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”

Of Monsters and Men in The Shape of Water

Split Lives Up to Great Expectations

split-1With the most unstable U.S. president to date having been sworn in today, I feel it more than apropos that I’m reviewing a story about a character who is, well, relatively unstable himself.  But rather than serve as a political statement, M. Night Shyamalan’s Split is an immersion into a morbidly formidable world that will transport the viewer – for about two hours – notably away from our chaotic political climate and the imminent danger that our country may face, and into the world of a man with DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder –a man who has multiple personalities, including a few rogue personalities bent on causing harm and destruction.  This review contains minor spoilers, but since the film is so new I won’t reveal the ending; as always, Shyamalan hits us with a barrage of surprises.  Continue reading “Split Lives Up to Great Expectations”

Split Lives Up to Great Expectations

Spirituality in Signs: Extra-Terrestrials and Big Life Questions

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Photo Credit Signs

Note: This is my 100th post on Just Dread-full!  And for my happy 100, I’m going to write about one of my favorite filmmakers (M. Night Shyamalan) but I’ll be exploring more spiritual themes than usual (because this particular film demands it).  So, here it goes—spoilers involved!

Continue reading “Spirituality in Signs: Extra-Terrestrials and Big Life Questions”

Spirituality in Signs: Extra-Terrestrials and Big Life Questions

It Follows, or Death Embodied

It follows
Photo Credit – It Follows

Over a year ago, when I started Just Dread-full, I wrote an extensive piece about a film I’d seen recently that had more or less captivated me.  The film – a low budget, atypical, but indisputably creepy horror flick – was called It Follows, and Michael and I saw the film four times in theaters when it came out.  There were myriad elements of this film that made it exceptional – its deeper characters, its unique treatment of setting and theme, its distinctly unsettling, creepy ambiance – but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, about this film that made me want to see it over, and over, and over again.  Unsurprisingly, I purchased the film, and one December eve not so long ago, when I needed to take a break from course work, I watched it again.  And it occurred to me, after re-processing one of my all-time favorites, that It Follows, more than your typical horror movie, deals, both directly and symbolically, with our near-universal and immanent fear of death’s imminence, its inescapable closeness and the insidious fact that it could consume us, any time, without warning.  Don’t get me wrong: most horror movies use the possibility of death as a vehicle for frightening us.  But It Follows does so in ways that are careful, intentional, and cut to the core of our fear that just as the devil chases down rock n’ roll stars (at least, according to some of their lyrics) death is always following us, snapping at our Achilles tendon in hopes that we’ll bleed out completely and wink out from life on this earth.  And wouldn’t that be terrible.  But that is the beauty and terror of a film that is modest, subtle and independent, but remarkably genre bending and genre defining. Continue reading “It Follows, or Death Embodied”

It Follows, or Death Embodied

Mama Mia!

Mama 1
Photo Credit – Mama

When I was in high school, a super sweet Aerosmith song entitled “Jaded” was released.  Yeah, you’ve probably heard it.  I used to watch the music video for it in the morning before school, back in the nostalgic, bygone days when MTV used to play (gasp) music videos.  (Since I don’t have cable right now, I have no idea what they play, but last I checked, music videos had taken a back seat to painfully terrible reality TV).  The Aerosmith song “Jaded,” comes to mind now, though, because I just saw a movie that I should have found genuinely frightening (on the whole, I’d say it was a good movie) but part of what I saw was just another less-than colorful, archetypal addition to the horror pantheon.  Today, Michael and I sat down to watch Mama, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and while the movie was well-made and fun to watch, I was much less afraid than I thought I would be, and the film reminded me of other horror classics.  Perhaps I am jaded, because that film should have scared me, but it didn’t. Continue reading “Mama Mia!”

Mama Mia!

Now and Then: My Changing Perspective of The Blair Witch Project

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Photo Credit – The Blair Witch Project

I had to double-check the release date of the original Blair Witch Project.  Sometimes, my teen years seem like a jumbled haze.  I knew, only, that I was a teenager when I saw the film, and after googling its opening date, it appears I was a day shy of my fifteenth birthday when the movie came out.  As Michael pointed out more recently when we watched the film, The Blair Witch Project sits at the inception of the “found footage” phenomenon, a film-making trend which would be furthered by other films, like Cloverfield and the Paranormal Activity movies.  The decision to create a film that appeared to be shot by the characters as the events were occurring was indeed novel, and was probably the reason so much hype surrounded the Blair Witch Project.  Before re-watching the film, I recalled little of the film’s actual details, but what I did remember – still do remember, starkly – is the hype surrounding the film.  It may well have been the most hyped horror movie of my time, which means it was no small decision to hide the fact that the recently released The Woods was really a sequel to the film and would ultimately be titled Blair Witch. Continue reading “Now and Then: My Changing Perspective of The Blair Witch Project”

Now and Then: My Changing Perspective of The Blair Witch Project

Examining What Scares Us with Lights Out

Lights Out 1
Photo Credit – Lights Out

Since I’ve started this horror blog – and have thus re-immersed myself in the world of the terrifying and often supernatural – I’ve become increasingly more interested in answering life’s “big” questions, at least, as they pertain to the horror genre.  Most specifically, I’m interested in what scares us.  When we’re children, I think, this list can be broad and sporadic.  If my parents are to be believed, I was once afraid of gloves (yes, gloves!)  And my sister possessed the unusual foreboding that she couldn’t go in the bathtub, lest a rogue ostrich who had stumbled into our abode might attack her.  (You heard correctly: my sister was afraid there was an ostrich in the bathtub).  There seems very little in the way of pattern or predictability when examining what scares us when we’re young.

Continue reading “Examining What Scares Us with Lights Out”

Examining What Scares Us with Lights Out