Martyrs

Ohlala, où commencer avec ce film? C’était difficile à voir, et je ne sais pas s’il y a quelqu’un qui l’a vraiment vu en entier. Je ne pouvais pas regarder certaines parties du film, parce que c’était vraiment dégoutant et cruel. Mais ce qui était intéressant, c’était la structure du film et le fait que c’était divisé en deux.

martyrs-xlargeJe ne vais pas donner des spoilers, mais ce film n’était pas exactement ce que vous anticipez. Oui, il y a beaucoup de violence; oui, c’est hyper cruel et horrible; mais il y a quelque chose qui est totalement différent des autres films de ce genre. Je ne veux pas dire plus, mais l’histoire est simple: deux femmes cherchent la revanche contre une famille qui a torturé une des femmes quand elle était petite, mais cette femme est hantée par un monstre, et l’autre femme s’en doute que c’était la famille qui l’a fait…

Et franchement, j’aimais mieux la première partie que la deuxième. En général, j’aime les films de revanche, et j’aimais la relation entre les deux femmes et le cauchemar de la vie de la femme dérangée. Cette première partie du film m’a touché pour deux raisons: 1) le pouvoir des femmes et comment elles trouvent leur propre pouvoir, et 2) que même la revanche ne donne pas de paix, parce qu’il y a toujours le monstre qui la hante depuis son enfance.

La deuxième partie du film a changé complètement le thème du film. Je comprends ce que le réalisateur voulait dire à propos de la capacité des gens d’être cruels et la capacité des gens de souffrir, et j’aimais bien la fin, mais c’était moins amusant – en fait, pas du tout amusant, et le message de la première partie était plus forte, même si c’est grâce à la deuxième partie que le film est si connu.

En tout cas, c’était intéressant. C’était un film important, mais franchement je ne veux jamais plus le revoir!

JEFFERY

“I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”

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Before I ever listened to Young Thug, I admired him. It’s hard not to love him, whether he’s wearing a dress or making comments about equality and being whoever you are. He’s super lovable, and now I’ve had Jeffery on repeat for a bit and love him even more.

Even if you don’t know the lyrics, you love this for the hooks and the beats, and at a very slim 42 minutes, it is smooth and really easy to listen to. The beats aren’t genre-changing, but they’re wonderful for their subtlety, because there isn’t anything that’s in your face or show-stealing. They’re enablers, keeping the mood and helping the album flow from song to song, which is does spectacularly. The songs melt together, but they aren’t boring or forgettable, because Young Thug keeps it spicy with his huge presence.

He knows his strengths, and this is a supremely confident album. Maybe they’re all confident, but this is the first one I’m listening to. He spits and rhymes like an absolute master, and more than that, his delivery is so unique from song to song. He raps sweetly, wildly, in gasps, whatever fits the tone of the song. Swizz Beats is complimented by a lovely “la la la” and Guwop by a chipper “ya did ya did” while on Harambe he mimics Louis Armstrong and RiRi has him turning “work” and “earn it” into dog-like yips of pain. His voice isn’t just a method of delivering his lyrics but an instrument itself, contorting and flexible.

Even though the songs are all named after his idols and influences, none of the songs are really about them. I first became interested in him, because of Kanye West and Harambe, expecting them to be funny meme-songs, but what I got instead were thoughtful deconstructions of masculinity, love, and life. His lyrics are hard to decipher, and I am not the person to do that anyway, but unpacking them isn’t what needs to be done, because they’re as thoughtful because of their delivery and complexity of the hooks as they are the actual lyrics. On Kanye West, he sounds fragile and opened up, one of the hardest things you would expect someone called Young Thug to do, because here he’s not Young Thug. He’s not a woman, he’s not a man, he’s something you will never understand. He’s Jeffery.

28 Weeks Later

Let’s be real. This movie was bad.

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This seems to be a thing. A great first movie followed by a bad action sequel. This is the Maze Runner 2 of horror movies. Somehow worse than even Aliens.

There was so much that I hated about it. It was boring, the characters made stupid decisions (a horror trope, but these were B-movie silly in a movie of A-listers), and the plot progression and points were ridiculous.

Not gonna waste a lot of time on this stinker. What a shame!

Creep

Found footage should be the scariest of all, but they are really hit or miss for me, and Creep was a movie that definitely should not have been directed this way.

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There are some great shots, like everything involving the wolf mask, which should be an indie horror classic if it isn’t already; but really, the movie didn’t take advantage of the inherent scariness of it. There are a lot of “boring” scenes (in terms of horror), and the jump scares get old after the very first one.

What was really nice about the movie though was Mark Duplass. I had seen Safety Not Guaranteed, which I didn’t really love either, but one thing’s for sure – he could make a good movie about people, and the journey or whatever of his character and the way he was played were great here. The multiple deceptions, the oversharing, the way he pushed Aaron at every possible chance, it was really exciting.

