Friday, November 02, 2007

The Halloween Horror Movie Challenge is Done

Well, I'm a failure. I didn't manage to watch 31 horror movies.

I saw 28 movies in 31 days, 21 new to me. Too bad I didn't have a copy of Horror 101 at the beginning of the month. Picking movies would have been much easier as I've hardly seen any of the movies in it, because of my long history of avoiding horror movies because they are scary. I was so silly, cuz being a little scared is FUN.

Hard Candy (2005)
This might have been the most uncomfortable movies I've watched during the horror movie challenge and I've been trying to put my finger on just what makes the viewer so uneasy. The sound design always impacts my mood while watching a movie. One thing I noticed was a distinct lack of music. Seems to me that Haneke's films have also lacked a traditional movie score and I experienced a similar unsettling quality to Cache. So it could be simple manipulation via the sound design.

But I suspect it has more to do with the subject matter. Hard Candy opens with a chat dialog between Jeff (Patrick Wilson), an adult, and Hayley (Ellen Page) a 14 year-old girl. The implication of such an encounter is all over the media and everyone knows who the predator is in this situation.

And they would be wrong. Haley has and maintains the upper hand. This is apparent when they are in the cafe, when they go to Jeff's apartment, but Jeff doesn't grasp what is going on until he is drugged and wakes to find himself tied up. It is at this point that Hard Candy becomes troubling. One explanation is that one is confronted with the question of whether Jeff deserves what is coming to him. All we know of Jeff is what is given; he's a photographer, he has worked with numerous young models who's photos decorate the walls of his apartment, and that he has decided to bring a 14 year-old to his place after meeting in a chat room. To some, this alone would be enough to condemn him, but the audience for this movie is not as likely to hold very mainstream values. Speaking for myself, I was asking questions about consent. Jeff didn't appear to be manipulating her and she was clearly in the driver's seat. Sure, one can argue that Jeff is still in the wrong, but we never find out what exactly Jeff had planned.

But I'm not all that concerned about whether or not Jeff had it coming. I believe Hard Candy is a reaction to the power imbalances between men and women. This is a culture where men get away with murder. Just the other night, I listened to a very drunk man, who was booted from a party, yelling profanities right outside my window. When is the last time that you saw a woman booted from a party for trying to pick fights? Or when was the last time someone stepped outside on someone's deck in order to take a piss? These are things that men do, that women don't and it is because we as a culture expect crudeness from men that would never be tolerated in girls.

And Hard Candy forces us to look at a young girl acting in a way that is totally unimaginable. And this bothers us, even us liberals who believe men and women are, or at least should be, equals. So we ask ourselves whether she is acting in revenge for some past wrong that we do not know about so that we can identify with her and justify her actions. And you just don't get to know her motivations until the very end, making it unthinkable to cheer her on in a quest for revenge.

So this movie is definitely thought provoking, but wow is it a nerve-wracking journey.

Frailty (2001) I'd already watched a Bill Paxton vampire movie this month, so why not the thriller that he directed? I've had this in the home DVD library for a while, but it seems to hold up well. I've become a fan of Big Love, the HBO serious about a polygamous mormon family headed by Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). It was interesting watching Frailty again, because there are quite a few similarities between these two characters. Both are deeply religious men who have spoken to God and believe they are living a righteously and in accordance to God's plan. One via pleural marriage and in Frailty, by ridding the world of demons.

I found I was just as challenged by Frailty today as I was back in 2001 and still surprised by the ending. Again, a bit like Big Love, Frailty is fascinating for its very deeply religious point of view that is totally at odds with my own.

Phenomena (1985) Dario Argento is insane, but he definitely makes aesthetically pleasing horror films, even if they are totally insane. It has only been a week since I watched this movie and it was so bizarre that I'm struggling with piecing together any semblance of a plot. There was a boarding school where girls are being murdered, a special girl (Jennifer Connelly) who really likes bugs, an entomologist, and a monkey. I'm not sure how all of the pieces fit, but this movie was something.

Santa Sangre (1989) This is probably the most interesting film I've seen all month, but it is a shame that my grasp of Catholicism is fairly weak, because Santa Sangre is overflowing with religious imagery and subtext so I'm not in a position to really appreciate this film. Despite my shortcomings, this film was simple to appreciate for its beauty and the surreal absurdity of much of the plot. Santa Sangre is set in a carnival where a boy magician, Fenix, witnesses his father brutally cut his mother's arms off before committing suicide. Understandably, Fenix goes a bit crazy. But it isn't until Fenix escapes the crazy house that the movie becomes really interesting as he becomes his mother's arms.

Ganja & Hess (1973) I stuck with this movie to the very end, but I wish I had some clue as to what Ganja & Hess was about. Occasionally, I see a movie where I am obviously not the intended audience and thus, I never connect with it or really grasp the film. I suspected that was what was happening with Ganja & Hess as it was made as a blacksloitation vampire flick in the 70s and thus, I'm not the intended audience. But then I realized that it wasn't that I'm too white for this movie, it just doesn't make any sense.

And I must not be the only one that had trouble with this one. I wanted to see it because after looking at IMDB, I thought it was a voodoo movie. It isn't. It's a vampire movie. No zombies or anything even remotely voodoo related, other than a lot of unexplained african drumming. But I'm still at a loss for what was going on other than there wasn't any voodoo, just blood sucking.

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) I'm cursed. I am never going to see the end of this movie. And my DVD players hate me. Both players refused to play the end of the movie. But I have now seen the first 3/4 of Kiki's Delivery Service. And it is about a witch, so it totally counts.

No Country for Old Men (2007) I was invited to a screening last night with Josh Brolin! It rocked. I mean, come on, how could it not being a Coen Brother's movie.

Obervations: Javier Bardem is terrifying. You might have noticed this in the past, but this natual state is an advantage in this role, which is heightened by the world's creepiest haircut. The other thing out of the ordinary is that this film borders on being a western. There's no mistaking that the American movie western has made a come back. I'm immediately reminded of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, likely due to the Tommy Lee Jones connection, but it seems like I'm seeing quite a few movies set near the border of Mexico that reflect the values of the west. No country for Old Men does this while being a Thriller/Horror that is probably the most intense viewing experience I've had all month.

This might be the Coen's best film yet.

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