Here’s a bunch of new trailers, for movies that have been teasing us, since last year! I’m genuinely excited about these films, (as I don’t usually review things I hate), and I’m looking forward to seeing them, just not in a theater.
Halloween Kills #2
I’m really looking forward to October, as it will see the release of this John Carpenter sequel, and the remake of Dune! As I said, in a previous post, I really enjoyed the first movie in this new remake series, since it was directed by the original creator, and this really does look like a remake of the original Halloween 2, but with extra stuff. Here, Michael seems to finally be outed as a supernatural, or paranormal, creature, of some kind, and frankly, that explains a lot. I’m getting more and more squeamish as a I get older, but at the same time certain things are simply not scary, so when I’m looking forward to a new Horror movie, that means something.
Suicide Squad #2
This trailer looks a lot funnier than the first one, which was pretty funny. Like I said, I really think the creators should just lean in to the batshittery of certain parts of the DC universe, and this movie features one of my crazier favorites: Starro the Conqueror (which I lowkey was pretty scared of as a kid). Starro is actually pretty disgusting in the comic books. He’s a massive building sized starfish, that produces a bunch of tiny starfish, that attach themselves to people’s faces, so he can control their bodies.
In later movies, I would love it if they could bring in characters like Gorilla Grod, Ambush Bug, (who was one of my personal favorites as a kid), Deadman, and the Swamp Thing (which is basically a pile of sentient mud). I like that James Gunn is exploring the zanier side of the Justice League universe! The DCEU seems to be dividing into two halves here, featuring the grimdark upper level superheroes, and the crazier, lower level, anti-heroes, like Polka Dot man, and King Shark.
I also just like that two of my favorite actresses are in this crazy movie. Viola Davis is perfect as Amanda Waller, and of course, Margot Robbie is great as Harley. The creators couldn’t get Will Smith back, but Idris Elba is a very nice substitute.
Shang Chi and the Ten Rings #2
I don’t think people are realizing just how incredibly groundbreaking this movie is. It really is on a level with Black Panther, with its all Asian cast, as well as the plot: Ethnic hero, with daddy issues, tries to find his own path, featuring incredible fight scenes. I love a good Martial Arts movie, and I like that this has some serious Disney money backing it. Ironically, I’m not a huge Shang Chi comic book fan. I know about him because of The Mandarin, his occasional interactions with Wolverine, and because he would appear in other character’s books, so he’s still somewhat mysterious to me, which I think is a good thing.
My only problem is, I don’t see nearly enough women in the cast, and no Awkwafina doesn’t really count as being enough women, y’all. We need more than just the one woman, and they have to interact, those are the rules. But I’ve watched enough Chinese action movies to make out that these fight scenes are fire, though, so I’m waiting for this. I’m gonna be honest, though, Simu Liu is not my type as far as men go, (I prefer Asian men who are either rounder, or thinner, like Hiroyuki Sanada, or Ronny Chieng, not this sort of inbetween look he has), but he is a perfectly acceptable actor for this role, even though I was originally hoping for someone like Yune Lee, maybe.
Snake Eyes #2
Here’s another great action movie with an Asian cast, but produced in America. In case you’re wondering, Snake Eyes is a GI Joe character. I was not a huge GI Joe fan, but when I watched the cartoons, or otherwise paid attention, I naturally gravitated to this character.
I kind of expect Action movies, set in Asia, to involve at least some martial arts, although there are quite a lot of gunplay movies in the genre. We just don’t get a lot about those in the US, even though we actually help make a few of them. There’s even some Scifi, and apocalyptic/disaster movies growing in popularity in parts of Southeast Asia, but martial arts movies are still the easiest (and cheapest) to make, which is why there are so many of them, and Americans still think Kung Fu is exotic, so that’s what mostly gets made here.
I actually do love musicals, but I’m also really, really, picky about the musicals I will watch. I was not, and still am not, remotely impressed with, or interested in, Hamilton, for example, or shows like Glee, but I will watch just about any musical made before 1980. I just liked the music better.
Most modern musicals, that is, the ones made after 1980, have been hit or miss for me, but this one looks really promising, and funny in an old school parody kind of way, and I really enjoyed Keegan Michael Key in Netflix’s Jingle Jangle, which is the first all black musical I’ve enjoyed since Ray. This also stars Kristen Chenowith, who impressed me with her role as the Goddess of Spring, in American Gods.
And I just like saying the word: Smigadoon!
Rurouni Kenshin: The Final
I will eventually write a piece on these series of films, as they feature messages about redemption, atonement, and revenge. I have not, and have no plans to, either read the Manga, or watch the anime, even though I really like these live action versions of those media. The first three movies were about politics and atonemnt ,but this new one goes back to a story from Himura’s past. His past is always coming back to kick him in the ass in these movies, as he was a man who did some very bad things.
In the Earth
Well, this looks oddly creepy, and I’m here for it. I think we’re probably going to see a new clutch of eco-horror movies, just like we did in the 70’s, when there was a glut of nature’s revenge films, thanks to the new sciences of ecological awareness, and movies like Jaws.
I think this time, though, these movies will probably have a paranormal, cult, or mystical flavor to them, and probably involve showing humans being endangered because they’re a part of nature, or merging with it, as in movies like The Ritual, or The Whole in the Ground, or this one.
This looks a lot funnier that the Wolf of Snow Hollow movie I watched earlier this year. That one was good, (and darker than I thought it would be), but the humor was mostly hot or miss, and some of it was kind of sideways. I did enjoy it quite a bit, but the humor in this movie seems more to my tastes, as it looks more straightforward.
If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake these two as being the same movie. They both take place during the winter, in out of the way backwaters. They both involve cops, or detectives, working on a series of strange animal murders, while dealing with their own personal issues, and attempting to corral the locals to help out. Apparently, this is not a plot I get tired of either, since this is basically the plot of Tremors, Grabbers, and Slither, only in different locations!
Here’s a nasty little number from M. Night Shyamalan, which looks intriguing, and suitably nightmarish, but I don’t know much beyond that. I’ll check it out, though, and get back to y’all.
If you’re looking for something a little more disgusting, here’s some parasite body horror for you. I think I’ll recommend this one to my Mom. She loves this kind of stuff. I don’t dislike watching these things, but I have a tendency to become physically ill, and just stop in the middle! If this is your cup of tea, though…
Yep ! That’s it. These are actuall f*cking beavers that have been zombified.
I regret ever having watched this movie. My mom watched it first ,and told me how stupid it was, but apparently, I did not learn anything from her little mini-review, and felt the need to check it out for myself. I should have simply believed her. The plot is exactly what you think it is. To be fair though, this movie wasn’t really that bad, once you know what to expect from it, and had some pretty effective, though stupid, scares.
Sentient Wang/Killer Condom– Killer Penis
Why? Why did I subject myself to this movie? Although an even better question is what possessed someone to make this film? And I, very obviously, need to have my television removed late at night. Perhaps there’s some sort of off switch, that will not allow the TV to be watched between the hours of midnight and 7AM?
Okay, this movie was still funny as hell!
I Bought AVampire Motorcycle– Motorcycle
Now to be fair, I have not yet watched this movie. I’m not sure I will ever watch this, because it just looks so bad. I came across this little gem while researching bad movies on Youtube, and of course, YouTube delivered, because that’s where it is, right now. So, Imma just put this here, and you can decide for yourself if this is something you want to spend ninety minutes of your life on, if you got that kind of time.
Killer Shopping Cart – Film Short
I remember watching this a few years ago ,and it is a surprisingly effective movie, considering the silliness of its premise. I know many of us, who own nice cars, certainly think of shopping carts as a menace, just not this kind of menace.
The Host– ????
Yeah, I talked about this movie before, and I’m still not sure what kind of fish monstrosity is featured. This is still a really good film though, and you should check it out, if you haven’t already. Yes, the monster looks silly, and the family dynamics in the movie are heartbreakingly funny, but its still a frightening movie, with just enough gore and suspense, and a rather bittersweet ending.. This is one of Bong Joon Ho’s films, ( the director of Parasite), so it has a lot of nice little criticisms layered into the plot.
Splinter– Alien Parasite
There are a lot of unanswered questions in this movie. We don’t ever find out, for example where the Splinter parasite came from, whether its an earthly organism or not. But we do get a surprising amount of backstory on the characters, and learn who they are, by how they respond to the dire situation, of being stuck in a gas station that’s being menaced by some thing that wants to take over their bodies. This is actually a pretty scary movie, with a very effective monster, that was created through practical effects.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space– Yeah
I still fail to see how someone, anyone, can look at these creatures, and mistake them for real clowns. If you didn’t have “clourophbia” before watching this movie….
Actually, this is a pretty good movie, with some decent special effects, and scares.
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats(1977) – All of these titles are pretty on the nose when it comes to describing these monsters.
Yeah..just…I’m not even!
Shake this off. Just Etch-A-Sketch it right out of your mind!
Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman– Snowballs
I caught my mom watching this one idle Saturday afternnon. Since then I ahve been a great pains to see that she is busy on Saturdays. I would like to find the person who made this utterly ridiculous movie, and bop them several times with a rolled up newspaper. And then of course, follow that up with some singular bops for the actors, and film crew.
Bad Director! Bad crew! Bad!
The Stuff– Edible White Goop
I…could not finish this movie, because it is so incredibly disgusting, I felt sick watching this.
My first question regarding movies like this though, is why do old, white men, who find some shit on the ground, insist on sticking their fingers in whatever it is? And this guy goes one step further and sticks it in his MOUTH!!!! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!!!
That really should have showed me the kind of movie I’m dealing with, because the movie just got worse and worse.
During the past few years, I’ve been paying closer attention to the images filmmakers use to tell their stories. Film is a time intensive media, in that the filming itself needs to take place within a certain amount of time, after which, the images are edited, to happen within a certain time frame. To that end, filmmakers use every tactic in their visual dictionary to tell the story, as expediently as possible, which means there is almost no wasted imagery. If it’s on the screen, especially if its a recurring image, or a prominently featured one, then there’s usually a purpose behind it, and it’s something the director wants you to notice.
I wrote earlier about how the composition of people and objects within the frame, tells the audience which things are of primary importance. This is just as true of things like set design and the objects themselves. When directors use the objects, and the design of the set, to help push the narrative, set the tone and location, denote themes, and character, this is called, “visual shorthand”. The point is to give the viewer a large amount of information without anything having to be said.
For example, in early television shows, one visual shorthand of the Western, was the sight of tumbleweed. Despite that these specific plants can be found all over the US, their image is so associated with the Western, that when its seen in any other context, the audience still knows what it means, and the images of lonely cowboys, saloons, and wild shootouts, are automatically invoked.
Here’s a primer on some of the recurring symbols used in the language of film:
Doors and windows often have multiple meanings, depending on the context in which they are shown, but most of the time they represent portals to another world, or sometimes an emotional setup for the story. If you see the camera, or characters, moving through doorways, or windows, in interiors, its not just a change in scenery, but sometimes means a change in the story is about to happen. Notice if the camera is moving from the outdoors to the indoors. That could mean that we are about to get a glimpse into a character’s interior thoughts, or find out something new about their motivation. If the camera is moving from indoors to outdoors, that could mean a change in a character’s circumstances, such as they are now free of some emotional confinement, or have solved some problem that has given them new life.
Is the person moving through the door, to another interior space? What does that mean within the context of the story? Has there been a change in a character’s circumstances? Sometimes, if characters are using doors between interior spaces, this means they are changing their mind about something, or are of two minds about a subject of great importance to them. One clue is to look at any discussions being had just before, or after, an entrance.
Interiors are considered places of safety, which is how they are used in most narratives. In Horror movies, the horror comes from the disruption of the safe space, through invasion from an external threat, in home invasion movies like The Strangers, or the threat is internal, in haunted house movies like The Shining.
In Horror movies, if a character is indoors looking out they are being shown as being in a safe place. Usually, characters who are inside looking out, want to stay inside, and do not want to go out. In a scene from the movie It Follows, Jay is being stalked by a death avatar. She and her friends, run to another friend’s Summer home. When they get there, we are inside with Jay, as she looks out the giant picture window, in the middle of the room. The lighting in the room is warm and yellow, and Jay feels safe, as her friends move around the room behind her, but she is still nervous, as both she, (and the audience) peer out the window, where it is getting dark, and objects are not quite seen. She is vulnerable outside, because that’s where the creature is. In fact, pay close attention to this detail, while watching the film, because every time Jay sees the creature, she is often in what she believes is a place of safety, at school, at home, in a hospital, or in a car. She is always looking out of windows, until she is forced outside by the invasion of the monster.
On the other hand, if a character is outside looking in, they usually desire to be inside, either because they think being inside is safe, or because they are the antagonist, wanting to disrupt the lives of those already there. Looking inside, from the outside, often represents desire and longing. What is desired is whatever is framed through the window. What is the person or thing seeing, and is what they are seeing, something they want for themselves, or something they wish to take? Someone looking through a window at a beautiful woman, could means they are coveting that particular woman, but if the woman in the window is a mother with her family, then whoever is watching her may be craving safety, stability, or motherly love, because that’s what she represents.
Depending on what type of windows someone is looking through, the people inside may be trapped, or imprisoned, a visual often used in ghost stories. A shot of an opening window or door, while it is dark outside but the room is lit, means invitation, and/or welcome, which is not always positive, especially in Horror movies. If the interior is dark, but it’s sunny outside, that can mean emotional release, and/or physical freedom.
Another way that doors and windows are used is through Framing, and how people are composed near, or around them. For example, in the movie Crouching Tiger, Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien are often shown speaking close together, but always framed through doors and windows, which shows that the two of them are emotionally confined, and that their relationship is constrained. Sometimes they are being viewed in a semi-indoors state. There are four walls, but the doorway has no door, and the windows are just open spaces without glass, or coverings. The two of them are contained within an interior, but not really, because the doors and windows are wide open, and they can walk free at at any time. They don’t have to remain indoors, if they don’t wish to, which indicates a relationship, where the two of them want to be together, but are deliberately keeping themselves apart. This semi-open room is also a visual depiction of their conversation, during scenes where Mu Bai is almost about to confess his love for Shu Lien, signifying how close they are to freedom from these false constraints.
Contrast those images with Rainer Warner Fassbinder’s 1974, Fear Eats the Soul, in which an older German woman falls in love with a young Black man from Morocco. Everyone in their environment questions their relationship, and the couple is often filmed through doorways, and windows. Their love is confined to a series of small interiors. They are not free to be who they are, or express themselves, and the settings show this constraint. So, within the context of some stories, doors mean confinement, but if the doors, the room, or the windows are open, that means its a situation people can escape from, but choose not to. And pay attention to the size of the doors and windows, because the smaller they are, the slimmer their chances of freedom. When doors and windows are present, but completely closed, then they are a barrier, sometimes representing disagreement between two people, competing philosophies, or that a person feels trapped..
Bars/Horizontal and Vertical
Vertical bars represent barriers, or constraint, usually of an individual. Any form of vertical bars, set close together, is a sign that the character is trapped or imprisoned in their situation. Any set of vertical bars can act as a barrier between the character and the viewer, or the character, and other characters, like the vertical bars of a staircase, or pillars in an otherwise open space. If a person is seen by the camera through a screen, or vertical bars, it means the person is emotionally constrained, or feels that way. If the bars are between two or more people, it is usually an indication of disagreement, that they are rivals, or otherwise in opposition to each other.
In the television series Lovecraft Country, a character named Ruby is often shown through sets of vertical bars at the beginning of the series. She is alone, and in a situation she dislikes, so what these bars mean, within the context of her story, is confinement, that she feels trapped by her circumstances, and can see no way out. Even when she appears to be free to do as she chooses, the bars are a barrier, indicating that she is afraid to leave, or take advantage of her situation. Later in the series, she is no longer being shown through bars or screens, meaning she is no longer afraid, and has decided to embrace her circumstances.
Horizontal stripes are representative of a particular genre of film, recalling the black and white noir films of the forties. Window blinds, are usually what’s used to make the effect, which is supposed to let the viewer know that they have entered a world of dark characters, and black and white thinking. Think of movies like Bladerunner and Dark City. Horizontal bars are often cast using lighting, and sometimes represent conflict, or attraction, especially if they stretch between two characters, such as the kissing scene between Deckard and Rachel in Blladerunner. When you see horizontal bars stretching between two characters, that symbolizes, their connection to each other, that these characters are equals, or exist under parallel circumstances.
