Archive for May, 2014

Chainsaw remakeIf you’re going to make a period piece, take the time to do it right. The opening of Marcus Nispel‘s 2003 remake of  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre says it is set in 1973, but one look at the outfits they are wearing and you know that it is not. The characters’ language and conversational topics also set this movie clearly in the present day. (Well, ten years ago now, but you get my meaning.)

By contrast, Ti West‘s 2009 release The House of the Devil is set in the 1980’s, and it shows. West did such a good job of removing anything modern from the film that I actually felt I was watching a movie produced in the 80’s. If you haven’t seen it, and you like 80’s horror, I suggest you do. It gave me my first startling “whoa” moment I have had all semester. I won’t tell you when because I would hate to deprive you of the pleasure.HD Snoop

There are a lot of places in the story where West builds artificial suspense.  I kept expecting something to happen and then it didn’t. HD doorLike Jocelin Donahue’s  character, the audience scares itself with anticipation, especially when West shows us what’s behind the doors that Donahue doesn’t open. West also creates a feeling of anticipation by leaving the camera on even after the character has left the frame.

There  are a few slow spots, but in the end there is plenty of blood and a double surprise ending. One I saw coming, the other I didn’t.

 

stephen_King_jpg_h380_jpg_568Since the idea of the auteur theory gives a, sort of , creative ownership to the director of a film, we often talk about films as creations of the director, and in the case of horror films, they usually are. However, when the film is an adaptation of a book, especially a novel by the illustrious Stephen King, the director becomes more of an interpreter than a creator. So when reviewing Brian De Palma’s Carrie or Kimberly Peirce‘s 2013 remake how much of the movie belongs to the director and how much is really the vision of the original novelist?

Carol Clover talks more of Mr. King’s creation of the girl who is hero, victim, and monster, and the themes that his ideas articulate. Jason Zinoman tells De Palma’s story and controversial decisions he made during filming. By comparing the two adaptations, it becomes obvious that while some things change (director’s call) some things remain the same (original story).

C2 mom C1 crazy mom C2 cologe

C2 technologyCarrie was King’s first published novel, and it went stellar so fast that it made him a household name even before De Palma’s masterpiece became a hit. Although I really liked De Palma’s adaptation at the time, and it still holds a great deal of merit, I much prefer Peirce’s rendition of the story. It is clear that technology plays a significant role in the new film both inside and out. The girls use a cell phone to capture the humiliating episode in the shower, but the special effects used in the prom scene disaster sold the scene and really emphasis the power of what Clover calls the “assaultive gaze” (184).

1146139 - CARRIE C1 bloody

 

e293f5b0b0159844f92d9bdc72fc904bHave you ever bit down on a sore tooth on purpose? The pressure intensifies the pain, sometimes to the point of almost numbness. David Edelstein asks, in his article “Now Playing at Your Local Multiplex: Torture Porn,” if, perhaps, torture horror audiences have a masochistic side to them. Watching Eli Roth’s 2005 contribution to the torture genre, Hostel, is uncomfortable, to say the least. Too much sex in the first half and too much pain in the second.

hostel-still

The character that you are most attached to gets mutilated and killed instead of being the hero. His jerk of a friend finds him too late to save him. The girl he does save ends up throwing herself in front of a train. Just when you think it’s all over, there is one more gruesome torture and murder scene, sliding the movie into the rape/revenge genre.

The friend, Paxton, played by Jay Hernandez, becomes one of the members of the Elite Hunting Club, both figuratively and literally. He has to Hostel-Still1kill his own tormentor and one of the guards in order to escape his personal torture chamber. Then he must dress in as one of them in order to pass through the building undetected. He must “play along” when he is confronted and questioned by a new member of the club.

These transformations are necessary in order to escape with his life; however, he chooses to go back and kill the new club member in order to save the girl, and he chooses to follow the The German Surgeon into the men’s room locking the door behind him. He chooses to cut off two of the man’s fingers in retribution for his on lost digits. He chooses to torture him before finally slitting his throat.

Hostel3Edelstein points out that the graphic depiction of sadistic acts torture the audience along with the characters. Also that the constantly shifting POV shots “forces the sinister car of complicity upon the viewer.” In essence, Roth is saying, “Don’t blame me for making this movie; blame yourself for watching it.”

I wonder, like the aching tooth, do we inflict this pain upon ourselves in hopes of numbing ourselves from the reality of violence that makes up the daily news?

hostel0000_1136847411