Thoughts about “Let The Right One In”

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Let The Right One In is a cutesy vampire story that differs from today’s cutesy vampire stories in that it goes back to folklore and the ugly, fearsome, qualities that vampires used to have. This is where stalking and tree swinging is used for prey and not for love interests. This is where bodies burst into fire, not shimmer or glow when exposed to the sunlight. This is where elongated tongues and blood and mangled bodies replace teenage romance and angst.

Here, vampirism is considered an abject rather than something to be envious about. It is something that horrifies everyone, even vampires themselves. Eli could not find anything cool or awesome about being a vampire even after so many years. We get to see her kill a man out of the desperate need to survive, and she later regretted that decision. Because of the nature of her circumstance she has to stay hidden and the only ones that she can interact with are among the unlikeliest of people, Oskar and Hakan. Virginia, the lady that Eli infected, went through a similar experience as well. She was horrified of what she has become and she took some drastic measures to stay alive and hidden, like drinking her own blood (which she later found not to be ineffective) and staying at home. Unlike Eli, though, Virginia later commits suicide by allowing her boyfriend to open the curtains and let the sunlight in the hospital room she was confined in. Eli could not think about committing suicide even if she went through the horrors of vampirism longer and she’s technically older than Virginia.

Vampire movies are usually associated with male vampires enticing female humans out of lust or love, but this one is different because it is a vampire film where the main vampire is “female” and is being courted by a male human. Eli turns out to be actually male later on, but Oskar ends up not caring about it. He wasn’t looking to be satisfied sexually with Eli anyway, unlike Hakan (in the book). Oskar just wanted to be with someone he understands and someone who understands him. The love between them is the cute and innocent kind rather than the intense and passionate kind found in most vampire movies. Many say that it’s more likely that Eli was just using Oskar, that Oskar would eventually replace Hakan, but the director himself thought differently in an interview. He said that he saw the relationship between Oskar and Eli as a happy ending rather than a sad one. Thinking about it, Eli even tried to push Oskar away. He was initially in bad shape: disinterested, weak, cold, pale, and smelly, but Oskar didn’t mind. When Eli told him that he wasn’t a girl he didn’t care. When Oskar later knew that Eli was vampire and that he was actually a castrated male, he could have just ran away but he didn’t. He even protected Eli from being killed by Virginia’s boyfriend. And, Eli returned the favor by going back for Oskar to save him from his school bullies. More than that, the director pointed out that Eli taught Oskar a few important things: that it’s good to fight back but it’s not nice to kill. When Oskar wanted to kill so much out of hate and revenge, Eli showed him what its actually like and how awful it could be to kill. Even if I initially held the thought that Oskar was just going to end up like Hakan, I’ve always thought more that the Oskar and Eli had pure intentions for each other. They can be the most horrific couple, (imagine two kids in love with each other, they are both male, one is a vampire who needs to kill while the other is a bullied human who wants to kill) but even so, at the very least they had genuine caring and love for each other.

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Thoughts about “May”

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May is an interesting horror film in that it’s focus and main character is the monster, the abject. Unlike most monster movies, May is not the kind of monster who’s so different from everyone else. She could have turned out to be a socially normal person but she was kept back because of her troubled childhood. To me, May was marginalized at a young age mainly because of her mother’s bad parenting skills. One, the mother quickly assumed that just because a person has a lazy eye means that person will be marginalized. Two, because of that assumption, the mother put a bandage on May’s eye and asked her to pretend about it (which later led to her being marginalized). And three, the mother gave up on May being able to find human friends so she gave her a doll friend instead, with one exception that May cannot touch it. What kind of parent would have such a negative outlook on society? What kind of parent would give up and not be proud of his/her child? May grew up in her mother’s world with her mother’s weird principles, like “If you can’t find a friend, make one.”. Carol Clover refers to this as the psycho-sexual grip that produces the killer’s sexual ambiguity.

May grew up and found physical distance from her parents but she never grew out of them. She’s now an adept at conversing with dolls but still not an adept at conversing with people. She lacked the dynamics of love and friendship. She lacked the physical and emotional intimacy involved in a human relationship. She only had a doll friend and she couldn’t even take her out of her glass box! (I think that her odd fixation on body parts has something to do with that) She grew up following but not understanding the idea of being just like everyone else. This, unfortunately, further marginalized her. People around her were thinking that she’s just like everyone else, only to be made wrong later. This lead to further misunderstandings. In the end, nobody understands May, and May understands nobody. After a few bad encounters, May eventually gives up on hope and and starts killing off the people she couldn’t understand.

