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Posted on August 18, 2017

Kong: Skull Island is not good, but it says something about horror

Dawn

Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island is the kind of film that makes you wonder what everyone involved was thinking, including some generally good actors (Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, John C. Reilly). It’s a hot mess of a film—incoherent, pointless, lots of execrable writing and wooden acting. And it gratuitously and shamelessly pulls from other (better) films—notably Jaws (1975) and Jurassic Park (1993).

Kong does say much about how horror films (and maybe life) work, however. Cast as a kind of reboot of the first King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933), Kong shows how utterly bound to the need for borders and for “others” the horror film tradition is.

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Posted on August 4, 2017

Baskin’s Conflicted Horror

Guest Post

Baskin is a 2015 Turkish horror film directed by Can Evrenol. It centers on a group of police officers, including a young and naive officer named Arda (Görkem Kasal), as they respond to a late-night call and inadvertently wander into Hell. The men stumble into a place and time “where realms unite,” and they are doomed to be punished for their sins in life in a twisting tale that denies the viewer any semblance of reality to which they can cling as the horrors mount.

Baskin spins an intentionally disorienting narrative as perspective jumps from character to character, and dreams within dreams layer upon one another as the film moves toward its climax.

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Posted on July 24, 2017

The Disappointments Room Does Horror (Badly) by the Numbers

Dawn

2016                R                     USA                D. J. Caruso             85 mins.

The Disappointments Room has all the ingredients of a good horror film, which is perhaps part of the problem. The film seems content to fill in the colors of lines that have already been well drawn. It has no imagination, adds nothing new, and simply plods through the motions.

Married couple Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Mel Raido), along with their young son Lucas (Duncan Joiner), move to an isolated old house in the country. Not surprisingly, we soon discover two things: 1. Dana and David have recently experienced a traumatic event, and Dana is not dealing with it very well; 2. The house they are moving to has its own traumatic past, one that soon makes its uncanny appearance to the more vulnerable Dana. She starts seeing things and soon the line between hallucination (or supernatural occurrence) and reality starts wavering.

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Posted on July 11, 2017

Man Vs.: Horror, Philosophy, Nature

Dawn

2015                NR                  Canada                        Adam Massey             87 mins.

Horror films are important not least because they so often dramatize fundamental philosophical questions.

I just watched an extremely interesting (and definitely underrated) horror film (currently streaming on Netflix in the US), Adam Massey’s Man Vs. (2015). I did so at the same time that I was reading an essay by Canadian philosopher Karen Houle about the importance of the language we use when talking about the natural world.[i] At one point in her essay, Houle quotes from Martin Heidegger, a quote that struck me as providing a great lens through which to watch Man Vs.

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