In Defense of The Village

 

 

For the me, there’s more than a movie just being good or bad, whatever that means, because,  as a Black woman, I am not the audience for a lot of movies that get made, so I have to find different ways of connecting to a movie. In doing so, I  sometimes  find gems where others don’t, or end up liking  movies others are set on hating (and yeah, sometimes a movie just stinks.) On this blog, I’m not necessarily here to tell you what to like. That’s a reviewers job, and I’m not actually a reviewer, although I do reviews. I consider my job to provide a fresh perspective on a movie, a way you may not have thought of before, so that the next time you come across it on TV or Netflix, you’ll remember ,and give the movie a try, maybe see it with fresh eyes.

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I’m going to talk about two films that were hated by its critics, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and (in the next post) Shyamalan’s After Earth. I see value in these films that other critics don’t because they are not looking at these films through the same lens that I’m using. (Caveat: Some of them don’t have the luxury. They are film reviewers and must go see movies I can happily reject. I can pick what I want to see, so I can remain positive about a lot of movies, in a way they may not be able to.

These movies resonated with me on an emotional level, and because of that, I am reluctant to say that they are “objectively” bad or good, which is a favorite word for armchair movie reviewers on Youtube. I’m not saying movies can’t be considered bad or good, but often that those words are sometimes wrongly used to describe movies that just did or didn’t emotionally resonate with the viewer, or did or didn’t do whatever the viewer wanted the movies to do. This doesn’t always mean the movie was bad. Sometimes it just means the viewer wasn’t the audience for that movie, or just didn’t get what they wanted out of it because of the critical lens through which they watched it. I have sometimes found that a movie isn’t actually  bad, but that the reviewer had very different criteria for liking it, or viewed it through a very different lens than I did.

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For that reason, I generally avoid hate- watching movies and shows. I want to like what I see, and if I dislike something, I try to have a concrete reason behind why I didn’t. But sometimes I don’t have a reason. Sometimes, I simply wasn’t in the mood to watch it at that time, and when I come back wearing a different emotional, or critical lenses, I may enjoy it, as was the case with  the movies Ravenous,  The Descent, and My Cousin Vinny.

Sometimes, I will develop an undying hatred of a movie, such that no amount of lens polishing will allow me to enjoy it, like the movie Prometheus. This doesn’t mean that Prometheus was a bad film. It just means it was exasperating for me to watch it, and someone else might get enjoyment out of it. If you like it that’s great. If you can clearly explain to me why you do, I’ll watch it again, with your lenses on, and try to see what you saw in it. On the other hand, and as I’ve said before, just because critics hate something doesn’t mean I’m not going to like it, such was the case with Suicide Squad, and just about any movie by Zack Snyder.

I have also seen  situations where public opinion on a movie changes over a length of time. Movies that were panned when released were, in time, lauded as being the best whatever of their genre, and I have found that I’m usually correct in having loved the film at that time. As a result, I’ve gotten pretty confident about my taste in movies, (and dismissive of critics ideas about movies I happened to enjoy), because I usually get proven right, at some later date. This happened with a number of eighties films, (The Thing, and  Bladerunner, for example), that were disliked at the time, only to be considered Classics of the genre, twenty and thirty years later. (No, I didn’t hate E. T. I was indifferent to it, at the time, and still mostly am.)

 

The Village

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I love stories and characters, and movies are just another way to tell stories. I  get into a movie through its characters. I have to like them. I’m also attracted to certain types of stories, but it’s not the minutiae of the story, like pacing and technical aspects, so much as what type of story, and if it’s an appealing story to me. I tend to love GRAND ROMANTIC stories. Not stories with romance in them , but stories with huge, grand, idealized philosophies, and if I see that in the story, chances are I will probably love the movie.

And this was the case with The Village. Yes, it does have a romance in it, but it also contained wider, broader themes about the human condition, that just appealed to me personally, (because ultimately, any movie experience is deeply personal). When this movie was released, it was panned by everyone, with some people jumping on that bandwagon because they hated the director, who started his career as a media darling, but public opinion  turned on him, after a series of failed films.

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When I’m watching a movie, I’m mostly concentrating on how the movie made me FEEL. When I’m reviewing a movie, I ask myself different questions that help me evaluate what the movie means to me, what did I like in the movie, what was it about the movie that resonated with me, and why did I feel that way. From the micro, to the macro.

What is the point of the story? What is the theme of the movie?

Things can get complicated, just at this one point. According to the trailers for The Village, most of the people walking into the film expected it to be a horror movie, and they focused on the idea of monsters because that’s what the trailer told them to focus on. But the movie was not about scary monsters, and a lot of the audience walked away disappointed. Rather than accepting what was given to them, they focused on what they were not given: monsters. I wanted monsters too, because that’s what I was told would be in the movie, but finding out there was no monster was a pleasant surprise for me.

The Village is not a horror movie, in the strictest sense of the word, and apparently,  I was one of the few people who were okay with that at the time. I didn’t leave the theater upset because  I didn’t get to see monsters. Would I have liked the monsters in the movie to be real? Sure. But The Village turned out to be deeper than I expected. It had a grand, overarching, theme that resonated with me. It’s a meditation on unrequited love, grief, and loss, and I was pleased that I got that instead. If one disregards the trailer, than the movie accomplishes exactly what it set out to accomplish.

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I  try to walk into a movie viewing experience with only loose expectations, like, “What type of story is it?” and “Will this be entertaining?” Based on what I think the movie may be about, I try to go in open to anything that may happen in it, without trying to place my agenda (what I want the story to do for me) onto the movie. But I do want to feel something, while I try to keep in the forefront of my mind, what is the creator trying to tell me, what do they want me to know, and what purpose might that serve.

What I  expect, on the most basic level, is to be emotionally moved by the characters, and entertained by the plot. I’m going to go wherever the movie wants to take me, and accept whatever scenery I’m given. I don’t worry about plot holes, or pacing, or musical cues, and stuff, (although, if I notice them and like them, that’s a huge plus, like with the movie Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse). Was the movie entertaining? Did I stay engaged the entire time? Was there a point to the story? Later, I can ask myself deeper questions like why was it entertaining for me, or what was it about the movie that made it fun for me, or scary, or funny.

What you should always ask yourself is: What did the story do for you?

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The story in a movie is like being on a driving tour. That tour has a theme,  sometimes several. The driver is the storyteller, and he/she directs the action, decides where we’re going to go, and what we’ll be seeing on the tour. The characters onscreen are the other passengers on the tour, or just some people on the scene.  I like the other passengers, and  I enjoy watching them do things I didn’t expect, and see things I wouldn’t have found on my own. Sometimes the other passengers are terrifying, but it’s okay because they can’t actually hurt me.

If I think it’s a Horror movie, (if the driver has told me I’m going to be scared on my trip), I expect the journey to scare me. If I wasn’t scared, then the driver lied to me, but if I was given more than  just a scare, I consider that a bonus. That was the case with The Village. I was told (although I was not told that by M. Night Shyamalan/The Driver, himself, but a third uninvolved party, the people who made the trailer and marketed the movie), that I would be scared, and I was a little bit, but at the same time, the journey was worthwhile because of the movie’s other elements. I got something deeper, and much more unexpected, than just a scare. As I said before, I like Horror movies to have something extra, whether its romance, or comedy, or intellectual depth.

If I have been lead to believe it’s an Action movie, then I expect to see thrills, and spills. If a movie delivers on its basic foundation, but adds something extra, I can and will overlook all manner of faults, like plot points, pacing,  bad characters,  timing, or even whether or not it delivered on what I expected.This was the case with Suicide Squad, a movie critics absolutely hated, but I (and a bunch of other people) really enjoyed. Why? Because I genuinely liked the characters, who did exciting and interesting things on screen. I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and I liked a lot of the action scenes, which were just plain fun. There are a lot of perfectly legitimate criticisms of this movie, but the reason I love it is because it was a really fun trip, and other people’s problems with the movie were not enough to keep me from enjoying it.

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What is the theme of the film? What is its message?

Understanding the message of a film often requires multiple viewings. There’s the initial impression, and based on whether or not I liked my initial impression, there will be multiple viewings, which will allow for greater insight. My mind is just really, really, good at recognizing patterns. That’s all it is, and anybody can develop that skill. I do it through lots of repetition.You cannot gain greater insight into a movie with only one viewing, because the insights  are often in the details you didn’t notice that first time. If there is something  I didn’t care for in my initial impression (like all the characters being unlikable), there are unlikely to be repeat viewings.

This also ties into how my mind works as a visual artist/illustrator.  When I first watch a movie, its from a kind of  overhead viewpoint. I get into the emotions of the movie, the characters, and the overall plot. Subsequent viewings allow me to focus on the finer details. Later, I will fit those tiny details into larger and larger patterns. It’s really like putting together a puzzle. You see the finished picture on the box,  and you like it. You sort the pieces and then  put them together to create that final picture, (sometimes that final picture may be part of an even larger picture, as well.)

The messages I got from The Village were about love, sacrifice, and grief. It’s  a story about LOVE, with parallel tracks chronicling different types of love, such as romantic,unrequited, sacrificial, and possessive.. There’s the romantic type of love between Lucius and Ivy, the tragic love between their parents, Walker and Alice, and the possessive love that Noah feels for Ivy.  Ivy and Walker are examples of sacrificial love, as they are both willing to sacrifice their peace to save Lucius’ life. Ivy endangers her life for Lucius, and Walker is willing to allow Ivy to leave (and possibly lose her) because he loves Alice, Lucius’ mother.

At the beginning of the movie, Ivy’s sister declares her love for Lucius, but is rebuffed because Lucius prefers Ivy. There is a contrast in how Ivy’s sister reacts to unrequited love, which is sacrifice and moving on vs. Noah’s reaction, which is possessive violence. And then there is the unspoken love between Ivy’s father, and Alice. This is unrealized love. The two are in love, and according to the rules of the society they created, can never  be together.

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There is familial love between Ivy and Walker, and  Lucius and Alice. This type of love is emphasized through the character’s reactions to loss and grief. There are also  all the missing family members that the other characters mention, the loss of family that spurred them to run away from the world, to form a “utopian” society where they believed grief could not touch them. The movie opens with a funeral, and the death of a child. Grief can still access their lives. The pain is still going to happen, for example, witness how many times we see  shots of empty chairs throughout the movie.

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An empty chair in a movie scene is often meant to represent a space where someone should be. In this movie, the empty chairs, usually situated on porches, (or at dinner tables), which are, traditionally the site of familial gatherings, are meant to represent  the absence of loved ones. The entire movie carries a mood of unspoken grief and melancholy, which is only alleviated by its hopeful ending. The Elders of the community fled to The Village because each one of them has experienced the tragic loss of a family member, and  the point of the movie is that they cannot run away from loss or pain. The scattered, empty chairs are a constant reminder of their loss.

Critics and audiences completely turned against Shyamalan and started denigrating all of his films for not being as good as his first film, The Sixth Sense. They went into his next movies expecting all of them to have  surprise twists, and they do have surprise twists, just not the kinds of twists that were expected. (To be absolutely fair, Shyamalan definitely made some questionable film choices, though.) In the case of The Village, audiences were expecting a Horror movie, but since the monsters turned out to be false, some people decided that the movie was no good, because the trailer fooled them into thinking the monsters should’ve been real.

Many of these people failed to realize that the surface levels of Shyamalan’s movies are often not the point of the film, anyway. What appears to be the primary plot is often simply a backdrop for the telling of a different story altogether. The point of this movie isn’t the monsters. The  basic plot is just a backdrop for the examination of love and grief, just as the point of the movie Signs, isn’t the alien invasion. The alien invasion is simply a backdrop against which is being told the story of Reverend Graham regaining his faith in God. The story of Unbreakable isn’t about superheroes, but  about the disbelief in the modern mythology of superheroes, and one man overcoming that disbelief to take a leap of faith, and believe in himself.

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Now, I also must discuss here, the disturbing racial angle of some people’s criticism. Shyamalan is one of the few men of color directing big budget Hollywood movies. True, they are not always successful movies,  but audiences and critics did not seem willing to give his movies any chances after The Sixth Sense. They kept wanting him to repeat that first film, and some of them seemed to look no deeper into the motivations behind his stories beyond “the twist”. The Twist seemed to be all they wanted from him, and when he stepped away from that, to make other types of films, they vilified him for it.

I bring this up because I see the same thing happening in real time to Jordan Peele, especially after his comments in which he voiced the idea, that being a filmmaker gave him a platform, by which he could showcase actors of color, as leads. Its as if having been successful twice, there are people waiting in the wings for him to make a mistake, any mistake, which they can use to vilify his character, and bring him down. When men and women of color are highly successful, there is a contingent of White people who wait for them to make even the most minor of miscues, so that they can attempt to humble them. I witnessed this with Barack Obama, Beyonce, and I’m seeing it now with Ocasio – Cortez, and Jordan Peele. And I believe this is what happened with Shyamalan.

White film directors are given numerous opportunities to make bad films, some of them, have entire careers that consist of little more than mediocre flops, and yet the filmmakers have never received the sheer levels of vitriol that was leveled at Shyamalan by film critics. Some of them still manage to have great careers, or be considered critical darlings. Yes, he still manages to have a career, (so somebody is going to see Shyamalan’s movies), but critics insist on tearing apart all of his films, on the most minor details, no matter their quality, while sometimes excusing  just as shoddy work from some White filmmakers. And as I said before, some people use the failures and mistakes of PoC as an excuse to openly express the racism they’ve been taught not to express against an entire group of people.

