Viewing List for October

Dario Argento's Opera

As some of you already know, October is my favourite time of year. Not only do I get to wear chic sweaters, but the weather and atmosphere is ripe for horror. It is  not a matter of of just being the month that “hosts” Halloween, but those cool nights that smell like dead leaves… there is nothing more pleasurable than curling up with a good movie, a warm blanket and possibly a significant other and getting the pants scared right off ya. I realize this is premature, but I figured i’d start planning now so I could have something to look forward to in the next few weeks. This is a list of films I haven’t seen, and obviously, I won’t see all of them… but these are my cinematic goals for the upcoming Halloween season. Let me know which I should prioritize and which I’d better skip!

A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Lucio Fulci)

Alice, Sweet, Alice (Alfred Sole)

All the Colors of the Dark (Sergio Martino)

Blood and Black Lace (Mario Bava)

Case of the Bloody Iris (Giuliano Carnimeo)

City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci)

Creature from the Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold)

Death Laid an Egg (Giulio Questi)

Dolls (Stuart Gordon)

Don’t Torture the Duckling (Lucio Fulci)

Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey)

House (Nobuhiko Obayashi)

House on Haunted Hill (William Castle)

Inferno (Dario Argento)

Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa)

Kairo (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Murders in Rue Morgue (Robert Florey)

My Bloody Valentine (George Mihalka)

Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker)

Opera (Dario Argento)

Phantasm (Don Coscarelli)

Ravenous (Antonia Bird)

Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon)

Return to Horror High (Bill Froelich)

Session 9 (Brad Anderson)

Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye  (Antonio Margheriti)

Singapore Sling (Nikos Nikolaidis)

Sleepaway Camp (Robert Hiltzik)

Spider Baby (Jack Hill)

Strait-Jacket (William Castle)

Tenebre (Dario Argento)

The Blob (Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.)

The Changeling  (Peter Medak)

The Killer Must Kill Again (Luigi Cozzi)

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven)

The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur)

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (Jorge Grau)

The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman)

The Omen (Richard Donner)

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Emilio Miraglia)

The Schoolgirl killer (Antonio Margheriti)

The Sentinel (Michael Winner)

The Silent Scream (Denny Harris)

The Slumber Party massacre (Amy Holden Jones)

The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (Sergio Martino)

Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla)

Viy (Georgi Kropachyov &

What have they done to your Daughters? (Massimo Dallamano)

Who can Kill a Child? (Narciso Ibanez Serrador)

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (Curtis Harrington)

Loving the Dead

No information – historical, experimental, or otherwise – has surfaced regarding the results of sexual relations with the undead specimen, but as previously noted, the nature of Solanum suggests a high danger of infection. Warning against such an act would be useless, as the only people deranged enough to try would be unconcerned with their own safety. Many have argued that, given the congealed nature of undead bodily fluids, the chances of infection from a non-bite contact should be low. However, it must be remembered that even one organism is enough to begin the cycle.

P.4 The Zombie Survival Guide (Max Brooks)

Pamela Franklin has a horrifying encounter in The Legend of Hell House

What are some memorable instances of people loving the dead? A few spring to mind, Wuthering Heights, A Rose for Emily, Laura and The Legend of Hell House. I’m sure I am missing some significant ones. I can’t think of any movies that involve human/zombie love though.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) and Halloween II (1981)

I rarely write about the uninspiring horror remakes and “reboots” that come each year, despite the fact I drag myself out to see nearly every one of them.  Though this year I haven’t been to the theatre as much as usual, half of my viewings have been horror films. In spite of this rather high average of genre viewings, there is only one of them that I’d deem as good (and it’s not the one directed by Martin Scorsese.)

I sometimes wonder why I torture myself and sacrifice my hard earned money when I know more than half of the time I will walk away disappointed. If only there was a critic or a consensus out there I trusted, but even if there was… I can’t imagine trusting them enough to evaporate that inkling of hope that the remake of *insert favourite horror movie ever* won’t be amazing.  I could always wait for DVD or indulge in some illegal downloading activity, but for me, nothing beats seeing a great horror film with a great horror audience. It is simply an incomparable cinematic experience.

Last week I HAD to see the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Something deep inside was telling me that I would love it; that I would see in it something that no one else did, and I would have a horrific revelation.  I had been excited for weeks; I had even planned it as a birthday event so that I could share this awesome experience with all my awesome friends. I made sure to buy my tickets in advance in case it was sold out, I chose some of the best seats in the house, I got my popcorn and I waited excitedly for the film to begin. An hour and a half later, I was not very happy. There were no scares, there was no suspense. The film had two upsides; a hallway turning into a pool blood, and the so-bad-its-good quote “Who can remember being five years old?” I could easily write a long essay tearing apart every minute aesthetic, narrative and thematic device that went wrong, but I don’t get paid to do this. There are many critics out there who have already laid out everything wrong with this film; I don’t need to reiterate what has already been said.

