Posts Tagged ‘Brigid Cherry’

JB floatI wasn’t sure what to expect from Jennifer’s Body. I had never heard of it before seeing it on the syllabus, but after watching it I was not surprised to learn that the writer and director are both women, Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama respectively. This movie is a delightful, kick-ass, girl power, horror flick. I loved it!

Unlike Clover’s definition of the occult possession film where the woman’s story is a cover for the man’s crisis (65), this one is all about the girls. Even though the title puts Jennifer up front, it is actually her friend, Needy’s, story. It is the story of empowerment.

JB EddyJennifer and Needy have been BFFs since grade school, “sandbox love never dies,” and there is definitely a girl crush going on, but although Needy does not see it, beautiful, perfect, popular Jennifer keeps Needy around because it makes her feel better by comparison.

JB after the fireWhen her best friend inadvertently becomes possessed with demonic power and begins eating their schoolmates after an inept attempt to sacrifice Jennifer’s body to the devil by a desperate Indy rock band, Nerdy Needy hits the library to find answers. Jennifer is very possessive of her friend even before her transformation and afterwards she specifically targets boys that might come between them. Needy must stand up to her domineering friend in order to save the town, although she is too late to save her boyfriend.

JB mouthThere are several nods towards Carrie in this film, including the bar full of people that gets burned down, and hints of a blood bath at the school formal dance. In talking about Carrie, Zinoman refers to Lovecraft’s idea that the scariest thing is the unknown and points out that to a young man the sexuality of a teenage girl is unsettling (161). When combining Jennifer’s blatant sexuality with her big mouth full of sharp teeth and demonic eyes, she makes a terrifying monster for teenage boys.

JB in asylmNeedy kills the demonic Jennifer and is locked away in a mental institution, proving Brian De Palma’s idea, “Even when you succeed, you fail–and get punished” (Zinoman 167). But it doesn’t end there, Needy, empowered by her heroic actions (and a little demon bite) escapes and, in a great crime scene photo driven ending credits, enacts revenge on the rock band that caused the whole thing.

JB crime scene

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House biteHave you ever had a friend bite you in the butt? How about the floating head of a friend? Nobuhiko Ôbayashi put together such a mish mash of crazy styles and psychedelic visual assaults in his 1977 movie House (Hausu), that it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before and yet like too many things I’ve seen before smashed together into something, well frankly, really weird.House vortex It reminded me of a combination of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, the television series The Monkeys, Hello, Dolly!, The Sound of Music, and Japanese anime with some Disney fairy princess stuff thrown in for good measure. Chuck Stephens calls it “a maelstrom of cinekinetic visual ingenuity.” That’s a mouthful that basically means it’s a storm of constantly moving images and color.

House blood House fingers

House headHouse is supposed to be a horror movie, and yeah there are some elements of horror (blood spewing from the picture of the cat, decapitated talking heads, bodily dismemberment, and such), but it really has too much “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows” to be the least bit scary to me. According to Stephens, Obayashi’s eleven-year-old daughter provided a lot of ideas for the movie, and that explains a lot. House group

Stephens says the film is more about “the telling than the tale,” and I can see that because the story itself is kind of hard to follow. I realize that as Cherry explains, horror movies have a lot to say about the culture and time they were made (210), and I don’t know that much about Japanese culture, especially in the 1970’s, but this movie is just (to use the vernacular of the time) “way too far out there man.”  

House-Giant-Gorgeous house skeleton House face House fire face 

SP vanFirst off I must confess I am not a big fan of satire. Most of the time I don’t get it. I am the kind of person who takes things literally. So when I watched Amy Holden Jones‘ 1982 satirical slasher film The Slumber Party Massacre I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first. I didn’t realize that the stupidity of the characters and directions was supposed to be that way. In fact, though I laughed at several places, it wasn’t until the scene with the body in the refrigerator that it hit me, “Hey, this is supposed to be funny.”SP frige

 

SP bloodI thought it was strange that the two boys couldn’t hear the hot telephone repair girl in the van, and the girl in the shower was smart enough to try and keep the blood from leaking out from under the door, even though she failed, but when the killer all the sudden looks down for no reason, I couldn’t decide if it was bad directing or bad acting. SP pizzaWhen one of the girls takes the pizza box from under the dead delivery man and begins eating the pizza, I was beginning to get the hint.

SP trunkThere are several other scenes that made me smirk or grin, including the body dump in the trunk of the car, SP angelsthe Charlie’s Angels pose, and the SP three girlsThree Stooges walk down the hall, but I still was not convinced.

 

The many fake-outs seemed forced and overdone. (I realize now they were supposed to be that way.)

SP fake out SP peep hole

Slumber Party was more of a satirical parody, rather than straight parody or straight satire. Perhaps that is why I was not the only one to misread the intentions of the director.

