October is now over, but I watched 8 horror movies throughout the month! That might not seem like a lot, but I don’t watch many movies, so it was a lot for me. I decided to do a little write up for every movie. The only movie I didn’t include was The Shining, which I watched on Halloween night. It’s one of my absolute favorite movies, but there’s so much written about it all over the internet. Maybe another time I will write thoroughly on The Shining on my blog. But without further ado, here are my horror thoughts.
I think this is a great movie, and it’s not what I was expecting. When people discuss Hellraiser, it’s usually like an 80s slasher movies, but that doesn’t fit this movie at all.
In the movie, a man named Frank activates a metaphysical cube. He’s transported to an alternate realm of bodily torture, and Frank is maimed. Then, Frank’s brother Larry and his new wife Julia move into Larry’s dead mom’s home.
Julia stumbles upon bizarre erotic photos of Frank and remembers an affair with Frank. She hides upstairs, fantasizing about having sex with him. Then, Larry comes upstairs and bleeds on the floor.
The blood reanimates Frank, who approaches Julia as a skeleton. She is disgusted but seduced by the ecstasy she imagined from Frank’s image. Julia agrees to sacrifice people to Frank, so he could become human again.
Along with “slasher”, this movie is often called body horror, which is a more applicable description. The movie doesn’t depend on a stalking killer. For example, the opening scene contains maggots and a cockroach, a nasty old bed, subversive sexual photos, and a nail penetrating Larry’s hand.
In this movie, Frank is the “predator”, but uses Julia to lure victims for him. In some ways, Julia is the protagonist of the beginning of the movie, before Larry’s daughter becomes the focus.
It’s weird that this movie’s equivalent to Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers is Pinhead. He doesn’t appear until over halfway through the movie. Also, he only kills one person in the movie. He is portrayed like a cosmic enforcer.
Pinhead can symbolize a lot of things: in a surface level reading, he symbolizes BDSM. Pinhead represents the Freudian id. He symbolizes an unfiltered desire for pleasure and pain, but he doesn’t embody this desire himself, in the way Michael Myers is evil embodied. Instead, Pinhead is calm and smart.
I had never seen this movie, even though it’s a classic, but after seeing it, I completely and immediately understand why it’s a classic, and how it’s influence can be seen in horror movies.
There’s been so much written about this movie, so I want to focus on one little section of analysis. I want to talk about the common reading that this movie is misogynist. When you see this movie, and especially when you see this movie’s influence in Friday the 13th or whatever B-slasher from the 80s. However, I think if you take Halloween on its own, a lot of the misogynist elements in the movie can be read in a different way.
What I liked about this movie is the feeling of being stalked in the suburbs. Whenever I go to a suburb, like my hometown, everything feels very private, like everyone lives in little kingdoms (their house) in a row. Anything abnormal is suspicious. In that environment, the stalking and paranoia builds a lot of suspense through the middle half of the movie.
This was a pretty good fan service movie. It feels similar to the first movie, but had enough of it’s own identity to not feel like a rehash. It’s a shame that they completely retconned every movie out of the Halloween canon except the first one, but I get it.
I haven’t seen Halloween 2, but I know that one of the big reveals of that film is Laurie Strode is actually Michael Myers’s brother. I think this singular choice is why the movie had to be retconned. In my opinion, the original Halloween excels because Laurie Strode symbolizes society, or at least some element of society, and Michael Myers symbolizes the evil that lurks underneath society. But when Laurie Strode is the sister, it severely limits the dynamic of their relationship. Now, Laurie has to symbolize a character in relation to Michael as a character, but the real intrigue is what these characters almost mythologically symbolize.
I like how they manage the character dynamics of the main protagonists. Jamie Lee Curtis is the private, tough grandma Laurie Strode. Judy Greer is the cheery daughter who wants nothing to do with Halloween or anything scary. Andi Matichak plays the curious high school daughter. The granddaughter is a synthesis of the beliefs of the generations before her.
This movie also has more depth than it appears on surface. For example, the babysitting friend is babysitting a kid who is much more memorable than the kids being babysat in the original Halloween. The people in the theater I saw this in loved this kid. This movie’s version of Dr. Loomis (cleverly introduced with “he’s the new Dr. Loomis!”) has a nice arc too.