This is a horror film wherein sympathy can be drawn from the monster. May’s a modern Frankenstein. While in herself she has the capacity to choose between what’s right and wrong, she lacked the capacity to know which is which. For a world primarily composed of “normal” people, she’s the odd one out. But it’s not just her fault, in fact I dare say most of it isn’t. All she wanted was a friend, and she did what she everything she could to have one using what she has and what she knows. It just didn’t take her far enough in a world she’s not familiar with. Thinking about it, it’s noteworthy that a variety of people were in the movie yet May is the only connection between them. It tells me that there’s a world of different people with different understandings and, combining them, potential misunderstandings. In fact, further thinking about it, everything that transpired in the movie came from misunderstandings. Maybe even May’s mother had problems of her own before, we don’t know. It’s just scary to think how it’s possible that things could end up similar or worse compared to May just because some people didn’t get along.

Thoughts about “Pontypool”

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Pontypool, to me, is a movie that talks about knowledge and the burden of it. Our learning experiences contribute to our stockpile of knowledge which later influences our decisions. In the case of this film, that knowledge grew to a monstrous form that it can hold a person captive to it. This can be seen through the metaphor presented by the strange mechanic involved in the film’s zombie transformation. Once a person utters an infected English word which he/she understands, that person will later turn into a zombie. The English language, considered by many to be the universal language, can be a metaphor to truths that are usually considered to be universal or absolute. Whenever we take in a fact, we can say that, in a way, we eventually find ourselves trapped by it. Appealing or not, since we understood that fact we do not or cannot dispute it. Our actions and decisions would then revolve around that fact, which would then turn that fact into something that would haunt us for the rest of our lives. For example, remember your first experience about death and how much it traumatized you and compare that to imagining being a person that will never know or understand what death means or what it entails. Death has its negative aspects which affects a person’s decision-making. Surely because of it, people are a lot more careful with what they do. Even daredevils make calculated risks whenever they do their stunts because of it. People develop phobias which are derivative to the fear of death, like the fear of heights, for one. Knowledge is usually seen as a good thing, that some people ought to be praised for having a lot of it, but Pontypool turns that into an abject, into something worth fearing to have. Imagine being a part of the movie and you started repeating a word you just said, knowing what it means to know that word, and knowing what would happen next. Imagining yourself in the shoes of Grant or Sydney in the midst of the chaos will make you wish you never knew or heard some things.

 

But a few philosophy lessons taught me that knowledge is something which is always better to have, no matter how unappealing it is. And, in this gender-stereotypical movie, Grant, the masculine male, not only actively dealt with the zombies but he also fought fire with fire by using the abject knowledge against itself, dangerously testing out words in order to confirm his theory. Near the end of the film, our protagonists find out that the way to combat the virus is to destroy one’s own knowledge of things, to reassign words to different, far-fetched meanings. By then I wondered, if everyone followed that theory and were able to go back to their tweaked state of normalcy, should the “monster” be considered destroyed or should it be considered sealed-off, waiting for another opportune time?

 

Again, I see Pontypool as a gender-stereotypical movie. Following the lectures, we have two main protagonists, Grant and Sydney, who are portrayed precisely to their gender’s stereotype. Grant is the masculine male, the active pursuer who looks the monster in the eye and tries to fight it. Sydney, on the other hand, is the feminine female, the passive receiver who gives in to the monster and accepts whatever may come after. Grant is the rough “take no prisoners” kind of guy whilst Sydney is sensitive “take it easy on the police officers” kind of gal. Sydney may not like Grant’s methods at first but she eventually ends up becoming attracted to him, since stereotypical females should like strong males. Also notice that the victimization that happened to the males were toned down compared to females in the film. We only get to hear Ken’s narration of the grisly events that were happening around him whilst we get to see the infected Laurel repeatedly punish herself as her host is trying to spread its infection. We never got to see any other gore besides Laurel’s. Also, Grant may have been a down-on-his-luck announcer but Sydney just came from a divorce and has her children to think about in the midst of the outbreak. Even though this is the case with this movie, Linda Williams and her article tells us that women can also identify themselves through the feminine monster and can find empowerment through the fearsome, manipulative power it has over its victims. For one, the film’s virus should be considered feminine because of its passive nature. Like “vagina dentata”, it only bites when it is being penetrated. In the case of this film, the virus only triggers once a specifically infected word is said and understood.

