Pontypool

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Pontypool. It’s a funny name, really, and you wouldn’t really think of it as terrifying. It certainly doesn’t sound like the title of a horror film. That in itself is quite interesting, as is the premise of this entire movie. Like Rec and Rec 2, Pontypool is a zombie movie with an interesting twist. The twist here is in how people get infected by the zombifying virus: it is carried in language. It’s a bit hard to initially grasp how a virus of some sorts can be carried around in words. Words are infected, not the air that you spew out when you say a word aloud. The words themselves, and how you understand them, are infected. It’s terrifying as in trying to find the answer, in trying to understand what’s happening, you may already be slowly getting infected yourself. The strange virus latches on to you once you understand the word, and it isn’t even just one word, it changes from person to person. The proud, educated ones would then be the first to go, and the illiterate ones are probably safe. Indeed, the joke about the brainless ones being the safe ones apply here.

 

The movie plays with the meanings of words. The first infected words are supposedly those words which have lost their meaning because they were so overused or misused. For example, terms of endearment. Eventually, the English language is infected. The virus is supposedly carried and passed around by understanding certain words, but the infected words come from a group of words that have supposedly lost their meaning. We humans have this need to understand everything, to have an answer for everything especially when we start becoming desparate. Ignorance hardly seems to be the first solution you think of to a problem such as this one. The premise of the movie is very intriguing, and you just want to understand how it works, exactly, but it’s terrifying because there’s an implication that something terrible will happen to you if you do understand. The final scene of the movie really is very puzzling, and doesn’t seem to make sense. I was trying to figure out what it meant exxactly after watching it, but then it seems to be that the reason for it was that it didn’t make sense, and you’re only safe because it didn’t make any sense to you. And they’re only safe because it didn’t make sense. But it seems like the world is doomed, because eventually, the virus will find its way to all languages especially since all languages are somehow linked to English, and you just can’t not understand anything from now on.

 

The idea of having a virus spread through something as intangible as words is terrifying. It’s something that you cannot even control, since it’s very difficult to identify what word will affect you, and what word will affect the person you need to talk to. It’s something that can drive you crazy as it goes against your instinct to try and understand everything…if you try to, you’ll probably end up dead. Once you figure out what can kill you, you die.

May

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I remember May from my high school days. I didn’t see it in the cinema, but my classmates had a copy and we saw parts of it. We watched the part where she gouges out her eye and when she murders the punk guy. I remember not really wanting to watch it because it was rather gory for me. And well, I was right, it was a rather gory movie, and equally creepy.

 

Most horror movies have a protagonist or at least a character that you can relate to, that you can empathize with. May doesn’t really have that. May is the protagonist, but she is the monster as well. It’s established from the very beginning that she is an Other, not simply because she’s a woman but because of her strangeness. She seems to get her strangeness from her mother, who may not be as twisted as May, but is somehow getting there. At first, you feel sorry for May and perhaps even relate to her as the quirky girl, but May eventually drifts further and further away from you as she slowly transforms from an awkward girl to a murderous psychopath. May is an Other that we can initially relate to, especially since she’s the protagonist, but eventually, she becomes so strange that even we have to turn her away. We relate to May’s longing to be accepted, but we are unable to accept the lengths she goes to just to gain a friend. May becomes a person we do not want to be friends with at all, and so we shun her as well.

 

When you look at May and the things she wants to do, it’s all basic human needs. We all have the need to be accepted and the need for belongingness. However, so-called normal people usually lower their expectations and attempt to be more “normal” or fit more into the standards of others, in a way “othering” themselves in an attempt to belong. May does something contrary to this. Instead of giving in, she continues to demand more from the people around her, she refuses to settle for anything less. May didn’t want anything less than perfection, and this made her monstrous. In wanting to find and create the perfect friend or companion, May became a monster. No one was good enough for her, and now everyone was in danger because none could please her. May’s standards of perfection were impossible, and she is unable to comprehend the fact that others had standards too. Others weren’t really allowed to exist in May’s world as themselves, but rather as imperfect parts that have to be put together in order to create the perfect creature.

