Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Revisiting The Cabin In The Woods

Warning: This post is about interpreting the movie The Cabin In The Woods, and as such, contains spoilers. Anyway, it will make much more sense to you after you've seen the movie. ;-)

I've been thinking pretty much nonstop about The Cabin in the Woods ever since I watched it a second time the other day (not by choice, but to show it to a friend). In spite of what I wrote in my review of it, I don't want people to think that I think it's a bad movie. As a horror movie, it's not very scary, but I'll admit it's fun, and yes, even clever. I like the tone of the film, and the way it plays around with the character tropes is smart. The whole idea of the control room and the interchangeable monsters is fascinating, as well.

But it kind of breaks down when the old gods are introduced. It's an intriguing plot point, but it doesn't completely make sense. And then I went on to read that fans are interpreting this movie as a critique of horror films. Which is an obvious conclusion given the way the film toys around with the usual cliches. But where the old gods are concerned, it's not so straightforward. A lot of people are saying the old gods are a symbolic representation of horror fans, who rise up and complain when a horror movie dares to break formula.

But that's never made sense to me - me, a horror fan who is far more familiar with other horror fans complaining that horror movies are too formulaic! Plus, it's downright offensive for me to watch a movie that purports to be horror, only to present the conclusion that horror movies are dull and formulaic because the horror fans demand it! And that's where a lot of my anger and distaste towards the film that was expressed in my review originated from.

After my second viewing, and going so far as to watch the audio commentary on the DVD, featuring Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard - the writers and director of the film - in the hope that they would explain what their intention for the movie's interpretation was (which they frustratingly avoided saying much about), I began to wonder if this whole "the old gods are horror fans" theory was just fan-generated pseudo-analysis. So I decided to query the members at IMDb, although I haven't found much evidence one way or another.

But, in discussing my thoughts with other fans - some of them very defensive - I have managed to reason out an exciting alternative interpretation of the film that not only makes more sense, but is far less offensive to me as a horror fan. If it holds any water, then my appreciation for this movie may just jump up a step or two (although I still think the fanbase has an attitude of excessive self-importance about the movie, and I don't actually credit the filmmakers for the cleverness of my interpretation because I don't believe they're that clever, unless they're willing to state on record that this, and not the other fan-generated garbage, was their intended interpretation for the film).

After rejecting the "horror fans" interpretation of the symbology of the old gods, I considered various other theories, such as the old gods representing mindless consumers (a more pointed and less scathing form of the audience interpretation), and the old gods representing the studio heads, who are interested in turning an easy profit at the expense of creativity. But, while both of these interpretations are less offensive than calling the old gods horror fans, neither of them entirely make sense, either.

So I ditched the consumerist perspective, and instead focused on a few lines from the film - spoken by the men in the control room, as well as the character 'The Director' at the end of the movie - about punishing the transgressions of youth, and I think I've come up with an interpretive theory that is both unoffensive to horror fans, and actually makes good sense! I will copy my IMDb post where I made this realization here, as it pretty well explains my theory.

Quoted from IMDb.com:

One of the things I can't wrap my head around is this idea that "the transgressions of youth must be punished". It is clear that in the tradition of slasher films, the characters who drink, toke, and have sex are quickly dispatched. What's not clear is why this is.

I mean, like, are these horror movies being made by our conservative elders? Are they trying to tell us, "misbehave, and you'll die"? It's like a classic bogeyman story. "The monster in the closet eats children who don't behave."

That sounds strangely like the psychology behind the "old gods" in this movie. They demand that young people be punished for their transgressions (which is why the virgin gets a free pass - although don't ask me why sex is the hinge more than any other factor).

But where it breaks down is trying to equate the old gods with horror fans. Your mother is the one who tells you that there will be consequences if you make bad decisions. Your mother isn't the person going out to watch horror movies because she loves to watch bad kids being punished. You're the one who watches it, because you love to see the sex and the drugs and the violence! Ironically, the conservative subtext is completely lost on you (for better or worse).

But the conclusion here is that the old gods can't be the fans. The old gods are this mysterious force that insists that horror movies carry a conservative subtext, to make up for its gratuitous entertainment value. I honestly don't know where that force resides. Perhaps partly in the minds of certain filmmakers who actually feel that way, although that's probably rare.