SP sneek

I had heard a little about the movie before watching it, and frankly I expected something a little different. Brigid Cherry said that “several final girls” assisted in killing the killer (24). So I expected these girls to be a bit smarter than the average slasher victim. I expected the girl that was tough enough to judo flip her massive boyfriend would have been able to land a well placed kick in the groin as the killer stood in front of her with his legs spread apart. Zinoman mentioned that “an entire genre called ‘rape-revenge’ movies told stories of empowered women fighting back” (196). I kept waiting for these women to stand up and whomp on this guy, but every time someone did  fight back, they would stupidly put down their weapon in the next frame. Even his death seemed more of an accident than a woman taking charge. I’m sure this was part of that satire part that I just don’t get.

SP fencing  SP machette

Ghostsom2I love John Carpenter. Well, I love his work. I’ve never actually met the man. I saw Halloween in the theater as a young teenager and I was hooked (yeah I know I’m giving away my age). There is just something about the edgy music and visual effects that get my skin tingling, and those combined with a great storyline keeps his movies jumping around my head for days and sometimes years later. For a long time, Escape from New York was my favorite of his movies followed by The Thing.Of course it could have had something to do with the fact that I have had a crush on Kurt Russell ever since his The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes days (once again showing my age), but a few years ago Ghosts of Mars trumped Russell to be come my new favorite Carpenter movie, although I knew it was my favorite, I couldn’t quite say why.253348-ghosts

Brigid Cherry says “the point of analysis here is to ask what the film has to say about the world it reflects” (210). While reading about “Horror and the Cultural Moment” (167) and the samples that Cherry provides, I had to ask myself, what does this film say about the new century that we are creating? Cherry talks about the “changing roles of women” and how “the heroine becomes increasingly self-sufficient and the male characters more ineffectual” (174), but Ghosts of Mars does not end with a final girl fighting off the monster on her own.

UF9KaG5LbGU4UUkx_o_at-the-last-moment-ghosts-of-mars-compromises-its-The changing roles of women can be seen in the political structure of the human colony on mars, a matriarchal government where even the police force is run by women. However, the final survivors have even more to say about the structure of relationships in the twenty-first century. One man and one woman working together, watching each other’s back, represent the more collaborative nature of relationships, or perhaps society’s acceptance of masculine and feminine unity within the self. One black person and one white person represent changing race relationships and perhaps the acceptance of inter-racial couples.

ghmar_stl_1_h_8x10The monsters in the show are aliens, but they are the original inhabitants of the planet. This could represent the terroristic threat from countries that have been affected by imperialistic practices of the Western nations of power. The monsters are also invisible until they invade and take over the body they enter, transforming it through mutilation. This could represent the fear of threat from the inside such as sleeper cells, home-grown terrorist, and radical political movements.

Of course, none of these things explain why I find the movie so appealing that I can watch it over and over again, but they do say a lot about the “cultural moment” of the movie.

Lone_Survivor1 I recently watched Peter Berg‘s Lone Survivor (2013) based on the book written by the survivor of the incident the movie represents. As I sat in the darkened theater I found myself experiencing feelings of fear, anxiety, revulsion, and the gut clenching visceral reactions to images of spewing and oozing blood, Lone-Survivor-clipgore, broken bones protruding from mangled limbs, and the neurological pain of association as I watched bodies striking rocks and stones while falling off cliffs.Screen-Shot-2013-08-02-at-10_07_53-AM I realized that these were the same emotional responses that are usually associated with horror films. According to Cherry, “it is the emotional or physiological responses that are as (if not more) important than any specific narrative or thematic characteristic of the genre” (37). Lone Survivor would be classified as a war movie, but it clearly evokes many of the same physiological responses that horror movies strive to create. Cherry points out that horror cinema is “a set of subgenres within shifting boundaries” (15), boundaries that have expanded greatly over the years to keep audiences interested and scared. War movies used to be a relatively safe genre with good guys and bad guys, glorious heroes and antiseptic deaths, but screenshot-med-02starting with Saving Private Ryan in 1998 (or maybe even earlier with Apocalypse Now) war movies’ search for realism has blurred the lines between genres. After all, what is Predator but a war movie with an alien enemy?imagesCAOOAJKB