Thoughts about “The Innkeepers”

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The idea that I usually attribute to a gaze is curiosity. Whenever a person gazes at someone or something, to me this usually implies deep interest or fascination towards that which is gazed upon. So, to use this term to analyse horror movies, specifically the part in every viewing where the victim supposedly “gazes upon” the monster first confused me. I initially thought that this term was was inapplicable. Aren’t people supposed to generally feel fear towards monsters?

Before I learned about Linda Williams’ article about the woman-monster connection in horror films, it never occurred to me before that a woman gazing upon a monster could imply other things besides either a feeling of shock or horror. I don’t think that anybody could think about fear-conquering or submission when they come face to face with a monster. I remember stories of people freezing at their alleged ghost encounters, trying to look away but they couldn’t out of the sheer shock and fear they’ve experienced, and I could imagine finding myself in a similar situation given the chance. I therefore acknowledged every horror movie’s monster-gazing moments back then more as a reaction rather than an action. So, when I first saw The Innkeepers (this was before I attended horror film classes), I quickly dismissed it as nothing more than a simple and traditional ghost story.

Yet the minor details there make the movie complex and delightful. Rarely do we ever see women in horror movies being portrayed as the kind who are interested in, and in the case of this movie, obsessed with, monsters. Claire, the female protagonist, is different from the usual woman shown in most horror movies. She’s the kind who doesn’t enjoy girl-to-girl chatting and gossiping, she would rather hang out with guys and talk about ghosts. She’s the kind who gets scared, just like everybody else, but doesn’t cry or cuddle up in a corner or grab the nearest guy’s arm to bury her face on; even if she was asthmatic she could carry on by herself. On the other hand we have Luke, our male protagonist, the kind of guy who is nice and all but is weak and wimpy. We can say that even if he lied about his ghostly encounters, he’s still a guy that can be interested in paranormal stuff, except he couldn’t own up to it unlike Claire. Later on in the movie we are revealed to this somewhat reversal of roles. To me, Claire turned out to be more the traditional man than the traditional woman, and Luke the other way around.

The scene that intrigued me the most with relation to the Linda Williams article was the part where Claire and Luke went to the basement, where Claire supposedly sees the ghost of Madelyn but Luke couldn’t turn around to see it as well. Luke, the one who is supposed to be the man in the film, was supposed to see the ghost first along with the audience. Instead, Claire, the supposed woman in the film, sees it first, and the audience never got to see the ghost there. Luke was the one who became paralyzed and eventually ran away like a little sissy. Claire, in her final moments, gazed upon the ghost but never submitted to it unlike the traditional horror movie woman. What I took from that experience was that we were being told that what we understood about the female (or male) gaze was wrong, we do not truly understand. The film was telling us that, the truth of the matter is, the female gaze isn’t so different from the male gaze, and it shouldn’t be. Both of them are open to the supposed exclusive traits of men and women, knowing that exhibiting manliness does not actually require a person to be male as well as exhibiting womanliness does not actually require a person to be female. 

Thoughts about “REC 2”

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REC 2 is a sequel that I’m glad to have watched, and it feels impossible to try and talk about it without mentioning REC knowing that they’re so close to each other, like, literally just hours apart.

Talking about gender issues, the victimization and objectification of females is present in both films. This is a lot clearer to see in REC 2 though. One reference to this is the two guys and the girl. The two guys were playing with a sex doll whilst pressuring the girl to come along with them. Aside from the sex doll already being a subtle reference, the way the two guys treated the girl throughout the movie also showed objectification. The guys never cared about the girl and what she feels, they just used her and her stuff (camera) to make things a bit more fun for themselves. Another reference is the Medeiros girl and the very subject of possession on her. The fact that she was treated as a vessel to be possessed by a demon to spread demonizing infection shows objectification. Also, instead of being immediately exorcised as a possessed person that needs help, she was treated as an experiment in order to find antidotes for future possessions. There seems to be an attempt at ambiguity in that last part though, questioning whether or not how the girl was treated was justifiable. After all, the priest disguised as a Ministry of Health person later said in defense that the Medeiros girl’s possession spreads like a virus and they (the Vatican guys) felt that they needed an antidote in order to stop other people from getting infected. This reminds me about the last part in the Cabin in the Woods where the girl protagonist was made to choose between “The World” and his guy friend. Nevertheless, it was clear that the Medeiros girl was treated as a means instead of an end and this was enough to tell me that she was treated badly.