This has great sequel potential though, because the premise is solid, and it’s packed with a lot of good ideas. It just needs to be a lot more streamlined and get away from the handheld camera.

Peachfuzz tho and the scene of him at the door. 😱

28 Days Later

More than any other genre, horror allows for dissecting some other problem, whether it’s lycanthropy as a metaphor for change, vampirism as a metaphor for sex, or zombies as a metaphor for loss of identity. The best horror movies aren’t just trying to scare you, they’re also trying to talk about a subject, I think. 28 Days Later isn’t the scariest zombie movie by any means, but it’s absolutely one of the best, and I know that’s a really vanilla opinion, but it’s true.

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It’s a familiar scene. Waking up in the hospital. There’s no one there. You go outside. No one there. You’re trying to figure out what’s going on, and you have your first encounter with them. You don’t know yet that they are no longer people.

The movie plays with these classic zombie tropes (what do I know, maybe they weren’t so classic 20 years ago), but it takes its time setting up all of the pieces. Cillian Murphy teams up with two people. One is infected, and we get our first scene of how dangerous it is, because Naomie Harris immediately kills the man who was infected. What I find really interesting is that zombies are known for being slow, but this movie released so long ago has fast zombies. Here in Korea, Train for Busan just came out this year, and all of my students were so proud of their Korean zombies being so fast. Admittedly, the zombies in Train to Busan are insanely fast, but I was still surprised to see the speed in this movie. I love the speed though, because it makes every scene that much tenser.

It goes on like this for a while, from scares to tearjerkers, until we finally reach the third act. Christopher Eccleston’s ragtag group of soldiers and their plan to rebuild society. Normalcy. This is where the movie shines so brightly, and it’s something that I mentioned when talking about Paranorman as well.

Society was all but destroyed in just 28 days, and these nine men are there to rebuild it. They’ve built a perfectly-protected bunker, have a zombie tied up for research purposes (I love this bit of Chekhov’s Gun), and its all set. Seems pretty perfect until you realize that Eccleston has promised these men women for the purpose of population growth, and you see that there is no safety, either inside this protected bunker with the people who you think should be protecting you, nor outside with the zombies. That’s where “loss of identity” comes in, because this group of people is a single-minded entity, just like a zombie. They want to restore society, but in a way, society was already bad for so many people before.

In any case, I love the cat-and-mouse play at the end when hell breaks loose. Everyone was great in this movie, and the zombies were so cute. A+ movie, I didn’t even realize it was Danny Boyle until the end. That’s why!

Over the Garden Wall

When was the last time you had a love at first sight with some kind of media? Before Over the Garden Wall, I don’t know when that last time was for me when I really fell for something so deeply. In the two years since it came out, I’ve watched it more times than I can count on two hands, and I recently watched through it again last weekend. T’is the season. I’m not the first person to rave about Over the Garden Wall, and I won’t be the last, but even if I don’t have anything new to add, I want to rave about it just a little.

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It’s the story of two boys and a bluebird lost in the woods, trying to find their ways home and their misadventures on the way. There’s so much about that simple premise that speaks to me. That gets the certified Ethan style stamp from the simple premise alone, so the show wrings out a little bit of nostalgic love from me.

The characters are so flawed but lovable. Wurt’s a teenager, but his complaining isn’t to the point of annoying; it fits nicely in the expected part of being a teenager, and he has enough good points to really like him. Plus, his costume is cool. His little brother Greg is infectiously positive. It’s adorable how naive and wonderful everything is to him. Once or twice he hit the plain stupidness, but for a child/comic relief he had as much character as Wurt. I loved the episode devoted to his leadership dream, for example! Beatrice is older than the two boys, and she’s often the voice of reason, the older sister. Anyway, the characters all so fun and voiced so well. I only know Elijah Wood though. There were other minor and semi-minor characters throughout the show, and they were all fantastic too. The Woodsman is the biggest, and, voiced by Christopher Lloyd, he plays the perfect balance between mysterious guardian and bad guy. It reminded me of his performance as the librarian/pagemaster in Pagemaster.

The style is gorgeous, all friendly pastels but with a good sense of macabre. It had a feel similar to some of the Studio Ghibli movies (I got particularly Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle vibes) and the anime Mushishi. Of course, one of the biggest draws is the soundtrack (just officially released last week, by the way), which the show would have been lesser without. They’re all really special, and the songs have been one of my go-to October soundtracks.

There’s a consistent narrative, both for the story and for the characters. Like many of the best stories, I feel like this was a lot about growing up, facing your fears, that sort of thing. From my favorite movie, Coraline, to Over the Garden Wall (constantly called my favorite television program for two years), that’s what I love, growing up.

As for the ending and wrapping up this story, the narrator put it best: “And so the story’s complete, and everybody’s satisfied with the ending.” That indeed.

Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps does what all the best horror movies do for me, which is tell a story as a metaphor for life experiences. It’s why I love Buffy, coming-of-age movies, and recent horror movies like It Follows.

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It places its metaphor right square in the middle of the scene. It’s like someone took the idea to its logical extreme. Girl gets her period, gets bitten by a werewolf, major changes ensue. It’s such a thrill ride though, and it sidesteps all of the pitfalls of typical horror. First, the characters and their relationships with each other are nuanced, not least of all the sisters, but also the mother and her relationship with her children; and they acting is phenomenal. That can really sell a movie, when the actors come alive, and both Brigitte and Ginger carry the movie all the way home.

That’s why I loved this movie so much, because of the relationship the sisters had, and how it turned “them versus the world” upside down with Ginger getting her period (and bitten by a werewolf), tearing them apart and seeing how well they stick together. The movie was a slow and gradual build, but I was sucked in thanks to them.

I loved seeing Ginger’s transformation, and I am glad they went without CGI. It makes the movie feel timeless. I can’t place this as having been made 16 years ago. It could have been this year, or it could have just as easily been more than 20 years ago, it seems. Her body horror transformation and the way she dealt with it was exciting and excruciating, and you see how she’s become a woman and first impression she’s supposed to be sexy, but the balance between that and how she feels like she’s become a monster was wonderful (they even literally call PMS a curse).

There was a lot going through my head while I watched this, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something I wanted to say about the movie, but it’s already 3:00AM, and I wanted to write down my thoughts, because it was such a joy to watch. I feel like I’m constantly finding movies that I should have seen when I was in high school, because I could have been loving them for years and years, and this is one of them. Ginger Snaps 2 is definitely going on the list for later.

Happy Halloween 🎃

Paranorman

Last year, I made a list of every horror movie I wanted to watch to celebrate Halloween in October, and I watched approximately one of them (Unfriended, which by the way was pretty good).

This year, I’m going to make good on that promise I made last year, and I’m going to watch as many as I can this month. All of them are ones I’ve never seen before, but today I watched a movie with my students that’s one of my favorites, so it ended up being a great starter for the season.

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It’s no secret that my favorite movie of all time is Coraline. I feel like I drop that into conversation once a month somehow, but I don’t talk enough about the other great Laika productions, and with Kubo and the Two Strings coming out, it’s more perfect than ever. Also, my students love Coraline (and Corpse Bride, too).

I saw Paranorman for the first time on accident. I started watching it on Netflix, not knowing it was from the same company as Coraline, and even though it starts quite slow, the way it builds up is fantastic.

For starters, it’s gorgeous. That’s to be expected, because it’s claymation, and I love that style. I don’t know how they do it, especially since the directors have very little to their name (one has only done Paranorman, and the other has done just a handful of others that are less spectacular), but it’s beautiful. The scene that blew me away was when we’re first dropped into Norman’s world and see it through his eyes, the camera going from third-person spectral cameraman to following Norman from behind then spinning around, zooming in on Norman’s face, and then panning back around as we enter his world. It’s probably the most jaw-dropping moment of the film for me, at least when it comes to visuals. That or the way the scene literally burns away when Norman has a vision.

Plus, it’s legitimately scary. I jumped out of my seat more than once, especially in the first half of the movie. The jump few scares never seem disingenuous though, because in a lot of cases they turn into gags. It reminds me of Shaun of the Dead in that way, because it’s legitimately a horror-comedy that scares just as well as it makes you laugh. I laughed harder than my students in a lot of cases, to be honest.

I love the twist, when the zombies are thrust into that scare of modern day life, and very quickly the tables turn on them. It’s pretty hilarious how fast it happens, and I think you immediately sympathize with them (that’s hard to do in a horror movie, sympathize with anyone to be honest). But I sympathized hard with them, and yeah, they were terrible to the little girl, but you could see how they’d realized their errors and that it’s wrong to act out of fear. I love showing this movie, especially nowadays when too many people are reacting out of fear because they don’t understand something, whether it’s in Britain or the USA or anywhere really.

If there’s any misstep in the movie, it’s the resolution. I am almost never a fan of big action-packed resolutions, and I found the actual plot (not the visuals at all, because wow) of the ending to be really lacking. Still, that’s not why I love this movie. Honestly, though short, one of the things I love most is the relationship between Neil and Norman. It’s really touching, and my favorite scene is when they’re hanging out in Neil’s backyard with his dead dog. Everything there is so touching, and I found them both to be incredibly lovely, relatable characters with a whole lot of charm.

Paranorman is, I think, a film that isn’t talked about enough. It’s got a solid core, fantastic visuals, and I’m telling you now, the way they’re heading, Laika is going to be taking the place of Disney and Studio Ghibli.

Happy Halloween 👻