Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sorority Row Trailer

So Carrie Fisher is now getting herself murdered in slasher movies, huh?

Is Sorority Row, as some boards are calling it, a chick slasher flick? I kinda hope so. I approach the genre with the novel notion that artificially-constructed horror is a universally appealing emotion and I'm interested in what scares different types of people. When you go to most mainstream horror movies, you often see groups of 12-15 year old girls clumped together shrieking and laughing as the movie goes. I think they should get a horror flick targeted to 'em.

I hope it's good. God knows, the last one I saw sucked.

Cabin in the Woods/First Look at Freddy

Man, Joss Whedon is really trying to win me over here.

I am most emphatically NOT a fan of the man's work. His sense of dialogue grates on my nerves and there's a bunch of thematic stuff that creeps me out. But I cannot deny that I'm really looking forward to Cabin in the Woods. The posters, which went into heavy circulation at Comic-Con, are funny as eff and if the website didn't thrill you then you're dead from the waist down. All the scuttlebutt around this flick is that the filmmakers are genuinely trying to scare you. I've been too psychologically healthy lately. It's time someone did something about that.

Also, and this is old news, but they've released the first image of Freddy Krueger from the Elm Street remake. The image looks very creepy, but I was surprised how closely they adhered to the classic look of the character. I'm sure the performance will be very different, but I was honestly kind of eager to see a new skin on an old monster.

I have been known to participate in horror forums, and in a discussion about the remake, one young woman said something to the effect of "I hope they don't turn Freddy into a child molester. I like him best when he's just a child killer." I thought this was interesting because I always thought it was implied that Freddy WAS a molester. There was always an element of predatory sexuality in his performances. He was always a leering monster, and his fixation on small children certainly implied there was an even darker edge to his killing spree. People really need to identify with franchise monsters on some level and it's really, really hard to get behind a child molester.

There's probably some deep cultural stuff going on in there, but I'm woefully underqualified. Instead, I'm gonna go see Orphan. Talk amongst yourselves.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dead Snow

Y'know, I'm a big believer in the notion that horror fiction, at its best, can hold up a dark mirror to ourselves and show us our cultural anxieties. Maybe this is a lofty notion for a genre that gives us boobs and blood by the bucketloads, but I do think we invest ourselves into our fears, and rich fruit can grow from that loamy soil. Sometimes, of course, we can go too far and look too deeply into specific works and trends. I've read essay after essay on 9/11 and zombies, 9/11 and torture porn, 9/11 and the new slasher until I can't watch some woman running away from a masked madman without first trying to figure out What It All Means.

But I digress. Sometimes a maniac is just a maniac.


All this stuff about culture and fear applies abroad, too. I love watching foreign horror films. It's a window into another culture, using tools and tropes I'm familiar with. Japanese horror is different from French horror, which is different from Spanish horror and so on. But what if a movie relies so much on American genre tropes that it's essentially interchangeable with stuff we make here?

Don't get me wrong, I liked Dead Snow. It was a trim, tidy little gorefest with amusing writing and beautiful cinematography of the snow covered Norwegian countryside. But it was essentially the exact same as one of our genre flicks. The kids banter in the same way they do here, the requisite creepy old guy gives the requisite warning, people go missing, the requisite jokey self-aware horror movie nut, zombies go a'ripping up their victims, etc. They even steal the tool shed scene straight from Evil Dead 2 and the emergence from The Descent. These guys really aren't trying to break the mold or do anything particularly new, and so I'm left to wonder if this is a case of a movie that would have been trashed on here, but is getting praise because its an independent film from abroad.

The only thing that really stood out for me were the Nazi Zombies.

The monsters in this movie aren't the mindlessly charging zombies of post-28 Days Later Running Zombie fame. Sure, they're trying to eat your flesh, but they are clearly fully cognisant and act like the military unit they were in life. There's something terribly menacing about their level of organized cruelty that goes beyond typical mindless zombies mayhem. Being dead essentially made the Colonel Herzog's unit better Nazis.

