Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Noroi, The Curse (2005)

What few essays I've read on horror, none have yet acknowledged the feeling of "creepy". Horror and terror are distinct but I need to better understand creepy. As a long and complex entry in J-horror, Noroi  left me with a distinct chill about the silliest of symbols joined together in a demon resurrection film. Pigeons, ectoplasmic worms, child psychics, a village at the bottom of a dammed lake--Noroi has it all. Although it employs VHS tech for its atmosphere, it is not dependent on the technology for the dread it creates. Instead, Noroi is fascinating because it feels like such an ancient horror narrative that still leads the contemporary protagonists to frightening situations. Without attempting a long essay, that last sentence hints to my understanding of "creepy" as an effect in horror. Creepy is the doubt that makes an folk horror story real. A doubt that some magic has slipped through the cracks of science and reason. A doubt that the Kagutaba is out there. 

Watch Noroi, one of my new favorites.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972)

So thanks to wikipedia, I learned the director of this movie, Bob Clark, also directed the wonderful early slasher, Black Christmas, who's actress, Olivia Hussey, played Juliet in "the good" film adaptation of R&J that the quirky drama teacher showed my class in middle school.

You may think I'm avoiding writing about CSPwDT. WAIT! That's a horrible acronym. Let's just call it Children. Wait, that's kind of creepy. In fact way creepier than this movie. Let's just call it the horrendously amateur zombie movie that has no action until the last ten minutes. And that folks, is the number one reason it should not be watched.

I have other, more minor flaws, that upset me. There were too many names in the title sequence. The electronic soundtrack felt like it was dripping. The lighting made many shots unclear. It's a shame though, because the screen play had promise. I jotted down some enjoyable phrases:

"clever girl"
"sanctum of satan"
"vibrations are powerful"
"what a perfect place for mass murder"
"It's like a great B movie"
"a fire a day keeps those ghosts away"
"I do have talent, when I have a good part... and get in character"

Those last few point to an attempt at horrality. But their delivery and placement did not make for enjoyable, ironic meta humor. It just made for a bunch of idiots copying night of the living dead-but making it stupid. Stupid, because of the man I dubbed Prospero, the charlatan who leads the "teens" to the haunted island. His lines were ridiculously intellectual and shakespearean. And the part when the ugly girl goes all "Yenta the matchmaker" and bugs out her eyes.

So much potential wasted.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Trouble Every Day (2001)

Ah Claire Denis, I did not expect you to turn up on my list. I must of selected Trouble Every Day during random googling of phrases such as "unknown horror", "european horror", and "transgressive film". The plate of shrimp in this case is that my English professor showed us a film, Beau Travail, also directed by Denis (pronounced Deni) last month.

As such, I totally recognized her style and as soon as the Comic Sans title sequence ended (which I mentioned to a friend who joked "I would have turned it off") the film thrust an audience of one into a creeping tale of suppressed lust.

The striking element of Trouble Every Day is that as one who's been with the genre of horror for awhile, I totally knew its tropes. I knew the seductive femme fatale shown in the beginning was going to kill men after seducing them. I just knew that the American couple's honeymoon in France would not be hunky-dory. I just knew the two teens were going to unleash the femme fatale's dangerous lust. However, I did not know that it would take long shots of gritty French interiors and wordless character development that diverts from the established protagonists to follow the hotel maid to get to these conclusions. Denis rejects "horrality" in all its self aware glory by not letting the tropes propel the film. Instead, the camera's focused eye maintained a brutal grip on the narrative. The audience suffers unease while the camera lingers on places instead of gazing upon the actual horrific events.

Adding with the horror tropes, the "explanation" of the characters' vampirism/cannibalism/sexual bloodlust derives from a Resident Evil-like scientific experiment with rainforest plants containing hormones or some such biochemistry that changes humans. There were beautiful shots of stirring rods spinning in beakers and flasks being shaken on electric shakers. Mechanical repetition that contrasts with the organic irregularity of the characters' lifestyles.

Even though I identified these tropes, Denis refuses to completely align with them and demands the viewer make their own connections. The most powerful scenes are those with blood. Beautiful blood. Breathtaking crimson arabesque that leaps from shredded capillaries and paint the external world. These are scenes of pure transgression where the internal fluids become an external hue. As a result, the violence and the sex are the most concrete actions in the film. Trouble Every Day is a successful, artistic horror film because the reasons for the violence don't matter. The tropes don't make the film. The tropes are a product of showing me the true violent lust capable within a human being.