This was the first sequel that we watched in class, and I think that it’s a good standard to base other sequels on. Unlike REC 2, lots of other horror movie sequels these days feel as if they were made only for the sake of continuation or closure. It’s as if one is thrown into the exact same thing all over again where the scares are recycled and the victims are of the same kind. There is no escalation, only a repetition which doesn’t contribute much to the series as a whole. Now from what I saw, REC 2 tried to do differently by showing new ways to evoke the tense, claustrophobic feeling from the first installment. Also, it filled in a lot of questions raised in REC 1. These traits coupled with a higher sense of energy made me see REC 2 more as a “main course” and REC 1 an “appetizer”. With that in mind, REC 2 is a movie that can stand on its own. I still remember that first time I watched it with my friends which was from a few years ago. I honestly thought that what we were watching was the first REC movie and I only noticed the mistake after knowing that the title on the file was wrong and also not noticing the small number 2 on the opening title of the film! (I torrent, please don’t hate O.O)

Thoughts about “Deadgirl” a.k.a best movie ever

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Just kidding at the a.k.a, haha. Sir Ty was right in mentioning that a lot of people might not enjoy this film, because it’s part icky and part disturbing. But, sir was also right in mentioning that you can still appreciate it even if it touches on some very sensitive issues.

“What would you do?”. I think that moral allegories are usually the ones that give horror films their disturbing element compared to psychological horrors or fantastic things because I believe that it is the one that connects most to the viewer personally. JT as a psychological horror surely is scary considering people like him exist in real life. Deadgirl as a fantastic…erm…dead girl is also scary considering she’s a hostile mystery. But, I guess at the end of the day nothing’s more scarier and harder to talk about than the questions begged from the symbolism of the hospital and the dead girl combined.

It’s not about asking yourself what you would do when you accidentally meet a hostile undying girl chained to a bed on a secret tunnel beneath an abandoned hospital, the question is a classic one asked from us since grade school religion class. If nobody is there is to see you, if nobody can catch you or apprehend you, would you still do the right thing? It’s easy to say yes, but we all know that it’s a lot harder to act upon it. I don’t want to say that we will, but rather we can turn out to be like Ricky (not JT because he’s just a fucked-up *bleep*, unless we are too). I mean, sometimes we can do the wrong things because of things like “He/She is my friend/family/bro/girl/etc” etc. Maybe you’ve experienced allowing someone to cheat or cheating yourself on a test when the teacher went out of the room or was not looking. You know, things like that.

I liked Deadgirl mostly because it’s a new story and it’s an interesting one at that. You have a main character, Ricky, who I think is a pretty nice and cool guy, it’s just that JT is a bad influence on him. We never got to know JT more, we only know what he is but not what he was. It was early in the film when JT punched Ricky when I went “wtf?”. I think that JT is a classic villain: he’s just bad for some unknown reason. Ricky on the other hand, is a complex character. He struggles with what’s right and he tries to do it but he usually fails, and in the end he gives in to his desire to have Joanne all to himself. Mix them together and you usually get a movie with a bad ending. There are no heroes in this film, only an interesting mix of characters where all are a bit off. I just want to say that I didn’t think that Ricky fantasized about Joanne and the dead girl when he drifted off, rather he fantasized about Joanne but at the same time had a nightmare about the dead girl. For me it made more sense that way considering he adores Joanne and never tried to even touch the dead girl (he even tried to set her free).

Since a lot of the talks about Deadgirl revolve around the males of the story and how bad males can be (it can probably even be a statement about males), I’ll talk about the females instead. So basically we have 4 females: the dead girl, Joanne, the one at the gas station, and Ricky’s mom. So the dead girl is your literal monster with a heart, like Frankenstein. She’s deadly, but she just wants to be free and later on we’re shown that she’s smart and can distinguish the assholes who deserve her bite. Joanne is your classic damsel in distress. She’s nice and she’s just minding her own business then bam – kidnapped. We never know more about her just like JT. The one at the gas station and Ricky’s mom reminds me more about feminists for some reason. I think that they’re the kind that are strong and independent and can take care of themselves. Things could turn out better with them around as we can see with the comparison of the one at the gas station’s presence and Ricky’s mom’s absence. The females in the story are flawed too, though not as worse as the males methinks. You have a deadgirl whose just deadly, you have Joanne whose said to go less for personality and more for looks and other stuff, you have a gas station macho girl whose strong, sure, but doesn’t really care and just leaves and without calling for help or police or something, and you have Ricky’s mom whose a workaholic and isn’t there to guide her son. All-in-all, it’s probably even a socioeconomic thing like what my other classmate said. It’s a province, everyone’s not really well-off so it affects everyone in a not nice way, you know stuff like that which I’m not prepared to talk about yet.

