Posts Tagged ‘monster’

MSDPEUN EC007Jason Zinoman talks about a unbreakable connection between the pleasures of watching movies and “the forbidden, the taboo, and a hint of the disreputable” (212).  Wes Craven’s 1991 offering  The People Under the Stairs packs as many taboo subjects and as much social commentary as may be possible in a mere 102 minutes. It has been said that the movie is about racial relations, but it is about so much more.

PUS tubIt is about child abuse, kidnapping, murder, fetish ware, cannibalism, peer pressure, socio-economic imbalance, gangs, pedophilia, incest, isolation, slum lords, slavery, mutilation, fundamentalist religion, missing children, ghetto conditions, interracial relationships, illness, poverty, unfair business practices, home invasion, greed of the medical corporations, greed at the expense of others, fear of strangers, power by violence, revenge, adolescent angst, death, war (specifically the first Gulf War), hoarding, the unrealistic idea of perfection, plastic surgery, starvation, animal cruelty, hypocrisy, unequal distribution of wealth, predators, and the monster under the bed (or in the wall).

PUS fetish PUS roach PUS van

The crazy Robertson siblings represent a melding of disreputable and taboo with their more than a little strange relationship and completely wacko behavior. In one scene, Fool’s grandfather explains how “the greedier they got, the crazier they got,” thus relating a love of money to these taboo practices and therefore labeling it as taboo as well.

PUS FoolPUS apron

Zinoman points out that Craven, as well as John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon, was trying to present the audience with “the most unpleasant thing possible” (226).

PUS people

 

Advertisements

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

In 1985  Jack Sholder directed the sequel to Wes Craven’s ground breaking horror classic. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge takes a different approach to the world of NM2 killFreddy Kruger. In the first movie there are obvious dream sequences intermixed with what seems to be reality until the two become blurred. NM2 gloveIn Freddy’s Revenge there are few obvious dream sequences. In fact, the movie seems to be more about possession than nightmares, except that being possessed by Freddy Kruger and forced to do his killing for him would certainly be a living nightmare.

Discounting the traumatic endings, in the first movie NM2 kissFreddy is defeated by taking away the energy of fear causing him to fizz out. In the second movie Jesse is freed from Freddy’s possession by love (not sex, but accepting love).

According to Cherry, “horror film narratives are often centered around the places where boundaries break down” (118), and “Anything (bodily wastes, blood, etc.) that crosses the boundaries of the body becomes non-self” (116). This crossing of boundaries is part of the abject placing both movies square in the middle of Abject Central.

NM2 handBoth films play with the audience’s sense of what is real and what isn’t. For the second movie, the first scene that brought this idea to my mind was when Jesse was in science class and the teacher was droning on about how and why the body produces waste. Besides the many times that Freddy’s knife fingers penetrate his victims’ bodies releasing their blood, when the glove melds into him and the knives instead protrude from his very fingers it creates abjection. But the best example is when the “non-self” (Freddy) breaks out of Jesse’s chest crossing several boundaries all at once.

NM2 body

Halloween III: Season of the Witch was Tommy Lee Wallace‘s directing debut. I saw it for the first time not long after it left the theaters, and like many other fans I was thoroughly disappointed. When I discovered that John Carpenter’s real plan was an anthology with each years release being a different movie by a different director, I thought “they should have used a different name.” I quickly learned that Martin Harris agreed with me (100). Apparently the name, as well as the deceptive marketing campaign were all the studio’s idea (101-102). I am glad that I got a chance to revisit the movie from a unbiased perspective.

H3

H3 shapeOne thing I noticed this time was the amount of homage that was paid to other movies. Of course, there are the many references to the original two Halloween movies; H3 masksthe quiet mannerisms of the automatons, the dark looming “shapes” watching, the predominance of masks, the original film playing on televisions, Dr. Daniel Challis‘s ex-wife is played by Nancy Kyes (the same actress who played Annie Brackett in the first Halloween), and as Harris points out Cochran represents the “embodiment of evil” (104) just as Michael Myers did.

H3 bad guy

H3 under MikeThere is also the great connection of Dick Warlock. He played Myers in Halloween II and plays one of the killer robots in Halloween III. I found this great image that shows an amalgamation of both rolls.H3 duel image

H3 girl robotThe attacking disembodied arm from the Ellie robot plays tribute to Oliver Stone‘s The Hand (1981), Freddie Francis‘s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), or perhaps Herbert L. Strock‘s  The Crawling Hand (1963). The name of the town and the Ellie robot were both references to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (101).

The deserted motel in Santa Mira, the black lingerie and the old lady in the rocking chair who turns out not to be real all bring to mind Alfred Hitchcock‘s PsychoH3 lingereH3 hotelH3 knitting robot

The twirling circle of light reminded me of Steven Spielberg‘s  Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

H3 circle of light

I love Wallace’s use of various shades of orange and black (the universal colors of Halloween) throughout the movie; the sun setting behind the trick-or-treaters, the glowing flames behind the factory, and even the pumpkin colored goo that emerged from the dead robots. A subtle but beautiful tribute to the holiday that created the franchise.H3 factory burns

H3 silloette      H3 goo Bravo! Wallace. Bravo!