My appetite for horror hasn’t diminished, despite my recent string of bad luck. I am still craving some good old fashioned heebeejeebees (ones that do not include human centipedes, no human centipedes… plz and thank you). Tonight I rented Halloween II (1981), hoping I would be cured of my slump. I wasn’t. Though not as bad as many of the horror remakes and sequels we get today, there is nothing exceptional about Halloween II. It is at least well constructed; the craft is there… it just does not live up the expectations of its predecessor.

Interesting deaths don’t compel me as much as they apparently do many horror viewers (my experience watching movies in theatres tells me, cool death = loud applause), and I tend to treasure the lead up more than the creativity of the death. Halloween II does this with moderate success, and the build-up is stressed as being more important than the shock value. That being said, my favourite death of the film is one that is “creative”, so to speak.

The death of the head nurse happens off screen, her character had long disappeared from the narrative and we could only imagine what had happened to her. When Jimmy realizes Laurie is missing from her room, he searches the hospital for her. Instead he stumbles upon the nurse who has been strapped to an operating table. Despite being dead, she seems completely unscathed. He moves closer only to notice that a needle has been stuck into her arm, and she has been drained of all her blood which now covers the floor. It is an eerie death, one that gets under your skin. It is perhaps the most unsettling moment of the film, and the overhead shot of Jimmy lying in that pool of blood (he slips), apparently dead, is perhaps the most potent in the entire film.

On the other hand, this does not seem to fit Michael Myers. A slow death is not really a part of his repertoire, and even the deliberate act of psychological torture seems well beyond his capacities, at least as presented in the first two films. If the original film did not make it clear, its sequel does; Myers is something more (or less) than human, and his methods are hardly sophisticated. At times he’ll play little games, or use strategy, but there is no real sense of joy in the death itself, as much as there is a joy in tearing living things into little pieces.  I don’t even wish the rest of the film was like this moment. I don’t particularly enjoy body-horror, with the exception of David Cronenberg who makes it smart and somehow palatable. Is this even body horror? Probably not, but torture, maiming, draining, etc. Etc. Is just not something I particularly enjoy. I don’t know why I like this moment, perhaps because as an image it is so striking, so strange… Despite the fact it doesn’t quite fit the film it is an awesome sequence of inspiring dread, and I can’t help admiring that.

Another way the film handles dread well is in the use of hallways (it uses them well, but it also doesn’t use them enough). I think surrealism uses a lot of hallways and doors to convey the anxieties of the unconscious mind, and it is a very effective image. Brutality and torture may be upsetting, but nothing beats the fear of the unknown. It is something that truly gets under your skin, because it so effectively can be mapped onto our everyday fears and anxieties. Even though I’ve been obsessing (in the worst possible away) about the horror that is the Human Centipede (a film I probably won’t see) because the idea of so absolutely disgusting and upsetting to me, it evokes a visceral kind of disgust that I don’t see as being enduring or compelling. I know for a fact, that the idea of the film is far more upsetting than the actual execution, which only supports my thesis on “less is more” in horror cinema. A long dark hallway in a hospital; that is a truly haunting image, if only because we have no idea what lurks beyond those doors.

It reminds me of the kind of horror David Lynch evokes, like the painting in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, of the room and the door. It’s eerie without any hint of violence, it is just an unnatural state of mind; one that inspires the idea of a hidden world, or the idea that death is lurking just around the corner. The film touches, very briefly, on the idea that Myers is some kind God or reaper… an unstoppable force of evil and the entire film may have been better if they followed up on that line of thinking. The original film is so great in part because there is that mystery about his existence, and his sheer inability to be killed. The fault of a lot of recent remakes, like (2010), is an attempt to explain away all the nuance and mystery of its monsters. Halloween II (1981) is also guilty of this, with it’s now infamous twist, which frankly makes no sense at all, as it adds nothing to story and is never used or explored in any meaningful way.

Maybe I am simply over-thinking these films, or maybe they just kinda suck.  Either way, I’d like to be surprised in the near future by something truly great, because I’m not giving up now. If I’m burning out on horror, I want it to be on a high note damn it. Maybe recommend me something :/

My Top Ten of 2009

It took me long enough, and it’s not even like I have write-ups, reviews or any real insight… I haven’t even watched a 2009 film since like… 2009. Some background; I watched 72 releases last year in theatres and on DVD. I enjoyed most, hated a few. The top 6 or so are among the best films I’ve ever seen. I’ve written about a few of them already, many of them not. I don’t have much else to say.

