally readily identify as a horror in the layman’s sense of the word.

An example of a traditional element of horror seen in Voice is the sense of fatalism and entrapment. This is perhaps most apparent in the case of Young-eon. Initially as a ghost, she is free to roam around as she likes, but quickly discovers that she is trapped inside the school. This enhances the feeling that she has no escape from her plight; that she is doomed to walk the halls of her school forever. This feeling of entrapment is taken a step further in that Young-eon cannot be sensed by anyone except for Sun-min. Essentially, Young-eon is trapped within herself, unable to interact with anyone. This isolation is what leads her to hold onto Sun-min so tightly, as Sun-min is her only link to the outside world. Sun-min is the only thing left saving Young-eon from complete entrapment.

Towards the middle of the movie, it is revealed by Choh-Ah that ghosts only remember what they want to. This throws the whole movie into a state of flux as the viewers try to piece together what is real and what is not. From this point onward, we can see just how deep Young-eon is trapped within herself. Young-eon is revealed as the puppeteer behind most of the horror-acts in the film, which she does not even remember. Essentially, she is the cause of her own horror.

Voice is also similar to other horror films in that the characters that experience horror are feminine. In fact if I’m not mistaken, there was not a single male character in the entire movie. Many aspects of femininity were tackled. The one that was perhaps most evident was the relationship between two females in the context of a female school. Lesbianism is obviously repressed in that environment for the obvious reason of the friction and unease it will cause. For example, a rumor of a lesbian relationship between Young-eon and the music teacher spread like wildfire throughout the school.

There are many other similarities that can be found in Voice to that of other Hollywood movies. I think that these similarities point to the assumption that there are certain universal themes of horror that transcend race, culture, and religion. An example of this would be the sense of entrapment and repression. These universal themes of horror point to a shared sense of fear within every human being.