Here are ten of my all-time favorite Halloween songs. I tried to list the songs that a lot of people don’t usually think of listening to during the Halloween season, but will definitely be heard, if you watch scary shows and movies.
One song that won’t be seen on this list is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, because that is sort of the official song of Halloween, and it’s a given that it would be everyone’s favorite at every party. No, this list is for the not quite so well known songs, or songs that aren’t frequently thought of as being for Halloween. Some of these songs are actually pretty scary, so probably aren’t suitable for parties, as it would immediately kill the mood, but there is at least one party style song on this list.
Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
This is the classic Halloween novelty song, released in 1962. The first time I heard this song, I was just a kid, and naturally, I was immediately charmed by it, and this song has never lost the ability to make me sing along and smile.
This Is Halloween – The Nightmare Before Xmas – Danny Elfman
This was yet another charming little song that, when I first heard it, immediately made me laugh, and sing along. Every year, I never miss an opportunity to loudly sing this in my car. The visuals are actually scary, managing to capture all of those little childhood terrors that pop up in the middle of the night, except for the vampires, though.
They’re brothers, according to the game based on the film, and I thought they were some of the cutest, little, tiny-head, vampire-bat people I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I would love to have one of those as a doll!
*Sigh* I’ll probably have to make it myself.
The Exorcist – Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield
Now, I have told y’all the story of how my mother would not allow me to watch this movie, saying it was too much for me, but when I reached a certain age, (I think maybe 13 or 14), she allowed me to watch the adult supervised, edited for television, version. (My mom loved Horror movies, and I often watched them with her, but she didn’t just let me watch whatever I wanted willy-nilly. She was often present, and we almost always watched the edited for TV versions of some of the scariest ones.)
Well, anyway, even watching it with adult supervision was a mistake, because a couple of weeks after I saw it, the city experienced an earthquake. This happened after my bedtime, so the timing on this was simply incredible!!! I’m not gonna go into details, but you can imagine what happened after that, for yourselves. (Like the little girl in the movie, I crawled into Mom’s bed whenever I had a nightmare.)
All ofthis to say, I didnt think this was an actual song. I thought, like most of the music I heard in movies, that it was made up for the film. Imagine my surprise several years later, when I came across the Mike Oldfield album in the library, called Tubular Bells! I only stumbled across it because I was heavily into Electronic music, and listening to some of the early stuff, and the album was just in that section. Even without the film’s visuals, the music is deeply creepy, and guaranteed to kill any kind of partying mood.
Halloween – Main Title Theme – John Carpenter
You can play this at a party, and it probably wouldn’t even kill the mood, because Michael Myer’s theme song slaps! This is the iconic theme from the 1978 version of Halloween, which was also written by the film’s director, John Carpenter. I didn’t see this movie until I was nearly an adult, and I was not particularly impressed at the time, but I’ve since grown to like it a lot. Some things you can’t truly appreciate until you reach a certain level of maturity, perhaps.
Danse Macabre – Camille Saint-Saens
Its amazing to me the kinds of influences a teacher can have on a child. My greatest memories of this song come from my elementary school music teacher, Ms. Blaylock. I loved this teacher so much, and even though she passed many years ago, I love her still, and hope to meet her in any afterlife that exists.
I learned to read music from her, and when she formed an all girl band of tambourine players, I joined that, I learned to play the piano from her, and she even introduced me to The Bee Gees, but one of the most interesting things she taught me was that even devout Christian women like her could find scary things (including Halloween) fun.
Ms. Blaylock would play this song in class every year, and I always looked forward to the quiet times we spent in class just listening to the kinds of music that a bunch of inner city kids would otherwise have never been exposed to, outside of Looney Tunes. She had wide ranging tastes, and I credit her with having adopted at least some of that, as my own musical tastes are all over the place.
No One Believes Me – Kid Cudi – Fright Night 2017
I absolutely love this video. I would rather watch an entire series based on the premise of this song and video, than the mediocre movie it was made for. There’s this quiet suburban neighborhood being slowly taken over by vampires, and this guy is anguished about what he is, the things he’s done, and what’s happening to the world he used to live in, as he walks the streets at night. Movies about Black vampires are pretty rare, and I would love to see a film with vampires and people of color, in a suburban setting, and not done as a comedy.
This is very much a song for Halloween, but is also one of those party-killers I mentioned. Its hard to dance to this level of angst and depression.
In the Hall of the Mountain King – Grieg(Peer Gynt Suite No.1)(From the movie Needful Things)
I first heard this song in a Stephen King film called Needful Things. Here, the Town Selectman, named Buster, who has a beef with one of the officers in the Sheriff’s department, comes home to find derogatory notes placed all over his house, by Nettie, who was put up to it by the devil, disguised as an antiques store owner.
This is, hands down, one of my all-time favorite scenes in a Stephen King film, and makes the entire movie worth watching, even if you don’t like King’s films. Its fun, suspenseful, and there’s a great payoff, later in the film.
Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
I heard this song as a teenager, and from what I remember, it took some time for people to figure out that it was Michael Jackson singing the background vocals, and then everyone’s next question was, why? Who is Rockwell that he can get one of the most famous men in America, who was nearly at the height of his career, to do the background vocals ( since Michael Jackson almost never featured on other people’s songs). It turns out that Rockwell was related to Michael by marriage, because his sister, also the daughter of Motown’s Berry Gordy, was married to Michael’s brother Jermaine.
The video for the song is mostly funny, but the lyrics themselves are pretty creepy, and are a precursor to some of Michael’s later paranoid themes about being so incredibly famous.
Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon
The first time I heard this song I was a teenager. My first question was, wtf?!!! There’s a song about werewolves? I couldn’t believe that someone would write a song like this. This is one of my favorite, year round, Halloween ditties. I love the beat, and the lyrics, how even though its about werewolves, its not at all scary, because the visuals are deeply funny to me, and just the whole aesthetic is enough to immediately put me in great mood for the rest of the day.
I Got Five On It – Luniz
This song is not at all scary as far as the lyrics. Its your typical gangsta rap drama about drugs and moneymaking from the 90s. However, I have never liked this song because the beat always creeped me the hell out. This song gained its official Halloween status, thanks to Jordan Peele heavily featuring it in his last directorial role, US, and now, well I kinda like it. It suit the movie so well ,and it was really nice to know I wasn’t the only person who heard it, and thought it would sound great in a Horror movie.
Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
A song about death ought to be considered a Halloween song.
Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper
The first time I’d ever even heard of Alice Cooper, I was a very little kid, and he featured this song in an episode of The Muppets, and I distinctly remember thinking, that’s not a real singer. I thought he was a made up character for the show. It took several years for me to figure out that he was an actual Rock performer, with a career and everything, and this scary, monstery, stuff was his schtick!
Bela Lugosi’s Dead – Bauhaus
I heard this song in the 1980s vampire movie, The Hunger, which I wasn’t supposed to be watching, I don’t think, and my thoughts at the time was, “Hey! I know who Bela Lugosi is!”, and “They got songs about vampires, now?!!!” I don’t want to say that I found the song charming…because I didn’t. Personally, I found the song terrifying, and to this day, I’m not entirely sure why.
Note: Tomorrow is Friday Oct. 22nd, which means that Dune will finally be released on HBOMax. I’ll have more to discuss next week, and the week after that I hope to have seen the movies, Antlers and Last Night in Soho.
Here’s some stuff I watched this month in the spirit of Halloween. I know this first entry isnt really considered a Horror series, but it should be. It certainly contains a reasonable number of horrific acts, along with plenty of gore, and just because it has an over-arching social theme, it shouldn’t be ruled out of your holiday viewing. All the rest of these though…are pure Halloween carnage.
I am one of five people who has not watched beyond the first episode of Squid Game, not because I think its bad, but because I’m at a point right now where I’m not particularly interested in that type of television. I simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth for it right now. However, I did discuss the series with, of all people, my little sister, who from this point forward we will refer to as “The Millennial”! This is the mother of The Potato, and I don’t talk about her here a lot because even though we don’t live very far away from each other, we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. We lead very different lives, but apparently she still has more than enough nerd in her character to watch the series.
She loves it. In fact, she raved about it to me, the family geek, who hasn’t been watching it!
As for that first episode, I realized I didn’t have the bandwidth for it when I started getting frustrated and angry with the lead character’s lack of moral character. Its not that he is a bad man. He is simply a man of very weak moral character, who loves people, and means well, but keeps getting broadsided by his own worst character traits. Its frustrating watching him make the same mistakes over and over again. He simply doesn’t learn, but I suspect the series is about his growth as a person, so we have to start him off at his lowest point.
The basic gist of the show is that a bunch of people desperate for a million dollar cash bonus willingly subject themselves to a series of fatal games on a secluded island. The highlight game, and the one which sets the standard for all the following games is in the first episode, and called Red Light, Green Light, in which a giant doll is the Master. If she catches anyone moving after she says Red Light, the offender is executed via headshot. I was pretty good at this game when I was a kid, so I think I could probably master this one, but my sister says the other games are much more difficult, and that the players also have to deal with internal drama, and various alliances.
I have no intention of finishing the series, but if you liked stuff like The Hunger Games and The Scorch Trials or whatever, you probably should give this one a try. Yes, its in Korean, and there are subtitles, but that doesn’t matter for a good show. Just be aware that wanting to slap the lead character very, very, hard is not an option for the viewer.
VHS 94 is one of a series of found footage Horror anthology movies that I’ve enjoyed in the past. This one gets mixed feelings from me. Some of the stories I liked, but a couple of others were not particularly satisfying.
Unlike some people I’m not especially tired of the found footage trend. I like it okay. Some of it is good and some not so much, but one of the reasons I don’t bitch and whine against trends in movies is because I don’t watch everything in a given genre, and some things ain’t got nothing to do with me. I don not and never will understand people who loudly hate on a particular method or genre of film, and always call for the elimination of them, especially when its failry harmless. Yeah I’m tired of movies about Black pain and trauma, and wish they would make other things but I’m not calling for the elimination of movies like 12 Years A Slave. We need those Black pain movies. They’re cathartic, and someone is watching them. I just wish that movies rooted in such trauma weren’t the only ones getting made, is all. its okay to make (and watch) movies that are fun, and funny. We need those too.
