Let The Right One In: Young Love

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“Let the Right One In” is a horror film which tells the love story between a boy named Oskar and a vampire girl named Eli. Unexpectedly, I actually liked it because it was able to effectively present the romantic aspect of the horror genre which was quite uncommon among horror films. Many would probably compare the movie to the cheesy and well-known “Twilight” series but I would certainly not. Without a doubt, I can dare say that the said film was so much better because of its inspiring and touching story. It did not only present two young lovers in such an original and unique way but it was also able to address several recurring themes such as bullying and revenge. Indeed, I am glad our professor decided to show it as the final film for our horror film class since it was a great way to end the semester.

Oskar was first introduced as a young boy who lived with his mother and frequently visited his father and kept a knife under his bed while collecting newspaper readings about gruesome murders. He was constantly bullied in school so he had always thought of revenge. One day, he met a strange girl named Eli who just moved next door with an old man named Hakan. Although she was requested to stop seeing Oskar, Eli convinced him to fight for himself. They eventually became close friends and by exchanging Morse codes, their bond with each other slowly strengthened. Due to Hakan’s failed efforts to obtain blood, Eli consequently killed a local man named Jocke and Hakan was forced to sacrifice himself in order to feed her. Eli had no one to run to so she went to Oskar’s apartment and as she revealed that she was not a girl, Oskar just ignored it. Since the body of Jocke was discovered by his classmates, Oskar learned to fight back by attacking one of the bullies. Lacke was the only friend of Jocke and his girlfriend Virginia bursted into flames after getting attacked by Eli and being sensitive to sunlight. Eli finally admitted her true nature as a vampire and their relationship still evolved even though Oskar was devastated of Eli’s need to kill for her survival. The final few moments of the film involved Oskar and Eli saving each other from near death experiences as the bullies and Lacke seeked out revenge. The movie ended with Eli, whom Oskar protected against the sunlight, travelling together on a train.

In general, “Let the Right One In” efficiently presents how relationships and young love in particular start and continually develop. In addition to this, the predominant gender issue in the film was that Eli acted as if she was the male while Oskar acted as if he was the female. It was discussed in Linda Williams’ article that women can find their power in the monster’s power and Eli best exemplified this. Eli was the one who taught Oskar to stand up for himself and she even saved him from the bullies in the swimming pool. On the other hand, Eli was helpless and incapable throughout the movie specifically when he just simply shouted when Eli was about to be killed by Lacke. Moreover, Eli’s revelation to Oskar that she was a vampire can be associated with Barbara Creed’s concept of the monstrous feminine stating that there is something abject about the woman which disturbs the whole system and order of things. In the end, the film is proof that young love exists and love knows no boundaries.

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Pontypool: Communication and the Human Language

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“Pontypool” is a horror film where a mysterious and unknown virus hits the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. With regards to the movies I did not enjoy watching in class such as “Deadgirl”, “Grace”, “May” and now “Pontypool”, recently, I have been noticing a trend and this is my belief that all of their storylines continually get weirder and weirder. With that being said, I obviously did not like “Pontypool” for the reason that I was completely bored waiting for an exciting thing or two to occur throughout the movie. I also had a feeling it was not properly characterized in the horror genre since it was more suited as a psychological thriller. Initially, I thought that it would be one of the usual zombie movies I have been used to watching but I think it is one of the most common misconceptions made by people after seeing the said film. Although it was apparently a low-budget film in which majority of the events took place in a radio station, I honestly think that the film was intelligent, creative, original and one of a kind.

The film began with Grant Mazzy, a radio announcer, driving to work and encountering a strange woman who knocked on his car but suddenly disappeared. As he arrived the radio station, Laurel-Ann and Sydney, his two co-workers, were eventually introduced. Still bothered by what happened earlier, Grant Mazzy received news from reporter Ken that there was a riot at Dr. Mendez’s office. Ken’s call got repeatedly cut off until they heard of a possible infection. Soon after, Pontypool was then declared to be under quarantine and, they were warned to stay indoors and avoid using the English language. A mob of people attack the station and Laurel-Ann also got infected as she repeated a certain word over and over again. Dr. Mendez arrived and explained that a virus has infected the human language particularly the English language where only certain words are infected which in turn infect certain people only.  Laurel-Ann ultimately died and in order to drive the horde of people away, they played a recording recurrently and spoke in French. They decided to escape but Sydney also got infected and before it was too late, Grant Mazzy successfully disinfected her by convincing her that “kill” meant “kiss”. The movie finally ended with the two of them kissing.