  1. Love Exposure (Sion Sono)
  2. A Serious Man (Coens)
  3. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
  4. Bright Star (Jane Campion)
  5. Adventureland (Greg Motolla)
  6. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
  7. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
  8. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
  9. A Single Man (Tom Ford)
  10. The Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis)

Longing and Loneliness: A Strange Rant on Cinema

They're watching me

Few words fit together quite as nicely as loneliness and longing. They are both profoundly sad states of being, they evoke melancholy and desire. It is difficult to feel a true and deep sense of loneliness without longing; it is not a state of simply being alone, there is nearly always a sense wanting and waiting. And that is longing. Longing is by nature, a state of dissatisfaction and unhappiness; it is something that is needed and desired to the point of affecting the way we feel the world.

Somehow, there is a kind of unifying factor in films that explore loneliness and longing. It is perhaps, that sense of commonality that it evokes, this sudden sense that so many of us are reaching for impossible dreams and loves. It is a kind of acceptance, and I suppose many people long for that as well.

Some films are purposefully alienating though. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver comes to mind; I think to a certain extent, many can empathize with Travis Bickle’s otherness, perhaps even his social awkwardness.  He is so far gone though that his loneliness become frightening and compulsive. Travis is not without longing either, and it motivates him to commit acts of great violence. How far removed is alienation from loneliness?

Merriam Webster


1 a : being without company : lone b : cut off from others : solitary
2 : not frequented by human beings : desolate
3 : sad from being alone : lonesome
4 : producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation


1 : a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment : estrangement

Everyone is just faded lights

Does this mean that alienation is a kind of wilful loneliness? Separation implies some kind of lack of control, but withdrawal is something else entirely. Is it still loneliness when it is wilful estrangement? Is Travis’ loneliness willing; he is psychotic, he is broken from war, does he have enough control over his state of mind to really wilfully withdraw from society. He has strong hate for many social structures, institutions and groups, but which came first? Hatred or loneliness? Impossible to say.

Why do we hate or fear characters like Bickle, even the ones that are seemingly harmless like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. I remember reading the book in high school, and I was shocked by how many people hated it. The reasons were often quite shallow, some related the “impossible” writing structure, but most seemed aimed at Holden. He was self-absorbed, deluded, violent, disgusting, unsympathetic… he lied, he hurt… he was a coward, and well… a phony. It’s an evaluation of his character that completely ignores the real suffering that Holden is experiencing; his psychological and emotional issues, and yet even when some of my classmates acknowledged these realities, their hatred persisted. Is it because he ought to be happy? His parents are wealthy; he lives in the “greatest” city in the world, and is sent to all the best schools. He is also apparently good looking and seemingly, quite intelligent. He should be happy, even with the loss of his brother; he should learn to manage his pain. Do we hate him because he has everything? Or because he has nothing and everything at the same time? Is it simply a case of not understanding? I’m not quite sure, it’s pure speculation, I always felt deeply for Holden.

Back to cinema, it’s been too long since I’ve read the Catcher in the Rye.

Aside from general personal feelings of loneliness, what spurred this outburst of emotion, speculation and self-reflection? A bit of music: Yumeji’s theme from Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. It almost seems as loneliness and longing were conceived to describe the atmosphere of that film. There is so much wanting and waiting in that film; so much despair. It seems impossible that you could fear love so much. Then again, the fear in this case comes from a displaced sense of loyalty and a fear of conflating lust with love. Even if they consummate their relationship and desires, they are lost, and alone. Maybe we are all islands. Then again, maybe not, Chungking Express gives me hope.

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

At this moment, I almost wonder how many individual films that touch on what I’m feeling I could name before I falling asleep (which would be a blessing at this point). To talk about certain films seems redundant, or at least uninteresting. The Machinist is about loneliness or alienation… let’s settle on alienation in this case, but it’s of no interest to me. Probably because it’s a bad movie.

Also, listening to Leonard Cohen consistently has an inspiring effect; it reminds me of how alone I am.

Is Bright Star a film about longing, but not loneliness? It certainly covers both ideas, both aspects, but is heavily leaned towards the former. The strength of the character’s affections seems to greatly undermine any feelings of loneliness that they may feel: at least for most of the running length. Or am I disremembering? I probably am.

I'm all alone, except the dog. He's my BFF.

In one of my favourite films, Band of Outsiders, the relationship between alienation, loneliness and longing is fascinating. Loneliness seems to  the route  that leads to the other two. Being alone exists first, absent of any strong desire to escape or longing for affection. It is only when Odile feels wanted that she becomes aware of her loneliness, and is brought into a new self-awareness where longing exists. When all three come to understand their mutual loneliness and otherness, they seek to alienate and distance themselves from society. They are never truly bonded though; there is too much conflict and fear. As much as they are constantly searching to connect and impress upon each other, they are never quite together. I think this is exemplified in the Madison sequence. They dance together, in a sense… they follow the same patterns, but the togetherness is really an illusion of the dance. They are not co-existing on the dance floor, they merely mimic familiar dance moves, nothing would really be lost if one or two of them were removed, unlike a dance like the tango where togetherness is essential. Their voice-overs interrupt the music, and we are given insights into their thought process. They are desperate and excited, they’ve discovered something new, and they’ve discovered sex, themselves. There isn’t anything real about the world they’re living however. It’s only the movies. Except when it is real, but they are not living in reality.

