Monday, November 3, 2014

Horror Weekend

Ms. Spenser likes a good scary movie much more than me. She wanted me to get serious with the scaries for the Halloween season. So I got a grip on myself, screwed my courage to the sticking point, and started queuing.

After watching Joe Dante's late career horror film, I remembered that Sam Raimi had done the same thing: Drag Me to Hell (2009). I wasn't sure how scary it was, but had heard something bad happens to a kitten - that makes it pretty bad in my book.

Alison Lohman plays a farm girl who has moved to LA to make a new life. She is working on her hick accident, she has a rich, smart boyfriend (Justin Long) and she is trying to get ahead at the bank she works at. She is trying to get a promotion and has to prove she is tough, so she turns down a mortgage extension for an old gypsy woman. That bad move earns her a curse.

It starts with a few flies and some creepy non-diegetic noises. She starts to lose it at work and with Justin Long's snooty parents. She looks to storefront psychic Dileep Rao for help, but he's a bit out of his depth.

Now, this movie is pretty scary - the old gypsy, with her clouded eye and snaggled, removable teeth is horrifying. But kind of funny too, like when she gets her teeth knocked out and tries to gum Lohman's face off. You know, a Sam Raimi movie. The only thing missing is a Bruce Campbell cameo. So I survived pretty well, but:
  • I was kind of hoping Justin Long would get done in
  • I'm still upset about the kitten
The next night was a bit more serious: Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth (2006). I've been hearing about this for a while, and, although I was nervous, I still wanted to see it. Set around the end of the Spanish Civil War, it stars Ivana Baquero as a dreamy little girl who loves fairy stories. Her father was killed in the war and her mother is pregnant by a Falangist captain. The captain has summoned them to his headquarters in an old mill. In an ancient labyrinth by the mill, Baquero meets a nature spirit, a faun, who explains that she is a fairy princess and must complete three tasks to regain her kingdom.

The story mixes the horrors of war and the horror of ancient myths. Del Toro is equally at home with both. His monsters and fairies are scary, his soldiers and rebels more so. The movie is full of little tricks, symbols and mirrors: gears, labyrinths, keys, feasts and so on. It also had a number of odd references back to Drag Me to Hell, like insects, cloudy eyes and coats in a particular shade of blue. Coincidence, I am sure.

For Sunday, we wanted to go a little more sophisticated, so we picked the Thai ghost story, Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls Past Lives (2010). A woman and her son visit his uncle in the Thai countryside. His kidney is failing and the spirit world is coming closer to him. The ghost of his dead wife drops by for dinner, and no one seems too shocked (although Uncle Boonme is embarrassed because she is still young and he has aged). His son drops in as well, but he has become a ghost monkey, a yeti-like creature with glowing red eyes. And so on.

This is presented in long, slow, uneventful takes. The camera lingers on an empty room, or an ox, or a few people sitting quietly - lingers for a long time. This can be beautiful and meditative, and it is also annoying and self-indulgent. There is some humor, some wonder, some beauty, also a bit of boredom. Not scary at all.

So, one horror-comedy, one horror-fairy tale, and one unscary art house film. I need to try harder before Halloween.

1 comment:

mr. schprock said...

If you haven't seen "The Ring," I could recommend that for next year. I found it pretty scary. Also, the first "Paranormal Activity" is scary - in my book, at least.