In the Jaws of a Classic: An analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Jaws 2When I was thirteen, my family and I took a trip to Florida.  I certainly wasn’t too old to love Disney World (I’m still not) but I was most excited to visit Universal Studios.  After all, commercials for Universal Studious basically consumed cable tv stations in the mid 90’s, and my imagination took flight when I saw the commercial for the Jaws ride.  Out of the depths of murky nothingness, a giant shark rises beside passengers in a boat, its face partially distorted by the flamboyant, spasmodic flashing lights that eclipse its visage and make the shark look more than a little surreal, and infinitely menacing.  I was simultaneously horrified and titillated by the prospect of actually riding the Jaws ride and experiencing the enormous, foreboding shark for myself. Continue reading “In the Jaws of a Classic: An analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws”

In the Jaws of a Classic: An analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws

Monstrous Undertakings in The Eyes of My Mother

The Eyes of My MotherAfter watching Hereditary – which I never blogged about, in part because of a perceived inability to say anything unique about it – I thought I’d seen it all.  Hereditary is one of the most disturbing horror films I’ve seen in some time, a sickening romp through the cackling, bloody underworld of death, grief, and witchcraft combined.  Nonetheless, Michael and I watched The Eyes of My Mother yesterday, a movie I decided to put on my list for comprehensive exams when I heard about it at a pop culture conference.  Let me tell you: it was disturbing.  Nonetheless, it was a fascinating film that said a lot about certain types of madness and (perhaps) about how such madness evolves.  I’ll be including, in my piece, Michael’s take on the main character, along with my reaction to his opinion and some observations about the film in general.  As a warning, this film is not for the faint of heart, and it may sit with you for awhile after you watch it.  That said, let’s talk about, perhaps, the general experience of watching The Eyes of My Mother along with some of the questions it raises. Continue reading “Monstrous Undertakings in The Eyes of My Mother”

Monstrous Undertakings in The Eyes of My Mother

A Howl for the Howling

howling 4
Marsha Quist, The Howling

It was another day of mild to moderate chaos at the local video store where I work.  Michael came in to procure movies that we would watch later that evening.  He held up a few options in front of me and prompted me to pick the one in which I was the most interested.  I immediately selected The Howling.  Having never seen the film, I’d only heard it alluded to briefly in Scream, and I knew only that it was a canonical werewolf movie.  I wasn’t really expecting to be scared, and to be honest, it didn’t scare me…that much.  The film was a lot more well-made and in general a lot creepier than I’d anticipated.  That aside, I kind of found myself wracking my brain for some sort of way to break the film apart or put it into perspective.  As I watched I scribbled down notes, but I wasn’t getting the insights I’d hoped for.  Despite my difficulties really analyzing this film, I think I’ll discuss in general why I like this movie, with an emphasis on the fact that it inverts the typical werewolf movie “rules” in a couple of ways and consistently highlights its own fixation on “the body” or “the flesh.” Continue reading “A Howl for the Howling”

A Howl for the Howling

Strong Social Statements in “The First Purge”

First Purge
Nya leads an anti-purge protest

I went into The First Purge with moderate expectations.  The previews had revealed a significant amount about the film’s premise, and I’d seen the additional three Purge movies before.  I didn’t have much hope that a prequel would be uniquely terrifying, but I was expecting it—especially, given its name—to contextualize the bizarre process of “purging” that these Purge films have contrived, to explain how “the purge” came to be in a world where we’d like to assume that most people are fundamentally good and basically non-violent.  That expectation was definitely met, and I thought that in achieving this goal, The First Purge made some bold statements about problems in our country and where we could be headed.  I argued in an earlier piece that I saw some “problematic presumptions” embedded in the originally released purge, (simply titled The Purge).  Well, this film answered my qualms in a clever, incisive way.  I should also warn you at the outset that my analysis contains a lot of spoilers, so only read on if you’ve seen the film, don’t plan on seeing the film, or aren’t bothered by rather specific previews!

Continue reading “Strong Social Statements in “The First Purge””

Strong Social Statements in “The First Purge”

Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car

Christine Oen
Christine before the fix-up

A few nights ago, I decided to enjoy a little casual viewing of a horror classic.  Christine, the story of the monster car, is a horror staple that, with a well-written script and believable characters, delivers ample entertainment without ever really terrifying the viewer—at least, if the viewer is me.  Because Christine doesn’t situate itself in the realm of the typical horror movie, rife with ghouls and vampires and traditional monsters of all sorts.  Christine – if you don’t know this, and you probably do – is about a vicious, killer car with unusual superpowers.  I chose the film, as I’ve insinuated, because I think it’s a fun watch for a low-key night – nothing as scary, say, as watching Sinister.  And unsurprisingly, as I watched the film, a few thoughts came to mind that made me ponder. Continue reading “Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car”

Cruisin’ With Christine: Attack of the Monster Car

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Invades my Spring Break

body snatchers 4So, a brief glance at my blog informs me that I haven’t written in almost two months.  Since I like to post a weekly post, that should be some indicator about how well I’m juggling my time this semester (translation: not well at all.)  However, Spring Break has (happily) descended upon me, and with Spring Break comes at least a little time to breath, and some horror-movie filled nights.  Now, I’ll credit Michael: Invasion of the Body Snatchers was actually his idea.  We were strolling the video store, when he mentioned the title.  However, this turned out to be a fortuitous idea.  More than some of the other films we’ve watched over break, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a fairly rich film that yields a lot of fun, exciting stuff to write about.  In fact, I have many pages of notes, so I’m not sure where I’ll start.  We shall find out! Continue reading “Invasion of the Body Snatchers Invades my Spring Break”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Invades my Spring Break

Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains

Deadpool Freddy TwoIn a rare turn of events, I got off work early today (woo-hoo!) and had to decide how to occupy my time.  I was thinking about a post I could write without re-reading anything, or re-watching anything – so I could just start writing for the sake of writing, and get a post up today before my plans tonight.  And it occurred to me that while I’ve talked about evil a lot on this blog, there is a rich pantheon of evil horror characters I’ve never discussed.

One thing is for certain: not all villains are made alike, and not all behave similarly.  I thought about this when considering the difference, in Star Wars, between a Vader and a Palpatine.  Vader becomes pure evil, but he becomes evil because he falls; the prequels tell us that he was once the promising Jedi, Annakin Skywalker.  And ultimately, Vader is redeemed.  Palpatine, on the other hand, is more or less bad to the bone, as the cliché song goes.  So I started thinking about all the evil horror characters who are insane, who are sympathetic, who have at least strands of humanity that sometimes surmount the darkness and show themselves a bit.  And then, I thought of the horror characters that don’t have any of that – no really human tendencies, no back story, few redeeming qualities.  For the purposes of this post, these are the characters I’ll label “truly evil,” and I’ve chosen five of them.  I couldn’t put these five characters in order, because they’re all pretty damn malicious, but here’s the list, nonetheless, with my explanation: My five favorite truly evil horror characters: Continue reading “Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains”

Evil is as Evil Does: Five of Horror’s Vilest Villains

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)