Adolescent loneliness is the most confusing kind. Perhaps because you have millions of hormones fucking with your brain, and the fact that you have so little experience and understanding of the world that you can’t quite cope with these new “adult” feelings. I still feel like I’m caught in a perpetual state of adolescence that I can’t escape. For every day I feel like a driven, maniacal Laurie Starr there are about a year’s worth of days that I am your frumpy season 1, episode 1 Willow Rosenberg.

Band of Outsiders is probably the first film about teenaged years to come to mind, as relating to loneliness, second up is easily Smooth Talk. What is so fascinating about that film is that the loneliness and longing that the protagonist is experiencing are ones she is simultaneously completely unaware of. Connie is a very beautiful fifteen year old girl who looks far older then she is. She enjoys the attention she gets from men, and dresses and behaves in order to attract it. She often finds herself overwhelmed though when things get too serious. She is isolated because of the strength of her biology and physicality, and not because she is strange or ugly or somehow deformed. It is this disparity between identification (she is identified as a mature and therefore, sexual being) and reality (she is a teenager with needs and wants, but who is still as close to being a child as she is to being an adult). She is both pulled and repulsed by her loneliness, as it pushes her to get attention, but she then wilfully withdraws herself from the same situations because she is unequipped to handle them. The final confrontation with Arnold Friend, inspires a wide range of seemingly contradictory emotions in Connie. Ultimately, she wishes for loneliness, for otherness, and cannot find it because she is surrounded;  bombarded by “companionship”. This is momentary though, because ultimately, we wonder if she can have healthy relationships due to her experience.

tasty little peach

Loneliness can lead to anxiety and paranoia. I’ve touched on this briefly with Taxi Driver and The Catcher in the Rye, but it’s most obvious manifestation is in the horror genre. Perhaps the strongest incarnation of this kind of paranoid, anxious alienation is in Roman Polanski’s Apartment trilogy. How terrible is it to relate so completely to a character like Carole in Repulsion. For so long, I felt like I was watching my worst day ever unfolding on the screen. This terrible fear, and repulsion of sex, motivated… in a way, by the desire for sex or something like it. In horror, loneliness almost always leads to death or at least, madness.

Why is that? We all feel a certain degree of loneliness. How far must we fall from feeling alone to leaving rotting rabbit corpses in our purse? I have a sensitive sense of smell, I’d like to be able to prepare to these kinds of leaps in psychology. Obviously, I am not talking medically, but cinematically. I don’t know anything about medicine or illnesses, psychological or biological. It is often presented as one thing leads to another, though perhaps, it is the development of certain symptoms of loneliness that lead to serious problems. Alienation is one. The further you alienate yourself from society, the further disconnected you are from concepts of living, life and values. Paranoia is also crucial, perhaps because it is so uncontrollable. One must remember, true paranoia is not the fear that your boss it out to get you, its’ the fear that everyone and everything is out to get you. You probably think this post is out to get you. It is a symptom that tends to get worse and worse, and can also lead to a disconnect that can potentially lead to the perceived physical threat against one’s person.

I never claimed to be a GOOD vegetarian!

I feel like I’m falling far from what I was initially talking about. Now I’m talking about my greatest fears, my worst doubts. I’m not truly afraid of madness, though I am afraid of being accused of being mad when I’m not. That is truly frightening.

I want simple loneliness and longing. Something removed from death, if it’s possible. The Apartment? Suicide. A different kind of death, one that is so far from all the others I’ve talked about. I almost don’t know what to say, I’ve never reached that point of despair, though I can understand it. For Fran, her loneliness is incredibly confused because on one hand, she feels as though she is needed and loved. That perhaps she should be grateful for that, even though she is dissatisfied, and well lonely. The Apartment is very much about being alone in the crowd. What about those offices? Those seemingly endless rows of people going about their business, each one of them completely alone, despite being surrounded by hundreds of people.  It’s disconcerting on so many levels. It’s such a machinated view of our existence.

The Interior design sure is oppressive

Reminds me of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not writing about it though.

I love those movies where you have characters who feel so alone, and long for something… like Sunrise, how Janet Gaynor longs for the happiness and innocence of the early years of her marriage, and though she suffers greatly… in the end she finds that happiness again. I’m not even sure if there is a film out there that handles that whole transition with more grace, beauty and conviction. It gives you hope.

