Sunday, October 31, 2010


Guys, (two or three people who might read this, until i become a famous blogger,) i haven't posted in a while. I apologize. I have a draft for a rant about movies/murder, but it needs work. I've been busy.

And tonight is no exception. I've got a psychology essay to write, colleges to apply to, a movie to edit, a room to clean, an english worksheet to do, a poem about this girl i recently walked into floating around in my head.

But tonight is also Halloween, tomorrow is senior skip day, and gosh darnit, even if i don't write a blog entry any other day this year i will write one tonight.
I must. 

Since I don't by any means have time to watch a movie, I'm going to do this equally obligatory post: my top five favorite scary movies this very moment in no particular order. Ok maybe in order of how much I like them.
Really, it should be ten, but I'm going for quality.

5) Burnt Offerings: My best friend and I watched this one night, after having a specific craving for a bad horror movie, from the seventies. Of course, we didn't think it would be hard to find something to satisfy our appetite--is there any such thing as a good horror movie from the seventies?
The answer is YES. And this is it. Predating Amityville Horror by three years, this is the best haunted house movie I've ever seen. And, even though haunted house/possession movies aren't my MO, I feel pretty confident in saying this is a fairly important and fairly scary movie.
And really, movie's don't scare me very often. Even though this film has its silly moments of terrible acting and weird effects, it's overall very chilling. The storyline is about the same as Amityville, a family moves into a house for the summer, and slowly the family members act stranger and stranger until deaths start occurring. The ideas that get presented through this plot--the father's traumatic and horrifying memories of his own father's funeral, and the way that makes him treat his son, the mother's need to be needed by something and her resentfulness towards her husband's aunt, the couple's strained relationship as a result of their respective problems--are much deeper than the film seems it should go.
In this film, the house is the real villain, and the motifs and cinematography do a good job of presenting this. Photographs of the house in various states of disrepair line the walls of the interior, and important scenes--such as the husband assaulting his wife after being rejected--are overshadowed by the house in the background. The quick zoom in close ups on the smiling hearse driver that the father remembers from his childhood are terrifying, and the ending, (spoilers!) where the house sheds its skin, does extremely well with the special effects of the decade.
I actually saw this film before I saw Psycho, so at the time I did not recognize homage in a shot in the ending of the movie, where the husband walks up to the attic where the "sick mother" of the house's wintertime owners is said to stay. He enters the room--usually locked--to see an old woman sitting in a rocking chair with her back to him. You know how it goes from here, he approaches her slowly, turns the chair around--and there is not an old woman or a corpse, but his wife, aged fourty years and with a familiar malicious grin on her face.

Well that was long! On to the next one!

4) Psycho: I'm not going to say too much about this one, because how much could i say? This is the best horror movie ever made. This was the grandfather of the slasher film.
Not to mention, this film has had the life analyzed out of it by every prominent horror analyst since 1960. Alfred Hitchcock actually asked Stanford to do a study on its popularity (unfortunately, it never happened under his watch--when he was told the estimated price, he said something along the lines of, "well, i'm not that curious.")
In truth, I haven't seen this movie enough times to really analyze it right here and now spontaneously, but i can tell you what i do love about it the most: Norman Bates. Definitely one of the scariest and most lovable characters in film ever. I might be risky in saying that he's the beginning of serial killers that warranted our sympathy, but come on. How could you not love this face.

3:) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Two words: Wes Craven. I love Wes Craven. More on that later.
This is the first movie i watched after i realized that i was meant to love slasher movies. (The realization occurred with a documentary, not included on this list on technicality, called Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film.) I watched it on demand for free before my second date with my second boyfriend. He thought I was crazy when i soon after related him how much i enjoyed it.
(Side note--that date was to see the second narnia movie, which, after watching Nightmare on Elm Street, was a pretty terrible film.)
Anyways, this movie came at a fun time in the slasher craze. It's the latest of the big three, (Micheal, Jason, Freddy,) and it had an air of self-satire more than any of the other films did. I like this movie because it is at once very clear and very confusing. We don't know who Freddy is or where he came from at first, but we get what the movie is saying to us--have sex, die.
Thank you Wes Craven. Imagine how many teen pregnancies there would be without Wes Craven.
I love the bad special effects in this film especially much. Freddy Krueger's face? Fantastic! Johnny Depp being sucked into a bed and producing as much blood as there is water in Lake Michigan? Beautiful!
Not to mention it's lovely connections to the fears of the time. The film was actually based around a story that Craven had read where a kid in the far east wouldn't go to sleep, and his family and doctors and such got all upset at him, and a few weeks after the ordeal started the found him dead in his closet with tons of caffeine pills. Apparently the whole movie has a lot of ties to eastern philosophy, but i can't recall them at this moment. So don't quote me on that. Also, the fact that the whole movie is sort of based around a fear and mistrust of authority (guess who was in office at the time?) is pretty fantastic.
That leads me to address something i must address with this movie: Nightmare on Elm Street, 2010. I actually loved it, even though survivorgirl's boyfriend did drugs and lived. They did the original proud, i think. The story was updated with the background that modern horror audiences apparently want, and i think the distrust of authority was a good thing to bring back into horror for this time. We're all pretty upset at authorities right now, right? (my dad is?) A scary thing about the new one is how much it goes into the backstory, because my elementary school janitor actually went to jail for being a pedophile...
but we never tried to kill him by lighting his home under the preschool on fire, so we're safe from an Elm Street situation in lil ol' southern new england town.

2.) Scream: Did i tell you how much I love wes craven? I love Wes Craven so much. I really hope i meet him someday.
I might do a blog on horror satire someday, so i won't rant about this too much, but this is the epitome of horror satire. (And i've never seen Scary Movie 1, but is it really making fun of Scream? That's the stupidest thing ever. You can't/shouldn't make satires of satire, guys. Not classy.) There are so many references in this movie that if you played a drinking game with that as the theme, you would die of alcohol poisoning really badly. (joke credit). And the impressive and really, really classy thing about this satire is that Wes Craven directed it. Wes Craven. One step down on the ladder from Hitchcock in horror. So he's really entirely making fun of himself. While being hilarious and not taking itself to seriously, Scream also has some really interesting things to say about the nature of the horror genre and it's formulaic nature, it's potential negative influence on people, the lessons it teaches, and character archetypes. Not to mention, it has some of the best quotes in horror history, a mon avi.
"Movies don't make psychos, movies make psychos more creative."

1) Behind the Mask: The rise of Leslie Vernon: To this day this movie wins the race for my favorite film ever every time. It's half mockumentary, half slasher deconstruction, and entirely amazing. The acting is fantastic--the dual performance of Nathan Baesel as a funny, friendly guy and a traditional slasher serial killer is incredible, Zelda Rubenstien is beautiful, Robert Englund's cameo is perfect, and Angela Goethals makes a fantastic heroine. This movie is like slasher 101--if you aren't ready for the Fruedian analysis implicit in most analytical literature on slashers, this is a great movie to watch. Really, this is always a great movie to watch. The jokes are hilarious, the cinematography is creative and effective, the scares are scary and the characters are relatable. Like Scream, it is a satire of itself, but it has some brilliant things to say. Leslie Vernon, the main character and a serial killer, tries so hard to explain to Taylor, the documentary maker, the entire time through the film why he does what he does, and she never gets it. Nonetheless, she has sympathy for him. But when they get to the actual night of the killing, she can't go through with her objective reporting--and we find ourselves asking why we were on Leslie's side the whole time. (I never stop being on his side when i watch this.) The twist in the end is placed perfectly--it is revealed at the exact moment you figure it out yourself. I could get into more in-depth analysis-- like how we're put into a personal relationship with Leslie in the beginning with a lot of close and medium shots, and how in the end during his killing spree we see him only in long shot, until the climax, where his humanity is revealed once again in extreme close up. But i don't have too much time to spend on that right now.
Really though. A genre piece, but a great one. Watch it now.

There are two other movies which i cannot in good conscience leave off of this list entirely--Sweeney Todd, and (egoegoego) Getting In Trouble, the child of my best friend and i. However, i have in mind very specific blog entries for them, and they will, must be saved for another time.

Happy Halloween, all. Screw homework and go watch a scary movie until it's November.

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