 

May indeed is a horror movie in that it causes horror in the viewer. Her actions are horrific, and what makes them even more horrific are her motives behind them. May does not see herself as doing something wrong, rather she believes that she is doing something right, and even that she is fixing something. But unlike villains and antagonists of typical stories, May’s reasons for wanting to “fix” things are purely personal. She isn’t really trying to clean up the world in her own twisted way. She couldn’t care less about other people or the world in general, so long as she gets what she needs in the form of a friend or a lover.

The Innkeepers

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The Innkeepers is a classic ghost story, where you have the ghost of someone haunting the place where they were killed. It’s a lot like those stories that your friends tell you during while you’re travelling to well-known “haunted” place, or maybe those that you might read on creepypasta and the like. And it’s something quite relatable, as we all pretty much know what it’s like to get bored and look for some sort of adventure. It starts out with two bored hotel employees just trying to get something interesting out of their last day on the job, and of course, they get exactly that. It’s exactly what they’re looking for, and more than they bargained for.

 

Ghost stories usually explanations for why they happen. In The Innkeepers (and in most ghost stories), the ghost is wherever it is because it was killed there. However, most ghost stories include a reason for why they go after certain people, and The Innkeepers kind of lacked that. Or perhaps I simply missed it, since the movie was really quite dragging for me. There wasn’t much happening, mostly just the two friends talking. I thought that things were going to become a lot more interesting and action-packed when the two other guests arrived, but it wasn’t much. I think they were a bit underused, actually. They could have been incorporated in the story more, especially the old man. Again, it could just be because I was bit sleepy when I saw the film that I failed to make all these connections. I usually expect movies to wake me up, but since it kinda seemed that everything was repeating itself, I tended to space out.

 

The Innkeepers did a lot of building up, and there were certainly moments where I was on the edge of my seat and half-covering my ears expecting the ghost or at least something to suddenly come out of the dark corridors. It’s a movie that’s really creepy to watch on your own, because it tends to make you paranoid of all the little sounds. Most horror movies (or any movie genre for that matter) tend to be a lot better when seen on the big screen, but this one would probably be the scariest when watched very early in the morning on a laptop, alone in a strange motel room. However, I think the climax fell a bit flat. It’s quite sudden and ends almost as soon as it starts, though you tend to keep your hands up and block your eyes until you’re sure that the credits are rolling. Medyo bitin. But it’s the kind of movie that will freak you out once you find yourself in situations similar to it, when you find yourself in a creepy and rather old hotel with barely anyone else there.

 

The Innkeepers plays with the gaze, where the characters try to hold on to the power by being the ones to look but ultimately, the one being looked at triumphs. Or it can be looked at this way: Claire is the one who is being looked at, and the one who was looking all along was the ghost of Madeleine O’Malley. Claire has been watched all along, and when she tries to turn the tables and be the one to hold the gaze, she is punished. Claire, the emotional female, does not listen to reason that tells her to leave the place already, instead going back to save the old man. Meanwhile, her guy friend has already left. The reasonable, logical guy has already left the building, and since Claire stayed even though shouldn’t have, she got punished by being locked in the cellar and apparently dying. It’s sort of implied that she too will become a ghost in the building. Because she wanted to look, now she gets to do just that to whoever the next poor soul to try to look for ghosts in that building.

Rec 2

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Rec 2 picks up right where Rec left us, but with a significant difference: it’s a different camera, and it’s more than one camera. Perhaps its because you are more prepared for what’s coming because you are familiar with the style of the movie, and you more or less are aware of how it’s going to startle you. But perhaps it’s also due to the slight change in perspective. In the first Rec movie, we run around with Angela as one person, as cameraman Pablo. We are really thrust into the story and the terror that the characters are going through, because in a way, we are part of it. We are a character in the movie. In Rec 2, we are jostled from one camera to another, from one character to another. Thus, we are constantly pulled in and out of the movie and it becomes a lot less personal.