“Pontypool” unquestionably brought everyone to a sudden state of confusion when it was revealed that the virus is in the human language itself and this was the first time it ever happened in class. In addition to this, no one also understood the significance of the scene after the credits. I guess one of the objectives of the horror film is to leave its audience with a number of unanswered questions for them to try to evaluate themselves. It can also be noticed that only Grant Mazzy was not uninfected by the virus which again showed the victimization of women through the characters of Laurel-Ann and Sydney. Moreover, the human language ironically served as a barrier which delineated the people from each other resulting to their abjection. I believe the film wished to inform its audience not only about the limitations of communication and the human language but also to be cautious before you speak.

May: Obsession and Envy

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“May” is a horror film about a socially awkward woman who suffered a lazy eye and had no friends but her doll named Suzie which her mother made. To be really honest, I absolutely hated it since I was extremely bored out watching more than half or majority of the movie. In my opinion, this was easily one of the worst films I have seen in a while and I can compare it to “Grace”, which was equally as bad and strange. I could not comprehend why such a movie was even directed and placed under the horror genre. I think that “May”, which showed the consequences of being a weird social outcast, should appropriately be categorized as a drama. Never did I also imagine that someone like May, who becomes overly obsessed with a specific body part of another person once she notices it, would even exist in our world. Nevertheless, the final few moments of the film really caught my attention because of how disgusting and gross the scenes turned out to be. 

May was introduced as a lonely woman who did not have an enjoyable childhood due to her lazy eye. She worked at a veterinary hospital and specialized in surgeries. In her attempt to make friends, she met Adam and she immediately liked him because of his arms. Moreover, her colleague Polly also flirted with her and she became attached to her neck. After several encounters with May, Adam gradually avoided her after being disturbed by her odd personality. He realized that he felt the awkwardness in all of May’s peculiar actions and their bizarre conversations together. One day, May overheard Adam that he felt relieved that she was gone and in line with this, she also encountered Polly with another woman. Hence, she became angry and hopeless that no one cared for her. Additionally, she realized that she could not consider all the people she met as her friends. She also felt that no one is really perfect as a whole, believing that a perfect friend should only be composed of the perfect parts of people. In effect, May eventually designed her own life-sized doll friend Amy by obtaining the various parts of the body she thought were perfect from the people she once considered her friends.

In the movie, May felt envious that the people she knew all had a special someone in their lives. As a result, the worst and weirdest part of the film occurred when the tagline “If you can’t find a friend, make one”, was literally lived out. The character of May properly depicted how a woman’s gaze can lead to her own victimization. Her awkward attitude towards others by obsessively looking at their particular body parts led her to be punished in such a way that she had no friends to run to. As she also met Adam, her curiosity and desire were both transformed into masochistic fantasy, which represented her as a social outcast. Undeniably, May turned out to have a miserable and abject life leading to her emergence as a violent and monstrous feminine figure. In the end, the film wants to leave its audience with the important message that both obsession and envy have their indisputable social consequences.

Halloween: Revenge

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“Halloween” is a horror film which tells the story of a boy named Michael Myers, who grew up to be a dangerous man and who escaped from a mental institution after several years of being admitted to find his sister. Even though I have already watched the film in the past, I still enjoyed watching it and giving it a second go. Initially, I thought that it was based on a true story since from what I have read, a boy who had suicidal and homicidal thoughts recently slaughtered his own family, which made me thought that the story could have really happened. What made the movie original and unlike any other slasher film I have watched is that its plot had a flow and the story started as if it told Michael’s life story. I also really liked the fact that the movie began with a quote from Dr. Samuel Loomis book stating that “The darkest souls are not those which choose to exist within the hell of the abyss, but those which choose to break free from the abyss and move silently among us.”

As a child, Michael Myers was bullied in school and being psychologically unstable, he murdered one of the bullies. While his mother was working as a stripper in a bar, he also killed his mother’s boyfriend, his sister Judith and Judith’s boyfriend successively. After his trial, he was immediately taken to a mental institution and taken care of his psychologist Dr. Samuel Loomis. As soon as Michael became obsessed with his paper masks and killed one of the nurses in the ward, his mother eventually gave up and committed suicide. With this, he continued making masks and refused to speak to anyone. Dr. Loomis also gave up and subsequently, Michael killed the employees in the sanitarium before escaping and returning to his old home. The second part of the film focuses on Michael’s younger sister Laurie whom he did not kill when she was a baby. Michael observed Laurie and her friends and he also killed them one by one together with Laurie’s parents. Dr. Loomis heard of Michael’s escape so he went to Laurie’s home and searched for him. Soon after, Michael kidnapped Laurie to try to tell her that he is her brother. Since Laurie could not understand, Michael chased her until Dr. Loomis arrived, but he was also killed. The film ended with Laurie firing multiple shots at Michael until it went off and as Michael held her hand.