Overall, maybe my biggest complaint about the movie is just plot holes. Of course, the original has a lot of plot holes too. But the main plot hole in this movie that distracted me is kind of a notch above most plot holes. Basically, the dad in this movie dies towards the end. The dad is an important character, dies very abruptly, and no one reacts to it. Like, they all knew he went outside and didn’t come back, but we never see the characters react to it. This isn’t exactly a plot hole, but it does seem like a big chunk of the storytelling is missing. Why kill a character that you spent time building up, when it has no impact when he dies?
I don’t have a ton of analysis of this movie, because it’s very much in the expressionist vein of European horror, and I don’t have the same “vocabulary” for understanding that, compared to typical American horror movies.
Ultimately, this is a movie that establishes a premise early, spends the film elaborating on that premise, then takes it to the logical conclusion. In other words, it’s a straight forward movie in many ways, at least in terms of character and plot. An American girl goes Germany to attend a ballet boarding school and weird things are afoot.
The pacing of the movie feels “simple” in a way. It’s a series of fairly evenly paced sequences of exposition punctuated by horror sequences. This isn’t a bad thing, I liked it. But this pacing is the main thing that shows the age of the movie. Like how Texas Chainsaw Massacre feels like it has dated pacing after Halloween, this movie’s pace feels dated after The Shining (not to say this movie is that much like The Shining, but they both involve being semi-trapped in a large compound with a supernatural presence).
The key to what makes this movie good is the music and visuals. I will say, I watched this movie on a laptop, so it may have been the speaker quality, but the moments without music are very quiet and the moments with music are quite loud. But the music is really cool. It’s very consistently intense music, which builds tension in a unique way, as horror movies usually build tension through music with crescendos. The music feels very 70s, in a European experimental rock way. It’s not just a good soundtrack, but it’s good music in general.
Finally, in terms of the visuals, it’s a very beautiful movie. There are many memorable visuals that feel like would have been (and surely was) tumblr fodder a couple years ago. The main visual effect is a combination of gaudy German architecture and colorful, drastic lighting.
Overall, I’m not a huge fan of scary doll stories. But, this movie has cool moments, and makes some weird choices. I’m lukewarm on it.
The movie stars an American who moves to England to nanny a child in an old British house in the woods. I thought this was a weird choice because I wasn’t sure what to take from this. If she went all the way to Europe, that must mean the writer really wants to isolate her. But isn’t the house, and the doll itself haunted? So why did she have to go so far?
This movie uses some typical evil doll tricks. An interesting aspect of the movie, though, is how quickly our protagonist buys into the supernatural nature of the doll, and cares for it, as if it’s human. The movie fully embraces the supernatural element.
The protagonist has a blossoming relationship with the guy who delivers groceries to the house. However, the supernatural power in the house interrupts their ability to date. The grocery boy reveals that a kid used to live in the house, but he killed a neighbor girl. Then, the house burned down, and the kid died. The grocery boy says that the doll is a representation of the boy who murdered, and then died in a fire. The protagonist still firmly believes the doll has supernatural powers, and manages to convince grocery boy of this, because they both witness the doll move on its own.
We learn the protagonist moved to England because she was fleeing her stalking boyfriend, who caused her to have a miscarriage. This partially explains my gripe about being located in England, but as you will see, it gets more complicated again. The stalking boyfriend shows up at the house, following her to England. The grocery delivering love interest ends up at the house as well, and they all go to bed in the house.
The stalking boyfriend, sleeping downstairs, wakes up to see “GET OUT” written on the wall. He screams for our protagonist and grocery boy to come in and freaks out at them. He grabs the doll and breaks it over a coffee table.
THEN, a weird guy pops out of the wall, wearing a mask like the doll. We learn that the doll was an avatar of the kid who killed his neighbor. The fire was staged so he wouldn’t be caught, and he was living in the walls all along. The parents who left our protagonist with the doll, were essentially leaving her there to become the spouse of the man in the wall.
This signifies the movie transitioning from supernatural to natural, which is the opposite shift that most horror movies make.
I would say this movie suffers the same way a lot of average horror movies (and most average movies in general) suffer: it’s about too much stuff, and doesn’t have enough to say about it.
The fact that it’s set in England with an American protagonist, feels like it’s about something, or will have some impact, but it ends up not meaning much to me.
Other examples is the fact that the grocery boy witnesses the doll move. But why does he witness this? To what impact? It doesn’t really shift the plot. Why do the parents of the doll pretend the doll is a real child? They knew the real kid was alive. Also why did they kill themselves (I forgot to mention they kill themselves but it has no impact on the plot at all).
There’s nothing wrong with this movie. It’s entertaining. But it doesn’t make a statement with its elements. It It is a fairly paint-by-numbers horror movie that makes a couple interesting choices, but isn’t too memorable for me.