I feel like it has more to do with CRITICS of the horror genre - not fans, but people who hate the thought that other people watch this stuff for entertainment. People who think watching horror leads to committing acts of violence, and people who think sex and drugs and violence are immoral sources of entertainment. The people who came up with the Hays Code for example. Not people who love horror!

Of course, that begs the question of why people who hate horror have so much influence on how horror movies are made. And I would have loved to see a movie that pokes fun at that fact. But alas, the Cabin in the Woods can only have a shot at doing that if the old gods represent conservative busybodies - politicians and lobbyists and religious moralists. Hey, now that's a clever interpretation!

And, as an afterthought, that's why I love exploitation cinema. It's basically a huge middle finger - not to horror fans, thank you very much - but to the "old gods" who insist that immoral entertainment carry some kind of moral center. I'll work out my own damn morals for myself, thank you very much. =D

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990)

Everybody talks about The Godfather as some of the greatest films ever made, so naturally I thought it was in my interest as a film buff to sit down and watch them sometime, although you might be surprised to learn that it's taken me this long to do so. I had noticed The Godfather being played on television on Thanksgiving in years past, and this year I was watching a lot of movies in the wake of Halloween season, so I figured it was a great time to finally watch The Godfather trilogy, and see what all the hype was about.

And I won't go on for very long, because I'm not some obsessed Godfather fanboy, I'm just gonna tell you my opinion of the movies. I think they were very good movies - I definitely can't say I hated them, or that they sucked. However, I do think they are overhyped. Greatest movie(s) of all time? Dunno about that. I was actually expecting more gangster brutality from the series, but I had a revelation after watching them that explained to me why these movies are popular for Thanksgiving. It's because the Godfather isn't really about gangsters, it's about family.

And that's actually what I thought was most intriguing about the first Godfather movie. Especially given his reputation in our social culture, I was expecting The Godfather to be this really intimidating guy - and there's a hint of that in the excellent opening scene. But I was wondering, how is this movie going to make me sympathize with a mob boss - a guy who goes around having people whacked and dealing in criminal enterprise? And the answer is, well, they made The Godfather this really reasonable guy, who above all values his family, and honors the people who show him respect. A guy who doesn't really see himself as a 'murderer' so much as a businessman, and who makes a point not to mix business with personal issues.

I would have liked to have seen more of Marlon Brando as The Godfather throughout the series. He was excellent. I think Al Pacino is a fine actor, but as The Godfather's son, who eventually takes over the family, he just wasn't as charismatic as Marlon Brando. People talk about his fantastic acting performance in The Godfather movies, and maybe he was good, but I don't know, he just didn't have the charisma. I think he was a lot more interesting in Scarface, for example. And, this is a weird quirk, but I couldn't help thinking that in this role, the young Al Pacino looked at times strangely like Adam Sandler. I don't kow, maybe it's just me.

A lot of people say The Godfather Part II is better than the first part, and a perfect masterpiece of cinema. I don't know that I would agree. The theme of Part II seems to be Al Pacino's character's journey as new head of the Corleone family, in which everything pretty much goes wrong and he ends up inadvertently tearing the family apart. It's a very sad story, almost in the vein of classical Greek tragedy, and for that reason it's surprising I didn't like it even more than the first part, because I love a good tragedy.

But I think the first movie really shines, partly because of Marlon Brando's performance, and how it sort of introduces you to this world of the mafia, and also because it shows the transformation in Al Pacino's character. He starts out as the one son of The Godfather who isn't interested in the family business - a "civilian" as his brothers put it - but who gets pulled in when the family's enemies put a hit on the Don. The scene where he meets the two guys for dinner, to make a deal regarding the protection of his father in the hospital, was so tense - in this case, Al Pacino's acting was definitely top notch. I could feel the anxiety of the scene - the fear that he would be found out and killed before he could kill his enemies was palpable.

So I actually liked Part I better than Part II, and wouldn't say that Part II is the "best sequel of all time", and certainly not "the best movie ever made". As for Part III, there's definitely a break in continuity as it was filmed in 1990 while the other two came back to back in the '70s. But where people love to lambaste the third part (almost like how I consider Alien: Resurrection to not exist), I didn't think it was that bad. And it does do a good job of wrapping up the series, by finishing the telling of the tale of Michael Corleone. And maybe it's because I didn't think Part I and Part II were so good in the first place, that the fact that Part III is maybe not as well put together doesn't stand out so much to me.