H3 clap

Ghostsom2

 

So, you already know that I am a big John Carpenter fan, and that Halloween was the first of his films that I ever saw. That viewing, 36 years ago, left a lasting impression on me. I remember leaving the theatre with my friends, and how we all laughed nervously because one of them had a babysitting job that night. The show was just plain creepy and the monster still creeps me out to this day. I went to a haunted house a few yearshalloweenblu12-1 ago and they had a Michael Myers wandering around outside. Even though I knew the boy who was wearing the costume, I wouldn’t let him get near me. The plain jumpsuit, masked face and silent mannerisms were too well copied.

halloween12

H. P. Lovecraft is reported as saying,Halloween-23halloween distance “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (Zinoman 62). Carpenter captures the fear of the unknown with his faceless, emotionless, blank creature. He could be anyone under there. And even more, he could be anywhere.halloween out the door

halloweenmichael1978According to Zinoman, “the toughest challenge of every monster movie is making the appearance of the creature live up to expectations” (113). This is what he refers to as “The Monster Problem.” Dan O’Bannon, one of the writers of the Alien series of movies as well as The Return of the Living Dead and Total Recall, among others, agreed with Carpenter that the scariest parts are in the waiting. By creating an empty, blank creature Carpenter solved this “Monster Problem” (Zinoman 183). Even though we halloween Loomis_saves_Lauriesee the monster lurking in the background, we only actually see his face twice, once when he is a little boy and once for a brief moment right before he is shot by Dr. Loomis. For the majority of the movie he is little more than a ghost, a product of a wild imagination, a boogey man. And as little Tommy Doyle says, “You can’t kill the boogey man,” but watch out because he can kill you.

 

HalloweenSpook

 

 

halloween screenshot-med-02halloween%201e

 

 

 

 

halloween boyfriend

 

Halloween-1978-michael-myers

Halloween-strangle

 

 

 

halloween Screen-Shot-2013-10-22-at-1_35_07-AM

 

halloween_575halloween closet

 

 

 

 

 

halloween_2_collectors_edition_1

Bob Clark‘s Black Christmas seems to purposely rebel against, if not all, at least some of the standard conventions of the slasher movie genre. Carol Clover presents the components of a slasher movie as “killer, locale, weapons, victims, and shock effects” (26).

BC eyeKiller

In Black Christmas we never find out who the Killer is or why he is killing. We see him observe the house and climb the trellis into the attic through the use of the I-camera, but other than his hands and a single eye, we never see the killer. We know little about him except that he is stuck in some past indiscretion, “Agnes it’s Billy. Don’t tell what we did Agnes.” I guess he could fall under Clover’s description of a monster “whose only role is that of killer” (30).

BC hookLocale

Although the killer hangs out in the attic and in facts kills one of his victims in the attic and the final girl ends up in the basement, most of the killings themselves do not take place in a “terrible place” (30). They take place in the relatively safe local of home and in at least two cases, in the victims own room.

WeaponBC weapon

The killer in this film seems to take no thought in weapon, but, except for the cop, instead uses a weapon of convenience. The first victim is smothered by the plastic dry cleaner wrapping he is hiding behind in the closet. The second by a hook on a chin that happens to be hanging in the attic. The third by a glass unicorn displayed on a self above the bed. He does keep in line with Clover’s “pretechnological” definition (31).

BC virginVictims

The victims in this film are older than most. College girls and since they drink freely most likely in their early twenties. Also the first victim is not sexually active or engaging in any immoral activity. In fact, Barb labels her a virgin.

BC barbFinal Girl

The final girl is usually obvious from the beginning of the movie, but in this case I was sure that Barb would be the final girl in the beginning of the movie. She fit the description better than the others. Although most of the girls have adrogenous names, (Barb, Jess, Phyl) Barb is presented with a definite masculine feel. In the first scene she spends most of the time with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. Her hair is pulled up and she is wearing a man’s shirt. She is the one who stands up to the pervert on the phone, but in fact, Barb turns out to be more like her name, a annoyance to everyone including the police. The true final girl is not only not virginal, she is pregnant and planning an abortion. She is also very feminine.BC Jess

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.

Eyes-Without-a-Face eyes without a face 2eyes-without-a-face_02in the maskeHNmdmliMTI=_o_eyes-without-a-face-eyes-without-a-faceEyes Without a Face 008

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.

 Eyes_Without_A_Face_(screen_capture)  500full

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.

eyesfeatured1 vlcsnap-2012-12-07-13h51m12s99

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.

imagesCA1PHH07

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.

            eyes_without_a_face_franju_dogs

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

ending

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.

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.

 

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