Mirrors can represent that an individual is emotionally divided, or living a double existence. This was used to great effect in the movie Us, where there are several scenes involving mirrors. One of the characters is looking at herself in a mirror, while she cuts across her face with a pair of scissors. In truth, the woman looking into the mirror is the double of the woman she just killed, a woman who was vainly fond of getting plastic surgeries, and her double’s use of the mirror in this way, is a mockery of what the dead woman did in life. In this case, the mirror is representative of a very literal double existence.
In the 1976 version of Carrie, there’s a scene where Carrie stares into a mirror for some time before breaking it. This represents that she is fractured, or her personality has been twisted. There is a double self and the cracked mirror is a symbol of her inner anger and frustration. On the outside, she appears to be a typical Prom going teen, but in truth, she is a vengeful “outsider/victim” with hidden skills, who later, murders her classmates. When you see characters looking into broken or cracked mirrors, it means that person is also broken, or that there is anger and rage underneath their smooth/placid surface.
Mirrors also represent vanity. When you see a character looking into a mirror, notice what type of mirror, and who is looking. Is it a woman looking into a hand mirror, or is it a full length mirror, that shows her entire body? Are they standing or sitting? For example, cisgender, male actors are rarely shown looking into mirrors, while sitting down, unless the subject of gender conformity is the movie’s primary theme, as in the 2005 movie, Kinky Boots, where the actor (Chewitel Ejiofor) is performing the role of a transgender woman. His character, Lola, is shown sitting in front of mirrors, applying makeup, or having discussions about gender. (Straight, cis-gender men are always shown standing, while looking into mirrors.)
You also see this when a character believes they are in one type of situation, but upon closer inspection, such as in a mirror, they find their situation to be much more precarious. For example, they may believe they are in a normal environment, because that is what the mirror shows them, but the mirror indicates to the audience that supernatural, or demonic forces, of which they are unaware, have invaded this safe space. This is often used as the basis for the “bathroom jump scare” in Horror movies.
Supernatural forces, (or sometimes just regular people), can use mirrors as doorways into our worlds, as in movies like, Mirrors, Oculus, and the movie, They, in which the opposite occurs, as a young woman passes through a mirror, to discover that there is a dark, and terrifying world behind it. In that sense, the mirror itself represents a double world. In the movie, Mirrors, the image seen in the mirror is the other world, and the person seen in it, is a backwards version of the viewer. These other worlds are almost always malignant, and the beings that inhabit them, and who look like us, are dangerous to the people of this world.
Blood can mean many things, depending on the plot of the story. If the plot involves young women, it represents childbirth, or menstruation, and/or a sign that a girl has reached womanhood status. In Carrie, the titular character has her first period, at the beginning of the film. Having never been informed about it, Carrie reacts with panic and terror, and is bullied by her classmates, and abused by her mother. What, for many women, is simply a normal right of passage, becomes for Carrie, a rite of trauma and shame. She has become a woman, but no one respects that, and she isn’t allowed to be one, as she is infantilized by her mother, who beats her for it, and by her peers, who still bully her, the way they’d done since they were children. Blood is the catalyst for everything that happens in the film. When one of her classmates humiliates her, by dumping a bucket of it on her at her Prom, a callback to the earlier scene where she was bullied after getting her period, it prompts the blood soaked Carrie to go on a psychic killing spree, eliminating her entire graduating class. In this scenario blood also means passion, rage, and revenge.
Blood can be seen as a sign of sexual maturity for female characters, or as an indication that sexual activity will, or already has, occurred, as in the movie Ginger Snaps, when Ginger’s first menstruation attracts the attack of a werewolf. After she survives the attack, her behavior changes dramatically. Her mother is congratulatory, but her sister, Bridgette, is alarmed, because Ginger becomes violent, sexually aggressive towards the boys at her school, has an unprotected sexual encounter with a boy in her class, and kills a teacher and a classmate. In this case, blood symbolizes predatory maturation. Ginger has become a maneater, in every sense of the term.
The classic euphemism for blood, is Life. Leviticus 17:14 states “For the life of every creature is its blood”, and the phrase, “The blood is the life.”, has been quoted in vampire films since Bram Stoker first wrote the phrase. In the television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dawn, Buffy’s little sister, is the literal embodiment of this phrase, as she is a mystical totem, that has been given life, through the use of Buffy’s blood. When a god-like being threatens to sacrifice her sister, to open a portal between worlds, it is Buffy’s blood that is required to stop it, which makes Buffy a Christ-like figure, as she sacrifices her life, using her very blood, to save the world. When Buffy’s friends ask why it always has to be blood, the vampire, Spike, paraphrases the famous quote in his answer.
Blood can symbolize a great many things in horror stories, like pain, sacrifice, passion, birth, life, death, and even humanity, as was shown in the 1982 version of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Scientists at an Antarctic research station use their blood to determine who is, and is not human, after encountering an alien that may be masquerading as one of them. When images of blood are present in a film, its not always just blood, for blood’s sake. Look for religious connotations. Look for female characters. Sometimes there’s a purpose behind it, and the viewer should examine the context, under which this occurs, to understand any deeper meanings of its appearance, although in many horror movies, blood is just blood.
Snakes represent sexual temptation, sensuality, and/or the promise of sex. Sex has not yet happened, but it might, or a character, usually a woman, desires it, or will be tempted to engage in it, but feels that it is forbidden. This symbolism comes from the Judeo-Christian story in Genesis, where Lucifer, while in the form of a snake, tempts Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, after which, both she and Adam become aware of their nudity, and sex, which gets then kicked out of the Garden. Since then, at least in Western media, snakes represent the forbidden, temptation, sexual desire, or sometimes, deception, since the snake in the Garden is said to have lied to Eve about what was at stake. (In other cultures, snakes may have no religious connotations at all, so this isn’t a good measuring stick by which to judge non-Western films.)
In the 2017 movie, Thelma, a young girl with psychic powers is confused about her sexual attraction to another young student, named Anja, which prompts her psychic powers to act out of control. Later in the film, Thelma attends a party, and prompted by her belief that she is falling in love with Anja, dreams of snakes climbing over her body, representing desire, and temptation for what she has been told by her parents, is forbidden. In the 2020 HBO television series, Lovecraft Country, there’s a scene where one of the leads, a young woman named Leticia, has an unspoken attraction to her co-lead, Atticus. This attraction is represented by a snake slithering out of Atticus’ pants, after their first kiss.
This euphemism for sex, is especially prevalent in music videos. The list of music videos featuring snakes is uncountable, including the above video for Megan Thee Stallions WAP, and the music video for Lil Nas X’s, Montero: Call Me By Your Name, in which the singer is seduced, under the Tree of Knowledge, by a giant snake (wearing his own face, btw), that proceeds to have sex with him. Music videos are not subtle.
Snakes can represent different things in different cultures. For example, snakes represent fertility in some parts of Southeast Asia, and in some African religions, the snake is a symbol of one’s ancestors. You should look closely at the cultural meaning, when watching international films, to understand the imagery.
Snakes in horror movies are also what’s known as a “Specific” phobia, called ophidiophobia, which means that sometimes a snake is just a snake, an image meant to evoke terror and revulsion. A “Specific” phobia is a fear of a distinct object, unlike some of the more amorphous fears, like fear of being alone, or a social fear, like speech giving. In movie like Snakes on a Plane, the snakes are just regular snakes.The most famous of these types of films is the Anaconda franchise, about hostile mega fauna in the Amazon Jungle, showing up in increasingly larger sizes in every movie. More than 50% of Americans say they have a fear of snakes, so Horror movies involving little snakes (Snakes on A Plane), venomous snakes (Vipers), mega-snakes (Ananconda, Titanoboa), and people who are part snake (Venom, Ssss), are not going away any time soon
It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and this idea is the shorthand used in film, when eyes are the focus. Nowhere is this more evident than in the films Bladerunner, and Bladerunner 2049, where the symbolism of eyes is one of the primary themes. In these films, the way to tell if a person is human, is by monitoring the reaction of their pupils to emotional stimuli, or in the sequel, seeing if a replicant’s status is written directly onto their eyeball.
In Bladerunner, the determination of whether or not someone is a replicant is called the Voight-Kamph Test. The idea for such a test comes directly from normal human interaction. We all conduct our own Voight-Kamph Tests everyday, using this to determine how much respect or belief a person should be given, determining their basic character, how intelligent they are, or their emotional status, based solely on looking into the eyes, only in Bladerunner, its to determine if someone lacks humanity.
Eyes are ubiquitous in horror movies, but scenes and shots of eyes, almost always mean the same thing from genre to genre. They are the most common body image, representing thought and memory. Characters are shown looking into the distance, when remembering an event, or the camera will push forward into a person’s eye, to show they are thinking. The use of the eye symbolizes perception, the act of seeing and thinking at once, surveillance and monitoring, and psychic abilities. Sometimes actual eyes are used to symbolize these traits, or an image on a wall, or on another part of the body, like a tattoo.
Sometimes, the very first thing we see about a character, is an emphasis on their humanity, symbolized by an extreme closeup of their eyes. Each of the Bladerunner films opens with an extreme closeup shot of an eye. The 1976 version of Carrie uses a sudden, and extreme, closeup of the character’s eye, to show when she is using her psychic abilities, and in the movie Dark City, a movie in which character’s personalities are swapped for new ones, via syringe to the eye, memory and the self are symbolized by a closeup of the protagonist’s eye, in the opening scene. In A Clockwork Orange, we are shown the erasure of the “self’, when Alex, the films main character, is tortured by being forced to watch scenes of violence, after which, his body viscerally rejects violence. A closeup of his eye was the first thing we saw of his character, and by the middle of the film he has been transformed from a cruel and smirking delinquent, to a frightened and humbled nobody. He is no longer himself as we first met him.
A character’s lack of humanity can also be shown by having the audience look at the world through that character’s eyes, as happens in The Terminator franchise, where diagrams and symbols occlude the point of view shots, to show that we are looking at the world from the point of view of a machine, or in movies like Halloween, where the framing of the pov shots, indicate the relentless implacability of the killer, Michael Myers. In 28 Days Later, we get closeups of a character’s glaring, bloodshot eyes, to show that they’ve been infected with a zombie-like virus, called Rage. One of the most popular ways that we are shown that a character has lost their humanity, is by having their eyes change to an unnatural color, or lose all color so that the eye sockets look empty, as in zombie films, where opaqueness of the eyes is used to show a lack of self. The body is moving, but there is no one home.
And then there is the camera. The camera is also an eye, as it stands in for us, the audience. Where the camera is placed, tells us which characters are important in a scene, what else we should be paying attention to in that scene, and how we should feel about what we’re’ seeing. For example, in the movie Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle has just had a disastrous date with Betsy, the woman of his dreams. When he tries to contact her again, he calls her from a pay phone, in the basement of his building. As he tries to speak to her, the camera slowly moves away from him, and down a long, and empty hallway, as if uninterested in what Travis is doing. Betsy will have no more to do with him, and its pointless for us to keep watching Travis’ useless gestures to atone. Travis’ actions are pathetic, and the camera looks away, as if to spare us the embarrassment of watching him grovel, or as if we, the audience, were attempting to give him some privacy.
Sometimes the director wants to convince us of a character’s reliability as a narrator, by showing a scene from their point of view. This is used several times in Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, to show Henry Hill’s pov. His ease and arrogance as he walks into a local bar full of wiseguys, who all know his name, and the long tracking shot, used as we follow Henry, on his first date with Karen, his future wife. Both scenes serve different purposes. In one scene, we are seeing the world from Karen’s pov, which is dizzying and glamorous. She is impressed by Henry, and her thoughts are spinning. The second scene is meant to show Henry in his element. He is in an environment where he is known and respected. The camera moves are steady, and slower than in the earlier scene, to show this assurance. In fact, when we first meet Henry in the opening scene, we know what type of story the movie is going to tell us, with one lingering shot of Henry’s eyes, as he stands frozen, at the trunk of his car, looking like a deer caught in headlights.
There is a long history of the use of eyes in film, and not just as windows to the inner life of the characters, but it is assumed, by what we see onscreen, that the audience has a soul, too.
Different forms of weather represent the moods of the characters, are a cue for how the audience is meant to feel during a scene, and sometimes, its just the weather. But since most rainfall for movies is manufactured, we can assume that there is a reason why directors may want to show it onscreen. For example, whenever there are funeral scenes in movies, and TV, the director might need to create some rain, to use as a visual shorthand, to represent the emotional turmoil of the characters, or just encourage the audience to feel gloomy. Mysteries and Horror movies want to create a feeling of dark foreboding, and this is easily accomplished via storm. In fact, this is done so often that it has become a cliche engaged in by lazy filmmakers, (ie. “It was a dark and stormy night…”)
Rain is used to represent the emotions of a specific character. Characters without rain gear, getting caught, or running through the rain, are meant to show how out of control or miserable their lives are, or to show their carefree attitude. Both of these are beautifully depicted in the 1998 movie, Gods and Monsters, starring Ian McKellan, as the director James Whale, and Brendan Fraser, as his gardener. Here, the two of them attend an outdoor party, at which it starts to rain. Whale casually strolls through the rain, stating that he won’t melt. He has not a care in the world, but by the end of the scene, after the two of them have settled into his, now soggy, open convertible, his expression is weary and depressed. Things are not as carefree as he says. What started as nonchalance, has transformed to show how miserable his life really is, and both moments are equally true. Another film that showcases the freedom and joy of getting caught in the rain, and not giving a damn, was Gene Kelly’s iconic performance in Singin’ in the Rain.
Thunderstorms, are a way to heighten tension, or drama during a particular scene. Boiling clouds are an indicator of emotional turmoil and rage. A woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend, might find herself walking through a thunderstorm, with waterlogged hair, her mascara running. If its just raining, she’s merely sad, but if its a thunderstorm, then she is actually enraged, but keeping it all in check, while the weather expresses her true feelings. It could also mean that she is resolved to her fate, or has reached a conclusion that she is unhappy with.
The thunderstorm in one of the opening scenes of The Addams Family, is used to great comedic effect, and emphasizes the drama, as the family engages in its yearly seance, to contact the ghost of Gomez’ beloved brother, Uncle Fester. The drama reaches a shattering crescendo at the height of the storm, when Uncle Fester shows up at their front door.
Martial arts, and other action movies, love to use rain to heighten the dramatic tension of a story, without using dialogue, and showcase fights. Rather than have characters give long speeches, or explanations, we know the fight is important, because its storming as a stand-in for the character’s emotions. Having a large fight take place in inclement weather is also a good way to hide stunt doubles, hide moves that don’t connect, or showcase moves that actually do, as water is flung about in huge splashes whenever a strike hits.
Sunshine means peace, tranquility, happiness, and that all is normal and right, with the world, but can also be used as a contrast to show actions that are at odds with the peace of nature, or characters whose lives, or situations are tragic and dysfunctional. The tragicomedy of Little Miss Sunshine happens against a backdrop of relentlessly sunny weather, contrasting the family dysfunction, and the terrible conditions of their 800 mile road trip, to attend a beauty pageant. The world may be normal and bucolic, but their lives are everything but. In 2018’s Halloween reboot, the first time we see Michael Myers is during a brilliantly sunny day, to contrast the darkness and evil of his character. Sunshine is sometimes ominous, as its used as setup for the horrors that follow, as the first murders Michael commits are against this same backdrop. Sun and blue skies is a sign of normalcy, and Michael (and any other horror that happen in these films) is the disruption of that. Sunshine at the end of a dark movie, represents a return to normal, that the horror is now over, and that the evil has been destroyed, as happens at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s From Dusk Til Dawn.
Weather represents that time has passed in a particular place. In places that experience seasons, for example, we can tell where we are in the story, by the weather. The weather can also be the story. The 1982 version of The Thing wouldn’t be the same without its snowy backdrop, which is such an integral part of the story, that the same story couldn’t be told without it.
Water always has a special importance in film, and one should always pay close attention to its meaning, when it its being prominently featured.
