Posts Tagged ‘October’

The Neon Demon (2016)

October 3, 2018

I have never really been into fashion. Well, at least not in the way that people actually in the fashion industry. I like clothes well enough and I often imagine what characters I write are wearing. I admire the clothes of people I see both in real life and in fictional worlds. I particularly like dresses and three-piece suits. However, I have no idea what is trendy and that world is kind of intimidating to me. I cannot even imagine how people decide what the next big look is. I would be eternally afraid of falling on my face because I thought something looked cool and everybody else disagreed. I knew a lot of costume designers back in school and they were all quirky, weird, and exotic in the best ways. I remember there was this one girl who had dyed her hair jet black on one side and paper white on the other side. There was a perfect line down the middle. I have a very visual imagination so I often do think of these sorts of things when I design a character. However, I sometimes find it hard to express all of that. I have also never really pushed hard to develop those skills. I have many friends who are blessed with visual arts skills but that is mostly because they have worked at practicing them. I also think about how cutthroat that world is. When I talked to such people in college about the possibility of Broadway, I was told that somebody would have to die to open up a spot. That was pretty grim. I can only imagine what must happen to compete with the likes of Vera Wang or Tommy Hilfiger.

On top of all of that, I can only imagine the difficulties that many women go through. Women are held to a higher standard when it comes to being visually appealing. The fashion world has long been criticized for this sort of thing. Models are encouraged to starve and drug themselves to obtain and retain an impossibly ‘beautiful’ appearance. Then came the rise of cosmetic surgery where women were pressured into getting actual surgery to ‘improve’ their body’s beauty. When women have to be tortured, drugged, and sliced up in order to be deemed pretty, that sounds like a horror movie to me. The pressures to be perfect come from society and the origin of those pressures are from men. It is no secret that men have dominated society and have used cultural conventions to suppress and oppress women. Of course, men have also enlisted women to police themselves so that women criticize each other or use gossip to police ‘beauty’. This is an age-old method of control that has been used on pretty much any minority or protected class in history. These can be tough obstacles to overcome especially since they are not actually physical limitations but are instead almost purely psychological. This sort of conditioning starts at birth and continues pretty much forever. Slowly, we are starting to figure things out but we have a long way to go.

The first thing I noticed was the startling use of silence which feel like they were used to cause unease. The dialogue especially had me in suspense as I waited through pauses. Not the usual bad acting pauses but weird alien speech patterns that definitely made me anxious for what was going to happen. The music is full of modern tonal music that helps to ramp up the tension. The production values are awesome. Because the movie covers the world of fashion and modeling, they put a lot of work into making that world beautiful. However, because it is so beautiful, it also makes it look strange and unreal. That sort of bleeds into the rest of the scenes as they look almost too polished, too superficially pretty. Seeing such fragile beauty juxtaposed against the seedier sides of life makes the shadows all the darker. Then the ‘real’ world just seems to get as strange as the fake one. It had a very disorienting effect on me so much show that in one scene I literally yelled: “What the Fuck!?” Of course, there are plenty of the traditional horror elements like gore and violence. The effects are among the best that I have seen and they were very disturbing.

The movie stars Elle Fanning as a sixteen-year-old model freshly arrived in Los Angeles to start her modeling career. Of course, she is immediately correctly told (told not warned) that the industry is just waiting to consume her. She is portrayed as having such flawless good looks, the epitome of human perfection. A lot of the movie hangs on her portrayal of a naive young woman. However, she is not completely unaware as she mentions that she is modeling because it is her only marketable skill. Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcoate play models that have been around a little longer and they are excellent at being these crazy model harpies. However, one of the big things all of the male actors do is they treat the women with such active contempt and aggression that it is hard not to feel bad for even the less nice ones. The guys are really too good at showing this naked emotion of hunger and hate that I wanted to slap them. It literally made me scared and angry. This includes a small role from Keanu Reeves. A lot also has to be said about Jenna Malone who plays a makeup artist who befriends Fanning and her friendly performance somehow added to the tension I was feeling.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It was an unsettling thriller that left me feeling all clenched throughout. It showed the accurate portrayal of the way that men treat women in general and specifically how the fashion and modeling industry hurts women’s psyches. Nothing is off topic, drugs, beauty, plastic surgery, jealousy and so on. I would compare it most to Black Swan which had a similar take on the psychological damage and pressure that being a girl can provide. While there are elements of traditional horror, it is the psychological pressure and tension that really got to me.  I felt kind of sick after it but kind of in a good way.

