Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday

Photo Credit – Ma

Michael and I were just sitting around on a slow Saturday afternoon, without much on the agenda.  While horror movies tend to be night-time fare for us, the feeling of an afternoon movie on a warm June day just sort of says summer vacation (present summer vacation for me, imminent summer vacation for Michael), so we decided on a 12:10 showing of Ma.  My excitement about the film was considerable, but my trepidation about the film regarded the possibility that all of the really shocking, provocative elements of the film may have already been showcased in the trailer – I thought.  I was prepared – similar to the situation I experienced with Brightburn –to see a film that didn’t offer much beyond the preview attractions.  And while it is true – we get a glimpse of a lot of gore before the movie – there’s so much more to the film than the previews indicate, and Octavia Spencer captures a complex, layered, troubled character with unquestionable perfection.  It’s hard to call Ma the best horror movie of the spring, with gems like Us and Pet Sematary gracing the screen, but it can certainly compete.  As a heads-up, I have all but given up on writing spoiler-free reviews, so my apologies, but spoilers will abound in this piece.

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Partying with Ma on a Sunny Summer Saturday

Friday Night Video on a Thursday: Reverence for Radiohead

Michael and I were in the car yesterday and he accused me of “getting all judgy” because he was jamming to Brett Michaels—front-man of the 1980’s hair metal band, Poison and not exactly my poison when it comes to music (one play on words for me—cha-ching!)  Now I don’t know if I can really support or refute this claim; what does it mean to be “judgy” after all (we’ll never truly know, because it’s not truly a word), and how does one express judginess in a given context?  Planned ignoring, disdain, condemnation?  I wasn’t condemning him for listening Brett Michaels, after all; I may have simply rolled my eyes or something similar to indicate my distaste for this particular brand of rather contrived 80’s rock.  Michael’s response was twofold: First, he told me I was discriminating against diabetics, because Brett Michaels has juvenile diabetes like Michael.  Second, he shot back with a gut-punch about my “pretentious” propensity for Radiohead music.  He emphatically stated that he’s never heard a Radiohead song that he likes, that the band is “nothing” to him, and—as I stated—that only pretentious people listen to Radiohead.  “Even me?”  I asked.  “Am I pretentious?”  He paused for a minute, and we’ll let the reader infer where the conversation went from there.

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Friday Night Video on a Thursday: Reverence for Radiohead

The Thrill of Shrill

I didn’t grow up fat.  I was a hefty baby—a 9-pounder, to be precise—and at different points in my childhood, a chubbier, sometimes stockier kid, but never fat, per se, and for the first half of my 20’s, I was 5’3” and 125 lbs, give or take – a frame that we offhandedly consider average in our society, but that is actually well below the average female frame.  And while I’ve heard that it’s fairly “normal” to be a size 16-18, four years after gaining most of my weight, my emergence into a larger body is still a sometimes strange, uncomfortable, jarring experience, and I’ve only recently started to identify as “fat.”  Once I realized that I officially qualified (it’s kind of like realizing you’re an alcoholic, which I discovered so many years ago—suddenly, you just know), I wasn’t too hesitant to call myself what I felt I was, on twitter, and now on my blog.  It can be intimidating to try to appropriate, to try to re-claim a term that’s been used for years to oppress larger women and shame overweight people, but it’s also liberating to say “this is me—not the whole of who I am, but part of how I identify, nevertheless.”

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The Thrill of Shrill

Feel the (Bright)Burn: Strengths and Shortcomings of the Inverted Superman Mythos

Photo Credit — Brightburn

Well, the long-awaited evening arrived.  I’d been looking forward to Brightburn with at least tenuously high expectations since Michael told me about the premise oh-so-many-months ago.  The film’s situation sounded fascinating – an inversion of the Superman mythos, in which Superman is embodied in an evil 12-year-old child – and the previews looked plenty scary.  Couple that with the fact that I really like Elizabeth Banks – and she’s one of the main forces behind Shrill, a show I’ve been singing the praises of a la twitter for months – and this was definitely a film I had to see when it came out.  “How about we see it Saturday” Michael suggested sweetly.  I replied, “I’m going on Thursday night when I get off work, whether you go with me or not.”  So, I’m not quite sure if I would have put my money where my mouth was – I don’t go to the movies alone much, and I hadn’t asked anyone else along – but luckily, Michael capitulated, and after a quick four hour shift at Torrid, I met him at the coffee shop across the street and we zipped to Tinseltown, where we were two of six people in the theater to see one of the first screenings of Brightburn.

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Feel the (Bright)Burn: Strengths and Shortcomings of the Inverted Superman Mythos

Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

There are probably a lot of reasons why Wicked was my favorite book to read with my students during my Reading the Monster course.  This assertion may be surprising, on the one hand, because Wicked doesn’t fall under the traditional “horror” umbrella like many other texts on the syllabus.  And, as is obvious from reading this blog, I’m an avid fan and proponent of what might be called, more specifically, “art-horror”—the creation of fictional horrific events, morphed into cinematic and literary experiences.  Conversely, there’s so much imagination, and so much problematization (a la fiction) packed into Wicked, that Gregory Maguire’s book provides plenty of fodder for speculation, discussion, and debate, even as it delights, challenges, and entertains—all on a fairly consistent basis. What’s more—and this may be a far from ancillary point—I taught Wicked after my dreaded comprehensive examination was (more or less) over, so I had more time to put toward lesson planning and making the text particularly engaging to students.  The emerging result, for me, was a stronger interest in a text that I already enjoyed, but that I didn’t fully appreciate until reading a second time.

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Teaching Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: Fate and Free Will, Determinism and Destiny

A Macabre Mother’s Day for a Macabre Horror Mother: Contemplating the Woman in Black

Photo Credit — The Woman in Black

It is just a screen.  I tell myself.  Nothing but some actors playing out a ghost story on the screen.  You’ll be 35 years old in a couple months—you can do this.  My self-assurance slowly lapses into condescension as I secretly lambast myself for being so afraid.  After all, do I not write on a horror blog?  Am I not focusing my dissertation on some element of the horror genre?  Some of this stuff is, indeed, second nature to me –werewolves and vampires have never scared me, and I’ve seen The Shining at least fifty times by now—but something about a well-made ghost movie, one that I haven’t already watched on repeat, really has the ability to de-stabilize my zen.  With the right directing and producing – the appropriate manufacture of jump scares – I can find myself fighting the urge (and sometimes giving into the urge) to cover my ears and eyes as I’m watching a particularly suspenseful horror film.  It’s rare that I react this way, but it does occur—which, I might mention, is another reason I love the horror genre.  For as many of these films as I’ve seen, the right one still has the power to scare the $#!+ out of me. 

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A Macabre Mother’s Day for a Macabre Horror Mother: Contemplating the Woman in Black

Fiction’s Fearless Females – Wendy Torrance

Photo Credit — The Shining

One of my favorite scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a two or three second shock during which a series of terrifying events happen.  At this point in the film, Danny has been replaced by Tony, who’s saying “Redrum” in a voice that’s robotic at first and amplifies in intensity and urgency as Jack’s presence gets closer.  As Danny—or “Tony,” his psychic alter-ego—screams “Redrum,” Wendy reads the words backward in the mirror.  The camera pans in on the word “murder” written in childish handwriting with blood-red lipstick.  Almost as soon as we, the viewers, read “murder” in the mirror, we hear the unnerving sound of an ax chopping through wood and the camera moves to Jack, who wields the huge, sharp, silver device and uses it to slice through the wooden door of the caretaker’s quarters, where Danny and Wendy reside.  As if this nexus of sensation weren’t enough to alarm us, the viewers, and pull as even a little more deeply into The Shining’s sinister, unpredictable world, Wendy’s voice intercepts this moment with a simultaneously frenetic and bone-chilling scream—a scream that we’ll hear different variations of for the rest of the movie.  In turn, we, as the viewers—at least a little bit—start feeling Wendy’s maddening fear, and our cognition is ultimately forced to accept a mis-en-scene and narrative moment that’s eliminated anything reassuring or comforting for us to latch onto.  We are, in a sense, in the void, and we are there with Wendy. 

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Fiction’s Fearless Females – Wendy Torrance