So there you have it. I'll reiterate that I actually liked the movies, and thought they were very good. (If a little long, being a three part series clocking in at around 9 hours all together). But I do think they're a tad overhyped, as I didn't find them to be, without a doubt, the greatest movies I'd ever seen, and not among my top favorites either. But then again, gangster movies - though I do enjoy a good one - aren't personally my favorite genre. Oh, and you know, people talk about how movies like this "glorify" the mafia. Actually, this story is pretty tragic, but rather than glorify the mafia, I thought it was interesting because it actually humanizes the mafia. For better or worse. There are other films out there that do much worse in terms of "glorifying" mob violence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Inland Empire (2006)

I don't have a lot to say about Inland Empire, but it strengthens the feelings I'd had about David Lynch previously. He's excellent at producing an unsettling atmosphere, and creating films that feel like dreams (and often nightmares), but as far as putting together a narrative, his approach leaves something to be desired.

I'm not saying a film has to be idiot-proof - that it can't be difficult or intellectually challenging - but it should provide you with enough pieces and coherence that a sharp mind, at least, can put most of it together by the time the curtain falls. Not this pretentious "everything's a symbol/metaphor" crap, requiring hours of meticulous analysis to concoct a coherent theory of how to put the story together, that is only one of many equally valid theories (given the overly vague evidence).

And this whole "the director's not talking" nonsense - I appreciate a film that engages the viewer and remains open-ended, but I also respect an artist who has something concrete to say with his work, and who isn't afraid to clarify or answer a few questions, rather than keep silent to "protect the air of mystery," or more likely cover up his own uncertainties. I just like a film that actually means something - something you can figure out just by watching it, not after reading a book that attempts to decode it.

Still, that having been said, there is room for directors like David Lynch in this world, and his style is utterly refreshing, so I can't criticize him too harshly. If he is a flawed genius (and what genius isn't?), he is a genius still. And Inland Empire - as inscrutable as it is - journeys into a pretty dark place (regardless of the missing how or why), crafting a haunting atmosphere of psychological terror that even had me reminiscing about Silent Hill.

David Lynch could make some fantastic horror movies if he tried - but he'd have to want to, to want to tell a coherent story, and one that aims to terrify as much as speak to the human pathos using the symbols of artifice inherent in dreams and the art of moviemaking - his favorite subjects, it seems. I mean, I can pick up the broad strokes of Inland Empire - an actress in a role that gets mixed up with reality, and some trauma about an unborn child (?). But there's just not enough exposition to fit the pieces (some of which enter pure batshit mindfuck territory) together.

But, Lynch seems to be more about making the viewer feel, rather than understand (in fact, in lieu of understanding) - except on an instinctual, subconscious level - and that is something he accomplishes in spades. The atmosphere and mystery is so captivating that it keeps you glued - although staying in that place for a full three hours, which this movie reaches, without much semblance of a meaningful story to follow, seems a bit much to me. But for better or worse, you come out of watching a movie like this feeling moved, yet wondering at the same time - what the fuck was that all about?

And that's David Lynch for you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Fear (1996)

I'm getting more than a little tired of the cliche of the older guy who goes after teenage girls (there are a million erotic/romantic thrillers that cater to this stereotype), who even acts all nice and sweet at first, only to go totally psychotic later as if to prove the point that these guys are always bad news. It's like telling teenage girls everywhere, "you know, even if he's nice to you and treats you well, it's just an illusion and he'll try to kill you the moment you let your guard down, after he's told you he loves you and tricked you into thinking he's the right person to give up your virginity to." (Assuming you still have it).

Aside from that, Fear turned out to be a really good movie. Mark Wahlberg does a great job of crafting a character that is unsettlingly sweet at first, but selectively drops that facade to reveal the very intimidating sociopath underneath. And Reese Witherspoon - while not exactly convincing as a 16 year old high school student - has the innocent charm to pull off her role as the naive teen. Curiously, her character wears a lot of scandalously short skirts, but I'm definitely not complaining. You do have your requisite scenes of father/daughter tension with regards to the questionable boyfriend, but the movie manages to avoid being too gratingly stereotypical in the final analysis.

