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!

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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 👻

The Last Princess (덕혜옹주)

There’s a new Korean movie about the last princess of the Joseon Dynasty  who had to move to Japan during the Japanese colonialism of Korea and was forced to marry a Japanese Count. The subject matter was super interesting! Just look


She was kept in Japan against her will, and there’s a lot of drama to that story. But the director didn’t find that exciting enough! So, to make it more exciting, he invented a new character, her childhood friend, who was a high ranking officer in the Japanese military and also a leader of the Korean independence movement. 

Sadly, he also felt  that this character should be the main character, and that’s where the movie failed. The movie about the last princess of Korea turned her into a side dish to the main action, the failed plot to get Korean independence and get her back to Korea. It robbed the movie of the emotional climax of her being barred from her country until finally coming back as an old woman (of course, 100% thanks to her childhood friend who talked to the Korean president to let her back). Her emotional journey was stifled and didn’t hit the right beats, because she was sidelined for a large section of the movie in favor of following her childhood friend who was also a superhero! Despite being shot in the stomach, he was able to take care of the princess while they ran away, leaving her constantly in a passive role for the whole movie.

There was a great drama in this movie that wasn’t followed through, and though a lot of the emotion didn’t hit, what did hit was seeing her come back to the palace she grew up in and having the camera move over to the “do not enter” sign while she imagines her dead parents welcoming her back. Cut to her standing alone. 

There’s also something to be said for the sad gradual westernization of the country, and the first images of the film – the King in his traditional Korean hanbok talking to his western suit-wearing council – fit really well with the ending of the palace surrounded by tall business buildings.

Angel (1999-2004)

I’ve been regretting that I didn’t keep a written log of every episode after I watched them like I did with Buffy. I definitely wish I had done a “season review” at least, because Angel was much more serialized than Buffy, and I think that’s what might keep it from being discussed quite as often as Buffy, that and the fact that it was quite a lot darker. I was always frustrated (in a good way) when the characters on Buffy were angry with one another, but Angel took that to a whole new level. In the end, Angel turned out to have an incredible overall arc and, except for season four, shied away from the “big bad” of every season like Buffy did.

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I think that Angel felt more like a team effort as well thanks to that. There was a point in season two where Angel fired Cordelia, Gunn, and Wesley, and there was a stronger focus on Angel and Darla (and Drusilla), and there was something that kept nagging me at that point, something that bothered me, and I realized that it was because without the rest of the team, there was a noticeable hole in the show (ha ha ha), which made their eventual reunion and Angel’s apology so much sweeter. That absence also gave Cordy, Gunn, and Wes the time to grow as characters without their attachment to Angel, and we saw that they were still an effective team even without their superpowered vampire. I also liked how, like on Buffy, nothing was ever “reset”, and character arcs were maybe even stronger on this show. Their strength as a team didn’t last for long though, because the Holtz/Connor arc in season three is one of my favorites on the show. It changed the show irreversibly in terms of characters, and it was hard to watch at times (in a good way). Wesley’s betrayal and then abandonment hurt so much even while I relished watching him get meaner and harder alone. It made the temporary reset of season five all that much better when it was broken again near the end when Wes restores their memories of Connor.

This show-long arc made for some great villains. Wolfram & Hart is such a cool concept and one that Buffy could never have done properly, despite trying at times to create something similar, and the fact that they were so lawful evil (ha ha) made them a really powerful villain (especially Lindsey and Lilah, the latter who I loved to death). The reversal in season five took me by surprise, and I loved that season’s exploration of the theme of “how to do good in a bad world”. I think it really worked, as we saw the characters change noticeably. Wes’ change is obvious; Gunn’s renewed sense of purpose and how it totally backfired on him was a great use of dramatic irony; Fred became so much more than the crazy hermit from the beginning of season three; Lorne’s world-weariness (or rather, Angel-weariness) grew so naturally, his exit at the end is one of the most heartbreaking exits that didn’t end in death that I’ve ever seen on TV; Cordelia toughed up just like Wes; they redeemed Spike from an increasingly problematic character in Buffy; even Darla who I didn’t care for for a long time but who I sympathized with so much by the middle of season three; and of course Angel at the end, the one who fed on a human two times in order to succeed, something he never would have done before. This doesn’t mean they aren’t heroes, but it was a fascinating exploration of how we are corrupted and how we have to make sacrifices to succeed. It’s something that Game of Thrones does constantly but never so naturally or as well as Angel did.

