Browsing Tag


Posted on July 2, 2017

Don’t Hang Up


2016                R         UK                Damien Macé and Alexis Wajsbrot                83 mins.

It says much about Don’t Hang Up that I’m irresistibly drawn to say of it: “It’s Saw meets Unfriended—with a bit of The Strangers thrown in.” What this says about Don’t Hang Up is that it consistently echoes other horror films. Some critics will no doubt say that this makes the film derivative, formulaic. Don’t Hang Up is actually better than that, and the way in which it evokes other films is actually a plus for me. It’s hard (some would say impossible) to create something absolutely new: everything builds on what’s gone before. Don’t Hang Up is creative—original—in the way that creativity and originality most often exist in the world: it puts things that have come before together in some new ways. And that makes it a film worth watching in my book.

The film begins with a group of high school boys making prank calls, which they stream online for the thrill of getting thousands of views. The film’s opening montage cleverly shows how the exuberance and excitement of the prankers is predicated on the suffering of their victims, to which they give not one iota of consideration. Here’s where Unfriended (Levan Gabriadze, 2014) comes in, which is similarly about what happens when teenagers put a video depicting someone else’s misery online. The opening scenarios of both films dramatize the callousness of young people, or the callousness produced by lives lived in large part in the abstracted world of social media . . .or both.

Read more

Posted on November 15, 2016

Saw, Hostel, Post-Industry and the Rise of Trump


I’m teaching Saw (James Wan, 2004) and Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005) right now—and, since I have a pulse, I also can’t help but spare the occasional thought to last week’s US presidential election and to Donald Trump’s stunning victory. Shortly after the election, I ran across Michael Moore’s prescient article predicting exactly that eventuality. Moore described a possible “Rust Belt Brexit,” claiming that Trump would do well in four traditionally Democratic states—Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—home to many “angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people.” And indeed, against all expectations, Trump won all four of these states. There’s one sentence in Moore’s piece, as he’s describing this part of the country (as well as the Midlands of England), that resonated profoundly with me, not only because I’ve lived in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and grew up in the industrial Midlands of England, but also because I’m teaching Saw and Hostel: “From Green Bay to Pittsburgh,” Moore writes, “this, my friends, is the middle of England – broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class.”[i] Read more

Back to top