It's just me and the moon

I can only imagine how terrible and lonely veterans from any war must feel. Especially a long one, most wars seem endless though. I remember reading those stories by Ernest Heminway for class, about men who return home and can’t re-integrate, at least not emotionally. They try and try, but they can never truly overcome their experience, especially since no one understands it. I don’t remember what it was called, but there is one about a returning soldier, who lives at home, and his mother is getting him to do and try all these things to be normal again, and there is this final confrontation between them where he tells her that he doesn’t believe in God anymore. It’s a profound statement. I never believed in God, but the core idea of that kind of declaration is that your entire value system has been turned upside down and nothing has taken its place. You are left with essentially nothing. God doesn’t exist, but the soldier hasn’t found anything to put there. So he is consumed by his feelings of otherness and loneliness. Many films touch on this, Film Noir probably does it best, but films like The Best Years of Our Lives also explore the issue with great sensitivity and open-endedness. I find war terribly horrific and I honestly acknowledge that I could never understand what that experience must be like. I think the true effects that soldiering has on the individual can never truly be measured; it’s such an unnatural existence.

Somehow this whole “thing”, whatever you want to call it, has been an extremely therapeutic experience. I feel like I’ve purged a huge amount of anxiety, and though I’m not sure what exactly to make of this document, I think it might contain some value. I’m filled with a bit of hope, not necessarily the kind that you’d find in Sunrise. I’m not like those characters at all, I probably never can be. There are other films where loneliness is “cured” though, even In the Mood for Love. Chungking Express at least! It’s all coming back together. I should listen to the Eagles… or the Mama’s and the Papa’s, whatever.

Me after I realized I wasn't so alone after all! Guess which one I am!

The Crazies (Breck Eisner, 2010)

Most cinema is far too vague, far too populist to be taken seriously as critical essays on the state of our society. I’d even venture to say, at least in it’s mainstream incarnation, to even attempt to make some crucial political point is pretentious… Yes, I’ve joined the ranks of the elitist witch-hunts. Those damned elitists… cinema should be about escape, not your fucking agenda! Wait, that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is, the films that aren’t shoving ideas down our throat are far more interesting as critical and reflective documents about the current state of the world we live in. The question always remains, do we take queues about “normal” behaviour from cinema, or does is it simply a mirror to our true selves? The easy, uncomplicated answer is probably that it’s a hybrid of both…

In horror, there is an opportunity to really understand the emotional state of a nation. More than most genres, it’s easy to map out pervading anxieties and social pre-occupations within the horror genre that are probably far more telling and apt than the year’s big message picture. What does The Crazies say about us? Not much that we haven’t seen before, at least from an anthropological point of view. What do we fear? The Millitary, chemical/biological warfare, social dissolve, government conspiracies, etc. You only have to look at films like 28 Weeks Later or the Mist to get an understanding of what I’m getting at. The Crazies perhaps refines some of these ideas, bringing them to new and perhaps outrageous extremes. We have soldiers in masks, who if they show their face will “die”. One of the characters speculates that perhaps the disease is now airborne, but this seems to be refuted by the protagonist’s apparent survival. They will die because they need to remain anonymous; they have to be an institution, not an individual. A face is dissent; dissent is unacceptable in every and any respect.

What other extremes? We have soldiers’ shooting down innocent people in 28 Weeks Later. It’s disturbing. We have that in The Crazies? What else do we have in The Crazies? We have organized killing. Not a random call, an act of impulse that is refuted… we have organized murder. The Holocaust is never mentioned, but the charred bodies piled up, the medical bracelet’s still around their wrists, we understand the association. These are images that never fade.

We no longer trust government institutions. They have the weapons, they have the man-power, they have the violence. We can fight back, but for how long? If our government can wage an unjust war, one that the people do not agree with, one that the people find abhorrent, what else can they do? If people are dying in the streets, and they do nothing, how are we supposed to respond? Even with new government, we have lost faith in the safety net that the government provides. We may no longer be in a cold war, but the sentiments of repression and fear have been re-ignited. Institutional violence is and always has been the most widely accepted kind of violence, since it is most often perceived as being “what’s best” for us. The enemies and the methods fluctuate but it remains a social constant. Sometimes the scales tip though, and people become aware or wary of what is happening. What was once sure is now a carefully veiled “conspiracy” and paranoia ensues.

It is not the individual who is responsible, because individually, we find this behaviour abhorrent. We know it’s wrong, and we would never commit ourselves to such violence. You assemble a mob though, or an organization, and it suddenly becomes easier… suddenly, it’s no longer violence, but an act of the State. This is essentially what we fear most. We fear that we are a part of these institutions that we knowingly engage in the “machination of death”.