If I were to apply my fakeademic lenses to the movie, I'd say that the way Dead Snow portrays their villains is probably symbolic of how the memory of Nazism still haunts the people of Europe today. To us, Nazis are easy Call of Duty-style villains. We had to go Over There to fight them. They weren't living among us, brutalizing and robbing our people. They're not gonna have the same cultural impact that they'll have to the people they occupied and oppressed. It seems perfectly natural that a Norwegian crew would make a film demonizing Nazis. The reality was pretty fucking demonic, too.

It's also pretty interesting how much our pop culture influences the rest of the world. The characters constantly name-drop movie titles, slang (watch one dude call another dude "mothafucka" during a snowball fight), and even bad Governator impersonations over the course of the movie. At one point the characters are playing Twister and one remarks that the only reason they like the game is because Hollywood tells them it's fun. I live in America and I'm immersed in our pop culture, but it's amazing to see how deep our imports sink.

As to the rest, I liked the movie's sense of humor. I'm generally turned off by movies that try to blunt the edge of their horror with comedy, but Dead Snow was such a popcorn film that the humor made it more likable, particularly the hilarious Molotov cocktail scene. I also liked the chilling, dreamlike POV scene of the girl getting eaten alive. Gory deaths are staple for the genre, but that was a particularly effective and creepy piece of work. Finally, I thought the characters, though cut from pretty cliched cloth, were all really likable and engaging. Having said that, who volunteers to have sex on an outhouse toilet?

So, yeah, go see it. You'll earn points for watching an indie foreign film, and you're pretty much getting the same thing you've seen a thousand times before. Here's the Io9 review and a snarkier review from my favorite pretentious asses over at pajiba.

Oh, and the movie had a twist ending involving a mislaid coin. If I see it one more time, it's officially a trend.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Apologies for my unexplained absence, plus a trailer for Jennifer's Body.

Greetings to all my loyal readers and the people of taste and class who visit my site.

I wanted to drop a long-overdue line about how sorry I am that I've been lax about keeping up the blog. I promised myself I'd load new content on this thing once a week, but it's been over two weeks and I haven't touched the horror blogosphere with my titanic wit and charm. Even when I was incapacitated with my car crash I was able to write a semi-coherent concussed article on The Shining. I don't have a better excuse beyond the following:

1) I turned 29 this past week. All in all, this has been a happy event. I have a lot of awesome friends and they have given me a lot of love and support over the last few weeks.

2) Got laid off. Shit happens.

3) The workload in my class jumped up. I'm trying to get into a creative writing MFA program and I'm taking classes at UC Berkeley's extended learning program. I really like the courses, but they are a lot of work. My downtime is packed with reading and writing.

4) Started taking guitar lessons. Go me!

5) I started writing this elaborate article on my adolescent experiences playing Vampire: The Masquerade, but it wasn't going anywhere and I got frustrated and chickened out. I'm coming back to it, Vampire was a big part of my upbringing, but writing the blog became an exercise in tedium. Cry me a river.

Anyway, I've taken my break and I'm refreshed, recharged, and ready to go. I still love doing this blog and I'm gonna keep at it. Thanks for your understanding.

Anyway, on to Jennifer's Body

Okay, yes, Megan Fox is plenty attractive. And despite all the snotty backlash that followed in the wake of Juno, I still like Diablo Cody's writing. I was looking forward to this flick, especially since there isn't much for the horror fan this summer.

Then I read this.

Is the movie just goofy, distasteful fan service? Post third-wave feminism's sex-as-a-weapon taken to the nth degree? A big wacky joke? Who knows? I am looking forward to it, but I'm totally ready to kick in a few bucks to NOW.

What do y'all think? Also, in a quest to learn the art of podcasting, I'm now a part of the Comic Outpost podcast in San Francisco. Check out my first show here.