Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water

shape of water twoIt is a truth well-known – well known to would-be writers, to stressed humanities students, to anyone who writes or blogs – that some projects seem more formidable, more demanding than others.  For me, some are also more exciting than others.  What I am about to attempt – the film analysis, if I can call it that – that I’m about to write, sits at that complex nexus of those two statuses, at the point of conjuncture between tantalizing and daunting.  All of that is, of course, a credit to the film I’m about to write about, a film that re-configures the monstrous and re-imagines the monster movie with delicate, aesthetic aplomb and attempts to alter, completely, what “monster” means – what it means to be a monster, to be close to the monster, and to use the term “monster” at all.  Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water inspires me with a sort of excitement and terror, because there’s so much to write about in this rich, innovative film, but because I’m writing about such a unique piece, I want to proceed carefully and, to quote Aerosmith, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.”  In some strange ways, I suppose it is far easier to write about a mediocre movie than a really fantastic film, especially when some time has passed, when one is afraid – if that one is me – that she’ll forget critical parts of this film.  Which is all to say that I write this piece three days after seeing The Shape of Water and I write with the personal belief, as a student of film and “the monster,” so called, that this film’s probably doing more than I can write gracefully and cohesively about in one blog post.  Nevermind that; I take this project seriously enough that writing about The Shape of Water has been nagging at me since I saw it, infiltrating all of my free moments, and so I’ll give it a try.  And I’ll start by saying The Shape of Water was nothing like what I expected it to be, and it’s a really phenomenal film – one that says surprising, complex things about what it means to be a monster. (P.S.: Spoilers to follow) Continue reading “Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water”

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Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water

Insidious Chapter Two: Thoughts on the Monster Mom

Insidious 2 trailer (Screengrab)
Insidious 2 trailer (Screengrab)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I love monsters.  If you’ve never read my blog, that may indeed be a secret to you.  If you’ve read a few articles already, I’m stating that which is laughably obvious.  I’m a huge monster fan, in their varied manifestations, and I’m especially fond of figures like the mad monster, or, the entity under examination today, the monster mom.  Yesterday, I wrote a brief analysis of Insidious, and before delving into an examination of what the film says about things like the existence of other worlds and the specter, I simply defended the film’s merit.  Many detractors of contemporary horror films slander them for being “formulaic,” but if I’m looking really closely, I find much modern horror incredibly creative and interesting, and fueled by a powerful amalgam of writing, acting, directing, and producing talent.  I would like to, by and large, stand by that defense today, but I’m going to focus on discussing one thing a bit more specifically, I think, instead of writing a defense of the second film’s merit and then analyzing a sampling of elements.  So, if you’ve not guessed it, today I’ll be focusing on the ghostly villains in Chapter 2 of Insidious – on Parker Crane, and more importantly, on his Monster mom (and what said Monster Mom indicates about gender anxieties in contemporary culture).  Woo-hoo!  Let’s get started. Continue reading “Insidious Chapter Two: Thoughts on the Monster Mom”

Insidious Chapter Two: Thoughts on the Monster Mom

An Insidious Slander: In Praise of Insidious

Insidious One
Photo Credit Insidious

Let me start by saying that the title of this piece isn’t really meant to be vituperative or condemning.  In fact, the word “insidious” might be a little strong for the point I’m trying to make (but, hey, I liked the sound of the title, and it’s kind of my blog…so…there you go).  I have made a critique of horror, before, on this blog, that the genre tends to be formulaic, that a truly original and artistic horror film, while possible (see The Witch, It Follows, etc.) is rare, and many horror films are startlingly similar.  And this is true.  But, far from continuing to condemn this tendency, in this post I’d like to celebrate the beauty of formula, when the director works well within a framework to create a really excellent film.  In doing so, I guess I’ll sort of be suggesting that much of contemporary horror gets a bad rap from – not even, but especially – its most avid, enthusiastic followers, when it need not.  A filmmaker can follow common horror tropes and eschew aiming for arthouse quality filmmaking without creating a bad film.  I believe this because I’ve invested some time in watching really bad horror, and I avoid, for the most part, posting about it, because there’s no point in simply slandering someone else’s efforts on a blog when I have little if anything nice to say.  So, today I praise Insidious.  While it’s a movie that follows some typical horror conventions, it’s a really fantastic, scary, fun movie, and one that says a lot of interesting things about the ghost or the specter. Continue reading “An Insidious Slander: In Praise of Insidious”

An Insidious Slander: In Praise of Insidious

A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)

Suddenly Last Summer
Suddenly Last Summer

When I sat down to write my very first post for Just Dread-full (an event that took place over two years ago), I wrote about the first episode of American Horror Story: Haunted Hotel.  Of course, I’d intended, at least perhaps, to watch more episodes than the first, but I found (as is often the case for me) that I was so excited to write, that I wrote my blog post after episode one had aired.  Now, over two years later, another American Horror Story blog post is born from similar circumstances.  I’m watching a variety of films and T.V. shows for my Independent Seminar, and after watching the first couple selections, the urge struck me.  I thought: I should watch more shows on the list before writing my weekly response, but, I really want to write.  And so, this post is born, and it should give me some ideas or preparation for my imminent writing assignment.  I watched the 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer today, along with the first two episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum.  Now it’s time to consider how madness is spatialized in this film.  Some related questions might consider how space is organized in terms of “madness,” so-called, and what space reflects about our conceptions of madness. Continue reading “A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)”

A (Perhaps) Unlikely Comparison: Suddenly Last Summer (1959) Meets American Horror Story Asylum (Episodes 1 & 2)

Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise

Happy Death DayMichael and I decided to do a spontaneous Sunday night movie last week.  Because of my urging, we ended up in the theater watching (of course) Happy Death Day, as opposed to Lego Ninjago or (another) viewing of Thor: Ragnarok – the two current most logical outcomes of letting Michael pick the movie.  And while another viewing of Ragnarok or an initial viewing of Lego Ninjago wouldn’t have been completely insufferable, Happy Death Day turned out to be a really intriguing horror-movie going experience, if only because, well, it turned out to be a bit of an aberration.  I was, I admit, underwhelmed by the previews of the cliché killer wearing a creepy mask and stalking a female college student.  I didn’t think the film looked horrible, but it didn’t really look scary.  And since the “re-live the same day over and over and over” trope is a horror off-shoot of Groundhog’s Day, I wasn’t expecting to be enamored (I mean, Groundhog’s Day is fantastic, but I didn’t think another film like it would work as well).  And to be fair, I wasn’t enamored.  But there were some surprising elements of the film that made it, well, entertaining to watch, and incredibly distinct from a lot of horror that’s currently out in theaters. Continue reading “Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise”

Happy Death Day – A Pleasant Surprise

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

the shining 4.3In the beginning of Place: An Introduction, Tim Cresswell describes the significance of placing a specific art exhibit, one foregrounding Bollywood movies, in an elite Swedish town where only the 1% tend to visit, in part because it’s difficult to get there.  Cresswell includes the following quote in his introduction: “ ‘It’s difficult to get to,’ Mr. Wakefield added, ‘but because of that, it also demands a different kind of attention.  You discover the art through the place and the place through the art.’  The exhibition at Gstaad reflects a wider interest in how art and place interact on the part of both the artists and art theorists” (2).  This got me thinking that it might be intriguing to examine The Shining not just from a few lenses but – perhaps – from the intersection of a few lenses:  Space or place, as its conveyed in the film, the cultural space in which the film is produced, and the current cultural space in which I, the viewer, am watching the film.  This move, I think, is necessarily spectral, or turns the art under examination into a specter that disrupts linear time, since I become sort of engaged in this spectral moment, where I’m looking at the art forward, backward, etc – and this is especially true of The Shining, which situates its primary space, The Overlook Hotel, as a place that’s both mad and spectral, that consistently – if not constantly – manifests itself as a presence in the spectral moment by embodying both the past and the present – and, to the contemporary viewer, the more recent past (1921, 1980, 2017, but arranged as 2017 encompassing a film that shifts back and forth between 1921 and 1980, that begins by emphasizing 1980 but ends by emphasizing 1921).  As a “cautionary note,” I found, as I was watching, that it was challenging to thread the entirety of this analysis throughout my interpretation of the film, especially for a blog post, but that’s the general angle I’m coming from when I look at the film.  (As a sidenote, I wonder the extent to which we could deduce that all art is “spectral” – or maybe that’s what I’m getting at, but that seems like a sweeping argument for a later time).     Continue reading “The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative”

The Shining: A Spacial and Temporal Examination of a Spectral Narrative

Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing

Thing OneAlmost two years ago on this blog, I watched and wrote about John Carpenter’s widely viewed and broadly acclaimed The Thing.  This year, for Halloween, I decided to re-visit this incredibly disgusting movie, which was, fortuitously, part of my coursework this week.  In my first post, I wrote about the rampant paranoia fostered by knowing there’s a hideous, murderous monster in at least one of the people around you, but not knowing who houses it – whose body hides the formidable “thing.”  I’m not really in the mood to look up my old post, re-read it, and make sure I’m writing something new, especially since it’s one of my least read posts on this blog.  So, we’ll have to trust that, two years and ample coursework later, I’m making some new observations about this sickening, human-beast amalgam as I write this post.  With that in mind, let’s dive into the uncomfortably unappealing (or, perhaps, the uncomfortably appealing – for whether “the thing” is appealing or unappealing is a question that remains to be grappled with, and perhaps will be grappled with in this post!) Continue reading “Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing”

Re-visiting the Grotesque: Another Look at John Carpenter’s The Thing