Browsing Tag

horror film

Posted on October 18, 2017

Happy Death Day and Life’s Trauma

Dawn

With Happy Death Day, Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions continue their string of innovative and high-quality horror films (The Purge, The Gift, Split, The Visit, Unfriended, Get Out). Directed by Christopher B. Landon and written by Scott Lobdell Jr., Happy Death Day is, of course, not completely original (what is?). Its premise echoes the 2017 teen drama, Before I Fall (Ry Russo-Young), which is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Lauren Oliver. And it is deeply and self-consciously indebted to the brilliant Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993). That said, though, while Happy Death Day isn’t groundbreaking, it is a fresh approach to the slasher film. Its success is due not least to the fabulous performances of its two leads—Jessica Rothe who plays Tree and Israel Broussard as Carter. The supporting cast is also great, including Rachel Matthews as uber-bitch sorority queen, Danielle.

The film follows college student Tree after she wakes up on her birthday in a relative stranger’s (Carter’s) dorm room after a night of hard drinking. She cavalierly goes through her post-debauch day, revealing how fundamentally unpleasant she is to everyone around her. On her way to a party that night, she’s murdered by a masked figure—only to wake up in Carter’s room on her birthday again. The day keeps repeating and, as you might imagine, Tree experiences a variety of shocked and panicked emotions before she starts trying to take control of her experience, figure out what’s going on, and stop the cycle.

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Posted on September 17, 2017

Aronofsky’s Mother! Unabashed Misogyny

Dawn

This post contains spoilers; I thought about it long and hard but was unable to write about Mother! without discussing the ending.

Darren Aronofsky’s most recent film was preceded by a suitably vague trailer that quite effectively, as it turned out, disguises what his film is actually about.

And much of the film, like the trailer, is intriguing because it doesn’t give away what’s going on, what kind of film Mother! is. It trades in many horror film conventions, raising all kinds of expectations: there’s a couple isolated in a house, each with a mysterious past; there’s a house that seems itself to be sentient, alive; there are uninvited guests who quickly turn hostile (is this a home invasion film?); and there’s an uncanny pregnancy (Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is one of the principal cinematic touchstones of Mother!). Jennifer Lawrence does a great job of playing the standard “haunted house” protagonist, especially after she becomes pregnant, a woman who may or may not be seeing what’s actually there, may or may not be experiencing hallucinations. Indeed, for much of its run-time, Mother! seems like a gothic horror film, a subgenre that is notable for featuring strong women and feminist themes.

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Posted on September 15, 2017

Horror Island: The Difference Between Scary and Spooky

Guest Post

Despite having “horror” in the title, Universal’s 1941 film Horror Island (George Waggner) isn’t particularly horrific. Sure, some people get murdered off-camera and a corpse gets shoved into knight armor, but precious few viewers—either then or now—would ever suffer nightmares from this film.

In short, Horror Island isn’t scary, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer horror fans. In fact, it’s an immensely watchable hour of entertainment. Why? Because it’s spooky.

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Posted on September 12, 2017

Get Out and Scientific Racism

Guest Post

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a visceral viewing experience, which has made it- for me- difficult to write about. The creeping terror of the film is difficult to watch, but, as I watched, I was struck by the role scientific racism played throughout the film. Scientific racism is predicated on the belief that whiteness is evolutionarily superior to non-whiteness, and that races are genetically predisposed to have different strengths. Usually, white people are presumed to have mental acumen, while black people have physical prowess. It is opinion issued under the cover of being fact. When we think of racism, we often conjure images of vitriolic passion. But we overlook the role that dispassionate racism- under the guise of reason – plays and the harm it causes as a structure of oppression embedded in science.

Get Out is predicated on this very danger, represented by the “comfortable” white liberal, the person who tells you they voted for Obama, but still, in their marrow, believes that racial differences are scientifically preordained as hierarchical. The concept of “good” and “progressive” whiteness plays into the churning evil within the film and the distress we as viewers feel while watching. Whiteness, in the hands of the Armitage family, becomes a tool as effective and as malicious as Dean’s scalpel and Missy’s tea cup.

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Posted on September 4, 2017

The New Final Girl: More Sex, More Persecution

Guest Post

The slasher flick is absorbed in the heroine’s experience of incessant trauma. But unlike the genre’s other characters, she is the one who does not die: she is the “Final Girl.” A victim-hero, she is resourceful and intelligent and ultimately vanquishes the masked murderer.[i] A slew of recent horror films like The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) and It Follows (David Robert Mitchell) have taken up the archetype seemingly in celebration of the female-empowering figure. After all, horror is one of the few genres that enables its female protagonists to “kick ass.”

And on the surface, It Follows, a 2014 Cannes Film favorite, seems like just another in a long line of likeminded slashers. The film centers on 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), a college student from the Detroit suburbs. After having sex with the outwardly charming Hugh (Jake Weary), Jay is drugged, bound to a wheelchair, and is told she now carries a sexually transmitted curse. An amorphous monster—it—will follow her everywhere she roams, and although no one else can see it, for Jay, it could appear like anyone. It is painstakingly slow but inescapable. Temporary respite occurs only by passing it on through sex with somebody else. In a way, the plot feels like an urban legend of sorts, and the formula obeys many of the same rules touted by Randy (Jamie Kennedy) in Scream (Wes Craven, 1996): “There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance, number one: you can never have sex.”

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