Ginger Snaps

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Ginger Snaps was by far and away the least terrifying movie we have watched in this Horror Film class so far. I think it was the Hollywood fan in me that had been spoiled by jaw-dropping special effects that left me laughing instead of cringing at that first moment when the lycanthrope was shown. Just because I wasn’t scared though doesn’t mean that didn’t enjoy the movie. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the course of the movie because of the witty dialogue, unfolding plot, and Katharine Isabelle.

But as this is a horror film class, I tried to look beyond the lack of horror feeling to discover the source of horror in the film, which I believe to be the deteriorating relationship between Bridgette and Ginger, especially from the point of view of Bridgette.

The relationship between the two girls is one that only sisters can have. It is a relationship of utter devotion, love, and commitment born out of feeling of solidarity between two females. At the start of the movie, they share the same outlook on life, united by their disdain for everyone else in the world. Their commitment to each other runs so deep that they even promised each other that they would die together. Suffice it to say their bond was seemingly unbreakable in an “us against the world” mentality normally seen in young lovers.

The female relationship is further exemplified in the relationships between the three primary females in the film – the two sisters and their mother. This relationship is most strongly shown towards the end of movie as that of separate from the male, their father in particular. The mother impulsively suggests that the three women start a completely new life away from their father and the crimes that the daughters committed. Their close female bond is also shown when the mother hides her realization from the father that the severed finger found in the garden is in fact a real one. She instead confronts her daughters directly and leaves her husband out of the picture.

The source of horror as previously mentioned comes from the intense female relationship between the two sisters. From being as close as people can get, the sisters ended up drifting away from each other because of the slow werewolf transformation of Ginger. It was an agonizing process for Bridgette as her sister slowly moved away from her. It was small things at first, like being interested in boys, but eventually Ginger started doing crazier and crazier things, culminating in murder. Despite all of this and Ginger’s condition, Bridgette never gave up on her. Tragically however, the movie concludes with Bridgette accidently killing her beloved sister, which I think is the most horrifying part of the movie, especially when one takes into account the intense bond between the sisters. There could have been no ending more horrifying than that, not even if Bridgette herself ended up becoming a wereworlf.

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A Mother’s Grace

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First and foremost, Grace is a movie that makes me feel extremely lucky to be a man. I’ve always held a dualism of both unease and admiration when it comes to pregnant women and mothers with babies. The admiration comes from the mother’s ability to carry an ever-growing life in her belly for nine months, her willingness to devote countless hours to her baby’s well being, and a mother’s unrivaled dedication to raising her offspring. However, this unrivaled dedication is also a cause for the unease I sometimes feel with the whole idea of new mothers, which was highlighted during the movie.  Two characters in particular show this – Madeline and Vivian.

From the beginning of the film, it is obvious the Vivian is still very attached to her son, despite him being a full-grown adult. She is very involved in his life and watches over him the same way a mother would watch over a young boy. The death of Vivian’s son is the trigger that sets her off. The loss of her subject of motherly love left her with a void that she sought to fill by pilfering Grace from Madeline, whom she never approved of and deemed unworthy of her son and granddaughter. During Vivian’s pursuit of Grace is where we see the extremes of motherly love come to the fore. One of the most unsettling results of this is when Vivian and her husband engage in sexual foreplay, with the scene ending showing the husband suckling her breast almost in the same way a baby would. She did not engage in this act out of love or desire for her husband, but because she wanted to stimulate her nipples in preparation for nursing Grace. Another manifestation of the deranged motherly love of Vivian is when she struck a deal with the doctor. For the doctor’s help in proving that Madeline is an incapable mother, Vivian promised the doctor that she would help him out of some legal trouble. This abuse of power is unsettling and twisted because Vivian is a judge and is portrayed as an upright person despite her motherly derangement.

Madeline on the other hand takes motherly devotion to an even higher level. Her devotion for Grace leads to many of the sources of horror in film – bleeding breasts, murder, feeding her baby cow blood. Madeline shows such an extreme extent to which a mother will care for her baby. While this may seem farfetched and outlandish, when I think about it can we really blame her for being the way she is? Grace was a miracle baby, born from death and is the fulfillment of the greatest desire of Madeline. Despite Grace’s obvious abnormalities, Madeline refuses to put her in any danger and is willing to take care of her no matter the consequences, leading to murder and even feeding Grace her own flesh.

I believe that Madeline cannot be dismissed a crazy madwoman, but she should be recognized as the embodiment of just how devoted motherly love is – that it puts the baby’s interest above and beyond anything else including the self, values, and other’s lives.

Oro, Plata, Mata, Rec – Zachary Riskin – 093138

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         I really enjoyed the way that movie was presented, and I can say that this movie is my favorite so far in class by a long shot. Everything from the POV, to the dialogue, to the actress (ahem ahem), to the plot loopholes, to the horror I felt all contributed to a thrilling ride that had me rambling to my friends afterwards, begging them to watch a horror movie with me. 