What about form? The Crazies form is better than it ought to be. As potentially interesting as the screenplay may be, it is somewhat repetitive.  The editing is spot on, absolutely precise to inspire the strongest reaction from the audience. There are very few shots that are superfluous, which I have to say is absolutely refreshing. The horror is succinct, the way that it ought to be. Tonally, the film is wonderful. Though some of the imagery, notably some that I’ve mentioned, is disturbing, the film never takes on a tone of overt-seriousness, which is an almost unforgiveable crime in horror. Both Joe Anderson and Timothy Olyphant seem to have an unconscious understanding of the nature of horror writing, and spike many of the phrases and actions with a giddy kind of levity. Despite the horror that surrounds them, they never allow it to remove the sheer absurdity of the trappings of genre cinema either. Aside from a bit too much chase and fight, chase and fight, the film’s only other major “malfunction” is the use of the satellite POV… it’s ridiculous and feels out of place. It makes some interesting reveals, but is poorly executed, and feels as though formally, it belongs in a different film. Overall, I liked the film, especially for it’s outrageousness. It’s effectively scary, and pulls off a bunch of crazy shit that I normally wouldn’t let fly.

Or maybe the film is simply a deluded fantasy concocted by the Sheriff as a means of handling his own act of violence at the onset of the film. It’s a disease, we are not capable of real violence… a bit outrageous, and as much as I hate crazy readings of films, I think it’s one worth considering. The CRAZIES in the film remain somewhat human, they have memories and affectations. They are not soulless monsters, they are too close to being one of us, to the point where we are unsure who is and isn’t one of them. The line becomes more blurry as the film progresses, which I find ultimately fascinating. The film plays with these expectations and tricks constantly, and to a very disturbing effect.

Best Horror Films of the 2000s

Though something of a self-confessed horror fan, I still feel as though I am behind many of the die-hard fans. I also seem to search and appreciate different aspects of horror than many others, and there are a few films from my own list that I can’t say I’ve really seen anywhere else. That being said, hopefully I’ll motivate a few viewings and discussions; it was a lot of fun to write. For reference sake, I’ve seen about about 50 horrors from last decade, and am also including a short list of top five films I wish I had seen before making this list.

Top Five Horror Films of the Decade that I still need to see

Session 9 (Brad Anderson, 2001)

The Hills have Eyes (Alexandre Aja, 2006)

Kairo (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001)

High Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)

Mulberry Street (Jim Mickle, 2006)

10. The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)

A film that I personally find depreciates in value on multiple viewing; The Mist is far too misanthropic for me. Not even the heroes are noble or virtuous; they are not even weak in an appealing way. I just want to say, I don’t need likable characters to enjoy a narrative but to have such a larger number of people with few redeeming features irks the optimist in me who believes that people are fundamentally good. That being said, their dynamic and situation is fascinating enough to not only sustain the film, but make it one of the best horrors of the decade. The story unfolds in a way very typical of the invasion narrative, as characters are forced to co-operate in order to survive, and inevitably fail because of conflicting interests and egos. This film integrates both the military and religion into the relatively small space with great effect, highlighting both the power and powerlessness of the individual within the “machine”. The much debated final scene is really what elevates the film to new levels for me, as the bleakness is brought to eleven by the faceless human monsters who come to the “rescue”. The Mist reflects a contemporary distrust in the military, not only as potential “monsters”, but the dangers they can unload on the public without us being informed or able to properly survive. In essence, it is about their failures to protect us, and in that sense, the father’s failure to protect his own family seems like a very apt comparison within the structure of the narrative.

9. Trick ‘r Treat (Michael Dougherty, 2008)

I feel in many ways, that Trick ‘r Treat is at odds with many of the other films on my list; It is not particularly unsettling, preferring to channel the “feel” of the Halloween season, rather than the true nature of horror. That is not a criticism, as much as it is an observation. The film still has its scares, but they are mostly incidental, harmless and subverted by both the absurdity of the plot and the comic bravura that runs through the entire film. The film is not completely shallow though, and in its subversion of our expectations, it also manages to make a few interesting observations on the horror genre and its clichés. Perhaps the best example is the twist on the virginal college girl; the premise is set up stereotypically, having her chastised and teased for her innocence, and then preyed upon by the lusty monster. Though it is hardly the first time we see the expectation of the innocent female transformed or turned on its head, I think this one is done with a new level of creativity that is unprecedented. Though the reveal of what the “victim” is plays a large part in what makes the story so interesting, it is what it represents that is pivotal ; something lusty, animalistic and the fact that she did not have to be corrupted to reach that state, that it existed within her from the start… and that she embraces it completely.

8. Suicide Club (Sion Sono, 2001)

Not an easy choice, though often disturbing and disgusting, Suicide Club does not exactly fit a classical horror formula. The grotesque nature of some of the subject matter and the extreme (and not cartoony) violence elevates it to a kind of spectacle horror like many slashers are, or more recent “torture-porns”. The film escapes from all the natural inclinations of western horror, and is not only an incisive commentary on popular Japanese culture, but the profound effect the lack of individualism has on society as a whole. The film’s opening sequence is one of the most shocking of all times, and not only sets a tone, but defines every moment that follows. The mass, and seemingly, random suicide of teenage girls leads to government investigations into the phenomena, that only seems to be growing, as well as a huge amount of self-examination. The most disturbing scenes are the two mass suicides, the first being apparently planned, though no real explanation is offered… the second, a genuinely random act of school yard games. The film offers a theory about people distancing themselves from… themselves; that most of us live a kind of out of body existence where we are not truly connected to the lives we live and with the other people in our life. That we exist as cogs in a larger game, allowing ourselves to be swayed and moved by the currents of the information age. Though, hardly an endorsement of suicide, the film approaches the subject as a kind of perverse revolt over individual freedoms and power that is ironically as faceless as the existence they are protesting.


7. Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)

Much like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films, Drag me to Hell is notable for its formal and aesthetic qualities rather than the strength of its plot. By that I don’t really mean that it is a “visual” splendour, in the sense that Suspiria is, but rather that the creativity of both the constructive of the scares, and the use of motifs is both potent and consistently clever. The story is fundamentally weak, though it works as a very effective vehicle for Raimi’s unique horror sensibility. The manifestation of hell is very different than that of the Evil Dead films, as it is largely internal, motivated by Christine’s moral degradation. As a result, it often seems that the evolution of the scares moves from being extremely external, beginning with very physical attacks that are often without precedent or strong instigation, to becoming an internal battle, often with dreams, and with profound effects on Christine’s state of mind and relationships.  The film is just unmitigated fun.

6. The Last House on the Left (Dennis Illiadis, 2009)

I’m still kind of baffled that I liked this film so much; it is a remake of a remake for heaven’s sake! The film is somehow good though, from the almost ethereal quality of some of the imagery (notably the use of water throughout the film, which is at once redeeming and cleansing, but also hides the truth) to the lurid nature of the parent’s revenge, it displays a kind of artfulness a-typical of contemporary mainstream horror. The film is downright dirty, often times extremely difficult to watch. It appropriately makes the infamous rape scene extremely painful and disgusting, focusing especially on the victim’s experience, rather than the gratuitous violence of her captors. The second half of the film is comprised almost solely of the parent’s revenge on the people who raped and attempted to murder their daughter. The violence is gratuitous, at once satisfying and extremely disturbing. It is fascinating to see their transformation, but their moral degradation is even more apparent. The film does try to have its cake and eat it too, but I think it is successful enough on a formal level to ignore any apparent tonal or thematic inconsistencies it espouses.

5. Frailty (Bill Paxton, 2001)

Though the film is overtly about religion, and the dangers of fundamental belief, the film is universal in its handling of family matters and the questions of faith and morality. Rooted in a Christian ethos, a father receives messages from God that instruct him to destroy the demons that live among them. He takes on the aid of his two sons, one who believes him without question, and the other who doubts him every step of the way. It should be no surprise that this creates an incredible amount of tension between the characters, and because the film itself never fully commits to what perception of reality is accurate or not, the audience is not only disturbed by the possibility that the father is insane, but that even worse, that he might not be. The film is shockingly brutal, without ever having to show very much. Most of the violence takes place off or just beyond the confines of the screen; the characters carry the weight of their actions, whether it is with a certain amount of disgust, or the sense of a dutiful act completed. It is a film that does a lot with very little, and relies heavily on both its writing and the strength of its performances… two things that more horror films could try.


4.Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

One of the more compelling entries in the vampire genre, Let the Right One, is an intimate and frightening story of the wolf and the lamb. It is entirely possible that this film could be read as a kind of love story, not unlike Twilight, where two bodies of the same age interrelate in a seemingly romantic way. This is a disturbing interpretation of events, but I do not think it is an illegimate one. If we want to be reductive, Wuthering Heights is also a love story, and so is Lolita. It is because love is seemingly involved that all of these narratives become so disturbing, because we do not want to believe something as sacred and holy as love can be so perverted by abuse, violence and obsession. In Let the Right One In, because of the appearance of the characters suggests pre-pubescent youth, it is easy to ignore the implied age of one of them. When they are both lying together in bed, naked, the scene is not disturbing because one is a vampire, but because we do not want to believe in sexualized children… even if Oskar’s own naivety implied little more than a healthy curiosity in the opposite sex, the imagery is strong enough to unsettle us. This idea is used recurrently through the film, and is a rather common one in the handling of children in horror. It just so happens that this film integrates it with a newfound melancholy and sense of loss, that almost serves to justify the character’s reliance on each other, even if one can only assume that at least one of them will be a little more lost for it. We both hope for Oskar and Eli to remain together, because they are both lost souls who seem to have found hope, while we shrink at the most likely consequences of this “union”.

3. Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

Horror is probably the best genre of filmmaking to deal with traumatic life events, especially ones that are commonplace. Ginger Snaps deals not only with the coming of adolescence between two sisters, “the curse”, but also the trauma of early sexual discovery. The film appropriately handles the complex nature of female sexuality, not only in the woman’s role as the submissive player in the male-female power-plays but how it is further exercised in relationships with other women. This is not only present in the idealized female friendship that exists between Ginger and her sister Brigitte, whose relationship borders on incestuous in their psychological and physical intimacy but in both girl’s interactions with their classmates. The aggression and rivalry displayed between the sisters and popular girl, Trina, reveal the nuances in both female competitiveness and even the sexual tension that exists between rivals, in how Ginger dominates Trina both physically and mentally, and then has the audacity to offer Trina’s “body” for her father to taste. It’s sickening and disturbing on so many levels, but yet, somehow un-gratuitous and natural. One of the great films about adolescence and teenage girls.


2. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001)

As scarce as female directors are in the filmmaking world, in the realm of genre (beyond rom-coms) they are as rare as albino two-headed calves. Claire Denis is the exception that makes the rule, especially considering, that she makes a film that is so un-genre-like… pure arthouse fluff. Suffice to say, I love every minute. The film is exceptionally feminine in the handling of horror and violence; the plot is thin, but the anxiety and relationships are strong. The characters are in anguish, as the ones who are infected can’t help consuming other people “just to feel something”. Her handling of consummation is hardly different than her treatment of sex, and both are unconventional for any genre, especially horror. The perspective is that of a woman, the focus is on the flesh, touching, moving… it is not only focused on the female experience, but adulates the male form in a cinematically unfamiliar way. The film is not necessarily about violence, physical or emotional, between lovers, but about our self-destructive nature and how it poisons our lives. On an aesthetic level, it is a film about the flesh; a study of movements, deconstructions, comparisons, and filters. The body is seen in many states, through many lenses, in many locations… constantly transforming and taking on new meanings. It is a film like a dream, or more like a nightmare, it is an existence that you don’t want to believe… but fear does.

1. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (Jonathan Levine, 2008)

A film that has no right to be as sad and probing as it is, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, is at its worst, a self-aware and over-stylized pretentious film that attempts to over-compensate the familiarity of its structure with almost patently absurd visuals. Why include it then? Truthfully, a large part of me loves all that empty self-awareness; it is so descriptive of a sub-genre of horror that gave up so long ago. It is this premise of absurdity though, that allows moments of true intimacy and humanity to peek through. The characters are not only aware of their superficiality; they seem to strive to be the clichés of adolescence that we find so often in popular culture.  The men seem to recognize the moral corruption of their pursuits, how misogynistic and destructive it is, while the women pursue degrading situations that only further put into question their own identity and self-esteem. Both personalities are extremely vulnerable when isolated from the authority of mom and dad, and the comfort of not being brutally murdered by a faceless killer. The tension is palpable, the melancholy real, and the revenge brutal. For a film that works so hard to look like a magazine spread, the murders are not fun or beautiful, they are not even particularly creative… but that’s why they are so effective. They humanize the inhuman, and only further contribute to the re-evaluation of horror norms within the slasher genre that shows no respect for death or human weakness.

The Entity (Sidney J. Furie, 1981)

The Entity is conceptually an interesting story… it is perhaps even an interesting novel, but it is not an interesting film. Not only overlong, the film fails to convey the underlying feelings of despair and anxiety; the horror is never developed in an appropriate or thrilling way. The first attack and rape is not only shocking, but disturbing and frightening. The subsequent attacks should only escalate this hysteria, but they never do. The repetitive and even cyclical nature of the plot is not an inherently poor storytelling technique, it is simply poorly executed. The repeated attacks are not only meant to escalate in violence, they ought to take on new significance and reflect the chaotic state of mind of the protagonist. Based on a true story or not, the narrative should not ignore the thematic and emotional states of its characters. This is perhaps the film’s greatest failure. Though a film about great traumatic experiences, with a character who has not only lived a very difficult sexual and romantic past, but continues to, there is little (if any) insight into this state.

The introduction of the real believers is extremely poor; they are not only uninteresting, but clumsily introduced. That particular narrative thread, which leads into the film’s final act, is piss poor, and distances the film even further from the emotional and psychological aspect of the narrative. Also, the sheer outrageousness of their attempt to “capture” or prove the existence of an entity is just weak. Also, the electrical charges! So, so terrible… I knew it was the beginning of the end when they begin to “attack” Bill. Just terrible.

The film is not all bad, the performances are all strong. Hershey does her best with a rather inconsistent character and a terrible plot. Ron Silver is also quite brilliant, and the film’s strongest scenes are the ones between the two.

Five Best Films I saw in January

Aside from having a record amount of hits this month, I saw a shit-load of damn good films. It was really hard to narrow it down to just five. Though it seems doubtful, I can only keep up this good fortune for the rest of the year!! As always, only first time viewings and alphabetical order.

Anatomy of Hell (Catherine Breillat, 2004)

Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987)

Frailty (Bill Paxton, 2001)

Lola (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1981)

The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)