And what really sets this movie apart is how the family pulls together in the end - not in the saccharine ending sort of way - but to put aside their dramatic differences to band together against the impending threat that ultimate becomes clearly unambiguous. And the threat manifests itself in the form of a (somewhat spoiler) rather frightening and very exciting home invasion sequence. And on top of all that, this movie has some decent '90s music, including a cover of Wild Horses. Plus, the ero-mantic roller coaster scene was pure genius. Result is, it was actually a lot better than I was expecting it to be, and in my opinion, raises itself to a level above your average mid-'90s teen thriller.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

sex, lies, and videotape (1989)

With a title like "sex, lies, and videotape", this film has garnered quite a reputation, and you have a tendency to impose certain expectations - like that it be particularly salacious. Which, it's not, really. It's intimate, but it didn't strike me the way I was expecting it to.

As a film, it's very intriguing, and it builds an engrossing atmosphere, with an emphasis on character and psychology. And the premise is, indeed, fascinating. James Spader is excellent as a mysterious drifter who is allegedly impotent in the presence of women, but who likes instead to videotape interviews with women about their sex lives. (Although this does contribute to the stereotype that voyeurs are freaks who can't attract/satisfy a partner, and so must resort to watching from a distance).

I thought - and it appears this way at first - that this would be a positive characterization of a 'voyeur' whom the audience can respect and understand, who doesn't hurt or lie to people, and actually manages to approach sex from a unique perspective that helps even mainstream people relate to their own sexual experiences in a stronger way (like what happens with Cynthia). And it is, for a while. But then we come to the end, and the plot gets kind of confusing, and it turns out this guy is a 'recovering' pathological liar, and his scheme with the videotapes was just a pathetic ruse to get his nine years long ex-girlfriend whom he may have been physically abusive toward to see that he's a better person now.

Yeah. I don't know what to say. Fascinating premise, good atmosphere and characters. But I'm not sure what I'm supposed to take away from this movie, and I'm really not sure that, whatever it is, it's anything close to what exactly I'd like a movie with this premise to say.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lost Highway (1997)

The more David Lynch films I watch, the better I am at understanding what he's after - although that doesn't mean I actually understand him or his films. And the more Lynchian discussions I view, the better I know his fanbase, who, as much as I hate to be critical, do seem to lean toward the pretentious side. I like art for art's sake as much as anyone, but a lot of these Lynch fans are of a mind that Lynch films are puzzles that people have to figure out for themselves, and that only through a lot of brainwork can one come to a relative level of understanding (although nobody ever truly understands Lynch's intentions - probably, in my opinion, because even Lynch doesn't know what they are - fans explain away his dodgy explanations for his films as not wanting to explain himself, but I don't know, maybe it's because he really can't). I mean, really, it reaches a level at times, that it feels like the Lynch fanbase is some gnostic sect, guarding the 'secret knowledge' that would unlock the true meaning of his films.

But it's not as if I don't think David Lynch is a genius - he is. Even if just because he has the guts to tell a different kind of story than we usually hear, and the vision to pull it off. But what I like about him is the art of his craft, not so much the storytelling, which is confusing and disjointed. I think the reason Lynch films frustrate me as much as they fascinate me, is because they don't adhere to the regular rules of the world. Lynch's films are more like dreams than anything else, and therefore they adhere to dream logic - which isn't really logic at all, and that's why it frustrates your logical waking mind.

Like, one element that came up in discussions of both Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway, was the motif of a character dreaming, or fantasizing, and the idea that there are triggers in your mind that are trying to wake you up. And those triggers manifest as entities in your dream. Particular characters, sometimes. Or situations that remind you that what you're dreaming is not real, and threaten to pull you back to the uncomfortable reality your mind is trying to escape from. I think that's a fascinating motif. I love it. It's just, when you watch a Lynch film, you don't get an explanation beforehand - like, "this is a dream and here is the dream logic", it just sort of happens and plays out, and maybe you can make a little sense of it afterward by discussing it with other people. Which, incidentally, is very much like what dreams are.

