Category Archives: Lists

Horror films to the rescue: coping with a trump presidency

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Long ago, much longer than I shall admit to you now, I worked at a tiny, independent video rental shop in the college town of Olympia, Washington. One of my fellow movie geek co-workers had found a list of poorly-translated subtitles from Hong Kong movies, and taped it up by the registers. There was one line that stuck out to me; one line from the litany of grammar snafus that struck me as particularly poetic. That line is:

“How can you use my intestines as a gift?”

That line sums up the magic of this genre for me. Horror reflects our current anxieties and offers us a comforting catharsis. It pulls out our glistening guts and shows us how to read them like tea leaves. In fact, that particular Hong Kong subtitle is what I originally wanted to name this blog. However, I soon realized that Google search engines would end up sending me poor souls seeking solutions to various gastrointestinal maladies.

I’m an American so as you probably know, my country is a festering shit-show right now. Some days are terrifying; each humiliatingly stupid action made by our new administration expedites the normalization of things that were once dystopian fiction. Yet, on other days it feels exhilarating; like every stone is being upended to reveal all the disgusting maggots that ever hid in the wet muck below; sunshine exposing it and burning it all up. Always there is this confusing roller coaster of despair and optimism. At least there are horror films to help us through it. Because who has money or insurance for therapy now, anyway?

The following articles explore some of horror’s latest attempts to find meaning in the fears caused by our current societal climate. Oh, and one is just straight up about the actual climate. Happy gut-gazing.

6 New Cinematic Monsters That Will Emerge in 2017

“Looking back at 2016, a year of potent fears, our art responded with potent films. From the Nazi murderers in Green Room to the invasion thriller of 8 Cloverfield Lane, our films reflected a scarily accurate, if heightened, image of our reality. If Donald Trump’s campaign can find an overlap between their political “message” and the people who watch The Walking Dead, there has to be a truth to the pseudoscience of pop culture anthropology. In this noble pursuit, what monster will scare us the most in 2017?”

The Post-Donald Trump Horror Films Are Going to Be Epic

“As a Mexican filmmaker, Cuarón has made an undeniable political statement by painting illegal immigrants his heroes and white American southerners as the horrifying monster. It’s a shot across the bow of alt-right voters everywhere; it’s also bound to get more than a few of them into the seats.”

 

Karyn Kusama On Making Horror Films and Fighting Evil in the Age of Trump

 

“Horror, almost better than any of the other genres, pits the will to live against the will toward nihilism,” Kusama explained. “I just think that’s worth exploring. I don’t know what is more important, actually, to explore than that very dynamic.”

Jordan Peele explains why his horror movie about racism is what we need in the Trump era

“I’ll say this: The scariest monster in the world is human beings and what we are capable of, especially when we get together. I’m working on these premises about these different social demons. These innately human monsters that have been woven into the fabric of how we think and how we interact. Each one of my movies is going to be about one of these different social demons. The first one being “Get Out,” is about race and neglect and marginalization.”

‘Inconvenient Truth’ Sequel Is a Horror Movie for Trump’s America

“One sequence about 40 minutes into the film is particularly alarming. It starts with Gore telling some followers that the fossil fuel industry has spent years trying to convince (and bribe) politicians into ignoring climate change. That’s not news, but the next two scenes are particularly painful now. First, Trump makes an appearance on Fox News, admonishing President Obama for focusing on global warming instead of defeating ISIS. Then, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman meets with Gore to discuss his investigation into Exxon-Mobil and its allegedly fraudulent representation of climate change science going back to the 1970s.”

Traveling Horror Novels

Carl wishes he had a good book right about now.

These past few months have been intense, and have left me little time or opportunity to sit at this computer and drum up a post for this here blog of mine. My family and I have been wrapping up our lives in Seattle and wading through the sticky mess that is a cross-country move. We are relocating to North Carolina, but are currently traveling around the west coast visiting friends and family and soaking up as much of their love as we can before we begin the next chapter of our lives.

Speaking of chapters…

Through all this traveling around, I have managed to read some great horror novels that deserve some attention. There is an underlying theme of transit and/or displacement in all these books, which probably made them especially immersive for me. Thus the title of this post: Traveling Horror Novels.

 

Click here to read more about this fabulous book.

