Posts Tagged ‘innocence’

Grave gunMeir Zarchi was not trying to make a fun, friendly, family movie when he wrote, directed, and produced the 1978 graphic depiction of rape and comeuppance that is  I Spit on Your Grave.  The film is disturbing on several levels, but as one critic says, it’s supposed to be. Clover points out that the gritty realistic extreme approach that Zarchi takes, “reduces the genre to its essence” (115). Grave leaderZarchi does not glorify rape, but instead by dragging out the scene, keeping Camille Keaton naked throughout, and increasing the violence with each successive encounter, he creates extreme unease in those watching.

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Grave dressBeyond the content though, Zarchi used some techniques to play around with the psychological comfort of his audience. Like Roman Polanski in Rosemary’s Baby, Zarchi uses color to subconsciously affect the emotions of the audience. When we (and the men at the gas station) first meet  Jennifer she is wearing a red dress, emphasizing the impurity of the “big city woman” as well as signaling danger. Later after she heals from her attack and before she begins her revenge she is dresses in black, a representation of mourning; mourning her own lost innocence, and since she asks forgiveness for the murders that she is about to commit, mourning the men’s’ deaths as well. Grave blackHer outfit is not only black, but unlike every other outfit she wears, it covers her from head to foot, long sleeves, long pants, and even a scarf to cover her head. This covering of the body can also represents mourning, but since she wears the same outfit as she begins stalking her victims it gives her a kind of sneaky ninja feel as well. Grave whiteFinally, when she begins her murderous run on her attackers, she is wearing white, long, flowing, billowing white as if she is a ghost or a dream. After castrating the leader of the pack, she again dons the same white flowing gown as she listens to opera in order to drown out the screams of a man bleeding to death in her upstairs bathroom, and as she cleans up the blood mess left behind. This scene plays up the dramatic contrast between the red blood and the white tub, tile, and gown, representing, perhaps, the fact that these events have forever stained her life.

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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.

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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.”  

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looking upGeorges Franju‘s Les Yeux Sans Visage or Eyes Without a Face is a poetry of images, disturbing images, yes, but also beautiful images. Eyes, of course are everywhere.

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Obsesses eyes, frightened eyes, hopeful eyes, wary eyes, longing eyes, searching eyes, blank eyes, dead eyes, wondering eyes. Edith Scob‘s eyes are the most impressive and expressive because for most of the movie that is all she has to emote with as Christiane Génessier the faceless woman behind the mask.

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Carol Clover points out that, like folk-tales, horror films have a predictable cast of characters, namely the victim, the monster, and the hero (12), but in modern horror films, enabled by the rise of feminism, often the victim and hero combine together to form what Clover calls “the female victim-hero” (4). Clover also discusses the story of Carrie White from the film Carrie based on the novel by Stephen King in which, throughout the story, Carrie takes on all three roles. I suggest that Christiane does the same in this film.

eyes3 In the beginning of the movie Christiane is presented as a victim trapped in her ivory tower by her controlling father and his over-loyal assistant. She is treated more like a doll than a person, and she resembles a doll as well. eyeswithoutaface390Her mannerisms come across as very doll-like. When the mask is on, she does not speak throughout the first part of the movie. When she sneaks out of her room and hides in the garage watching her father and his assistant come out of the hidden passageway, the audience wonders what she will discover and what she will do about it.

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However, her actions upon finding the girl strapped to the operating table reveal that she was aware of the room and it’s purpose all along, framing her as, if not accessory to the actions taken there, at least complacent in them, revealing a monstrous nature along with her monstrous face. The mask takes on a more sinister feel reminding one of other silent, masked monsters.

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WHEN-DOVES-FLYAfter the new skin graft does not take, and she returns to her mask, she once again takes on the role of victim asking the assistant to kill her using the drugs that her father uses to put down the dogs that he experiments on. Finally, she turns into “a monstrous hero” (4) when she kills the assistant imagesCAOOP1ISand sets free the next girl scheduled for mutilation as well as the dogs, who ironically tear off the face of the doctor.

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 But as she wanders off into the night, one wonders what she will become next.

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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

In the movie Rosemary’s Baby, director Roman Polanski uses subtle color play to enhance the mood of the film and to provoke images and emotions. He uses pink (an expressly female color) for the lettering in the title sequence set against a muted aerial shot of the city. The pink swirly letters combined with a female voice “la la” singing gives a feeling of innocence setting up the later premise that the baby is in danger from the murderous witch coven.

Polanski used pink words against a muted background.

Farrow’s normal attire pale muted tones, here yellow and white.

Farrow wears a blood red pantsuit contrasted against the white walls.

Throughout the film Polanski uses muted and pale colors for costumes and background, mostly whites, yellows, tans, browns, and beiges. When he uses blues or greens they are pale or muted dark colors, never vibrant. Set against this visual image he throws in pops of brilliant, blood-red. By doing this he creates the subconscious emotions associated with blood without ever actually showing blood (except in the scene where they identify the body of the neighbor girl).

I first noticed this trick in the night of conception scene when the drugged Farrow trips down the hall wearing a blood-red pantsuit contrasted against the stark, white walls of the hallway. I then began noticing these small red pops throughout the remainder of the movie; the scrabble tile trays, a handkerchief, cigarette packs, roses, and even red stripes on Farrow’s blue scarf.  These pops of blood splattered across a pale background create a visual discordance contributing to the audience’s discomfort. Polanski once said, “I know precisely what I want my audience to see and hear” (http://minadream.com/romanpolanski/InterviewThree.htm). There is no doubt that he wanted these blood spots to be seen, but the question is did he want them to be noticed. Probably not.