Posts Tagged ‘Body Horror’

Society (1989)

October 6, 2021

I have always hated parties more or less. I always wanted to be invited but never wanted to actually go to the parties. I have social anxiety and the feeling of being among people who are not one hundred percent friendly to me. I like to get together with friends in small get togethers or cookouts but those feel different. Even without the social anxiety, I never really got the point of parties. My first big college party, I expressed my nervousness and was told to “have a drink”. This is an untenable solution. Later in life I went to parties that turned into total meltdowns from drinking. They ended with windows broken, people passed out, and just wild abandon. I was never really a fan of losing control. I always felt that if I lost control, I might just not come back the next morning. I do drink on occassion but that is rare and I do think some people benefit from it.

David Cronenberg is one of the originators of the body horror genre. He has left permanent scars on the psyches of viewers with such movies as Shivers, Videodrome, and his version of the Fly. He became so known for this genre that twisted creatures in the cartoon Rick and Morty are referred to as Cronenbergs. However, the genre did not belong to him alone. Many directors picked up the torch and followed suit. Directors like Peter Jackson, Darren Aronovsky, Guillermo Del Toro, Takashi Miike, Clive Barker, and Neil Blomkamp are just a short list of still active directors in the genre. Like Cronenberg, they all have done stuff outside of the genre but their work in it has certainly been memorable. Director Brian Yuzna definitely had his own share of films in the genre such as Bride of Re-Animator, Beyond Re-Animator, and Return of the Living Dead 3.

The first thing I noticed was the paranoid nature of the movie where you and the main character are not quite sure what they are seeing. The special effects were immediately pretty disgusting but also absolutely fascinating. Some of it is absolutely subtle but some of it is right in your face. I will warn you right now that there is quite a bit of nudity as befits a lot of the themes of the movie. The special effects were done by the appropriately named Screaming Mad George who was born as Jôji Tani in Japan who came up with probably the grossest Elm Street death sequence. It shows. There are some effects in this that shocked me even though I have watched plenty of these kinds of movies. It is not for the faint of heart. I reiterate: This is a really fucked up movie effects-wise.

The acting was shockingly good in the movie. The star of the movie is Billy Warlock who I only really knew from watching Baywatching. He plays a really good frantic and frazzled victim and a great unreliable narrator of sorts. He really knocks the role out of the park. Everybody else in the movie is delightfully campy. Patrice Jennings, Connie Danese, and Charles Lucia play his vapid family. Evan Richards plays the typical high school eighties best friend role,excitable and nerdy. Ben Meyerson plays a perfect high school villain driven to extremes. Devin DeVasquez plays a seductive yet strange young woman. The other actors are very good and being really strange.

Overall, I really loved this movie and actually felt it was the scariest so far mostly from the anticipation and the spot on weird acting. The movie really hit that note of dreadful anticipation until it really cut loose. I do not want to spoil anything further but it was really intense.

Antibirth (2016)

October 15, 2018

A lot of people are afraid of drugs. This is not an unfounded fear, at least in my opinion. I have researched a lot about opiate addiction and what I have read has frightened me. Without getting too personal, I know that drugs can take a hold on people and never let go. They can break your brain over time and cause erratic behavior. The Just Say No campaign and various 90s campaigns did a number on me. They convinced me that drugs could poison me and I could easily die from taking a single puff. The very nature of the black market nature of narcotics convinced me that they were right. The idea that any drugs could be cut with something poisonous and deadly kept me from taking any drugs when some of my friends were definitely smoking pot. Of course, my fears proved not to be totally ridiculous as reports of heroin cut with fentanyl killing people (as fentanyl is super deadly) have become widespread. As marijuana has become more accepted and legal, it has become safer to smoke and safer to get a hold of.

I think that some people do not like to admit it but pregnancy is a scary concept. Many hype it as a ‘beautiful event’ but I have seen it several times now and I have a different perspective. Of course, this perspective is as a male so take all of this with a grain of salt. When I left for college, my father told me that having sex with a woman was ‘an emotional, physical, and legal commitment’. There are many people who are scared of getting pregnant or getting somebody pregnant. Part of that is the financial commitment that follows but it is also the mental, physical, and emotional effects of raising a child. Before all of that, actually being pregnant involves so many medical issues. From my observations, people who are pregnant worry about each little thing that happens and how it might affect the baby. This is especially true of people who have planned to have children but have a history of miscarriages. Then there are the more existential fears of what will the child be when it comes out and what will they become? It is part of that general fear of the future.

The first thing I noticed was how good the acting was in this. The movie stars Natasha Lyonne as a druggie slacker who gets into trouble. She really drops into her character and she was likable from the first second. I have known a few of these stoners and most of them are good people even though they lack ambition. She is friends with Chloe Sevigny who is fun in a sarcastic kind of way with a hard edge. Mark Webber exudes a paranoid air of menace as a drug dealer and pimp. Meg Tilly plays a kindly stranger who is a mystery from her first appearance. She has a quiet, subtle performance which is a great contrast to the rest of the cast. Maxwell McCabe-Lokos plays a really skeevy guy who is friends with Webber’s character. Neville Edwards plays an absolutely creepy character sort of in the grand tradition of Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. In addition, there are a lot of sufficiently creepy extras who add to the general sense of unease.