Only upon writing this blog entry did I realize that the name of the movie is “Rec” and not “Wreck.” That name makes much more sense. I initially thought that it was called wreck basically because everyone inside the building is just so screwed that it’s just one massive wreck. When I found out five minutes ago that the movie is actually spelled as “Rec,” I realized that it was talking about the first-person POV technique used by the movie, which was delivered in the form of a camera. The first-person POV really immersed me into the film because it brought me up close and personal to the horror. My perception was limited to what the camera could see, and as such I was exposed to the same horrors and lack of knowledge that the characters were exposed to. This left with an apprehensive feeling throughout the movie, dreading when the next half-eaten face was going to appear and bite someone for no apparent reason.

 

Throughout the film explanations for the horrific happenings are slowly given, such as how the disease spreads through saliva and that the dog was one of the first to be infected in the building. While this provides with a little bit of knowledge into what is happening, it is extremely lacking. Many things, such as the connected between the zombies and the possessed girl in the penthouse are never explained in the movie. For me, this just added to the overall excitement of the film. This lack of knowledge, combined with the first-person POV really put me into the shoes of the characters who knew nothing about what was happening. Some people may regard this lack of explanation as plot holes, but for me they just enhanced the overall experience of horror, helplessness, and the sense of entrapment. I found myself grasping for answer and clues throughout the film so that I could piece the events together. As we know, I was not rewarded with any of this, but I didn’t mind. Not knowing was half the fun.

Shortly after the film, my friend invited me to watch the premier of the remastered version of Oro, Plata, Mata. The same time this was showing, Paranormal Activity 4 was showing in another theater. While watching the Filipino classic film, I found myself being pulled in the direction of Paranormal Activity 4. I simply could not take the slow, dragging, dialogue-driven plot of Oro, Plata, Mata. I just wanted to indulge myself in my newfound appreciation for horror films. I didn’t say this however, because I didn’t want to appear uncultured. Imagine walking out of a supposed Filipino masterpiece to watch a movie about dead people and shallow thrills. Because of this stigma, I just sat through nearly four hours of utter boredom. I have never regretted anything so much Next time, I’ll just watch a horror movie. Who cares about the stigma.

Dead Girl

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By Zachary Riskin

Dead Girl is a horror film that left me sick to my stomach. It did not give me the feeling of fatalism and horror that I have come to expect from horror films, but it simply left me with a feeling of revolt and a catalog of disgusted retches, disapproving headshakes, and disbelieving “ughs.”

The movie starts out with everything in equilibrium. The two male leads just seem to be sexually repressed, mildly idiotic, and confused people – in other words, your stereotypical highschooler. If I walked in during the opening scenes, not knowing that I was actually in a horror film class, I would never have expected what the movie actually had in store for me. These moments of false security, of initial equilibrium, I both love and hate. I love them because it is the calm before the storm, and I know that for at least a few minutes, I do not have to cover my eyes yet. I can just sit back and enjoy the story begin to form. However, I also hate these initial moments of peace because I know that they can change all too quickly with a snarling face out of nowhere or a zombie crashing through the bush. In Dead Girl, I knew that the typical high school story was coming to an end when the two leads decided to drink in abandoned mental hospital because “it was hot.” Apparently there is no other shady place in the entire town where they could have downed a beer or three. I braced myself for the equilibrium to be broken.

I could summarize most of what follows in a single sentence: a zombie-like dead girl is tied down and gets necro-raped about two million seven hundred twenty five thousand and fifty-two times by various horny teenage boys. Obviously, the discovery of the dead girl was the official start of dis-equilibrium, which lasted for most of the movie until she eventually escaped after biting her rapists (let’s not talk about where they were bitten). This dis-equilibrium was not horrifying at all for me. I never closed my eyes. Instead, I was just in a perpetually alternating state of eye rolling and vomiting in my mouth with the occasional explanation to my female seatmate that men aren’t all secret necrophilics.

The second state of equilibrium at the end of the movie wasn’t any more appealing than the dis-equilibrium stage. The main character, who is basically the voice of reason and the only good person in the whole movie (despite his apparent blindness to the simple solution of calling the police), is shown with his own dead-girl in the form of his crush. He is also shown smiling from ear-to-ear, apparently extremely pleased with his sudden turn of fortunes. I guess the original dead girl just wasn’t his type. This second state of equilibrium is obviously very different from the first one because now the world is revealed to be capable of having such abnormal forms of life and revolting people in it.

I left the movie with a relieved feeling, safe in the knowledge that I am leaving such disgusting characters behind. But then I remembered that there are actually people who would do the exact same thing as the teenagers in real life. A year or two ago I read a news report about a father keeping his daughter in his basement for decades and had around nine children with her. For a few hours after that, I was in a state of dis-equilibrium. Thanks, Dead Girl.

The Cabin in the Woods: Who Are the Real Monsters?