 

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‘Love, Death & Robots’ suffers from blatant sexism

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/netflix-love-death-robots-review/

Short films can find it hard to attract a wider audience, so it’s cool to see Netflix promote a big, splashy showcase of animated sci-fi shorts. Sadly, Love, Death & Robots feels much less cool and boundary-pushing when you take a closer look. Curated by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (Fight Club), this anthology is full of gratuitous onscreen sexism—and blatant gender discrimination behind the camera.

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I did watch this on Netflix,  and I actually enjoyed a few of the shorts featured as they were written by one of my favorite authors, John Scalzi. John Scalzi is not known as an especially “edgy” type of writer. In fact, he’s very progressive, so those shorts seem incongruous next to some of the other, more violent, shorts in the anthology. But this article is correct in stating that in every short that featured violence, female sexuality and nudity was associated with it, and in every instance of female nudity or sexuality, there was an extreme amount of violence involved in that story. In some of the stories the two occur simultaneously.

In all fairness though, not all of the short films feature either topic, and some of them are actually worth watching. Most notable were:

The Day the Yogurt Took Over was written by Scalzi from his anthology titled Miniatures. It’s hilarious.

Ice Age was very interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Fish Night is a story I remember reading, in another anthology, a couple of decades ago, and the story just stuck with me.

Lucky 13 was one of the better Scifi stories, and has a Black woman as the lead character.

Three Robots was really cute and it has cats, so some of you will definitely like it, and Suits was frantic and suspenseful.

But the story that affected me the most was Zima Blue, which I consider one of the best stories in the entire anthology. It was emotional and though provoking.

 

The Wired is a lot more damning of the show than I am though:

Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots is sexist sci-fi at its most tedious

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/love-death-and-robots-review-netflix

It’s not just a male gaze that ruins Love, Death & Robots, it’s an adolescent male gaze. The sex scenes are so bad they’re funny. At times, the dialogue is borderline farcical. All too often the series leans precariously on visual tricks – and while the worlds created here are vast and vivid, the plots are often non-existent.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting In The Twilight Zone

 

Sadly, this is the final season for Into the Badlands. It was not renewed for a fourth season on AMC, and surprisingly, I’m okay with that. Into the Badlands was groundbreaking in so many different ways, and I really did love the show, despite how it treated its one Black female character in season two, (and I explained in a previous post why that didn’t stop me from watching the show), but most especially in its representation. It had an Asian male lead, adequate representation of women and Black people, in an alternate future timeline, and the show has the distinction of having the only Black/Chinese- American woman, Chipo Chung,  kicking ass on this show.

I’m okay/ not okay with the cancellation, because it will be followed by a first class runner up: Warrior, which is airing on Cinemax. I gotta get my Martial Arts fix! Warrior is an homage to Bruce Lee, featuring a concept he came up with early in his career (and eventually became the show Kung Fu),  but was not allowed to implement, because Hollywood had no fucking idea what to do with Asian men back then, except mock them or erase them.  I’m a huge Bruce Lee fan, so I’m here for it. The representation is beautiful and accurate for the time period, and its just nice to see more Asian people in TV shows, (although now we probably need to see fewer of them doing something besides Martial Arts and Comedies. Hi, Sandra!)

Warrior

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Warrior is a complicated show, with a lot of depth and detail. Its based on an early idea Bruce Lee had for a story about a man from China, wandering  the  American old West. This was basically the premise of the show Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine, about a Shaolin Monk named Caine. Actually that idea was stolen from Lee,  it generally lacked Asians, and when they were present, it was only in supporting roles, in a show that was supposedly about Chinese immigrants. David Carradine is not Asian, btw.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_Fu_(TV_series)

This show is produced and directed by Justin Lin, of Fast and Furious and Star Trek fame, so I expect the most out of this, since I like Lin, and think he’s a good director, and he mostly does not disappoint, The show is very dense with meaning and action scenes. You don’t need to know anything about the history of San Francisco, Chinatown, or what was going on in China, to watch the show, but it helps if you have a little bit of grounding, and pay close attention to what the people say on the show, because they talk about things, even though all the ass kicking is distracting. It also helps if you’ve religiously watched any of Bruce Lee’s movies, because there are  more than a few very nice Easter Eggs. That outfit, for example, that Ah Sahm wears below is a callback to the outfit Lee wore in The Big Boss, (although in all his movies, Lee’s shirt gets artfully torn off. Later, Ah Sahm’s shirt gets artfully torn off, too.) I don’t know if that actor is deliberately channeling Lee’s  acting/ fighting stances, but he looks great doing it, and it made me smile.

 

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Check the stance!

The series is based on the real life events of the late 1880s, in Chinatown, when there were a series of Tong wars, mostly over the Opium Trade. At the time, in China there was the aftermath of the Opium Wars, and the beginning of the Boxer Rebellion (against the Qin dynasty). Into this stew of rivalries, steps Ah Sahm, a Martial Arts champion of some kind, who is in America looking for his sister. He finds her in the first episode, so that mystery is out of the way, but she wants nothing to do with him. She has a traumatic past,  and current secrets, like being married to the leader of a rival Tong than Ah Sahm works for, secretly working behind her husband’s back with an American, who wants to keep Chinatown destabilized, and going out at night as a vigilante to kill White men who harm Chinatown citizens. (At least I think this is her, or perhaps a character we haven’t met yet.) Her dance card is pretty full, and the last thing she needs is an appearance from her wayward brother, trying to save her. Plus, she hates him.

In fact, a lot of the women in this show live in complicated circumstances. The pretty blond wife of the town Mayor, (I think her name is Buckley), hates her husband, has compassion for the Chinese,  and is having a very open relationship with his secretary, or brother, or somebody , who lives in their house with them. It is unclear if he approves of their relationship, although he most certainly knows about it. Oh yeah, there are a lot of bare  titties in this show, so be aware of that, if you’re letting your kids watch this, although I suppose if you’re letting them watch all the hyper-violence and cussing, you should not have a problem with female presenting nipples. (There’s equity, too, as plenty of male presenting nipples are also on display. Okay, it’s mostly Ah Sahm.)

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The show starts off with everyone speaking Cantonese, and gradually, during one long take, they start speaking English. That was done so smoothly, that I  missed it the first time. The residents of Chinatown have their own English language terms, their own slang, and it can be hard to know what some things mean. You pretty much get thrown into the deep end on this show, and if you’re not of Chinese descent, it can be a little overwhelming. Even though I know a little  something something about Chinese history, I was still having trouble keeping up, having to watch the  episode multiple times.

https://www.geek.com/television/the-story-of-warrior-bruce-lees-long-delayed-tv-series-1781391/

The title of the epis. is called The Itchy Onion, and I’m not sure what Onion means, except it’s a slur that some Chinese people were calling one another in the show. I know a slur when I hear one, and that’s exactly what it is. An “itchy” one is the equivalent of the Black people version of the word “froggy”.  As in , “Do you feel froggy? Then you just jump!”. Its a call out to a fight. And conveniently, Ah Sahm kept getting called out by everyone he meets. Some challenges he backed down from, but others he just jumped right in with gusto. Most especially, the first fight of the show, when he first gets off the boat, as he totally thrashes a trio of bullying White bigots. I stood and I applauded, because that is such a Bruce Lee thing to do, he could have written that scene himself. If you’ve watched any of his movies, then you know he hated bullies, and always stood up for the underdog.

And what glorious fight scenes we get! I’m telling you, I was tired after watching this show. Ah Sahm has several fights, all of them well done, and very cinematic, rivaling any scene in Into the Badlands. He also kinda has a big mouth and is well aware of his skills.

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Where the show falls flat is in the depiction of its female characters ,and some of the White characters are less than compelling. One of the most interesting of that group is a White police officer, who emigrated from Georgia after the Civil War, named Richard Lee, and played with a very  genuine sounding Georgian accent, by the very British Tom Weston-Jones. What is is with English men and Southern American accents? Anyway, he volunteers to be amember of a Chinatown Detective Squad after several of the residents are murdered by angry Irishmen, who are concerned about losing their jobs to foreigners. He is the only cop on the force with integrity apparently, and he does have some ass kicking skills himself. I’m looking forward to watching him team up with or face off against Ah Sahm, cuz you know it’s coming. They will probably team up though, because while Bruce was angry about a lot of things people did, he also believed that cooperation and unity between the races was a good thing, and he championed that in several of his movies, (most notably, Enter the Dragon.)

There’s a wealth of information out there about Bruce Lee, and an 8 part video series about the making of  the show. Each video is only about five to ten minutes long, but if you want to know more about Bruce Lee’s ideas about life and the show, there are several documentaries floating about Youtube, so check those out:

 

Further Reading:

Tao of Jeet Kune Do by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom for Daily Living (Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

Bruce Lee: Letters of the Dragon: An Anthology of Bruce Lee's Correspondence with Family, Friends, and Fans 1958-1973 (The Bruce Lee Library) by [Lee, Bruce]

The Twilight Zone

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I mostly skipped the first episode of this season, which seemed to have a The Shining vibe to it, as a man, Kumail Nanjiani, sells his soul and life in a comedy club. Its creepy and haunting, but didn’t really hit me much, even though Tracy Morgan gives a great performance, 0009199119299

and I’m not particularly interested in shows about comedians. I did watch the second episode, and I really enjoyed it, although I think it went on a wee  bit longer than it needed to.

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2019/04/with-the-comedian-the-twilight-zone-addresses-some.html

The second episode of the Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 30,000 Feet, is an homage to one of the every first episodes of the original series, and Jordan manages to pull this off very well, without me being able to predict what’s going to actually happen until a few minutes from the end, even though you’re told what’s going to happen at the end. The original story,  Nightmare at 20, 000 Feet was written by Richard Matheson and starred William Shatner, and I thought this episode would be a retread of that story. In the original story, one of the passengers sees a gremlin tearing apart the wing of the plane. He  has a panic attack, while trying to convince everyone on board that there is a monster on the  wing. This episode also managed to make its way into the Twilight Zone (one of my favorite) movie and starred John Lithgow.

In this remake, they change the story up a bit. Just as in the original, you  sort of travel around the cabin meeting various odd characters, as the lead character slowly loses his shit,  as he becomes aware that something is wrong with the plane.

Justin Sanderson tries to avoid Fate when he finds a listening device on the plane that is cued up to a podcast that discusses the loss/crash of the flight. He spends the rest of the episode trying to convince people that the flight is doomed, or trying to stop it, which, when you think about it, isn’t really his responsibility. This was more than a little frustrating to me, because I know the rules. In trying his best to stop it, he ends up causing the problem, and I could have told him that’s how Fate works.

Before this,  we get treated to some nice foreshadowing on the number 015, and he argues with his wife about the PTSD he’s been experiencing, after witnessing some shit go down in Tel Aviv. This gets the audience to question his sanity. So we learn a lot about him through dialogue, and he’s not an unlikable character, but there were times I wanted him to just sit his ass down, and stop trying to help, because I just knew HE was going to be the reason the plane crashed, and I also knew it would have something to do with that “extra” character on the plane, with speaking lines, who appears to have no actual purpose. But none of this weakened my enjoyment of the episode becasue it was just fun.

The character that does end up crashing the plane, a drunken ex-pilot named Bob, was someone who felt really off to me the moment I saw him. I was immediately suspicious of his presence on the plane, especially since he was so friendly with Justin, for no reason, and most especially after he said he was a pilot.

There’s a funny little moment when Justin confronts a couple of Sikhs, and tries to get them to stop speaking their language out loud,  or people would get suspicious. They just  roll their eyes at him and tell him they’re not Muslim, and to go away somewhere, which I thought was funny/but not funny. Jordan always makes sure to mention some social issue we’re currently dealing with in all his horror stories, and Muslims on airplanes is something (White) people are  still freaking out about in the US.

Jordan is very successful at upping the tension, especially in such a confined space, so in that sense, its as good as the original episodes, and well worth giving it a watch. And if you know little factoids about the original episode there’s some nice Easter Eggs in it.

10 Non-Spoiler Things We've Learned From Jordan Peele's 'Get Out'

But what stood out for me is Jordan’s summation at the end of these  episodes, in which he seems to be channeling the full spirit of Rod Serling. Standing there in a suit, holding either a glass of wine or champagne, with Serling’s vocal mannerisms intact,  this is more than a little creepy, and kind of funny. I’m so used to him being a comedian that I just expect him to burst into laughter at any second, as if he was just putting me on. I couldn’t help a nervous giggle.

For some reason people are so surprised at Peele’s turn towards Horror, and how he is so successful at it, but these must be people who didn’t watch Key and Peele. Peele has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Horror movies, and he was forever referencing them on the show.

In fact, a lot of the comedy on the show was clearly  horrific, with a punch line tacked onto them , like the episode, Das Negros,  where two Black men in whiteface pretend to be Nazis in order to hide from a Nazi officer looking for victims of the Reich. It’s a terrifying idea by itself, and it’s full of tension, but made hilarious by the idea that the officer is dumb enough to fall for their bad makeup jobs, and his silly stereotypes of Black people. Peele seemed to fully understand the idea that fear and laughter both spring from the same fountain, and can be turned towards one or the other by  the addition of the ridiculous. In the Twilight Zone remake, the tension and horror are still there, but the ridiculous has been removed, leaving a distinct unease.

