What Makes Sinister So Scary?

Sinister 7With the mass-produced barrage of horror movies available to us – sometimes formulaic, sometimes cheaply made – it can be tempting for the jaded horror-goer to presume that nothing is truly scary anymore.  I offer no new argument, after all, when I contend that in our increasingly sensationalized visual culture, we become (or at least risk becoming) desensitized to so many horrible things, immune to so much tragedy.  It takes far more, at least from a visual standpoint, to scare us than it did sixty years ago (a fact that will be evident to anyone who compares The Haunting to an Eli Roth film).  This may not be the case universally, but it’s a general rule.  And still, scary movies are manufactured, and the passionate horror fan does encounter, every now and then, a film that is particularly, unexpectedly scary.  Such was my experience with the film Sinister, released about two weeks before Halloween in 2012 (although I saw it much later ).  Granted, Sinister is not as artistically scintillating as my two favorite horror movies of reference – The Shining and It Follows – but it’s still a well-made, incredibly unsettling film.  When I told Michael I wanted to write a piece about it, he reassured me that he wouldn’t be upset if I re-watched it without him; one time was enough for him.  So I sat down tonight, in my little Indiana apartment, with a focusing question in mind: What makes this film so scary?  While I may discuss other things in the post below, I am particularly interested in exploring possible answers to this question. Continue reading “What Makes Sinister So Scary?”

What Makes Sinister So Scary?

Phoenix Forgotten and the Found Footage Phenomenon

phoenix forgotten oneWhen it comes to the found footage genre, it seems like everyone has an opinion, and they’re not all favorable.  Personally, I love the genre’s faux-authenticity (how’s that for an oxymoron?) and I don’t hold films that fall under the found footage umbrella up to unreasonable expectations.  CGI’d specters and ostentatious sound effects are necessarily off-limits, forcing the filmmaker to work within certain parameters.  What’s trickier, still, is any attempt to work within the found footage genre while somehow also making the film seem unique and original.  It’s hard to emulate The Blair Witch Project, for example, and still deviate from it enough to produce something that critics will deem “innovative.”  With those observations in mind, I’m going to give the recently released Phoenix Forgotten my seal of approval.  It has been, and will continue to be, lambasted for not being scary enough (and perhaps too imitative of similar predecessors), but as I’ll suggest below, that’s a fairly shallow bit of criticism that doesn’t take into account both how intriguing the film is and how chillingly it concludes.  Continue reading “Phoenix Forgotten and the Found Footage Phenomenon”

Phoenix Forgotten and the Found Footage Phenomenon

A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything, Part 4

the shining part 3.2So…final papers continue to be imminent, and I continue to break for a frequent, intense, scene by scene examination of The Shining, my all-time favorite horror film directed by the one and only Stanley Kubrick.  My intent, when I started writing, was to write a couple posts.  But, this is segment number four in the series, and Jack isn’t even (completely) crazy yet.  As such, I think I’ll continue.  If you’d like to read my first three blog posts, which cover about the first half hour of the movie, you can check out the first, second, or third!

Continue reading “A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything, Part 4”

A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything, Part 4

A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything – Part One

the-shining-twinsIt’s Saturday night, the lights are dim, and slow jazz begins to emanate through the coffee shop I frequent as I scrunch my body over Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and try to focus on the book’s merits (I mean, it’s okay, but it’s not my favorite).  Michael has just left the coffee shop for karaoke, and I’ve elected to stay at the café, which closes at midnight, and study for a candidacy exam that takes place in late August.  Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge fan of bars.  But as I’m trying to get enmeshed in the heart-rending story of a stranded narrator’s self-constructed wall collapsing in a storm (really, the way I typed it sounds more exciting than the event does in the book) it occurs to me that the exam isn’t until August, and maybe if I read a little while longer I can rent…you guessed it…a horror movie.  Continue reading “A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything – Part One”

A Tribute to The Shining: Let’s Not Overlook Anything – Part One

A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment

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Photo Credit-The Belko Experiment

Horror Blogger Confession:  While I usually drag Michael to see horror movies on opening night, a second viewing of Beauty and the Beast took precedence over a first viewing of The Belko Experiment this weekendI mean, the remake of Beauty and the Beast was soooo fantastic the first time, and I was seriously craving something uplifting.  Graduate school, after all, is stressful (this semester more so than last), our country’s being shit on by the most corrupt president and cabinet in U.S. history, and I’m kind of an anxiety head case as it is.  So I really needed to see Emma Watson affirm that she wants much more than this provincial life before she forms a healthy partnership with a lovable, furry CGI figure whose horns and stature make him look like Krampus’s gentler, non-demonic doppelganger.  I’m only human, and I love watching Lumiere, the talking Candelabra, sing about food.  So I put Belko on the back burner and all was well.

Continue reading “A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment”

A Matter of Life and Death in the Belko Experiment

Get Uncomfortable with Get Out

 

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Photo Credit – Get Out

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when entering the theater to watch the newly released Get Out.  On the one hand, the previews looked creepy enough.  And then there’s the intriguing prospect of a horror movie that considers the problem of racial injustice.  I thought that the movie had incredible potential – and was excited to see it – but I thought it could bust, too.  Happily, the film was strange and jarring but also excellent.  Get Out takes typical social discomfort and morphs it into unsettling suspense.  The film facilitates a lot of pathos from the viewer toward the characters and makes a bold statement about the unsolved problem of racial inequity in America.  Since the film has been out for a couple of weeks, and since it may be easier to discuss by referring to the ending, there may be spoilers in this review.  Beware!

Continue reading “Get Uncomfortable with Get Out”

Get Uncomfortable with Get Out

The Ring: Technophobia or Technophilia?

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Photo Credit – The Ring

I don’t remember the first time I saw The Ring, but it was probably in college over ten years ago.  Then there was a sequel that didn’t get much attention (I’ve never seen it).  Since a more advertised, more acclaimed sequel, Rings, came out yesterday (I intend to see it tonight and write about it thereafter) I thought it would be appropriate to dive into the American original, which is based off the utterly eerie Japanese Ringu.  Perhaps in part because its origin is Japanese – and thus beyond our cultural sphere – The Ring is a highly original horror and suspense classic, mixing an investigative mystery plot-line with sheer horror and eschewing a lot of horror film conventions for its own original storytelling.  But I intend to do more than sing The Ring’s praises in this piece – although I will, assuredly, do that.  I plan on looking at some binaries that construct the storytelling behind The Ring and examine what the film implies about our culture’s relationship to technology.  Continue reading “The Ring: Technophobia or Technophilia?”

The Ring: Technophobia or Technophilia?