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The Cabin in the Woods has always been a movie I have been apprehensive about since I first saw its trailer years ago in a movie house (I swear, there should be a law restricting the showing of horror movie trailers in theaters showing non-horror movies).  When I learned that it was being shown in horror class, I knew I would have no choice but to man up and watch the movie.

Personally, I did not find the movie frightening.  For one, zombies are a horror-creature that I never found particularly horrifying. I mean, they move like continents and can be punched, eye-poked, and butt-kicked unlike say, ghosts (the penultimate in horror for me).  The main reason I was not frightened though was because I knew that behind each flickering light, each zombie, and each stupid decision by a teenager was a fellow human being pulling the strings.  Whether it was the spreading of pheromones, the horror objects, or the layout of the cabin, I knew that ultimately a tangible, living, breathing human being was in control, not a supernatural entity.

I believe that this took away from the sense of fatalism and inevitability that makes other horror movies terrifying. In Triangle for example, the apparent futility of the protagonist to change her fate really added to the overall horror of the film. No matter what she did, she was trapped in an unending loop. In The Cabin in the Woods, it is true that from the point of view of the unsuspecting, free-spirited vacationers, they were trapped and were subject to horrors beyond their imagination. From my viewpoint however, I knew that it was no cruel twist of fate or some unexplained occurrence of the fantastic causing their torture, but that it was merely the cruel manipulations of a group of controllers.

For me, the really “scary” part of the movie is the loss of humanity shown by the controllers. They went about their job of essentially murdering innocent people with nonchalance – gusto even. They bet, they laughed, and they high-fived each other on various aspects of each person’s demise. Essentially, they treated this murder merely as a job and even derived some nasty form of pleasure out of it. It was their cruelty which obviously contributed to the decision of the final two surviving teenagers to allow humanity to die, seeing that humanity has become even worse than the monsters they have been hiding. For me, the leaving of the fate of humanity in the hands of a pair of teenagers is true horror.

Because of the deaths of the controllers, I would say that the stream of horror that this movie most falls under is that of allegory. The movie is reminding us that just because we are humans and thus “civilized” and rational doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of doing horrific things and becoming monsters ourselves.  We may think ourselves better than the other beings in the world, but when it all comes down to it, many people are monsters themselves.

Triangle (please disregard my last post)

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Triangle

Triangle as the first horror film shown in our class was not what I expected. When I signed up for this class, I expected a parade of ghost/zombie movies to be marched before my frightened eyes. I expected to be tense the entire movie as I tried to anticipate each and every “gulat” moment, which would still scare me anyway despite my best preparations. Finally, I expected just to be counting down the minutes until the lead character would die so that the movie would finally be over and I can resume my normal, undead-free life. That is until night time fell and I would be lying in my bed imagining all sorts of supernaturally-horrific fates that would befall me. Not even hiding under my bedsheets would be able to save me.

While I’m sure there will be plenty of movies shown in this class that will send me whimpering into the lap of my seat mate, Triangle was definitely not one of these movies. I think this is due to the fact that there is very little presence of the “Fantastic”, as described by Hartwell.

Throughout the years, I have discovered that when it comes to horror, the only things that really scare me are ghosts or demons. I think that this is so because these two things have the possibility of being true. There are millions of ghost stories out there, some of which have been told to me by friends who experienced it first-hand. This makes it terrifying for me because these stories must have some degree of truth to them for them to be so widespread. When it comes to demons, the simple fact that there have be exorcisms and their existence in religious texts is enough evidence for me to consider that they may be real. The thought of being possessed or encountering a person possessed by a demon is perhaps one of my top 3 fears. If a movie was shown with any of these two elements, then I would definitely be scared.

Triangle however did not have any of this, and thus it did not horrify me. Instead, it kept me at the edge of my seat. My brain would not stop whirling, trying to connect all that was happening. It also reminded me of the movie “Inception” because of its multiple layers, the psychological nature of the film, and its general dark tone. In this sense, the movie was a psychological thriller. It could be argued that Triangle is from the Fantastic stream of horror, if one takes into account the presence of an unexplained loop and ghost ship. The fantastic elements however are not the source of horror in the movie, as the plot revolves much more heavily around the general derangement of the character.

My favorite element of the plot is how it is linked to the Myth of Sisyphus. By introducing this element early on, it casts a shadow of inevitability and fatalism over the entire movie. Despite all the efforts of the character to break the cycle, she never could and just kept on entering into the same terrifying, mentally-racking loop, just like how Sisyphus was condemned to push a rock up a mountain forever. This sense inevitability and fatalism is horrifying because it takes all power a way from humans and suggests that perhaps nothing we can do will ever change anything.

Triangle was definitely a good movie to watch, despite its plot holes. It was a apt introduction to the class because it widened my definition of horror movies which previously required that the fantastic element had to be the source of horror. If I were to watch this movie without having read the readings, I would have said that it was not a horror, but that it was a psychological thriller. The imagery, plot, and elements present however clearly make Triangle fall into the horror genre.