Sometimes the use of water has a very specific context, and takes on special significance, as in the movie, Moonlight, where it represents softness, and vulnerability, especially within the confines of an urban environment, where people are not encouraged to display either, and where large bodies of water are rare. Chiron, the lead character in the movie, has his first sexual experience near water, and water is an ever present motif in the film. In the language of this particular film, its related to whether or not the lead character is “soft’ or “hard”, meaning weak or tough. Whenever Chiron experiences a moment of fear or vulnerability, he happens to be near water, such as when his mother’s boyfriend teaches him how to swim.
That is symbolism unique to the theme of Moonlight. In other instances, immersion in water, or visions of drowning, could mean that a person is overwhlemed by their situation. They are literally “in over their head’. This type of imagery was used frequently, in the TV series Hannibal, where the closer characters got to Hannibal’s orbit, the more they became overwhelmed by him, and would have visions or dreams of themselves drowning.
The symbolism behind water can be tricky. It has so many meanings, that its appearance must be viewed within the context of the type of film. Water in movies, just like in the real world, takes on the shape or meaning of whatever it is within. In a Western it means life, and safety, but in a Romance, it means tears, or implied sexual activity, and desire. It can also represent birth, or rebirth after trauma, as in “washing the slate clean”. In the Judeo Christian tradition, bathing means the washing away of sin, and becoming a new person in the eyes of God.
In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Lady Macbeth washes her hands of blood after she participates in the murder of King Duncan, which has been taken as a sign of guilt. This is such an entrenched idea in American culture, that just the image of wringing hands is seen as a sign of guilt or anguish. In other instances, female characters will shower, after they feel they’ve been violated, essentially washing away the filth of what happened to them, or immerse themselves in a bath, to calm themselves after an emotionally turbulent event.
Pools of water represent the emotions of the people near them. If two people are speaking near a calm pool of water, that could indicate that the two are equals, about to be romantically involved, or that the two of them are of the same mindset, and there is no conflict between them. This is often the case in romantic movies, where a couple might take a walk along the seashore. However, if the water in a scene is turbulent, that could indicate that the couple is not as emotionally aligned as they seem, that they may be having domestic troubles, or foreshadowing that the relationship will fail.
From time to time, you may notice that a checkered floor is prominently featured in a movie. That’s because a checkered floor sometimes has meaning within the context of the plot, or its of significance to the mindset of the character standing on it. Since it brings to mind the game of Chess, it often shows up when two characters are on opposite sides of a conflict, having a war of words, or are trying to outmaneuver one another. If a person is standing on a checkered floor, it serves the same purpose as the mirror, indicating that the character is having inner conflict, or are of two minds about an issue.
In the above scene, Marie Antoinette is shown standing on a checkered floor. This indicates that she feels conflicted about her position, as the Queen of France, and a young woman who just wants to live her life, free of the responsibility of reconciling her two countries. She is also being pressured to give birth to the next generation of royals, but her husband will not touch her, and she is being scorned by the court, for not producing an heir. If she doesn’t have a baby soon, than her position as Queen will be in jeopardy. The conflict is internal and external, as she has been thrust into an environment where she knows no one, doesn’t always know who her friends and enemies are, and has to carefully maneuver through an environment she doesn’t understand, if she wishes to maintain her position.
Sometimes a checkered floor means a more direct conflict, like people having an actual physical fight. In the television series, Into the Badlands, two of the most powerful characters, in the first season are Quinn, and The Widow, whose ideologies are in direct opposition. The two of them have been engaging in a covert game of chess throughout the first part of the season, with moves and countermoves, which finally culminate in this fight scene, after The Widow’s assassination attempt on Quinn’s son. The fight is occurring on more than one level, as the two of them are also engaging in a war of words, as they attempt to psych each other out, and throw the other off their game.
Once you start noticing the checkered floor, in movies, tv shows, and music videos, its impossible to stop seeing it. Some people like to assign hidden occult meanings to the images of checkered floors, as they were once a symbol of the Masonic Order/Freemasonry. This is such an intricate and complicated philosophy, much of it conspiratorial, that I can’t begin to parse any of it, and I won’t try to do it here, since any definition of its meaning is suspect, based on who is giving it. So, depending on who you are, you may derive more meaning from the sight of a checkered floor than I would. We will go with the simplest explanation, for now, that sometimes a floor is just a floor.
I spoke about the imagery of the “empty chair”, in my defense of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, here:
An empty chair in a movie scene is often meant to represent a space where someone should be. In this movie, the empty chairs, usually situated on porches, (or at dinner tables), which are, traditionally the site of familial gatherings, are meant to represent the absence of loved ones. The entire movie carries a mood of unspoken grief and melancholy, which is only alleviated by its hopeful ending. The Elders of the community fled to The Village because each one of them has experienced the tragic loss of a family member, and the point of the movie is that they cannot run away from loss or pain. The scattered, empty chairs are a constant reminder of their loss.
Sometimes, an empty chair represents an actual person, which implies a presence, as much as it does an absence. In that case, the other characters in the film will refer to the chair as a person, or talk to the chair, as if someone were in it. In the 1991 Movie, The Addam’s Family, the empty chair at the family table is meant, not just to draw attention to Uncle Fester’s absence, but the family’s anticipation of his possible return, as they prepares to hold a seance, to contact him in the presumed afterlife.
The most common usage, however, is the loss of a loved one. In the above .gif, for the movie UP, the pictured character has lost his wife of many years. He is also very lonely, and his grief, and loneliness, propel his actions for the rest of the film.
An empty chair represents a place of rest, comfort, or even conflict, depending on its placement in the scene, and the context of the film, and the style of chair. Take for example, Game of Thrones, in which the image of The Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms, is the fuel behind nearly all of the carnage that ensues, spawning at least three different plotlines, throughout its 8 year run, ending in its destruction at the end of the series. A chair in the middle of a barren landscape, with no where else comfortable to sit, represents an opportunity for respite, however a chair in the middle of such a landscape would also work well in a horror movie, as it seems distinctly sinister, but in the shape of a boulder, or a piece of driftwood, it regains its former meaning.
While a single chair implies that a character is lonely, multiple empty chairs, sitting in rows, or just next to each other, imply community and/or dialogue, or in the context of a horror narrative, a community that’s been disrupted. For example, the sight of the backs of two lawn chairs, looking out over a sunset, indicates togetherness, friendship, or marriage. Overturned chairs represent a disruption of a household, the status quo, or a community, especially if there are multiple overturned chairs. A fallen chair, depending on the style, is seen as ominous representations of illness, or death. Empty, or tipped over wheelchairs, for example, are never a good sign.
These are just a few of the symbols, and cliches used in film. Think about this as you’re watching your favorite movie, but keep in mind, sometimes, an image is just an image, and may have no particular meaning. You have to carefully weigh the images against the story, and characters, to determine if there is meaning.
Some of these movies have been forgotten for very good reasons. Nobody should be allowed to remember them, but I can’t seem to turn my brain off, and I’m putting these here, so unless you wanna suffer with me, you will quit reading this post and go have a soda or something. That said, there are a couple of really good ones here that are worth viewing, so go shake the bad ones off, and go check out the good ones immediately.
Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
For a really long time, Id forgotten about this movie, and then I saw Elvira, aka Cassandra Peterson, on some talk show and I was reminded again that I really love this smart ass ,and I need to check out this movie again. If you’re not familiar with her, she comes right of the tradition of movie show hosts.
When I was a kid, there were people, not exactly celebrities, who would feature different types of movies on the weekends (mostly in the daytime, but Elvira’s show was usually in the evenings). They usually had some schtick, or persona, to go along with the types of movies they hosted. Elvira enhanced the experience by making smart ass comments during the movie. It was awful, but it was good awful, and not at all meant to be taken even the least bit seriously. This was my type of humor back then, and quite frankly, its not too different from that now.
Mazes and Monsters (1981)
This movie happened during the Satanic Panic in the early 80s, when a lot of super idiotic people glommed onto the idea that Dungeons and Dragons was a role playing gateway to Hell. I know it sounds utterly ridiculous, but this is actually what happened! There were a bunch of these “panics” during the 80’s about everything from games, to books, to TV, Rap, and Metal music. . It was basically the old guard’s way of protesting modern culture by, literally, demonizing said culture!
This particular Satan attractor starred, of all people, Tom Hanks, as a young man who gets so caught up in his roleplay, that he starts to believe its real, and proceeds to kill several people, thinking them to be part of the game, while his D&D friends try to find and save him. On the other hand, t does star Christopher Makepeace, the star of Vamp, and My Bodyguard, who I had a terrible crush on, because of that 80’s thing, where white men had luxurious heads of hair. Yeah, I still don’t know what the f*ck that was at all about for them, or me!
This movie was as stupid as the philosophy that made it, and gets everything wrong about role playing games, in its sad efforts to make the point that such games were leading the children into Satanism. The same as what was said about TV, music, and basically any leisure activities that teenagers found enjoyable. You also have to put this into perspective that at the time there was a very literal “witchhunt” going on in American society at the time, where white people found Satanic Cults in every suburban backyard.
You can watch this, but be sure to have the liquor handy. You’re going to need to grease your eyeballs from rolling them so hard.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
This is actually one of my favorite movies. its got a got a lot of problems, though, like fatphobia, but it did question the idea of youth culture, and how older actresses get disposed of and forgotten by the industry once they start to age. It stars Meryl Streep (Madeline) and Goldie Hawn (Helen) as rivals for Bruce Willis’ (Ernest) affections.. While none of these are my favorite actors, they are all pretty funny in this movie.
After Madeline steals her Husband Helen encounters a woman offering a youth potion that works just a little too well. When Madeline’s career starts to fade, and Ernest tries to leave her, she meets the same woman played by Issabella Rossellini, after which the two of them spend the rest of the movie trying to kill each other, at some point realizing that the potion made them effectively immortal, and that ain’t no good for either of them.
The Keep (1983)
This movie was based on the book by F. Paul Wilson, about a demon trapped inside some type of Nazi stronghold, that gets set free ,and starts killing. I remember the book better than I remember the movie, but hey, I’m all for killing Nazis.
This movie starred a who’s who of old British men, although I guess, since the movie was made thirty years ago, maybe they weren’t quite that old yet. The acting is surprisingly not that bad, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember the details of the plot, and I know I watched it, because I remember the monster looked like a Dollar Value version, of Tim Curry’s Darkness, from Ridley Scott’s Legend. It couldn’t have been that bad though, becasue it was one of Michael Mann’s first films, and he eventually went on to make the Red Dragon film, Manhunter.
976 – Evil (1988)
Oh, this is one of my favorites, released just after Fright Night, about a nerdy teenager who makes a pact with the devil by calling a special phone number, after he gets badly humiliated by some high school ne’er do wells. This Devil’s bargain doesn’t go all that well for him, as is usually the case, after he starts turning into a demon, and killing everyone. This starred one of my favorite actors at the time, Stephen Geoffreys, who was just coming off the above named movie, as the character Evil Ed. It also starred a loopy Sandy Dennis, as his religious nutjob mother, who if its even possible, was even more batshit than Margaret White from Carrie.
Its not a great movie, but it is a lot of fun, and a kind of tongue in cheek, homage to Carrie, as it contains a lot of the same elements. he movie is silly and knows it. There were, in the the 80’s, a brief spate of these teenagers gone wrong, revenge films, featuring paranormal powers.
White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Lets make this clear. At the time this movie was released, it was not one of my favorites. It still isn’t. I was not a Wesley Snipe fan, nor was I a fan of Woody Harrelson, and I generally hate sports movies too, but my family members wanted me to watch this movie with them, for which they shall someday pay a horrible price. On the other hand, it did star Rosie Perez. For y’all yunguns, yes, that is the same Rosie Perez from the Birds of Prey movie.
The title pretty much gives it all away. Woody’s and Snipe’s characters (yeah, I’m not looking up their names) hustle people on local basketball courts, by playing on the notion that white men don’t know how to play street basketball. I am fairly certain that this movie pushed a lot of white kids to challenge this notion, and get beat up for talking shit on many inner-city playgrounds.
The Hidden (1987)
This is one of my all-time favorite movies from the 80’s. This is the movie that made me a fan of Claudia Christian, from Babylon Five. Of course I was following Kyle’s career, at that time, before he found a home in Twin Peaks, which I refused to watch. This movie has all of the usual 80’s scifi tropes, in the form of an alien that takes over human bodies, cop car crashes, weird guns, buddy cops, who start out hating each other, but then later come to respect one another, and even some pathos, in the form of a fridged wife and child.
This movie is insane. It starts up high, and pretty much stays there, with a couple of unexpectedly goofy turns, later in the film, making it similar to, but not quite like any of the other films like it at the time, as if the genre had been building up to it. If you find a copy of this, take care to listen to the commentary, because some actual thought was put into certain elements of the plot, that you might otherwise overlook, like the relationship between the two lead characters, and the ending.
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
This is one of Stephen King’s hot 80’s messes, based on a much much better short story, called Trucks, which also happened to be based on Stephen Spielberg’s Duel. After some type of weird comet passes by the Earth, all mechanical objects come alive and kill people. In the short story, it was only trucks, but in the movie, its everything that’s technological, like electric kitchen knives, and lawnmowers.
The movie is deeply, and I mean deeply, ridiculous, and is one of those rare films that has a cameo from King, who gets called an asshole by an ATM. I forget who the directed this film, but whoever it is, should never be allowed to choose any actors for his films, on the other hand he is utterly merciless when it comes to killing his characters off, even going so far as to show, in horrifying detail, a little kid getting run over by a steam roller! Apparently the 80s was the era in which directors would just happily kill children all over the place, but not dogs. Go figure!
So yeah, this is kind of worth watching for the gore, but maybe you don’t want to watch it because its cheesy.
I was interested in this only because i was fond of the sketches from Saturday Night Live in the 70’s, and starring the same cast as in the film. The movie turned out to be surprisingly funny, even if it was sort of one note. Worse movies have hinged on much flimsier materials. The idea that aliens might be living here on Earth, attempting to disguise themselves as regular human beings, and failing, but people believe them anyway. It had a great cast of Jane Curtin ,and Dan Ackroyd, and the late, great, Chris Farley, who was pretty understated, in his role as the daughter’s high school boyfriend.
The show was a parody of the idea that, no matter how weird you are, or bizarre you behave,White suburbanites will accept you, as long as you look like you’re trying to assimilate (and look white, I guess.) But I just thought it was funny because the Conehead family were such failures at assimilation, and that much of the movie’s humor was about their directly indirect manner of speaking, which just appealed to my nerdy soul. There’s some drama about two immigration agents trying to capture them because they’re on Earth illegally, and a secondary plot about their daughter’s romantic entanglements.
There was a time that whenever members of the LGBTQ community appeared in mainstream Horror movies, they were treated as comedy relief, horribly killed, as a means to punish them for being gay, or as villains (Sleepaway Camp, Silence of the Lambs, Dressed to Kill), so to get Horror movies where they’re treated as no different than the other characters, they are the primary characters, or sometimes get to be heroic, is still something of a novelty. Here are 8 Horror movies, where gay, lesbian, or transgender characters get to be primary leads, get to save the day, or experience the uncanny, without that being a reflection on their sexuality.
Malik and Aaron are a same sex couple that move to the countryside, along with Aaron’s daughter, and encounter strange neighbors, and mysterious ritual. If you like movies like The Wicker Man, Hereditary, and Midsommar, then give this movie a try on Halloween night. I haven’t finished this movie yet, (its not boring, I was just tired), but the trailer looks pretty good. his movie is airing on the Shudder app, through Amazon.
This probably isn’t the first gay slasher, but it is the first one that’s been treated as a typical slasher film, except all the primary characters present in such films have been replaced by gay characters, right down to a Final Guy. Eddie, and his friends, encounter a serial killer during West Hollywood’s annual Halloween Carnival. I’m still not a fan of the production values on this, as it looks murky and too dark, but the plot and characters are taken as seriously as if this were a movie about straight characters. This is currently on the HERE TV app.
This is one of those movies about an interesting little twist. When the girl she has fallen in love with is kidnapped by a serial killer after they visit her parent’s house, Marie has to go on the defense to rescue her. This film is very gory, and pretty serious. The twist ending may be problematic for some viewers, but if you like gory Horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween, then is worth a try. The American title to this French film was Switchblade Sisters, so you may find it streaming under that name. Its also available on the IMDB app, through Amazon Prime.