The Final Girls (2015)

October 1, 2018

I first started watching horror movies when I was rather young. I was trying to remember the first horror movies that I might have watched. A lot of great horror movies were made in the decade that I was born (the Eighties) but I would have been too young for most of them and I had to watch them later. To the best of my recollection, my first horror movie was Gremlins which is a pretty good one to start with when I was probably only nine. As I got older, my family purposefully set out to watch some of the classic horror movies until my mom decided she had had enough. My youngest brother and I carried on and I watched a lot of the most iconic horror movies (and some real stinkers). Some kids experience a blurring of the line between fantasy and reality when they are kids but I never had that problem. Still, I definitely theorized what I would do if I was in a horror movie. I think most of us fans have done it. We second guess the victims and speculate how we would get away from the monster or madman. It is kind of like what our imaginations do when we hear a random sound in the darkness while we are in bed. All of our memories of fantasy and reality flit through our heads and we imagine we are about to murk somebody with a baseball bat. Of course, it is probably just a pet or a rat or something.

I absolutely love classic horror films. They are hard to deny because most of us grew up with them looming large (or if you are young, your parents could never shut up about them). I watched Freddy and Jason movies at a young age and my half-goth personage also watched anything spooky I could get my hands on. Of course, that is the inspiration for my fanfiction-y/AU series Aftershocks. I also went through a period where I was really into the classic Universal monsters and I am a sucker for anything that adapts those classic characters. Because of all of the horror that I have watched and my pop culture sponge brain, I have absorbed a lot of lore. It is mostly because I love exploring the lore of franchise horror because it is both interesting and silly. I love that each sequel of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise added more and more to Freddy Krueger’s history and subtly changed the rules while still keeping the major talking points. The same goes for Jason, The Evil Dead, and good old Chucky. Each of these franchises obviously had some sort of central lore that did not really change but was tweaked a bit to fit later installments. Of course, there are a lot of fans out there who feel the same way. Remembering goofy horror movie lore is really no different from remembering all of the plot points of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars family trees, after all.

The movie is about a young teenage girl who lost her actress mother in a crash years ago. Her mother had been the standout actress in a cult classic slasher film (a clear parody of the Friday the 13th franchise). She ends up getting sucked into the movie along with her friends and must figure out how to survive and how they might possibly escape. The concept is not new (see Last Action Hero) but the twist of meeting a fictionalized version of her dead mother is definitely a cool addition. The movie really ramps up the campiness of eighties horror but has an undercurrent of real fear and heart. One of my favorite things is how they oversaturated the colors inside the film to really play up that classic horror feel. There are also interesting ways that they visualize classic movie tropes and effects. They also parody horror movie fans (especially the really creepy ones) who delight in the gore a little too much. It also parodies horror nerds like me who engage in a little too much meta theorizing. The gore effects are pretty tame but I actually appreciate that for what is supposed to be a goofy but slightly scary movie.

The heart of the movie is Taissa Farmiga who plays Max who misses her mother and is tired of being reminded of the movie. She is the emotional heart of the movie and the obvious protagonist. Her best friend is played by Alia Shawkat who is great at being a sarcastic realist. Alexander Ludwig is great as her nice, reasonable possible love interest. Thomas Middleditch, of course, plays the horror nerd who has a lovable and realistic awkwardness. There is also Nina Dobrev who plays the stereotypical “mean girl” (except she is from the real world). Max’s kind-of mom is played by Malin Akerman and it is fun to watch her slowly break out of her “programming”. Adam Devine plays the stereotypical jerky jock far too well. One of the funniest parts of the movie is Angela Trimbur’s performance as an absolutely zero intelligence hot girl who is just so confused but happy. There is also the awkward but charming Tory Thompson as the token black guy and also the token nerd in the film. One of the best parts of the movie is watching both real and film characters change through their miniature character arcs. The concept of real people interacting with fictional characters and changing the story is a fun one.

Overall, this was a great movie. It was definitely a fun movie to start Halloween with because I always like remembering how fun horror can be. Which is perfect because this is a movie very self-aware of itself and the horror of not only evading a psycho killer but also actually dealing with brainless horror movie characters. The movie is basically what Scream tried to do with the meta storytelling but done better. It is stylish and while it is campy it is also surprisingly clever. There are so many tributes to eighties horror but they went back and made it better by making it something a little different. I came in prepared to laugh and I did but I also got some chills and some touching moments as well. I definitely recommend it.