As Above So Below
I’m a fan of found footage horror movies, and the premise of this one is interesting, so I was excited to watch it.
It’s a movie about an anthropologist who goes to Paris with a couple friends, in order to discover an ancient treasure in the Paris Catacombs. They meet a few Parisian spelunking guides who lead them into the tunnel.
Before I go deeper into the plot, I just want to point out that none of these characters are likable or interesting. The main character is a very annoying know-it-all with her head up her ass. She seems influenced by the main character of Blair Witch Project, who is annoying in her own way, but without any of the endearing character traits from the main character in Blair Witch.
As the plot progresses, we begin realizing that there’s supernatural elements to the catacombs. The go deeper and lower into the catacombs, in an unnatural way. Our heroes become lost quickly, go in circles, encounter oddities etc. They encounter chanting witches who pop up later to kill, but there’s no explanation of why they’re there beyond that.
By the end of the movie, they begin seeing even more bizarre things. For example, one of the French characters sees his brother burning in a car, and our protagonist sees her dad hanging from a noose. We learn that the catacombs were a manifestation of the characters’ psyches.
Before I watched this video, I scanned wikipedia’s reception of the movie, and saw one of the reviews said the ending was really stupid. The way the movie ends is our protagonist realizes that, in order to exit the catacombs, they have to face their fears and continue down the catacombs. They drop down a giant hole–a literal leap of faith. At the bottom, they encounter the bottom side of a manhole, push it to the side, and emerge, climbing back into the street of Paris.
Yes, it’s a silly ending, but at the same time, I started predicting the ending about 2/3s into the movie. Once I realized our heroes were facing manifestations of their psyches, and they were only going deeper into the catacombs, I thought the only way to emerge was through the other side, not by backtracking. My first inclination was they’d emerge on the other side of the earth, or in the earth’s core. My idea would be even more stupid, but the general angle of the movie was telegraphed.
This is where the movie’s problems lie. The main issue hangs on my inability to suspend my disbelief about disparate elements of the movie. How can this be a found footage movie when the catacombs are the physical manifestation of something intangible? The catacombs of the movie aren’t real, they’re a mental construction, or else the ending wouldn’t make sense.
This creates even more problems though, because the catacombs begin as an actual physical thing. In fact, the movie still maintains some illusion of the catacombs being physically real. For instance, the characters encounter an underground dweller, who was friends with our French protagonists, but got lost underground. They also encounter a group of chanting witches, as mentioned earlier. Both the underground dweller and the witches kill someone.
So was the cave dweller fake? The witches weren’t fake, because we saw the head witch BEFORE they went into the catacombs. Were the catacombs physical, until they saw the witch, and then it became non-physical? If so, why was the witch so poorly explained, and out of place?
There are ways to explain these elements, but ultimately this movie suffers from the same issues as The Boy: It does too much and doesn’t say enough about it, making the movie kind of a mess of choices and decisions that tell us little about what we should think about the movie.
This is not a good movie, although I thought it could be okay for a B movie until the end of the first act. The premise is a weird girl in class (we know she’s weird because she wears ~a hoodie~ and has ZERO friends on facebook) tries to befriend a cool girl. Cool girl begins talking to Weird girl to get more insight on the paper she’s writing about internet addiction (even though Weird girl has NO FRIENDS online at all). Weird girl asks Cool girl if she’s having a birthday party. Cool girl says no, she’s just having dinner with her boyfriend alone, not a party. However, she arrives at the restaurant and sees her bf, her mom, and 4 or 5 other friends. The mom uploads photos of their dinner to facebook.
Upon learning Cool girl had a party without her, Weird girl gets very upset. But really though, why would Weird girl expect to be invited to a dinner party of like 7 or 8 people, who are clearly the closest people in Cool girl’s life? It’s not like a large house party with open invitation. Anyway, Weird girl kills herself because of it.
Cool girl feels a lot of guilt about this, manifested in the form of seeing Weird girl in social media. She sees her death on facebook. Her friends comfort her, due to her extreme mental anguish.
At this point, the first act ends, and the general formula for the rest of the movie begins. The movie cycles between boring expository segments and highly tense, jump scare heavy death scenes. Even as a B-movie, this movie had no potential once the myriad death scenes began. It started as a movie about someone struggling with an intense sense of guilt regarding a death that person was tangentially connected to. After the death scenes begin, it becomes like a more poorly paced, less conceptually interesting, and generally much worse Final Destination clone.