This one has a lot of practical effects, a lot of which are subtle at first. When things really get rocking, it was hard to maintain my cool with how crazy it gets. Still, they were some great effects. There are also a lot of really interesting flashbacks in the movie. The movie kind of flashes these images at the viewer (and the main character) and it is a really neat way to depict it. In most movies, the character would slowly remember whole scenes but that is not usually how we remember things after trauma. Of course, I should mention that this is definitely a body horror movie. A lot of stuff happens that evokes that nauseating horror of somebody’s body changing against their will. If that kind of thing bothers you, do not watch this movie. Another great element of the movie is the sound design. They picked some really great ambient music that makes even the most innocuous thing feel creepy and strange. A lot of stuff shown on television in the background is really trippy.

Overall, I really liked this movie even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable. Trippy and unsettling are definitely the two biggest keywords that I would use to describe the movie. Lyonne’s physical acting is among the best I have seen in a horror movie (or most movies in general). The effects used for the body horror are amazing and disgusting. The movie definitely went a lot of places that I was not expecting. One of the great things about doing these reviews is getting to see stuff that I could not have imagined and this movie had it in spades. I would recommend it but it is not for the squeamish.

The Witches (1990)

October 25, 2017

92 minutes – Rated PG for body horror, macabre ideas, child murder, and dark themes.

I have said it before but Roald Dahl was a very big part of how my mind formed at a young age. He lived in an ugly world and the fiction he wrote reflected that. He lived in England throughout World War I in an almost Dickensian childhood. What was already a scary time for all classes, due to being in a war zone, was even scarier being a child. Despite that constant fear he experienced, he grew up and had kids of his own. He also fought in World War II and famously was sent on an expedition to the United States to do anything possible to get the US government to agree to enter the war. He somehow made it through the horrors of a war-torn childhood, English boarding schools, and combat in World War II among other things. He was able to take this darkness and put it into children’s literature which stood out against some of the more saccharine things I was offered as a kid. His books were always unsentimental and the child characters were put into real danger. As dark as things got, there was always some desperate hope present.

Body horror is when a character’s body is magically or mechanically transformed, degenerated, or destroyed. Usually, the altered person has to then live with these horrific changes. A milder example is the body changes seen throughout Beetlejuice. Not only the changes the Maitlins make to themselves but also the flattened civil service worker and the premature aging near the end of the movie. A more relevant set of examples begins with Kafka’s Metamorphosis in which a man slowly turns into an insect. That same thought was brought into the various versions of The Fly which has a definite science fiction bent to body horror. The real horrific example there is the version made by Cronenberg who is a true master of body horror. What scares me most about body horror is the loss of self. For better or for worse, I am who I am and I do not want anybody forcefully taking that away from me. The thought sickens me that I might lose myself through fate or somebody’s cruel machinations.

This was the last movie that was personally overseen by Jim Henson. It really shows. By 1990, Henson and his crew had really perfected their art. The movie is full of over the top costumes and special effects that are absolutely terrifying. However, the movie also has a lot of more subtle effects such as more realistic animal puppets. I was absolutely blown away by the mouse puppets and how well they switched between puppets and real mice. Also, they synced the dialog up so well. I love puppets and they really outdid themselves on this one. As for the other effects, they are full-blown body horror. The prosthetics and costumes for the witches are very well done. They are grotesque and absolutely something right out of a child’s nightmare. They look a lot like how I imagined they would look like from Dahl’s description and the illustrations. The transformations are frightening but so smooth that it’s hard not to admire them even as I am creeped out.

The casting was really good for this one. Roald Dahl was upset by some of the changes in the movie but the one thing that got him to accept this adaptation was the casting of Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch. Huston always put out an absolutely magnetic performance. Here, she is so good at being evil and arrogant. Her performance often adds a menacing air of tension and others a fever pitch of insane evil where the change happens with the flip of a switch. This brilliant casting is backed by a mostly English cast. Mai Zetterling is great as the grandmother and former witch hunter, tasked with watching over her grandson. The movie is dominated by the voice of Jasen Fisher, who plays the traditional Dahl child hero. He is great at playing that pure-hearted kid who tries his best to do the right thing. Part of the ensemble is Rowan Atkinson who adds a lot of the comic relief as only a legendary comedian can.

Overall, I loved this movie. While much of it is not very scary, some of it is downright frightening. It is a great adaptation of a classic children’s novel. While there were changes, it was only to make the movie a little less scary than the book was. The book and the film are both parts of that older tradition of both scaring and delighting little children. While Dahl’s works are dark, they usually have at least a bittersweet ending.


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