Goosebumps (2015)

October 3, 2016

I remember reading Goosebumps when I was little. It was during a time before I started to read Stephen King books and just about the time I was starting to develop my own tastes. I found out two things by reading Goosebumps, Fear Street and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. First, the horror genre shakes me to my core. My vivid imagination makes all of the horrible ideas easily come to life. Second, I really like the creepy stuff. I love the creepy imagery and, although my heart fills with dread, I really enjoy it. Goosebumps was a series that was good for the horror newbie. Each book follows a different short horror story and the whole series covers a lot of different genres and subgenres of horror. Of course, the ones that frightened me the most were the ones that involved body horror like The Haunted Mask. I have stated repeatedly that the stuff that scares me the most is the loss of self either physically or mentally. The books were a great pathway into both real horror and some of the goofy horror that I particularly enjoy.

In the nineties, there was a rash of horror anthology shows marketed to kids. We got great shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark and, of course, live-action adaptations of the Goosebumps book series. I had already started watching The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and The Night Gallery but these shows appealed to me as a younger viewer. The protagonists were all people closer to my age and it was easier to empathize with a teen than it was Captian Kirk frightened in a plane. Goosebumps, the show, was actually well-acted and definitely well-written. The show was actually pretty dark, just like the books. Sure, as I got older, it was not as scary as the books I had read at a younger age but the stories scratched that spooky itch that I was starting to get. This was an age where I fully believed in the supernatural and even the silliest horror story was pretty scary in my mind. Goosebumps is very much part of my nostalgia and it is definitely part of my early horror roots. So let’s revisit those days with the movie that came out last year.

When I heard there was going to be a Goosebumps movie, my response was that there should have been a movie adaptation ages ago. The book series was actually supposed to be adapted by Tim Burton at one point and George Romero before that. I would kind of like to see the alternate universes that created those films but alas, that technology is not available yet. Instead, we finally get a movie 23 years after the first book was published but even the author, RL Stine, spoke about the difficulty of creating a definitive movie of an anthology series. They could have gone the route of Twilight Zone: The Movie and done a few stories but instead, they created a story that would allow various books’ villains to crossover. This seems to be the best solution if you are going to create a movie. The movie is pretty well-written as it manages to merge a lot of RL Stine’s works into one movie but it is not really a horror movie. That’s ok because making this a horror movie would have been difficult. Instead, they made it into an adventure/fantasy film very much like Jumanji. The dialogue is pretty tight and there is a lot of offbeat comedy mixed in with the thrills and chills the main characters go through.

The big star of the movie is, of course, Jack Black who plays author RL Stine in a story where all of his monstrous characters are released from the books. I have been a fan of Jack Black for a long time, ever since I first saw the music video for Tenacious D’s Tribute. Jack Black has great comic timing and will go at things full force even in the crappiest of movies like Neverending Story 3. In this movie, Jack Black does a pretty funny impression of Orson Welles and he actually got a lot of laughs out of me. He also played the main villain and it definitely felt like he had a lot of fun doing so. The other actors I recognized were Ken Marino and Amy Ryan who didn’t have much impact on the story. The story follows three teenagers and the actors that played them were actually really good. I feel like child acting is getting better as the years go by and this movie definitely shows it. I had never heard of Dylan Minette but he was a solid protagonist with some good comic timing. Then there was Odette Rush who was a strong female protagonist with a really interesting secret. Finally, we got Ryan Lee as the comic relief and I expected him to be annoying but the was actually pretty enjoyable.

Overall, the movie was actually a lot more fun than I had been lead to believe. The movie was a great romp through nostalgia and spookiness that actually provided a lot of laughs. Am I angry that a horror anthology series was turned into an adventure/fantasy/comedy movie? No, I’m not because it ended up being a good movie. I can always tell how much I like a movie by how invested I am in it and how many times I check the time. By the end, I cared about what was going to happen and I had barely checked the time at all. Check this movie out if you are looking for a little family-friendly Halloween-y fun.

Let the Countdown Begin!

September 30, 2015

October

Tomorrow is the first of October in the year two thousand and fifteen. This officially marks the countdown of 31 days until Halloween. Therefore it is crucial that I finally let you know what I’ve been working on for a while as I get into the Halloween spirit. For the next 30 days there will be thirteen movie reviews leading up to the release of three movie reviews on Halloween itself. There will also be a couple installments of an original story I’m working on with somewhat appropriated characters. I’m not going to make it obvious, you see if you can tell what I’m doing with that. Media Updates will continue as normal because of all the work I’ve done ahead of time. Anything else I come up with will simply be a bonus. If you’re reading this, thanks for coming by. This is one of my favorite times of the year and I hope it shows. I leave you with this year’s Halloween song.


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