 

Rec 2 offers more of an explanation as to why everything is happening. Rec and Rec 2 are generally both zombie movies, but it’s interesting this particular “zombie apocalypse” came about. In both movies, the infection is spread by bites as in typical zombie movies, but how it actually began is very different: a possession. Religion is the last thing that one would think expect from a zombie movie, much less be what caused the zombie invasion. In a possession, a demon takes over the body of a person, a host. However, once it moves from one body to another, the previous body is left alone albeit perhaps a bit weakened or even dead. There is usually no “leftover residue” in the form of a weird illness that eventually turns the body into a blood thirsty zombie.

 

The interesting thing about this installment is that the protagonists are mostly men. Men are supposed to be the logical ones, the problem-solvers. The men in Rec 2 eventually figure out what’s happening, but they are unable to really solve the problem. Despite their best efforts, they still fail. Angela, who we had originally cheered for, turns out to now be the monster to be feared. Everyone fears being backstabbed or having the tables turned on them, to find out all of a sudden that the person you had trusted turns out to be the one you should have been avoiding all along. Woman turns out to be untrustworthy after all, an Other that should be feared and shunned.

Voice

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Voice is obviously a horror movie in that it deals with ghosts and supernatural occurances, but it doesn’t quite scare you. It’s more of a sad movie about not wanting to be forgotten, rejection, and revenge. It plays like a melodrama and mystery at times, tugging at your heartstrings rather than filling you with horror. I’m not really a fan of horror films and so I haven’t been that exposed to Asian horror movies, so I’m not so sure if that is really a characteristic of Asian horror films.

 

Horror films tend to focus on the woman as the other, as the monster, and in that way, this movie isn’t really that different since its “monster” or antagonist was female. However, the rest of the characters are also female. There are practically no male characters, as even the minor characters tended to be female. Even the love angle involved no men: the original student with the voice, a girl, fell in love with the music teacher, who was also female. This was quite taboo, since as far as I know, Asian countries tended to be on the conservative side. Plus, that girl was also bullied for being a lesbian. But this issue wasn’t that central to the movie, rather it was something that gave motivation to one of the characters and was the reason why one of the ghosts didn’t immediately lose their voices.

 

Voice begins with the death of the “protagonist”, Young-eon, and then proceeds with her struggle to find out what happened to her. It turns out that she is actually the antagonist, the villain who looks out for no one but herself in the end. The woman who dares to look is usually punished as women are not supposed to look. Here, the women who were punished were the ones who dared to go against norms. The original ghost was punished for falling in love with her teacher, Young-eon was punished for her multiple personality disorder and driving her mother and the music teacher to suicide, and Seon-min was punished for trying to help Young-eon. These were things that all of them were not supposed to do, and because they did, they all ended up punished. Only Young-eon sort of triumphed, but even she didn’t get what she really wanted, which was to live again. She had to possess Seon-min and bring down the very person who was originally the only person who was willing to help her.

 

Horror films tend to be disgusting and disturbing when it comes to visuals, and even though Voice does have its share of “gore”, it was very, for lack of a better word, choreographed. It was all very pretty, aesthetically pleasing despite everything. It’s very different from the other movies that we had watched in class, which are all Western movies. Also, in this movie, horror didn’t really seem to be the objective, but rather a mystery. The audience discovers clues at the same time as Young-eon, and they are reminded that Voice is a horror movie (beyond the ghosts involved) in the end, when it becomes apparent that Young-eon had succeeded in “living” again.

Grace

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Grace would, I guess, be a zombie movie. It’s a very different kind of zombie movie, however, since the zombie is more or less helpless and incapable of really doing harm. Grace is almost a dead baby joke gone wrong.

 

Grace isn’t supposed to be alive since she was killed in her mother Madeline’s womb in a car accident, but she’s still carried to term. She came out dead, but suddenly and inexplicably came back to life, crying as a normal and healthy baby would after several minutes of Madeline pleading for her to stay. It isn’t unheard of to have dead people sort of come back to life, since modern medicine has made it possible to resusitate those who have technically died. But those are usually a few minutes, maybe hours after being declared dead. Grace has been dead for several weeks already, and then suddenly, without any resusitation of any kind, is alive. It’s a whole new way of looking at the miracle of life, though this life isn’t what you expect it to be. After all, how normal do you think would a baby who’s been dead for weeks be?