 

The Girl With All The Gifts was quite incredible. It managed to pull you into the little, passionate soul of the main character before revealing her tragic situation. Do you enjoy survival horror but are sick of the same old tropes? Try this one. I highly recommend that you do not read any spoilers of this book beforehand. Just read it.

 

Click here to learn more about this fabulous book.

 

The Girl on the Train had an intimacy in its writing that pulled me into the main character immediately. The story definitely borrows a bit from Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but within a suffocating sphere of depression, alcoholism, loneliness and desperation, this voyeuristic murder mystery definitely stands on its own.

 

Click here to learn more about these fabulous books.

 

If you are looking for something a bit lighter, faster, even a bit manlier…pick up The Wayward Pines trilogy. I had a lot of fun reading these books; I finished them obscenely fast. They are available as Kindle Unlimited titles if you have that option, or you can get the whole series for six bucks. I was delighted by the town’s hidden workings, and found the sci-fi elements of the plot pretty damn fascinating. The books stayed consistent throughout the series, and the last one left me wanting more. I even had to delve a bit into some Kindle Worlds fan fiction on this one to get my fix. Addictive story line.

Gore. And More.

I lied. I do not love gore. If, in reality, I witnessed the brittle and rotting skull of a zombie being popped under a combat boot like a stinky grape or a river of blood splashing through the halls of the historic and creepy mountain hotel I have agreed to steward through the empty winter season, I would piss my pants. Maybe worse. However, within the safety of my home or local theater, I do enjoy being able to reach an imagined proximity to such events through the creative hands of a horror film’s FX team who can work such icky magic with corn syrup and pig liver.

There is no shortage of “Top Ten Gore Scenes” floating around the web, and so let me be clear that this is not one of them. These are scenes in movies that hit me personally and physically. Sometimes from fear, sometimes disgust, and sometimes glee. Here are ten yell-out-loud, cringe-worthy,  and puke-inducing celluloid moments that truly and viscerally got to me. Some in a good way, others in a GoodGodNoIdidnotjustwatchthat! way.

High TensionThe blowjob scene.

How's her head?

How’s her head?

As if the grunts emitting from this foul man were not enough, viewers realize that what they thought was just a sad exchange between repulsive troll and prostitute, or maybe even a molested niece, turns out to actually be said troll using a woman’s severed head as a semen receptacle. Yep. Pretty fucking disgusting.

Mirrors — The character’s reflections staring back at them hatefully before hurting themselves (such as grabbing hold of top and bottom jaws and ripping their head apart) and thus, the character.

open wide!

open wide!

This was not a great movie. With a rambling plot and an adequate performance from Keifer Southerland, I’d rate it 3 stars on Netflix streaming. Yet these mirror scenes, especially the jaw-ripping, dental shit-show ones, had me fearing my own reflection for weeks. Another score for French director Alexandra Aja, who also directed High Tension. I am choosing this remake version here instead of the original Korean film, Into the Mirror, because where the remake dumbed down the story, it upped the horror/gore factor.

The Shining — Elevator of blood scene.

This shot was done in three takes, but took nine days to set up.

This shot was done in three takes, but took nine days to set up.

This scene always disturbed me a bit, but it wasn’t until I went to a midnight showing of it where the theater was so crowded that I ended up in the third row that it became a contender for this list. I actually stopped breathing at some point during the scene, and I realized this when I had to catch my breath when the scene was over. Why? I don’t know. Where before, when I had seen it many times on television sets, I was merely riveted by the contrast of the still hallway invaded by this powerful and impossible river of blood, seeing it in the theater at midnight on a giant screen in my face just took it to a some psychological metaphor that struck me down in the brain where those deep fears crawl around and are never meant to be illuminated. The vintage elevator, with its two dials sitting above it like eyes, opens its mouth and spews out this overwhelming violence, before this tiny, sweet child… That’s some powerful art shit, man.

The Human Centipede— you know the one.

poop is gross. don't eat it.

poop is gross. don’t eat it.