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https://www.okayplayer.com/culture/jordan-peele-series-of-horror-films-get-out.html

I have four other social thrillers that I want to unveil in the next decade…The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together,” Peele said. “I’ve been working on these premises about these different social demons, these innately human monsters that are woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact, and each one of my movies is going to be about a different one of these social demons.”

I’m so looking forward to Peele’s next work and the rest of his career. I’m also looking to the far future when he starts making those Dramas, that, like with  Cronenberg, I know live somewhere in his mind.

New Trailers In April

Joker

Contrary to the many fanboys who are always bitchin’ and whining about the different depictions of the Joker, I didn’t have  a problem with Jared leto’s version of the Joker. I’ve seen several different versions already, and I grew up with the Cesar Romero  and Jack Nicholson versions, so for me, Jared Leto was just one more. And I don’t have problem with this one either. I think he’s intriguing because I’m heavily reminded of the Brian Azzarello, and Lee Bermejo versions from the comic books.

There are almost as many versions of the Joker as there are Batman,and Shakespeare’s plays, so I don’t actually understand what the problem is, since each actor for the character brings something different to the role. Some you like, and some you don’t, and I like this one okay. I probably won’t see it in the theater though because it looks tragic and I have a quota.

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Dead Don’t Die

I got no opinion on this movie other than it heavily reminds me of the movie Slice, which I never finished watching. I won’t see this in the theater because I’m not a Bill Murray fan. Sacrilege! I know. But the man has never really appealed to me outside of some very specific roles.

On the other hand, I’ve always liked Jim Jarmusch’s silly humor, and this does look pretty funny! It also has some of my favorite actors in it. You know we’ve reached the zenith of monsterdom when they start making parody movies, so: Go Zombies! 

 

Dora the Explorer

I grew up watching this with my two little sisters, so my knowledge about Dora comes from a genuine place of “Oh, God, I’m so tired of watching this show!!!”

On the other hand, the movie looks really cute, has an all Hispanic, Latinx cast, and seems kinda action-y. She’s like a tiny Latina Tomb Raider.

Avengers :Endgame

This is the last trailer before the release of the movie, and I just know there’s gonna be feels. One drawback I can see coming a mile away is there are three women in this movie, and I bet none of them say a word to each other.

I did see something on Tumblr about how someone was going to lose their shit watching their favorite characters die, and I’m like, “Dammit, I already watched all my favorite characters die. In this one I get to watch them come back. I don’t give a flying fuck how many of the original Avengers have to die to get them back either! Tony, Steve, and Natasha been around long enuff!”

John Wick 3

I will probably go see this one in the theater and I would love to drag my Mom along, since she’s making me  go see Pet Sematary, and messing up my Summer movie scheduling, with her unreasonable demands to see Horror movies I did not make plans for, especially when I planned to see Action films. So for every Horror or Comedy she makes me take her to, I’m picking an Action movie. (We already have Shaw and Hobbes on our radar after this one.)

This also has all of my favorite actors in it. No,really! All of them!

 

Hellboy

There was supposed to be a new Hellboy trailer in this spot, but I skipped over  it, as a sign of protest, because  I’m not going to see it in the theater, because the movie “Little” gets released at the same time, and because my niece and Mom have made it very clear that’s what we’ll be seeing next week, or I haven’t got long to live! So imagine the new Hellboy trailer in this spot (to the remixed version of Smoke on the Water.)

I don’t object to seeing Little, because it looks pretty funny, but I prefer monster movies to comedies, which is why I’m going to treat myself to:

Godzilla

No, it’s not sad that I can name all the monsters in this movie. I grew up watching all the Godzilla related movies, so I come by this knowledge organically. My Mom hates all the Godzilla movies, except for the 1990s version which, naturally, I would hate, because I enjoy being contrary.

I cannot wait to see all my favorite monsters (Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah) on the big screen, because this looks fucking awesome! Slow motion monsters always get to me…

 

Next week, lets review some TV shows! 

Breaking News

I am officially no longer reviewing or watching The Walking Dead.

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I’ve been standing up for this show through all eight seasons, through all the shows racial problems, and through all the death, but I simply can’t take this show anymore. Don’t get me wrong. The show is still compelling. It’s still addictive. But I gotta find something else to watch.

I’m a very emotional viewer. When I watch a show, I really get involved with the characters, and plots, and settings. Yes, I’m one of those people who yell at the screen. I look for attachments to certain characters, (I still love Michonne and Carol, btw), and checking in, to see what some character is doing, is a large part of what keeps me watching a show. But I think last week broke me. I think perhaps this was simply not the kind of show I should ever have been watching in the first place. I got presented with characters adventures, and I wondered about their futures, and I cared about them, and too many times, I’ve had those imagined futures cut short because a character got brutally killed.

I’ve never re-watched a single episode of this series.

NOT IN NINE SEASONS!

That says something.

When I don’t want to revisit a show I’ve been watching, for eight years, that means something . I’ve re-watched episodes of X-Files, Star Trek, Farscape, Firefly, and Supernatural numerous times. I love to go back and revisit favorite episodes, as if they were the first time I’ve seen them. They’re fun, and I like visiting with the characters, and remembering why I liked them the first time.

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I don’t do that with this show. There’s no point in remembering the fun times with a character knowing that their future is a brutal and pointless death.

I managed to get through so many deaths on this show. I realize that’s almost the point of the show, but when you’re going through personal shit, and political shit (as a Black woman both can take its toll on you) when you watch a TV show, that can sometimes be a respite from your anxiety producing life.

The Walking Dead ain’t it.

Last week the show killed off so many characters, it was just emotionally devastating, in a way that the singular deaths weren’t. And it really did feel like something that was done for the spectacle. The show keeps increasing the number of deaths per season, sometimes pointlessly. The characters, all of them, their deaths were utterly meaningless, their deaths fixed nothing. The people who did it, did it on a whim, for some nebulous purpose I barely understand, because I don’t exactly know what The Whisperers philosophy is.

But Negan is still alive though….

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This is a world that produces more than enough stress in my everyday life. I don’t need that type of stress from a TV show, too. I’ve found myself gravitating to more innocuous, lighthearted, less anxiety producing shows, comedy stand ups, and reality cooking documentaries. I’m just not emotionally equipped right now to be watching shows that are going to hammer my emotions every week. I gotta stop watching it just for my emotional health.

I knows some you been quit this show, and you had your reasons. I supported all of your reasons for that, because when a person quits a show, it’s personal to them.

I think, just like for a lot of other people, it’s  time for me to leave the show alone.

The Meanings of Us (2019)

Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers

 

If you have not seen this movie, know that this review will contain plenty of spoilers.

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I went to see this and guess what? I got thinky thoughts!

 

The Personal

This movie was a very emotional experience for me. I really got into the characters and situations presented here, and I’m baffled that some people were baffled by this movie, but then I’ve had many years of practice trying to understand the plots of weird horror  movies. Most of the puzzlement I’ve read comes from people who don’t regularly watch horror movies. If you’re not a fan of horror movies, and don’t watch them all the time, its best to go in thinking of this film as if it were a dream. There’s a lot of what we call “Dream Logic”. and some of the imagery will fly right over the heads of people who have never thought about movies this way.

This movie has been really polarizing, with people loving it or hating it, and that’s understandable. Peele made the decision to add a lot of depth to Us. Its a movie that addresses many issues, and is meant to be heavily analyzed, but how you look at it says a lot about what you feel, and what your priorities are. Peele  also doesn’t tell you how to feel about the movie, or its characters, and some people hated that. The end of the movie was unsettling for a lot of people. My Mom didn’t care for the movie, saying it ended badly, but she is one of those people who likes her horror to be very clear and straightforward. She likes a clear case of who the heroes and villains are in a movie, and she disliked having rooted for the protagonist for the entire movie, only to have that turned on its head at the end.

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On the other hand, I’m okay with ambiguity. I’m uncomfortable with having rooted for what I thought was the hero of the movie, but I’m going to sit with that feeling,  process it, and figure out what I think about it. There were a lot of moments in the movie that had an unexpected affect on me. One of the most horrific moments in the movie is when the Tethered child died in flames, echoing Red’s statement that he had been born in flames. (But I have some serious  fire fear, so…). The movie felt unfinished, because usually at the end of horror movies, the evil has been vanquished, and the status quo, which had been disrupted by the monster, has been restored. This movie doesn’t really have a monster, or a villain or even a hero. Things do not go back to the way the movie began.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/03/lupita-nyongo-in-jordan-peeles-us-terrifying/585649/

Because of the ending, the movie felt melancholy and tragic, reminding me heavily of  Annihilation, a movie that produced much the same feeling.. But Us also had moments of real humor, where we (the audience) just laughed out loud. I’ve often asserted that laughter lies on one  side of a coin, with terror on the other. Peele himself has said he likes to take innocent, innocuous things, and imbue them with dread and horror, and he succeeded. I expect that I will never hear the song, “I Got Five On It”, or “Fuck the Police”, ever again, without thinking of this movie, and I’ll never look at rabbits the way I used to.

I described this movie as a cross between CHUD, a movie about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers coming up from below, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, as it deals with cloning, and identity, and Halloween, because of the red jumpsuits  and sharp pointy weapons, which remind me of Michael Myers. Well, lets just say, I have a different set of references to this movie.

 

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Here’s an interesting video from Latasha about the significance of some of the symbols, colors, and moments, in the movie. There are far too many to catch all of them after just one viewing.  She discusses the movie in great detail, though, especially the idea of trauma and mirroring: 

 

 

 

 

The Movie

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The movie opens in the 80s, with little  Adelaide watching an ad for the 1986 charity event, Hands Across America, which I’m old enough to remember. This is a key component of the film. In fact, everything you need to know is laid out at the beginning of the movie, just without any context, so you don’t put the whole puzzle together until somewhere in the middle of the film. Adelaide attends a carnival on the beach with her family. She wanders away from her bickering parents, into a mirrored funhouse, that has the proclamation : Find Yourself Inside, which she unexpectedly does, to her detriment. One of the most interesting clues is that Adelaide  whistles Itsy Bitsy Spider on key, but her double can’t. I think the Itsy Bitsy Spider is a reference to Adelaide’s double, who has climbed up from below, to capture her.

Adelaide gets kidnapped by her double, another key component of this movie, and the motivation behind every decision that gets made, and  she gets trapped in the underground hell  where her double used to live. Her double is actually a clone of her, but without a soul. Because she has no soul, Adelaide has no sense of rhythm, (or beat), which I find hilarious, because in American culture, Black people joke about people who cannot dance on the beat, or have no rhythm, and are said to lack “Soul“.

There’s an old  sketch I’m reminded of from the movie, Amazon Women on The Moon, which is also from a Black filmmaker, Robert Townsend. I know for an absolute certainty that Jordan Peele has seen this, and included just this tiny bit of this element into his depiction of the Tethered. Notice that neither Adelaide, nor her son Jason are capable of snapping their fingers to the beat of the song, snapping instead on the 1 and the 3, instead of the 2 and the 4.

 

The underworld Red comes from is  full of the clones of the people who live above ground, and who  are the failed result of a  government experiment to control the American people. It’s left for the audience to decide if all Americans were cloned, or just half, or just enough of them to be dangerous. The clones have no souls, hence they have no vision, imagination, ambitions, or  sense of self. They don’t even have language, and Adelaide, because she is human, and remembers the world above (the other clones have no knowledge of the above world), becomes their leader. Over the next thirty years, using her childhood memories of Hands Across America, and Michael Jackson, along with a great deal of rage,  she organizes The Tethered to invade the above world, and kill their counterparts. It’s a literal uprising.  Adelaide is so enraged at what was done to her, the Tethered have adopted some of that.

Adelaide, Red, (and their families), spend the rest of the movie playing a murderous game of cat and mouse, against the apocalyptic event of The Tethered coming from underground to kill their doubles, and stage their version of Hands Across America. I  specifically remember this event, including the theme song in the ads. I was a teenager at the time, and  distinctly remember scoffing at the idea that it would be at all helpful, or useful. And guess what? It wasn’t! The event was kind of a failure although it turned out to be the high point of the life of the person  who orchestrated the event.

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In the end, Adelaide, the character we’ve been rooting for the entire  movie, turns out to be the double from the underworld, while Red is that long ago human girl, who dreamed of getting out of the hell her life had become, through Adelaide’s actions. According to Red, life underground is pretty bleak. Because they have no sense of self, the Tethered are forced to mimic the actions of their doubles, and none of them have ever had cooked food, feeding exclusively on the rabbits that have overbred in that environment. (This explains why Adelaide is a vegetarian.)

In other words, the Tethered are uncivilized, barbaric mirrors of their above ground counterparts, (through no fault of their own.) They act like animals, running on all fours, howling and grunting.They don’t know enough to know what or where they are, until Red teaches them, which she is only able to do because she came from above ground. She  is their M.L.K. She is their Malcolm X. She had  a “vision”.

This movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Lupita Nyongo really carries this movie, and does it very well. Her speech, body language, and facial expressions, just her all around physicality, was astonishing to watch. People forget that she is playing both Red, and Adelaide, and she makes the two so distinctive that you often forget its the same actress. Winston DUke is his usual fine self in the acting department. I understand some people were disappointed in his role here, but I understood why he was shown the way he was shown, and he did do a couple of heroic things that people seem to have forgotten.