 

What Grace mainly deals with is motherhood, which generally, all women eventually want. Madeline has been trying to get pregnant for the longest time, and when she finally does get pregnant, she does everything to make sure that nothing goes wrong. A mother is often depicted as fiercely possessive and protective of her child, and this is especially seen in wild animals. Most animals would attack and kill those who dare approach their young. Madeline is in a way turned wild by the experience of motherhood, by her desperate need to be a mother. She ends up attacking and killing those who threaten to take away her child. It’s a bit contrary to the usual notion of (human) motherhood, which is supposed to be beautiful and bring people who have been torn apart back together again. Even Vivian, with her supposedly good intentions of raising Grace, is a bit wild in her need to become a mother, having lost her son to first adulthood and then death. Though Vivian is a bit different since she seems to be more fixated on the breastfeeding aspect rather than the raising aspect. Their desperation to be mothers both took them a bit too far.

 

The actual monster of this film, Grace, is deemed completely normal except for her thirst for blood. Not just any blood, but human blood. It’s a bit ironic that Madeline had resorted to a vegan diet during her pregnancy, but her baby ended up with a taste for things that definitely cannot be found in a vegan diet. You already know that something is up with the baby once it cries to life after knowing for a while that it’s been dead before it was even born. However, that seemed to be the only explanation for why the baby was…zombified. There wasn’t really any explanation for why Grace had a taste for blood, why Grace was even alive. There isn’t any strange thing that impregnated Madeline, it was pretty clear that Michael was the father. Grace was just…Grace, and everyone in the movie just accepted her as she is, and despite her monstrosity (c’mon, she was practically chewing off her mother’s breast!) everyone even tries to protect her. There’s some weird reversal. Madeline, as her mother, protects her. Vivian wants to get her in order to raise her herself, thinking that it will be better for her. Dr. Sohn only wants the best for Grace as well. Even Patricia, knowing the strangeness of the baby, still looks after her. Somehow, without really doing anything and purely relying on the instincts of the people around her, Grace manages to “invade” our world.

 

Grace was written and directed by a man, Paul Solet. This is quite an interesting take on motherhood from the point of view of someone who’s never going to experience it, and only has the women around him as reference. Men are after all never going to know what it’s like to carry around a baby, with all sorts of hormones shooting around inside telling you that you must be a mother and do everything in your power to make sure that this baby will be okay. Grace is horrfying in planting the idea that what if I, since I’m a woman capable of childbirth, turn out that way too, going a bit too far in my desire to be a mother. Or even any woman out there now.

Rec

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I had heard a lot about Rec before watching it in class. I had seen a snippet of it in my Com100 class back in second year, and had screamed when something suddenly fell. I was one of those who had gasped when it was announced that Rec would be the next movie to be screened. Rec was the first horror film that I was watching in class that I was actually familiar with, but not so familiar that I was still terrified of what may happen.

Rec, being in Spanish, was subtitled, and it required me to open my eyes for the most part of the movie (which I tend to not do during horror films) in order to understand what was going on. The story wasn’t very complicated, and even though plots are often secondary in horror films, it was still actually pretty good. The explanation behind this movie didn’t feel forced and it didn’t ruin it at all. But of course, horror movies thrive on imagery, and with that, Rec does not fall short.

The found footage format really works for this movie, making you feel as if you’re really in the building along with all of them, and that you’re also running from room to room trying to escape the bloodthirsty zombies or whatever they were. You really get thrown into the film, and it’s quite stressful. I felt like I couldn’t breathe properly for a while after watching the movie, and during the movie itself, I was one of those who’d scream or yelp or cover my eyes and ears when another zombie creature attacks. I think it was a really effective horror movie due to the stress it brought about, but it was still really fun to watch. I think that last bit is due to the fact that I watched with a roomful of people, and all of us were reacting. I think I’d be terrified if I was watching it alone, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

When you think about it, Rec can be a bit predictable. There are some set-ups that are so obvious, such as the little girl sort of being the source, the old lady and Colombian woman disappearing after being left in the hallway, and the empty penthouse apartment having to do something with it all. When Pablo puts the camera into the attic, it was pretty much a giveaway to the fact that there was something that the camera will see or attack the camera, but it still elicited a scream. There are so many of those moments, with a fireman falling down, the little girl spitting blood, and the guy in the hazmat suit attacking the vain old dude. A lot of surprises, shocks, “gulat” moments, but there was still the climax and highlight, and even then Rec was still effectively eliciting screams. With you being so involved due to the found footage format, the shockers don’t really disappoint.