So, yeah, Lynch is a genius when it comes to creating films that feel like dreams, and more so than his storytelling ability, I love him for his ability to create an eerie atmosphere of dread and mystery. Lost Highway is a confusing (surprise!) story about some guy who becomes some other guy. The first part of the story is absolutely compelling, and would make for the first act of a really fantastic horror film. A couple is haunted by some kind of unseen intruder who videotapes himself walking through their house at night, and then leaves the tape on their doorstep for them to find and watch and freak out about in the morning. And then, later, this one guy meets this weirdo at a party, who looks like some kind of vampire or something, and he does this creepy trick where he tells the guy he's inside his house right then, even as he's standing there at the party talking to him, and tells him to call himself up at home, so he can talk to the guy he's standing in front of at the party who's also somehow simultaneously at the phone in his house. Real trippy shit.

But then, the story takes a left turn, and the one guy somehow magically turns into another guy, and it descends more and more into dream logic. There's plenty of great scenes - and good music, too, and even, oddly, a cameo by Marilyn Manson - but as far as the overarching story goes it's like, "I want to find out more about that other guy", and, "what the hell's going on now?" But there's this mob boss type character, and there's this fantastic scene where he scares the shit out of some road rage driver for tailgating him. It's great. And there's this subplot about a mafia-run porno ring, which may or may not be in the business of creating snuff films, but it doesn't really delve into that subplot enough to satisfy my curiosity.

It's worth watching if you're already a Lynch fan, but for everyone else, I think Mulholland Dr. is a better place to introduce yourself to the unsettling mind of David Lynch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

I didn't really know what to expect from Eyes Wide Shut, but it was one of those movies on my periphery that I had marked as "should check out" but "not in any hurry". However, it came up in a discussion about Mulholland Dr. that I recently watched, so I decided to give it a watch. Also partly because it was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Lots of film buffs rate Stanley Kubrick as one of the greatest directors of all time, but I personally consider him to be overrated, since of his films that I've seen, I've been generally underwhelmed. I think his adaptation of Lolita flopped, and pales in comparison to Adrian Lyne's later version. The Shining is a good horror movie, but would I rate it a masterpiece? I don't know. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a truly inspired piece of science fiction - but as a movie, it just drags on and lacks coherence. And A Clockwork Orange - well, I liked it, but it's not one of the best movies I've ever seen.

So anyway, I heard that this movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and I was intrigued by the reference to David Lynch, since I can appreciate Lynch's sensibilities, so I figured I'd give this movie a watch and see if it improves my opinion of Stanley Kubrick as a director. Well, the verdict is that this was a good movie - but it hasn't really changed my opinion of Stanley Kubrick. After all, I don't think he's a bad director, I just don't think he's the best director of all time. But there's other movies of his I have yet to watch, and who knows, my opinion might change in the future. After all, I was underwhelmed by Jimi Hendrix the first time I heard him on the radio!

As for this movie, Eyes Wide Shut, you might call it something of an erotic thriller, but it's really more of a dreamy exploration of psychosexual themes. It stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman - and let me tell you, Nicole Kidman is gorgeous in this movie. And she's not afraid to get a little naked, which earns instant points of respect in my book. Plus, she's gorgeous. Did I say that?

The movie explores various sexual concepts, largely surrounding the theme of fidelity. Like, within the context of marriage. I'll be honest, as a sexual progressive, this couple's concerns were a little unsympathetic to me. I mean, like, it's clear that neither one of them actually cheated on the other. So is it really that devastating to learn that your spouse has sexual fantasies and desires for other people? The thing that's special about committed relationships isn't that people impossibly reign in their sexual interest in other people, but that they refrain from acting on that interest. The vows aren't about "I will never look at another man/woman", but "I will never pursue another man/woman". And that's assuming the couple is into monogamy, which is popular, but as a pro-polyamory type of person, I just don't see it as that big of a deal.

Anyway, it didn't destroy my appreciation for the movie, it just lessened my sympathy for the characters' struggles. The way the movie turns out, after a Christmas party in which both partner has eyes for others, the wife later divulges the fact that there was this one time when she totally had the hots for some naval officer. And Tom Cruise's character breaks down, leaves the house, and basically goes on a hunt for some woman to cheat on his wife with. Although he has a hard time actually going through with it. But his journey, and the people he meets, and the trouble he gets into, is where the film gets really interesting.

And the pinnacle of that is this wild party he sneaks into which is ostensibly attended by some wealthy and/or renowned luminaries, but it's all secretive because everyone wears masks. But they perform this sexual ritual, and they have impossibly beautiful women - albeit hookers and drug addicts and the like - who roam around naked among the cloaked and hooded men, and there's all this sex going on throughout this mansion, right in front of everyone else, and it's every bit as surreal as it is erotic.