Unlike the other films, for a change, the monster depicted in Halloween was Michael, a man.  As discussed in class, Michael was characterized by his mask and he wore this not just to hide his face but to close himself from the world. Growing up as a psychopath, he probably believed that the world should be blamed for everything that has happened to him as a child especially the bullying. I also noticed throughout the film that the women who were shown to be naked can be considered the victims or objects of Michael’s gaze. They not only represented fear and suffered at the hands of a man but they were stripped off their sexuality leading to their subjugation and helplessness. I believe that ambiguity and ambivalence were important factors that made up the horror film since there were still some unanswered questions at the end of the film such as what Michael really wanted with Laurie. In conclusion, a valuable lesson that can be picked up from the movie is that in life, hurting the people around us will do no good and revenge is definitely not the way to go.

The Innkeepers: The Gaze of Women

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“The Innkeepers” is a horror film about Claire and Luke, two employees at the Yankee Pedlar Inn who experience peculiar events and attempt to discover more about the secrets of the hotel’s haunted past. Although it was obviously a low budget and independent film, I honestly enjoyed watching it since it was directed and produced excellently as demonstrated by the special effects used. Initially, I have already heard about the film but I never really attempted to watch it by myself especially at night since seeing the movie poster alone was horrifying. Believe it or not, “The Innkeepers” was just the second film next to “Rec” that gave me a good scare in which I had difficulties discarding it from my thoughts. I believe it presented the horror film effectively to the point that I even recommended it to some of my friends to give them goosebumps as well. From the numerous reactions of the class, I thought that the movie was very well received by its audience.

It seemed as if the film was divided into two parts. The first part began at a really slow pace with a series of scenes which made an effort to startle the audience but unfortunately did not work on me. I liked the fact that the first half involved some humorous scenes rather than immediately inducing fear into its audience. I believe these were probably made in preparation for the second half or the final few minutes of the movie which were exceptionally frightening. It was the final week of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, and Claire and Luke were initially introduced as ghost enthusiasts who were interested in the mystery of the ghost of Madeline O’Malley, a bride who committed suicide after her husband left her. An old woman named Leanne who turned out to be a psychic then checked in the hotel and the plot eventually builds up as Claire experienced paranormal activity. One instance was when the piano played by itself while she recorded EVPs in various locations around the hotel. The second part of the film started as soon as an unusual old man checked in and asked for a room on the third floor of the hotel. Even though Leanne warned Claire to avoid the basement, they did otherwise and as a result, they came across some paranormal activity. Claire claimed to see the ghost of Madeline O’Malley causing Luke to leave the hotel. Leanne also said that they needed to leave the hotel immediately so Claire rushed to the third floor but saw the body of the old man covered with blood in the bathtub. In the end, Claire encountered several apparitions of the old man and Madeline O’Malley, being trapped in the basement and dying of an asthma attack.

Similar to the other movies watched in class, a feeling of entrapment was clearly present particularly in the latter parts of the film such as when Claire was cornered by the ghost of Madeline O’Malley in the basement. In accordance to our discussion, women were also portrayed as the most effective representation of fear as seen in the character of Claire. It was very strange that only the woman (Claire) claimed to see the ghost but the man (Luke) didn’t. Moreover, the victimization and particularization of women were evident throughout the movie. Claire was not allowed to be normal in the film and she never really played an important role. She was someone looked at by the “monster” or the ghost, and she unknowingly just died in the end. Finally, the film wished to leave its audience with the significant message that the gaze of women, which is directly the result of their natural curiosity to gaze upon the unusual, may have its detrimental and unfavourable consequences.

REC 2: Religion and The Gaze

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“REC 2” is a horror film immediately continuing the events taking place in “REC”, in which a “Ministry of Health official” and a SWAT team are sent to the same quarantined apartment building to control the situation. Similar to what I thought about the original film, I still believe that it perfectly encapsulates the definition of a genuine horror film. Most of the time, sequels do not live up to their audience’s expectations but I think “REC 2” is one of the few exceptions. It was the first sequel of any film our professor showed in class although I did not really anticipate it to be as exciting and horrifying as the first one. To my surprise, it did not disappoint me at all and I actually enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed its predecessor probably because of the immense action involved as soon as it started and the fact that several discoveries were made. All the questions left unanswered in the original movie were dealt with conclusively in “REC 2”.