I was warned. I had received detailed explanations of it by my fellow horror fiends, and I thought I was prepared. However, I include this one because it actually caused me to vomit. No other film has done this, and I’m a huge John Waters fan. In fact, I don’t even like to talk about this movie with people because I begin to hear myself sounding like a prude. But seriously?! Yuck.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil and Fargo — Humans in the wood chippers!

woodchipper_daleandtucker_blog

Whee!

woodchipper_fargo_blog

“and I guess that was yer accomplice in the woodchipper”

 Okay, this is a concept that will never fail to make me squeal like I’m eight years old at a slumber party. When flesh meets the powerful, grinding blades of industrial-strength machinery, it always gets a gross-out yell from me. I can’t even fish out an obstruction in the garbage disposal without checking five million times to make sure the switch is off. But, I must admit, I really miss being eight years old, and deep down I never tire of a good wood chipper scene.

Dead Alive, The Walking Dead, and others. — The zombie head stomp!

Yum.

Yum.

That'll ruin your Manolo Blahniks.

That’ll ruin your Manolo Blahniks.

Hooray! Who doesn’t love a good, old-fashioned zombie head-crush scene? Nobody I’d care to know, I say! On the left we have the Sumatran Rat Monkey from  Peter Jackson’s pre-Tolkien days, and on the right, of course, one of many fun deadhead crushings from AMC’s  best show ever! Have I added enough exclamation points?!? Did you know I really enjoy watching zombie heads being squashed?!! I really do!

Prometheus — The med pod alien-ectomy scene.

prometheus1_blog

Should have

prometheus2_blog

taken my

prometheus3_blog

pre-natal vitamins.

Okay, this one is very subjective. True story. Eight months pregnant and a huge Alien fan, I went to see Prometheus as soon as it came out. As Noomi Rapace’s character climbs into the med pod, my unborn daughter decides to add to the drama. I was used to feeling her kick, but this was different. She wanted OUT. My belly rippled and moved, and in the dim light of the screen I could see the surface changing shape, and it seriously looked like JUST LIKE THE MOVIE. Add the context that this is my first child, I had no idea what childbirth was going to be like or if, as a narrow-hipped petite woman, I would be having a C-section. It was a very personal, surreal, and terrifying cinema moment for me. It was the first prank my daughter played on me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Thing— The metamorphosis scenes. All of them.

thething_blog

We’re gonna need a bigger roach motel.

For 1982, the FX in this film were remarkable. Thirty years later it still holds up. A perfect blend of setting, characters, plot and acting gave these scenes fertile ground to creep you the fuck out. I think what gets to me is watching the normal and familiar go through the throes of mutation with all the barbaric and entomologic qualities of a black widow spider chomping off the head of her mate. When Copper starts to perform CPR on Norris and then Norris’s chest caves in and clamps down on Copper’s arms like a set of jaws, taking his arm and life in the process, or when the spidery legs pop out of the side of that one guy’s severed head…eeewww. Creepy, crawly, icky fun. I enjoyed the remake, but even with all the modern tech, it still didn’t beat the original

Cabin Fever — The close shave.

cabinfever_blog

I scream, you scream, we all scream for BEAUTEEEE!

Why is this girl shaving her legs?!? There’s a flesh-eating virus eating everyone up; who cares if you are a little stubbly? Why does she keep shaving while her skin is coming off? Seriously, it’s a silly scene but it really grossed me out. Just a basic feeling of: OH NO! What if I were shaving MY legs and while bringing the blade up through the shaving cream, instead of a soft hair-free stripe of skin I see a scabby mess oozing with rot? Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but still don’t layer the shaving cream too thick. I like to see a bit of the skin there beneath the foam. I had the flu when I saw this movie. Stuck to the couch and hacking up green stuff while wadded up tissues multiplied around me like tribbles, I pulled this out of my giant stack of sick-week rentals and put it in the DVD player. Unfortunately, I had little forethought that a horror movie about a flesh-eating disease might be a poor choice when you actually do feel diseased. Thus, that horrifying shaving scene ensured that my legs would remain hairy long after the flu had gone.

Last House on the Left, I Spit On Your Grave — Kill the Rapists!

She’s ready to DECAPITATE and CASTRATE!

Don't you touch her baby. Mom will fuck you up.

Yep. I would definitely be chopping up anyone who hurt my little girl.

I love to watch bad guys get cut up anyway, but there isn’t much more satisfying than watching the survivor of a brutal assault get her revenge on the pieces of shit that hurt her and didn’t expect her to still be alive, much less a threat. As a mom, I like to see parents getting their revenge as well. Since that is the only value I really see in these films, I just fast-forward through the actual rape scenes and get to the revenge parts. rewind. watch again. cheer.