tumblr_mrlrx2HvnV1suchdko1_500In Jacques Tourneur‘s I Walked with a Zombie the monstrous-feminine is represented by a female zombie. The lovely Christine Gordon plays a brain-dead vegetable who can walk about and follow simple commands. When her live-in nurse, played by Frances Dee, takes her patient to a local voodoo gathering in hopes to cure her the local descendants of the slaves that were brought over to work the sugar plantations believe the woman to be a zombie and desire her to return to the gathering to be purified. IW%20-%206Durring the corse of the movie, the audience discovers that the woman had planned to leave her husband and run off with his brother before her illness. In Horror, Brigid Cherry explains Barbara Creed’s argument that the monstrous-feminine in horror movies “represents the failure of sexual repression to contain women” (112) and says that many horror films represent “abjection in the form of bodies without stable boundaries” (113). In this case the woman’s body is neither living nor dead. She represents abjection and the monsterous-feminine. Cherry also explains that Creed seems to favor “purification of the abject” (120), which is echoed in the voodoo worshiper’s desire to purify the woman they se as abject. i-walked-2-copyAccording to Cherry, “Creed lists three ways in which horror films foreground abjection: with images of abjection, boundary crossing in the construction of the monster, and the construction of the maternal figure as abject” (115). This movie accomplishes all three objectives. edith_barretThe third occurs near the end of the movie when we discover that the mother of the two brothers, played by Edith Barrett,  is not only working with the voodoo priest, but she actually had the woman killed and turned into a zombie because she did not like the way the woman was tearing apart her family.   i-walked-wiht-a-zombie-barrett

Brigid Cherry explains that creatures in horror films are often refered to as “Monsters from the Id” (99).  Considering that the Id is often refered to as the child-like portion frankenstein1931_18of the subconscious James Whale‘s Frankenstein creates the quintessential “Monster from the Id.” The creature, played by  Boris Karloff, is innocent and eager to learn. This search for understanding is exemplified when Dr. Frankenstein first exposes the creature to light and he reaches towards it instead of shying away. The scene with the little girl also shows the creature’s innocence, playing gently with flowers, and his desire to learn, testing to see if the girl will also float.frankenstein--644x362 This time with tragic results.

At one point in the movie, Dr. Frankenstein explains his reason for creating the creature as his own search for understanding. “Have you never wanted to do something dangerous? Where should we be if no one tried to find out what lies beyond? Have you never wanted to look beyond the clouds and the stars, or to know what causes the trees to bud and what changes the darkness into light?”

Frye-FrankensteinAs with children, the creature learned violence from those around him, the jealous taunting by  Fritz and bloodthirsty revenge sought by the torch-bearing mob. The creature was also rejected by the one who created him, leaving him alone and defenseless, or to his own defenses without any guidance on social behavior, mistreated and misunderstood. Such actions by parents have created numerous monsters  in our society.

 

It is the ghost story, that moves Diabolique into the realm of horror movie. What starts out as a drama about two women planning the murder of their common abuser turns to a psychological thriller when the dead man’s body disappears. Brigid Cherry in Horror says that in psychological films “modes of effect can be created through suggestion, the use of lighting, sound effects and music” (80). In Diabolique,  Henri-Georges Clouzot  uses these techniques to create uncertainty and uneasiness in his audience. LesDiaboliquesImage

Is Michel really dead? He sure looked dead, but then what happened to the body? Is someone setting the girls up for blackmail? Is someone just messing with them? About the time when the girls union falls apart and Nicole leaves the school, I had figured it out. I know I have seen a similar movie, but can’t remember now what it was.  It is something worthy of Hitchcock. If I had not caught on to the betrayal diaboliqueI would have felt more of the emotions that Clouzot was trying to evoke from his audience. I understand why he added the warning not to give away the secret to others who had not seen the movie and so for the sake of anyone reading this that has not seen it, I will not give it away here. The ghostly twist at the end I did not see coming.

In Horror Brigid Cherry says that the function of horror is “to scare, shock, revolt, or otherwise horrify the viewer” (4). In 1932 Tod Browning’s was already using some of the standard horror conventions to scare and horrify his viewers. In the beginning of the movie the “freaks” are represented not as monsters but as “children,” sweet and innocent, unjustly teased and rejected by others, even other circus people. In fact, the two main little people have facial features similar to children, but Browning gives a warning early in the film which sets up a more ominous tone; “Offend one and you offend them all.”

rejectedThe turning point in the movie happens at the wedding dinner when the “freaks” choose to accept Cleopatra as “one of us,” but she rejects them en masse, and the audience is forced to ask itself “who’s the real monster?” After this event the entire tone of the move switches. The “freaks” are set in more sinister lighting, peering out from the shadows, through windows, and from under stairs. watchingCherry points out that this lighting change is “a comment on the state of the world or the psyche of the individual,” (62) or in this case individuals.

This turn of intent on the part of the “freaks” is highlighted in the chase scene when they are represented creeping along relentlessly, crawling through the mud under wagons to get at the woman who rejected their acceptance, finally turning her physically into one of them.

The image of them pulling themselves along the ground reminded me of many monster movies I have seen and set the movie clearly in the horror genre.Browning_Freaks_GroupCrawl