What Keeps You Alive
This movie is about a lesbian couple that violently hash out their issues during their stay in the countryside. You can tell this by the amount of blood seen in this trailer. I haven’t seen this one yet, but it looks pretty chilling and has been on my radar for at least a year This is now streaming on Netflix, if any of you are interested.
I wrote about this maybe a year ago. I generally liked it, although since its kind of artsy, it is somewhat ambiguous on the outcome, as such movies tend to be. its about a young woman in her first year of college, who struggles physically and emotionally with her attraction to a young lady she meets in the school library. There’s a paranormal element involved, a la Carrie, but seems like there’s a happier ending. Its worth watching though, and is currently streaming on Hulu.
Assassination Nation (2018)
When the people in her small town of Salem start to behave erratically after someone starts hacking everyone’s phones and computers, revealing all their embarassing, and deadly, secrets, Lily has to go to the extremes to defend herself and her friends. The film stars one of the first transgender actresses to star in a slasher film, Hari Nef, as one of Lily’s friends. Assassination Nation is streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
We Are The Night (2011)
After they’ve killed all the male vampires for being greedy, a coven of female vampires, led by a woman named Louise, initiates a new member, Lena. Lena is looking for love, but when she doesn’t return Louise’s affections, she must fight to be free of the coven. This available to buy or rent on Google Play, and Youtube.
The Quiet Room (2017)
After a suicide attempt, Michael ends up in a rehab center that appears to be haunted. He ends up having to fight for his life, both physically and psychologically, if he expects to survive a fate worse fate than death. This movie has the distinction of having a gay Black man as the lead. The Quiet Room is airing on Amazon Prime.
I know this post doesn’t seem Halloween related, but I’m posting it here anyway, otherwise I’ll forget what I wanted to write. Besides, I can (and I most definitely will) post about scary movies all year round! I like to, from time to time, give my readers a heads up, on what I’m watching, but not currently talking about.
As a general rule, I don’t really spend a lot of time talking about shows and movies that everyone else in America is talking about, which is the reason I have not discussed Lovecraft Country, which just aired it’s season finale last Sunday. I really enjoyed the entire season, and hope there will be more, but there are a bajillion critiques and reviews, all over Youtube, and in writing. If y’all want I can post some links to a lot of the themes and Historical plot points of the show, which was dense with meaning, and y’all know I love shows like that. As a librarian, I am a firm proponent of the idea, that sometimes, people don’t know enough to know what questions to ask.
But I also read some really good critiques of the shows negative themes, like its abuse and mistreatment of gay, lesbian, and transgender characters, and its use of colorism, with the darker skinned characters being constantly associated with self hatred, and violence. The show needs some work, and if it gets a second season, I hope the show writers have learned from this criticism, and the mistakes they made this season. More importantly though, I want them to treat their lgbtq characters a lot better. Enlightenment for Black women does not need to come at their expense.
That said though, this show really spoke to Black women on a level that few shows bother to do in their attempts to be universal, but there’s enough density in it, that almost anyone can find something in it that resonated with them. My absolute favorite episode of the entire series is “I Am” , and in case none of the reviews mention it, because none of the ones I read did this, the title “I Am” isn’t just that the lead character in this episode, a woman named Hippolyta, is called to name herself, but its a callback to the words of God, to Moses, when he was speaking to Moses through the Burning Bush in the desert. I’m an atheist/ agnostic, but I do know my Bible stories, and there were a lot of these callbacks throughout the season. At some point, I’m going to write a review of this particular episode, so I can cover all the issues in it.
Star Trek Discovery
Speaking of shows that resonate with Black women (and most other women, too), I also watched the season three premiere of Star trek Discovery, and I greatly enjoyed it, but I had questions, like who had time to braid Michael’s hair, because its kinda weird seeing Box Braids in the future. In fact, its so unusual that I don’t know how to feel about that. For y’all who don’t know this, wearing your hair in its natural state, as I do, is a source of great discussion among Black women, especially the whole process of caring for it. For some of us, it can take as long as a whole day to just to wash our hair correctly, while for others, it can take only a few hours. It’s a very involved process just to braid it. I’ve worn box braids, and it took, at the shortest, eight or so hours, just to get it to look like that, although I’m sure the actress herself is probably just wearing a wig.
Anyway, I liked the episode a lot and I especially like the newest addition to the show, Cleveland Booker. He’s handsome, he’s got superpowers, and he is one of the few Black men featured on the show, and I like the chemistry I see between him and Michael. I love that the show has made her a well rounded character, we get to see her laugh more in this episode than we have in the previous two seasons, and that they have changed the venue of the show to some 1000 years into the future.
Michael after travelling through the wormhole into the future, has lost track of the Discovery, and crashed into Booker’s ship, who was being chased by some smugglers. They both land on the same planet and Michael set out to check his status. Booker is a smuggler (for a very good reason) and initially wants nothing to do with Michael, but they have to team up, because he’s the only person she has met, and she has nowhere to go. She spends a not insignificant amount of time punching Booker in the face until they reach an understanding.
It turns out that she is a true relic of the past, as Starfleet and the Federation no longer exist, because of something called The Burn, that happened about two hundred years before her arrival ,and involved the destruction of all the dilithium crystals that are used to power Starfleet’s ships. She ends up accompanying Booker on his adventures, though. I have to admit, this episode did bring the feels, by the end, and I loved the technology that I saw being used, but I get attached to characters first. If the characters don’t captivate or fascinate me, I’m probably not going to get invested in the show. I’m looking forward to getting to know all the new characters (and a few old ones), this coming season.
The show will be getting some non-binary and transgender characters this season, which I’m looking forward to. Star Trek has had non-binary characters before, but this will be a recurring character, which is a first for all of Trek. There’s also a spinoff show about Captain Pike, starring Anson Mount. For those who don’t know, Pike was Captain of the Enterprise before Kirk, and we sort of know some of his backstory, but he was the Captain for quite a while, so there’s plenty of stories left to tell about him, and I’m looking forward to that because, well… Anson is pretty hot, and there’s a new version of Spock which I like too.
Love and Monsters
I just finished watching Love and Monsters starring Dylan somethin’ or other from Teen Wolf. I mean, I like the guy just fine, but for the life of me I can never remember his last name, and I want to keep calling him Dylan McDermott, but keep realizing that’s a whole notha actor!. The movie was enjoyable and funny, and not too deep. I liked the monsters, and wish I’d gotten to see more of them. There was also a surprise appearance from Michael Rooker, who is his usual hilarious self.
Dylan’s character gets separated from his girlfriend after aliens attack the planet, and his parents get stepped on by a giant bug, because for some reason, the alien attack mutated all the Earth’s invertebrates and reptiles. The largest ones end up being taken out by the world’s different militaries, but that still leaves plenty of midsize ones, like the giant frog-thing seen in the trailer, and some type of gigantic ant queen, that moves underground like a shark, and something called a Rambler which is pretty huge to me, but probably didn’t even register on the military’s radar, as they seemed more concerned with the Kaiju sized monsters. This is one of those found family stories, that I’m such a sucker for, with a pleasant little message in it about believing in oneself, and finding one’s place in the world.
Dylan’s character, ( I did not bother to learn his name at all), does find his girlfriend again, as she’s not very far away, maybe several days, so he decides to go to her. Along the way, he meets Rooker’s character, who is with a very funny and charming little girl who attaches herself to him, and teaches him how to use a crossbow, and a dog named Boy, (see, I learned the dog’s name, which shows you my priorities here),which is definitely a shout out to the nuclear, sci-fi horror movie, A Boy and His Dog. The movie is more comedy action than horror. Some of the monsters are a tiny bit scary, and yucky, but its a movie that’s chaste enough for kids to watch as there’s almost no gore. Its not a deep movie, but not every movie has to be deep, and I would watch it again, along with any sequels.
The Good Lord Bird
I watched the first episode of the Good Lord Bird, and it was okay. I expected it to be a bit zany, which is unusual for a series about slavery, Its about a white man who is crazy enough to think he can end slavery by simply shooting slave owners. Apparently, this was based on a real life person, who actually did do some of the things in the show, and did indeed have an interesting relationship with Frederick Douglas.
The series stars Ethan Hawke, looking unrecognizable, as John Brown, who was a virulent Abolitionist. Most of the episodes are narrated by a young Black ex-slave, named John Shackleford, who was then nicknamed Onion, after being mistaken for a girl. At first, I kind of bristled at the idea of yet another guy in a dress story, (and I’m pretty sure some Black male viewers will too), but at no point does John behave in a derogatorily feminine fashion, and he doesn’t tell people he’s not a girl, for what he thinks is a good reason. As a girl, he receives tokens of kindness and protections that a boy wouldn’t. At the very least, he would not be required to engage in violence, which he doesn’t seem to want to do.
The show is darkly humorous, mostly because of the misadventures Bird gets up to, and the things he says. On the other hand, I really do wish that white people would stop imagining Black people as slaves in historical narratives, because its getting more than a bit tired. We did other things than just be enslaved. There are a lot of other stroeis to tell about our past, although I noticed, (quite a few people noticed this), they never seem to want to tell the stories of actual slave uprisings, of which there were plenty, and you wonder why that is, exactly! I mean that there are a bunch of stories about slaves running away, or fighting one on one, but Hollywood can’t quite imagine a collection of Black people burning down the plantation, and killing the master, but will make, yet another, in a long line of movies about white people, apes, or robots, rebelling against some form of tyranny.
I tried watching Helstrom, a show based on a comic book, in the Marvel Universe, that’s now airing on Hulu. Its about two siblings who fight demons and deal with the paranormal. I’m not loving it. The show looks rather dark and murky, and I couldn’t get into the characters very much. The show is mostly relying on being scary, rather than having character. I’m going to give it another try though, because Supernatural will be coming to the end of its 15th season, in a few weeks, and I need a replacement.
Travels With My Father
I’ve been enjoying Jack Whitehall’s Travels with My Father, which is deeply hilarious. I like the relationship Jack has with his dad. He’s always trying to get his father out of his comfort zone, and sometimes his father resists and wins that fight, but at other times he gives in, and that’s when the show is at its funniest like when he talked his father into being a drag queen for a few hours and he dressed up as the Queen of England, and was perfect at it!
Things I still have not watched are the latest iteration of Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, the School Nurse Files, which looks deeply, and I mean deeply, strange, about a school nurse who can see people emotions, in the forms of the various weird ectoplasmic creatures they leave behind. I tried watching Monsterland (Hulu) and couldn’t get into it, and Hulu’s Books of Blood, based on the book series, and short stories of Clive Barker, proved uninteresting to me.
There’s also a bunch of trailers that came out, and here are the most interesting ones, in my opinion:
If y’all are looking for a black, female, James Bond, you loved the TV series Alias, can’t wait until the new 007 shows up in the next Bond film, and you’re still coming down after watching The Old Guard, then check out this title on Netflix, (out of Netflix Africa), about a Black female spy in Africa. I have not finished watching this, but I like what I’m seeing, the characters are cool enough, and the fight scenes aren’t bad. The production values are very good, (somebody spent some money on this), and the cinematography is lovely, (yeah I’ve seen a few of those laughably, but charmingly, bad Nigerian films), and its got a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, which I don’t normally pay much attention to, but this intrigued me. To assuage those most concerned, yes, a season two will be coming soon.
Hailing from creator Kagiso Lediga, Queen Sono stars Pearl Thusi as a field agent in South Africa’s secretive Special Operations Group. Queen — that’s her name, not a title — is the daughter of a legendary South African revolutionary figure whose assassination was a pivotal moment in the transitional period after apartheid. SOG, which itself has pre-apartheid roots and probably isn’t exactly what it appears to be, sends agents throughout Africa on missions overseen by Miri (Chi Mhende), who I think is Queen’s cousin, and Dr. Sid (Sechaba Morojele), but the organization is mysterious enough that Queen can’t even tell her nearest and dearest what she does for a living. That means pretending to be an art dealer in interactions with her grandmother, Mazet (Abigail Kubeka), and platonic best friend, Will (Khathu Ramabulana), and yes, the in-the-dark chum named Will is just one of many places fans will notice narrative overlap with Alias.
I love monsters, but I am not a fan of the lead actress in this movie, Mila Jovovich, who I find deeply annoying, though some people seem to really like her. Actually, its complicated than that.The actress is an okay person, that I would love to have a beer with, but I just don’t like her acting. Unfortunately T.I. is also in this movie, he of the ignorance of female anatomy and the policing of his daughter’s virginity. Will I be able to enjoy the movie without thinking of that shit? Maybe if he gets killed off early…
That said, this looks like its right up my alley, as far as having monsters. I am vaguely familiar with the video game this is based on, from reading the game books, and the series, by Larry Correia, that the game is based on, (mostly because there were pictures of monsters in the game books.) I stopped reading the series after I found out that Larry Correia is a total asshole, because I couldn’t actually enjoy the books anymore, without thinking of the asshole who wrote them, not because of the series quality, which is okay. If you love the Monster Hunter series, good for you. I’m not asking you to stop enjoying them, because hey! its got some cool ass monsters, and that is to be appreciated, at least.
You can watch Queen Sono while you’re waiting for this movie to be released. If you love the Jason Bourne Trilogy, and The Old Guard, then here are some more bad-ass women, with Lupita Nyongo, as a technician, for the British government, in Uma Thurman’s old movie group, Femme Force Five, if you remember her dinner date dialogue from Pulp Fiction…
I’m looking forward to this one, not just because I have a soft spot for this particular actor, and down on their luck superheroes, but because it reminds me of a cross between He Never Died, and Jason Bourne.
I could do without the drug dealer stuff though, because of the near constant association of blackness with crime, drug gangs, and/or street thugs. We’ve had enough of that. Black people come in other flavors, and Hollywood needs to start telling genre stories about Black people that don’t just involve street criminals. Also, some people might not be too comfortable with the ‘White Savior” angle to this story. They could have just given superpowers to the black kid, but we already got a movie like that, called Sleight.
I know this movie is going to be ridiculous fusion of half a dozen genres, probably, because it stars Nicholas Cage, and there’s martial arts, and aliens involved. Those are all really good reasons to watch it, as far as I’m concerned.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Ma Rainey was a Blues musician during the 20s, and also an out lesbian, of which there were many, in the Blues genre. So any Black wlw looking for representation can check this out. Also, this is one of Chadwick Boseman’s final roles, so you Chadwick fans might want to see this too, and it has great music, so you Blues fans have something to look forward to. I’m not entirely sold on this, because I’m not a Blues fan, but I like Chadwick, and my mother loves both him and the Blues, so I will probably end up watching this with her, maybe. This would make a good double feature with Bessie.
This movie is like a Black version of Misery. I probably will not watch this, because I don’t like the demonization, literally, of Voodoo, and Voudon, yet again, in Horror, but it looks intriguing enough for my Mom to watch it. White supremacy, and Christianity, has a nasty habit of villainizing most pagan religions, and treating them as if they were scary, and horrible ways to cause harm to people, when really a lot of them are just rather mundane, and so are the people practicing them.
But when we’re talking about religions practiced by primarily Black and Brown people, there are no good depictions of those. I mean European style pagan religions at least get heroic figures, in TV shows, as Hollywood moves a little bit away from demonized versions of Wiccan and Celtic religions, but that’s not the case with any of the religions practiced by Black people, and this just looks like one more.
For a more rounded and beneficial version of these types of religion check out Brown Girl Begins , on Hulu. This is loosely based on Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, which is a futuristic tale of a young girl receiving special powers from her ancestral gods. I read everything else by Nalo Hopkinson, but for some reason, I didn’t get to this book.
I haven’t seen this one yet. Its about an immigrant couple from the Sudan moving into a haunted council estate, and starring the actress who plays Ruby from Lovecraft Country, and will be coming to Netflix this week. This looks like a Black version of The Ring.
The reviews for this movie are starting to come in. They’re a bit mixed, but overall, its been said the movie isn’t too bad, and worth a watch. I’m going to take a look at it, so we can talk about the influx of Black Horror movies we’ve been getting lately, which we owe to the success of movies like Get Out. Normally this isn’t the type of movie I would watch, but it stars a lot of actors I know, its set in the 90’s, and looks kind of fun, and I’m intrigued about just what exactly is happening in this trailer.
I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the primary staples of the Horror genre is the fear of disease, or loss of bodily autonomy. The Fly is a perfect encapsulation of this theme. The Horror genre also likes to combine the two fears, as in the movie, Slither, and part of the fun of watching such films is figuring out how you would, or could, survive the fate of the film’s characters.
I was revisiting some commentary I’d left on another website, and discussing disease vectors. I was specifically discussing zombification, and where and how such a disease would get started. I mentioned a game I was playing called Plague Inc.
I don’t know if any of you have heard of Plague Inc., but it’s a fascinating way of learning how disease works, and the CDC itself approves of the game, and offers suggestions. The objective of the game is to kill the human race, anything less than that and you lose. You must kill off all humanity. I’ve only won the game once on the easy setting, and trust me, it’s not a triumphant feeling.
Plague Inc. is a strategy title in which you take control of a deadly pathogen and, beginning with patient zero, attempt to spread the plague across the entire world and wipe out the human race — which does its best to adapt and stop you in your tracks at every turn.
You have to factor, not just where the disease begins, but how fast it travels, based on how its victims contract it, how the disease gets spread to different locations, and carefully calculate how fast it works on its victims bodies. You receive points on how effective your disease is, and you can use those points to buy specific attributes it, like new vectors, that can slow it down, or speed it up. If the disease kills its victims too fast, then it dies out before it can infect enough people. If it works on its victims too slowly, then the disease will be cured before it can infect enough people. What you want is a disease that spreads quickly, through as many vectors as possible, while leaving its patients alive just long enough that scientists don’t realize how fatal the disease is.
Horror movies base a lot of their plots off diseases, some of them pretty rare, and some of them entirely fictional, but they all operate from the same basis. Diseases need to be spread somehow, and just like other living organisms, the virus or bacteria, or whatever the disease is based on, wants to survive and multiply, and can only do that by infecting as many people as possible. Horror movie diseases echo real world versions in that they need to have vectors.
28 Days Later (2002)/Train to Busan (2016)/World War Z
These three movies are too similar in their depictions of zombification not to be compared. The only differences are that in 28 Days Later, the victims are still alive, and slowly starve to death, while in Train to Busan, the victims are the reanimated dead. The diseases are spread very much the same,with humans as the transport vector. and these diseases spread very quickly because the victims are fast, chasing and infecting, more victims.
Much like Rabies, both diseases are spread through contact with infected saliva, like a bite, or interaction with bodily fluids. The diseases in the movies are spread so fast because the victims are compelled to seek out new hosts, and because it works on the body much faster than any known real life diseases, so its not very realistic in the depictions of the diseases themselves.These diseases work too fast on the bodies of the victims, but the vectors for them are realistic enough.
World War Z (2013)/The Invasion (2007)
The vector for the zombification in World War Z is similar to the the one used in The Invasion, which is kind of a slick remake of The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. The vector, in both cases, is humans, but one extra thing these two diseases have in common is how they react to the human body, in that a previous infection of some other disease, can render a person immune to the current one.
I think World War Z got this idea from the science of immunology.h I have it on good authority that that is not how disease works in real life, and in World War Z, it is more how predator/prey relationships sometimes work. In the real world, what would happen is one kind of disease suppressing one’s immune system, and making a person vulnerable to other infections. One of the things that World War Z gets right, however are that boats and planes are two of the vectors for transport of the disease.
In The Invasion, the “disease’, which is really a kind of sentient virus, is passed via bodily fluids. The victims produce a milky saliva that they use to infect more victims, usually by adulterating beverages. This is another disease that spreads quickly, as the first victims are compelled to seek out more. A person becomes a “podded” after they fall asleep, and a brief period in which the body tries to fight off the infection through other means, like a fever. In 1400’s England, there was a brief epidemic of something called The Sweating Sickness, that could kill a person within hours of infection. The name, and cause, of the diseases is still unknown, but it is similar to The Invasion, in that the victims suffer “night sweats” which coats their body in a gelatinous like “pod”.
Any … form of sensing the presence of infected prey, unless they just kind of know it preternaturally or something, would require methods we’re not currently aware of.
The disease chronicled in The Stand is not fictional. It is very real. Called the Superflu, it is spread the same way regular colds and flu is spread, with the only difference between it and the regular flu, is that the Superflu was genetically modified to be a weapon. Scientists hardly needed to make a super version, as there have been several times that the flu has wiped out whole populations of people. There here have been several of these over the past 300 years. The last major Flu pandemic happened in 1918, called the Spanish Flu, it killed some 50 to 100 million people worldwide. Because the flu is easily transmitted, it is capable of infecting a lot of people, without their knowledge. The description of the Superflu, or as its called in the book, Captain Trips, closely resembles descriptions of The Spanish Flu.
One of the most interesting chapters in King’s novel, chronicles the transmission of the disease from patient zero, to the rest of the population, illustrating the futility in trying to contain it. The disease travels just fast enough, and kills just slow enough, that no one realizes they have been infected, and are able to pass it along to many unknowingly, by touch. Just like the real flu Captain Trips is contagious before they show any symptoms, after which the disease is airborne, in infected droplets from mucus.The only difference is that Captain Trips had a 100% mortality rate. If you caught it, you died.
The flu is transmitted through droplet, so if you catch it it’s because you have someone else’s spit in you. So if you do think you have the flu, you should wear a mask when you go outside. And if you refuse to get your flu shot, you should also wear a mask. Droplet range is about three feet. People can sneeze as far as 20 feet but about 3 feet is the contagious range.
That’s what made The Stand so scary. People would go through their days coughing and sneezing, thinking they were just suffering from a light head cold. But as they were going throughout their day, they were infecting everyone they had come across. And then a week later they were dead.
The tile of this movie is a reference to the Bubonic Plague, AKA The Black Plague. In the mid 1300s, the Black Death was responsible for killing a third of Europe’s population, and parts of the Mediterranean and Africa. The disease still exists today, even here in the US. One of the vectors for Bubonic plague are rats, (and other small rodents), which carry the infected fleas, which can carry the disease quickly and quietly into populated areas. One of the other vectors is humanity. People infected with the plague are highly contagious, and can pass it on, much like the flu.
The bacteria that cause plague, Yersinia pestis, maintain their existence in a cycle involving rodents and their fleas. Plague occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, primarily in semi-arid upland forests and grasslands where many types of rodent species can be involved. Many types of animals, such as rock squirrels, wood rats, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, mice, voles, and rabbits can be affected by plague. Wild carnivores can become infected by eating other infected animals.
Just as in The Invasion , this disease can be passed on by human beings coming into contact with the bodily fluids of the infected. In the movie, several college students come in contact with water that’s been contaminated by an infected body. As the disease progresses they begin to bleed profusely, and the skin begins to slough away. The basis for the disease in the movie is called necrotizing fasciitis,, aka Flesh Eating Bacteria. (I caution you to not Google images of this disease, unless you have a strong stomach. For the record, it looks exactly like the disease in the movie.)
If you have necrotizing fasciitis you have a life threatening condition that could spread to kill you within hours. Once you have it you can go from swollen calf to death’s door within a period of days.
This is a unique and interesting movie in that the vector of contamination here is speech. The use of certain words must be said and heard in a specific arrangement in English, which creates an infection that takes over the brain, and turns the victim into a living zombie.
The disease in the movie mimics some actual speech disorders, like “spasmodic dysphonia”, the speech disorder most famous for its use in the movie Us by Lupita Nyongo, who got into some small trouble for it.
“There are three stages to this virus. The first stage is you might begin to repeat a word. Something gets stuck. And usually it’s words that are terms of endearment like sweetheart or honey. The second stage is your language becomes scrambled and you can’t express yourself properly. The third stage you become so distraught at your condition that the only way out of the situation you feel, as an infected person, is to try and chew your way through the mouth of another person.”
The basis for much of the mythology of vampirism is a disease called Porphyria, a set of several inherited, blood disorders, that result in the body being unable to create hemoglobin. Some of the symptoms of porphyria are paleness, lethargy, and extreme photsensitivity, all symptoms displayed by the character in the movie. Porphyria, however , is not infectious.
In The Afflicted, Derek, begins to exhibit all the symptoms of vampirism, after an encounter with a pretty girl at a nightclub. He first exhibits flu like symptoms, before the disease is offset by the other symptoms of vamprism, super strength, and speed. In the movies, vampirism is contagious through contact with saliva, in much the same way as rabies, to which it also bears a similarity. For example, animals with rabies often display “hydrophobia”, an aversion to water, which might have given rise to the belief, that vampires could not abide running water.
The different genetic variations that affect heme production give rise to different clinical presentations of porphyria — including one form that may be responsible for vampire folklore.
Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected animal. Globally, it kills an estimated 59,000 people each year — that equates to almost one death every 9 minutes. Initial symptoms are only flu-like, but once they appear, rabies is almost always fatal.
The alien in this movie doesn’t resemble any kind of human disease, but it does resemble the actions of a particular fungus. The cordyceps fungus operates in much the same fashion as the alien in the movie: infect, zombify, repeat. In that way, the creature, also called The Long One, grows to consume the life of an entire planet. The alien mimics the life cycle of cordyceps by controlling the hosts to infect more hosts, through the use of mobile spores, which look like worms.
The cordyceps fungus also infects an ant or other insect through spores. After the host is infected, it is instructed by the spores to climb to a high point, before more of the spores burst from its body, infecting the rest of the colony. In the movie, after a person is directly infected by the primary host, their bodies are instructed to feed until they grow to enormous size, after which their bodies burst, releasing the spore-like worms.
After patient zero, Grant Grant, is infected by an initial spore (in the shape of a needle), he is instructed to feed, and impregnate more hosts. The alien takes on the intelligence level of its hosts, although it does have its own memories, which are shared among its hosts, and is specifically referenced, in the film, as a “Conscious Disease”.
The trailer for Jordan Peele’s new movie just dropped. What a beautiful Christmas present this was!
I watched this trailer, and I am shooketh! This looks genuinely terrifying!
Seriously, Peele’s been a comedian for years, and he’s been holding out on us. I love the cast for this movie, Lupita Nyongo, and Winston Duke, both fresh off of Black Panther. I expect this to be scary, and I expect it to have as much depth as his first movie, Get Out.
Jordan says this is not a home invasion movie, it’s not about race, and it involves a new mythology that he’s invented about “The Tethered”. As you can see a lot of it takes place well into the next day, and once again, we get to see Lupita kicking some ass.
Things To Notice:
* That opening song. I Got 5 On It by Luniz was the song from my youth, too. It came out during my college years. I didn’t know I knew the lyrics to this song, and quite frankly the backbeat was always creepy to me, but that’s not something you say to your friends when they jammin’. (And Yes, it is about drugs.)
*The entire family is dark skinned, especially the mother and daughter. The usual dynamic, especially for mainstream movies, is to cast the father as dark skinned, and all the women in the family as several shades lighter, but here, the entire family has the same skin tone, which is something refreshing that people are noticing. It may seem an insignificant detail but those of us who are darker than than a paper bag tend to notice things like that.
*The shoutout to Howard University
*It appears as if the little boy may be on the spectrum. He is wearing a little red devil mask on his head when we first see him, and his mom talks him through the song in the car. Those are the kinds of little things one does when a family member has sensory issues.
*People have noticed at least one parallel scene between Lupita’s character, and the main character’s single tear scene from Get Out.
Jordan says having a Black family was incidental, because it’s not something that’s really been done before, and I’d have to agree, because a lot of family style horror movies involve White suburban families dealing with some disruption to their lifestyle, with the status quo being restored by the end of the movie, through their efforts. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pretty common one.
Honestly, there really aren’t enough PoC in the horror genre, this is refreshing for that reason alone, and this kind of thing is honestly why we need them, to inject some fresh ideas into a genre that’s been coasting for too long on the kinds of things, made primarily by white men, that only seem to scare teenagers – torture porn, jump scares, ghost stories, and possession plots. (Having a Black cast isn’t unheard of, it’s just not especially common.)
Not that the men who almost entirely run this genre don’t have some good ideas from time to time, (It Follows, Poltergeist, two of the films cited by Peele as being significant enough that they was required viewing for the adult cast), but so much of this genre is not anything to get really excited about, beyond the occasional tentpole film like Halloween. The same way the J-Horror craze injected some new material into the genre, Black and Brown people will too, so hopefully this is the beginning of a trend that will see more women and PoC filmmakers in this genre.
I want to get back to a time when Horror had something interesting to say about the world, it’s people, anything really. Far too much of the genre has nothing to say from either a political or social standpoint, that isn’t abjectly negative about humanity, or just nihilistic. It will be interesting to see where Jordan Peele takes this story, and what meaning it will have on a wider scale, if any.
I recently watched this anthology of horror shorts, directed by women, on Netflix and found it very effective. Not particularly frightening, but moving nonetheless. I not only enjoyed the stories themselves, but there were some interstitial moments between the episodes that I found pretty creepy, and which also tell a kind of story. Of the four stories, three of them deal with the idea of motherhood as a harrowing and anxious experience.
One of the middle stories, and the most frightening, is The Box, about a woman whose family slowly starves themselves to death after the son peeks into the box of a stranger on a bus ride. I think I read this as a short story somewhere because it felt familiar. Its a very effective and emotional scare, as the mother is helpless to save her family, who are determined to destroy themselves. One of the other stories chronicles the adventures of a mother whose husband dies in a giant panda suit just before his daughter’s birthday party called, appropriately enough, The Birthday Party. It’s the funniest of the stories, but I was exasperated by it because it didn’t fit the gray mood of the rest of the anthology.
Dont’ Fall is the most straightforward horror story with no message to it. A group of people go camping and run afoul of an ancient cannibalistic evil. Her Only Living Son is a favorite of mine. Its like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, if she had run away from all the people trying to manipulate her, and tried to raise her son not to be the AntiChrist. It’s interesting that the two most effective stories are about mothers trying to save their children from the aftermath of bad choices.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was a little dubious about watching it, at first. Women directors in the Horror genre are very rare, but this turned out to be pretty good. The types of stories were female-centric in a way that men’s stories just aren’t, and that was refreshing.
This movie is available on Netflix.
Ravenous (1999) Antonia Bird
I reviewed this movie some time back, and advised people to listen to the DVD commentary, because it’s very informative. I’ve since learned that Antonia Bird died from cancer in 2013. Her films include a few others I’ve watched: Priest, Safe, and Mad Love.
This is a nice little nugget of a film available on Netflix, which I have not finished watching yet, because I was interrupted. (I was about thirty minutes away from the end, which is probably when all the best stuff happens.) This is a remarkable story about an unnamed and beautiful Iranian vampire, who spends her nights trying to resist her hunger, in the presence of an innocent young man named Arash. The movie isn’t frightening, so much as it is melancholy, although The Woman, as I call her, does manage to cause plenty of death.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) Karyn Kusama
Despite people hating this movie, I actually enjoyed it , and thought it was pretty funny. This was my first introduction to Megan Fox ,and based on her performance here, I wish her career had continued. I wasn’t sure what to expect actually. I think I expected the director (who, at the time, I did not know was a woman) to simply use the plot as an excuse to have Megan Fox be naked and/or sexy. I thought the trailer a little misleading. But the movie turned out to be a lot deeper, as it was about the friendship between these two very different characters, and how people change and grow apart as they get older. The movie was also written by a woman, Diablo Cody, which explains some of its humor.
Anita, played by Amanda Seyfried is friends with a bitchy cheerleader named Jennifer. Now I should have paid closer attention because I was unclear if Jennifer had been turned into a vampire, or if Jennifer actually died and was replaced by some creature. At any rate, its up to Anita to try to stop her, because, obviously, Jennifer is evil. It was hard not to like Jennifer though, because she’s actually funny, and some of the best dialogue in the movie is between her and Anita during their knockdown fight at the end.
Raw (2016) Julia Decournau
I have yet to watch this film, but I really liked the trailer, and so its on my Halloween list. It heavily reminds me of a cross between the movies Thelma and Jennifer’s Body.
Its interesting to me that so many horror films directed by women seem to involve the concept of eating and the forbidden and blood. The anthology XX had an episode about people denying food, A Girl Walks Home Alone is about a vampire, and this one is about a young vegetarian developing a taste for raw meat after a horrible campus initiation. Ravenous and Jennifer’s Body are about cannibalism. At some point someone is going to have to analyse why that is.
Pet Semetary (1989) Mary Lambert
This is the one movie on this list I’m not a big fan of, but a heckuva lot of people really really love it, so I’m recommending it for viewing. I thought the movie was kind of ridiculous, and some of the acting was simply terrible. On the other hand, Fred Gwynne, who played Herman Munster on the sitcom, was great, and I liked Denise Crosby, who was really likable here. I was creeped out by the family cat, but I laughed at part of the ending, when this tiny munchkin went on a murder spree. I don’t hate this movie ,but I don’t have happy thoughts about it either, although I did enjoy the Stephen King book it was based on.
Near Dark (1987) Kathryn Bigelow
I gave a review of this movie earlier in my blogging career. This was directed by the great Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for her movie The Hurt Locker, and gave us such great characters as the Aliens version of Ellen Ripley, and the Terminator 2 version of Sarah Connor.
I did a review of this one where I compared Kimberly’s version to the one directed by DePalma, charting the difference between when a man makes a female- centered film vs. when a woman does it. Basically, there seems lot more meaningful interaction between the women in a female directed movie. At some point I’m going to revise this review to add some new thoughts.
These five movies were not directed by women, but the women characters are not just in the center of the plot, they are the plot. Any one of these movies would be great for a female themed marathon on Halloween night, along with longstanding favorites, like Alien, and Halloween.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
This is one of my favorite werewolf movies, right up there with the newer movie, Wer. Here, two teen Goth sisters, Bridgette, and Ginger, the local high school weirdos of a small suburban town, discover that Ginger has developed lycanthropy, after being bitten by a wild animal, while on their way to play a prank on another girl. There is a parallel here between the disease and sexual maturity, as Ginger has just had her first period, which is why the animal attacked her. Ginger Snaps considerably deepened the discourse around the subject of feminine transformation, rage, and sisterly love, and upped the werewolf game.
This is a repost of a mini-review I did in May of this year.
I’d been looking forward to seeing this for some time, and it did not disappoint. Now, when I first heard the description of it, I had not yet seen the trailer, and I was expecting something like Carrie, but quieter. Then I saw the trailer, and found that it’s something wholly different from Carrie. This movie isn’t about vengeance, it’s about desire, and what happens to a person when that desire is repressed.
For one thing, this is a much quieter, and more subtle movie than Carrie. It’s so low-key, that the supernatural aspects of the story kind of sneak up on you. They sneak up on you because they’re loosely covered by several other issues that you will find compelling enough to be distracting.
The film is based in Norway, and the lead character, Thelma, starts to experience epileptic seizures, except it’s not seizures. Her doctor says they are psychosomatic, and stem from emotional suppression. At the same time, she meets a young woman who comes to her rescue, after she has a seizure in the college’s public reading room, while that room’s giant picture window is battered by a flock of birds. Every time she resists her feelings for Anja, or tries to suppress her powers, she has a seizure.
Thelma and the young woman, Anja, start to get closer, but Thelma comes from a quietly strict Christian background, and she becomes very conflicted about her relationship with Anja, which starts to take a romantic turn. It turns out that Thelma isn’t necessarily conflicted because of the Christianity, but because she has the power to make things happen to people, when she strongly wants it. The Christian beliefs her parents espouse are what was used to keep her powers in check.
When Thelma was a child, she became jealous of her baby brother, and wished him away several times. The last time she does it is emotionally devastating to her mother and father, but this isn’t something you find out until the middle of the film, and only in flashbacks, and explains why her parents treat her in the quietly aloof manner that they do.
As Thelma becomes overwhelmed about her relationship with Anja, (she keeps having sexual nightmares involving snakes, and dreams about drowning, which is classic symbolism of someone being overwhelmed by a subject), she wishes Anja away too, and it’s a testament to the low-key horror of the movie, that even at the end, you’re not entirely certain that what is happening is real. Did she bring Anja back? Is Anja even real? And then there’s the further question, brought up by her father, about whether or not Anja truly loves Thelma, or did she make Anja love her because she wants her to love her.
It’s not a straight horror movie, with jump scares, and frightening moments. The most frightening moment in the movie is when Anja disappears, and Thelma kills her father. But mostly it’s those nagging questions,that stay with you, as you start to realize Thelma is far more dangerous than you may at first have believed. Her mother and father were in a car accident a few years before she went to college, and though it’s not explicitly stated, you wonder if it was Thelma who caused it.
After Anja disappears, Thelma leaves college to go back home, where her family welcomes her, but her father decides that she can’t leave. She takes control of her abilities, takes a horrific revenge on her father, and walks out of the house. She goes back to school, where she is greeted by a newly returned Anja, who passionately kisses her. Her mother is disabled, and uses a wheelchair after the accident, but by the end of the film, Thelma has given her the ability to walk again.
Like several other movies I’ve seen in the past few years (It Follows, Annihilation, A Quiet Place), the horror comes not so much from what happens in the movie, but from its mood. The wintry landscape of Norway, and the remote location of Thelma’s home, is very effective. On the other hand, I can’t say that the movie was enjoyable, either. It’s too haunting for that, and I am still disturbed by the questions that arose, and the answers I came up with.
For those of you on the LGBTQ spectrum this movie is safe enough to watch There is a brief moment when you think there’s a Kill Your Gays Trope, but by the end of the movie, that has passed. Its a movie about overcoming repression, and acceptance of the self.
Thelma is available on Hulu.
I’ve done two reviews for this movie. One is an examination of the meaning of the monster, and the other focusing on the female -centric symbolism embedded in the film.
Mom managed to talk me into going to see this movie, which I had no plans to see, at the theater. I didn’t want to see it, not because I thought it was going to be bad, (I was really intrigued by it), but because sometimes my anxiety likes to ramp itself up, and I can’t leave the theater. When you’re at home you can turn off the TV, or pause a disc, but its a lot harder to call time out in public. I told her this, but she really wanted to see it, and it really did look good, so we agreed that I could hold her hand if I got too scared.
I loved it, actually. I love scary movies, but usually only only watch them when I can control my reaction to them. I didn’t get too scared, though. There were a couple of moments where I was white knuckling it a bit, because I really did like the characters, and empathized with them. One of the ways of controlling my anxiety is telling myself is that its okay, I’m not actually in any danger, and this is what I’m supposed to be feeling during such scenes. This is a process that may, or may not, work for you in public, but I have many, many years of practice at managing such this.
Also, one of the reasons I didn’t get too worked up is because the movie isn’t exactly what I expected. It has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, I don’t give a fly what a movie’s rating is on that site, but in this case, I understand why it’s rated so high, and I see why people are crazy about it. It really is very good, just not what I was expecting. I was expecting more bombast, more jump scares, lots of monsters, but the writers did more interesting things.
If you’re going to see this for the monster, or for gore, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s not much of either, beyond the occasional blink and you’ll miss it shot. You do get a good look at the monster eventually, but the monsters are not the focus of the movie. Like the movie Alien, the focus is the relationships between the characters, and how they’re dealing with a horrific situation.
The Earth has experienced some kind of alien invasion, most of humanity has been killed, and the ones left alive mostly live underground, and can’t make any noise, or the aliens, which operate solely on sound waves, (they don’t have eyes) will attack them. The aliens are extremely fast and brutal, with long legs, and giant claws. They don’t eat their victims it seems. They just kill them. I think they just dislike noise. I had the impression that they view loud noises as some sort of attack, rather than as a source of food.
The movie follows a family with a deaf daughter, and a hearing son, who are navigating this world with its new set of rules. They go barefoot, along sand trails that have been set down by the father, to the places they most often frequent. They use American Sign Language to communicate. They wear headphones to listen to anything. They live above ground during the day because the father has been working to perfect a radio system to communicate with any other people.
Most of this information you can get from paying close attention to what’s happening on the screen. There’s no sound for most of the movies running time, so there’s plenty of time to concentrate, and if you don’t like to read movies…too bad.. you’re to see this movie anyway, and like it!
The terror comes from the logistics of living in a world in which the slightest sound you make could get you killed. When you think about it, human beings are made up of nothing but noise. It seems to be our primary superpower, and kids and babies are noise personified. Getting above a certain decibel level attracts the monsters, and just because you hunker down and get quiet doesn’t mean necessarily mean they go away. There are work-arounds to be had, though. For example, natural sounds like running water, wind, storms, etc.do not attract them, and if you’re near something that’s a natural sound, that’s louder than whatever noise you’re making, you’re mostly safe. I enjoyed watching some of the father’s clever ideas of living within the rules.
The movie is mostly about this family, their relationships, how they feel about what’s happening and how they navigate this world. The parents are genuinely in love, they love their kids deeply, and most of the film’s tension arises from their need to keep their children safe, and past guilts. At the beginning of the movie something horrible happens that the daughter spends the rest of the movie blaming herself for, and believing her father blames her and hates her for, too. Meanwhile, the mother also blames herself for it, and the son is just terrified of living in this world, in general.
I loved Emily Blunt here. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while now, and she really carries the emotionalism in this movie. The rest of the cast is good too, especially the little actress who plays the daughter. I really enjoyed her performance, although I could’ve done without the “kids wander off on their own” plot points. A lot of the plot points are predictable too, but the acting is so well done, you’re not particularly bothered by that. And the movie is just beautiful to look at. The country landscape is lush and green and…quiet.
There were a few things I noticed that I had questions about, and a lot of things you can infer from the information onscreen. I understand why cities would have been abandoned. And we witness that any animal that makes noise will be attacked, not just human beings, which implies that most of Earth’s ground animals were probably killed. We can still see that there are some birds left, and that would make some sense.
My biggest problem was the ending, which was only disappointing in the sense that I wanted more of it. I wanted to see a big boss battle at the end. I wanted a little bit more closure. But I get why the movie ended the way it did. You get to tell your own ending and the one I made up was a happy one, that fits the last image we see.
Ooh! There’s some great stuff coming to television this spring. Also, some not so great stuff, but we won’t know that until we look at it, soo…
Altered Carbon (Netflix): I have not yet watched this. I will get around to it and let you know what I think at some point.
Ash Vs The Evil Dead Season 3 (Starz): I’ve watched a couple of episodes of this season. Lucy Lawless has returned, and Ash finds out he has a daughter. I don’t think I’ll watch the entire season, but as far as I can tell, the show is even gorier, and zanier, than that first season. Next to Happy, and Legion, its one of the most batshit shows on TV.
Mute (Netflix): I started watching this but checkedout because I got bored. Since then I’ve read a number of great reviews comparing it to Balderunner and Altered Carbon. I also happen to like the lead actor who played Eric from the show True Blood. There’s lot so secretive conversations, half naked dancing, and neon, so my tolerance may be a bit low, but I’ll try to watch it again.
(1) Atlanta:Robbin Season (FX): I missed a lot of episodes of the first season, so I had to go back and catch up. I’ve watched the first episode of this new season, and really enjoyed it. You have to see it to believe it. The special guest star for this episode is Katt Williams, playing a man who owns an alligator, and has kidnapped his girlfriend until she pays him back the money she stole.
(2) Ravenous (Netflix): I think this show is Swedish, or Danish, or French or something. Its not in English anyway. It’s about a small town beset by zombies, and looks intriguing. I’m taking some vacation next week, so I’ll check it out then, and let you know if the subtitles are worth it.
(7) Hard Sun (Hulu): I have no idea what this is aobut, but the description sounded kinda like a British version of The X-Files. I like the X-Files, and I like British shows, but I don’t know that I’ll like this. It just sounds interesting.
(7) Hap and Leonard Season 2 (Sundance): I’ve read a couple of the books, and the show looks like fun. The books are definitely an acquired taste, and have a kind Pulp Fiction meets Justified feel to them. I’m interested to see if the show captures the same flavor. I’m not going to bingewatch it though, just check out a couple of episodes. The trailers look like fun, but I don’t know that I’d enjoy a steady diet of this.
(8) Jessica Jones Season 2 (Netflix): I couldn’t make it through the first season of the show for…reasons. Maybe I’ll have better luck this weekend. I want to like Jessica, but she is such a downer type person, that its hard to watch her series. She was cool in The Defenders, and the trailers look a bit more appetizing though, so I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll see more WoC in this season, yeah?
(9) The Outsider (Netflix): Despite my judgmental nature, I’m not actually willing to completely condemn a show before I watch it. I’m also one of five people who does not simply hate Jared Leto, although I probably should. I’m not a fan, but I’m not averse to watching (or liking) any vehicle he happens to be in.I also happen to like movies about The Yakuza and will pretty much watch anything with them in it, probably because I get a kick out of watching Japanese men behaving badly.
(9) A.I.C.O. Incarnation (Netflix): I rarely watch anime series, but this looks interesting and scary, so I’m going to try it.
(11) Timeless Season 2 (NBC): I have never watched this, but I’m sure some of you may be interested in it. Its my understanding that the show did some interesting things with the Black character last season, and have not neglected to take into account that he is a Black man, who travels into time periods that are probably not too good for his health.
(21) Krypton (Syfy): I would not normally have included this, because I have no interest in watching a show that doesn’t actually feature Superman, and the trailers look a little too soap opera-adjacent for my tastes. But hey! I’m sure someone, somewhere is very excited about this, and it might turn out to be a good show.
(26) The Terror (AMC): You already heard me gushing about this one. Still gushing!
(29) Siren (Freeform): This is like a horror movie version of The Little Mermaid. The acting looks really dodgy, but I’m going to try it, because i’m always here for evil sea-creatures, pretending to be beautiful, but talent-less actresses.
(30) The Titan (Netflix): I’m not a huge fan of the lead actor here, but I like the idea of hideous transformations and planetary travel.
(30) A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2 (Netflix): I missed the entire first season, but hey! it’s still on Netflix, so theoretically I can catch up anytime, right? Well, maybe someone besides me can catch up. I liked the movie okay, but I got bored in the first episode. Not that its a bad, or even a boring show. I’m just much more likely to fall asleep while lying in bed with the Netflix on.
(2) The Crossing (ABC): I like the premise of this show which reminds me of The 4400, which was canceled right when I was starting to get into it. Hopefully this has shown up at a good time, and will do well. Sometimes half the success of a show is the timing of its release.
(3) Legion (FX): I think the first season hurt my brain.This is unlike any other superhero show on television. If you like wild situations, that may or may not be tangentially related to the plot, or even real, occasionally linear dialogue, and zany imagery, then go for it. I think this show broke my head, but I’m gonna watch it again anyway.
(8) Killing Eve (BBC): People are always clamoring for female lead shows that are dark and thrilling. Well here you go! I hate the lead character, just from the trailer alone, but I know there’s an audience out there for a female psychopath. I do happen to like and respect Sandra Oh, and she looks wonderful in this.
(13) Lost in Space (netflix): I don’t know why they’re making a remake of this, but I’ll watch it, since I watched and sorta liked the original. Of course I was a kid when I saw the original so that may have been a factor in my enjoyment, and also I wanted a Robbie the Robot just like in the show.
(13) The Expanse Season 3 (Syfy): One of these days I’m going to watch one of the seasons The Expanse, all the way through to the end, after which there shall commence a day of celebration. There shall be much rejoicing, (and possibly some wailing and gnashing of teeth, too.)
(22) Westworld (HBO): AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Allow me to repeat that, in case you didn’t get that…uh’hem! AAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
(22) Into the Badlands Season 3 (AMC): Well naturally, to punish me for my enthusiasm, my two favorite shows will air on the same night. Fortunately HBO likes to show multiple repeats all week long, so I can watch this, and record the other. And of course you know, this means reviews, reviews, and more reviews.
Apparently, there’s nothing coming on TV in May. All the stations will just be blank, which will be the signal for the Apocalypse to begin, because What the Fuck!!!
Oh yeah right! Bear Grylls is gonna be doing some shit, on the last day of the month, if you’re into that sort of thing!
(7) Cloak and Dagger (Freeform): I read this comic book as a teen, but I don’t think this show is gonna be a whole lot like the comic, which is a really good thing, because that book was hella racist. I mean half the stuff they did with those two characters, would not fly on TV today, without a major backlash. Cloak’s superpower is that he absorbs light, and Dagger’s power is that she emits it.
(22) Luke Cage Season 2:
Write your own, highly enthusiastic, response here!