And really, the movie's worth it for the erotic themes alone - between Nicole Kidman's beauty, and the women Tom Cruise runs into, and this bizarre sex cult party. But the surreal, dreamy aspect is a nice touch to it. I'd definitely rate it as a good film, and recommend it to anyone who thinks it sounds intriguing.

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

I'll be damned if this movie makes any sense at all (although it helps to know that it was a failed-TV-pilot-turned-one-off-film, and this analysis makes me think twice), but you know what? I didn't even mind, because David Lynch has such a talent for creating an atmosphere of mystery and uneasiness. This is true art, and while it makes you think, you don't so much want to put the pieces together as you revel in the feelings that it can evoke in you.

Also, Lynch has an uncanny knack for faces, and he creates such intriguing characters. There's even some real eroticism in this movie, like you so rarely see, between the two female leads - the one of which, Naomi Watts, is, in my opinion, stunning in this role.

I wonder if maybe David Lynch would be better suited to creating shorter pieces (his movies seem frequently to exceed the two hour mark), since he's masterful at creating atmosphere, but his stories rarely seem to tie themselves together in the long run (at least not without extended analysis).

For example, the scene in this movie where the man at the diner is talking about a frightening dream he had. One of the most amazingly unsettling scenes in a movie I've ever seen, and I think it would be just as effective out of context of the rest of the movie - in fact, its connection to the rest of the plot is tenuous at best (or at least not obvious).

And the scene where Bettie goes to audition for the soap role - it's unreal. I'm not even sure what the hell that blue box is, or what the film set has to do with anything - although The Cowboy character was fascinating, and intimidating in his own way.

But as I said, I didn't even care that I couldn't fit all the pieces together, because it was the experience of it, the feelings of uncertainty that David Lynch evokes in you, that make it so captivating. And the music is not only perfectly suited to the mood of the piece, but it's fantastic in its own right.

I very much recommend this movie, even more than the other two Lynch pieces I've seen - Blue Velvet, which wasn't quite as effective for me as this one, and Eraserhead, which was very effective, but perhaps too out there for general audiences.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Movies I watched this Halloween (2012)

...excepting the ones I've already properly reviewed, of course.

Drag Me To Hell (2011)

When Drag Me To Hell came out in 2011, I filed it in the back of my mind as a potential title to watch, because I love to see the theme of hell in movies (not even just horror movies). I think hell is a fascinating concept, and I love to see different people's interpretations of it. And I thought the premise of this movie was going to be some person who gets dragged down to hell. Which, essentially is what it is, except that the movie is all about this girl being cursed and trying to fight her fate, and not what happens to her after she (huge spoiler) fails to lift the curse and gets dragged down to hell, literally in the last moments of the film (although we see nothing lower than ground level). So, huge disappointment in that respect. As for what the movie actually is, I should have known that coming from Sam Raimi - the man responsible for the slapstick hijinks of the Evil Dead trilogy - I wouldn't like the style. It gets pretty ridiculous at some parts, to the point that I consider it a waste of time. Alison Lohman is beautiful in the lead role, but it's not even worth it to watch just for her performance.

Zombieland (2009)

I had no expectations of loving Zombieland, given that it's more of a horror comedy, and is frequently mentioned in the same breath as Shaun of the Dead, another zombie title hailed as a modern masterpiece by people who don't typically watch horror (hence their ability to appreciate horror comedy). But I was willing to give Shaun of the Dead a watch, and people kept coming to me praising Zombieland, asking if I'd seen it, and it stars both a really hot-looking Emma Stone as well as Abigail Breslin (who was in the fantastic Little Miss Sunshine), so I gave it a watch. It's actually pretty good. The style of the movie is way too light-hearted for me - someone who prefers dark, serious movies - but I can see why a lot of people like it.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby is a masterpiece of suspense horror directed by Roman Polanski. It gets talked about a lot (for good reason), and I recall seeing at least some scenes from it on TV in the past, but I don't think I'd ever actually sat down and watched the whole thing before, so I made a point to do that this Halloween. It's a fantastic movie, with a fantastic premise - a devil worshipping cult tricks (very cleverly) a young woman into bearing the son of Lucifer. Mia Farrow is sensational in the lead role, as a vulnerable and attractive young mother-to-be. And mad props for actually including the scene where she's raped by the devil - and, better yet, actually including some nudity! Awesome. This is a well-deserved classic horror film and I highly recommend it.