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There are already a lot of people out there tagging all the Easter Eggs, the various connections, and parallels in the movie. I’m only going to talk about those things a little bit. If you want more of that sort of thing, there are a billion Youtube videos for it, but I want to talk about the themes, and subtext occurring in the movie, because that’s what I find the most interesting. The movie has so much depth, so many things are addressed, and have real life parallels, that the movie can be viewed through almost any lens,  I want to talk about some of the top themes through which the movie can be understood:

Folklore

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There is the German construct of the Doppelganger, which is an apparition, or double, of a living person. There is a significant body of folklore that deal with people seeing their own double. Traditionally, seeing one’s double was often a portent of death, and that piece of folklore is what’s being applied in Us. It is said that everyone in the world has a twin somewhere, and in some cultures, it’s said  should you meet your double, you should kill it, because there can be only one of you.

Legend has it that if you come face to face with your doppelganger, it’s an omen or warning of death, for both you and your twin. Because of this, if you see a replica of yourself, run for your life. … Often, a person does not actually see their own doppelganger, but someone else does.

There is a lot of doubling and mirroring in the movie, from Adelaide’s and Red’s reflections, to the neighbors twin girls, who speak in unison, to the numbers 11:11, which is a “palindrome”, a word or set of numbers that reads the same in either direction. (There are several articles on  the significance of those numbers. 11:11 is a bible verse about God forsaking those whose sins have come back to destroy them.)

In Celtic folklore, the doppelganger was known as a Fetch, and its purpose was to alert people that someone’s death was imminent, but the concept of the alter ego, and the “double spirit” is part of the lore of  most cultures, and not always in a negative way, just as in the movie, some of the mirror images are benign.

 

Books and Movies

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It’s also an idea that has found its way into  many movies and literature, the most famous of which are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Prince and the Pauper, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dave, Moon Over Parador, and the 1985 Ran. In The Prince and the Pauper type stories, the original ruler is often incapable or dead, and is then replaced by a twin of low birth, who sometimes triumphs in the originals place, which is basically the plot of Us.

Another popular trope is the Evil Twin, which has found its way into everything from Star Trek to Gilligan’s Island, where one of them is unaware of the existence of their double, and their differences in upbringing is what accounts for their different characters. In Us, we are meant to attribute Red’s murderous sensibilities, and difficulty speaking, to her upbringing among the Tethered, and there are distinct parallels between the Jekyll and Hyde narrative.

Adelaide is meant to reflect innocence, as evidenced by her white and neutrally colored wardrobe, at the beginning of the movie. As the movie  progresses,  as Adelaide keeps killing,  violently defending the life she usurped from the original, her clothes get redder and redder, to reflect her true nature. We watch as she becomes more and more her true self. But where Jekyll’s story ends in suicide, Adelaide’s ends in triumph.

One thing I’ve not seen discussed is  Lewis Carroll’s 1865  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a theme. The symbol of the white rabbit (which is in the movie’s logo) is meaningful because it is one of the few types of animals that have ever been cloned, and is often experimented on. Also, in the original  tale, Alice follows a rabbit into a hole in the Earth, where she finds a hall with many locked doors. This is what happens in the movie when Adelaide, chasing her doppelganger underground, finds a hall of locked doors, and rabbits everywhere. The rictus grins of the Tethered remind me of the Cheshire Cat’s phantom grin from Alice’s adventures. These are grins  that do not indicate humor, but menace.

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There’s also the  parallel to the numerous mythological themes of people visiting the underworld to rescue (or destroy) something, called a Katabasis. In  a Katabasis myth, the protagonist travels through the underworld, on a mission of retrieval, and this is featured in everything from The Ring of the Nibelung, to The Aeneid, to The Odyssey,  persisting across many cultures, from Egypt, to Greece, and even  South America, which features the myth of the Hero Twins of the Popol Vuh, who go into the underworld and win a ballgame, to avenge the death of their father.

After Adelaide’s son, Jason,  is kidnapped by Red, she must go underground to rescue him, echoing the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Jason’s  doppelganger is named Pluto,  the  Greek King of the Underworld. It  is also theorized by some that Jason is actually a Tethered. That Pluto switched places with him at least a year before the events of the film, so Adelaide is really rescuing her actual son.

 

 Socio-economic/Political

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https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/us-movies-hidden-meaning-black-identity-explained-1196687

Race

The movie can also be seen through the lens of socio-politics, and race.  Peele says the movie isn’t specifically about any racial issue, but the subtext is there, because  the story involves a Black family, and introduces the idea of “double consciousness”. Double consciousness is a term coined by the writer W.E.B. DuBois in his 1903 literary work, The Souls of Black Folk, a series of essays about the psychology of Black people. It is a state of mind specific to people of color, whose thinking is divided between who they think are, and what White people think they are.

Double consciousness describes the individual sensation of feeling as though your identity is divided into several parts, making it difficult or impossible to have one unified identity.

Understanding W.E.B. Du Bois’ Concept of Double Consciousness …

There’s who I think I am, which is settled, often uncomfortably, next to how I know I’m viewed by White people.

Adelaide is an example of this in that she knows who she is, and wants to be, vs the above ground world’s perception of her. She dresses to  not draw attention to herself, to seem just like everyone else and  blend in. Adelaide, like  many immigrants, or those from a different social class, tries to hide her impoverished background by  assimilating into her adopted culture. As she fights Red to keep the status to which she’d become accustomed, more of her true background  reveals itself.

Economics

 Adelaide has moved up in the world by violently condemning her counterpart to a life of hell. (There is the strong implication in the film that Red was raped/impregnated by Gabriel’s counterpart, Abraham.) There is also some amount of survivor’s guilt for Adelaide, as she did nothing to rescue any of the other Tethered, and lived a life of luxury, knowing that her comfortable life was built on someone else’s misery. This is a question that successful Black people, from humble circumstances, often wrestle with. How much responsibility do they have to the community they left behind on their way out of poverty? Are they truly their brother’s keeper? Red seemed to have no problem answering this question, as she organized the release of all the Tethered from below, but then her ambitions were fueled by rage at what had been done to her. What was Adelaide’s excuse for leaving the other Tethered behind?

 

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In fact, the Tethered are an allegory for those who most people consider  “beneath” us. The laborers and workers who are invisible to us,  but help our society run more smoothly, and who we often think of as less than, often not even bothering to learn their names. In the movie, the Tethered don’t have names, with the members of Red’s family being the only ones with names she gave them.

Those who live above ground (the privileged) can pass their sins on to some other group of people and thereby declare their innocence, and ignorance, to the misery which sustains their lifestyles,  to be justifiable. In America, White people often project their worst qualities onto other races of people. In declaring that some sin is a problem for some other group, they don’t actually have to look at their own behavior, acknowledge the pain they have caused, or fix the problem. Black and Indigenous people have often been the scapegoats of White pathology, as they stereotype us in terms of actions they  have committed themselves.

Red isn’t just angry because her life (her agency) was stolen from her. She  tells Adelaide that for every good thing Adelaide  experienced above ground, Red experienced some hardship, or misery, in equal measure down below. The Tethered represent the “laborers” of modern society, the people  who take care of the minutiae of our day to day lives, freeing us up to pay attention to those jobs we think are more important, because we went through more years of schooling, or get paid more money to do. We place our burdens on their backs, so we don’t have to carry them, and then refuse to think about how the comforts of our lives are built on their impoverishment.

 

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Why-Do-Tethe red-Wear-Brown-Gloves-Us-45958045

This theme of mistreated laborers is reflected in the Tethered manner of dress, and I can see parallels to themes from the 1927 film, Metropolis, in which the workers of a technological society all live in ceaseless, dangerous, labor in the bowels of the city, while the rulers have lives of  luxury oblivious to what’s happening beneath them. One of the rulers son’s trades places with one of the workers in the underground, and with the help of a robot named Maria, causes a rebellion.

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Most Americans don’t think about the uniformed maids, janitors, maintenance, and sanitation workers,  until something stops working. If you have ever visited a large public venue, like a theme park or a zoo, you might or might not notice the uniformed housekeepers and  maintenance workers who slip in and out of disguised doors to keep the place clean,  and make our stay comfortable, and this is very much a statement on how Americans live everyday.

On a larger scale, most Americans don’t think of the many wars, that never reach our backyards,   and the underhanded behavior that this country has engaged in, to steal other country’s resources, to  make American lives comfortable. Our government has engaged in a great deal of global destruction, which we rarely we think about because we don’t have to worry about a drone strike hitting our Wedding party.  Even when we do worry about such things, we  have often been completely misinformed as to the true causes, and do little or nothing to resolve it. Just as the Tethered are Shadows of us, they exist in a Shadow America, where their lives are controlled by mysterious others who live above them.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/us-was-movies-biggest-twist-hiding-plain-sight-1196584

But really, all the characters are Us,  as no matter how we behave, we can always justify our behavior by telling ourselves we are the hero of the story.  Us is a movie in which everyone is committing justified violence against the other. As righteously brutal as the Tethered are in their revolution, The Wilsons are every bit as  brutal as  the Tethered in the protection of their family and  privileged lifestyles. One can make the argument that the Tethered started it,  and that the Wilsons were just defending themselves, but that stance does not take into account the decades of misery the Tethered had to endure, so that people like the Wilsons could live free.

 

Psychological

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When you think about it, Adelaide’s development stopped at around age twelve, so she has all the rage, planning, and mindset, of a child. Children in their early development often focus on a sense of fairness, and equality,  something Red specifically states to Adelaide. That what happened to her was not fair.

Americans cherish their ideals of fairness. And American children can be especially strident—some might say loud—advocates for equality. Anyone who has ever painstakingly cut and distributed a child’s birthday cake knows how closely those little eyes watch for injustice. And when they see it, especially in their ever-so-slightly-smaller slice, they protest with the anguished cry: “No fair!”

https://www.bu.edu/research/articles/child-development-fairness/

In Jungian psychology there is the idea of the Shadow Self, that dark part of oneself that one tries to ignore or bury.  The Shadow is everything about yourself you try  hard to forget is there. The Tethered represent our worst selves. They are our dark side. Adelaide has worked very hard to forget where she came from, but it turns out that Adelaide is actually the Shadow of Red. It is not until after you’ve watched the movie that you realize that it was Adelaide who was trying to ignore her original sin of trapping Red in the underworld. Sooner or later she knew this would come back on her. The message seems to be that every sin you commit will eventually come to back to bite you in the ass.

https://www.thefourohfive.com/film/article/us-review-what-happens-when-our-shadows-run-free-and-what-the-hell-is-with-the-rabbits-155

The logo for the movie features an example of a Rorschach Test, a test in which a therapy patient interprets meaning from inkblot images. The meanings determined gives the therapist clues to your character or personal issues. This is a reference to the film itself, which is a kind of Rorschach test for the viewer. The movie has so many facets, so many themes,  which ones the audience focuses on tells  a lot more about the audience.

Here take the Us rorschach Test, and see what your responses tell you about you:

 

Movies to Watch After Seeing Us:

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978)

Single White Female (1992)

Metropolis (1927)

CHUD (1984)

The Nightbreed (1990)

Donnie Darko   (2001)

 

Us is being written about and discussed as much as Get Out. This is what we all do now. Analyze movies, I guess!

https://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a26988747/us-movie-review-horror-tropes/

https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/22/18274732/us-twist-ending-explained-spoilers

 

https://www.polygon.com/2019/3/27/18284361/us-movie-spoilers-tethered

 Umbrae (Shahidi Wright Joseph), is referred to as a “little monster” by her mother, Red (Lupita Nyong’o); though she shares her double’s talent for running, it’s the addition of a permanent, eerie grin that brings up shades of how young women in particular are always expected (and instructed) to smile. She’s manifesting the image that’s projected onto her in the same way that her father is.

 

**In Part Two of The Meanings of Us let’s talk about the invasion plot in movies, what it really means, what its a stand in for, and how its applied in this movie.

The Passage: Season One Finale

 

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So The Passage finally finished up it’s ten episode run with a two hour finale, and there is a lot to talk about. I was going to start with a recap of the season, but I’m going to do something a little different by discussing the key characters in the show. I know a lot of you may have more access to the books, than the show, which airs on American network TV, and may or may not be available on an app somewhere.

We’re going to start with the second episode of the finale because the first hour felt like more filler. The vampires do finally escape, but we knew that would happen, and its somewhat anticlimactic. All season long we’ve been seemingly sitting still, with everyone running back and forth inside the facility, without anyone actually leaving.  It’s all moot anyway because by the time of the final 15 minutes of the last episode, all of that is rendered pointless, and in the second season, we’ll get to the meat of the book, as all of this first season is basically set up for what we’ll be dealing with from the middle section of the book onwards.

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All season we have focused very heavily on the relationship between Amy Bellafonte and Agent  Brad Wolgast because that is the key relationship to who Amy is, and what she becomes. It is her relationship with Brad that sets her future in motion, determines how she reacts to that future, and even that she has a future.This is why we spent so much time with the two of them in the first three episodes. Our investment in their relationship is important to understanding Amy’s motivations. We have watched as Brad adopts her as his own daughter, after the loss of his biological child, and we have watched as the two of them bonded, loved ,and supported each other.

In the first episodes, we watch the two bond as they attempt to escape the government agents who want to use Amy for medical experimentation. They eventually get caught, and Amy is  infected with the vampire virus, and unwillingly forms a relationship with the lead vampire, Fanning, who attempts, repeatedly, to undermine her relationship with Brad, so that he can replace him. Amy resists all his attempts because she received a slightly different, (less virulent), strain of vampirism, and because Brad has supported her unconditionally, no matter how much she changed. She is able to withstand Fanning’s control in a way the other 11 vampires cannot. She is also able to walk about during the day, unlike Fanning and his kind. In other words, like Blade from the Marvel comics movie, she has all the strengths of the vampires, and none of their weaknesses.

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Of all the vampires, though, it is Babcock who is the most sympathetic, and the most charming. Fanning has a very compelling manner, in that he is able to talk people into doing things they are initially resistant to, but Babcock has the ability to be very likable, and open with everyone. This works especially well, since most of the time we see these characters from inside the mental landscapes they’ve created to communicate with the  human beings in their orbit, and with each other. Their actual physical bodies dont speak or even acknowledge human beings except as food.

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Amy and Brad spend most of the finale escaping from the facility, and  living in an abandoned cabin in the woods, while the US is quickly overtaken by the vampires, who also, finally, escape the facility, after having planned to do so since their creation. We seemed to spend an inordinate amount of this season waiting for the vampires to break free, and even I was going tired of just watching all the players run around in the facility for three to four episodes, but really, what we were doing was setting up Brad and Amy’s relationship, and the reason for the enmity between Fanning and Amy. Fanning refused to escape from the facility without Amy because he was waiting for her to turn into a full vampire, and give him her allegiance, which she refused to do. We get several moments of foreshadowing that Fanning is not infallible, when a woman he wanted for himself, rejects him to die in the arms of her husband, and when Amy rejects Babcock’s overtures of friendship. Fanning isn’t always in control, and Amy  has a strong will of her own.

Make no mistake, Amy is a full vampire, but unlike the other vampires, she refused to give into the dual choices that were given to her by Fanning. Whenever any of the other vampires turned, they had been given the option of dying, or becoming full vampires under Fanning’s control. Amy created a third option. She chose to live and become a vampire on her own terms, and it is Brad’s love and support that aided her in that choice.

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Amy vowed repeatedly to Brad, Fanning, and herself that she would not kill, or make other vampires, but Fanning uses her connection to Brad as her weakness, and in the tragic finale, he successfully forces her hand by infecting Brad. She only kills to protect Brad from being shot by  his two friends who happen to be present. Having killed to protect Brad, she  infects him with a different version of the vampirism virus, so that he will be more like her, and not the mindless minions created by the other vampires under Fanning, since he’s going to turn regardless. She leaves, after saying goodbye to him, to try to make it on her own, having been taught various survival skills, like archery, and hunting, by Brad during their interlude in the cabin.

During their time at the cabin, the cities are slowly being overrun by vampires that are all offshoots of the initial vampires created by the experiment. The initial vampires (which include Amy) are known as The Twelve. In the books, they are not all sympatico, or even all in league with each other. Some of them are allies, a couple are rivals, and a couple are loners, like Anthony. In the TV series, the end of the world is brought about when the other countries, witnessing what is happening in the US, decide to nuke all the cities where they have taken up residence.

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The reason the first season is narrated by Amy is because we’ve been watching a flashback from some 100 years in the future. Humanity is almost extinct, and the land is populated by mostly starving vampires, that can’t die. We see Amy, still a child 97 years later, her hair in long braids, bow and arrow in hand, shooting down the lesser vampires, as she searches the US for Brad, whom she feels is still alive. In the final scene she is seen approaching The Colony. In the second season we’ll hopefully be meeting those characters, who are all the human beings left after the nuclear (and vampire) apocalypse. The other books, The Twelve and City of Mirrors are also being jumbled in as well, since some of the first season comes from the second book.

I have to admit, I was mostly distracted by the question of who braided Amy’s hair, because she is wearing these long box braids. This is a something that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask if I hadn’t earlier seen Brad braiding Amy’s hair in that Black momma ritual that had resonance for a lot of Black women watching the show. Nearly all of us have some memory of sitting at our mother’s feet, getting our hair braided, while discussing the day’s important issues. In Amy’s case, she confesses to Brad that she can see the future. She foresees Brad’s death, and the death of most of humanity.

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Another admission I have to make is that I did not find the middle section of the book, The Passage,  especially interesting, as most of it takes place inside The Colony, and involves a lot of personal politicking among characters I didn’t care about. The characters were not interesting, and nothing of real import occured in that section. I had to push really hard through that section of the book, because I kept being told it was worth it to get to the end, and that’s true, the last 100 or so pages were much better.

So, I’m hoping we get a second season, and it does look promising to get one. Unlike some people, who refused to engage with the show because it airs on network television, and were afraid of having it be canceled once they fell in love with it, I considered this show to be well worth getting burned. This show is everything that The Strain, a show I had high hopes for,  should have been.

Favorite Characters of 2018

These are not indicative of my favorite movies of 2018, although I did enjoy all these films. I’ve seen a lot of “best of” movie lists, and people might expect me to make a movie or TV show list, but I’m not going that route. Instead I’ve decided to list my top ten favorite characters of the year. Characters who were so good, that they made flawed movies good, or good movies, better.

 

Domino – Deapool 2

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My number one spot is reserved for the most fun character I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Deadpool 2 is not a great movie. The action is occasionally incoherent, and the humor, just like in the first film, is sometimes hit or miss, but the movie is fun as Hell, and excelled in its depiction of Domino. I know a lot of people had  reservations about her character. They didn’t know the actress, Zayzie Beetz, the character was a White woman in the comic books, and no one understood exactly what her superpowers were.

But she turned out to be the BEST character in the entire movie. I loved her so much! She’s just the coolest, baddest, bitch in a superhero movie since we first saw Black Widow. She literally has no worries, striding effortlessly through every action scene, in the serene knowledge that whatever happens, it will work out in her favor, and she’ll come out on top.

There’s also the added element of her being so supportive of Wade without feeling like she’s a sidekick. She and Deadpool are partners, who carry the action together. Actually, she could probably do the whole movie without Wade, because she’s far more competent than him. She knows how to handle things on her own, and often does, but one of the running jokes is her verbal support of Deadpool. She is always telling him he’s doing great, or doing a good job, or he’s got this, at odd moments during the action scenes, which I found both hilarious, and kinda sweet.

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Domino  serves the same purpose for Black women that the appearance of Luke Cage did for Black men. She’s essentially  “bulletproof”. For too many of us, our introduction to “strong” Black women, in movies and  TV, is through witnessing their endurance of pain. So I liked watching this calm and collected, carefree, and bulletproof Black woman,  knowing for an absolute certainty that she will never come to harm.

I am here for it, and I want more of it. So a solo movie looks like a good idea.

 

Killmonger – Black Panther

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So much has been  written, analyzed, and dissected about this character, that its ridiculous. Killmonger so struck a cord among Black filmgoers,  that there was an entire industry dedicated to arguing his talking points and philosophy, with people being for and against him. (And then there were those people who just wanted him.) He is, hands down,  the most compelling villain in the entirety of the MCU. This is T’Chaka’s , and N’Jobu’s story as told through their children, who have to work through the sins of their fathers.

I absolutely hated this character, but I also loved to hate him, he’s just so good and relatable. His talking points are spot on, he’s as cool as the Black Panther, and he has a sympathetic backstory that is personally tied to T’Challa’s, which is how you create a great villain.  This is the first movie I ever watched where it was the villain who had me in tears, such as when he meets his father in the afterlife, and when he references the Igbo Landing just before his death.

https://blackpast.org/aah/igbo-landing-mass-suicide-1803

But, one of the primary reasons I ultimately couldn’t  support this character was because of his disregard for Black women, where he is perfectly willing to use them for his own ends, and  bullying and/or killing them when it was expedient. (Plus, he threatened my baby-girl, Shuri.)

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Laurie Strode – Halloween (2018)

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I’m a big fan of the original film, and I was dismayed over the years to see the legacy of that film sullied by directors and actors who simply didn’t understand it, although I have been willing to sit through all the ones that starred Laurie Strode. As one of Michael Myers original victims, she was the one that got away, and that alone is a good enough reason to make a sequel.

Jettisoning all of the movies in-between, this new version of Halloween picks up the aftermath of Laurie’s life, in the wake of Michael’s attack. The movie isn’t just about Laurie being a bad-ass, or a pistol packing mama, although that was pretty cool. Its about the failed relationships, the loss of her child, the paranoia, anxiety, and hyper vigilance she displays throughout the film. This movie is about surviving trauma, and it argues that Laurie never actually escaped, and that Michael has been a part of her life ever since. I thought the movie was effective, not just in making Michael scary again, but in its examination of the effect of  trauma on the life of his primary victim.

https://www.voa.org/understanding-ptsd?gclid=CjwKCAiAyMHhBRBIEiwAkGN6fEGjHJs8HUQAlI0gmMUJdnm7PwPmlLG4RvLDs_ASDtEGDRLkD86JHxoC3nUQAvD_BwE

 

 

 

Miles Morales – Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

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This character being on the list was a surprise because I’ve only read a few of the Miles Morales comic books, and I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did.  I can’t speak to how close a depiction this guy is to the comic book version, but I liked him a lot. His Afro-Latino heritage isn’t slept, and while there are some misunderstandings between him and his father, he has a loving and supportive relationship with his parents.

Miles is just a very wholesome character, and its that  wholesomeness that allows the other characters to step outside the restrictions they’ve placed on their lives, because of previous traumas. One of the most interesting moments in the movie was hearing how all of the Spider-People have the death of some loved one, in their origin story, that has caused them to shut themselves off from people. Through their mentorship and friendship with Miles, they are able to open themselves up to do what they encourage Miles to do throughout the movie, which is “take a leap of faith”. 

Once again, this is how you write a character, who is central to the story, without being ALL of the story. There is just enough about the other characters for us to get to know and like them, while keeping Miles at the center of the narrative, as the character around which their emotional arcs revolve. The results not just in character growth for Miles, through their actions, but character growth for them too.

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Spiderman – Peter Parker – Avengers: Infinity War

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Remember when I said I wasn’t watching not one more damn Spiderman movie. Well, I hadn’t reckoned with Tom Holland when I said that. OMG!!! He is so adorkable! I  had to admit to myself that I like him more than I liked Tobey Maguire, although I don’t think Spiderman Homecoming is better than Maguire’s Spiderman 2. I’m not that far gone yet, but I might be, after the sequel.

 

Jack Jack – The Incredibles 2

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In the first Incredibles movie, we learned that Jack Jack, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible’s infant son, has shapeshifting superpowers. In fact, he may be one of the most powerful Supers (as superheroes are called in that universe) alive. In Incredibles 2, Jack Jack gets to take center stage, next to Mrs. Incredible, and it’s absolutely hilarious. I loved watching him interact and bond with Edna and his dad, and beating the shit out a local raccoon, but most hilariously, throughout all of this, he still retains a bubbly demeanor. he’s such a good baby! (Except when he wants a cookie.)

 

Venom – (Venom)

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Okay, Venom is, by all accounts, not a great movie, except none of the audience for this movie cares not one damn bit about any of that. I know I didn’t. People don’t always  go to the theater to see Lawrence of Arabia, or Taxi Driver. They don’t always want depth. Sometimes  people choose a movie because they just know they’re gonna have a helluva lot of fun. Its about the interaction between Tom Hardy as, pretty much, himself, and Tom Hardy as Venom. Its also one of the funniest superhero movies , next to Deadpool, because Venom, the character, is hilarious and gets some of the movie’s best lines.

 

Lando Calrissian – Solo – 

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I watched this movie on Netflix, and don’t remember one damn thing about it, other than the scenes that directly involve Lando. When the original Star Wars came out, my Mom immediately fell in love with Lando Calrissian, who was played by Billy Dee Williams, and because she loved him, I liked him more than a little bit too. It doesn’t hurt that he was one of the smoothest, coolest, characters in Empire Strikes Back, and Donald Glover seems to have completely captured that same vibe. Outside of Chewbacca and Lando, Solo isn’t really worth watching, though. Now, if Lando can only get his own movie, I would beg the studio to take my money!

 

 

Grey – Upgrade – Logan Marshall Green

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Its not so much that I liked this character, so much as I liked this movie. I expected to like the movie, because I was intrigued by the trailer, and I got what I expected. The movie is too stark to call it fun, but it was definitely worth watching, with an unexpectedly bittersweet ending. I think part of the reason I was so excited about this movie is because I was excited about the movie Venom, and Logan Marshall-Green is a dead ringer for Tom Hardy.

I was impatient to see Venom, and some of that feeling transferred itself to this movie, which shares much of the same themes as Venom. These men’s bodies have been invaded by an outside entity, and the two halves have to come to an accord about sharing the same body. Green totally sells the action scenes too, although I don’t know if he’s as method as Hardy, his body language is superb and kind of awesome to watch.

Weekend Reading/ Feb. 22nd, 2019

The Matrix

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This isn’t a new theme, but I liked this little essay about how to enjoy movies with so much gunfire in them, in this age of daily mass shootings. How can we enjoy such scenes, and what makes these scenes different from the kinds of scenes we’ve see on our TV screens, on  a regular basis? And what type of role does such a scene have on the prevalence of mass shootings? Not in causing them, but in inspiring how they’re committed.

https://www.vulture.com/2019/02/reckoning-with-the-matrixs-gun-problem.html

 

 

Romantic Tropes

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There is however a real link between how Hollywood depicts romance, and men’s ideas of how romance is meant to be performed, and what’s considered romantic rather than abusive.

To be fair,women also receive toxic messages about romance, outside of what’s discussed in this essay, like the idea that women  can fix broken men, an idea so normalized in Hollywood, that it even shows up in romantic fiction written by women.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/01/when-pop-culture-sells-dangerous-myths-about-romance/549749/

http://www.collegehumor.com/post/7038172/hey-movies-this-isnt-romantic

 

 

 

Racist Vigilantism

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As to the event that happened with Liam Neeson a couple of weeks ago, in which he confessed to an event of racial vigilantism in his youth,  I think Roland Martin, from TVOne News, says it best. But the point also needs to be made that Liam Neeson was only doing what countless numbers of Hollywood films have encouraged White men to do in the protection of White women’s bodies, which is go out and harm men of color, beginning with Birth of a Nation.  Endless Action movies and Westerns are  predicated on the basic plot of : White man goes out and shoots people he thinks  are bad.

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Liam himself has starred in countless numbers of films in which he avenges the sacrilege, or deaths, of female characters. I’m disappointed, but not angry, at Liam, for doing exactly what he’s been told to do, since the invention of film media. White woman been hurt? Go out and terrorize some Black people!

https://www.thedailybeast.com/black-america-knows-white-avengers-like-liam-neeson-all-too-well?via=newsletter&source=DDAfternoon

 

 

Film Criticism Diversity

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Yeah, we’ve been talking about this for a minute.

https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/6/22/17466246/criticism-film-movie-diversity-annenberg-study-larson-blanchett-bullock-kaling

 

 

The Apocalypse

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The basic idea of this article is that common depictions of the apocalypse are just wrong. We already have examples of how people react in the event of massive life-changing events in places that have experienced natural disasters. So why don’t we ever see any of that in Apoclaypse style movies? In fact the people in those movies, especially Western films, all react the same, running trough the streets, burning, killing and pillaging. Along with the lack of bicycles after the apocalypse, showing people acting a fool, during the end of the world, just makes for more dramatic screen images, I guess.

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https://www.tor.com/2018/11/14/what-really-happens-after-the-apocalypse/

 

 

 

Misogyny

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This one discusses how the disparaging of romance novels, and Chic-Lit, is really just another form of devaluing women’s interests and hobbies, and I agree. I think there’s something to this. Anytime women show an interest in some thing, or engage in an activity, there’s a contingent of gatekeepers, and intelligentsia, who crawl out from under the world’s baseboards, to take a shit on everything from romance novels and coloring books, to scrapbooking and fanfiction, to TV shows and Ugg boots.

In fact, this very much pertains to all Pop culture media, for which women are the audience. Pay close attention to criticism of the kinds of hobbies and interests women engage in, vs, the kinds of interests engaged in by men, and see that you don’t find that much of it is negative.

 

https://thetempest.co/2018/03/09/entertainment/chick-lit-romance-bias/

 

 

 

White Nationalism’s Nightmare

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If you haven’t seen the movie The Girl with All the Gifts, then you need to check it out. This is an interesting analysis of what this movie means to those arguing that White Genocide is a thing. I gave a review of it on this blog.

https://racebaitr.com/2017/07/25/girl-gifts-nightmare-white-supremacy/

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-2016/

Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

Black history is Black horror. – Tananarive Due One of Tananrive Due’s comments early on in the Shudder’s Horror Noire documentary will live on in my mind forever because of how it gets right to the meat of the relationship between Blackness and the horror genre. I love learning things and I spend a […]

via Horror Noire: Black History, Horror (A Review) — Stitch’s Media Mix

If you are at all interested in the history of Horror, and Eli Roth’s History of Horror documentary just didn’t work for you, (and it didn’t for me because it erased almost the entire history of Black people’s relationship to the genre), then you have to watch this doc called Horror Noire. It has interviews and clips from every important Black Horror film star and director from the past 60 -70 years, what those movies meant to Black people, and how we participated in the making if this genre. You have to watch it just for the interview with Jordan Peele, whose new movie, US, is set to debut in March,looks scary as shit, and which I am very, very, excited about.

Its especially enlightening for the review of a classic vampire movie titled Ganja and Hess, which seems to have been remade by Spike Lee, which he titled Taste Da Blood Of Jesus. Ganja and Hess is also available on the Firestick app called Tubi. There are also interviews of the stars of Dawn of the Dead, Blacula, and Candyman. Basically everytrinhg that should have been covered in Eli Roth’s series, but wasn’t.

Essential viewing:

King Kong

Creature From the Black Lagoon

Get Out

Night of the Living Dead

Candyman

The People Under the Stairs

Blacula

Ganja and Hess

Blade

The Girl with All the Gifts – A must see

Kingdom (Korean Zombie Series)

 

I cannot speak highly enough about this show, and I want to watch it again before the 15th (before I’ll be binging Umbrella Academy). If you’re a fan of historical fiction, zombies, and political intrigue, then this is your show. The fact that all the political intrigue takes place in Korea’s past is completely irrelevant, because you will enjoy the ride. You will especially enjoy it if you watched the movies, Train to Busan, or Seoul Station, because this is from the same creators, although it is unknown if the movies are part of a trilogy, with the show.

Now, I can’t say for certain, but it is possible that Kingdom is a prequel to Seoul Station, which takes place in present day  Korea, and involves a zombie contagion spreading among the homeless. Train to Busan is about a zombie contagion that takes place among a crowd of middle class commuters, in the present day, in another area of Korea, simultaneous to Seoul Station.

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Kingdom takes place in Korea’s ancient past and is about a zombie contagion that spreads among the populace, after the King becomes infected. While the peasants fight for their lives, the Crown Prince attempts to do his best to help save them while the rest of the nobility fight among themselves for access to the throne.There’s some neat character arcs in the series. When we first meet the Prince, he is attempting to see his father, who has been incognito. What he doesn’t know is The King had been turned into a zombie by  the medicinal use of a small purple flower, that grows in the mountains.

The current Prince is next in line to the throne, and he is indolent and kind of lazy. He’s spent most of his time enjoying himself rather than learning statecraft. There is a rival clan that wishes to put one of their own on the throne because a daughter of that clan is the King’s pregnant wife. Most of the time at court, is spent driving away the Prince, and pretending the King is still alive, but in seclusion, until that woman’s child is born, as that child will have precedence to the throne over the current Prince.

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As the crisis with the zombies deepens, we watch as  the Prince steps up to care for his people in their time of need, which parallels the journey made by the lead character in Train to Busan, who goes from a selfish man, who nearly gets one of the other passengers killed, to sacrificing his life to protect them. Several times the Prince risks his life to save peasants, including several children. He steps up to be as courageous, and smart, as the peasants believe him to be. The other officials, whose job it is to take care of the villagers, turn out to be a lot less so.

Each iteration of these stories addresses the  issues of classism and poverty from three differing points of view, so I can’t talk about Kingdom without talking about the previous two films, because even if the films are not part of a trilogy, they are connected by their themes. In Seoul Station, the entire contagion begins among the homeless , when one of the men in that community, dies  and resurrects. His brother tried get help for him, but kept getting rebuffed  by people who had nothing but contempt for him. If he had been able to get medical help for his brother, the situation would not have evolved the way it did.

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In Kingdom, the villagers in the outlying areas are starving to death because the local officials are neglectful in their duties, being more concerned with their pleasant lives, than if people are dying. When one of the bodies the King has fed on, is shipped home to one of the villages, someone chops up the body, and puts it in a stew, which the starving peasants eat. For the record, most of the bodies the king has fed on, don’t resurrect because they have been immersed in a pond on the castle grounds.

One of the interesting things about these zombies is they only resurrect during the day. It isn’t until later that we find out why that is, but until then, since no one believes in their existence until its too late, no one takes the opportunity to get rid of the bodies before nightfall.  As soon as the sun rises, the zombies fall down, and appear to be dead. The bodies that have been dumped into  the palace’s pond have also not resurrected, for some reason.

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The homeless man, in Seoul Station, spends nearly the entire  movie running for his life, after having met, and saved, the life of the young woman at the center of the film. She too is a member of the underclass,  a sex worker with no real home of her own, after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Neither of them have anywhere to go, so must stay out in the streets, trying to avoid the zombies. At one point, she and the old man have simultaneous emotional breakdowns about wanting to go home, and not having one to go to.

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Every opportunity people have to help them, they don’t,  including the police. The two of them get attacked or turned away. Some of the characters declare that the old man smells bad. The young lady makes a less than favorable impression, as she spends most of the movie in her bare feet, after she loses her impractical shoes. No one will help either of them because they are considered smelly, or  dirty, or  worthless. The movie isn’t just an indictment against the existence of homelessness, but an indictment against the classist snobbery that does nothing to help them.

In Train to Busan, you have another class of people, the middle class, riding a train, when a contagion occurs. You have businessmen, grandmothers, high school students. In other words, respectable people. The kind who were looking down on the primary characters of Seoul Station. Trapped in an environment no one can escape, they are shown as being selfish, full of contempt for those they think are less than, having no loyalty to one another, yet  acquiescent to any form of authority.

The man with the most power and respect is openly malicious  towards the other characters, at one point, expressing a rage filled rant towards a teenage  girl he regards as stupid. At several points in the story, he gets people killed because he wants what he wants, and in his mind that takes priority over whatever those “lesser” people want. So once again we have the themes of classicism and selfishness and snobbery. All the other characters learn to be selfless too late to save themselves, as they really get  the chance to band together. The lowest person on the class scale is the wrestler and his wife, both of whom start the story as giving and altruistic people. There is also a homeless man in this movie as well. He dies too, but he does so giving his life to save others, just as the wrestler does. This same level of personal growth is shown in The Kingdom, when  the Prince rises to the occasion, to become a true leader who makes smart, brave  decisions for the welfare of the villagers, and  always from a place of empathy.

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In Train to Busan, two old women, sisters, are watching news footage of the zombie attacks on TV and, mistaking the attackers for rioters, they both express disdain for “those people”. After one sister gets infected, the other gets everyone in her train car killed, after she opens a door to let her sister inside. Her selfishness, (because she certainly isn’t thinking of the welfare of the others in the car), is what gets everyone killed, which is an interesting turnabout, as it was the people of that train car who selfishly kicked  some of the other survivors out of that car, at the commandments of the selfish businessman.

In Kingdom, the ruling officials in the area, at every opportunity to save the villagers, elect to save themselves. During an uprising of zombies, a fleet of boats is burned, leaving only one boat left. The officials and members of the local nobility, decide to take the one boat for themselves, after promising to evacuate the villagers. Unknown to them, one of  the infected has made its way onto the boat. They are all killed, and their boat destroyed, when the contagion breaks out.

While the movie is full of Game of Thrones style intrigue, its still fairly easy to follow, although you will probably not remember any of the character’s names. Even though its a series, rather than a film, it’s every bit as intense as the first two films, with the quiet moments only serving to build up the tension before the next attack, which everyone knows is coming, so a lot of daytime events have time limits on them. It is a very intense show, with lots of running, fighting, and bare escapes. Yes, children are endangered in this movie, some of them are killed (offscreen) and there are child zombies.There are also some really good plot surprises, as well, so if you’re watching this  because you find the plot intriguing, you will be satisfied. The movie is both subbed and dubbed, so those of you who hate reading subtitles can listen in English, and vice versa.

I cannot recommend this movie hard enough to anyone who is a fan of zombie movies and shows.

Kingdom is a six part TV series available on Netflix.

Some Exciting Trailers!

Doom Patrol

I’m actually enjoying Titans, which is something I’ll talk about later, but one of my favorite episodes was number four, which featured the superhero group, called Doom Patrol. Yes, they are comic book characters. No, I never read any of the books. I sort of knew about Doom Patrol in passing, but never actually picked up any of the books. Occasionally, I’d stumble across that Robot guy, but I’ve never heard of the team beyond Cyborg.

In the Titans episode clip below, Beast Boy takes Raven to meet his family. I have this thing about depictions of family dynamics, so I was on board right from the beginning. The team, as it will in the show, consists of Negative Man (the guy with the bandages), Elastic Woman (who can shift her looks), Robot Man (who used to be a race car driver before he lost his body in an accident), Cyborg,(we met him in Justice League), and Jane (who has 60 different personalities, all of whom have a different superpower).

I’m looking forward to watching this soon.

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Fast Color

One of the things I like about the new year are all the interesting new trailers for films no one has mentioned, or I’ve never heard of. This is Fast Color, about a Black woman who has superpowers, who goes home to discover her daughter has abilities too. I really like Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ll watch anything in which she stars, so if this is playing in my area, maybe I can talk Mom into going to see it with me.

 

 

Avengers Endgame

This is the latest trailer for the new Avengers movie, airing during the Superbowl. I’m very excited to see this movie mostly because I’m deeply curious about the interactions between characters who have never met before.

It seems that we’ve been reduced to the first five, or so, original Avengers, in the direct aftermath of the loss of so much life, so there’s a distinctly melancholy feel to the movie. I don’t mind, as long as I get to see most of my favorites return.

 

 

The Twilight Zone

I’m a huge fan of the original TW, and the various reboots weren’t too bad either. I’m a big fan of Jordan Peele, who has already shown us his horror bonifides with his first movie, Get Out, and his newest release this Spring, titled US. I think he’s just a Producer on this, which is cool. I already have the CBS All Access App for watching Star trek Discovery, so I might as well take advantage.

 

 

Hanna

I can’t say I’m a fan of the movie, which turned out not to be the full on action fest I thought it would, but turned out to be quieter, and more contemplative, than I thought. I did not dislike the movie this came from, but I didn’t love it either, probably because my expectations, and the payoff were so wildly different.

The movie is a bout a young girl raised by her adoptive father to be lethal, her escape from his pursuers, and her attempts to live as a normal teenager, when she meets another young woman looking to be friends. If the show follows the movie, then be prepared for some really good action scenes, alongside a great deal of  coming of age drama. I’m curious about this. one of the  standout things , from the movie, was Hanna’s relationships with the normal teens, and their reactions to who and what she is.

So, I’m going to check it out and let you know what’s going on here. Hanna airs on Amazon Prime. Tbh, I haven’t watched a single one of Amazon Prime’s many original series, so maybe I’ll break that record with this one.

 

 

Toy Story 4

I’m probably not going to the theater to see this, but then I’ve said that about other movies, so don’t take me at my word on it. After all, I have several nieces and nephews who all love Toy Story, I’ve seen all the other ones in theaters, and I could be easily persuaded to take them to see it. My family has discovered that I am notoriously easy to be talked into seeing movies I had no plans to watch, (and I’m pretty sure my Mom is just taking shameless advantage of me.)

So, we’ll see.

 

 

Game of Thrones

Season eight is coming.

 

 

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark

I remember scaring myself to death with these books as a kid, so I’m mildly excited about a movie based on them. For me the scariest parts of the books are the illustrations, but some of the stories are pretty effective today, too. Apparently this movie is produced by Guillermo Del Toro, who rarely goes wrong when it comes to Horror, so I’m looking forward to checking this out.

 

 

 

Hobbs and Shaw

I’m not really a Fast and Furious fan. I’ve maybe watched half of the movies, but the inclusion of Idris Elba, as a total badass, has my complete attention, Since my Mom is a huge Idris fan, and will actually go see movies featuring The Rock, and for some  reason that is unbeknownst to the rest of her family, has become enamored of Jason Statham’s Transporter movies, I’m pretty sure I can talk her into going to see this movie with me.

It looks like a helluva lot of fun, too.

 

 

The Secret Life Of Pets 2

I though the original film was just sooo cute! My favorite character is Gidget because  her name reminds me of those Gidget Beach movies I watched as a kid. This new trailer is really funny, so I’m sure I can be talked into going to see it by my sister’s kids.

 

US (2019) Jordan Peele

Here’s a nice after Christmas treat.

The trailer for Jordan Peele’s new movie just dropped. What a beautiful Christmas present this was!

I watched this trailer, and I am shooketh! This looks genuinely terrifying!

Seriously, Peele’s been a comedian for years, and he’s been holding out on us. I love the cast for this movie, Lupita Nyongo, and Winston Duke, both fresh off of Black Panther. I expect this to be scary, and I expect it to have as much depth as his first movie, Get Out.

https://ew.com/trailers/2018/12/25/us-movie-trailer-jordan-peele/

Jordan says this is not a home invasion movie, it’s not about race, and it involves a new mythology that he’s invented about “The Tethered”. As you can see a lot of it takes place well into the next day, and once again, we get to see Lupita kicking some ass.

Things To Notice:

* That opening song. I Got 5 On It by Luniz was the song from my youth, too. It came out during my college years. I didn’t know I knew the lyrics to this song, and quite frankly the backbeat was always creepy to me, but that’s not something you say to your friends when they jammin’. (And Yes, it is about drugs.)

*The entire family is dark skinned, especially the mother and daughter. The usual dynamic, especially for mainstream movies, is to cast the father as dark skinned, and all the women in the family as several shades lighter, but here, the entire family has the same skin tone, which is something refreshing that people are noticing. It may seem an insignificant detail but those of us who are darker than than a paper bag tend to notice things like that.

*The shoutout to Howard University

*It appears as if the little boy may be on the spectrum. He is wearing a little red devil mask on his head when we first see him, and his mom talks him through the song in the car. Those are the kinds of little things one does when a family member has sensory issues.

*Bunnies!

*People have noticed at least one parallel scene between Lupita’s character, and the main character’s single tear scene from Get Out.

Jordan says having a Black family was incidental, because it’s not something that’s really been done before, and I’d have to agree, because a lot of family style horror movies involve White suburban families dealing with some disruption to their lifestyle, with the status quo being restored by the end of the movie, through their efforts. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty common one.

Honestly, there really aren’t enough PoC in the horror genre, this is refreshing for that reason alone, and this kind of thing is honestly why we need them, to inject some fresh ideas into a genre that’s been coasting for too long on the kinds of things, made primarily by white men, that only seem to scare teenagers – torture porn, jump scares, ghost stories, and possession plots. (Having a Black cast isn’t unheard of, it’s just not especially common.)

Not that the men who almost entirely run this genre don’t have some good ideas from time to time, (It Follows, Poltergeist, two of the films cited by Peele as being significant enough that they was required viewing for the adult cast), but so much of this genre is not anything to get really excited about, beyond the occasional tentpole film like Halloween. The same way the J-Horror craze injected some new material into the genre, Black and Brown people will too, so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that will see more women and PoC filmmakers in this genre.

I want to get back to a time when Horror had something interesting to say about the world, it’s people, anything really. Far too much of the genre has nothing to say from either a political or social standpoint, that isn’t abjectly negative about humanity, or just nihilistic. It will be interesting to see where Jordan Peele takes this story, and what meaning it will have on a wider scale, if any.

Hannibal Season Three: Contorno (5)

Yes, I’m still writing these. I’m not finished. We are  coming up on the initial episodes of the third season, that I wrote reviews for, which were part of the Red Dragon arc. I’m going to rewrite those reviews in light of my new viewpoints.

When the season first aired, I wasn’t particularly interested in the first half. Like a lot of people, I stopped watching after the second season, and didn’t pick up the show again until the middle of season three, when the Red Dragon arc began. I missed all the stuff about Chiyoh, how Hannibal left Bedelia, and how Lecter was captured by Mason Verger, which in hindsight, was probably the most dramatic part of the season, as it reunites him with two of the people he most wronged last season, Alana and Mason Verger. That may have been the reason why some of the last part of the season was baffling to me. But I’m about to go through the process of re-reading those reviews, and see if my current thoughts line up with what I said back then.

 

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This episode begins with three separate threads, and ends with all those threads converging on Hannibal’s location. This starts out as one of those quiet episodes that you don’t think will have much relevance and is merely setup for the next, after all Contorno means side dish. But side dishes can be very filling too, and this was a satisfying episode.

Will Graham has left Lithuania with Chiyo in tow, both of them headed to Florence by train, where Hannibal is holed up with Bedelia. Chiyo and Will discuss what they will do when they finally reach Florence. Will says something that alarms Chiyo, and she pushes him off the train. She has  appointed herself to be Hannibal’s protector, since she no longer guards his prisoner, and doesn’t seem to bear him any ill will for having put her in such a position. I do remember being initially confused as to why Will kept trying to kill Hannibal, even after he supposedly forgave him for killing Abigail. Chiyoh’s understanding of Will is very direct. She states that Will is afraid he will become like Hannibal, which means, of course, that Chiyoh knows exactly what Hannibal is, and seemingly doesn’t mind.

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Chiyoh seems utterly devoted to Lecter, which is something I have a problem with because you have this submissive Asian woman, this stereotype, following around, and protecting, a White male serial killer. Certainly she is deadly, but she is so passive in her interactions that she almost seems like she’s asleep. The most active thing she does is killing, so maybe she’s as much like Hannibal as Will , and that’s the reason she understands Will so well. I do wish the series had played that up more than it did, and established her as someone who, like Will, is trying hard to resist becoming like Hannibal, because this is not something made explicitly clear, and its also something which is at odds with how we are first introduced to her. When we first met her ,she had managed to resist killing Hannibal’s prisoner for years, but once Will sets her free by killing the prisoner himself, she is shooting people left and right, on Hannibal’s behalf.

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Jack Crawford makes his way to Florence as well, where he releases his wife’s ashes into the river, and  relinquishes his wedding ring. Its as if, in the hunt for Hannibal, he is divesting himself of everything that makes him Jack Crawford. Jack is a straigt up “manhunter” now, with no distractions, and he is on the path of vengeance, something that wouldn’t be condoned in polite society, (or by his late wife), and he doesn’t want any vestiges of his old life, or the man he used to be, to interfere in that mission. He meets Reinaldo Pazzi, who tries to talk him into arresting Hannibal with him, but Jack demurs. He doesn’t want Hannibal arrested. He wants him dead.

Hannibal, heeding Bedelia’s warning that he is being hunted, is waiting for all these people to arrive, so he can get all this killing done. He knows Pazzi, Jack, and Will, are closing in on him.  Of the three men, Will is the one of which he is least certain, but then Will has always been a wild card for Hannibal, and difficult for him to predict his actions. Will could just as easily come into the situation and help him, as try to kill him.

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Alana Bloom proves to the audience why she is who she is, as she figures out where Hannibal is, using “psychology”. She knows Hannibal  better than most, and uses her intimate knowledge of his tastes and habits to determine that he is in Florence, tracking him through Bedelia’s purchases of fine goods. In the meantime, it appears that Bedelia is trying to get caught, or get help ,or something. She makes a purchase, and then, wearing a very distinctive outfit, goes to the train station, so she can be caught on the station’s cameras. She wants someone, somewhere, to notice her. She is either asking for help, or concocting an alibi.

Mason Verger, having discovered where Hannibal lays his hat, puts out a bounty on him, which Pazzi accepts. Its illegal for a  member of law enforcement to take money in exchange for an arrest, (even in Italy), so Pazzi doesn’t inform any of his colleagues that he has found the Beast of Florence. Mason gives Pazzi instructions on how to collect the bounty. He must provide a fingerprint as proof that its Hannibal, and Pazzi meets with Hannibal to trick him into giving one. Hannibal kills Pazzi by gutting him and stringing him up outside a window, the way one of Pazzi’s ancestors was killed during the Medici era.

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This particular scene is from the sequel to Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, in which Clarice Starling has tracked Hannibal to Italy attempting to capture him. In fact, some of the dialogue between Chiyoh and Will Graham,  is taken directly from that book. There are also several parallels, in the next two episodes, of scenes from the book, only with Will Graham and Jack in place of  Starling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazzi_conspiracy

Most of the conspirators were soon caught and summarily executed; five, including Francesco de’ Pazzi and Salviati, were hanged from the windows of the Palazzo della Signoria.[2]:140 Jacopo de’ Pazzi, head of the family, escaped from Florence but was caught and brought back. He was tortured, then hanged from the Palazzo della Signoria next to the decomposing corpse of Salviati. 

Pazzi is the descendant of one of the most notorious Italian families of the Renaissance. His ancestor, Francesco de’ Pazzi, was hanged during something called The Pazzi Conspiracy, in which a plot was contrived by several individuals, to assassinate Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici. There are parallels to this story of people converging  to assassinate Hannibal, and there will be parallels to this history later in the series, as Jack, Will, Alana, and Frederick Chilton come together to take out both  Hannibal Lecter and The Red Dragon.

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Hannibal’s killing of Pazzi is interrupted by Jack Crawford, who followed Pazzi to their meeting, and there is a continuation of that fight that Jack lost in season two. Only this time, Hannibal gets his ass kicked, because Jack came prepared to fight dirty, and gives Hannibal no quarter. This is the first time we’ve really seen Hannibal  fighting for his life and on the defensive like this.. All the other times when we had seen him in danger, it was usually because of a stealth attack. Hannibal barely survives by using the disemboweled body of Pazzi to break his fall out of a window. Thoroughly chastened, Hannibal limps off to lick his wounds. He knows its just a matter of time before he gets caught, and that all he’s doing is postponing the inevitable, but he is determined to go down fighting.

13 Favorite Vampire Novels

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

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I first read this book when I was about nine. It would forever influence how I read about vampires. I know there were vampire novels before this, and I even read a handful of them, but  none of them made the impression on me that this book did because it was the first time I’d read about what would happen if vampires entered the modern world of American technology and culture. These were not the Hammer/ Dracula vampires that I’d been watching on TV, and that struck a chord with me. You’ll notice a trend in the type of vampires I prefer, either the mindless hungry monster, or the thoughtful, erudite, wise old man.

Ben Mears is a writer that grew up in Salem’s Lot and has a traumatic history with the Marsten House, which looms over the surrounding town, and has itself, a sordid and tragic backstory. Arriving simultaneously is vampire Kurt Barlow, and his human servant. Its up to Ben to convince his friends and family that vampires are taking over the town before the town is destroyed.

I’m going to have to do a review of the TV mini series, as it contains some interesting messaging about xenophobia and  one of King’s favorite topics, which was heavily tackled in It, the secrets of small-town life. The book also touches on the limits of belief and faith in the fight against evil. I’m going to have to do a lot more reading on those topics before I can tackle that though.

 

The Light at the End – John Skipp and Craig Spector

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This book just knocked me out! I will always stan for this book, which is a great descendant of Salem’s Lot. It contains both the mindless hungry monsters I adore, and the thoughtful , but evil, old man vampire, who sets the entire plot in motion while he’s on holiday in America. The characters are wonderful, the vampire action is great. This is what happens when a human being, Rudy, who is already a major asshole, gets bitten by a vampire, and turned loose in New York City. This book was part of the Splatterpunk era of the 80s, and the  writers do not stint on the gore.

The major drawback to this book is the rampant homophobia, which I found very jarring, when I listened to the audiobook recently. It does have a heroic gay character in it (who doesn’t get killed), but the road up to that moment is pretty rocky, and I think the writers thought they were being  progressive at the time. If that’s something that’s a deal breaker for you, then by all means you should skip it. (Its just that I had forgotten about it, since I read this as a teenager.)

 

Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

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This is one of those types of vampire that I found incredibly intriguing as a teenager. The vampire from this book is a ruthless, heartless, intellectual, who is without sentiment about his condition. No lush prose here. The vampire in this book is direct, pragmatic and without excuses for what he is. As far as he is concerned, he is a predator, born and evolved to feed on human beings, and everything he does  is nothing more than a masquerade  to that purpose. He doesn’t have long romantic stories of his previous lives, as he doesn’t remember any of them, because, as he says, he doesn’t need to, to fulfill his only purpose, which is feigning humanity to get human blood. This is the more scientific, biological strain of vampire, but one who is intelligent and self reflective, when called to be so. He also has no idea of his age, since he sleeps for several decades at a time, after a few years of wakefulness and feeding.

The story plays out in three acts. In the first, he is captured, and kept in a cell by a ruthless man wishing to make money from him. He escapes by emotionally manipulating the man’s teenage nephew. The most intriguing part of the book is the second act where, as a college teacher, he has a psychiatric session with a woman who figures out what he is, and he attempts to divest her of her romantic notions of vampirism.  In the third act, he believes its time for him to go back to The Big Sleep, after witnessing a stage play that arouses sentimentality in him,  something he considers a liability to his survival.

The book isn’t especially  scary, but it was a great introduction to the idea of an intellectual/scientific vampire.

 

The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice

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I read this when I was maybe 18, and  I loved it. I’d never read anything like it. I followed Rice’s vampire series for several years, but since the over saturation of the market with vampires that are all ripoffs of Anne Rice, I’ve pretty much stopped reading them. That doesn’t make her original trilogy any less effective though. I can still pick up these books and become completely immersed n the lush world of 1800s Louisiana, now aided and abetted by images of Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise, as Louis and Lestat. This book is one of the first times I encountered a child vampire, and while I was never into Claudia, as a character, all that much, she is very effectively written. To my memory no one had written about child vampires much before Rice.

 

 

Lost Souls – Poppy Z. Brite

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I’m not sure how to describe this book. The vampires are definitely vampires, but unlike any of the vampires mentioned above, although the closest resemblance is to the style of Rice’s vampires. But only the style. The book takes place in the modern day, and chronicles the coming of age of a half vampire named Nobody, who meets a trio of vampires, who have been killing their way across the Midwest, and one  of whom turns out to be his father, something he discovers only after having slept with him, because that is the kind of book we’re dealing with.

Dark, Gothic, and lush is really the only way to describe the writing style, and the vampires, here. The author, Poppy Z. Brite, was something of a Goth icon at the time this book was written, and this book was all the rage in those circles. I did not run in those circles, and quite frankly, I was mostly exasperated by the pretentiousness of that particular crowd, but that has no bearing on the book, which feels like a velvety nightmare. It can be a little hard to get into, at first, because the style is very dense, and the characters are  dark and kind of emotionally remote, but once you do, its a very satisfying read.

 

Fledgling – Octavia Butler

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I wrote about this book earlier. I was not new to Butler’s books when I read it, but some of the events in this book are very jarring, and I feel I have to give a heads up on what happens. The book addresses the topic of race from the viewpoint of a new type of vampire, who can walk around in daylight. She looks like a little girl, about twelve years old, although she is much, much, older, and yes, she is Black. Right off the bat, within the first couple of chapters, she has a sex scene with the grown man (White) who rescued her. I wasn’t expecting that to happen, even though all of Butler’s books are kind of disturbing, and I should probably have expected it.

There are several scenes of her sleeping with adults, and I had a hard time getting past this, but I was younger and more hearty or something, because I managed to soldier through it, to an actually satisfying conclusion. I have not read this book since, and wouldn’t, because I can’t get past those scenes, although I found the rest of the book intriguing, and engaging.

Because the vampire’s bites cause humans to become addicted to them, the vampires acquire a “stable” of people around them, and so does she. Up to this point, the idea of child vampires has mostly not been addressed in vampire fiction, and really I suppose it should. Anne Rice got around the issue by making Claudia asexual, but Butler tackles the topic full on, and takes it as far as she possibly can. If this is something too disturbing for you, then you can skip this one, because this is a very challenging book.

 

Anno Dracula Series  – Kim Newman

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The Anno Dracula books are like a vampire’s greatest hits series, where all the most famous vampires in historical fiction get a shoutout, in the chronicle of the life of  one Genevieve Dieudonne, a teenage vampire who was created in the 16th century, whose observances, and adventures with a secret society known as The Diogenes Club, make up the bulk of the novel. This is all intertwined with a Ripper type serial killer who is preying on vampires in Whitechapel, called Silver Knife.

This one of the most unique series about vampires being written. The rest of the Anno Dracula series is about what would happen if vampires were a part of the everyday history and  life of regular human beings, and how their presence would have affected historical events, politics, and pop culture.

In the first book, Dracula actually succeeds in taking over London and turning the Queen into a vampire. Vampires have all come out of the grave. They have culture and fashions and music of their own. Most humans seek to become vampires, if only to avoid being rounded up as food, and this has an effect on the poor of Whitechapel, and the question of how vampires can survive if they don’t curb their numbers. Victorian London is every bit as Dickensian as ever, but with the addition of vampires and vampirism causing even further misery.

This is a great book, if you can get past the writing style which is a bit wry. The rest of the series isn’t as good as the first book, but if you have an interest in the history of Pop culture you might want to check out Dracula Cha Cha Cha, which takes place in 1950s Hollywood.

 

 

Blood Price Series  – Tanya Huff

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This particular series was branched out into a lovely universe with the lead vampire of this series at the head of it. I like the mythology of the series, which just manages to skirt the edges of being a romance. Henry Fitzroy is  a great character, and a good foil for the lead female character, Vicki Nelson, but it was Vicki that first captured me. She had a voice I liked. She wasn’t over-romantic,or maudlin, and never talked about her clothes and shoes. She’s a tough as nails, female, private detective, done correctly. She’s tough without trying too hard, disabled without dwelling on it overmuch, stubborn, prickly, pragmatic, and when confronted with the supernatural, in the form of Henry Fitzroy: Vampire, she takes that, and all subsequent introductions with supernatural creatures, completely in stride. She eventually becomes a vampire herself, and while Henry keeps telling her that all vampires are loners, who can’t live together in the same territory, Vicky is stubborn enough to make it work.

I wasn’t too fond of the short-lived, Canadian television series, Blood Ties, but I think the dynamic between Vicki and Henry was pretty good, it wasn’t as good as the book, mostly because Kyle Schmid is very pretty, but no Henry Fitzroy, while Christina Cox perfectly captures Vicki’s personality. If you don’t want to read the books, then the series is close enough in style to the books to give you a good sample.

 

 

They Thirst – Robert R McCammon

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This was the second vampire invasion book I read, after Salem’s Lot, and I thought it was fantastic. I don’t think it was a particularly deep book, but it was a lot of fun, and most of that fun is in the reactions of people who begin to understand what’s happening.  McCammon does get one major thing right, just as I have always espoused, is that people for whom superstition and faith are a major part of their life, are usually the ones to catch on the fastest, and survive what’s happening. People who believe the evidence of their senses, and stop trying to apply rationality to what they clearly see is happening, are usually the ones who survive.

It wasn’t my first brush with the writing of Robert R McCammon, but it is a fondly remembered book, although the book is a little more dated, as it takes place during the height of late 70’s/80s Pop culture, so some of the characterization needs work. A lot of horror novels in the 80s, were written by straight, White men ,so many of them had some serious  issues with writing PoC, and gay, lesbian and transgender characters, in the sense that most of these depictions were abysmal, as White writers had  less sensitivity  about such groups than they do now, and you have to take that into account if you’re going to tackle some of these 80s books.

I said before, I believe McCammon was building on Salem’s Lot by taking the basic premise of that book to its logical extreme, and asking : What if Dracula came to the big city, rather than a small town? How might that story play out?In They Thirst, vampires take over the city of Los Angeles, and it mostly plays out very much as you think it does. There’s less emphasis on xenophobia, but there’s subsequently  more emphasis on city life, gangs, and how disbelief in the supernatural, and  the cynicism of city dwellers, aids and abets the vampire invasion. Its not as good as Salem’s Lot, because its simply not as deep, but its a game effort, and worth the read.

 

 

30 Days of Night

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I already wrote about this series.

30 Days of Night has since become an entire series of books, with crossovers with other horror comics, and a movie starring Josh Hartnett. The graphic novel is so much better than the movie, and the movie is pretty damn good. The atmospheric art of Ben Templesmith is a huge factor in how scary the first book is. I became a huge fan of Steve Niles after reading this.

What I would like to know is why no one had ever thought of this idea before, given the icy horror of the Arctic, and the loneliness and isolation? Some of the best, and scariest, movies and TV shows have been set in this environment, so why not vampires?

The way vampires are written today, most of them aren’t very scary at all which is why I love to hype up this series. This book actually had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read it, and I’m always going to be fond of the idea, if not the various execution of the idea, over the course of the series.

 

 

 

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy A Collins

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This is one of my favorite series because it has one of the baddest female vampires to ever be written, and tackles the subjects of sexual assault and trauma in the creation of a new vampire. Sonja Blue’s creation as a vampire was so traumatic that her personality essentially split, with one half being an amnesiac vampire, that carries a silver knife and can walk in daylight, who  kills other vampires, and a monstrous version of her vampire self that she calls The Other. She’s a bit like a female version of Blade, although I do not believe she was based on that character.

The first book is about her coming to terms with what happened to her, and how that ties in with a typical 80s, Evangelical TV couple, who want to use her for their own ends. Over the next three books in the series, she hunts the vampire who made her, while getting into adventures with various men, children, and other supernatural creatures. Most of these books end explosively, and Nancy Collins has a knack for slowly building the suspense, coiling the plot tighter and tighter, until things have to pop off. She does not stint on the gore, but she isn’t trying to write like a guy, in the Splatterpunk tradition. You can definitely tell this novel was written by a woman. This is another 80s vampire, but her writing is less problematic about PoC and gay and lesbian characters.

Later in the 90s, at the height of the Vampire RPG games fascination, Collins wrote a crossover with Sonja, and the Vampire: The Embraced series, which I thought was very effective, considering that she is a very different type of vampire than the ones from White Wolf. (The title is A Dozen Black Roses, and the first four books are available as a set on Amazon.) She even wrote a crossover with The Crow series, in the anthology “Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams”. The later books are not as deep as that first but worth reading, and there are a number of standalone short stories, to get a taste of Collins writing style and introduce yourself to Sonja Blue.

 

 

Necroscope Series – Brian Lumley

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This book was  a favorite for the sheer inventiveness of the vampires in the story. In The Necroscope series, vampirism is a virulent disease that will attempt to survive at any and every cost, and even the most seemingly innocent interaction with the infected, who are cunning, vicious, and highly intelligent, can result in a person becoming infected. The genesis of vampirism is from a planet where it grows as spores (which look like tiny white eggs) in the planet’s swamp lands, and any creature can be infected and pass it on, often resulting in hideous hybrid creatures of man and animal. The infection transforms a person into a conniving, hungry, cruel and manipulative predator, which, even more frighteningly, is still fully capable of human emotions, like love and loyalty.

In the world of the vampires themselves, they were at war with one another until only a handful of long lived lords and ladies are left, living at the top of what few mountains are left behind, called Aeries, and they totally control the human population of the planet, using them for fuel, and food, and transforming them into monstrous, but useful creatures, like plumbing systems, and transport beasts. If you’re familiar with the work of Wayne Barlowe’s Hell series, this world is a close parallel, only slimier. Pretty much everything about Lumley’s vampires is maximally disgusting.

The Necroscope is a man named Harry, who  communicates with the dead, who love him. He and the dead are often the first line of defense against the encroachment of vampirism, as they often warn him in advance of infestations, and sometimes even leave their graves to help Harry, and his special government team of vampire fighters and psychics,  to fight them. If you can get past what I thought were unnecessary descriptions of the women, (Lumley has no idea how to write about women) and some inventive sex scenes, these are very enjoyable books, although the writer’s  florid, but stilted writing style may be hard for some people to get past, too. I know I had a minute getting past the writing style, but if your’e a big horror fan this series is worth it just for the imagery.

 

The Saint Germain Chronicles – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

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This series is often referred to as horror, but there isn’t much horror in them, beyond the horrible activities that the vampire, St. Germain, has had to endure in his 30,000 year plus life. These are historical novels written from a vampire’s point of view which makes them different enough  to be of interest to me. St. Germain is a vampire who was definitely invented by a woman, think Frank Langella’s smooth, urbane, sophisticated version of in the 1979  Dracula. Since these books were mostly written in the 80s, I suspect that’s who Yarbro had in mind while creating this character, and that’s mostly who I picture when reading the books. Since she wrote this there has been a glut of historical vampire novels with characters not dissimilar to this.

In each book of the series, St. Germain travels to some new part of the world, falls in love, and has an adventure. The books were published in no particular order, and can be read in any order, as well. My personal favorite is Path of the Eclipse, a chronicle of his travels throughout Asia, from China, to Japan, to India and Tibet. Each chapter is often prefaced with an introduction to the life/lives of whatever new characters he will be interacting with, and  where he is, in the form of letters and/or documents. Yarbro manages to perfectly capture the world weariness of an incredibly long lived creature, that tries to hold itself aloof from human affairs, but keeps getting embroiled in various human dramas, often because of St. Germain’s deep well of compassion for the mayfly lives he interacts with.

If you love a well researched historical novel, with vampire, then pick up any book in the series, in any order.