Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Archive for May, 2013

Survival of the Living; or, We Do Need Another Hero

Posted by CinemaPsycho on May 19, 2013

Wow, time flies, doesn’t it? Yeah. I’ve been a little busy lately. And being sick hasn’t helped either. I’ve really been meaning to post more often, it’s just kind of gotten away from me. But, as movie trailers used to say in the 80’s, I’m baaaaaack…

Before I get to my main subject, can someone tell me why people have such a problem with Kickstarter? I think it’s a great way for fans to help get the movies made that they want to see. But no one’s forcing anyone to give money to any project. If you don’t want to give a single dime to Veronica Mars or Zach Braff, well, you don’t have to. So don’t. Go about your business. I gave $25 to the Veronica Mars people, because I loved the show and I’d like to see the movie get made. I’m glad I could contribute in some small way. If you don’t feel the same way, fine. Don’t give them any money. I wasn’t forced to, and no one’s forcing you to. Yeah, it’d be nice if Warner Brothers would pony up $5 million to make the movie, but they’re clearly not going to do that. So the producers took an alternate route. They didn’t put a gun to anyone’s head and force them to give them money to make the movie. The fans wanted to give them money because they loved the show. It’s something they were passionate about. What’s so bad about that? I probably would have just spent that $25 on something else anyway. I’m glad the fans weren’t apathetic about something that they loved. I think that’s great. Kickstarter is just another way to make your voice heard. When I was a kid, I would’ve loved to be able to help keep Square Pegs on the air (wow, that dates me) or get a cool movie made that wouldn’t be made otherwise. Why do people have such a problem with that? Do you really like having corporations make all the decisions about your entertainment choices? If so, I will never understand you.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. The recent escape/rescue of those girls in Cleveland from that lunatic’s basement brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now (just so we’re clear, I am very pro-sex, but only consensual sex, so what this guy did is very uncool with me). Recently I’ve been thinking about the whole debate over violent horror films, thrillers, etc., which I’ve talked about before on this blog. I often think that maybe both sides are kind of missing the point. And sometimes it doesn’t help that the movies themselves kinda miss the point.

Let me explain. You see, I can only speak for myself as an individual audience member. And I’ve never watched horror movies to watch people die. No. That’s not the point. I watch horror movies to watch people survive.

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John Carpenter said something awhile back in an interview I read on Dread Central, and I wish I had the exact quote here, but I don’t, so I’m paraphrasing. He basically said that the point of horror/thrillers is for the audience to transfer themselves and their fears, wishes and hopes into the characters they’re watching on screen, so that they basically become the lead character and root for them to survive and achieve their goals. In other words, we identify with the survivor, not the killer. When I read that, I thought, yes, exactly. When I watch Carpenter’s seminal Halloween (one of my all-time favorite horror films), it is Laurie Strode I identify with, not Michael Myers. I like Laurie Strode, I admire her, I think she is smart and strong and awesome. That is why she survives, I have always believed – not because she is a virgin but because she is the strongest of her group. She is us, or who we wish we were. OK, it doesn’t take much strength to hide in the damn closet, admittedly (it was 1978), and she has some help from Dr. Loomis, but still, I believe the point of Halloween is that Laurie Strode is a survivor. Not that everyone else dies. She even survives Halloween II, and is much more proactive in doing so. (As far as Laurie’s “death” in Halloween: Resurrection goes, I prefer to think that entire shitty movie doesn’t even exist, canon or no canon.) Michael Myers is the embodiment of pure evil – we’re not supposed to identify with him. Those who do are missing the damn point. (I know, what about Rob Zombie’s remake? Well, to me that’s a different thing, with a different aesthetic. In Zombie’s film, clearly we are meant to identify with Michael, at least for the first half. But again, that’s not Carpenter’s film.) When I watch Halloween, I’m watching it to watch Laurie Strode survive. That’s the point of the movie. It’s not a feminist thing, it’s a human thing. I like her as a person and I want her to survive. She does. And that’s awesome.