The Omen (1976)

Continuing in the 'devil child' vein, I decided to follow Rosemary's Baby up with The Omen. I remember when the remake came out in 2006 (on the date 6/6/6), though I didn't watch it. But ever since then I've been aware of the original movie from 1976 as a horror classic, and this year I decided to watch it. It's actually very good. There's some mystery and some suspense, and a good bit of horror in the classic, chilling (rather than shocking) vein. And the one scene with the priest and the infernal storm is just awesome. And the dogs manage to actually be intimidating. And the graveyard scene is unforgettable. Great movie, in spite of its age.

The Bad Seed (1956)

This is a movie based off of a stage play about the sweetest little girl you've ever met, who turns out to be a cold-blooded killer. As it is based off a stage play, there is a heavy emphasis on character, and character interaction - which I find to be pretty fascinating (one of my favorite films of all time - Bug - was also adapted from a stage play). Patty McCormack plays the part of the bad seed magnificently, perfectly mixing her innocent charm with a hauntingly believable childlike malice. For a film that's over fifty years old, I rate it very highly and recommend it enthusiastically.

Wilderness Survival For Girls (2004)

This was a fascinating twist of the usual premise in slasher films where a group of young adults head up to a cabin in the woods and get bumped off by some psychotic killer. This time around, it's not so straightforward. Three girls head up to their cabin in the woods, and a suspicious stranger shows up, who claims to have been squatting in their cabin. But the girls have the upper hand, and tie him up in a chair at gunpoint. They wonder if he's the same guy that killed two girls several years ago and was never caught, but they have no hard evidence. The power shifts balance a few times, and the movie addresses the question of what sort of treatment of the stranger is justified by these girls. One the one hand, they're girls, and he's a full grown man. On the other, it's three against one. He might be dangerous, but then, they have no proof. It's an excellent dilemma, with some feminist undertones.

The Gate (1987)

Pretty terrifying for a children's movie. In fact, I'm pretty sure I saw this as a child, but all I remember from it is a scene with the eye in the palm, and the feeling that it was a very, very scary movie. As an adult, okay, it's not that terrifying, but it's still a really good movie. I miss the days when they made movies for kids that were actually good and not cheap schlock to placate the whiny runts. And the fx - I assume it's claymation - are really pretty good. I mean, like, you can tell they're not real, but they're infinitely more effective than shoddy CGI. And the creature design - especially the big daddy (which recalled for me the excellent monster design in Howard The Duck) - was fantastic, not ridiculous like a lot of today's monsters. And my favorite part of all (aside from the cute teenage sister) was the fact that the movie didn't shy away from being epic. This is sort of a spoiler, but most movies would build up to the end of the world and stop short. This movie doesn't pull any punches. Bravo.

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

The Mothman Prophecies is a movie that constructs a really creepy atmosphere. It's more of a mystery thriller than a straight-up horror, but I thought it was scary in its own way. Unfortunately, the cryptid angle leaves a little to be desired, but what you get in place of that is a very fascinating premise about prognostication and determinism, with some very haunting scenes. It's also a very sad, sad story. But I definitely get a feel from it that it could totally have been an extended episode of The X-Files - it's just missing Mulder and Scully...

Candyman (1992)

Candyman is a movie that I've been meaning to watch ever since I read Clive Barker's Books of Blood. Clive Barker is a horror writer who is the mastermind behind Hellraiser, and the story that the movie Candyman is based on was in the Books of Blood I read. The movie, I'm sure, expands and modifies the story to a full feature-length format, but I think Clive Barker was involved in its production, and anyway, the result is pretty good. In the story, Candyman is something of an urban legend - he's a real, supernatural villain, but he derives power from the beliefs of those he frightens. And the movie is the story of one woman's journey to discover the truth behind the myth, and the subsequent horrors she is then confronted with. It's pretty good.