Castle Rock (Hulu): We still have received no date for this show. All I know is that its coming to Hulu this year, but I can wait. It looks interesting.
*I just wanted to elaborate on this article, that I posted earlier in the year, on the topic of how race is depicted in SFF genre films and shows. No matter how well meaning the filmmakers may be, their blind spot is almost always racial in nature, and it is impossible to completely and fully tell certain narratives, if the creators refuse to even look in the direction of race. I don’t know if it’s intentional, or deliberate, but one of the failures of modern SFF cinema is an inability to approach the subject of racism from an honest perspective, when these creators are White. This is why creators like Jordan Peele, Ava Duverney, John Cho, and even Rod Serling are so important. They did not (do not) ignore race as a factor in the stories they are (were) trying to tell.
Why Don’t Dystopias Know How to Talk About Race?
————Fantasy novelist Daniel José Older sees the problem as a failure of imagination and craft. “I find it very telling how little these worlds that are so much about power and oppression and ways of resistance also magically somehow have solved race,” he said. “On the one hand it’s a truth failure in the sense of it doesn’t feel real to anyone who knows about the lasting power of racism and to anyone who is paying attention to the world today. And it’s a craft failure in that it is a tremendous missed opportunity to develop the world more deeply.”
* I’ve been seeing an increasing number of SciFi shows where Blacks, and other minorities, are being cast as the oppressors of White protagonists. We’re not arguing that PoC can’t work for oppressive systems, because plenty of them do. And we’re not arguing that PoC cannot discriminate against White people.Yes, we know PoC can be bigots (towards other PoC, mostly) but that’s not what is being discussed here.
We’re talking about the casting of Black people, particularly, dark skinned, Black women, as virulently racist bigots, which is starting to become a trope. From Teen Wolf, to The Gifted, to Heroes Reborn, I think the White male writers who create these shows are starting to get a little too comfortable with this idea.
They don’t seem comfortable with depicting actual racism towards PoC by White people, and they continue to cast White actors as the oppressed minorities in these racial allegories (like The Handmaid’s Tale). It’s especially galling in a racism/slavery allegory, to not only erase the existence of PoC, who are actually experiencing what is being depicted onscreen, in the real world, but to cast them in the roles of the oppressors, and I’m not here for it. I’m also not here for White Writers stealing the narratives of oppressed people of color, but then NOT including any of those oppressed people in the story. (I touched on this briefly in my review of The Gifted.)
One of the major reasons I stopped watching Heroes Reborn wasn’t just because of its lackluster, badly written plot, but because a Black woman was cast as a virulently nasty, hardline racist, who was willing to kill children, and the children they showed her killing, were White. This is the same plotline used in the final season of Teen Wolf, where a Black woman is seen killing and sometimes torturing White teens, and again, in the show The Gifted, you have a brown-skin man, of indeterminate race, spouting racist jargon against the White protagonists of the show, and hunting and arresting White kids. All of these shows steal the narrative of Black and Brown people being killed (shot, tortured, and abused) by people in positions of authority, but does not include any of these Brown people in the story that’s being told. Instead, casting White actors in roles that real PoC actually live out.
The Gifted is even more annoying because there are PoC on the show who are members of the oppressed minority, but we don’t get to see their stories, sympathize with them, or understand what their lives were like. We do get to see them be bravely tortured by the government, which sends the message that not only are our stories available for consumption, but the pain and degradation of PoC is as well.
Just Like A Caucasian
How Sci-Fi and Fantasy Television Shows Always Get Racism Wrong.
**Reprinting my review of The Gifted, (which I wrote before I saw this article)
I’m simply not in the mood for this show, and I’m fed up with this type of plot, now. It’s loosely based on some of the X-Men and New Mutants comic books, in that it has some Sentinel plotline, and some of the characters from those groups. Stephen Moyer stars as a lawyer who used to prosecute mutant criminals, and the father of two young mutants, now on the run from the government, which is rounding up mutants and imprisoning them in scientific camps.
I tried watching the first episodes, and while I like a couple of the characters, the show is simply not compelling enough to keep me watching it every week. The characters have the usual teenage angst, with superpowers, that made me dislike the First X-Men movie. Blink is a teenager who can teleport by creating portals, and Thunderbird, who is Native American, is a kind of tracker of people and things. I’m dismayed that the show used the Native American tracker stereotype, as that’s nothing like Thunderbird’s actual powers in the books, which consists of speed and strength.
And I’m just not here for yet another plotline of people with superpowers being rounded up and used by the government. This seems to be the only plotline they can come up with for superpowered characters, especially on TV, and once again, there is only the focus on how this affects White, suburban, middle-class families.
Just like with the show Heroes, there is no focus on how the discovery of superpowers would affect any marginalized communities, something I would consider much more entertaining, and which the show Cleverman handled with a certain amount of depth. As I complained about before, we keep getting stories about middle-class White characters being subjected to the same oppressions that have been visited on marginalized communities. This show would have had far more depth and been much more interesting if it had been set in the G/L community, or the Black and Latinx communities, in which this type of interment is already occurring.
In the forties, the Japanese were rounded up in internment camps because they were considered a danger to the US, and later, authorities used to raid the gay and lesbian communities and lock them in jails with the full force of legal authority behind them. Today, its immigration officials grabbing random Brown people out of their homes, and locking them up on suspicion of being illegal immigrants. What do you want to bet that none of these things will be addressed in yet another show where we see average White people being treated in the same manner?
*For further reading check out Malikali’s article on The Ellison Test. It’s great reading, and available on Medium.com, (which I can’t link to here.)
Another way that TV and movies get racism wrong is the constant message, and I’m not certain this is intentional, is the idea that the people being oppressed actually are powerful and dangerous and need to be controlled. So, while Hollywood steals the narratives of PoC to sell their oppression stories of White people, they paradoxically send the message that the oppression is also deserved. This is what went wrong with the movie Zootopia. Zootopia made some excellent points about discrimination, but the animals being discriminated against are all powerful animals that traditionally eat other animals. There’s also the setup that in the past these animals did indeed eat the lesser animals, and so deserve persecution and fear. So Zootopia is trying to tell a story condemning the discrimination and persecution of others is wrong, it reinforces the idea that the ones being persecuted deserved to be feared and hated.
This is also the same problem I ran into with the X-Men and Mutant hysteria plotlines of The Gifted. The persecuted minority are actually exceptionally powerful beings, and actually can destroy human life, and even the entire world, which goes against the racism metaphor the stories are trying to establish, and defeats the anti-discrimination message that’s being touted.
One story that does get the themes mostly correct is the graphic novel called Maus by Art Spiegelman, in which the Jewish people are represented as helpless prey animals being harmed by cats. The cats are depicted as Nazis.
How Zootopia Gets Its Own Point Exactly Backwards
———–The movie starts with a history of the world, explaining that while predators used to be uncontrollably violent, they have since been civilized and can now live among prey animals, which also means behaving like prey animals (prey animals aren’t asked to accommodate their behavior for predators at all). Because in Zootopia there’s a right way to live and a wrong way to live, and some animals are — in the context of this movie — biologically programmed to live wrong. They have to be corrected in order to fit in with proper, civilized society.
Zootopia wants to teach kids about prejudice. Is it accidentally sending the wrong message?
————–The most natural line to draw between the two is that Zootopia‘s predators stand in for black men in our world, and one needs only look at the resurfacing of Hillary Clinton’s “superpredators” clip from the ’90s to know why that’s potentially inflammatory territory.
But all of this pales in comparison to the fact that when you scrutinize Zootopia‘s core metaphor for even a second, it struggles to make sense on a literal level. Yes, the film’s message is that Judy learns to trust Nick, even though he’s predator and she’s prey. But on some other level, we all know that an actual rabbit is right to be afraid of an actual fox — and that muddies the movie’s message considerably.
Yes, even Bladerunner manages to fall into this same trap of presenting a persecuted minority as being incredibly physically powerful and smarter than the humans hunting them.
Blade Runner’s source material says more about modern politics than the movie does
It was written for an age of overreaching policing and sociopathic lack of empathy
———-The police in Do Androids Dream…? are merciless, unstoppable android killers. Their victims, in contrast, are remarkably vulnerable and weak. In the film, the replicants have enhanced reflexes, super-strength, and tremendous intelligence. Part of the reason Deckard evokes sympathy is that he’s clearly overmatched. Replicants may not deserve to be murdered, but they are terrifyingly powerful and dangerous. Roy, howling his shirtless way through an abandoned building at the end of the film, is an atavistic, gothic terror. The androids in Blade Runner are dangerous and threatening when provoked — which is how Darren Wilson saw Michael Brown, and the excuse most often given by police who kill unarmed black civilians.
The only black people in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner are extras. The replicants are all white, and the city of Los Angeles is basically an unmixed population of whites and Asians. The Asians live on the streets or work in small shops. Whites rule the LAPD (all that’s left of the city’s government) and biotech corporations. Whites are also the slaves manufactured by Tyrell Corporation. There are no black, Mexican, or Asian replicants. And the leader of the rebel replicants is a very Aryan Roy Batty. Replicants, however, are, according to Rick Deckard’s voiceover, called “skin jobs,” which is equivalent to calling black people “niggers.” So, Blade Runner is about a slave revolt. And what do the slaves want? Freedom? No. They want more life, which, to be fair, is another kind of freedom. As the 20th century British philosopher Alfred Whitehead put it: “Life is a bid for freedom.”
————-I watched Blade Runner for the first time this week. Since I have apparently been living in a cave for the past few decades, I thought that Blade Runner was kind of like Tron but with more Harrison Ford, and less neon, and maybe a few more tricky questions about What Is The Nature Of Man.
That is the movie I was expecting.
That is not the movie I saw.
*It is far easier for White audiences to watch allegories about racism, than it is for them to actually tackle the subject head-on in their daily lives. Just as it seems easier for White filmmakers to propose the idea that persecution of minorities is wrong, while engaging in erasure and whitewashing in their films on the subject.
*There has been some discussion on Tumblr of The Empathy Gap, to explain the woobification of White villains in fandom, vs the vilification of Black and Brown villains, and even characters of color that are the stars and protagonists in the narrative. Want to know more, then read on:
*This is a perfect example of what we mean by implicit bias in filmmaking. I know the director of this movie, James Mangold, is not some die-hard ,card carrying, member of the alt-right, or KKK. Nevertheless a critical look at his films reveals his own blindspot when it comes to the subject of race. Because the directors are White males, living in America, they have a tendency to reproduce narratives of race that have always prevailed in films, without much examination. I’m sure it never occurred to Mangold that it would be difficult for PoC to watch a movie in which am entire Black family is brutally murdered by vigilante members of the state. It certainly did not occur to him how such images would impact our watching of the film, given the status of American race relations today. (The same blindspot is evident in the Netflix show, Daredevil, and Mangold’s last Wolverine film, which was set in Japan.)
The Thoughtless Diversity of Logan
————– Let’s linger on that last point for a second. In Logan, an entire black family gets slaughtered onscreen. This is a black family who we already see terrorized by racist hicks for refusing to move off their farmland. We are shown that they are at the mercy of these white folks to maintain basic amenities like running water. We also see that they are often terrorized by these men WITH GUNS on what seems to be a daily basis.
*And another tongue in cheek piece on the expectations that Black people should die in Horror movies, because that’s the tradition, and how hard it can be getting used to watching them survive these movies sometimes.
The Black Die Young: The Internal Struggle of a Black Horror Movie Fan
——–I have a secret passion; the less addicted of you might call it an addiction. I like to watch. I rent base, filthy movies and slip them into brown paper bags so no one can tell. I sit alone in seedy, near-empty theaters, pleasuring myself with this trash. I’m too embarrassed to tell anyone about my weakness, although my wife has caught me watching a time or two (“It’s a documentary!” is my standard excuse; she’s since cancelled the Discovery Channel.). But now I’m ready to step out of the shadows and proclaim loudly, I am a black man… and I love horror movies.
Every Galaxy Needs More Than Three People of Color
———When people of color do appear in science fiction, it’s often as sidekicks or advisers. Black characters are likely to die quickly and are unlikely to ever interact with any other black characters, since many galaxies seem to contain only about three black people. That lack of representation makes it hard for people of color to imagine that their writing will ever find a home in the genre.
*I was going to finish up my review of Bladerunner 2049 with a critique of the films technical and philosophical aspects, but I think I’ll post a list of other critical apporaches to the movie, and post my viewpoint as a followup.
Well, it’s almost Halloween and so naturally, as it does every other day of the year, my mind turns toward scary movies. I can’t out a whole movie on here but I can share with you some of my favorite short films. I like monsters, so most of these have monsters. I like comedies, so some of them are funny and there’s a couple of these that scared the living shit outta m This movie infuriated me, especially after I realized what was actually happening:
You guys know I’m not a fan of spiders, so I was reluctant to watch this one, but it just so happens it has a surprisingly funny ending:
Itsy Bitsy Spiders
I saw this one last year, and it stuck in my mind for a whole year, but I’d forgotten where I’d seen it, and the title. It took me some time to find it again, and it’s still scary:
Yeah, this one is very, very, creepy:
Yeah, this one is creepy but hilarious, and I think I remember this song from my childhood.
The Cat Came Back
This is a little longer than the others but it’s worth the wait and it’s funny.
This one isn’t particularly scary but it has zombies in it and I thought it was deeply cute:
Less Than Human
Here’s a slightly different haunted house story:
Vienna Waits For You
This isn’t what it seems:
Okay, this is the one that made me actually scream out loud:
The Thing In The Apartment
Hope you enjoyed these. I’ll have some more on Halloween!
This basically means I am well into the book (at least 20%) and dedicated to finishing it. I often have multiple books going at once, and switch out according to mood and whether or not the book needs to be returned to the library soon.
Kill Society – Richard Kadrey
I love this entire series, which really needs to be made into a movie starring Vin Diesel, because that’s who I picture, and whose voice I hear, as Sandman Slim. The plot, for this newest book, is a total ripoff of Fury Road, but I’m here for it.
Rupert Wong: Cannibal Chef – Kassandra Khaw
These books are really gory, but also unexpectedly funny. I wasn’t sure what I expected when I picked these up, but the title is basically what the book is about. Rupert Wong is paying off some kind of debt by acting as a chef in demonic restaurants. Yes, they eat people. This is a distinctly Asian setting, and it’s also funny as, well..Hell. It’s on sale at Amazon for less than four bucks.
Phantom Pains – Mishell Baker
The first book in this series titled Borderline, is very probably the best fantasy novel written last year. That book made my top ten list, and this sequel is looking to make it on there for this year. Its also on sale at Amazon for 2 bucks. Grab it!
Aliens: Bug Hunt Anthology
I haven’t got very far into this book beyond the first story, which was all kinds of fun, so I’m looking forward to reading the other stories. This book is on sale at Amazon for 2 dollars, but I don’t know how long that’s going to last, so grab it up,now.
To Be Read
Which basically means I’ve gotten about 10% of the way into these books before continuing with the books I’m already in the middle of reading. I often read multiple books at once, switching to a different book according to my mood, or whatever is near to hand. This means that finishing a book can take a while, as I make incremental progress across several books.
The Change (1-3) Guy Adams
I’ve read the first book in this short series, and its genuinely scary. Its about an alien invasion of Earth that killed off most of the human race outright when it occurred, but for the survivors, the world has gone hideously, horribly, wrong. I think these are based on his first book, The Change Orbital, which is also pretty terrifying.
The Witch Who Came in From the Cold – Malcolm Gladstone
I like the ideas of spies who do magic, and I like some of Gladstone’s writing, so I wanted to try this one. The opening chapter is very exciting. The book consists of a bunch of nested, shared-world stories, by different authors, sort of like G.R.R.M.’s Wild Cards Series.
Strange Practice – Vivian Shaw
I haven’t read much of this one but the description is adorable. A woman physician in Victorian London, who is related to Van Helsing, gets caught up in taking care of the illnesses of various supernatural creatures like werewolves, vampires, and mummies, and has to save their existences from some murderous monks.
Urban Enemies Anthology
Famous Urban Fantasy authors put the spotlight on some of their more villainous characters from their popular series.
Magicians Impossible – Brad Abraham
I have no idea what this is about as I’ve only read the first chapter. What I did read was very exciting , and I’m eager to keep going.