Deadgirl

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The best horror films are extremely unlikeable, and if that’s the case, then Deadgirl must be among the best, even if it didn’t feel like it.

I honestly didn’t find anything to like in Deadgirl. When it was over, I thought it was so appallingly bad that I thought it must’ve been all a joke, that it was probably satirical or something. I was looking for something that would redeem the movie, maybe some sort of explanation or something, but there was nothing. Before watching the movie, the class was warned about how this would be a disturbing movie. I had seen A Serbian Film before, and I thought it would be something like that…a creepy, disturbing movie that leaves you with a horror you can’t seem to rub off your skin. Maybe I had set my expectations too “high” (or low?) for this movie, and so I was a bit disappointed.

This is another movie that had left a lot of questions unanswered, such as the origin of the original Deadgirl, and what happened to her once she ran off in the end. The supposed deaths of the other characters were also just left hanging, and no one ever seemed to come forward to even wonder what on earth happened to those kids. It may have been all intentional, but to me, it kinda just felt like gaping open plot holes from the first draft of the script. I guess it did have a promising, but shaky, start, but meh, the ending was just…uhm, okay, that’s it? It’s one of those horror movies with an “oh no, it’s not over!” ending, but it wasn’t that unsettling.

The two leads, JT and Rickie, are so unbelievably childish, or just hyperaware of the fact that they won’t get anywhere so they just settled for what they had, for what was already there. JT just made the most of the fact that there was a girl he can fuck any time he pleased, and that he never had to pay for dinners and whatnot before doing so. Rickie, on the other hand, seemed to have a much better working moral compass, refusing to stoop to that level, but in the end, he also ends up fucking a deadgirl…but hey, at least it was his dream girl. Deadgirl is quite creepy and disturbing, I honestly do not understand how JT could’ve possibly seen her as hot and, for lack of a better term, fuckable. I mean, who sees a zombie-like creature, and thinks, “hey, it’s tied up, maybe we could have sex with it!”? Deadgirl really does look like the stuff of horror movies, and I thought that she would have a much better role, and I was excited when she managed to break free but we never get to see her again. She was just an object…an almost literal objectification of women. The guys in the movie all take advantage of the deadgirl, be it the original one or the new one as in Rickie’s case. It can be funny and ridiculous at times, but laughing feels so wrong due to the disturbing things that they were all doing to her. I still don’t think that Deadgirl is a good movie (and perhaps it succeeds in that way) but it is certainly good at unsettling you when it starts tugging at all the wrong strings, making you think of things you don’t want to think of.

The Cabin in the Woods

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Cabin in the Woods was really quite fun to watch…and this is coming from someone who isn’t a horror movie fan. I was talking to a friend who wasn’t part of the class that this was the next movie we were going to see, and he was all praises for it. He said that it was the deconstruction of a horror film. Indeed it was, taking apart what horror films are and putting it all back together in this ridiculously fun movie. Yeah, I really had fun watching this. Not being a true blue horror fan though, I think I missed out on a lot more.

The first scene was a bit weird for me, since I was expecting a forest-y or at the very least country scenes. Truth be told, I was a bit slow in catching on what those lab scenes were all about. But I appreciated these scenes since they were a break from the obviously scary parts of the movie that follow the five friends. The parts with the friends were so typical of horror movies and thus so predictable, but I still got spooked at times. I found it quite interesting that they were actually the explanation for all the weird things happening to the group. It was different from Triangle, which had no explanation whatsoever for the strange events. I thought at first that they were just filming some sort of twisted version of Big Brother, since they were showing numerous versions all around the world (and Japan’s had little girls! How do they fulfill the archetypes?!?). I thought that that was it, it was just about humans being the real monsters. But lo, there’s another twist! These guys who cheer whenever someone dies a gruesome death in the hands of the undead are actually trying to save the world!