Anyway, this movie consists of four stories, surrounded by a framework of a SWAT team who come across a bunch of videos playing in a house, and this is loosely tied to a couple of the other stories in the film. I liked the first story which was short, to the point, gory, and monstrous, about reporter who stumbles across a group of Rat God worshiping sewer people, while chasing a story. The story makes its point, and keeps it moving. There,s bllod, gore, mutants, cults, and was kinda fun, and disgusting.
I wanted to like the second story, but the murky footage, and sometimes unintelligible dialogue made things hard to understand. I eventually got the point of it ,but it was frustrating to watch, as much of it takes place at night, in the dark, during a thunderstorm. A young woman is basically babysitting a corpse in a funeral home, when the corpse suddenly comes to life and starts chasing her around the room. I initially thought this was a zombie story, but it turns out to be something a little bit different. Its not bad, but some of it is unclear, which is not a good thing for such a short story.
The third story was my least favorite, because it mostly involved people being chased through rooms by robot/human hybrids created by a mad scientist. I’m not a fan of mad scientist stories in general because I find them frustrating. Mom and I are always having medical issues that require we be poked and prodded by various doctors, so movies about medical experimentation are not fun to watch.
The Fourth story is a little more interesting because…vampire! A bumbling group of American militia members have captured a vampire and intend to use its blood (which has explosive properties) to commit various acts of terror. Since the vampire didn’t actually consent to any of this things become a helluva lot more difficult for them when it gets loose and starts hunting each of them down. I was prepared not to like this one, but the militia men are so stupid, and so deserving of what’s coming to them, that the gory body horror elements were kind of fun.
The surrounding story was kind of disappointing because I expected a little bit more than what I got, which were just human beings being monstrous to one another.
Overall, i kind of enjoy the franchise, and I’m not tired of it yet, even though I dint care very much for the last two of this five movie series. Of all of them the first and second were the best, and maybe I’ll talk about them at some later date, but if you don’t mind watching more found footage movies, check this one out on Amazon Prime.
I know there are some people who were disappointed in this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot I liked about this, and a few things I found deeply frustrating, which I’ll get to in a moment. I found the movie deeply entertaining. Unlike some people, I don’t watch these types of movies for the killing. I don’t count how many people die, or marvel at the various ways in which they died, or any nonsense like that. I watch movies like this for the characters, the mood/atmosphere, and any deeper themes which may be present in the narrative, and there is a theme here.
If the last version, released in 2018, was about surviving and dealing with trauma via Laurie Strode, than this movie’s primary theme was about Regret. We start the movie exactly where we left off the last one. Sheriff Hawkins, who was stabbed by Michael Myers’ doctor, was left to bleed out in a field, and is stumbled upon by Allison’s boyfriend, with whom she had broken up, in the last film. We catch him in the middle of leaving a message to his best friend about the breakup, not knowing that the best friend he’s calling was killed by Michael just a short time ago.
Right away, we re introduced to an element of pathos that will follow us throughout the rest of the film. A sequence of just missed chances, or people trying to do the right thing and failing horribly. He finds the Sheriff’s body and from there we go into a flashback of the Sheriff as a young officer, and his first encounter with Michael, when he had the chance to let Michael die, but stopped Dr. Loomis (Michael’s first doctor) from shooting him, preferring to capture Michael alive. Hawkins expresses open regret at having allowed that to happen.
As the movie moves forward, we meet many different characters, several of whom we’ve met before, like the little girl and boy from the very first movie, whom Laurie spent trying to protect from Michael. They’re all grown up and we see them and the townsfolk, many of them are the friends, and family, and of people who were killed in the 1978 film. They are at a Halloween party celebrating Laurie’s long ago heroism, when the news reaches them that not only is Michael free, he has been killing people in Haddonville all night. The way the movie plays out, every single character we meet has a moment where they regret past decisions they made, or rethink some choices they wished they could take back, from the charming gay couple who bought Michael’s old house, to Laurie’s daughter who regrets never believing her mother’s declarations about Michael, to the mob of townsfolk who corner and attack Michael in the street.
What was disappointing for me was the character’s doing the usual stupid things people do in slasher movies. People have guns but often never get a chance to fire them, or sometimes they have the opportunity to run away from Michael, or leave the vicinity (preferring to hunt for him through dark rooms instead), but don’t. A lot of the kids in this movie simply cannot act. Of curse its frustrating for me to watch this because I know that Michael is very probably not human at all, and will always win, and that all the characters are operating as if they are dealing with a regular human being. Another frustrating thing is there’s not much of Laurie in this movie. Since she was stabbed by Michael in the previous movie, she sits most of this one out, and the slack gets taken up by the townsfolk, Laurie’s daughter, Karen, and her granddaughter, Allison, now dealing with fresh trauma of her own. This movie is a loose remake of the 1981 Halloween 2, which takes place mostly in the same hospital, as well.
Now, even though I don’t count the deaths, or prioritize the deaths of the character’s, that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to them. The deaths in this movie are spectacularly gruesome even for Halloween. There is a lot of action in this film.There is a lot of blood and gore, there’s a lot of death, some of which feels, and I know this may sound weird, considering this is a slasher film, oddly gratuitous, starting with the deaths of the friefighters who were there to douse the fire Laurie started to kill Michael. But then as I’ve mentioned before, as I’ve gotten older, and become more aware of the ways my body can become broken, (all those missed accidents and deaths start to take a toll, I think), I’ve also become a lot more squeamish. Some people love the gore, and I used to when I was a teenager, but not anymore.
My mom watched this one with me, and I don’t think she was especially impressed. She said, and I quote, “It was stupid!” Which is the description of any movie she finds displeasing, and I wasn’t able to find the time to question her on why she thought this. I’m not inclined to give her review too much deep analysis as she was half asleep during some of it, the constant flashback kept getting on her nerves, and the idiotic behavior of the characters bothered her more than it bothered me. But as I said it took me a minute to figure out that the characters in the film don’t know that Michael isnt a human being. He gets slashed, stabbed, pitchforked, and shot multiple times, and keeps getting back up, as if nothing had happened. The characters know there’s something wrong but they don’t know what and continue to believe they can easily defeat him, and of course there are several characters who are simply goofy, and they end up taking each other and themselves out, so there’s that.
That said, this movie was highly entertaining, and just deep enough. I suspect I’ll get my wish, and see more of Laurie in the third and final film, Halloween Ends. I think the last movie should be a little more like Halloween H2O, in that it should be a cat and mouse game between Michael and Laurie, because really, that’s what these movies have been about since day one. If you go back to the first movie, Laurie is asked by one of her teacher’s about the nature of evil, and the movie is pitting the innocence of this one girl (now a woman) against the personification of death.
Chucky (TV Series)
This was the first episode of the Chucky series, which I saw on YouTube for free. I don’t know how much longer this free episode will be available, but if you’re curious, than check it out. I didn’t much care for it, even though I was sort of looking forward to watching this because I enjoyed the first film of what became a massive franchise of over two hundred movies (or at least that’s what it felt like). My initial thought was who the f*** thought this would be a good idea for a TV series. It’s not a bad series, its just not to my particular tastes because it contains unlikable teenagers, awful parents, dodgy acting, and a couple of moments where I just didn’t want to deal with the emotions of what was happening onscreen. To be fair, most of the things I catch a glimpse of, or try out, are not necessarily bad (although yeah, sometimes they’re pretty bad), and this show is very pretty to look at.
There are of course the usual tropes of the supernatural avenger narrative. A much put upon teenager, who is beset by nasty and bullying authority figures, and peers, who finds solace in his Chucky doll, who comes to life and begins taking out anyone with whom he has a beef ,and I’m too tired to care very much about this type of plot, especially when most of the other characters in the series aren’t likable, and I’m also kind of tired of the idea that unlikable people must be killed. I’m in the mood for a plot where unlikable people try to solve their grievances by talking them out, I guess.
Overall, I liked this movie a lot. I can’t say I was especially enthused when I heard they were going to be making it, because at the time I was clamoring for a Black Widow movie, Disney insisted on not giving us one, and I felt that this movie was too little too late, and I had a strong desire to be petty, but I also decided to show some appreciation for what was given.. I wouldn’t call this movie a joy to watch, because if you saw Avengers Endgame, you know why, but it was a lot of fun, and that was largely due to Florence Pugh.
The first time I saw Miss Pugh she was having an English food mukbang on Youtube, which I found enjoyable, even though I had no idea who she was at the time. The last time I saw Miss Pugh was in Midsommar, where she did an exemplary job as a woman in distress, and she shows her range here. She is the best character in the movie, right next to David Harbour’s Red Guardian. I barely remember anything about Rachel Weisz’ character, other than she was present and delivered her lines. I kind of felt the same way about Scarlet, but then I was predisposed to dislike her because she has tried very hard, in the past five years, to get on my last nerve, and succeeded. Perhaps Scarlett Johansson needs to shut up when someone holds a microphone up to her face, because she is sure to put her foot on top of it. Nevertheless, despite my feelings for her, she did turn in her usual competent job as Black Widow here, and even managed to have some really good scenes with Miss Pugh.
The story is pretty basic, although its not done in a basic manner. There’s the usual going back to clear up one’s past regrets, some familial dysfunction gets cleared up, and there’s some origin story stuff thrown in for good measure. I was mostly into the family stuff, which was the strongest part of the movie, and the action scenes, which were pretty good. I could’ve done without the “pseudo rape culture” type stuff in the plot, with the villain and his armies of brainwashed little girls. That was just “ewww”, but I guess that was the point, making him as unlikable as possible.
It was kind of weird watching the opening scene, where we see Natasha as a little girl, playing in the park with her sister, only to find out that wasn’t her sister, her parents were not her parents and she’s probably not Russian. I felt some type of way about seeing that, but I’m not yet sure what type of way that is yet. I loved Pugh as Yelena, though. She really nailed it as Natasha’s annoying little sister, the put upon daughter, and the badass government agent, and she made her interactions with Natasha very watchable, and funny, so much so, that I don’t remember much of Natasha’s other interactions with anyone. Pugh just kind of stole the whole movie, and I could watch an entire movie of her and David Harbour interacting with each other.
After the first hour, the film follows the usual formula of a quiet opening, and we follow these characters to the bombastic ending, with lots of explosions, and turnabouts, and falling buildings, and what not, although for me the most exciting action scene was watching Natasha escape her captors at the beginning of the movie. That was very smooth, and showcased just how good Black Widow is at stealthy maneuvering.
This isnt a great movie, and it doesn’t even crack my top ten of MCU films, (coming soon!), but its not a bad film either, and worth the watch. If you decide to skip it, that’s okay. Your life will not be upheaved.
A Quiet Place 2
My mother and I had been greatly looking forawrd to this movie. I don’t think she liked it a whole lot. She thinks there might be yet another sequel. I’m not anticipating such, but will take these movies as they come. I thought this movie, while not as enjoyable as the first, was well worth watching. I’m not really heavily into the apocalyptic genre, but I will enjoy the occasional end of the world scenario, and these movies are very well made, and move pretty quickly as far as the plot. I have a thing about children surviving the End of the World, I guess, because I thought well of movies like The Road Warrior, The Girl With All the Gifts, and The Road.
The opening sequence is very exciting, and shows what happened when the aliens first landed, I’m assuming this was an accident, and that the aliens were on their way somewhere else? You can watch the first five minutes of this on Youtube. Its all very terrifying, and I can only assume that it all happened so fast that humanity reality didn’t have time to rally against them, although we also learn there might be more of humanity left than we thought, since the aliens can’t swim.
The movie takes up where the last movie left off, with the remainders of the Abbot family moving on from their place of safety, since it has largely been ruined by flood and fire. They walk out into the world armed with the knowledge they learned about how to defeat the aliens, and wanting to share that information with the rest of the world. They meet other survivors, both good and bad, and Regan Abbot, the deaf girl from the first film, plays a much larger role of that of world savior, which I was okay with, because I like that actress a lot. I still have questions about how no one else in the world discovered what she did about the aliens, but Imma let that go, because the movie is otherwise very entertaining. I could also have done without the absence of PoC, and the deaths of the only two Black men in the film, but I’m long used to that kind of racial wtf*ery in Fantasy/SciFi movies, and there is a tiny part of me that couldn’t help but laugh at the (rather politically incorrect) idea that PoC are just loud, and maybe we’d be hardest hit by all of this.
This is a good enough movie, but I don’t know that this is the kind of movie that will become a classic over the next couple of decades. Sometimes I get a good feel for that sort of thing. I knew that about Bladerunner, Alien, and The Thing, but sometimes I don’t get any feel about that at all, and have to wait and see, just like everyone else, but there are few alien invasion films that make my top ten SciFi list, and these do, so that must mean something.
Blood Red Sky
This is one of the most popular Horror films on Netflix right now, and well worth the watch. I even managed to get my Mom to watch this, and she said it was alright, which is very high praise coming from her. I’m not sure exactly what I expected when I sat down to watch this, but I was interested because “vampires!” It wasn’t what I expected, but it was very watchable, and and full of suspense, although I wasn’t particularly scared. If you’re expecting 30 Days of Night levels of suspense, than this isn’t your movie, because things are not quite that harrowing, although it does make a serious effort. But if you liked Army of the Dead, and Snakes on a Plane, then this is basically Army of the Dead on a Plane, only without the humor.
The lead character is a woman who was bitten by a vampire just after her son was born. She’s been raising him for the past ten years, while fighting against her vampiric condition, and is now headed to NY for some type of experimental procedure that will cure her of her “blood disease”, when their plane is hijacked by thieves, who are setting up some innocent Muslim passenger to take the fall for the hijacking. Her son gets caught in the crossfire between the thieves, the passenger, and the vampires. Disaster ensues with a bittersweet ending. For me, the film’s weakest point were people engaging in a number of questionable behaviors, but I didn’t feel like people were being stupid, and I actually liked some of the characters (especially the passenger and the little boy), and that went a long way towards the film’s general likability.
It’s not a great film. I don’t think this will ever become a classic, but its well worth the watch if you like vampire movies, and its a great choice for Halloween viewing. There’s also a certain amount of violence, and gore that comes with it, and of course there’s some child endangerment, if that’s something you can’t abide.
This movie was somewhat disappointing, but only because I had high, John Wick level, expectations, and I was really enthusiastic to watch it. I enjoyed the second GI Joe movie, which starred Dwayne Johnson, hated the first one, and was kinda lukewarm about this one, so I will probably watch this again, and see if I feel any different. Right now though, I feel this could have been better, although it wasn’t a bad film. It looked really good, and the action scenes were alright, but there was no there there. It lacked emotional depth and appealing characters, but was otherwise a competent, middle-of-the-road, Action flick, set in Japan.
I’m a sucker for the whole Urban, Japan, Bladeruunner aesthetic. You could draw me into watching any movie with the those types of visuals, but in this case I felt the visuals were all promise and no payoff. Like I said, it looks really cool, there are some interesting martial arts and sword fighting scenes, but I didn’t care much about the characters. Plus, I think I’m starting to get a little tired of the Japanese criminal empire themes found in so many of these films, which starts to smack of The Yellow Peril stereotypes of the early 20th century.
Y’all know I go off on character development, but the characters here, while certainly pretty and watchable, merely go through the motions of the plot, and none of them resonated with me, although I tried really hard to like them. I shouldn’t have to try so hard to like the characters, and I eventually gave up, and didn’t finish the film. You may get more out of this movie than I did, because it does look gorgeous and cool, but its character development is on par with the other GI Joe movies in the franchise, in that there’s no one to emotionally really latch onto.
My mom and brother both hated this movie, claiming that it wasn’t much like the first film, and that there wasn’t enough killing in it, I guess. I was not a fan of the first film, because it centered a white character in a cast that was otherwise entirely Black, and Candyman killing members of the community that sort of invented him made no sense to me, (althouhg that is in keeping with the kind of thing that happens with urban legends). This movie tries to make sense of what Candyman is in a way the first movie didn’t really satisfy for me. That was also a movie you could tell was filmed by a white director. In comparing these two films, you can see where that director’s priority was, versus Jordan Peele’s priorities as a Black director. I GOT this version of the movie, in a way that I didn’t get the first one, which wasn’t particularly scary to me, despite the presence of Tony Todd.
This isn’t actually a remake or a sequel in the way that one thinks of those things. I mean, it is a sequel, but its a sequel that, rather than simply picking up where the first movie left off, (although it does do that, sort of), appears to be having an updated dialogue with that film, and it’s a discussion that prompts you to go back and watch it in a new light. I accepted the movie in the spirit in which it was made, while a lot of the people I saw panning this movie as not being as good, were people who held the first one in such high esteem, they really expected this movie to just be more of the same, and Peele and DaCosta had very different ideas about the direction in which they wanted to take things. Some people seemed to want a Slasher movie with the occasional, light, touch of social commentary. This movie is a little heavier, along with a couple of interesting, and unexpected, plot points that I thought made for a much richer film, and I especially liked the ending, and how it creates a mythos that could spawn more sequels.
I was satisfied with this movie. And yeah, I did think it was scarier than the first one because of the implications being made. I’m not sure a lot of the fans of the first movie quite got what was being said, though, since Peele’s productions tend to be rather dense with meaning, but that’s something I especially enjoy in the films and shows he’s worked on, so Candyman worked for me.
Star Wars: Visions
One of the reasons I was so excited to watch this anthology series was because I thoroughly enjoyed Japanese animator’s interpretations of Batman, in Batman Gotham Knight, a few years ago. That and Batman Ninja are two of my favorite American superhero anime, so I was really looking forward to the stories that would be told here. As the lore goes, George Lucas was heavily inspired by the Samurai films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, when creating Star Wars, and I was really eager to see what the Japanese would do when given free reign to play in a galaxy far, far, away.
It was not as excellent as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, I was able to eek out about four episodes, from the 9 in the anthology, that worked for me, but ultimately, I expected better, and I didn’t get that. I think perhaps I should not have binged all of them one after another, because that made me see the series flaws in a way that I might not have, if I’d just watched one per week. Most of the time, either the animation, the dialogue, or the characters, just fell flat for me, and there was a distinct lack of width, and breadth in the type of stories that got told.
Now, it is possible that the animators were given a set of parameters they had to work within, like maybe the stories had to be about the Jedi and Sith, which is why, given the entirety of that universe to play around in, those were the only subjects of every one of these episodes. I like the Sith and the Jedi, but we know just from the films, that this galaxy consists of so much more than just these two groups of people fighting each other. After a while, I didn’t feel there was any objective to it. They’re simply fighting each other because it’s in the script. The Sith are evil because that’s how they’ve been cast, and the Jedi’s job is to beat them up. In a galaxy full of planet sized predators, Cantinas, Bounty Hunters, robots, Jawas, desert dragons, and Max Reebo, all I got was ten episodes of Sith and Jedi antagonistics, and I expected a little bit more than that.
That said, the episodes that I enjoyed were really awesome, and stood out to me for mostly two reasons, plot and/or animation style, since they weren’t really long enough for me to grasp onto character. I really liked the first one, The Duel, which has a classic American Western approach, where a man with no name protects a town from the depredations of a group of Sith-led bandits, which ends up revealing his true nature. I liked the twist at the end, the animation took a moment to get used to, but is different enough from the rest of the series that it stood out, and the coolness of the tech and characters was definitely a factor. There’s some classic Kurosawa imagery in this one, so if you liked the movie Yojimbo, there’s a few images straight from that movie, and I got a thrill from seeing them.
My ultimate favorite though, was the 5th episode titled The Ninth Jedi. The plot, the tech, the animation, and again, the little twist at the end, made this a winner for me. Episode 7, The Elder was a serviceable piece of work. It wasn’t great, but it was watchable. No twists at the end, but I really didn’t see much of a point to the story, beyond some of the philosophical issues brought up by the characters. And finally there was Akakiri, where I was captured by the animation style. The characters, plot, and dialogue, were serviceable, but it was the nice, clean style of the animation that pulled me in, and again, there was the tiny little story twist at the end that made it worth watching.
Overall, I give the anthology a C+, because I liked almost half the episodes, and there was only one that I actively disliked, and that was episode 3, The Twins. So, once again, your mileage may vary, and you may well enjoy watching all of these, but this was just how this particular series impacted me.
Y: The Last Man TV Series – Episode One
I was interested in this because I read a few of the comic books ,and found the premise intriguing. What would happen to women if all the beings in the world with a Y chromosome were to become extinct. The comic books were written by Brian k. Vaughn and a woman named Pia Guerra, so I didn’t expect the usual blind spots, including the reaction to the deaths of transgender men, and the existence of transgender women, which gets addressed in the most cringe-worthy, transphobic manner possible in the books. Also, take into account the racial angles, where once again, even in future imaginings of the world, even the dystopian ones, white people are still all of the primary movers and shakers of the story, with women of color as side characters, or living along the periphery of their decisions.
To the book’s credit there is some acknowledgment of women of color ,although most of the time I thought the plot was kind of well…dumb. And a bit over dramatic? I didn’t get far enough into the series to know how faithful it is to the books, though. I hope its not too faithful because the books got some issues. Its not that the books are so bad, but there are moments that are going to make you scream at it, and probably throw the book across the room.
The first episode is interesting as we get to see the reaction of the women characters to the deaths of all the men, and the collateral deaths of many women in the aftermath. There is a nod to the idea that without men, the human race is pretty much extinct, except for the existence of some sperm banks that some of the women fight over, in an effort to preserve the human race. The primary theme of this battle is embodied in the existence of the last man left alive, (although I found that hard to believe), named Yorick. This is a name I immediately disliked, I still have no idea why. I just hate that name. But I had questions, too. If there’s one man alive, why wouldn’t there be others, and why wouldn’t the women simply think he was a transgender man? Anyway, Yorick is a wannabe escape artist, who was kind of drifting through life before the apocalypse, and is now drifting through the actual apocalypse, with his pet monkey, named Ampersand, which is a name I liked. Go figure.
Now, I’m gonna have to stop here, because watching the first episode left a bad aftertaste for me. Ultimately, I’m not going to be able to get into this as a series, not because its a badly made show, although it definitely needs some work when it comes to the depiction of women of color and transgender men, but because, there is, yet again, another idea I can’t get past, and I’m not sure why its bothering me here, when its not particularly bothersome in other shows, and that is the idea that white creators are incapable of imagining any type of future in which PoC are the dominant characters, rather than white people. Even in stories that prominently feature PoC, its always white people who are still in charge, making all the decisions, or they are the ones around whom the story revolves. Apparently only PoC can envision ourselves in the future not living according to white dominance.
And now I’ve gotten sidetracked by one of the short films that got made in the run up to the movie Bladerunner 2049, called Nexus Dawn, in which Niander Wallace meets with a political council of some kind to discuss the prohibition of replicants on Earth. The short was directed by Luke Scott, the son of Ridley Scott!, and stars Benedict Wong. I was fascinated by the imagery because the four person council is made up of 2 men of color and one woman, and thinking about that, led me to think about The Matrix trilogy, and how the Wachowski Sisters envisioned a future of PoC and women (except for that one lone white guy who was in charge?). Okay, I’m going off on a tangent here, but watching this series first episode had me thinking about everything except what happened in the actual episode, and that’s a problem.
So no. I probably won’t be watching any more episodes of this, especially when I can’t concentrate on what is actually happening in the show, and keep getting sidetracked by issues that don’t seem to bother me in other shows!
So we got some new trailers this week for TV series and movies I’m especially interested in. Here, in no particular order beyond me just liking them, are the trailers for some junk!
The Wheel of Time
I am not a high fantasy fan, especially. I sort of like Fantasy but I mostly avoid these types of fantasies because Eurocentric fantasies kind of bore me. Its complicated, and I’m really picky. I greatly enjoyed the LOTR movies, and I will very likely watch Amazon’s new show about it, but I have not watched things like The Witcher, and have no intention of doing so. I’m intrigued here because the trailer makes it look very woman-centered, and its a Fantasy series that remembers that women of color actually exist, and sometime we want to see ourselves doing magic and stuff, in a fantasy series.
So yeah, I do know about this particular series, although I have never read it, and have no particular desire to read it. If I like the TV show, I may check out the books, and the trailer looks interesting. Please do not write to me trying to convince me how great it is. It probably is, and I know its really popular among fantasy fans, but I kinda have an aversion to a lot of the stuff.
The Matrix 4: Resurrections Teaser Trailers/Official Trailer
So yeah, I was a bit confused because every time I saw one of these trailers, it had different images and dialogue mentioned, so I was inclined to believe the trailers were not real trailers. Apparently this was done on purpose. Earlier this week, I posted only one of the trailers here, and I took it down, because I wanted to post all of the trailers here now.
Its hard to believe that this franchise is like twenty plus years old! I remember when I saw the first trailer. I had heard of the Wachowskis, because I had seen their movie, Bound, but I didn’t think much of it. It was just something I watched. I had no idea what to expect from The Matrix (well, I knew it was SciFi and computer related) because that first trailer was awesome, but baffling. Think about any one of Christopher Nolan’s trailers, for example. I remember walking out of the theater and having to seriously readjust to reality, because watching it was sort of like having an out of body experience. I hope to repeat that experience with this movie. I am terribly excited for this movie which comes out just in time for my birthday!
No Time to Die
Yes, I’m excited for the Black female character in this movie. No she is not the new James Bond. No she’s not the only reason I’m going to watch this, but she is a big part of the reason. She simply has the designation of 007, since James left the organization, or something. 007 is a title that can be passed to any agent, but expect white fanboys to act a whole-ass fool when this movie is finally released anyway. becasue that’s the shit they do! Acting like shits on social media, every time a PoC gets a job in a movie, is pretty much all they got at this point, and this is our life now. Can you tell, I am very, very, very, very tired of idiotic angry, obtuse white men on social media (Yeah, you guys aren’t stupid.You’re okay.) Okay, lets move on…
I’m not a huge Bond fan, btw. I like some of the movies okay, but for me they’re apart of the Fantasy/Action film genre like the Mission Impossible and John Wick films. I do not sit around arguing with people about who the best Bond girl, or villain, or James Bond is the best. I’m not that emotionally invested, although I understand that some people really love the franchise. I do like Daniel Craig, and I liked him before the Bond films and just followed him over here, so I’m watching the movies mostly because he’s in them, even though he has all of the acting chops of a two by four when he’s portraying this character. I cant make heads or tails of the plot, but it all looks really serious.
This is one of those major disaster movies that get released from time to time. The last movie I watched that was remotely like this, was the Korean produced Ashfall, but I was not especially impressed by it, even though it starred one of my future dream husbands, Don Lee. I don’t think Don Lee is in this movie, but it still looks pretty interesting.
I’m not sure what to make of this series, but it all looks quite mysterious, and I am intrigued. Imma check it out.
This movie looks really intense, and now I’m curious because I’ve always wondered about how people have conversations like this, when someone’s family has hurt your family. Also, I like Jason Isaacs.
I like Gerard Butler because 300 was cool, but I do not like Frank Grillo. I don’t know why. I just don’t. Nevertheless, I will probably watch this rather generic looking Crime/ Action/Thriller becasue I like Crime Action Thrillers, and check them out whenever I can. (Bonus points if the movie is made in anywhere in Asia.) I love a good Gun-Fu movie.
its been a while since I’ve seen a good Western and this looks like the typical, Unforgiven/Logan/ Shane – “retired gunman gets back into the fray” type plot, which I never seem to get tired of. I also now a big fan of Tim Blake nelson from the Watchmen series. I am not a huge fan of Stephen Dorfff, but he looks really good here.
Star Wars: Visions
I don’t usually talk about anime on here. Its not that I dislike anime. I love the imagination behind so much of it, and many of the drawing styles are a lot of fun and very beautiful. I’m just really, really, picky about the anime I watch, and my tastes to others would appear to be all over the place. I pretty much stick to the mature stuff but I have and did watch stuff like Astroboy, Star Blazers, Akira, and Ghost in the Shell, but if it has any very young looking, big breasted, and squeaky voiced girls in it, then I’m probably out! I’m also not a fan of any of the other Star Wars animated series. I haven’t watched a single one of them, and have no intention of doing so, but I will watch this. Why? Because this is an anthology of anime artists reinterpreting the Star Wars universe to fit a Japanese aesthetic, and I really enjoyed it when they did this for Batman: Gotham Knight, and because Batman Ninja was the shit! So yeah, I love this trailer and it looks like fun.
Disney plus is making so many good shows, that I finally took the plunge and subscribed, even though I told myself I wasn’t subscribing to any more streaming services. So far, I’ve racked up about 50.00 in streaming services, and I’m okay with that amount, because it’s still a helluva lot less than cable ever was.
I have watched a limited number of episodes of the anime series, which were just enough to determine that the series (and the movie) was a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to this live action version. I don’t know all the references here, as I usually do not memorize episode names and stuff, but I do know the characters, and generally like them. I’m not so much interested in the faithful rendition of the look of the anime, as I am in the correct feel of the movie. And hey, its John Cho in an Action movie, so I’m here for it!
Music is a huge part of my life, but I don’t ever talk much about musical film. We have the kind of household where me, or my Mom, and siblings would just start singing around the house. So really, I kind of lived in a musical already, where singing would just spontaneously occur! We grew up listening to the music our Mom liked, which was Blues, Country, and R&B. We all grew up listening to the Opera, and Classical music, that was in the Looney Toons cartoons. Later, I started getting more adventurous and branching out into different kinds of music, to Punk, Rock, and Club jams, and then even later, Metal, and Indie.
I have always been fearless, when it comes to expanding my musical tastes, and I have never allowed other people’s tastes to dictate what I would and would not like, or listen to. (Trust me, when I say that used to be a fucking thing!) It always baffled me, how people could go through their entire lives, and only ever listen to the one genre of music, that made them feel comfortable. Music is like food. It would be like eating macaroni and cheese your whole life. (I mean, I love mac and cheese, but even I would get tired of eating that, even in its many different versions, after about a week.)
Some songs speak to me on a foundational level, and I am always in search of those types of songs, and i thought everybody did this. You memorize all the words, and walk around singing it in your head, and sometimes, they make you feel so strongly, (sad or happy, makes no difference) that you just burst into tears, or chills, whenever you hear it! Now couple that with a moving image, and Wow!!
Here are ten of my absolutely favorite Musical films, and the one song in that movie that just works for me every single time. These are movies that just happened to show up in a particular stage of my mental and emotional development (yes, even as a adult) that had an out sized influence on me, whose songs resonated with me in some way, or changed my thinking on some issue I was going through, at the time. Or… just made me really, really happy!
I think this movie hit me at just the right time in my formative years, for every single one of the songs to resonate with me, and now for whatever reason, it’s largely forgotten, except by Streisand fans. I suppose, there will come a day when Streisand herself will be largely forgotten, and that will be a sad day, indeed.
This particular song spoke so directly to my teenage self because I lived in an environment not unlike Yentl’s, where I had a loving parent, who indulged my interests, only to be constantly told by the people outside our house, that I couldn’t do certain things (drawing), listen to certain types of music (Rock), watch certain kinds of movies (Horror), and yes, even read certain types of books (Science Fiction). Why? Because I was a Black girl, and Black girls didn’t do any of those things…
…and “where is it written” is, of course, the question I always asked myself! The first time I heard this song, I think I bawled my way through the rest of the movie. I watched the movie multiple times, went out and bought the album, memorized all the songs, and then I backtracked to watch all of Barbra’s movies from the past. Later, I heard a story about how someone in Hollywood told her she’d never be a star, because she was lacking in the looks department. So Barbra, considering that a challenge, started creating her own musical vehicles, and producing and starring in her own movies, to prove them wrong.
That’s my girl!
I have to admit, this is not my favorite musical, but it does have great appeal, and three of my favorite songs, Michael Jackson’s You Can’t Win, Diana Ross’ Ease On Down the Road, and Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News. I first saw this movie when I was a kid, and a couple of years before I saw Wizard of Oz. I remember this movie was a huge event in the Black community. It’s really funny how I didn’t realize that Black people lived in an entirely different entertainment eco-sphere than white people, until I got to college. None of the white people I met were remotely aware of any of the movies and music I grew up with, and it took me a minute to figure out why… didn’t they have radios and TVs? Yeah, they did, but white people only paid attention to things that involved white people. I met white people who were as limited in their idea of entertainment, as some of the Black people I met growing up, and I never understood that.
A few years ago there was a televised reboot of this movie, and white people were deeply puzzled, saying the reboot was a ripoff of The Wizard of Oz, and Black people had to take time out of our busy schedules, to explain to them on Twitter, that this reboot is based on the Black version of the Wizard of Oz, and that making Black versions of white movies was a perfectly normal occurrence, because mostly we were not allowed in white theaters to see those films. So a Black version got made, with all the stars we knew and loved, like Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, and Diana Ross (some of the hottest Black entertainers of the 70’s), with the type of music we enjoyed.
I’m kind of glad that people are becoming a little more adventurous though, and looking at different entertainments that are not geared towards them as the audience, and I’m especially glad that a lot of people get that some entertainments are not made with them in mind, but are still entertaining regardless. If you have not watched this movie, you should check it out, because it’s a lot of fun.
The Nightmare Before Xmas
Of all the Tim Burton movies he ever made, this one is my all-time favorite, and I was charmed right from the opening scene. Honestly, these are some of the cutest vampires I’ve ever seen. Y’all know I’m a huge fan of Halloween, which is the first time I saw this, of course. I watched this movie multiple times, and memorized this song, and several others in the film, (Sally’s Song, and Oogie Boogie Man) just for the sheer fun of it.
What’s really funny is that this movie features a classic case pf cultural appropriation. It’s a perfect definition. In fact, if anyone argues with you about exactly what cultural appropriation actually is, I would point them in the direction of this movie (and the cheerleading movie, Bring It On). Jack Skellington, who is the King of Halloweenland, accidentally ends up in Christmasland, and loves it so much, that he decides to do his own version of it. Unfortunately, these two holidays do not mix well, as one is a time for fear and gloom, and the other is supposed to be a time for hope and joy, so Jack has a fundamental misunderstanding of what Christmas is. He kidnaps Santa Claws, tries to take his place, and puts the future of Christmas in jeopardy, when Santa’s life is threatened by his rival, the Oogie Boogie Man. Yeah, Jack is kind of stupid, but I did like Oogie Boogie.
The Little Shop Of Horrors
I’m going to admit, I was sort of low key rooting for the plant in this movie, because he got the best songs. This movie held such resonance for me, because of the voice of Audrey II, Levi Stubbs, who was a baritone in the singing group, The Four Tops, which was a very popular group in our house. All that, and Audrey II’s (Twoey) final song is just bad ass, Audrey is scary as Hell, and the song is also deeply funny because the imagery is hilarious, and the lyrics contain phrases my mother used to regularly say around the house (ie. tough titty, walking on thin ice).
I have no idea how or when I encountered this movie. It was probably on late at night, when I wasn’t supposed to be up, since so many of the movies that had influence over me, were shown at that time.
My Fair Lady
This is not my favorite musical of all time, but this song, along with Eliza Doolittle’s, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, And Ascot Gavotte, are three of my favorite songs. There’s nothing wrong with the movie, it just doesn’t reach Yentl levels, as far as the characters and plot. But I have watched this movie multiple times, the singing is divine, the costumes are extraordinary, and I know all the songs, so it makes this list!
The first time I heard this song though, was when it was sung by Harry Conniff Jr. ,and I liked it right away. Yeah, the song sounds just a little stalkery today, but the idea that some guy is so smitten with your charm, that he just likes hanging around your street is deeply funny to me. C’mon, how many teenage boys you know did that kinda thing? On the other hand, this is really creepy from a grown ass man, so…stop that!
Beauty and the Beast
I grew up watching all these Disney movies, especially during the 2-D era, and Beauty and the Beast sits at the top of my list of faves. I am not a particularly romantic person, but I do indulge, from time to time, and I love this movie just for the fun of it. It didn’t especially resonate with me, or have some deep meaning, although as a bookworm myself, I did heavily identify with Belle. I imagine that if I was younger when I saw it, it would have had a major effect on my emotional development, but I was an adult, and while it did have an effect, it was largely an emotional one.
I just love this song because its fun!
Its Always Fair Weather
There are some movies that I’m just ho-hum about ,except for that one very awesome scene, that makes the entire movie worth watching. I first saw this particular scene in another movie, The Professional, which starred Natalie Portman and Jean Reno. The lead character is in a theater, watching this scene with a gleeful, child like expression, and I was curious about the movie this scene came from. It turns out it was one of the few Gene Kelly movies that I missed, It’s Always Fair Weather, about a group of guys who promise to meet back at a favorite bar, in a few years, after they all come back from military enlistment, only to find that their characters have changed so much, they don’t even like each other anymore.
This has since become one of my favorite Gene Kelly scenes, and this is one of my favorite songs. I can’t do anything on skates, so the sheer talent this took, makes this an incredible scene for me. And the song is about the joy of finding out how much you love yourself, just because someone else finds you worthy of being loved.
Toy Story 2
My criteria for this list was any movie that had some prominent songs or music in them. I think Toy Story qualifies, because not only is this a Pixar film, but these films are known for having the primary “I want…” song. That is a song where the lead character (usually female, but not always) sings about her most fervent desire, the one thing in the world she really wants. Here, Jessie the Cowgirl laments her old life, when she was loved by the little girl she was given to as a toy. She just wants that kind of love again, and is cynical enough to believe it will never happen.
I don’t know how anyone in the theater could have listened to this song, and not been brought to tears. Jessie’s’ song speaks to anyone who has ever had love, and then lost it in some manner. In Jessie’s case it was simply love outgrown.
The Blues Brothers
For me, this is one of the best scenes in the entire movie, not just becasue it stars The Queen of Soul, but because of all the tiny, funny details, once you look for them. From watching The Queen get down, to the girlfriend’s chorus, to the food stains on her clothes, to Jake and Elmo’s embarrassed expressions, at witnessing their friend’s public “domestics”, this scene is a pure delight, and Think is one of my favorite songs!
The rest of the movie isn’t too bad either, and well worth watching!
To be honest, this was never I movie I had any plans to watch. I remember the trailers for it, and have the distinct memory of saying to myself, naw, I’ll pass, only to watch it on TV a couple of years, later because my little sisters insisted. It was a very enjoyable experience. I really liked the music, although I simply could not get pass the idea of dancing nuns, which seemed sacrilegious, which is ironic, considering I’m not at all religious. I think Whoopi Goldberg turned in a great performance, (even if she has no voice to speak of), but my favorite character would be Sister Mary Patrick, played by Kathy Najimy, whose acting I’ve loved ever since.
I chose this scene because of Dame Maggie Smith’s long suffering, dagger shooting, facial expressions, because that’s what had me laughing the hardest. If looks could kill.
There are so many great Art films, and many things that separate an Art House film from typical corporate media. For example, Art films don’t always follow a three (four or five) act structure, or have a decided beginning, middle, climax, and/or epilogue. Sometimes there is no recognizable plot, and characters simply walk through a landscape interacting with each other, or experience events. Sometimes those events are presented with no explanation, or the film is a character or philosophical study.
Art movies can sometimes have a more documentary feel, often with experimental lighting (natural) and camera (hand held) techniques. They are a lot more likely to have narration, but sometimes they don’t, and the viewer is expected to determine for themselves the movie’s point. Many of them are from countries without a large, or formal, movie studio system, so filmmakers are free to make films without corporate interference, as long as they can procure funds.
Art House films are notable for not playing in large theaters for mainstream audiences, (although this is beginning to change), because the subject matter is sometimes controversial, or taboo, or the film is too long to play in mainstream theaters, which are more concerned with the volume of seating, rather than the quality of the movies.
I know this makes Art House films seem intimidating to some people. There’s the idea that you won’t understand what the filmmaker is trying to say, or that the film will be boring, or you may have to read subtitles. But that’s okay. Sometimes you’re not meant to understand what the movie means. Sometimes you’re just meant to simply feel the imagery, or identify with the characters.
Here are eleven Art House movies that are easily accessible to the casual film goer. I tried to pick movies that I found interesting, entertaining, and easily accessed in some streaming form.
Borderby Ali Abassi
Border is a Swedish film from 2018, that is based on a short story from the book, Let the Old Dreams Die by John Lindqvist, who is famous for the vampire novel, Let the Right One In. Tina works as a Customs Inspector, where she meets another person who seems to be a lot like her, while she is investigating a child sex trafficking ring. She soon discovers some new and interesting things about both herself, and her new lover, as a result
At first glance the movie seems very strange. Why do some of the characters look like neanderthals, and why are they working such boring regular jobs? Trust me, these questions do get answered, and there is a plot, but ultimately the movie is about one young woman’s journey of self discovery. This is one of those films that is more like a character study, and you’re meant to identify with the lead character, as she has these experiences.
Border is currently available for streaming on Hulu.
Nomadlandby Chloe Zhao
This is Chloe Zhao’s adaptation of the 2017 book of the same name by Jessica Bruder. It won 2020 Oscars for best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress, Frances McDormand. McDormand plays Fern, a woman who travels, nomad-like, in a van, after the loss of her husband and home. This is one of those movies that seemingly has no plot. Its more like a documentary, than the fictional film it actually is, but with real world elements. Its also somewhat melancholy, with few moments of hope or cheer, so be prepared for that.
We are given little backstory for Fern, and the other characters , as we follow her from pointless job to pointless job, or meets other elderly travelers like herself, and they all try to make the best of the lives they have left to them. This is a movie that’s meant to be felt more than understood in a plot sense. As you watch, pay close attention to the environment, settings, and times of day, as these are metaphors echoing the lives of the characters.
Nomadland is available to watch on Hulu.
The Fallby Tarsem Singh
This movie is from the director of The Cell, Tarsem Singh, stars Lee Pace, and is quite possibly one of the most beautiful fantasy films ever made. It’s nearest cousin, from a plot standpoint, is Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Here, a young girl named Alexandra, who has broken her arm, meets a lonely injured stuntman, in a 1915 Los Angeles hospital, who tells her a fantasy story, based on her namesake, Alexander the Great, all while attempting to manipulate her into helping him commit suicide.
Okay, trust me, its not as awful as it sounds, and actually ends on a moment of hope. But it is definitely the kind of movie that would have had a difficult time finding a widespread audience, because the rather convoluted story within a story structure makes it hard to follow. It is, however, well worth the watch, just for the beauty of Lee Pace, and the costumes from Eiko Ishioka, the costumer of 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula!
The Fall is one of the few films on this list that isnt available for streaming anywhere, and is only available on DVD.
Samsaraby Ron Fricke
If you like The Fall, and want to watch something else similar to it, but without all the pesky plot points and dialogue, then you should try these modern day silent films. The closest relations to movies like this are the 80’s and 90’s films, Powwaquatsi, and Koyyanisquatsi. This was released in 2012, from the director the similar film, Baraka, and takes place across 25 different countries. Samsara is the Buddhist belief in the cycle of death and rebirth to which all humanity is tied.
These movies are basically extended music videos, and are the very definition of Art House film. There are no real characters, plots, or dialogue, just images, and music. This movie, (and others like it), are created to promote mindfulness and contemplation, as you derive meaning from the images. Also it’s simply a breathtakingly beautiful piece of work, absolutely stunning in its scope, and should be watched just for that alone.
Samsara is available for streaming on Tubi for free, and on Amazon Prime for rent.
Hero by Zhang Yimou
There is a reason why Zhang Yimou is on this list multiple times. Because he is, hands down, one of the greatest filmmakers to come out of China. Hero is his 13th film, starring Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, and Tony Leung, about a nameless man, commissioned by three assassins, to kill a warlord who is attempting to unite the different territories of China into one nation. This takes the form of several stories within stories, with each iteration of the story told by Nameless, as the warlord challenges each interpretation, each story is represented by the colors, red, green, white, and blue.
Most of Zhang’s films focus on domestic dramas, and this film does contain some elements of that, but this is largely known as a great martial arts showpiece for Jet Li. It is definitely a movie that you have to pay close attention to, as the plot is not necessarily about what you think it is, and because Nameless is an unreliable narrator, (called out for it multiple times by the warlord), many of the characters are not who they seem, either.
Hero is available on Amazon Prime.
Tree Of Lifeby Terence Malick
Tree of Life is a classic Art House movie. its long, with enigmatic narration, some experimental camerawork, and a plotless plot, that doesn’t work in acts. It’s a gorgeous looking movie, where the viewer has to piece together the meaning and themes for themselves. Its about life, death, birth, and the relationships between parents and children, and siblings, and how those relationships take place in a universe that is so much wider (and yet, smaller) than all of that.
This is one of those movies you either love or hate. Not because the movie is bad, but because of how you, personally, watch movies, what you bring to a movie, and how you feel about the director’s point of view. Viewers who like a certain type of film, and want it to be resolved in a certain way, will probably have some trouble with this, because it is not a film with a concrete plot. Nothing gets resolved. Nothing is quite finished. Its a film with a message, but the message depends on what you see, and how you interpret that.
Tree of Life is Available on Amazon Prime, and ITunes.
Raise the Red Lantern by Zhang Yimou
This movie is can be very frustrating. It’s another beautiful looking film ,and definitely has a point to make. It has a more coherent plot than the above Tree of Life, but it still ends on an somewhat unresolved note. The lead character is a young woman who was taken out of school by her stepmother, to be married off to a man she doesn’t know. Her life is deeply constrained, and many of the choices of her life have been made for her, and she goes along with some of them with malicious compliance, but in her new husband’s home, she finds some agency with which to make decisions. Well, she tries because…
Unfortunately, all of the decisions she makes are either bad, or thwarted by the husband’s other wives, who have agendas that are at odds with her own. She exists within several systems that are designed to make it impossible for her to make good or even ethical decisions, if she wants to experience any happiness. We want to root for her but as she is often as petty and meanspirited as everyone in the environment. There is also a system of favoritism in place, that seems carefully designed to keep the wives at odds with each other. The title refers to the red lanterns that are lit, in the homes of the wives, when the husband decides to spend the night with one of them.
Raise the Red Lantern is available on Youtube.
Paprika by Satoshi Kon
There are a surprising number of animated Art House movies, and this is one of my favorites. I have heard form some people that they find this movie very nightmarish, but I didn’t see it that way. I found it strange and delightful. Its an absolutely bonkers movie, that requires multiple viewings to fully understand the plot, but I didn’t mind, because I like visiting a world where people’s dreams get to run wild. The lead character is a dream therapist, whose dream identity is named Paprika. When the experimental dream device she uses for her job gets stolen, she has to try to find out who stole it, by following the dream logic that person has been imposing on the real world.
For me, this movie was a delight, but since so many people reported being disturbed by it, I guess your mileage may vary.
Paprika is available for rent on Youtube and Amazon Prime.
Valhalla Risingby Nicolas Wending Refn
Viking movies rarely get to go mainstream, and I really like Viking movies, so I feel like this subject is getting short shrift. Well, Vikings or not, this particular movie was never going to get play in mainstream theaters. Nicolas Wending Refn is known for his rather inexplicable films, which take multiple viewing in order to get their meaning. There’s almost no dialogue in this film, and the lead character, a nameless enslaved man who is forced to fight other prisoners, doesn’t speak at all. He falls into the company of a group of misplaced Vikings who are in America, but believe they have found some sort of Holy Land (they’re actually in America). His presence among them takes on an almost mystical importance, as they decide whether or not they are actually in the Holy Land, or perhaps dead, and in some kind of Hellish afterlife.
There are a number of very graphic fight scenes in this movie, along with some graphic death scenes, so take that into account, when suggesting this movie to your friends. It’s also a very quiet film, with long periods where there is no music, and the narration that exists, feels cryptic. Your takeaway from this movie depends on your mindset. You’ll get out of it what you bring to it. For me, this is as close as Refn could get to making a Viking Horror movie.
Valhalla Rising is available for rent on Youtube.
City of Lost Children by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
I would also like to recommend Jeunet’s earlier film Delicatessen as this is the second film of his I’d ever seen, and its a little bit difficult to put into words. A mad scientist’s creation is stealing the dreams of children ,because he can’t produce his own dreams. The creature makes the mistake of kidnapping the little brother of a circus strongman, named One, played by Ron Perlman, in one of his little known roles. One has several close calls and mini-adventures, while trying to find his little brother, and put a stop to the monster’s schemes.
This movie looks very strange. Although the plot seems perfectly accessible to most viewers, it is shot in an unconventional way, with a faded color palette, and featuring, the very French Jeaunet’s, penchant for unconventional makeup and odd facial features. The movie itself is very dream-like with octopus orphans, a man who uses trained fleas, a brain in a vat, and a diver with amnesia who lives under the lake. its aceptable for children to watch it, although they may not understand the intricacies of the plot. They will perhaps be delighted by the imagery, though.
City of Lost Children is available for rent on Youtube.
*Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. by Leslie Harris – This is one of the few films directed by an African American woman.
Rize by Davis LaChappelle
*One False Move by Carl Franklin
Angelheart by Alan Parker
Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, and Oldboy by Spike Lee
*Parasiteand Snow Piercerby Bong Joon Ho
Hollywood Shuffle by Robert Townsend
*The Triplets of Bellvilleand The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet
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…
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.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite opening scenes. The opening scene of a film will often establish a plot, introduce the characters, setting, mood, or theme of the film. Outside of the trailer, its a movie’s first impression. I love all kinds of movies, so don’t be too surprised that there are no Horror movies on this list.
This opening scene from the second X-Men film is action packed, visually stunning, introduces the basic plot, and also a new character, and the rest of the movie isn’t a disappointment either.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
I wanted to put these two movies upfront. This is also an establishing scene of a new character, and just as visually stunning as the first movie on this list. It drops slightly behind it though, because without the theme or plot, its just a gorgeous opening action sequence. Also, the rest of this movie isn’t as good as this opening scene, and this isn’t one of my favorite characters, although this entire sequence says a lot about what type of person he is, is just loads of fun, and makes me wish I had this superpower.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
You would think that this would be a great opening scene for the rest of this movie’s characters, and themes, but no. This opening has almost nothing to do with the plot or themes of the film. Its simply an introduction to the setting we’ll be visiting for the next two hours, which is fine, because this is yet another visually arresting film, but I thought it was lacking in character development, which for me, is one of the more important aspects of getting into such a fantastical film. This opening is a favorite of mine, because I’m both a huge David Bowie fan, a movie extraterrestrial fan, and a Science Fiction fan, and I feel this song was perfectly chosen for this scene.
Here is yet another sequence that introduces the audience to a very specific setting. We know all we need to know about this world, from the opening, and what type of movie we’re dealing with: SciFi Noir. This is a dark world, full of gray characters, scuttling through this rainy, urban, corporate hellscape of auditory and visual noise, or flying through it in cars. This is America’s dystopic future.
It also introduces two important characters, and sets the plot in motion, as it’s the death of the interviewer in this scene, that requires that another Bladerunner be called in. Upon first seeing this movie, these things are all a mystery, but you later learn that all of the primary components of the rest of the plot are present, like the Voight-Kampff Test, the Bladerunner, the speed and power of the Replicant, and just why they’re banned from coming to Earth.
I love this opening. It introduces the three primary characters, the basic plot, and the theme: Regret. This is the autobiographical story of a mobster wannabee, his rise, and eventual decline. This is the scene just after the protagonist and his two friends kill an actual mobster, a Made Man named Billy Batts, and now need to hide the body. Contrast the protagonist’s final statement in this scene, with the look on his face. That is the face of a man who is wishing he were anywhere but where he is….
Sometimes I get a feeling about a movie just from watching the trailer, and I have almost never been wrong when i got that feeling. Even with movies that didn’t do particularly well at the Box Office, when they were released, if it was one where I got that feeling, it would eventually go on to become a Classic, or Iconic film. I had that feeling when I first saw the trailers for Alien, The Thing, and Bladerunner. And I had that feeling for this trailer, too. Not that I’ve never been wrong, but even at a very young age, I knew what movies I was gonna love!
I remember walking out of the theater, after watching this movie, and my brain had to take a few minutes to readjust to reality. I had the unsettling thought that the “real” world wasn’t real. And I guess, I’m not the only person who felt that way.
I chose this opening scene, not becasue it’s particularly special, or well done, (although it is), but because I’ve seen a number of scenes like this in other films, and I’ve always loved them. So, when a martial arts movie starts off with some watery ass kicking, its always loads of fun for me. Martial arts movies love to do these types of scenes, because it’s a very easy way to convince the audience that the fighting is real, and that those arms and legs are actually connecting with faces and bodies! Its also a great way to make the scene feel dramatic, and important to the rest of the movie, although really, this is just a scene from earlier in the film, showcasing the lead character’s skills.
Below, is another one of my favorite movies, and of course, the opening scene looks uncomfortably wet. Slow motion ballet fight scene? Check! Fight scene in a tavern? Check! Gruesome fight ending? Check!
This has to be, hands down, one of the most awesome car chase scenes in movie history. I love everything about it, from the introduction of the lead character, and getaway driver: Baby. To the music: Bellbottoms by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion! (which I used to listen to a long time ago.) To the cutely mediocre compact car with the great gas mileage: The red 2007 Subaru Impreza!
This entire scene just slaps!
And back down to Earth, with the Intermezzo from The Cavalleria rusticana, by Mascagni, and the opening theme from Martin Scorceses’ 1980 Raging Bull, which is now considered a modern Classic. I was just a kid when it was released, so I didn’t see this until I was an adult, long after I knew this theme from other movies. There’s not a lot going on here, but from this, you know its going to be a somber tragedy, about the rise and fall of a Boxing career. This is way down here at the bottom of my list, although most of these are not in any particular order, because its really upsetting for me to watch family dramas, and I generally hate them. But I liked this intro.
So, what had happened was, the trailer for the new Mortal Kombat movie dropped last week, and I think its safe to say that Mortal Kombat fans, were all jitterbugging in their bunny slippers, with happiness. I know I was. Luckily, I do have HBO Max, so I can watch this without going to a theater, (I can’t go yet.) The movie is set to release on April 16th.
Now, I am not much of a gamer, but I have played a few of them. One of my favorite types of games are the martial arts combat games, like Tekken, which was my personal favorite, and Streetfighter, which was a lot less fun, and I did play Mortal Kombat, a few times during the 90s, back when I owned a Playstation. I was never as much into MK, as I was Tekken. I still play Tekken on my IPad, to this day. But I did like a lot of the characters from MK. Yeah, Sub Zero, Scorpion, and Raiden were favorites, but I most often just played the game as Liu Kang. No, I never played as Sonya, and by the time some of the characters from later games showed up, I’d stopped playing most games.
I’m not going too talk much about the last movie, except to say that I watched it, and it was kind of fun, but I’m not going to stan for it, or anything. I saw it once, and mostly don’t remember a whole lot about it. I have no plans to watch it again, in the future, unless its to compare it to this version.
That said, I do really like the trailer, and I’m looking forward to it. I like the special effects, and the characters look pretty cool, but I am mostly into for the actors. Some of these actors I’ve been watching for years, with my top favorite being the guy playing Scorpion, Hiroyuki Sanada, who I last saw in Westworld, portraying one of my favorite Japanese historical figures, Miyamoto Musashi, and in The last Samurai, with Tom Cruise.
Of course, Lewis Tan is a big favorite of mine, (as having been the best thing in the Netflix series Iron Fist), as an original character named Cole Young. There’s also Tadanobu Asano, as Raiden, and Ludy Lin, as my personal fave, Liu Kang. So yeah, I’m really looking forward to this, and hope it doesn’t disappoint.
I love Samurai movies. I didn’t love them when I was a kid, when I was busy watching Chinese Martial Arts films. I didn’t fall in love with them until I was an Adult, and finally saw Seven Samurai, at a friends house, where I fell asleep in front of her parent’s fireplace. Well, after I woke up, I watched the movie all the way through the next day, and it became one of a number of movies that just hit me at the right time in my emotional development, to make a huge impact. I also learned that George Lucas was heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s movies, so that was a plus.
Seven Samurai isn’t on this list, because there have been a number of Samurai movies made since 1954, also Kurosawa’s movies would otherwise take up the entire list. So, I decided to focus on movies made in the last ten years, (except for the two at the end).
Blade of the Immortal (2016)
This is a live action version of one of my favorite manga from the late 90s. The plot and characters, like so much Samurai manga, is wild, but I greatly enjoyed the movie, which is pretty faithful to the books. I give a mini-review of this movie a year or so ago. Manji has been cursed by an ancient witch, to immortality, after he caused the deaths of 100 men. In order to lose his immortality, he has made a vow to kill 1,000 evil men, and is aided in this quest by a young woman, named Rin, who is seeking revenge against a cadre of swordsmen, from a rival school, who killed her parents. The fighting is fast and brutal, and very gory with lots of chopping of limbs, and blood spray, so be warned, if you’re squeamish.
Rurouni Kenshin 1-3 (2014-2017)
The live action Rurouni Kenshin movies are definitely some of my favorite current Samurai movies. I’ve watched the trilogy multiple times, although I’ve never read the Manga, or seen the anime, though. I don’t feel like correcting that oversight, although the anime looks intriguing. There were meant to be two new movies last year, that won’t be released until June of this year. Himura Kenshin is a Samurai who makes a vow to never kill anyone again, after he killed so many men in a past war, that he became famous for it, being nicknamed The Manslayer. To live according to his vow, he carries a reverse blade sword, that can only hurt himself, if he uses it incorrectly. Unfortunately, his past deeds, and enemies, keep coming back to haunt him and his found family, which includes his love interest Kaoru, and his best friend, a streetfighter named Sanosuki The Brawler. The swordfights are fast, and stunning, even if the plot is a bit convoluted, between the three films.
Crazy Samurai Musashi– 400 v. 1(2020)
I really liked this movie, which has almost no plot to speak of. Its just an hour or so of the legendary swordfighter, Musashi Miyamoto fighting wave after wave of enemy Samurai, all of this done in one take. This isn’t a movie for everyone. There’s a kind of sameness to the fighting style, that gets numbing, after a while. I watched this movie, and yeah, it’s exhausting. Musashi was a real person, (he wrote The Book of Five Rings), but this particular battle, against the rival Yoshioka Clan, was more fable than reality.
This movie is one of my close favorites, and is more bittersweet than action packed. We tend to think of Samurai as fairly wealthy characters, and some of them were, as they did pursue riches, and reputation, but this movie is about a poor, simple, Samurai named Seibei, who just wants to stay home, and take care of his two daughters, after the death of his wife. He is challenged by an old friend to take up arms, and against his will, gains a reputation as a great swordsman, who begins to attract the attention of other swordsmen. All he wants is to marry the sister of his old friend, as he has had a crush on Tomoe since they were children, but he has to first survive his many challengers. This movie isn’t as bombastic as the first two on this list. Its quieter, with a nostalgic, and melancholy feel.
13 Assassins (2010)
At first this movie sounds something like Seven Samurai, but its not a whole lot like that movie, beyond having Samurai in it. 13 Samurai gather to assassinate an evil, but powerful, warlord, who has the Shogun’s favor. To that end, they set a series of traps and ambushes, in a small town that he must travel through, to reach the Shogun’s castle, to claim a reward. This was directed by none other than one of my favorite directors, Takashi Miike, famous for the movies, Hara Kiri, and the iconic, Ichi The Killer. Miike is known for the amount of gore in even his most innocent looking films, so if you’re watching this, be warned for rape, gallons of blood, child killing, exploding bodies, decapitations, and dismemberment. Miike’s movies are not for the delicate, and the last thirty minutes never lets up, and will leave you gasping for air.
Samurai Marathon (2019)
This was a really fun movie, full of lots of action, tension, and drama. When the Daimyo of a minor plot of land, discovers that the Black Ships are coming to Japan, he decides to test his Samurai’s fitness, and readiness, by having them run a marathon. The Shogun, mistaking his intent, thinks he is fomenting an insurrection, and sends assassins to kill the runners. Unknown to the Daimyo, his daughter, Princess Yuki, who is dissatisfied with her life and doesn’t want to be forced in to marriage, has decided to join the marathon, and this puts her life in immediate danger. She has to survive the marathon, without giving away her real identity. The movie is surprisingly funny, with beautiful cinematography, great fight scenes, beautiful settings, and lots of running.
Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman is an iconic figure in Japanese cinema. There are literally dozens of movies and TV shows about him, so I was really eager to see Zatoichi played by one of my favorite actors, Beat Takeshi. The movie is a little surreal, and doesnt quite hit the story beats the way one expects, which is in keeping with Takeshi’s oddball character, with several musical interludes, some cross dressing, vengeful geisha, a little bit of slapstick, and some clog dancing, at the end, involving the entire cast. Why? Probably because Takeshi likes musicals! This makes for a somber, but surprisingly upbeat movie.
Gohatto is a soft, quiet, and haunting movie. It’s an emotional film, with not a lot of action scenes, and once again, stars Beat Takeshi, as a teacher, at a training school for young men auditioning to become guardsmen for the Shogun, called the Shinsengumi. When a beautiful, and highly skilled young man joins the school, it upsets the delicate balance of relationships among the students and teachers, setting them all against each other. Yes, this is a gay Samurai film! The outcome is somewhat ambivalent, in that the film simply presents ideas, and doesn’t tell the viewer how or what to think. The action and dialogue are written in a way that makes the movie hard to get into, but you still get invested in the character’s relationships.
This is a very faithful remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood film, only set in Meiji Era Japan, and starring Ken Watanabe, from Inception. Just as in the original, a retired fighter is approached by an old friend, who asks him to accompany him on a mission for hire, to claim the bounty on two outlaws, who harmed a prostitute. But just because you’ve seen the original doesn’t mean that this version isn’t worth watching.
Samurai Fiction (1998)
I saw this movie around the time it was released at some type of Art House showing, and it is quite possibly the funniest Samurai movie I’ve ever seen.This movie is just ridiculous, with a serious plot, aided and abetted by a great deal of silly dialogue, and slapstick. After his Father’s prize sword is stolen, Heishiro vows to get it back. With no faith in his son, the father sends a couple of Ninja along with Heishiro, to make sure he doesn’t muck things up too badly, but he does, and ends up being cared for in the home of a famous swordsman, named Mizoguchi, and falling in love with his daughter Koharu. Eventually, Heishiro confronts the thief, Kazumatsuri, played by Tomoyasu Hotei, (who is the composer of the soundtrack for Kill Bill), retrieves his father’s sword, gets the girl, and everyone’s fortunes are made. I knew I wanted to see this movie the first time I saw the trailer, and I was not disappointed. It was a lot of fun.
When The Last Sword Is Drawn (2002)
This is a movie that would have ended up higher on this list, except that its so melancholy, (you can tell by its title), you really need to be in a certain type of mood to watch it. In it, two old Samurai reminisce about the days when they were young and full of fire. One of them was a heartless killer, and the other was greedy and over-emotional. The story takes place in the form of flashbacks to the Tokugawa Era, as the two of them discuss the regrets, and relationships, of their younger years. This is a beuatiful film that will probably have you in tears by the end.
Sword of the Stranger (2007)
There aren’t too many anime movies on this list. That doesn’t mean that there are no good ones, just that I haven’t watched a lot of them. The fight scenes in this movie are extraordinary, and it was a lot of fun to watch, although not without some huge moments of suspense, and frustration. Nanashi, Kotaru, and his little doggy, form a bond, after Nanashi saves Kotaru from a group of Ming (Chinese) warriors, who are trying to assassinate him. There’s a corrupt Daimyo, and some warrior monks involved, which makes for a convoluted plot, but exciting viewing.
This story takes place in some kind of dystopian future with robots, but the basic story is still the same as the original. As has been done in a number of remakes since the original Seven Samurai, from A Bug’s Life, to The Magnificent Seven, to The Three Amigos ,a small town of helpless peasants hires a group of mercenaries, gunslingers or even robotic and Samurai, to help them fight the giant robot bandits plaguing their town. The series then has the Samurai who survived the village battle, defeat the corrupt Emperor. There’s a lot of great action, the animation is well done, and the Samurai warriors have their own charms, that make the whole thing worth binging. I think this series is available on Hulu, btw.
Here’s a couple of Samurai Anime worth checking out. I haven’t seen all of them, but the ones I have seen aren’t too bad, they just didn’t make my favorites list.
This is another one of those vengeance plots, and the distinction here is that Samuel L Jackson voices the lead character.
House of Five Leaves
If you’re interested in philosophical discussions about the Martial Arts, then this movie is a more somber version of the typical Samurai film, with enough action scenes to make it interesting.
I just watched this one a few days ago, and its a blind swordsman/vengeance/rescue type of story.
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.
This is for those of you looking for some really good, or just silly, and not too scary, werewolf movies to watch on Halloween night.
A group of soldiers, on a training exercise, are attacked by werewolves. They hunker down in an isolated house, with a mysterious young woman, in an effort to survive the night.
This movie is definitely the movie to watch if you are into werewolf movies. It has a …And Then There Were None type of plot, which makes it very suspenseful. The characters are brave and likable, and there’s real chemistry among the actors. This is a movie that relies more on action than atmosphere. I lauded this movie in an earlier post.
2. American Werewolf in London(1981)
This is one of the classic 80’s werewolf Horror Comedies. An American tourist, named David, is attacked by a werewolf, after being warned to stay off the moors. He survives, and after a visit from his dead friend, begins to suspect that he may be a werewolf. The lovely Jenny Agutter is a nurse who falls in love/lust with the tragic lead.
This isn’t my top favorite, but it is worth multiple viewings. There’s just enough comedy in it to alleviate the tension, but there are some truly horrible moments as well, and once again, there’s the typical tragic ending.
A train car full of people get terrorized by a pack of wolves, after their train car gets stuck in a wooded area. I watched this movie a few times, and I’m still unsure if the accident was deliberately caused by the wolves, or if it really was just an accident that they took advantage of, but I suspect the first. At any rate, the passengers are trapped on the train, and have to fight the traitors, panicked scoundrels, and possible infected, on the train, as well as the predators outside the train. This is a very suspenseful film, but it is one of those movies where you want to throw some hands at all the characters at some point, or just root for the werewolves.
4. The Howling(1981)
After she gets attacked by a stalker, a TV anchorwoman (played by Dee Wallace) goes out to the country, at the behest of her therapist, but she doesn’t know, until its too late, that its village full of werewolves. This movie is another classic from the 80’s, having been released within a few months of American Werewolf. I saw The Howling first, at about fourteen or so, and it was always my campy favorite. I heard a lot about American Werewolf, but didn’t see it until many years later, and I can definitely see why everyone preferred it. The Howling is more of an acquired taste, but if you enjoyed Evil Dead II, this movie is a slightly more sedate version featuring werewolves.
I talked about this movie before, becasue this is genuinely a good film, although I felt the ending was rather abrupt and it felt unfinished. It could have used another fifteen to thirty minutes to round out the plot. It clocks in at about ninety minutes, and has something of a slow start, but once it gets going, it doesn’t stop. In it, an American defense attorney is called to France to defend a man accused of butchering an American family in the French countryside. She finds that the case is not as cut and dried as it seems, because the man may actually be a werewolf. The production values are pretty good, there’s some amount of gore, and a side story dealing with unrequited love from one of her co-workers.
6. Ginger Snaps(2000)
I talked about the historical sequel to this film, in which two sisters must come to grips with the fact that one of them has become a werewolf, after being bitten by a strange animal, in the woods of their small town. The movie is more about the relationship between the two sisters, who have always held a fascination with death, and are known as the town weirdos. The major themes deal with the transition from adolescence to womanhood, making this movie marginally more intelligent than some other films.
This is more of an action movie than a Horror movie but it gets on the list becasue …werewolves! The lore is interesting, and sometimes a little inconsistent, but this is worth the watch, just to see Kate Beckinsale running around in some cool, tight, black leather. he plot involves a constant war between vampires and werewolves. When Selene falls in love with a young man coveted by both sides in the fight, she has to choose a side. There’s a lot close calls, window falls, hand to hand fighting, and naturally, shooting.
8. The Company of Wolves(1984)
This is one of the more artsy werewolf films from the 80s, with the themes of Little Red Riding Hood, and womanhood, vs adolescence. Its a series of fairy tale like stories told by a grandmother to her granddaughter, in an effort to warn her about men who might take advantage of her, so there is no linear plot, but there is a through line of men being compared to wolves, and contains some interesting imagery of people turning into wolves. It was created by the same director of Interview with A Vampire, Neil Jordan.
9. Full Eclipse (1993)
This movie is utterly ridiculous, but its still one of my 90’s favorites, I do not care how bad it is. It was made in ’93, but its full of every silly 80’s cop trope, a person can think of, including, but not limited to jumping over a car, during a foot chase, while shooting two guns, a bad boy cop, his blond love interest, and a special force of cops created to take back the streets from the criminals. I don’t remember nan’ thing about any of the criminals in this movie, because the focus is all on the group of cops, who decided that becoming werewolves, to fight crime, was a good idea. I think this is free on Youtube.
10. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
While the movie is definitely about four vampires in a “flatting” situation in Wellington, there are werewolves in this movie, and are some of the funniest werewolves ever put in a movie. They almost steal the movie, and I would love it if they had a movie of their own.
During the adventures had by the vampires in the film, their human friend Stu, gets bitten, becomes a werewolf, and through the actions of his best mate (himself a vampire), becomes the catalyst for peace between the two long-feuding groups.
These are some of the nicest werewolves (lame comebacks aside) ever filmed. They disavow swearing, and chain themselves up in the woods, during the full moon, to prevent bringing harm to humans. I know some people were not impressed by this movie, but you have to watch it just to see the four vampires interacting with the other monsters, who live in Wellington.
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.