Graveyard Shift – Michael Haspil
I was really looking forward to this book, the moment I read the first blurb. This is an interesting story, that’s not unlike the Rivers of London series by Aaronovitch. The lead character is an ancient Egyptian demi-god, working as a kind of supernatural cop, in a world of vampires, and werewolves, who have just come out of the closet. I’m working on it.
Books To Recommend
I have so many recommendations to give you, but I’m going to stop at these few.Most of these are Dark Fantasy and Horror. There are no monster romances in any of these books, nobody talking about their favorite pair of boots, or what clothes the hot guy is wearing, because that kind of stuff just puts me right to sleep. The darker and more unusual the Fantasy, the more I’ll like it, especially if it takes place in the modern world.
The Barker & Lewelyn Series by Will Thomas
This is the only mystery on the list. I’ve become obsessed with Hard Victorian mysteries, and Will Thomas has one of the best. The lead character is totally a Sherlock Holmes clone, but I don’t care. I will read about Holme’s clones, all day, every day. There’s a difference between a hard mystery, vs a soft mystery. A hard mystery is more a police procedural. Its darker and grittier, and I especially like mysteries that take place before modern forensics.
The Rivers of London Series
I’ve written about this series before. Its hella fun. I like to think of it as a calmer, British version of the Harry Dresden series. Peter grant is a Black cop who gets involved in magical events in London.
King Rat – China Mieville
This was the very first book I ever read by this author. I didn’t know what to expect but the description sounded vaguely intriguing. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was unlike any Fantasy I’d eve read. I’ve read nearly every one of Mieville’s books since then, and have never been disappointed.
The Iskryne Series – Elizabeth Bear
I love it when writers take fantasy tropes and turn them upside down. Bear takes the concept of bonded animal companions all the way to its limit, and that includes how sexuality is handled. Bear’s writing partner for the series is Sarah Monette. There’s not a lot of human women in the books but it more than makes up for that with the ideas that are introduced, and the setting.
Wormwood: Gentlemen Corpse Series – Ben Templesmith
This is the funniest comic book zombie series ever written. At least part of the reason for that are Ben Templesmith’s ridiculous illustrations. Wormwood is not the name of the zombie, mind you, but the name of the tiny, snarky, worm that’s possessing the corpse, who fights various lovecraftian horrors from outer space.
The Works of Brom
Just about any one of Brom’s books is a gem. They’re not comic books but they do contain some beautifully dark illustrations, and cover such topics as: damnation, Peter Pan, toys, and a motorcycling demon. His latest book is called Lost Gods and is about a young man trying to find his way through Hell, to save his endangered wife back on Earth. If you have a taste for weird, then Brom is the writer for you.
God’s Demon – Wayne Barlowe
This is the only prose book written by Barlowe although he has written/illustrated other boos about fantasy figures, science fiction, and aliens. In this story, the war in Heaven continues into Hell, as one of the Fallen, Sargatanas, tries to redeem himself, and win back God’s favor. The novel is based on a series of illustrations Barlowe did for his book, Barlowe’s Inferno, which is a guided tour through Hell.
The Skyscraper Throne Series – Tom Pollock
I love fantasies based on cities, especially when the city is a real character in the book. Such s the case with The City’s Son series. If you liked China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, then you’ll love this YA series.
The Matthew Swift Series – Kate Griffin aka Catherine Webb
Once again you have a fantasy series where the city is a separate character in the book. The city of London holds all the magic, and people who are attuned can access it. This series has a number of Asian and Black characters that I thought were interesting, including a Black female sorceress, who is an apprentice to the lead character, who isn’t, quite, human.
Bone Street Rumba Series – Daniel Jose Older
Daniel Older does for diversity in New York what Ben Aaronovitch does for the city of London. The main character is Carlos Delacruz, a half-ghost,dealing with supernatural events in his working class, Latinx/Hispanic, neighborhood. If you’re looking for diversity, and strong women characters, check it out.
The Eric Carter Series – Stephen Blackmoore
Much of this series is based on South American mythology. Eric Carter is a modern day necromancer, who gets involved with an Aztec goddess, after the death of his sister. Lots of action, but still less bombast, and more diversity than the Harry Dresden books.
The SNAFU Series
This is an entire series of military horror books, where human beings fight aliens, werewolves, vampires, and various monsters that defy description. If you like military horror then check these out, along with books like:
Okay, I though I posted this already, but apparently not, since I can’t find it in my published file. So here we go again, maybe!
The Ghost Brothers (TV)
Its a TV show about three guys who all had paranormal experiences as children, and decided as adults that they would like to investigate the existence of ghosts. The second season of this show airs April 15th. In the meantime the first season is available for streaming on TLC. I’m already addicted.
Its a pretty good show. One of the reasons I’ve always hated ghost hunting shows is I get exasperated with White guys running around in the dark, shaking their cameras, and yelling at the ghosts. There’s none of that here. The feel of this show is very different. One of my biggest issues was the attitudes of the ghost hunters in these shows, challenging the ghosts, making demands, and the general disrespect. That’s not here, either. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in the inexplicable, and this show has that too, which occasionally makes it actually scary. But it’s not just that. It’s the humor and camaraderie between these three friends, that I enjoyed the most. They genuinely like each other, and are not above ranking on each other, but don’t do it in a mean spirited way. You can tell they’re really old friends, and this is one of the most authentic depictions of black male friendship, you’ll ever see in a TV show.
The guys make a point of visiting sites that are known spots of racial trauma, so they’re not in the business of retraumatizing any presences that might be there. After all, these are their ancestors. They try to approach their job from a place of respect, with minimal equipment. They ask questions and try to reach out and emotionally connect with a presence. In one episode, they visit a hotel where a sex worker was killed maybe a hundred years ago. They visit her rooms and attempt to find out if she’s still present. They ask her about her life, implore her to answer, and when they leave, they respectfully leave payment for her time, which I found both sad and hilarious.
In another episode, they visit a place where some children were known to have died. To get the children to respond, they bring toys and dolls, ask the children if they would like to play, and assure them that it’s safe to come out and do that. All very respectful. Nothing happens of course, but there’s a great deal of tension as you suspect something might.They bring the absolute minimum in equipment, they don’t have scanners, and meters and various devices. They really just have their smartphones and a camera.
Also, these guys are surprisingly brave, in situations that would frankly give me the screaming heebie jeebies, sitting alone in a dark room waiting for some presence to reveal itself. Yes they do get scared, and are willing to acknowledge that, but there’s no exaggerated terror, with a lot of running and screaming. This isn’t a comedy, although the guys are occasionally funny. They take their self appointed task pretty seriously.
One of the reasons I like for white people to watch shows like Atlanta, Luke Cage, and Ghost Borthers is if they’re interested in more authentic depictions of what black people are actually like when white people arent around, and contrast these images with depictions crafted and written by white men, who can only guess at how we relate to each other, or just make shit up. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about media depictions of marginalized people by white male writers, is often the relationships are depicted as contentious ones. The white men, who write almost all of the media we see, have no idea what women talk about when men aren’t present, what gay people do when straight people aren’t around beyond having sex, or what black people do when white people arent present. Shows written, by marginalized people themselves, tend to have fewer token characters, and more genuine conversations, and activities. We actually do get along with each other when white people arent around. We laugh, joke, and tease each other. We have deep conversations that aren’t about race, and trivial conversations that are. And just like with the Bechdel Test, almost none of our conversations center white straight men.
Ghost Brothers joins those lists of shows that depicts black people’s authentic reactions to the world around us.
ETA: I added a much more detailed description for this show, and the second season has already started. I’m currently watching episode two, where the Brothers visit the Winchester Ghost Trap House. Ghostbusters (2016)
I told myself I wasn’t going to watch this, but it aired on Starz, earlier this month, and that’s why I pay for cable. So yeah, I’m one of five people on Earth who actually love this movie. It was entertaining and I found a lot of positive things outside of the one negative thing that made me want not watch it.
The one negative thing was me being mad about Patty, played by Leslie Jones, not being a scientist. I still don’t like that, but I also don’t feel she was ill treated by the creators of the movie. Although Leslie’s personal humor doesn’t match mine, I still really liked her character. She was one of the funniest people in the movie and gets some of the best lines. This one negative thing was outweighed by all the positive things I enjoyed.
One of my biggest takeaways was the depiction of friendship between women, which is almost never authentically shown in genre films, in favor of having a lonely badass. These characters are friendly and supportive of each other. To use Erin and Abby, for example, the subplot of how they met is Abby believing Erin when she claimed she saw a ghost when she was a child, and no one else believed her.That no one else believed her is something that affects her for the rest of her life, prompting her to abandon Abby, and never have anything else to do with the paranormal. Later, she and Abby reaffirm their bonds of friendship when Erin risks her life to save Abby at the end of the movie. When Erin has a very obvious crush on their dimbulb male secretary, played by Chris Hemsworth, the other women never make fun of her, or make her feel ashamed of it. They just accept that she likes him, while gently cautioning her to be careful of sexually harassing him.
I liked Patty, and felt she was given ample screen time. The other characters make no big deal about her not being a scientist. She’s an expert in other things. She talks her way onto the team by offering them something they don’t have. Historical context and knowledge of the city, allows Patty to provide a lot of the movie’s exposition. This is not exactly her being “street -smart” (I suppose technically she is “street-smart, but only because she is her own kind of nerd, who reads History books for fun. So yeah, all the ladies are in fact, nerds! Patty just is not a Science nerd.)
The other women never act as if they know better than her, or try to lord it over her that they have credentials, and even defer to her expertise on matters they know she has studied. They accept her, like Holtzman, as one of the contributing members of the team. Yes, she gets them a car, but that’s not why she was allowed to join them. It’s something she offers, along with their ghostbusting suits. She also gets some of the funniest lines in the movie, most of which are quiet personal asides that if you blink, you’ll miss them.
I especially enjoyed the beginning of a friendship between her and Holtzman. Abby and Erin were already friends, and Holtzman must have occasionally felt like a third wheel, but she and Patty seem to hit it off pretty well, hanging out together whenever they’re not working. Patty saves Holtzman’s life at one point, and nicknames her Holtzy.
Speaking of Holtzman, she is my favorite character in the entire movie. She’s just plain nuts and really, really, loves her job. The trailers don’t really do this character justice, just like they didn’t make Patty very likable. She’s impossible to describe. She just has to be seen. She loves destruction, dances around with blowtorches, and is utterly fearless when it comes to her various science toys.
So, my niece finally watched this movie, and she had a great time. She couldn’t wait for me to get home from work, and she watched it without me, for which she was mildly chastised. And guess who her favorite character is! Guess! Patty, of course, who she thought was hilarious. I don’t know that my niece wants to grow up to be a Ghostbuster, but she really enjoyed herself, and the movie, and that’s enough for me.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Once again, I’m in the minority when it comes to liking a movie. I actually had a good time watching this. I really liked the visuals, and performances, even if the story was full of massive holes, and largely incoherent . I really enjoyed the characters though. I watched this with my niece and she seemed to have a good time, too. I think she wants to be Harley Quinn when she grows up, but I told her no, because that’s not a good look for a Black woman, unless she’s gettin’ paid a lot of money, like Margot Robbie. It would also require she be tortured by Jared Leto, after which I’d have to beat Leto’s ass. (He should probably have his ass kicked just on general principles, anyway, because my niece has decided she has a crush on his version of the Joker. What? She’s like ten years old!)
I’m one of five people on Earth who think that Suicide Squad winning an Oscar for Best Makeup is both hilarious and outrageous. Really!? Over Star Trek? Yeah, right!
It really shouldn’t be that shocking that I liked this. It stars Will Smith and I’ll basically watch anything he ‘s in. Margot Robbie wasn’t too bad in this. I thought her version of Harley was pretty entertaining and not too unlike the comic book version of the character. And then there’s Queen Viola. I just love the idea of Viola Davis and Will Smith starring in a superhero movie together. Although, the next time we see them together, I hope its something a little more serious.
The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Unfortunately I did not get to see this in the theater. I did rent this for me and my Mom to watch for a couple of days. She is a die-hard Denzel fan, and she had expressed an interest in going to the movies to see this. Now this is pretty remarkable for two reasons. She’s not a huge Western movie fan, (even though she was the one who introduced me to Bonanza), and its really hard to get her to go to the movies with me, as she’s picky. In the past few years, I managed to get her to see Jurassic World, World War Z, and that Halloween Madea movie.
We watched this movie over a weekend and she really enjoyed it. She was deeply happy that Denzel survived to the end of the movie. I enjoyed all the characters but I was kind of bummed out because the one Asian guy got killed. It doesn’t really compare overmuch to the original. It has a very different feel, although the plot is exactly the same. The action sequences were very exciting, and I enjoyed the banter between the various characters. It suffers from lone woman syndrome, and a bad guy who is evil just because he’s evil. (Not that every villain needs a backstory. Its just something I noticed.)
It has a Benetton ad cast, and although the one Mexican guy, Vasquez, is annoying, the stereotypes are mostly kept to a minimum. The men of color in the cast all get to have their action moments. Despite the presence of Vincent D’onofrio as Jack Horne, my favorite character was Billy Rocks, the group’s blades-man. The most intriguing relationship was between Billy Rocks, and Ethan Hawke’s character, Goodnight Robichaux. I kept wondering about the nature of their friendship, and afterwards I wrote my own headcanon, where Billy saved Goodnight from suicide, and Goodnight felt indebted to him. It was very clear that one of Billy’s purposes was helping Goodnight hold his shit together.
My Mom liked the Jack Horne character a lot. He was melancholy and gruff, with a penchant for making profound philosophical statements, that mostly puzzled the other characters. Denzel, as Chisholm, was his usual mildly snarky, pragmatic self. He wasn’t really stretching it in this role, but Denzel sparkles on even his worst days, so its all cool.
No, this movie isn’t as good or influential as the original, but its worth watching some cold Saturday night, with a bowl of popcorn, and some good friends.
Legend of Tarzan (2016)
Let’s just state, for the record, that I’m a little bit older than some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr. As a result, I grew up with the idea of Tarzan, and am well used to the tired trope of Tarzan the White Savior. I grew up reading the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, and watching some of the movies with my Mom, whose favorite Tarzan was Johnny Weismuller. Yes, we did see the problematic aspects of having some White guy being a better African, than actual African people, in Africa, but since almost all of TV, and movies, consisted of this trope, it was easy to overlook it, yet impossible not to see it.
That said, I did watch this movie when it came on cable, which only proves that I will watch any damn thing when it comes on TV, where Alexander Skarsgard takes his shirt off, and growls like a lion. It does not mean I’m not “woke” or “aware”. It just means I occasionally have low standards for what I find entertaining, especially if I can knit to it.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this movie for the sheer silliness that it is. Yes, the premise is just as stupid as the original films, and one still wonders what the hell White people, (and lets face it, there were no PoC clamoring for this movie to be made) were thinking when this movie got made. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s okay, as your life will not have been upheaved.
For what its worth, the creators did keep the White Savior stuff to a minimum by adding Samuel L. Jackson, who does the saving of various Black people, and some of the actual Congolese people get lines and screen time. Skarsgard is ridiculous in this role, and spends most of his time trying to look dramatically serious, while trying to save his girlfriend, Margot Robbie, from Waltz’ slimy Englishman. I still don’t know why Waltz kidnaps her but its got something to do with diamonds. It doesn’t matter anyway because the plot is really not that important. What’s important is that Skarsgard is bare chested for most of the movie’s running time.
There is indeed some tree swinging, and some gorilla punching, and for some strange reason, Djimon Honsou is in this movie as an antagonist. He only gets about five minutes of screen time, and maybe six lines. Samuel L. Jackson is in this movie too, and pretty much just acts like Samuel L Jackson, despite the fact that everyone else is acting like they are in a period movie, which is very jarring. I wanted to turn off the sound, so I didn’t have to listen to him speak, but then I wouldn’t have been able to hear Alexander Skarsgard talking to various animals, and yodeling. Yes, there is a classic Tarzan yodel. When I was a kid, this didn’t particularly bother me, but every time I heard it in this movie, I laughed my ass off.
But really, I think the biggest question you have to ask yourself, if you ever watch this movie: Why is Samuel L. Jackson in this movie, when they have Djimon Honsou?