Horror movie endings are, as discussed in class, both happy and sad. These movies disturb the equilibrium, and at the end, this equilibrium may or may not be restored, but this equilibrium will never be quite the same as the old one. The monsters may be gone, but you will always have to deal with the fact that there are monsters. In Cabin in the Woods, however, there isn’t really that sense…it just ends. It isn’t a happy ending, since the world ends. So, I guess it’s a sad ending, but in a way, it’s alright because there’s nothing to terrorize, no one to scare, no one to be scared. The ending of the movie doesn’t make it seem like it’s something that’s already happened (because hey, the world’s still around), which I personally think is how most horror movies get to me. The equilibrium is still undisturbed, for the most part.

But what if that program (or whatever you should call it) is ongoing right now, and the deadline is December 21? Maybe the previous ones had been sucessful after all, and that’s why the world hasn’t ended yet. The next deadline is coming up, and hopefully, the Fool isn’t immune to the mind-control stuff. Well, I just hope then that I don’t get selected for that…and I will avoid outings where we’re only five like the plague.

Triangle

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Well. This was quite unexpected.

I’m not a fan of horror movies, I seem to have ingrained it in my head that all horror movies will scare me silly and rob me of sleep for two weeks, just like when I watched Feng Shui as a kid. I sorely underestimated that film’s ability to terrify me. Coming into this film seminar, I expected more of the similar movies… movies with zombies, ghosts, monsters, coupled with some curses and bleeding creatures. Coming into this class, that was what a horror film was to me.

Triangle, then, was not a horror film. I would have considered it as a suspense or thriller, but not really horror. There weren’t any zombies, ghosts, or monsters, and as it turns out, the “monster” or antagonist is simply the protagonist, Jess, in another loop. The movie was a bit dragging and perhaps a bit confusing in the beginning, since it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. It was just an accumulation of details up until it repeats again, and then everything starts making sense. It’s not really any creature that’s messing things up, but the actual reality, the actual situation. It’s that which makes it scary or horrific, because you can’t control anything (all your attempts to do so just seem to backfire) and you don’t even get to find out what is controlling everything.

In class, it was discussed how a horror story is a weird story…and weird has roots that ties it to the word fate. People often romanticize the concept of fate, but movies and stories such as Triangle show us otherwise. To have a fate means losing control over your life, that your choices no longer matter, that no matter what you choose, you will always end up in a particular situation. You are doomed to whatever the stars or God or whatever that is that decided that it all be this way. I think this would give die-hard believers in fate quite a scare. In Triangle, it’s all about the horror of losing control, of realizing that your free will means absolutely nothing, and that your very “choices” are what leads to all this horror unfolding.

Triangle is not a horror film that makes you squirm and freak out whenever something moves in the corner of your eye. It’s a lot more subtle… freaking you out when suddenly an unfamiliar place becomes eeriely familiar, a jarring deja vu. After watching it that day in class, I was pretty much fine, not really bothered by anything I had seen in the movie (okay, except maybe for the part where the girl dying over and over again is shown. That was a bit icky.). It was when I was walking to my next class when it dawned on me that I would be walking this path over and over again throughout the semester. I wondered, what if I was just in a loop like Jess, just going through the motions because I had to, or because I thought it was my choice. The horror was like molasses creeping up on me, slow and deliberate. In a way, it was less scarier than the horror movies as I had known them, but at the same time, it was a lot scarier. No explanation was ever given for why Jess went through that, and why it was her. It all just happened, and sort of fell into place. Or was already in place. Fate, I guess.

What was a bit creepy for me too was that after this class, I had Philosophy, and what we discussed that day was freedom, about whether we were just reacting to some stimuli and going through the motions or we were totally free and must create our own meaning and lives. Hmm. Well, if I am stuck in some similar loop, I just hope I don’t have to kill my friends over and over again.