Existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (you know, that German philosopher with one hell of a curly mustache) once theorized that all of life and human activity rests on the will to power. Though I am no expert on Nietzsche, this seems to suggest that each individual’s desire to hold power, feel a sense of power, etc. – in a variety of contexts – governs much human activity. Moreover, we can look at, say, a movie, and understand character actions and motivations at least partially through this context. Famous theorist Michel Foucault suggests much the same thing when he says that “power is everywhere, diffused and embodied in discourse, knowledge, and regimes of truth.” While Foucault examines power on a more sociological level, his viewpoints converge with Nietzsche on the influence and the prevalence – indeed, the omnipresence – of power. And while there are many elements of Alien Covenant to discuss (I saw it tonight) power seems of critical importance. Continue reading ““To Serve in Heaven or Reign in Hell”: The Will to Power in Alien Covenant”
When 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”
For much of my life, I had no real urge to see John Carpenter’s The Thing. Just the name of the film seemed blasé. I mean, how scary could a so-called “thing” be in a supernatural realm of ghosts, vampires, and demons? However, my interest piqued, both as I got older and as I started thinking more broadly about the horror genre. I began to wonder: Okay, so what exactly is “the thing,” and what can it do compared to other dangerous entities? After all, I’d seen Halloween, so I knew John Carpenter was more than capable of making a compelling horror film. (And, well, I love Lauryn Hill’s 90’s hit, “That Thing.” That has to matter, right?) A few nights ago, then, with those thoughts in mind, I grabbed The Thing off the rack at our local Family Video (yes, Michael and I still support brick and mortar video lenders) and the two of us settled down for what turned out to be a lengthy, in-depth study of partly-explained infestation and unchecked paranoia.
In his poem, “Roses,” William Carlos Williams writes, “The imagination, across the sorry facts, lifts us to make roses.” The poem can be uplifting or cynical, depending on its interpretation. When I sat down to write this piece, I was going to say that the poem was needlessly negative. Are the “facts” really that “sorry”? And can’t the mind work in an opposite way, so that everything around us is really rather nice but appears abysmal? Conversely, writers, for years, have been fascinated with the concept of disillusionment. Our minds build castles in the sky, and when those castles collapse, we see a depressing reality – or so the story goes sometimes. This was clearly Charles Beaumont’s interest in “The Magic Man,” a short story in his Perchance to Dream anthology – a story that isn’t scary, per se, but that subtly leads us to the darker crevices of the human psyche. (There will be some spoilers in this review). Continue reading “The Sting of Disillusionment”
I love folksy beliefs. Chief among those that interest me is the belief that if you die in your dream, you really die. I don’t imagine this is true, because I have died in my dreams, and I’m still here to relate the experience. Sometimes in my dreams, I don’t merely die; I’m already dead. But Charles Beaumont taps into this fear of dream-death in his short story “Perchance to Dream,” which is also the name of the collection of short fiction the story appears in. Beaumont, one of the most influential Twilight Zone writers, died of Pick’s disease (and, possibly, early-onset Alzheimer’s) at age 38, but his contributions to the horror and science fiction genres are nonetheless abundant. This is the first of his works I’ve read, but with the compilation Perchance to Dream safely in my hands, I intend to read many more. Continue reading “To Read “Perchance to Dream””
“The Voice in the Night,” by William Hope Hodgson, published in 1907, starts like a stereotypical horror story: “It was a dark, starless night.” But Hodgson manages to provide suspense – and at least a few small surprises – throughout the telling of his story. As is typical of old horror stories, a narrator regales us with macabre events that have passed. George, the narrator, is sailing through the Northern Pacific with his friends, when they hear a faint voice coming from a small boat. Continue reading ““The Voice in the Night” and the Illusion of Place”