That’s Groundskeeper Willie’s response to Bart when Bart says the name “The Shining” in the canonical Tree House of Horror episode parodying the film, instead of replacing the title, “The Shining,” with the slightly more comical title the episode adopted: “The Shinning.” To be honest, every time I hear the title, The Shining, I immediately want to shout, “Shhh. Wanna get sued?” So I may have been fishing for an excuse to use Willie’s quotation in the opening of this piece.
A long, long time ago a vile, angry woman worshiped the devil on her family farm and sacrificed the life of a precious infant to her dark lord, seeing the infant not so much as a human child, but as a gift to Satan that could increase her power. She was an ugly woman, with masculine features, haggard wrinkles, and glowing eyes, and shortly after killing the innocent infant, she hung herself from a tree by the farm’s lake, where those who are in touch with the world of the dead can still see her hanging, her decrepit, gnarled gray feet waving in the wind. To this day she haunts the farm, invading the bodies of caring mothers and compelling them to kill their children. Beware. Should you set foot on her farm, you might be the victim of this restless spirit’s demonic ways. (Insert hyperbolic ghost howl here).
I have a self-imposed challenge as an avid horror viewer: I must find an exorcism movie that truly terrifies me. Huddled with a group of giggling 12-year-olds when I was in seventh grade, I watched in near-disbelief while Regan spewed unthinkable profanity and did immodest things with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Assuredly, I was not old enough to watch the movie without being flung into a shock-provoked state of uncomfortable laughing fits (a twelve year old is hardly mature enough to take those scenes seriously), but something about that reaction seems significant when I reflect upon exorcism films almost 20 years later: Namely, the film was shocking, unorthodox, compelling – and indisputably ground-breaking for the era – but The Exorcist, along with, I think, every other exorcism film I’ve ever watched, has never really scared me. I find them interesting, and essential from the standpoint of someone who makes it a (humble, wage-less) second-living to know and review horror fare (albeit for a small number of readers), but for some reason I’ve always found ghosts a lot scarier. Don’t get me wrong: conceptually, the devil is terrifying (to the extent that I believe he exists, at least), but films rarely do justice to the horror of the demonic. The Vatican Tapes, a fairly average film, was no exception to this trend. If you like exorcism movies, it may be worth seeing, at least for comparative purposes. But, there was a small, hopeful part of me thought I might feel afraid during The Vatican Tapes. As it turns out, I did not. Read my discussion below (which, admittedly, has some spoilers) to find out why.
Men. Let me tell you. When it comes to instinctual animal pleasure, they just can’t control themselves. In fact, they’ll quickly forfeit home and hearth for the wiles of any given anonymous temptress. And don’t even get me started about women, man’s downfall, those brazen homewreckers who are quick to “break a boy just because [they] can,” as Fiona Apple sang in her 90’s hit, Criminal. Humanity. (Sigh). What a contestable, corrupt, lowly lot we are. We may as well abandon our attempts at monogamy, send our worst beings on a mission to Mars, and breed another world of insatiable, pleasure-seeking, polygamous – or cheating – inhabitants. At least, maybe, Earth can look comparatively moral. Continue reading “Knock Knock. “Who’s there?” Another. “Another Who?” Another Lustful Man Down for the Count.”→
I hadn’t realized the deficit until I saw the film, but it had been an astonishingly long while since I’d felt uneasy and mildly nauseated for almost two hours. You see, most American horror does wonders with jump scares and shock elements, but the Austrian-created Goodnight, Mommy starts by planting the bud of mild unease somewhere in your mind and in your gut, and then manages, assiduously throughout the film, to water and nourish that bud. By the end – at least, if you’re anything like me – you’re burying your head in your boyfriend’s shoulder (okay, a little pathetic, but in my defense, the film was very unsettling) and peeking up at the screen with a timid, wary eye. Continue reading “Goodnight Mommy: The Spoiler Free Review”→
One year, at the suggestion of another teacher, I required my Advanced Placement Literature students to read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Hamilton was a serious scholar who compiled myths from varied sources and combined them into relatively easy to read, concise packages that, lined up one after another, formed a fat, enticing book. I was so compelled, as a 25-year-old, by the magical stories in her text, that I’d sit in my bedroom all night, reading, underlining, and scribbling notes in the book’s margins. I’d set the book down every so often and take manic walks in my pajama pants around Montrose, an artsy neighborhood in Houston, Texas, while listening to Joan Baez on my IPod and letting my mind roam. My decision to walk around downtown Houston at night was not a product of common sense or concern for safety, but I suppose none of the horror movie’s I’d watched up to that point properly indoctrinated me with a rational fear of the dark, or of other people. (I was watching The Ring on repeat then, so I likely thought that it was more dangerous to sit in front of the television – lest an evil little girl crawl out – than it was to walk outside.) Then, I’d hurry back in the house, run to my bedroom with its deep, maroon walls and black and brown bookshelves from Target, and re-enter the world of myth. Continue reading ““What a Lovely Throat!” – Getting Nosferatu’s Ultimate Hickey”→
I suppose I’ve been intrigued by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ever since I realized it took slot #1 on Rotten Tomato’s Best Horror Movies of All Time List. Unsurprisingly, this list is heavily contested. Commentators will complain, for example, that King Kong sits in slot #5, even though it’s not technically a horror movie. The same might be said of Abre Los Ojos – the Spanish version, and, for that matter, the original version of Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky – and Frankenweenie, which I can only assume doesn’t fall under the category of true blue horror. Still, every ranking is subjective, and even if I questioned the list maker’s assessment, I still had to see what it was about this old, silent, black and white film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, that makes it such a monumental hit according to a major contemporary movie review site. Continue reading “Crazy for Caligari: Exploring Early Horror Cinema”→