I don’t know how many of you have seen Brad Anderson’s recent thriller The Call. OK, it’s not a horror film per se, but hear me out. The critics really missed the boat on this one, so if you’re one of those people who only goes to see movies with a high Rotten Tomatoes rating, you probably didn’t see it. You missed out. It’s a really smartly written thriller about a 911 call center worker (played by Halle Berry) who helps a kidnapped teenager (Abigail Breslin) escape from a psychopath. It’s more complicated than that, obviously, but that’s the basic idea. I was really impressed by it, both by the clever script by Richard D’Ovidio and the tight direction from Anderson (a very underrated talent). What really struck me about the film was how invested I and the rest of the audience got in both of these characters’ well-being. The script and the performances are very smart about how much they make you care about these people, and that’s why it works so well. OK, obviously you know going in that the girl’s probably not going to die horribly, but it’s how she survives that matters. I loved watching both of them fight backthat’s what I want to see. I didn’t want to see them die.

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I wanted to see them fight to survive. And I loved that they did. That was awesome. I fucking loved that. When Berry says to Breslin over the phone, “we’re fighters, you and me” – I’m not ashamed to say that moment made me tear up. Yes. That’s what I want to see. That’s what this is about. I want this girl to survive. I want you to kick this motherfucker’s ass. I want you to be a hero. That’s what The Call is about, and that’s why I loved the hell out of it. I loved it for the same reason I loved that those girls in Cleveland escaped that basement. As far as I’m concerned, those girls are heroes. They got away. They survived. Fuck yeah.

You see, I don’t watch these movies to see evil win. I want evil to be vanquished. I want someone to rise up and kick evil’s ass. I realize that’s not always possible or realistic. It’s not always going to happen. But man, do I love it when it does. It’s the same reason I loved Mia’s “fuck-you” chainsaw moment in the Evil Dead remake (which I loved, actually) – it was just like, YEAH. She fucking earned that. “You know what, I’m tired of this shit.” Great line. I’ve never understood people who watch horror films and root for Jason, Freddy and Michael. I just don’t think they get it. And too many horror films cater to them, like the miserable, godawful, execrable Wrong Turn 5. Yeah, I’m done with that series once and for all. Somewhere along the line, it took a “wrong turn” and became about how “awesome” these raping, murdering, inbred cannibals are. Declan O’Brien, the writer/director of the shitty experience that is Wrong Turn 5, deserves a seriously hard kick in the nuts. And I actually saw the edited version on the Sci-Fi Channel. I can’t imagine what the unedited version is like. Fuck That Nonsense. Just trust me, don’t ever, ever, ever watch Wrong Turn 5. Whatever mistakes you make in life, don’t make that one.

“But wait a minute”, I hear some of you saying, “aren’t you the guy who championed the torture-porn films not too long ago?”
OK, hold up a second there. I wouldn’t exactly say I championed them. I said I thought they were an interesting phenomenon. I think some of those films are fascinating, and I think a lot of them are a sociopolitical reaction to what was going on at the time (Abu Grahib, anyone?). But I don’t want every horror film to be like them. Hell no. I think there’s a place for extremely dark films, just like I think there’s a place for death metal, but I don’t want to listen to it 24-7. As I said at the time, I like a good old-fashioned haunted-house movie too. And I like other things that have nothing to do with horror whatsoever.

I just strongly dispute this idea (even held among some horror fans) that horror has to be all about death, and watching people die, and die in horrible ways, and let’s find new and creative ways to kill people on screen, and all that jazz. For me, and for a lot of other people, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the exact opposite of that mentality. If being sick for the last several months has taught me anything, it’s that life is a little too short to spend it obsessed with death. A great horror film should be a rollercoaster ride, and we should come out at the end of it exhilarated, a little frightened, and most of all, glad to be alive. Because that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

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