Saturday, February 18, 2017


Some would call M. Night Shyamalan a bad director. His biggest weakness comes from the tone of his films. There is always something a little “off” in most of his work. Whether it be The Happening’s attempt at the seriousness of plants killing humans coming across like a complete unintentional joke or Lady in the Water’s wacky mythology including a big jab at film critics for disliking the director. Shyamalan’s latest film, Split, continues his tone deaf style, complete with an icky ending when we are led to believe that child abuse can teach you a thing or two about survival or that people with dissociative identity disorder are dangerous. Split, however is a refreshing return to horror, and his best since Signs. What Shyamalan does really well with Split, is creating a new, true horror movie monster. This is something that is lacking in horror films of late. There are home invasion, psychological, man against nature, and so many zombie (a classic monster, but not a new one) horror movies hogging the screens. Shyamalan’s monster is fresh and alive due to a great and wild performance by James McAvoy. McAvoy plays Kevin, a man who suffered abuse as a child and has 23 separate personalities. Three of the personalities are Dennis, a violent man with obsessive compulsive disorder, Hedwig, a nine year old boy, and Patricia, a woman with a British accent who keeps the other three under control; they are preparing for the arrival of a 24th personality known as “The Beast”. At the beginning of the film Kevin kidnaps three teenage girls, Claire, Marcia, and Casey, from a birthday party and takes them to his lair (which we find out later is underneath the Philadelphia Zoo!). The audience and the girls learn through Hedwig that they are meant for a sacrifice to “The Beast”. They attempt escape all while Kevin shows them his different personalities between visits with his psychiatrist, played by Betty Buckley who worked with Shyamalan on The Happening and was Carrie’s understanding teacher in the horror film Carrie (1976).
You can’t have a great monster without a great heroine. Casey, played by Anya Talor-Joy (whom you may remember is the lead in one of the best horror films of 2015, The Witch), has also suffered child abuse and sees a way to connect with Kevin in order to escape. Talor-Joy has a way of embodying both innocence and cunning in her character, who is a formidable opponent for “The Beast”. When Kevin transforms into “The Beast”, he physically transforms to become bigger, stronger, faster, and hungry for human flesh. The obvious comparison would be the transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, however in Kevin’s case, he transforms his body with his mind. Some would argue that having Kevin transform into a beast-like monster lessens the psychological horror of the film turning it into camp, but I wonder why this is a bad thing. The film’s pop psychology is not a strong enough framework for a serious psychological romp and from the beginning, it flirts with a campy vibe. As a horror fan, I appreciate when whatever “it” is turns out to be an actual monster no matter how silly. I get a feeling of exhilarating fun when discovering a new creature in horror; it reminds me of being a kid. It is a safe unknown. M. Night Shyamalan shows us over and over again that he too appreciates a bit of fun and folklore. That is something that I love about him, even through his faults as a filmmaker there is a sincerity to his films, a lack of cynicism. I can remember connecting with that sincerity as a kid, staying up late to watch my favorite horror movies on VHS. Also, he always films in Philly, so give him props for representing, guys.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Christianity and Science Fiction: Splice and Deep Blue Sea

I will start off saying that I love Deep Blue Sea, the silly scifi/horror about smart sharks (I also love the phrase “smart sharks”). I did not love Splice. But, these films, along with countless others have something in common, they are anti-science Christian propaganda! Also, I mention Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which I had no idea the original title was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus! This story has been retold countless times in scifi films and horror and the theme of man playing god and then being destroyed in the end is a common one in film. I think scifi can go beyond this idea, but let me explain:

Splice is a modern day Adam and Eve story or perhaps an adaptation of Mary Shelley's famous book Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are working scientists that share their lives together. I could write about Adrien Brody's character and the much talked about scene in which he has sex with the creature (his daughter) because he just can't control himself. But, I would rather focus on the woman in this review. The woman (Sarah Polley) (I will be referring to these characters as man and woman for the rest of this review because of their extreme gender roles) becomes obsessed with creating a creature by splicing animal, plant, and human DNA together. Her husband (Adrien Brody) does not think playing god is a good idea, but goes along with it because he can't say no to the “wiles” of the woman (this stereotype of the sexually controlling woman and weak minded, helpless man is a constant theme in this movie). She won't take no for an answer and succeeds in creating a small creature that later develops into a childlike female which later matures into a “sexy” female monster and finally into a violent horny full grown male. Why does this woman want so strongly to do this? The man wants a child and the woman doesn't want to go through pregnancy. She makes a comment, saying “as soon as they discover a way for men to give birth then she will have a baby”. Well she gets what she deserves in the end by being raped and impregnated by her creation. What the fuck people!? They make her character out to be some sort of hysteric (a word that comes from the Greek word for womb, and that people once believed was “caused by a woman's uterus getting loose within her body”) when her character is actually a very informed modern woman, who sees the unfairness of birth and boundaries put upon women from social norms and scientific study. She doesn't want to give birth, she wants control of her body, and she wants to use her skills to create her own masterpiece, her own creature! And for this she is punished, she is violated, she is raped, and she becomes what she did not want, pregnant. She also, for ridiculous reasons, decides to keep it, because abortion seems to be out of the question in movies in general. The more I type this the more I come to really hate this movie. It takes what could be a great idea and forces it back into the dark ages where extreme Christian values rule and science is evil.

Deep Blue Sea has a much lighter message, but is still rooted in Christian thought. Scientists are at it again messing with God's creatures, in this case sharks, experimenting on their brains in order to make a drug for Alzheimer's patients. The lead scientist played by Saffron Burrows like Sarah Polley in Splice will stop at nothing to achieve her scientific goal. They succeed in making the drug, but right before all hell breaks loose and the sharks get smart. The sharks learn to open doors, turn on ovens, bite off arms and orchestrate a masterful plan to escape the facility by flooding the lab. The unsubtly named Sherman “Preacher” Dudley (wink wink) is the cook, played by LL Cool J (obviously having fun in the role). The “preacher” has a comical dialogue with God through the whole movie and he, along with the rough shark handler are the only characters in the movie that aren't scientists, and the only survivors. When the “preacher” is caught in the jaws of one of the sharks and you think he is a goner, he uses the cross he has hanging around his neck to stab the shark in the eye and is released. This memorable scene really lays it on thick! All the scientist get it in the end, especially Saffron Burrows who has an eye to eye stare match with the last remaining shark at the very end of the movie. It is almost like she is mentally telling the shark “Yes I was wrong, we humans should never fuck with nature, I am sorry, eat me.” And then the shark eats her in one gulp. Hurray for science! Bottom line, no matter if Alzheimer's is a serious disease that needs a cure and human intervention is a necessity to our survival, science is evil and we should be more like the God fearing cook to survive. Well, shit.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Oscars: An Incredibly Awkward Experience

I know the Academy Awards do not always represent the most essential films in existence; a lot of films go unnoticed or forgotten. Most of the time these involve films of a certain genre (horror, fantasy, anything that doesn’t fall under the “drama” category) or films that have lack of funds. However, sometimes the Academy gets it right. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

Why is it that in a group of actors, actresses, directors, producers, all around movie makin’ professionals, that these people can’t seem to get it together and make a kickass awards show? Have the Academy Awards always been this awkward or has it just been in the last couple of years? How are they awkward you ask? Did you see the Oscars!? Let me run it down for ya: long awkward silences between jokes, a creepy Ben Stiller in avatar makeup, weird background noises while people were presenting (maybe from all the crazy mechanisms that were moving the stage around?), that lady that Kanyed* that director of that short documentary, George Clooney’s grumpy faces, the really bad dance number that involved break-dancing, oh boy, the dance number was really, really bad. I just don’t understand that in a business of entertaining people they can’t make an entertaining award show; although, the awkwardness does become entertaining at times.

Ok, anyway, I am really glad The Hurt Locker won best picture and that Kathryn Bigelow won best director. She is an amazing director. She transcends the gender stereotype. It isn’t about a woman making kickass action films and the fact that she is a woman should mean nothing in a truly equal world. Her being recognized seems to be a step in the right direction. She has directed some of the best, most unique films in American cinema, including The Loveless, Blue Steel (with Jamie Lee Curtis!), Near Dark, Strange Days, and Point Break (yeah, I know, Point Break!) Please, check these all out if you haven’t already. And definitely see The Hurt Locker because it is the most relevant picture of our time!

* Kanyed; to be Kanyed; you just got Kanyed: when someone runs up on stage and interrupts you in the middle of your acceptance speech. Usually involving loud confusing remarks about how someone deserved the award more than you. Look it up on the Google ya’ll!

Monday, March 1, 2010


Uzumaki the comic written by Junji Ito (best artist ever!), is incredible. Especially for horror fans, the comic has it all: a wonderfully imaginative idea, gorgeous art, and a truly scary and engaging story! Uzumaki the film is a sad comparison to the comic, but that happens when you translate a book or comic into a film. It is a bit easier with comics because they are a little like a storyboard, but when translating a long complicated story like this, it is near impossible to equal the comic into one film. But, let’s say you forget the comic and just watch the movie. Then Uzumaki the film becomes pretty darn good. It’s super funny, quirky and so fun!

Kirie Goshima (played by super cute Eriko Hatsune) lives in a town that has become engulfed in the Uzumaki, which is Japanese for “spiral”. The supernatural spirals begin appearing in the sky and water; anything with a spiral pattern becomes entrancing and the townspeople begin to embody the Uzumaki. Her boyfriend Shuichi Saito (played by Fhi Fan) is quiet and brooding and I personally find him dreamy. He is the only one who really notices the danger of the Uzumaki. His father has become obsessed with anything and everything with a spiral pattern. He becomes entranced by the Uzumaki. In a scene at the beginning of the movie he is seen by Kirie crouching in an ally obsessively filming a snail and its spiral shell. The two sweethearts try to find some answers while dealing with their crazy parents. The film is divided into chapters. In each chapter the town and people become more and more consumed by the Uzumaki and people start dying gruesome deaths always involving the Uzumaki! I don’t want to tell much more for fear of spoiling it. I will say this: the soundtrack is wonderful! The music fits the quirkiness of the film. And if ever a real person looked so much like a comic character, it would be Fhi Fan as Shuichi Saito! The resemblance is uncanny, from the glasses to his eyebrows, and also his entire disposition. I mean this guy just needed glasses slapped on him and, “voila” the personification of Shuichi Saito! I looked the actor up and it seems his only role was in this film. I want to see more of him!

The comic engulfed me in spirals. I found myself becoming obsessed with them, much like Shuichi Saito’s father had been. I started seeing them everywhere for weeks! However, I don’t know if the film accomplishes this as effectively. Overall, the movie is a little disjointed and tries to cram a lot of ideas and scenes from the comic, without much connection to the main characters or overall story. Yes, ultimately the comic is more engaging, scarier, and of course much better than the film. However, whether or not you have read the comic, I would still recommend seeing the film. If you have not read the comic, you get a fun, goofy and really creepy film that, unfortunately, is also a bit confusing and unfinished. If you’ve had the privilege of reading the comic, then the film is not quite as confusing and you get an extra treat because you can see some of Junji Ito’s beloved characters and images come to life!

This review is part of the Final Girl Film Club! Check out all of the reviews of this film and go to Final Girl for some of the best horror writings ever! Mmmmm Final Girl….

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some Of My Favorite People!

Thom Mathews

I have had the biggest crush on Thom Mathews since I first laid eyes on his majestic visage in Alien from L.A. (a movie I mentioned in “For the Love of Boring Movies Part One”). One of these days there will be a Part 2 when I get the urge. Till then, back to Thom! My crush grew even larger when I realized that the cute and loveable character Freddy in both Return of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead 2 is Mathews! I thought my crush could not exceed its level until I saw…… Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. He plays Tommy Jarvis, who accidentally raises Jason from the grave. Although Part VI doesn’t come nearly close to being the best movie in this series, Jason is the most “zombie” in this one. And so my crush is boiling over at this point and Thom Mathews is my hero.

Melanie Griffith

Yeah, I have a crush on Melanie. We are on a first name basis. We are tight like that. As in, if she saw this write-up she would probably get a restraining order against me. Anyway, she plays the porn star Holly Body in my beloved Body Double, a bad ass tracker in Cherry 2000 (awesome and silly sci-fi flick), a misfit on the run in Something Wild, and a working girl in Working Girl (which I haven’t seen, but I just know it is good!). She is so spunky and fun. Her voice has an innocent but bad girl whisper - crisp and pouty. She is also the daughter of Tippi Hedren, one of Hitchcock’s famous blonde actresses whose films include Marnie and The Birds (one of Hitchcock’s most famous horrors, which made history for the genre)!

Margot Kidder

Ok, I guess I have a crush on all of these people. Can you blame me though? Margot Kidder has the kind of face that I want to draw over and over again! She is also a great actress and one of the great “scream queens,” if you could call her that. One of her first roles was in a Brian De Palma film called Sisters. Yeah, the same director as Body Double! Also one of De Palma’s first films, Sisters is a murder mystery/slasher about French twins, one sickly and evil, the other, good. Margot Kidder plays the twins with a sultry and sleepy French accent. Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen it. Another early film was a very popular classic horror film called Black Christmas. One of the most solid and effective slashers ever, this film has been the influence of almost every slasher flick ever to grace the screen! Oh yeah, I guess you might also remember her as Lois Lane in the Superman series.

I mean, could she be any cooler?