As opposed to “REC”, the film started off quickly with a “medical officer” and a SWAT team entering the same apartment building. Some intense and gory scenes were involved as they fought off some of the infected they encountered on their way to and out of the penthouse. The religious aspect also immediately came to play as it was revealed that the said medical officer was actually a priest who wanted to obtain a blood sample from the Medeiros girl. He used a rosary to fight the infected and as he performed a religious rite on the said blood sample they found through one of the air ducts, it unfortunately combusted to flames. These just proved that in times of need, the power of the Church cannot be taken too lightly. Also, what clearly turned out to be a zombie assault became a viral demonic possession instead.

Generally, a number of characteristics of the horror film were established in “REC 2”. A sense of entrapment and claustrophobia were obviously felt by the priest and the SWAT team as they were unable to escape the apartment alive. In contrast to “REC”, the usage of different cameras and perspectives is one unique feature which can be found throughout the film. Although employing the point of view of ordinary civilians was quite unnecessary, I guess the film just sought to challenge the concept of the human gaze. In accordance to what Noel Carroll said, the human has the inquisitiveness to gaze upon the unusual, even when it is simultaneously repelling. The curiosity of the three teenagers to know what was happening inside the building led their lives to be in grave danger. It was also revealed that Angela, the television reporter from the first film, was still alive and she was possessed by the Medeiros girl. Predictably but unusually, she became both the victim and “monster” in the movie. In addition to this, their camera’s night vision and gaze were significant in discovering that some things can only be seen in the dark and could not be seen by the human eye. In the end, “REC 2” unveiled to its audience that the power of religion can never be underestimated and the human gaze which leads natural human curiosity cannot easily be circumvented.

Voice: Mysteries

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“Voice” is a Korean horror film where the aspiring singer named Young-eon is mysteriously killed and becomes a ghost as she tries to recall what caused her death.  I have never been a fan of Asian horror films or Asian films in general. Shortly after watching the movie, I still refuse to change my mind and I shall stick to my belief that Asian films have plots which are quite superficial and almost comparable to each other.  In my opinion, “Voice” is no exception to this since it tries to resemble one of those Korean dramas shown in television. Although the movie was also relatively profound, I think that the number of unnecessary flashbacks which actually confused me made the film very distinct in a negative way. Nevertheless, to be honest, I was entirely bored trying to watch the movie to the point that I almost fell asleep. I truly felt that the movie was leaning towards the mystery/drama genre that it lacked and fell short in the horror category.

Initially, the film opened with the mysterious death of Young-eon, who was killed through a music sheet cutting her throat. I found this scene strange and unrealistic since it was my first time to encounter someone dying because of a paper cut. The following day, it was revealed that Young-eon has become a ghost and therefore, invisible. Oddly, nobody but her best friend Sun-min could hear her voice so she was the only one who could help her unravel the mystery behind her death. Cho-ah, a girl who can hear the voices of the dead, also mentioned that ghosts only remember what they wish to remember so Young-eon’s memory may be invalid. After Young-eon’s original dead body was found in an elevator, it can be assumed that she was just unconscious after all and a student must have accidentally killed her. Several flashbacks which I could not understand then began to occur to Young-eon regarding the life she had before her death. These flashbacks included her mother as well as the music teacher committing suicide. In reality, Young-eon really wanted to kill the teacher so that Hyo-Jung’s voice would never be heard again. Hyo-Jung was actually the ghost who cut the throat of Young-eon using the music sheet as a result of losing her voice and being forgotten by the music teacher whom she loved. She was a former student who also died in the said elevator and had a similar voice as Young-eon. In the final scene, because of her desperation to live again, Young-eon usurps Sun-min’s body as she talks to her own reflection and to Sun-min’s mother.

In general, the film attempts to understand not only female relationships but also the psychology of a woman.  Lesbianism was also implied by the relationship between the music teacher and one of her students. On one hand, it can be drawn from the movie was that Young-eon struggled to find her true identity as an effect of her psychological disorder. David G. Hartwell’s major streams of horror particularly horror being psychological and fantastic were also manifested in the film through the presence of the ghost of Hyo-Jung, a supernatural and unknown being. I believe that the reality that life after death is not as pleasant as it seems also made the storyline of “Voice” a little more complicated. The thought that a person’s death was no longer remembered was the real horror conveyed by the movie. Finally, the film concludes with several unanswered questions such as how the psyche of women and life after death both continue to remain mysteries.