Triangle: the horrors of human experience

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Sometimes a good horror film does not have to contain grisly, in-your-facemurders in order to be effective. Specific phenomena, human experiences and even the way the mind works is sometimes even scarier, largely because of its complex nature and our own need for the answers to the questions why andwhat? The thing is, what the protagonist experiences, the viewer sees and in some way experiences also. At the same time, what we perceive can be twisted and manipulated, either by some outside force or from within, to the point it is difficult to distinguish what is real and what isn’t. And when all comes down to processing, does it even make any sense? Such is where the film Triangle derives most of its horror from.

I initially thought it was gonna be another slasher because of the cast and the initial exposition of the story. It starts off with a typical group of people going on a trip which goes horribly wrong and they somehow end up dead one after the other. But boy was I wrong! Different sorts of crazy occurred by the time the first batch of murders had finished. By the time I’ve finished it, I quickly looked online to search for some explanations, theories, comments and the like in search for answers to questions that had surfaced in my mind. The film contained several mysterious phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle,dejavu, and many even tied it to the Greek mythology character Sisyphean. One thing was also obvious. Jess was trapped in a time-loop; a brutal, nightmarish experience incomparable to Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day.

 One analysis I’ve found in the internet, fromwww.unbiasedmoviereviews.com/tag/triangle-explained was particularly interesting. I will quote the author’s (anonymous) full paragraph below:

There are 2 layers to the movie. “Real Life” and what I will call “Sisyphean Punishment” The real life part is Jess with her son and being abusive towards him and eventually getting into an accident which kills both her and her son. The Sisyphean Punishment relates to Greek Mythology which is referenced in the film about Sysiphus being punished in Tartarus by being cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity. So in a sense the rest of the film is her boulder that she tries to make things right with her and her son only to fail each time at different spots. Most of the things in the film didn’t really happen. So after the accident which kills her the taxi driver (Could be considered the devil) makes a deal and strings together events which eventually lead her back to what seems to be reality which she can change, but each time she fails it starts over in an endless loop. The people on the yacht can be considered the dead or just part of her trial to try and make things right. You can interpret it other ways, but the references to Greek mythology make sense to this theory.

I’ve found no other better analysis for the movie than this one. It is so perfect, out of all seemingly convoluted devices and plot full of paradoxes, a tragic yet meaningful story surfaces. Jess is trapped forever in that nightmarish cycle unless she finally moves on, e.g. coming with the taxi driver. But she cannot do so because she wants to save her son. The irony is that as she enters the cycle once more determined to change the outcome, she only puts herself into the position in which she completes and reinforces the cycle. She might be able to break it with the newfound knowledge etc. But there are two ways of looking at it, she either retains her memory or starts off again ignorant. If she does, then it would be great. Yet remember when she goes to the yacht and meets up with the group for the first time in the movie, or at least after they board the ship for the first time, she only experiences glimpses of dejavu but no complete recollection of what happened. Now if we assume it is part of the cycle, it would mean that she has just come from the last phase of the cycle, which was her conversation with the taxi driver. So it could only be implied that she should start off again as a blank slate, or possibly lost some of her memory during the storm and relearn all these.

This film for me took a step not to redefine but challenge us to expound our view on horror. It speaks to the audience, “the murder scenes are only my smart way of distracting you for a brief moment. This is what you see now, but let me show you more horrific things than that.” Horror goes beyond splattering buckets of blood. Horror is the primal fear of the unknown/fantastic, a moral allegory and psychological. The “unknown” can come even from ordinary human experiences. Death for example, is a phenomenon each of us will undergo at some point in our lives. Is this how nightmarish and sadistic our punishment would be after death if we use the Christian framework of heaven and hell? Furthermore, it could go as deep as to question our reality. What is real? What isn’t? When we dream and have nightmares, isn’t it similar to what Jess has experienced? For the viewers, the film challenges us and leaves the film to our own interpretation and assessment of Jess’ reality. Our fear of not being able to change the past due to some mistake and things we’ve said or done (in this case, Jess’ abusive behavior to her son) are all under the scope of moral allegory (good vs. bad, regret vs. redemption), psychological horror (the conflict is within her own self).

After much thought, I’d place this film, as one of the smartest, most challenging and if not, one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen.