Starring the Landscape: Welcome to the Jungle

The Jungle is the symbolic opposite of the desert and the tundra. The Jungle environment is a stand in for confusion, the loss of civilization, wildness, overabundance, hardship, danger, fear, threat, and powerlessness. The colors associated with jungle environments in movies are greens, black, and red. The kind of horror stories that take place in the jungle often embody all these themes. In fact, many movies that take place in the jungle involve many elements of horror, even if they’re not actually horror movies.

Predator - Shooting Jungle [HD] GIF | Gfycat

The jungle is the opposite of the desert/Arctic, in that it has an overabundance of life, and most of that life is indifferent to ours. So dropping human beings into such an environment automatically makes it horrific, with the jungle itself as an external threat. Jungle movies that contain both internal and external threats are kind of rare, because often just the backdrop of the jungle itself is enough of a threat to human life that it makes the movie horrifying.

In the 2017 movie Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe, there is no more threat needed than the act of simply attempting to survive while in the jungle, with no food, no tools, and no resources, or skills. The movie is based on the true story of Yossi, an Israeli traveler who gets stranded, alone, in the Amazon, after a series of misadventures with friends. After several days of trying to get food and make shelter, Yossi is rescued by one of his friends. The movie is filmed much like a horror movie, except the killer is the environment, as Yossi and his companions encounter one challenge after another, from sickness and wounds, to river rapids and hunger.

Blu-ray Review: 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God'

In the 1972 movie, Aguirre the Wrath of God, directed by Werner Herzog, the horror comes not just from the environment, but also internal, as it comes from the weaknesses of other people. In 1560, a group of Conquistadors get lost in the Amazon, while searching for the fabled City of Gold, El Dorado. One by one, they succumb to the dangers of river rafting, sickness, hunger, angry natives, and their own perfidy, until their cruel leader is finally left alone to die in his  madness. The soldiers were not only ill prepared for the rigors of survival in the jungle, but were brought low by their own greed, selfishness, and cruelty.

Writers don’t really need to add more to make the environment more threatening to increase the horror,  but writers will occasionally drop in another external threat, such as in the most famous of these types of film, the 1987 Predator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a small, heavily armed, paramilitary rescue team, encounter a hostile alien in Central America, The alien possesses advanced weaponry and, one by one, stalks and kills them, until only Arnold’s character is left to outsmart it. The soldiers deal with multiple external threats that make watching the movie especially harrowing. They don’t just have to survive the dangers of the jungle, but the hostile insurgents they came to fight, and the alien, all while attempting to rescue a government official.

Predator - Shooting Jungle [HD] GIF | Gfycat

Alien beings are not the only threats form Outside however. Sometimes the threats are humans, or animals. Since the beginning of cinema, the deep, dark jungles of Africa, and South America have been shown  to be the place where White explorers fear to tread, largely because of cannibals. The most recent one of these is Eli Roth’s 2013 Green Inferno, in which a cast of white plane crash survivors are set upon by a tribe of hungry natives.

https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/the-green-inferno-is-new-low-in-racist-film-making/

http://www.fightbacknews.org/2016/1/23/racism-and-cynical-politics-are-real-horror-eli-roths-green-inferno

The Green Inferno received negative reviews, not just for its gore, but for the tired racist concept of Indigenous people as inherently bloodthirsty and cannibalistic, predators lying in wait for white tourists, or travelers, to happen by, so they can torture and kill them. Among these films were a series of exploitation films, by Italian directors from the 80s, like 1980s Cannibal Holocaust, 1981s Eaten Alive, and Cannibal Ferox, that were devoted to the topic of white people being eaten by natives in jungle environments.

Top 10 Cannibal Themed Horror Movies of the 21st Century - PopHorror

The Ruins, which was released in 2008, follows much the same plot, at least on the surface, when a group of backpackers in the Amazon, are attacked by the Indigenous tribe of that area, after they stumble across a forbidden site. The cannibal narrative is overturned, however, as the natives aren’t simply out to kill tourists, but are keeping them trapped in the jungle, to save the rest of the world from the sentient carnivorous plants the travelers have become infected with.

There is always an element of racism involved in such movies, as the natives, often people of color, are  depicted as hostile, primitive, and cannibalistic, and  whatever religions they practice are also demonized. The local natives in such films are often shown to jabbering hysterically  in foreign languages, ignorant, uneducated, and not in charge of their own fates. The pagan religions they practice are associated with the jungle landscape, and represent the wild outer reaches of civilization, where human beings can survive, but not without the assistance of unknowable animal or eldritch gods, who  are depicted as greedy, bloodthirsty, and requiring ritual sacrifices of animals and people, or involving arcane and mysterious rites of appeasement, as in the 1987 film The Believers, where a man is terrorized and cursed by the members of a Santeria cult, after he stumbles across a plot to sacrifice his son to a pagan god, to prevent World War 3.

Cannibal Ferox (1983) – Balls Out and Balls Off - YouTube

In film after film, South and Central American religions like Voodoo and Santeria are  associated with cults, jungle tribes, primitivism, a lack of education, gullibility, zombies, and Satanism. In fact, the term Witch Doctor comes directly from such movies, differentiating itself from the European witch model, by combining  pagan religious rituals with medical and scientific experiments, as in the 1988 The Serpent and the Rainbow, supposedly based on the true story of Wade Davis, where a medical doctor, gets zombified by the local Witch Doctor, while researching the zombie myth. With rare exceptions, the only time Black people (or Indigenous peoples) appear in such films is when they’re the villains.

When attractive looking White people, (because let’s be honest, urban Black people are not traveling to the jungle for any reason, and we never star in these films as the victims), are not being eaten by humans in the jungle, they are being chased and eaten by the many dangerously large animals that live there. Every year since America’s environmental awakening in the 70s, Hollywood has  produced a host of movies nature’s revenge movies, involving people being chased by giant snakes (Anaconda 1997), giant bears (Grizzly 1976), giant crocodiles (Primeval 2007) or giant pigs, (Razorback 1984) as a punishment for their hubris in believing they could conquer such an environment, or for not paying proper respect to it.

Indominus Water Scene GIF | Gfycat

The premise of “Lost World” films is often based on revenge for the hubris of white colonizers, where there is some part of the world that is so unexplored, or uninhabitable, that it is still available for exploration and/or  exploitation by white men, which nature duly rebukes for their trouble. The latest movie featuring a lost world plot is the 2017 Kong: Skull Island, wherein a group of military specialists get stranded on an unknown jungle island during the Vietnam War. They encounter the titular ape, and get picked off, one by one, by a menagerie of dangerously massive animals like spiders, pterosaurs, and to make the setup complete,  horrific underground monsters.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

But the most famous of these giant animal movies, upon which the new version is based,  is the 1933 King Kong, in which an intrepid group of explorers get stranded on a jungle island that’s been lost in time. They get hunted by everything from hostile tribesmen, to dinosaurs, to the actual ape himself. The Jurassic Park franchise of the mid-90s, is just a scientific way to upgrade the Lost World myth to the modern world, with humans being hunted through  dark jungles, by ancient creatures, while still addressing the same issues of economic exploitation. The dinosaurs are a scientific version of King King, (only without the elements of racism that mar the original  film.)

The jungle is where human beings go to kill or be killed. That’s its only purpose. There’s no compromising with it, anything can be imagined in such a place, and a person can only exist in there on its terms, which makes movies set in jungles the most exciting and terrifying adventures to have.

The Trailers Are Out!

The DCEU just had this thing online in August, that was sort of like ComicCon, but only for DC and its properties, called the FanDome. Basically they showcased all their shows, movies, and trailers online, for a week. So here are the relevant trailers, and a couple of random trailers, and videos, I threw into the mix,  just because I liked them!

 

Enola Holmes

This is a new series on Netflix, based on the Enola Holmes Mystery books, which I have heard about, but never read. Enola is Sherlock and Mycroft’s little sister, and Since I like her brothers, and I like this actress, I’m looking forward to the first episode, which looks like lighthearted fun.

 

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

For the record, I cared not one whit for the Zack Snyder cut to be released, let alone that it even existed. I’m also not exactly a Zack Snyder fan, even though I’ve probably seen all his films. Its more that  Zack Snyder keeps directing movies that have actors in it that I like, and so I end up seeing his movies.

All that said, I actually am looking forward to this and will definitely watch this mini-series, which I understand will take place over four days. Frankly, that’s how it should’ve been approached in the first place, rather than a 2+ hour movie, that seemed to displease everyone.

 

The Suicide Squad

Now, I must state up front, that I am a fan of the first Suicide Squad, which is differentiated from this one by not having the word ‘The” in front. I know people hate that first movie, but I found a lot of things to like about it, (as well as hate), and it’s more likely that I was looking at that film through a very different lens, than the white fanboys who hated it, and one day I’m going to have to write about why that is.

Anywho, I am a big fan of James Gunn, whose career got canceled briefly, but who has since been reinstated, in his role as the  director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, which I personally love. Those are two of my absolute favorite MCU films ,so I’m very much looking forward to his version of the Suicide Squad.

 

The Batman

This movie actually looks okay. Yeah, I was more than a little dubious about Robert Pattinson playing this role, but I never liked Ben Affleck, and I’ve since watched Pattinson in other roles, and I feel confident that he is gonna bring it as The Batman.

Now this is a much younger Batman than we’re used to. I’d say year one or two, in his role as Gotham’s protector, and you can see that he is not as controlled in his manner, as we’ve seen the older Batmans, and that there is a little more hand to hand combat, rather than the reliance on gadgets, that a lot of the movies fall into. Hopefully, this movie will also focus on Batman being a detective, because that was the part of his role that made him interesting in the comic books, and  which hasn’t really been depicted onscreen yet.

 

The Stand 

You guys all know I’m a dedicated Stephen King fan despite some of my issues with some of his characters, but I will admit that I disliked the original mini-series of this book intensely, because the acting was so spotty, and it was trying just a little too hard to be faithful to the book, without actually being faithful to the book. But I’m kind of looking forward to this version. For one thing, it stars much better actors ,and it looks like its going to remain faithful to the spirit in which the book was written, and it happens to be timely.

Now, I don’t know how many of you want to sign on to see a pandemic destroy the Earth, considering what we’re all going through. I tried reading the book back in May, and just couldn’t get through it, and I also believe the money spent on this would have been better served filming The Talisman, but I’m gonna watch this in December, even though it ain’t got nan but two black people in it, and let you guys know what I think.

 

Thriller Haka

Taika Waititi continues to be comedy gold! I just love this man’s humor ,and of course the Thriller dance would be a Haka!

 

Raised by Wolves

Not sure what to think about this one, but I’m going to check it out because its SciFi, and based on my blog name, I am required by law to watch this, I think.

 

Tenet

I am definitely going to watch this, and then we’re going to talk about my love of Christopher Nolan films

 

Alone

I think this is an American remake of the French movie, The Night Eats The World, a zombie type movie, in which people act insane, but are not actually zombies, right? It stars that guy from Teen Wolf. There’s also a bunch of other movies out right now called Alone, but with 0009949443528

a different type of horror, so try not to get confused. This looks intriguing, but I’m not sure I want to binge on too many end of the world flicks right now, because I’m just not feeling it.

*Hopefully, my review of Lovecraft Country’s first episode, will be ready by this Friday!

Horror’s 10 Weirdest Monsters

I was just looking over a list of of horror movies I made early on this blog, of some of my favorite monsters, and took note of how damn weird all the monsters on that list were. I remember deliberately leaving certain types of traditional monsters off the list, like vampires and werewolves.

I also noticed a trend, from decade to decade, too. Whatever social or economic concerns Americans were voicing in the media at that time, got appropriated by Hollywood to make these movies, although its not quite that simple, as Hollywood didn’t just reflect our fears, but reinforced them, as a lot of these films had a sort of dialogue with one another.

In the fifties, the big theme was nuclear generated monsters because people were still reeling from the use of atomic weaponry during the war. In the sixties, the theme was zombies, and other human related horrors, as people began to question American lifestyles, and there was a great deal of social and racial upheaval. In the seventies, it was environmental concerns, and in the eighties, Hollywood focused on human and supernatural related horrors, like zombies, and slashers.

Here is my top ten list of the weirdest horror movie monsters ever screened. There’s a lot more, these just happen to be my personal favorites.

 

Little Shop Of Horrors – Giant Venus Flytrap

This is certainly one of the strangest monsters ever seen in a movie, (especially considering the sheer numbers of strange monsters in movies), a giant flytrap that is actually from Venus, that talks and sings. It took me years to figure that that’s what Audrey II was, probably because I wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue as closely as I should have, and well…Audrey is certainly distracting. The 1986 movie stars the music of Alan Mencken, was directed by Frank Oz, of Muppet fame, while Audrey was voiced by Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops.

 

Food of the Gods – Giant Mice, Chickens, and Hornets

This 1978 movie was loosely based on the H.G.Wells novel of the same name about a strange substance that bubbles out of the ground near a farm, which gets fed to various animals. This causes the farm animals, and all the nearby woodland  wildlife to grow to tremendous sizes. The audience gets treated to giant chickens, giant hornets, and of course, giant mice. Yes, the acting is terrible, and the special effects are laughable, but there are at least a couple of truly effective scenes, which makes this movie worth taking a look at.

Part of the reason for all these giant and killer animal movies, during the 70s, was America’s new awareness of ecological issues, which prompted Hollywood to try to cash in on these new environmentalist fears. Movies like Squirm, Slugs, Day of the Animals, Frogs, and the many Grizzly films gave vent to American’s fears of humans destroying the environment, which prompted the environment to take revenge on us.

 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – GiantTomatoes

In keeping with the theme of ecologically based monsters, this is an utterly ridiculous, 1978 satirical film, whose style is loosely based on the giant nuclear animal movies of the fifties, and The Blob.  The tomatoes even have their own theme song, written by John Dibello. The acting is atrocious, which only contributes to the films very, very, broad humor.

 

Night of the Lepus – Giant Rabbits

This is a 1972 horror scifi movie about a town being overrun by giant rabbits. The special effects are incredibly laughable because the rabbits don’t look especially evil or angry. They just look like rabbits, which is entirely in keeping with the “nature is trying to kill us all” phase of horror that happened during the 70s.

 

Rubber – Killer Car Tire

This 2010 movie is about a rubber tire, named Robert, that somehow becomes sentient enough to psychically kill the people it encounters. It rolls around the desert, exploding the bodies of hapless animals and unsuspecting people. Directed by Quentin Depieux, and starring a cast of nobodies, this film is much more surreal, as it also has a chorus of bystanders, who view the events, while making commentary, and who eventually all contract food poisoning by eating some bad poultry they brought with them for a picnic. Quentin needs help!

 

Attack of the Killer Shrews – Giant Shrews

This 1959, black and white,  giant animal movie revolves around a boat captain and his crew, who get stranded on a research island, with a mad scientist, his daughter, and the staff. The mad scientist believes shrinking human beings to the size of party snacks is a way to solve world hunger.  He should have stuck with enlarging plants, because naturally, he gets to be one of the first people eaten by the shrews. Its also a monumentally stupid idea.

This movie has the distinction of being one of the few movies, on this list, that scared the living beejeezus out of me…when I ten years old, and watched it on some idle Saturday afternoon. its always those childhood fears that stick with you, because I saw this a couple years ago, and yeah, I laughed at it, but it was, lowkey, still effective.

 

From Hell It Came – A Tree Stump/Zombie?

In keeping with the theme of murderous, sentient, wildlife, this is a 1957 scifi horror movie, about what appears to be an angry,  nuclear generated, tree stump, on yet another desert island. This movie has the rather unique plot of having  a witch doctor and human sacrifice involved, as well. As usual, there is the demonization of some sort of African pagan religion, which I’ll be speaking on later.

 

Black Sheep – Sheep

Black Sheep is a 2006 movie from New Zealand, about a brother who accidentally zombifies a flock of sheep, by performing genetic experiments on his father’s sheep farm. Just one bite from one of these fat, and perfectly normal looking sheep, is enough to transform a man into a horrific man-sheep monstrosity. The humor is that all of this is played completely straight and the actors really sell it.

 

The Crawling Eye – Giant Loose Eyeball

Originally called the Trollenberg Terror, this is a 1958 British, black and whit,e film. This one of the few films where the monster’s origins are not a result of nuclear something or other. The location is isolated, scientists are involved, and the monsters seemingly have a form of mind controlled.

 

Squirm – Worms

This is another movie I remember watching as a kid where  I wasn’t so much terrified, as disgusted. This movie, released in 1976, was one of the worst of the ecologically based horror movies, if only for the acting, but I still found it intriguing, because…worms. During a thunderstorm, a farm full of worms get struck with electricity from downed power lines, and decide they like the taste of people. There’s some greatly ridiculous scenes of screaming worms, and houses being swarmed by regular sized, bloodthirsty, worms.

 

Honorable Mentions

The Swarm – Killer Bees

This was apart of the great Swarm! of killer bee movies that we all got inundated with in the 70s, thanks to the media horror stories about the Africanized honey bee, the most hostile and aggressive bees on the planet because…Africa! taking over America.

 

Frogs – Frogs

This movie released in 1972, is a rather slow moving thing that doesn’t contain monsters so much as deeply stupid people. A wealthy family has a reunion on their private island, so they can fight among themselves in private, but are inundated by swarms of frogs, and other wildlife, that apparently hate them. The frogs and other animals,  aren’t grown to large sizes, or are even especially malevolent. They pretty much just act like snakes, birds, and lizards, while the family members act like accident prone ninnies.

 

So hey everybody, have a happy weekend, and watch out for the trees!

Starring The Landscape: This City Is Horrible

There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.

John Carpenter

 

city gif on Tumblr | Night city, City lights at night, City aesthetic

When I was a child, the very first city related Horror movies I remember, were Godzilla, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, two stories about larger than life monsters destroying the biggest things humans have ever built — cities. These movies made an indelible impression on a little girl who lived in the city, and loved dinosaurs. It explains my love of Kaiju stories, from Godzilla, to Cloverfield, to Pacific Rim, and how movies about the destruction of cities have often moved me the most.

I grew up watching these films during the Cold War, between Russia and America, under the constant threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. I remember having nightmares about that, and avoiding movies and shows where it was depicted.

The underlying tone of most of these films is apocalyptic, with many of them indirectly referencing atomic energy. The destruction of entire cities, by some ravaging creature that was caused by atomic bombs, was often a stand-in for nuclear holocaust, natural disasters, or mankind’s hubris. These movies were terrifying, but still invoked awe and wonder, for something greater, whether that was a giant ape, a massive venom spewing dinosaur, or a fifty foot tall woman. They also provided a sense of comfort, as order, and the status quo, were restored at the end.

The stories are all about scale. The monsters are larger than life, meant to distract our attention from the city, and have the side effect of making us realize the more important things in our lives, like our loved ones, or unaccomplished personal goals. The monsters are often huge and unknowable things, that are impossible for any one individual to overcome, much like the city itself.

The monster must rival the size of the city. In 1953, New York got destroyed by a rampaging beast, awakened in the Arctic, by an atomic bomb. It was one of the first atomic age horror movies, and it set the stage for the destruction of New York, by similar beasts, like King Kong, the Cloverfield monster, and Godzilla, for the next fifty years, albeit with different motives.

Best Godzilla 1998 GIFs | Gfycat

After Godzilla in 1998, New York was destroyed again in 2008’s Cloverfield, where the lead character, who has planned to move out of the city, realizes what’s most important to him is his ex-girlfriend, when the city is invaded by some giant creature, of unknowable origin. He sets out to rescue her, in an effort to let her know how much he values her. The live action scenes of the two of them trying to escape the destruction of the city, by the rampaging creature, are juxtaposed against the live action footage of their lives during happier times. Here, the horror comes from the contrast of their human connection, with the disruption of order represented by the monster.

In 1954, long before he reached New York, Godzilla (Gojira) trampled Tokyo for the first time, and that film is an example of true urban horror, tragic, and awful, channeling the real citizen’s pain and bewilderment, after the nuclear bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly ten years before. None of the many Godzilla films that followed captured that level of intensity.  Godzilla even became an endearing and protective father figure, in a series of zany comedies, which featured other monsters. It was almost like the Japanese were healing themselves of their trauma, through film.

That is until the Fukushima disaster of 2011, a real life horror, in which a massive, earthquake-driven, tsunami, caused a meltdown of the nuclear facility in Fukushima on the same day. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives, and the entire city of Fukushima had to be evacuated. Five years later, Shin Godzilla was released, and successfully captured all the horror and tragedy of those two events , becoming yet another example of Japan reliving its worst nightmares, through the medium of film.

 

 

As in suburban settings, there are three types of Horror stories about the city. someone or something invades the city, which brings about the city’s destruction (external), something insidious is growing within the city or its people, (internal), and destroys its citizens, or it’s the setting itself that is the horror. Movies like Dracula, Blade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Train to Busan, are examples of these, although they have different goals. One is about the xenophobic fear of disease and contagion from outside the city, or growing within it, one is about the dehumanization of city life, and the loss of individual selfhood, and another is about human connections during its destruction.

Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the Dracula myth was released in 1992, and by that time, most of its original xenophobic themes had been papered over with themes of sexually transmitted disease, and romance, but there are still remnants left behind. Dracula is an outsider, from the Middle East, who brings the plague of vampirism to the busy streets of London, which, in the Victorian 1880s, was in the midst of an industrial revolution. In the real world, talk of outsiders bringing disease, has once again reared it’s ugly head, as the British government threatens to separate from the European Union, while its members speak out against illegal immigrants from places like Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq. So it’s quite a coincidence that there happens to be a yet another version of Dracula, this time set in modern day London, airing on Netflix right now.

Body Snatchers Point GIF - BodySnatchers Point Epic - Discover ...

Contagion is also one of the themes present in the movie Blade, and its sequel, Blade 2, as New York threatens to be overtaken by a plague of vampires growing within the city of New York, and is also the theme of several alien invasion films, where “sentient diseases” are passed on to unsuspecting human beings through non-consenting fluid exchange, in movies The Invasion, a remake of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, a movie which is not as effective a story, without the sounds and images of the city of San Francisco as the backdrop. The setting is contrasted against the funny, quirky, Dr. Matthew Bennell, and his close friends. One of the other messages of the movie is how the city encourages social isolation, and dehumanizes the inhabitants, as much as the alien invasion.

In fact, the nature of city life, makes it nearly impossible to tell who has been reborn as an alien, and who has not, and that is the point. The people of San Francisco are so separated from one another, that no one really knows any of the people around them, so it’s impossible to notice if anyone has changed, even after multiple people tell the lead characters that their friends, lovers, and spouses, are not who they say they are.

The individual stories of the invasion victims are tiny, compared to the size of the city, and only heightens the pointlessness of their struggle to tell the world that an alien invasion has occurred. City people are so good at not minding the business of others, that by the time Dr. Matthew Bennell has noticed that people are losing their humanity, it’s too late to do anything about it. The city and the invasion are too huge and implacable for one person to make a difference.

The theme of dehumanization is also captured in movies like Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and Train to Busan, where a select group of individuals run a gauntlet of ravenous, once human, creatures, while trying desperately to hold onto the last shreds of their own humanity, both literally and figuratively, as civilization collapses around them. The focus of these types of stories are on the humans attempting to survive a chaotic environment, rather than the inhumanity of the monsters. The audience is drawn into the story through the kinds of decisions they make, which determine what kind of people they are. The audience is meant to identify with them, and place themselves in their shoes, thereby illuminating their own character.

 

 

Zombie movies are  a way to tell an intimate story in an oversized location. Many horror movies set in cities tend to focus on small dramas that happen during its destruction. In Train to Busan, the lead character, a callous business man, who cares more about his job than his family, learns to reconnect with his neglected young daughter, the people around him, and his own conscience, as he tries to protect her, during a zombie apocalypse. The zombie apocalypse is used as a backdrop to tell the story of a man regaining his humanity in the face of everyone losing theirs.

Sometimes, city dwellers themselves are monsters, and the the city is shown as a darkly cynical place, a cutthroat “urban jungle”, where people prey on one another, and no one can be trusted. City living is badmouthed in other movies. There are people who will rape or kill you at a moment’s notice, something which was not entirely an incorrect observation, especially during the 60’s and 70’s, when New York city was a much seedier, and more pornographic place, and Times Square in particular, before its gentrification and cleanup. Now, Times Square is clean and neat, but in the 70s, it was rife with strip clubs, open prostitution, porn theaters, and drug use. The frantic sights and sounds, river of traffic lights, buzzing of neon signs, sleek fashions, inclement weather, and constant chatter of people, are the hallmark tropes of city living. Cities are shown as cold, fast, sleek environments, often at night, using cool blues, and hot reds, which serve as  visual shorthand for lusts, and desires, but also  the emotional disconnect of the characters.

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 The movie Candyman was loosely based on a combination of African American urban legends, and the lives of the Black citizens of the Cabrini-Green housing projects of North Chicago. In the years since its creation in 1957, crime, gangs, and administrative neglect, created horrifying living conditions for its residents. Now add an immortal monster, that preys on their pain and sorrow, and what is depicted is an insidious horror, The Candyman, who was created out of  Black anguish, and white racist hysteria.

Much of Cabrini Green was eventually torn down in the 90s, and the last few buildings were destroyed in 2011. In 2020 Jordan Peele will release the spiritual sequel to the 1992 original film, which will tackle themes of displacement, and gentrification by affluent white residents, who of course, are not immune to the horrors of the city, no matter how much they tell themselves that they are improving it with their return.

Seven: The Brilliance of David Fincher's Chase Scene | Den of Geek

In 1995s  Se7en, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt, she a schoolteacher, and he a cop, move back to the nameless every-city featured in the film. Unused to the grit, and callousness, she tells Morgan Freeman’s William Somerset, “I hate this city…the conditions here, are horrible.” And she is right. In Se7en, it is always raining, everything is gray, and littered with garbage, and the only warmth to be found is in Gwyneth’s character, and the home she has made for her and her husband. Throughout the movie, Somerset gives several speeches about the apathy of the people who live there, and how easy it is for human beings to not care about each other. The two people who claim to care the most about the city’s plight, are on opposite sides of the law. One is a serial killer, whose only solution seems to be causing more misery, by killing its weakest inhabitants, and the latter is Somerset’s hotheaded partner, who is eventually broken by his interaction with the former.

Cities can be a visual shorthand that represents the dehumanizing future that comes with technological progress. Got a horror story involving robots (The Terminator), or virtual reality, (The Matrix), then the best way to tackle so many sub-themes at once, is to set it in a city. Movies that question humanity, (The Fly), and reality (The 13th Floor), through technology, are almost always set in cities.

Movie of the Month - Dark City (July 2017) - Movie Forums

Just the name of the movie, Dark City (1998), invokes images of tall buildings, trash strewn alleys, crime, and permanent darkness, all of the shorthand that’s been used in Film Noir to indicate the horror of city living. Film Noir comes out of the German Expressionist cinema of 1920’s Berlin, and the American movies released in the 40’s, are based on that concept, while also referencing the crime and pulp fiction novels of the 30’s. In Film Noir, a person’s fortunes can turn on a dime, and human beings are the monsters, and with their suspect motivations, and weaknesses of character, they often bring about their own demise.

Dark City contains several monsters, including the actual  city itself, as it grows and transforms, at the whim of its alien masters. This is a literal parallel to real life cities, where, unlike the country with its bland stability, sites and markers come and go, the city grows and changes, and no where is there a fixed position.

In Dark City, a nameless man is pursued by strange men in black, for a series of murders he doesn’t remember committing. He spends most of the movie in pursuit of his memories, while discovering that the city itself is a lie. As the story progresses, we are introduced to alien possession, superpowers, and multiple themes about identity, alienation, and existential dread, which would be more difficult to impart, if the movie were set, for example, in the desert, which is representative of a different type of isolation.

It is said that there are a million stories in the naked city, and whether they are small and intimate (Rear Window, American Psycho, 1408), or huge and bombastic, (War of the Worlds, Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman), that’s a promise for many more lives and cities to be destroyed, and more themes to be explored, in the foreseeable future.

Let’s hope we can survive them all.

Notes on: The Old Guard

 

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Joe and Nicky

The Old Guard has totally blown up on Tumblr. The movie, which aired on Netflix last month was a real treat for women who love action movies, so much so, that there has been a lot of great meta writing and fanworks on the site.The movie is based on the Graphic Novel, by Greg Rucka, about a team of four immortal warriors, Andromache of Scythia,(Charlize Theron), Nicky, Joe, and Booker,  living in the modern world,  fighting a pharmecutical CEO ,who wants to use them for medical experiments. In the meantime, they need to find and recruit a brand new immortal, named Nile Freeman, and deal with a betrayal within, and outside of, their group.

Its one of those big idea movies, where the rules are all laid out beforehand, and  doesn’t stint on the development of its characters. It has some truly lovely scenes between Nicky and Joe, and Nile and Andy. I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions. I think its really worth a watch if you like action movies, with strong, ass kicking, smart women, who interact realistically with one another, along with a well illustrated, found family dynamic. There’s also a strong philosophical thread that runs through the movie, which asks questions about the purpose of living, and what its like to be alive for hundreds of years.

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Andromache of Scythia aka Andy

The Old Guard is a fairly predictable film as far as the plot. What makes it groundbreaking however is its Black female director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, the well executed action scenes, its racial diversity, its Black female co-lead, and the presence of a canon gay inter-racial couple, who both survive to the end of the movie.

I read a lot of meta on this movie and was moved by how much fans seemed to really embrace this movie, especially Nile, since fandom hasn’t always been any good about its approach to black female characters. Its true that some fans tend to infantilize her, but that’s somewhat understandable, since the character of Nile is a brand new, baby-immortal, just learning about her powers, and the actress who plays her, Kiki Layne does have a kind of sweet baby face.

The story makes an effort to set up the knowledge that the characters are immortal, but that their survival is not a guarantee, so the tension about who will survive, remains really high, no matter how many fights we see them get into in the film

The Old Guard Nile Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Nile Freeman

One of the things I loved about this movie is that the stakes never were less than. You would think, because the characters are unable to die, that there’d be nothing for them to lose in the several firefights, but there are many intangible things they can lose. They can lose their freedom, they can lose their trust, or their friendship, for Nikki and Joe, they could lose each other, or even their sense of purpose, or self, the way Andy did.

 

Another love of this film was the character arcs. We find out at the beginning of the movie that Andy has been retired from fighting for over a year. She’s given up, she’s cynical, and has no hope that she has done anything useful for the world, and we watch as her character gets back her reason for fighting and Nile is the key to that. Andy doesn’t just go out and save Nile. Nile saves her too.

Even their treatment of Booker’s betrayal comes from a place of compassion. Yes, they’re very angry with him, but they don’t permanently exile him either. They think a hundred years of being separated from his family is punishment enough. They’re not out to physically harm him, or cause him emotional damage, but there have to be consequences for what he did. They know being alone however is horrible for him (it’s the reason he betrayed them in the first place) but it’s the only consequence they have available.

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY

 

For male directors character development and emotions, may be a 3 or 4 on the scale of priority in a movie, and I normally don’t have a problem with that manner of filmmaking. I’ve watched enough action movies to be able to glean the emotions in them, but usually that’s not a male director’s focus. I’m mostly thinking of movies like Winter Soldier, Inception, and Fury Road, (and quite a large number of Asian action films,) where the focus is on the plot and action, with character development as more of an afterthought.

I think there are a number of male action directors who do bring emotionalism into their work, and manage to be successful at it, but I think the difference is for male directors their priorities are simply different than female directors. For women directors though, the priority on relationships, character interaction, and character development, may be at a one or a two, thereby making the plot much more character driven than in male directed films, where the plot is more situational, but that’s just an observation I’ve made with my limited sample size.

There really aren’t a wealth of action movies out there directed by female directors ,and the ones that do get made, are  either always being trashed as the worst movies ever, or lauded as the second coming of Jesus. There seems to be no in between, reasonably thought out, reviews or critiques. Everything is either the best of times or the worst of times.

And yes, I am geeking out over the addition of a Black female character as an action heroine. There really are not enough female action heroes, but there are almost no Black or Asian ones. This is why I’ve become a lot more discerning about the kinds of shows and movies I watch now. I’m thoroughly spoiled for diverse content, that has depth and at least some meaning, and  very dubious about sitting through any more all white, all male productions of shows and movies. I’m definitely not willing to sit through any of the lazy, sorry, excuses PoC have gotten in the past for not having diversity both in front of, and behind, the camera.

The Old Guard is a lot of fun, with just a touch of melancholy. Its just deep enough to be satisfying without getting too heavy. The plot isn’t really all that remarkable, and very predictable, but what the characters and director do with the plot is worth watching. It’s got some great action sequences, and although there are a couple of moments of cringey dialogue,  and the music is sometimes overwhelmingly blase, its not too bad, and doesn’t stray very far from its comic book origins, as the script was written by Rucka. Theron carries most of the emotional heavy lifting in the story. In fact, she almost overpowers the story, but that gets nicely weighed by the other characterizations, and action scenes.

Fans are clamoring for a second season ,especially since there was a ice set up for it, in the last 30 seconds, but the word isn’t out yet on whether or not there will be one.

 

The Old Guard Tog Sticker by NETFLIX for iOS & Android | GIPHY

As for what Tumblr thinks:

This was a beautifully written examination of the movie’s characters. Please visit their Tumblr site for more insightful observations of their newest obseesion.

fuckyeahisawthat

 

the old guard: loneliness, connection and immortality

 

APPARENTLY I am writing a thing about The Old Guard today.

 

(Bear in mind that I haven’t read the graphic novel, although I’m eager to now, so this is solely based on the movie and some things I’ve read about the comic in articles about the movie.)

 

Under the cut for spoilers, although the discussion is fairly general.

 

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THE OLD GUARD (2020) — Sleeper Awakened

fuckyeahisawthat

the old guard and moral uncertainty

One of the things I love the most about The Old Guard, which I haven’t seen discussed much, is that there is no why to their powers. There’s no origin story, either via destiny or accident. There’s no prophecy, no curse, no ancient god, no super-serum, no lab accident, no mutant spider bite. If there is a reason why these people, in particular, are like this, we don’t know it and they don’t either. Where their immortality comes from, and why it fades when it does, is a complete unknown.

 

In other contexts I could see this coming off as a frustrating lack of clarity in worldbuilding. In The Old Guard I think it works as an essential piece of the philosophical landscape in which the story operates.

A parallel and interlocking component of this landscape is the fact that the immortals exist in a world where there are very few, if any, other superpowered beings. There are no pre-ordained forces of darkness, no aliens to fight, no neatly-arranged supervillains that only they can defeat. There are only humans.

 

This means they have to create their own framework of meaning for their actions, the way the rest of us mortals do. The mythology of their world doesn’t provide any built-in delineation of good guys and bad guys and What We’re Fighting For. There’s no easy certainty of purpose or moral clarity to be had.

 

 

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The Old Guard Kiki Layne GIF - TheOldGuard KikiLayne Action ...

fuckyeahisawthat

Let’s talk for a minute about how The Old Guard shows Nile as a character who’s worthy of protection and caretaking without infantilizing her or minimizing her agency.

I’m thinking particularly of the scene when Nile wakes up from the nightmare about Quynh, which honestly might be one of my favorite moments in the whole movie. The three guys are all sleeping in the same room as her and they all immediately wake up and reach for their weapons, ready to throw down. Like, at least a couple of them look like they’re sleeping on cots. They could have spread out around the space, but all three of them are sleeping in the same room as her, armed. Only Andy has chosen to separate herself and is not-sleeping in the next room.

 

And their reaction isn’t just an ingrained response from a very long life of combat. They’re all very clearly focused on Nile and whether she’s safe, and once it’s clear that there’s no physical threat, they want to make sure she’s okay emotionally and help her understand what she saw in the nightmare.

 

This is one of those moments where context sensitivity matters a lot. Because we can easily imagine a scenario where the exact same scene would play as overprotective, condescending or downright creepy. But when the focus of the scene is a Black woman, a moment that says this character is worthy of both physical, bodily protection and emotional support reads very differently.

 

We already know Nile is a tough and self-sufficient character. She’s an elite soldier who grew up in the inner city, raised by a single mom who pushed her to succeed. She has excelled in a dangerous, physically demanding, male-dominated career. She is, in many ways, the template of the Strong Black Woman, and a lot of movies would have left it there. But with this scene, and all the other little moments of care and attention she receives, the other characters are saying, hey, we know you are tough and self-sufficient, but you don’t always have to be.

 

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Dorothy Surrenders: Guard Up

grizvser is writing some very nice meta about this show, especially the two lovers, Joe and Nicky. Please check out their Tumblr site for more astute observations about the show and characters.

grizviser

Okay, so I’ve seen a lot of people say that Joe and Nicky were way too hard on Booker and that it’s out of character for them to have reacted so harshly to his betrayal, but y’all gotta remember (and I say this as someone who loves Booker): Joe and Nicky paid the heaviest price for Booker’s betrayal.

 

They were the ones who were kidnapped and tied up. Nicky had to watch Joe get stabbed repeatedly by Merrick. The two of them were the only ones who got experimented on, poked and prodded at and sliced into, and who knows what could have happened to them if they hadn’t been saved so soon. They had to deal with the trauma of possibly being kept there for god knows how long. When Booker and Andy were captured, they were only trapped for a little while before Nile came and rescued everyone. They never had to deal with any of that trauma.

 

Not only did they suffer the torture themselves, but they had to watch the person they love suffer too. If Booker hadn’t betrayed them, none of the events of the movie would’ve happened. Joe had to watch Nicky not only get tortured, but get shot in the damn head. All of this is because Booker sold them out.

 

Combine that with the fact that the two of them are clearly very loyal, honourable men, who are undoubtedly devestated that someone they trusted and thought of as their family would sell them out just because HE didn’t want to live anymore? Joe and Nicky are happy to be alive because they have each other, but Booker put that at risk because of his own feelings of grief. Even though I understand Booker wasn’t motivated by any malice and I’m empathetic to his struggles and feelings, it’s understandable why Joe calls him selfish. Joe is willing to live for eternity because he has Nicky (and the whole guard too, of course), and Booker’s actions could have taken that away from him.

Nile forgives him quickly because she’s new and doesn’t fully understand the weight of his actions, meanwhile Andy is more sympathetic because she, too, is a little bit tired of living, yet Joe and Nicky, the ones who want to live, bear the brunt of a lot of the suffering that came along with Booker’s choice.

 

Now, I do think they will get over it sooner than 100 years, but right now, the betrayal was so raw and the impact of what happened so fresh in their mind, I understand their reasoning.

 

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yusuf al kaysani | Tumblr

grizviser

One of the best things about Joe and Nicky in The Old Guard is their sexuality/relationship is a very important traits of both of their characters, but it’s not their only trait.

 

So many times when I hear people talk about gay/queer characters in media, I hear, “their sexuality isn’t an important part of their character” or “they just happen to be gay,” and I’ve always thought that was bullshit and a cop-out. Sexuality and romance plays a HUGE part in people’s lives. People spend a lot of their time looking for “the one”, looking for romance, looking for a relationship or sex or both. Think about classical male heroes and how often they bed women (think James Bond, James Kirk in Star Trek, etc.) Wouldn’t you say sexuality is a huge part of their characters? Yet with gay characters it’s said to be “not important.” It’s just a cop-out.

 

Joe and Nicky’s sexualities are very important because their relationship is so incredibly important to both of them. It’s portrayed to be the reason they’re both still happy to be living while Andy and Booker have grown jaded and suicidal due to loneliness. They are the most important thing in the world to each other. They aren’t “badass but just happen to be gay.” They are badass AND gay.

 

They’re incredibly competent fighters who can brutalize an entire army but when they go home they flirt, they wink at each other, they snuggle, they kiss, they talk about their love for one another. They’re no less masculine when they’re expressing their love for one another than they are when they’re massacring an army of soldiers.

 

Yet still, their characters are not reduced to just the token gay guys who are also tough. They have their own distinct personalities. Joe is impassioned, quick to anger, protective, playful, romantic, vengeful, but with a soft heart full of deep love. Nicky is quiet, reserved, compassionate, loving, and sweet, but also calculating and sarcastic and a force to be reckoned with in a fight.

 

They’re both such distinct, powerful personalities and it’s portrayed through their individual actions as well as through their love for each other. It fills me with so much joy that these characters were allowed to be so unapologetically, textually gay without it being an afterthought and also without it becoming the centerpiece of the story.

 

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And these aren’t all. Visit Tumblr and type in The Old Guard to find whole blogs devoted to the topic, fanart, and various headcanon, and fictions.

Jaws (1975): The Danger From Outside

In an earlier post, I talked about setting horror movies in suburban towns, and how the foundation of the horror stems from the setting being invaded from outside, or possessed of horror from within. I used Halloween as an example of the horror coming from outside the town of Haddonfield, in the form of Michael Myers, (actually this is a little more complicated, because Michael was born in Haddonfield, and is essentially haunting, and hunting, his birthplace), but Jaws is also a good example of this. Jaws also makes the interesting point, that the town of Amity, in which the film is set, is so  inert, that its salvation can’t come from any of its own inhabitants, but must also, like the threat, come from Outside.

Jaws movie GIF on GIFER - by Kekasa

The very first thing we learn when watching the movie is that the waters surrounding the island of Amity are are invaded by an external force, the shark, who takes its first victim, a young woman named Chrissie. The shark is not evil, but it doesn’t have to be, to be the focus of the horror. In fact, that the shark is indifferent to humanity is what gives the horror so much depth. The shark only has to upset the status quo, and the status quo, is that nothing happens in Amity that is worthy of note. The mayor of the town makes this point several times, and the new Sheriff has a short monologue in which he makes this point as well. Nothing exciting happens in Amity.

The next thing we learn is that there’s a new Sheriff in town, Sheriff Martin Brody. We learn, in the first real dialogue of the film, that he and his wife just moved to Amity a few months ago, Brody is often  reminded ,by the citizens, or the mayor,  that he is new at the job, that he is an outsider, or that he doesn’t belong, and Spielberg often shoots scenes with Brody separate from, or in isolation, against the other characters on screen.

Kyle Brody GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

 

Both Brody and the shark are framed as dangerous to the inhabitants of the island. The shark is a physical danger, but Brody represents a more direct danger to the livelihoods of the islanders, as he attempts do his job of protecting them from the shark. He wants to close the beaches, something which the citizens don’t want, as that would directly impact their ability to make a living off the Summer tourists. The citizens of Amity have to choose between two external threats, but the shark is a danger the islanders do not wish to acknowledge, and Brody is something they can control.

Throughout the movie, Brody is constantly reminded, by the town’s mayor, that he is an outsider who doesn’t understand the needs of the people of Amity. Later, Brody calls in another outsider, Matt Hooper of the Oceanographic Institute, and the two of them team up with a resident of Amity named Quinn, but it is on Brody to save the town. Only another outside force for good can restore the order to which Amity had become accustomed. 

chb GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

Quint is a fisherman who lives in Amity, but he cannot save the town, as he is one of those anti-social town residents that doesn’t like his neighbors, and who probably don’t much like him. Quint is first introduced by one of the most annoying sounds in the world, as he drags his fingernails along a blackboard during the town meeting to discuss the shark attacks. That one moment, that sound, is all you need to know about Quint’s character, and how the people of the town view him. Like the town itself, (as represented by the Mayor), he is too beset by his weaknesses of character. He has inner demons of his own, that motivate his hunt for the shark, many of them stemming from his short stint on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which is actually a true story.

                                  *******

https://www.history.com/news/uss-indianapolis-sinking-survivor-stories-sharks

“There were a lot of sharks,” he says, his voice nearly a whisper. “So many. I’d see them swimming below me.”

Quint’s reason for wanting to hunt the shark are mercenary. He wants to get paid, and wants the glory of being seen as the town’s hero, so all his motivations are entirely self-serving.  Although its his home, Quint feels no real responsibility to the town of Amity, and is willing to exploit his neighbors fear of the shark, or monetary disaster by closing the beaches, for his own ends.

Jaws' is a prescient fable for the coronavirus era

Mayor Larry Vaughn is ineligible, because he is a deeply fearful man, who is too scared of the townsfolk’s anger, and his fears of re-election, to go against their desires. Several times he reminds Brody that he is not from Amity, and that he doesn’t know what the town needs,  citing himself as the only person who knows what’s best for the town. He constantly undermines Brody’s authority, refuses to take the shark attacks seriously, and even encourages beachgoers to get in the water, despite the danger of shark attack. He saddles Brody with the impossible task of protecting the town, within the parameters that he sets, where Brody is not allowed to make the townspeople angry, but cannot protect them by closing the beaches. The only time he makes a correct decision is when he orders the beaches closed, after yet another shark attack, and only because his children were on the beach, too. He only makes the correct decision out of fear, after it hits too close to him.

jaws gifs | WiffleGif

Hooper is also ineligible for destroying the shark, as he has no interest in Amity, at all. He doesn’t live there, and can also be seen as sympathetic to the shark. He is interested in the shark for science. He is not interested in killing it, but he comes along on the hunt, because he empathizes with Martin Brody, with whom he has formed a close attachment.  Hooper is also the polar opposite of Quint, who both hates and fears  the shark, and whose agenda is to kill it to assuage his inner demons.

Of the three shark hunters, Brody is the only one who doesn’t approach the hunt from a selfish perspective. What Brody wants is to do his job and protect the town, with tremendous guilt as a secondary motivating factor. His failure to save the lives of several inhabitants of the town, including a young boy, who died because he was not firm enough in putting his foot down about closing the beaches, weighs heavily on him. Earlier in the film, while talking with Hooper, he mentions why he left New York, saying that he felt helpless there, and that in Amity he could make a difference and save lives. Except, he didn’t, and he accepts the full blame for the deaths that occurred under his watch.

10 Horror Movies That Had the Balls to Kill a Kid - Bloody Disgusting

In the end, it makes perfect sense that Brody would be the one to kill the shark, and to do so alone. From the beginning of the film, Brody and the shark are set up as parallels, and  adversaries. We are reminded, so often, that Brody is not from Amity, that it takes on a level of importance.The opening scene is the arrival of the shark to Amity’s waters, and its subsequent attack on a female swimmer. The scene just after the shark’s attack on her, is between Brody and his wife, about moving to Amity from New York, and the second conversation that Brody has, about not being an islander, is on the beach with the young man who reported the shark’s first victim as missing. In most of his conversations with Mayor Vaughn, Brody is reminded that he is new in town, and doesn’t know how things work there.

 

 

Jaws is an example of the Man vs. Nature conflict narrative, in which some of the tension is provided by the main protagonist having to overcome challenges to achieve his goals. The primary conflict is between Brody and the shark, and Brody’s goal is to destroy the shark, thereby saving the town. Three of the challenges he must overcome, before he can accomplish this goal, are external, the Mayor who undermines his authority ,and ability to do his job, and the townsfolk who look to him to save them from the shark, without it affecting their livelihoods, and one internal challenge,  his fear of water.

Jaws GIF | Jaws movie, Shark, Horror lovers

Several times, Brody’s fear of the water is referenced by the other characters in the film.  One of the beachgoers mentions that everyone in town has noticed his fear of the water, and his wife discusses it with Hooper, when they’re having dinner. 

 The thing that makes Jaws an  immensely satisfying movie, is that most of Brody’s challenges get resolved by the end. He has stood up to Mayor Vaughn, forcing him to take his side in closing the beaches, and defying the will of the townspeople. He has destroyed the shark, protecting the citizens of Amity, and done so by overcoming his fear of water.

jaws 1 | Tumblr

It is made clear to the audience, several times in the movie, that Brody is an Outsider, which is the one challenge left unresolved. In an earlier beach scene, Brody’s wife is told that she and her husband will never be considered islanders, because they weren’t born on Amity. They will never belong, no matter what they do, or how long they live there, and that will not change by the end of the movie. This is also one of the primary themes, and the shark’s arrival is narratively equated with Brody’s earlier move to the island.

After Hooper is believed to have been killed by the shark, and Quint is eaten, it is down to Brody, alone, using equipment brought aboard the boat by Hooper, to dispatch this external menace.

Killing the shark, and protecting the town, doesn’t make Brody an islander, but by eliminating the threat to the town, Brody, who was treated as an Outside threat by the town, as much as the shark, will be seen as less of one. By killing the shark,  he proves he can be trusted with Amity’s welfare, and  eliminates, in one action, both of the town’s perceived external threats

 

Starring the Landscape: Horror On Ice

 

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There aren’t a lot of movies set in snowy climates, and even fewer set in the Arctic, so I had to loosen my definition, to include films that take place in any locations that existed above the snow line, or  movies that were set during Winter. 

An interesting aspect of these movies, isn’t just the setting’s effect on the plot, but the time period in which the movies occur. In wintry settings, most  scenes are set at night, as in Let The Right One In, or specific times of the year, such as 30 Days of Night, when the sun doesn’t rise for a prolonged period of time. Night time scenes are always more effective in horror movies, because having the story take place in the dark, does at least half the work of inducing fear in the audience, and icy, snowy settings already produce a feeling of existential dread, and isolation.

Three of the most basic types of plots for most horror movies, is something I briefly discussed in one of my other posts about landscapes and settings. There is the horror that comes from Inside, from within, (i.e. possession movies, which also include alien possession, body snatching, body horror. This includes psychological, emotional, drug and  hallucinatory horror), the horror that comes from Outside the self, (monster movies, slasher films, alien invasions, disease pandemics, and the apocalypse),  and the horror of Place, which is the environment, the landscape, itself.

Frozen Movie Facts | Horror Amino

The majority of movies set in snowy, cold, and/or wintry, climates are monster movies, the kind of horror that springs from an Outside source. Most of these movies involve at least two of the elements of horror; that of Place, and  from Outside. The horror from Outside involves monsters, or creatures, sometimes native to the environment, sometimes not, but often asleep, or in hiding, deep in the snow and ice. They are accidentally awakened by the presence, or activity, of human beings. This includes movies like The Thaw from 2009, in which ancient bugs are  awakened by archaeological activity, and Blood Glacier, a horror comedy from 2013, in which a strange red liquid is released from a melting glacier in the Alps, and begins mutating the local wildlife.

Blood Glacier (2013) - IMDb

Much of the horror of such films, comes from the harsh, and unforgiving, nature of the setting itself.  Survival in such an environment is more precarious than in almost any other environment. The cold, the scarcity of sustenance and water, and even the wildlife, can all work against human life, and sometimes characters not only have to withstand the environment, they may have to fight any Outside forces that have either  dropped into the environment with them, was hidden within it, or came along with them, like their companions, or their own weaknesses of character.

Tag For Cool Dark And Scary : Frank Gif Find Share On Giphy. 17 ...

Two movies that are about the horror of Place, is the 2010 horror movie, Frozen, and 2012’s, The Grey, which stars Liam Neeson. In Frozen, a group of skiing friends get trapped on a ski lift, during a holiday weekend, and need to fight, not just against the terror of their isolation, and the freezing temperatures, but against a pack of hungry dogs circling beneath the ski lift, as they get picked off one by one. In both movies, the characters have to survive multiple dangers, none of which are paranormal or supernatural. The Horror comes entirely from being trapped in an environment from which it is almost impossible to escape alive.

The Grey [2011] - GIF on Imgur

In The Grey, a team of oil drillers get stranded in Alaska after a plane crash. Liam Neeson’s character, Ottway, has made a living killing the wolves that threaten the drillers, and is contemplating suicide, before surviving the crash, with several companions, and who now realize, they are in the territory of a large wolfpack, and being hunted. Ottway and his companions must try to survive frozen rivers, hypothermia, hunger, and the wolves, in their attempt to reach civilization. In a final irony, only the previously suicidal Ottway is left alive to battle the pack for his survival, the outcome of which is not certain. 

Icy, snowy, landscapes are often used as a stand in to provoke questions about humanity and civilization, that don’t normally get asked in  more temperate landscapes. Since everything is about survival, the characters find out what kind of people they are, when all bets are off. What kind of people are we, who do we become, what will we do, and how far will we go, when we have to fight every second to stay alive?  Will we remain cooperative with the other human beings around us, or will we turn on them, to ensure our own survival? This makes wintry, snowy, settings perfect for tales about cannibalism,  as in the movies Ravenous (1999), and The Donner Party, (a 2009 film based on a true story) where people turn on one another as a means to survive.

The Thing--Wilford Brimley Goes Nuts GIF | Gfycat

This betrayal of civilization is also what happens in the classic  film, The Thing, from 1982, when a group of researchers  accidentally thaw the frozen body of an alien, that begins killing and mimicking them, so that it can survive. Unlike the first films listed here, whose plots involve the horror of Place, combined with the horror from Inside, The Thing is a movie that combines all three types of horror. Everything in this environment is working against the characters, as they’re trapped in an extreme landscape, with a  hostile Other, that was hidden within it,  which has taken up residence in at least one of them, causing them to all turn on each other to survive.  Both the men, and the alien, are fighting to  survive the environment, and each other.

The fear, dread, and paranoia, of the characters is echoed in the bleakness of the landscape, which is as cold and dark as the outer reaches of space,  from which the alien intruder fell. Over time, any fellow feeling they shared is lost, as the team spirals down into a paroxysm of violence, vandalism, threats, and murder, while they try to find out who is  possessed by the alien, and who isn’t. The Thing is complex, in its plot and themes, but  that wasn’t always the case.

Ray Harryhausen The Beast From 20000 Fathoms GIF by Warner Archive ...

In earlier horror films, the horror of Place was mostly paired with some horror from Outside, in the form of a monster, as in the original 1954 film, The Thing From Another World, starring James Arness, which was based on John. W. Campbell’s science fiction story, Who Goes There? Or the  1953 movie, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, where scientists, in the Arctic, accidentally dig up a dinosaur, which proceeds to rampage its way back to its ancient spawning grounds, conveniently located in New York city. In both movies, the monsters are an external force, awakened by hubris, or carelessness. The interior lives of the characters is given minimal attention, and have little effect on the plot Often their characters can be defined by how they respond to the monster.

Movies set during Winter seem especially appropriate for hauntings and ghost stories, as such bleak landscapes are used as a metaphor for death. In the 1981 movie, Ghost Story, starring Fred Astaire, based on the novel by Peter Straub, a group of elderly men gather in a  New England town, one Winter’s night, to discuss the murder of a young woman they were involved with, several decades ago, and the idea that her ghost may be haunting one of them. It is their weakness of character that sets the entire plot in motion, and determines the outcome. Ghost Story is an example of the horror of Place,  used as a backdrop for the conflict between the horror of the Self (Inside), and the horror of a malignant external force (Outside). Its the kind of story that could be told in any setting, but here,  adds to the atmosphere of mourning, and despair. These are men at the twilight of their lives, haunted, literally, by the ghosts of their past misdeeds.

The most famous movie, that tackles the themes of both external and internal forces of horror, is The Shining. Released in 1980, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, it is based on the original Stephen King novel, about a haunted hotel,  set in the middle of a wintry Colorado. Jack Torrance is hired by the manager of the Overlook, to maintain the premises, but Jack, a former alcoholic, domestic abuser, (and latent psychic), is easily goaded by its murderous ghosts, into killing his fragile-seeming wife, Wendy, and his powerfully psychic son, Danny.

The revenant GIF - Find on GIFER

The horror comes from the combination of environmental isolation, the malignancy of the paranormal entities, and Jack’s emotional weaknesses. Occasionally, a wintry landscape is an obvious stand in for a character’s emotions, indicating coldness, or a lack of love or warmth. Jack’s personal insecurities are turned against his family, by the ghosts in the hotel. He becomes as emotionally barren as the landscape which isolates them. In the end, it is the environment which kills Jack, after he chases his wife and son into the hotel’s snow covered hedge maze.

Day GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY | Cinemagraph, 30 days of night ...

The colors most associated with this type of landscape are cool dark blues, neutral whites, grays, and blacks,  which emphasize the use of primary colors, red, and yellow, in the forms of blood and fire, which is especially appropriate imagery in movies like, 30 Days of Night (2007), based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles, in which a pack of vampires take over the town of Barrow Alaska, in the middle of a thirty day cycle, where the sun never rises, and Let The Right One In, a 2008 movie about a little boy who befriends a child vampire. The movie takes place in Sweden, a place known for its especially long and  frigid winters, and is an especially appropriate residence for an avatar of death.

Dark snowy, landscapes make for some of the most classic and/or notable films in the horror genre. The setting lends itself well to stories involving ghosts, death, human depravity,  survival,  and of course, monsters, as the setting doesn’t just play an integral part in the plot, but often becomes the plot, for stories that can be told in no other place.

Fall Series and Films 2020

Okay, I was initially just going to post only those shows I was invested in watching, but decided to add at least a couple of shows that, while I might not be especially enthused about them, I’m sure someone reading this, is.

So, here’s a thoroughly incomplete list of new Fall shows that someone, who is not necessarily me, might be interested in watching in October.

 

Walking Dead: World Beyond

This is one of the shows I’m not terribly enthused about, because I’m not really in much of a mood for apocalyptic fiction, right now, it’s based off The Walking Dead series, which is now in its 1,000th season, and I refuse to get attached to any of the characters I see here, just in case they die horribly in the first two episodes.

Pretty much the only thing I got out of The Walking Dead, was not to care about any of the characters, because they’re  all just gonna be horribly killed at some point, and since characters are how I get invested in a show, well…

On the other hand, it does look intriguing, because it answers some questions about those helicopter people who approached Rick that one time, and what happened to Rick after his supposed death.

One theme in zombie fiction, that I am seriously tired of, is the travelogue narrative ,where, as soon as the world goes into lockdown mode, someone decides to take a road trip to find some lost loved ones, sometimes with neighbors, or a dog in tow, and they have harrowing adventures, and this seems like more of that. *Sigh*

 

Utopia

I want to like this but I’m just not feeling it. I will look at the pilot though, and maybe I will want to see more of it. yeah, I have no idea what it’s actually about ,and I don’t even care, which is how I know I probably won’t be jumping on this.

 

 

Lovecraft Country 

I have mixed feelings about this show. On the one hand it is directed by a Black woman, and I’m just now coming off The Old Guard, which was also directed by a Black woman, and I’m feeling confident. Its also produced by Jordan Peele, and the original story was written by Matt Ruff, and I read and liked the book okay. It also has monsters in it, and I like to think the racistly racist Lovecraft is rolling over in his grave at having his universe adapted to serve Black characters. Its about a Black family that take a road trip and encounter a mystery and some Lovecraft style monsters.

But…I’m not at all in the mood to watch any more oppression narratives that are rooted in Black pain and trauma. I don’t want to watch any more shows, or movies, set in the Slave era, or Jim Crow South, where we get to watch the characters suffer, and I’m strongly inclined to pretend this doesn’t exist, and will not exist any time in the future.

 

 

Project Power 

Unlike a lot of other whiners on Youtube (and other media), I’m not yet tired of the superhero genre, especially if they keep putting interesting versions of it onscreen, but then, I’m a person who much more carefully chooses these movies and shows, rather than rushing to watch every single thing with a superhero in it, and I also tend to like non-superhero, superhero movies like Unbreakable, The Old Guard, and this vehicle here.

I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jamie Foxx ,and I’ve never seen the two of them in a movie together, and it looks like fun, I guess. I think I read a book that had something of the same premise waaay back in the 90s, and I think there’s been a least a couple of comic book stories, where gaining superpowers through drugs, was an idea.

 

Truth Seekers

I really like Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Ive seen most of their movies together, and I loathe the paranormal investigation reality show genre, so I’m actually looking forward to this parody.

 

 

The Good Lord Bird

That thing I said about Slave era narratives is still true, but I find myself greatly intrigued by this movie, because its a comedy that stars Orlando Jones, an actor I love, and Ethan Hawke, who, as John Brown, looks unrecognizable in this movie, and who was great in The Magnificent Seven remake, and Daveed Diggs, who plays Frederick Douglas. I also like it because it is a comedy where the plot isn’t rooted in the consumption of Black trauma.

It actually looks really, really, funny ,and the young girl we see in the trailer is actually a young boy who has  disguised himself as a young girl because he found his life easier that way, and he sort of accidentally falls under Brown’s care.

You guys have got to read the book on which this movie is based, because Brown is a real hoot. Brown himself is a trigger happy abolitionist, who guns down any slave owners, and slave patrols he happens to encounter, making no effort to protect himself from harm, because he believes he is doing God’s will and that he is already protected.

 

 

Star Trek: Lower Decks

I’m not sure this is the best use of the money we gave these people for those last couple of Star Trek movies, so I’m just gonna leave this here.

I mean, I’m not opposed to an animated version of Star Trek, but I am opposed to an animated version of Star Trek. Heck, I didn’t even watch the original animated Trek, from the 70s. But you know what, I’m not gonna act like one of those fanboy purists who refuse to watch something just because its radically different from whatever came before, and I loved that Spiderverse movie. Not that this is, in any way, Spiderverse level entertainment, but I might be surprised.

 

An American Pickle

At first glance, this doesn’t seem much like something I’d watch, but I Seth Rogan okay, I like time travel movies, it looks funny, and I like the initial setting of Victorian New York.

 

Horror Movies That Everyone Forgot

Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

This movie was made in 2001, by the same director of the 2014 French film, Beauty and the Beast, Christophe Gans, and it shows. It’s a gorgeous looking film. In fact, it made my Most Beautiful Movies list from a few years ago, and stars Mark Dacascos, and Vincent Cassell, that villain from that last Jason Bourne movie.

The movie is a curious mixture of history, politics, romance, martial arts, and mystery, based on the myth of the Beast of Gevaudin, in 18th century France. The Beast killed hundreds of people over a number of years, and was never caught. The lead character Gregoire De Fronsac,  was based on the man who actually investigated the killings. Dacascos plays his Indigenous sidekick from America, named Mani, who has mad martial arts skills, just because Dacascos has them.

The monster is a kind of steampunk version of a lion and was created by a member of the nobility to destroy the current monarchy by terrorizing the populace. Actually, I’m still not sure why the monster was created, but Monica Belluci plays a prostitute spy, and naturally, we get some titty shots, because its Monica, and the movie is set in France.

 

 

Orca; The Killer Whale (1977)

One of the interesting trends I’ve observed in these Horror movies is the Indigenous sidekick who gets killed. So maybe there’s a reason why these movies were forgotten! Nevertheless, I added this movie because it’s one of my mothers favorite films. It should tell you something that while she is indifferent to the movie Jaws, she likes a number of Jaws ripoffs. I on the other hand love Jaws, and hate all the ripoffs, of which Orca is one of the better ones.

It has this ridiculous plot about a killer whale, that stalks and avenges itself, against one of the fisherman who killed its mate and offspring, even going so far as to destroy an entire seaside town, and permanent maim his daughter, and kill his Indigenous sidekick, because as you know, any movie set in nature, must have one of those, else how will the viewers understand the setting. Once you get past the silliness of the plot, and a certain amount of dialogue that exists in service to it, it’s really not a bad film. Some of the action setpieces are very impressive, and the fishing and water scenes are pretty good.

It ultimately comes down to a man against fish fight, between the whale and the fisherman, at the end of the movie. I won’t tell you who wins, but it’s worth watching just to find out, and listen to some of the ecology issues prominently mentioned in the movie.

 

 

Ravenous (1999)

I really wish people talked about this movie more, because it’s a fairly deep film, tackling the interrelated issues of Manifest Destiny, the consumption of America’s resources, and people, genocide, and colonization, and  just a touch of homo-eroticism, as a kind of accent.

Lt. John Boyd catches a bad case of cannibalism during the Mexican American war, and because of his cowardice, is sent off to a remote post in the Rocky Mountains. There are definitely some Donner Party elements in the plot, although that real life historical event isn’t specifically referenced. While there, he fights against his murderous nature, until he meets another like himself, Colonel Ives, who is gleefully cannibalistic, and wants him to join him in eating any passing travelers through the region. Once again the plot comes down to a raw, knockdown drag out fight between the two primary characters. Again, I won’t tell you who wins, but it’s worth watching to find out.

 

Exorcist III (1990)

This movie is totally different from the critically acclaimed first film, and the much defamed second one.

You may have heard that all the other Exorcist movies really stank in comparison to the first movie, and that is certainly true of the second film which was incomprehensible and overlong. But the third movie of this trilogy is surprisingly good, although it doesn’t have a lot of resemblance to the first.

It picks up several years after the first movie, and the detective we see on the first film, Kinderman, is older and wiser, but still very much haunted by the loss of his first friend, the priest from the first movie, he’s investigating the bizarre death of the priest he’d befriended at the end of the first movie. This leads him to a supernatural force that movies from body to body, destroying anyone who was involved in the original exorcism, and begins circling closer and closer to his family.

This movie is not as loud and audacious a movie as the first. In fact, it feels like an entirely different genre, but there are some genuine scares, and the mystery is disturbing and intriguing. makes a cameo in the movie to dispense some mockery, ridicule, and demonic philosophy as a possessed asylum inmate. it’s worth seeing because it’s a genuinely creepy film with a likable, intelligent, and tenacious lead character.

 

 

 

 

House (1986)

I remember watching this movie back in the 80s, when it was first released to TV, because  that guy from Greatest American Hero, and Carrie, William Katt, starred in it, and I was still at that age when I was fascinated by men with really big hair. I didn’t exactly have crushes on them. Its just that a lot of White men in the 80s had really huge, luxurious, hair and I found that exotic, because it was something I only saw in movies and TV. The white men I saw in my everyday life, like my two classmates, or my doctor, just had regular, completely unremarkable, hair.

Anyway…the movie, released in 1986,  is about a man who movies into a house he inherited from his Aunt, after the disappearance of his son, and subsequent separation from his wife. Not long afterwards, he discovers all manner of strange goings-on, like hallucinations, nightmares from his stint in Vietnam, a closet that leads to a nightmare dimension, and the malignant ghost of one of his companions from Vietnam, played by Richard Moll. Things become increasingly dangerous, as he keeps getting attacked by various monsters, until he realizes he must go into the nightmare dimension to battle his fears, if he wants to live.

This movie was part of a huge trend of low budget, supernatural comedies that came out in the mid- 80s, thanks to the release of The Evil Dead films. While some of it was played for laughs, it turned out to be a lot more serious than funny. Its probably time for me to watch this again as  I haven’t seen it for bit.

 

 

 

 

Pontypool (2008)

This is probably one of the most unusual zombie movies ever made, and it was definitely made on a budget, as you can see, since it only has a cst of about three people. The basic premise is people being turned into zombie like creatures by their use of language. Certain strings of words, and sounds used together cause them to become mindless attackers of the uninfected. The entire movie takes place in one studio room, with most of it consisting of outside phone calls to the studio, outlining the chaos happening outside, but eventually the infection makes its way inside.

Of the cast, the only one I actually recognize, is Stephen McHattie. I remember the first time I saw this actor, many decades ago, in a little known sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, titled Whatever Happened to Rosemary’s Baby?, another forgotten Horror movie, in which he played the titular character, as a tortured young man. (I remember having a huge crush on him when I was about 16.)

 

Most Hated Film Tropes

All movies have tropes, sometimes the use, misuse, and overturning of those tropes is what makes a movie worth watching, but they all have them, because that’s what usually determines the film’s genre, for example. Certain things have to occur for something to qualify as Horror, Fantasy, or a Western. I don’t have problem with tropes in general, but some things I am really, really, tired of seeing, or is a sign of lazy film writing.

 

The Magical Negro

A magical negro is usually a Black man or woman with some type of inexplicable superpower, (but sometimes not), who shows up to help the White protagonist deal with some problem they’re having in their life, often without reciprocation from the white protagonist. These magical people are never selfish, deciding  to help any nearby White people maximize their love lives, for example, rather than using their considerable powers to make their own lives better, or save themselves from harm.

Part of the reason this idea is so offensive to me, is not necessarily because the Black person has superpowers, but that they use those powers in service to White people, rather than relieving their own oppression (if they’re shown to have any backstory at all).  They don’t have families, they’re never seen around other Black people, they never discuss their own problems, they have no lives of their own.  Most of the time their origins are mysterious.

A classic example of this trope is John Coffey from The Green Mile, a giant Black man, with no past, and no future either, as he is sentenced to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit, yet nevertheless, spends much of the movie solving the problems of the white prison guards in his orbit, rather than trying to solve his own. I get that he is a Christ metaphor, but watching this movie is very distasteful for me.

Some other classic examples include Oda Mae from the movie Ghost (a Black character with no life or backstory of her own,  beyond helping the ghost of the white protagonist reunite with his wife) There are  movies where the trope is done so well, that I’ll give it a pass, like Red from Shawshank Redemption. A character that just manages to skirt by, with this trope, are Will Smith’s Hitch, as his being a love talker for hire is the entire point of the film and he gets an entire storyline devoted to his own love life.

But my least favorite character, in all of filmdom, is the character of Jezelle, from the movie Jeepers Creepers, a psychic nobody, who takes time out of her busy schedule of doing, we don’t know what,  to provide exposition and aid, to two White, twenty-something, strangers, who are being chased by the movie’s monster. Her only purpose in the movie,is to show up and psychically help these strangers, rather than use her abilities to keep herself safe from the monster. In fact, using her abilities brings her into direct interaction with the monster, in a way that would never have happened if she’d just stayed home, because her pronouncements don’t change their futures, and puts her life in danger.

 

 

 

The Black Guy Dies First

Its not so much that they die first, so much as they never make it to the end of any horror movie.

Black or any other characters from minorities are often said to be the first ones to die within horror films.[1] While it is not necessarily true that these characters die first, a larger percentage die at some point in the movie.[7] Complex did a survey of 50 horror films that starred black characters, finding that only 10% had black characters that died first in the film; however, a great deal of those characters still died at some point in the movies.[1] On top of their imminent death, these characters are also notably given a lack of character development, especially in comparison to white counterparts.[1] According to Valerie, in her breakdown of the development of black characters in horror, black characters stand a greater chance of survival if they are teamed with a white woman by the end, if the entire cast is black, or if the villain is a black person. However, Complex also reveals that black characters who survive the film almost certainly die if there is a sequel.

—– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_horror_films

A great example overturning this trope is Tales From The Crypt: Demon Night, which stars two, totally bad ass, Black women, one of whom does not make it to the end to the film, (although she does go out like a BOSS), and Jada Pinkett, who  not only becomes the Final Girl, she also gets to be the hero, who defeats the monster. Examples of the first sort are far too numerous to mention. You can pretty much count every slasher movie made in the 80’s and 90’s.

Keep in mind, however, that Night of the Living Dead showed us that even if the Black person is the star of the movie, that is still no guarantee they will survive it.

My most hated version of this trope though, is the movie Logan, where an entire Black family gets introduced, only so they can be killed, a few minutes later. Now, I get that the point of their deaths is to illustrate that Wolverine is, very probably, one of the most toxic characters in Marvel history. Death follows him around like a lapdog, so much so, that anyone who interacts with him, on even the most superficial level, will meet with a quick, and pointless death. If not by him, then through someone associated with his sordid past. In fact, everybody in this movie dies, from the Mexican gangbangers at the beginning of the film, to Charles Xavier, to Laura’s surrogate mother, and Logan himself.

In fact,  Logan is full of dead  PoC, solely because they had some kind of interaction with Wolverine, whether benign or negative.

*Sigh*

Movin’ on…

 

CPR Only Works When You Shout At the Recipient

Gob, I hate this one!

I absolutely hate this trope. I have always hated this trope. Its a stupid trope, meant to create a false feeling of suspense, when a major character dies onscreen. Its often used wrong anyway. CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) is not even meant to bring someone back to life. You don’t just give a person CPR and they wake up and start breathing, as if they just had a nightmare. It’s also meant to last longer than the couple of minutes they show you onscreen. You are not simply restarting a person’s heart. You are doing the job of the heart by keeping their blood circulating, so that the brain continues to receive oxygen, thereby lessening brain damage, until the heart can be restarted.

In Movieland, if CPR isn’t working but dammit-you’re-not-gonna-lose-them you can always just start hammering your fist into their chest. Preferably whilst shouting. This is called a precordial thump and should only be performed once by a highly trained medical professional in front of witnesses when there are no other alternatives – any other time and you’re just giving a corpse a beating.

          ———  https://whatculture.com/offbeat/11-common-movie-tropes-that-would-actually-ruin-your-life?page=4

And screaming epithets has never worked on an unconscious person. That’s just ass-stupid.

I really hate this trope!

 

 

The White Savior

https://shadowandmovies.com/what-is-the-white-savior-trope-green-book/

This is probably the most irksome trope for PoC, because it’s literally everywhere, but now so much has been written about this, in the past five years, that it has actually become a part of everyday film criticism, whereas before it was something only recognized by a handful of people.

 

My most hated version of this trope, and the first time I truly noticed it, was when Mississippi Burning was released, in the 90s. The movie starred Willem Defoe and Gene Hackman, and I hated, hated, hated that movie. It is a classic White Savior film. I hated it because its such a blatant piece of utter bullshit, because it is very well documented what the FBI got up to during the Civil Rights Era, demonizing and interrogating the intentions of MLK, and the protesters (COINTELPRO). MB centers two White FBI agents in the middle of a story about Black people fighting for their rights. Everything about the movie is just wrong. its the Green Book of the 80s.

For a full list of resources see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO#U.S._government_reports

Now the definition has evolved to include any heroic white character in movies dealing with Black oppression, or during slavery, which slotted a whole new group of movies into the White savior category.

 

Image result for white savior gifs

List of Associated films:

12 Years a Slave Hidden Figures, Avatar, Blind Side, Gran Torino, The Matrix

 

 

The Sissy Villain

Yes, the image below takes place in a children’s cartoon, and depicts not only the Sissy Villain, but sexual assault by an animal like, predatory, gay coded (creature?). The Sissy Villain isn’t always this bad, but GOOD LORD! This was in a children’s cartoon! There are, on occasion, good depictions of this trope, like Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid, who was based on the transgender actress Divine, and the cross dressing Dr. Frank N’ Furter, from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, who is beloved by audiences.

Where this trope is especially insidious though, is in children’s cartoons, like Scar, in the lion King, and Him, (the above character), from the Powerpuff Girls. But this type of villain is also spotted in movies with British villains, where the villain not only has a British accent, but is succinctly spoken, sometimes with effete mannerisms, as in the movies, The Patriot, Die Hard, and  Skyfall. The Sissy Villain has a  strong homophobic element involved in their depiction, as they are often contrasted against the manly, masculine heroes.

They can be found in far too many historical, and action films, basically, wherever the manly hero is found. Sometimes the Sissy Villain is shown as predatory, and  a way to make the villain seem even more evil, such as Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs, and Jack Randall from Outlander, who is not only the villain, but  a rapist. Actually,  whenever it seems Hollywood needs a villain, who is predatory, deceptive, and shady, they  just code them as gay, (and often British).

 

 

 

 Cop’s Nagging Wife/ Wet Blanket Wife

Actually there are several different versions of the Wet Blanket Wife, but I want to focus on a very specific version of her. The Wet Blanket Wife, is always ready to sacrifice other people’s lives, so her husband/boyfriend/significant other, can stay home with the kids, or go to one of their children’ s musical recitals, or have a dinner party.

A perfect example of this is the scene in The Incredibles, where Frozone’s wife insists that he is going to ruin their evening, if he goes out to engage in superheroics. Don’t take this the wrong way, the scene is still very funny, but hiding inside it is the insidious trope of the Wet Blanket Wife, who  seems more concerned with their dinner party, than the lives of the citizens being endangered by the movie’s villain.

Or take the movie Red Dragon, where the Wet Blanket Wife’s complaints are ostensibly legitimate. After all, Will Graham nearly lost his life while doing his job, as a criminal profiler. She wants him to stay home, and not endanger his life by going back to his job profiling the latest serial killer, that’s destroying whole families. On the surface I get it, but the way its framed in the movie, makes her whiny and unlikable, and  completely uncaring of the deaths of the victims.

The Wet Blanket Wife lives in cop films, however. She can be found wherever a police officer, or detective has been accused of neglecting his family because he loves his job too much, or not coming up with the alimony for that month, or just never being there for her. and the kids. This trope was famously lampooned in the movie Hot Fuzz, but takes place in far too many other action movies involving detectives.

 

 

White Women are Virgins/Women of Color are Whores

At the same time, our American culture has a long history of sexualizing women of color and holding up white women as paragons of sexual purity. Women of color are lower than pure-minded white women: spicy, sexually imaginative, animalistic. Although it’s natural to desire the superior white woman sexually, only white men are good enough for her, and they must spend their manhood proving their worth. This mindset lingers in our collective unconscious and is expressed in myriad ways. It gets a lot more nuanced than that, so I’d encourage those of you who haven’t to read up on this.

          ——– https://thenerdsofcolor.org/2016/04/08/white-virginwhore-of-color-daredevilproblems/

The above definition says everything I wanted to say about this trope. This trope can very easily be found in the TV series Daredevil, on Netflix, where the oversexualized, and violent Elektra, whom Matt is very attracted to, is contrasted against the blonde, and innocent looking, Karen Page, who is so pure that he feels unworthy to be with her, and who must be protected from harm. Note, that Elektra receives no such masculine protection.

This trope can also be found in the first season of HBO’s Westworld, but to a purpose. Maeve, a Black woman who owns a brothel, is portrayed as sexy and sassy, while her compatriot Dolores, is at first set up as pure and virginal. She is the kind of female character who is protected by white men, while Maeve is the type that is exploited.

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/westworld-analysis-dolores-and-maeve/

 

The Faux – Medieval World Settings

Yeah, this one is especially tired.

No matter where in the world these stories are set, or how much worldbuilding a creator may work really hard to put into their work, the end result always appears to be set during Medieval times, with that level of technology. There’s always taverns, beer, wenches, and sword fighting. In some cases, sometimes the wheel has not even been invented! Its not that it matches any particular country or even government system, so much as it looks vaguely like Feudalism, with its associated social hierarchy. I call these, Lord of the Rings ripoffs.

As I mentioned  in an earlier post, I didn’t find my way into Fantasy through the usual channels. I started out reading Horror, than switched to Scifi , and eventually made my way to Urban Fantasy, so I don’t have the same level of reverence for LOTR, that other people do, and frankly, I found all the hype for these types of stories to be deeply tiresome. I don’t hate the genre, (I enjoy the films), but I have no patience for High Fantasy dramas most of the time, and even when I do come across something I like, there’s not as much emotional engagement in it for me. High Fantasy set in other countries (Japan, the Phillipines, Africa) don’t bother me though.

Coming Soon!

I don’t know when I’ll ever feel safe sitting in any enclosed space ever again. If I do, I definitely will not be inviting my mother with me as she is severely immuno-compromised. Technically, so am I, but beyond that, I wouldn’t want to bring anything back home to her. In all likelihood, Dune and Tenet may be movies I’ll have to admire from afar. I hope not because I’m really excited to see them in a theater. If there’s a way t do so safely, while observing social distancing rules…

 

 

Tenet

This is the only movie that would possibly get my ass into a theater seat (which is never gonna happen, btw.) Nevertheless, I am very excited for this. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s work anyway, so that was gonna happen. This is the second trailer for the movie, which is aiming for a Fall release. This trailer strongly implies that its about superpowers and time travel.

 

 

 

The Old Guard

I always enjoy watching Charlize Theron kicking ass, and I like the idea of this young black female apprentice, to a kind of immortal being. I’m always for black female characters being shown as beloved, and delicate, flowers in need of being saved, we first need to get our feet in the door, and one way to do that is playing to our strengths in action films.

So far, the Hollywood idea of a strong black woman is measuring how much pain and anguish we can endure, how much abuse we can take and still keep ticking. We need to begin showcasing other versions of black women’s strength. Fortunately we are getting movies and shows like this.

I am told this is based on a comic book, and though I like the authors of the book, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before, so I’m going to be looking out for it. The Old Guard airs on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

 

Da Five Bloods

I always say I’m not into certain types of movies. What I actually mean is I’m not normally attracted to such films, not that I don’t watch them, or have never seen, or liked them. Like War movies. I do have a couple of favorites, (Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket), but most of them I dislike for their reliance on spectacle with no message beyond glorifying life in the military.

I will watch this one because I like the director, the actors, (Delroy Lindo, who I’ve been in love with since Romeo Must Die), and because it’s basic premise, of a close group of Black men returning to Vietnam, so they can find the body of their commanding officer, just sounds appealing to me. I like remembrance stories, or more accurately, anti-nostalgia stories, and there aren’t a whole bunch of war movies which prominently feature men of color, telling what it was like for them.

This is also airing on Netflix in mid-June.

 

 

Gundala

Here’s a superhero story, I’m moderately excited about, set in Southeast Asia, which I’m going to check out soon. I saw the trailer for this months ago, but only recently got the opportunity to see it. This very much reminds me of the Black Lightning TV series, because it’s basic premise, a man of color, with electricity powers , who trains himself to protect his little piece of the world from corrupt government forces, is appealing to me.

 

 

Code 8

This is another one of those gritty superhero stories that sort of chronicle what life would be like if superpowers existed. I kind of like these downbeat superhero movies like Unbreakable, Chronicle, and yes, I include the Carrie movies. I am, however, not always in the mood for such downbeat material, so whether or not I see this ,depends entirely on how I feel that day. I may decide to watch another John Mulaney stand up instead.

 

This one is based on a short film, I saw last year, with the same name. I didn’t care for the Short that much, but the actual movie looks a little better.

 

 

Dune 2020

I’ve been a Dune fan since I was a teenager, and used to the read the first book in the series about every couple of years. It’s one of my few favorite SciFi stories. Yes, I did see the 1984 movie starring Sting. It’s okay, and I really liked it, but it’s not my favorite, and I’m going to pretend the TV version doesn’t exist.

Next year we’re supposed to be getting a remake of this movie by one of my favorite SciFi directors, Denis Villaneuve. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his movies, including the Bladerunner sequel, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this, as this too is one of the few films that would actually get me into a theater.

The director has been sending out pictures of the cast and crew, and whooo yeah, I’m definitely excited for this version, which looks a lot more like I imagined it from the book. I hope it does well, but I still think y’all should be prepared for a lot of hate because there are PoC working in this movie, and y’all know how white fandom behaves when they think an entertainment product is the exclusive province of white people. There’s also the fact that it is a very loved book. I do plan to stay away from any Youtube videos talking about this movie because already there are a wave of people who are ready to ream it a new asshole before the movie has even been released.

That said, there have been some changes that some people will lose their shit over, and one of the bigger changes is that Liet Kynes is being portrayed by a Black actress. If you remember from the book, Liet is the father of Chani, but is not actually one of the Fremen, and Villaneuve says he changed the role because he wanted to portray a mother /daughter relationship, and the movie was getting very male-centric. Now, if you’ve read the book, you know what role Liet plays in the story and what happens to him ,but I’m still very excited to see what this actress is going to do, and how she will interact with the other characters. In the original film, Liet Kynes was played by Max von Sydow. Jason Momoa is playing Duncan Idaho, who is not one of my favorite characters from the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this role.

Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
2248x2248 Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet Kynes 2248x2248 ...
Sharon Duncan Brewster as Liet-Kynes
Dune photos give fans their first look at Jason Momoa and Zendaya ...
Zendaya as Chani
Enjoy These Dune Images in Glorious HD, Especially Oscar Isaac ...
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
timothee chalamet dune | Tumblr
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
HEAT WAVE          Timothe Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Jordan. Filming in the landscape was really surreal says...
Timothy Chalumet is Paul Atreides, and Rebecca Ferguson is Lady Jessica
pThe House Atreides Left to Right Timothe Chalamet as Paul Atreides Stephen Mckinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat Oscar...
 House Atreides
Behold Dune: An Exclusive Look at Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya ...
Javier Bardem as Stilgar

Halloween (1978): The Horror of Framing, and Identification

A Frame is a single image of film or video. So framing consists of the composition of a series of shots, or images from the camera’s point of view. Based on where the camera has been placed, we know where we are as the audience, and that can make all the difference in a person’s attitude towards a film.

I have friends who dislike Horror movies. I know! Sacrilege, right? But I get it. I don’t pressure them to watch them, as they aren’t for everyone, but I often wonder what it is about such movies that they dislike. I know, for some of them, its the feelings of anxiety that such films can produce. But I think at least part of that anxiety has to do with the nature of the visual media that is film. The camera is often a stand-in for the audience. We see what the camera sees, and visual media is carefully composed to manipulate our emotions about what we see onscreen. Some people will find it very off putting, not just watching a scene, and being helpless to stop it, but based on how the images are framed, feel as if they are actually participating in the violence. How are a movie’s images and themes presented to the audience, and what effect does that have on them?

I was watching the original 1978  Halloween a few weeks ago, and comparing it to the new sequel that came out last year. I was thinking about why the new sequel is so effective, at being scary, whereas none of the other sequels, outside of Halloween II, were scary for me, at all.

At least part of the reason the new sequel works is it successfully replicates much of the framing of that first film. This framing (of both films) has the effect of making the audience a participant in the action. If you remember the opening scene from the original film, we see the suburban setting as if we were operating the camera, as Michael stabs his sister to death. Afterwards, the camera switches the viewpoint to that of his parents, we pull back when his parents pull off his mask, as he stands on the front lawn. This is an example of the audience as not just onlookers, which is the viewpoint from which most films are told, but as participants in the actions onscreen. We are not meant to simply watch, but see through Michael’s eyes, as we participate in the killing. That we see the murder from Michael’s point of view can make some members of the audience feel complicit in the act.

After this opening, the camera neatly switches between Laurie Strode’s, and Michael’s, point of view. It is Laurie’s decisions that control the plot, but she and her friends are the ones being acted upon by Michael. The movie is framed in a classic Protagonist/antagonist plot, of two evenly matched adversaries, who play cat and mouse throughout the movie. Part of the movie’s tension is who is going to win this fight, and the camera shows this by switching between both their points of view. Switching between different points of view is a way to keep the audience off balance.

First, let’s have a discussion of camera techniques and film vocabulary, since I am operating under the assumption that a lot of my readers have never really given a whole lot of thought to the idea that what a camera is doing, doesn’t just tell the audience how to feel, or think, but often focuses the movie’s primary theme, and sometimes the story itself.

Telling the audience who is of primary importance in the story, and how the audience should feel about what is happening, is done by framing. The director decides where the camera is going to stand, what it’s going to be doing, and what that image looks like through the viewfinder. One of the things that makes horror movies so unsettling is that the viewpoint can switch at any moment. The camera can be anyone at any time. One of the side effects is that the viewer is not given time to become complacent, or to feel comfortable.

Sometimes we see the world through Michael’s eyes, experiencing the emotionlessness of this character. The way the images are framed, through Michael’s eyes, give us a sense of the character’s height and power, as the camera is often placed slightly above, or at head height during a scene. From Michael’s point of view, the camera is always a semi-distant, and unemotional, observer, that moves slowly, and steadily, giving him a sense of relentless implacability. He is framed as the one in power, as a machine which cannot be stopped.

In other scenes, we see what Laurie sees, experiencing her terror, vulnerability, and bravery. The camera, from Laurie’s point of view, trembles in an uncertain manner, peering around corners, and hedges, through doorways, and closets. In many of her scenes, the camera is closer to the ground, or floor, as it points upwards towards a sound or image. We are meant to feel what she feels, as she is framed as small and helpless.

In the newest Halloween, this is masterfully done by James Carpenter, the director of the original film. In the Michael scenes, the camera moves slowly and steadily through busy, or frenetic settings, at head height. Laurie, whose mindset is now very different after the trauma of the first movie, doesn’t get a lot of viewpoint scenes, and when she does she is shown to be equally matched to him, as the camera is at head height for her, too, until the end of the film, when Michael, now in a vulnerable position, is placed below head height, looking upward, towards Laurie and her daughter. The two of them, having turned the tables on him, look down on him from their position of greater power.

No discussion of framing would be complete without mention of the film in which it was made especially famous, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, where we watch the death of the primary character, Marion Crane, from the point of view of her killer, in the infamous “shower scene”. Hitchcock is rightfully lauded for this particular camera technique, as it had never been done in that way before, and it rightfully shocked audiences. I think at least part of that shock is that Hitchcock makes the audience feel complicit in Marion Crane’s murder, as we see it from the point of view of her killer, Norman Bates, but that’s not what makes Psycho groundbreaking. It is the switch from Marion’s point of view, to the killer’s, that sets it apart. Marion goes from Subject, to Object, from the person who commits the acts that determine the plot, at the beginning of the film, and the person with whom we identify, to the person who is acted upon. At the beginning of the film Marion is the Subject, from whose viewpoint we see the world, but when she is killed, she becomes the Object, and we become her killer. For some people, this was simply too much.

What Hitchcock did in this scene is switch Framing. Based on the framing, the audience is meant to think, or feel, a certain way about, or towards, a character. You’re meant to be uncomfortable during the shower scene, and Michael’s murder of his sister, as your eyes are forced to see your victim, and you cannot look elsewhere. In Hitchcock’s scene the camera is initially placed inside the shower with Marion, as she looks outward and sees a shadow. We do not see Marion, in those instances, (she is “out of frame”), because we are seeing things from her point of view. Then the camera is turned, and placed outside the shower, facing Marion. We don’t see her killer now, because we are now in the killers viewpoint. This makes this scene much more intimate than if it was “framed” another way. For example, if the camera had been placed to see both subjects, at the same time, “framing” both of them within the image, in such an enclosed space, it would have to be further away from them, placing us, the audience, at an emotional remove, and the scene would feel less immediate.

By placing the camera as the point of view of either character, and switching back and forth between them, we become a part of the scene. We become the characters, rather than an omnipotent third party, who are just watching a murder, as would happen if the camera were placed at a distance. The moment becomes not just more intimate, but more visceral, than if the camera was placed elsewhere.

Most movies are framed in such a way as to make the audience a third but invisible onlooker, which is sometimes called the “god perspective”, or the “omnipresent watcher”, Or sometimes, in the feminist perspective, The Male Gaze, where we can see everything that’s occurring within the scene, as if we were standing right there. If the camera is close to the scene, such as when two people are having a conversation and both are seen within the frame, we feel like a third invisible observer, in the scene with them. If the camera is even further away than we may feel like we are not part of the scene at all. We might feel like we are spying on the two subjects from afar. If the camera is placed within the scene, switching from the view of one character to another, than we become those characters. Framing indicates the level of intimacy, and the best directors tell us how to feel about the characters, based not just on what they say, but how they are seen within the frame.

For example, an extreme closeup of a woman, with the camera panning, (when a camera moves up and down, or from side to side), along her body, places us in the scene with her, as we look at her body. Sometimes the scene is meant to be sexually evocative, as the character is often aware that we are there, and appears to respond to our presence in the scene with her. But if the camera is across the room, while focusing on her body and legs, we are no longer in the scene with her, but spying on her from a distance. The character doesn’t know we are there, isn’t posing provocatively for our gaze, and acts as if she is alone, which makes us voyeurs, to what appears to be a private moment, such as the scene when Marion Crane first gets into the shower. We have not asked permission, she is unaware of the camera, and has not given us her consent to look in on her. She is as unaware of our presence, as she is the killer’s.

For another example, in the movie, The Seven Year Itch, there’s the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe standing over a sewer grate, with her skirts floating in the air. There are two people in the scene, and the camera is far enough away to frame both of them within the image, except when her skirts fly up. Notice how the camera is just close enough for her to “know” that we are standing right there, but the camera only focuses on her face, when she is speaking to her date, and only shows her carefully posed legs, when she isn’t speaking, as if we were being distracted from their conversation.

That we are not seeing this moment from either of their points of view, but at a distance, is what makes the scene funny. We are both present, and not present, standing on the street, in plain view of both these characters, who do not react to our presence, but they know we are right there, because we are standing directly in front of them, just a few feet away, witnessing an event, that they are performing for us. The camera is just far enough away, that we don’t feel like participants, but like someone who was just passing by, who has decided to stop and stare at their flirtatious show. We are voyeurs, and the scene is meant to be both sexually enticing, and humorous.

Contrast that scene, with the opening scene, from the 1976 version of Carrie. The camera is in the shower with Carrie, in extreme closeup. As close as the Marion Crane scene in Psycho. This is a very intimate moment, that we are intruding on, but not participating in. Carrie is supposed to be alone, as she does not react to the camera, and is unaware of its presence. But the scene isn’t without emotion, as shots of her legs, torso, and body, are interspersed with shots of her face, and her tranquil expression. What we are doing is intruding into Carries private moment. She is one of the last girls still in the shower, because it is the only place she can find respite from her constantly bullying classmates. She is enjoying this quiet solitude, before she must re-enter the world. Here, we are voyeurs of a different sort, as we are meant to identify with Carrie in this scene. If we were not meant to identify with her, she would be objectified, by not having close up shots of her face.

Framing can mean the difference between objectification, and identification. We are not meant to identify with Marilyn’s character. We are interested as an onlooker, to a show she is giving. We don’t really care about her facial expressions, which is why those are shot at more of a distance. In Carrie, we are meant to identify with her, and not her classmates, who are shot from a distance, and framed as a faceless mob of nubile, seductive water nymphs, in slow motion, and half dressed. In a sense, this is how Carries sees them, as happy, frolicking, young women, whose faces all blend together, and that’s something that will be shown explicitly, minutes later, during the tampon throwing scene, and during the Prom scene, when Carrie thinks they are all laughing at her. Focusing the camera on Carrie’s solemn facial expression, is a contrast to her classmates. We are shown her feelings, and her personhood. We are meant to be sympathetic to her, not her classmates. Some people might find it very difficult to watch a film where one is made to identify with the victim of bullying.

 Let’s use another movie, to contrast against Halloween, as an example of framing. We’ll use the 2011, It Follows. Both films basically have the same plot, two women are being relentlessly pursued by silent creatures that want to kill them. Both movies frame the characters in such a way that denotes they are the protagonists, both films revolve around killing that involves sexual activity, and both involve the survival, at the end of the movie, of a Final Girl.

In It Follows, Jay is being pursued by a monster that can take the form of someone she knows, after she is infected by a virus that allows her to see it. In Halloween, we go where Michael goes, and see what he sees. We are the monster. In It Follows, we never see the world from the monsters viewpoint, except at the opening of the film. For the rest of the movie, we are almost always looking towards the monster, and seeing the world through either Jay’s eyes, or as third observer. We don’t get to walk in the monsters footsteps. We are not the monster, and hence, the monster is the less important part of this film. Unlike Halloween, in It Follows, we are voyeurs, who watch Jay during some of her most private moments, or we see the monster from Jay’s viewpoint. Jay is the movie’s focus, and everything revolves around her. This is not like Halloween, where you have two separate, but evenly matched, adversaries. The monster has no identity of its own, and can have no point of view. Any identity we see, is given to it by Jay, and everything we see of it, is from Jay’s mind.

Michael (who is often the audience stand-in) often watches Laurie and her friends from a distance. The camera’s distance from Michael’s victims creates a feeling of emotional detachment in the audience. We don’t get closeups of their faces because Michael isn’t interested in them as people, only as objects he can act upon. We are not meant to identify with Laurie’s friends. However, as a third observer, we do get lots of closeups of Laurie’s face. We are meant to feel what she feels, because the closer the camera is to the character, the more intimate the moment.

Since these movies are framed from the point of view of the killers, or as if the viewers were ineffectual observers, or participants in the scenes, you are meant to feel the tension of either the victim, or excitement of the killer. I’ve never felt the latter, but apparently there are those who watch horror movies who get a thrill from just that. I’ve also heard people who don’t like horror movies, accuse those who do, of getting just such a thrill, and I came to the conclusion that at least some of them were deeply uncomfortable with how horror movies are framed.

Perhaps for those who perceive themselves as “good” people, who would never harm anyone, horror movies might be especially stressful, in this regard. Seeing horror scenes from the killer’s relentless point of view is distressing, just as much as being a stand in for the helpless and vulnerable victim, or being an invisible voyeur to violent acts.

The Strong Black Woman

At The Take, they’re examining the movie trope of the Strong Black woman. This stereotype is a conflation of The Mammy and Sapphire stereotypes, always angry, telling it’s like it is, emasculating, and strong beyond reason, in her ability to overcome suffering. The Strong Black Woman is a stereotype created by black women as a way to counteract the nastier stereotypes, but it has backfired, because it is often the only recognized narrative of us.

What the stereotype ignores is that our ability to be strong is often based on our ability to endure suffering, whereas for white women, it’s often an ability to act like white men do in movies, kicking ass, shooting guns, and not needing a man. Often, when Black women protest this stereotype, it’s because so much of it consists of not needing a man, which is often used as an excuse to not write romances for Black women. The SBW isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s the only image that’s presented onscreen, it becomes an issue.

One of the side effects of this superwoman stereotype is that so many people have bought into it, that it affects our lived experiences, and our vulnerabilities are ignored. Suicide rates among black woman are never discussed, we receive less medical care because it is actually assumed that we don’t feel pain, our strength is often exploited as a benefit to others, our mental health, and inner emotional life is never explored.

This is slowly starting to change, with more nuanced portrayals, especially in TV. We’re finally getting the message out to all women, that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to be soft, to cry, how hard it is to live up to this impossible stereotype, and that taking care of our emotional health isn’t a selfish act.

This is why diversity in storytelling is so important, because with more Black female representation, the lone black woman, who don’t need no man, doesn’t have to stand in for all Black women, in the way that Scarlett Johansson had to be a stand-in for every white woman, in the MCU.

Favorite Songs About Vampires

I’m feeling a bit of Pop Culture nostalgia this week, so here, have some of the vampire songs that are always on MY playlist!

 

Gordon Walker - Super-wiki

Black Vampires Through the Years | Black vampire, Eddie murphy ...

 

Bite Me! Top 10 Hottest Black Vampires | Vibe

I was on Tumblr, and I noticed a trend of people recommending vampire songs that 1. I didn’t recognize, and 2. Were all by white people and groups, as if PoC had never had any interest in vampires, and never made any songs about them. I really hate lists of music on there anyway. I have pretty wide ranging tastes, but these lists always seem to have the most obscure musical groups these people can find. Why these people can’t ever seem to listen to just regular songs, that maybe more than five people have heard, is a mystery! At any rate, there was one list I found, I listened to a couple of the songs and I think that person just has bad taste in music, because they were fairly bland. I mean if you’re gonna go through the trouble of making music about vampires, the least you can do is be EXTRA, like all the artists on this list.

But I’m often exasperated by the rather “twee” musical tastes of Tumblr patrons, who can be somewhat limited in their musical tastes, and helluva lot younger than me. Vampires are a global mythology, in that nearly every continent has one, so I’m also pretty sure other parts of the world have songs about them, but I’m Black, and American, so this is my focus. Maybe, at some point, I’ll do some research to find songs from other countries.

 

 

Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus ( The Hunger 1983)

Cinematic Black Women Vampires | 1970's-2000's | Black vampire ...

This is the classic Gothic vampire song, used in countless movies, and shows, that feature vampires. The first time I heard it was in the 1988 movie, The Hunger, which starred Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie, as modern day vampires. If you haven’t seen that movie than check it out, as it’s an interesting snapshot of a very specific musical period (Goth) in the early 80s. The music, fashion, cinematography, and acting are all artifacts of that particular time, and the movie was groundbreaking, in that it was a mainstream movie, that featured an openly lesbian relationship, as Deneuve’s character puts the moves on Susan Sarandon.

Remember, that in 1983, this movie was the coolest shit we’d ever seen, because American culture hadn’t yet been saturated with Gothic imagery. In fact, I blame this movie for it!

 

 

Love Song For A Vampire – Annie Lennox (Bram Stoker’s Dracula 1992)

This is one of my favorite songs, and I believe it was specifically written for the movie, in which it was featured during the end credits. I was a huge Annie Lennox fan in the 80s, otherwise I’d probably have never paid any attention to it. It helps that Annie Lennox always looked suitably vampiric since the beginning of her career, which had been going for ten years strong, by the time she made this song. It fits the film perfectly, in that it has this deep throbbing heartbeat sound, just underneath the listeners perception, the instrumentation, and singing is lushly romantic and overdone, just like the movie, and still gives me chills so many years later.

You really need to hear this with headphones to get the full effect.

 

 

Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting (Interview With The Vampire 1994)

This song was also written in the late 80s by the newly solo lead of the British rock band, The Police. Sting wrote this after reading Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, so I was expecting this song to be in the movie that was made in the 90s, but no luck. It wasn’t in it. But this isn’t my favorite version of this song, I prefer the Wozniak Club version, which I liked to jam to in the car, on my way to work. Of course, this is exactly the type pf song that would be played in the vampire club!

 

 

No One Believes me – Kid Cudi (Fright Night 2011)

https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/African+American+Vampires

Vampires have made only infrequent appearances in African American folklore, and, similarly, African Americans have been largely absent from vampire movies and novels through the twentieth century. 

When people recommend vampire songs, everyone seems to forget that Black artists make songs about vampires, too! I came across quite a few of them when researching this. This was the feature song for the Fright Night remake made a few years ago. The remake was not especially successful, and didn’t feature this song anywhere in it, which may account for why so few people know about it, but this video was, and remains, one of my absolute favorites.

 

 

After Dark – Tito and the Tarantulas (From Dusk Til Dawn 1996)

This is the song that plays when Satanica Pandemonium does her dance, for the two brothers, at the Titty Twister bar, featured in the movie. It’s not my favorite, but I like Tito and the Tarantulas other songs, and just want to recognize that Mexican people got vampire songs.

 

 

Seduction/Surrender – Grace Jones (Vamp 1987)

Images of THE VAMPIRE BITE | Vampire bites, Vampire pictures ...

 

 

For some reason, all vampire movies must have a Club scene. We got vampires walking up in there, vampires owning clubs, dancing in clubs, hunting for a meal in the club, or all of the above. In 1987, Grace Jones owned, danced, and hunted, in the Club featured in this nearly forgotten movie. This song was specifically adapted for her strip scene.

The Hunger opens with a club scene, Interview with a Vampire has a club with actors, From Dusk til Dawn is set in a bar, Near Dark gets a bar scene, so do both Fright Nights, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, most TV shows feature clubs owned by vampires, and yes, the Blade movies have nearly famous club scenes!

 

 

Fatal – RZA (Blade 3)

20 Years Later and 'Blade' is Still Singular and Relevant | Black ...

 

As far as I’m concerned, despite the groundbreaking first film, it’s the second film, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, that’s the best of the Blade movies. This is Blade’s song, from the third, thoroughly awful, film. The song is every bit as badass as he is, and featured in the end credits, and it’s by the f*cking RZA, from Wu Tang! C’mon! How does anybody miss listing this song in any recommendations of vampire songs? On the other hand, the third film sucked, so that might have been the reason people simpy don’t remember that the RZA made a vampire song.

 

 

 

 

Cry Little Sister –  Gerard McMahon (The Lost Boys 1987)

The Lost Boys' Cast: Where Are They Now? - Biography

I’m putting this here because this is my favorite song from this movie. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, it still holds up after some thirty years, and has a lot of great songs, including the title song.

 

 

System – Linkin Park (Queen of the Damned 2002)

Descendants of Sophia | Queen of the damned, Vampire queen ...

This is the song from the movie, where Alaska walks up in the club, and literally sets the roof on fire.

 

 

Confusion Dance Theme Remix –  New Order (Blade 1998)

This is the song from the film’s iconic opening scene, called the Blood Rave, where we’re introduced to the Blade character, and what he does for a living: killing vampires! This is very probably one of the most famous intros in vampire filmdom (is that a word?) The song itself doesn’t actually have anything to do with vampires, but every time I listen to it, this scene is what plays in my head.