Red State (2011)

After the debacle that was Drag Me To Hell, I could be forgiven for skipping over Red State, being that I'm not generally a fan of Kevin Smith's other forays into cinema, however popular they are. But, I had heard that this - horror - movie was actually pretty good, so I wanted to give it a watch. It was worth it. It is ostensibly the story of a fundamentalist religious group (obviously inspired by the Westboro Baptist Church, which was in the news for picketing the funeral of a gay man beaten to death), and the ungodly horrors they get up to in their private church, which involve online entrapment schemes and very criminal 'neutralization' of perverts. Anyway, this is kind of a spoiler, but the movie takes a left turn midway through and introduces the government by turning the situation into something very much like the Waco Massacre. The result is actually very fascinating in my opinion (although others seem frustrated by the lack of thematic focus). In the end, I think the movie provides a good opportunity to criticize the errors of both religion and government, with only the perverts really making out well in the end (at least image-wise). But, that could be my bias, since I am a pervert (and proud). Anyway, it was a really fascinating movie, and I do recommend it. And, as most people who have seen it agree, Michael Parks does a hauntingly captivating job in the role of the crazy, bigoted preacher man.

Alone With Her (2006)

Alone With Her is pretty much your typical crazy stalker story, although it cleverly uses the 'found footage' angle to its advantage so that we get to see the story unfold entirely from the point of view of the stalker's cameras. Which, gives it a kind of creepy feeling because it's almost like you're participating in the stalker's crimes. People will naturally criticize the voyeuristic element, but especially from the perspective of cinema, which is an inherently voyeuristic medium (and that's why we love it!), it's only natural to be curious. It's when the stalker uses voyeurism as a method to criminally invade another person's privacy, and then take advantage of that inside perspective to exercise unknowing control over that person's life, in a futile attempt to construct a scripted scenario that's doomed from the start, that it becomes creepy. Anyway, it's certainly a unique perspective, even if on a somewhat cliched narrative.

Megan Is Missing (2011)

Megan Is Missing purportedly claims to be an open warning about what can happen to teens who meet strangers on the internet, loosely based on any number of real life abduction cases (but no one in particular). But rather than a preventive education piece, it's climax is so horrifying as to make it a startlingly effective horror film instead. That's not to say that it's actually a good film, by cinematic standards - for one thing, the acting is terribly shoddy, as the majority of the characters try way too hard (or not hard enough) to behave like caricatures of either way-too-slutty or self-pitying teens. But the film takes the found footage technique to its logical conclusion by documenting via webcam and mobile phone what it is teens get up to when parents aren't around, and then marrying that with footage taken by the killer after one or more of those teens is abducted. Where this film succeeds is in going farther and being bolder than any movie before it (that I know of), in an attempt to document the true horror of what goes on in those most terrible of cases - the very thing most people instinctively desire to turn away from. The last 22 minutes of this movie is, in fact, so effective, that I describe it as pure nightmare fuel, and one of the most disturbing cinema experiences of my life - and I've seen both Irreversible, and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Really, it's a shame the movie is so terribly acted, because as a horror it's terrifyingly effective. But, I can't really recommend it to anyone, because it's just that bone-chilling, and merely thinking about it scares me - me!

Little Sweetheart (1989)

This is not actually a horror movie but more of a crime drama, but it features a character that is very much a "bad seed", not unlike in the movie of that title. She's nine years old, and played by a very charismatic, though unknown (like this whole movie, apparently), Cassie Barasch. She gets up to all sorts of misdeeds with her reluctant friend and cohort, including spying on a couple that just moved in nearby who are on the run after committing insurance fraud. Little Thelma (that's the girl's character's name) ends up blackmailing them for shopping money, and things just go downhill from there. It's a really fun movie, and the leading character's natural penchant for criminal mischievousness is fascinating to watch. It's a seemingly unheard of movie, but I recommend it highly.

Texas Killing Fields (2011)

Texas Killing Fields is a heavily atmospheric little number with an excellent swampy soundtrack. It's a bit of a crime suspense thriller, and the story was a little hard to follow, but I honestly didn't even mind, because the characters' motivations were pretty easy to suss out - and, I'll be honest, I really go for a movie that can construct a good atmosphere. Plus, Chloe Moretz stars in a supporting role, and she always lights up the screen, even when she's playing (as she frequently does) a downtrodden child with a lot of things to be depressed about, but nevertheless with a good head on her shoulders, and the ability to somehow maintain a fragment of her innocence through it all. I don't think this movie got much acclaim when it came out (I wasn't able to get around to seeing it, though I wanted to), but I liked it.