Which leaves the season arcs. They follow the frame that Buffy set up of having three acts, the opening, a natural segue into the middle part, and usually followed by a twist. None as surprising as season two’s jump to Pylea, which was hilarious and unexpected in the best possible way. Season three got super dreary at the end, and then I don’t even want to talk about season four and how terrible they handled Cordelia (no wonder she left the show), but it did lead to one of the best “big bads”, Gina Torres as a god who everyone falls in love with.

All of this makes the finale one of the best of any TV show, I think. The whole show got its purpose at the end of season one with the Shanshu Prophecy, promising that a vampire with a soul who did enough good works could once again become human. Mid-way through season two, Angel realizes that doing good works for the purpose of being human defeats the purpose. He has to do good works for the sake of it, and slowly he begins to lose faith in the Shanshu Prophecy as things get worse and worse. The addition of Spike created the hilarious competition between the two (seriously, they have so much chemistry!), but in general I loved how this show handled prophecy and fate. Cordelia is prophesied to be the savior of Pylea, but does she really save them from anything? Wes finds the prophecy that “the father will kill the son”, which ends up having been a fake and gets him nearly killed and then exiled from the group; the demon who brings back Holtz changed that prophecy because it was supposed to be Connor who kills him and we forget about him for a season and a half before suddenly he’s brought back and the prophecy is fulfilled (in this sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy, because what he did created the situation that got him killed); and then of course, back to the Shanshu Prophecy which Angel signs away at the end of the show. It was a red herring all along, and I love that. The show was never really about Angel being prophesized to become human again. It was about so much more about that, how to BE human in a bad world, and nobody embodies that more than Angel does, a vampire with a soul.

I’m not ready to do an episode ranking yet, but here’s what I’d pick from each season, my favorites:

Season 1: Five By Five/Sanctuary, To Shanshu in LA
Season 2: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, Darla, The Trial, Reunion, Disharmony, Over the Rainbow/Thru the Looking Glass/There’s No Place like Plrtz Glrb
Season 3: Fredless, Lullaby, Waiting in the Wings, Birthday, Sleep Tight, Forgiving, The Price, Benediction
Season 4: Spin the Bottle, Awakening, Soulless, Shiny Happy People, The Magic Bullet, Home
Season 5: Conviction, Just Rewards, The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco, Harm’s Way, You’re Welcome, Smile Time, A Hole in the World, Shells, Underneath, Time Bomb, The Girl in Question, Not Fade Away

Although I think I could guess my top 10 as

1. A Hole in the World
2. Waiting in the Wings
3. You’re Welcome
4. Not Fade Away
5. Sleep Tight
6. Awakening
7. Five By Five/Sanctuary
8. Fredless
9. Disharmony
10. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been

S01E01/2 – “Welcome to the Hellmouth” / “The Harvest”

Kinda surprising that I’ve never watched this, since I am a self-professed Joss Whedon fan. I figured I’d probably like it, so here I am!

So, I was put off right from the beginning, but I decided to truck through it and at the end of the opening chapter of this show, I found that I wasn’t hooked yet but that I was intrigued enough to not stop. In this two-parter we meet the characters and establish the plot of the show – basically, Buffy is a vampire slayer and keeps getting kicked out of school for being a delinquent, but she moves to this town where the vampires who live there are resurrecting a Master vampire.

I’m really liking Buffy (character) right from the start. She’s tough, smart, and fun to watch. Can’t say the same for her friends yet. The vampires are cool and creepy, and I’m really intrigued by Angel. I recognize his face and his name, so I know he can’t be a bad guy, but there must be something about him, because he’s mysterious.

Good start to the show. Like I said, I’m not quite hooked yet, but it wasn’t bad. I’m not looking forward to the monster-of-the-week format of supposedly just this season, but I’m trucking through it!

Episode ranking:

Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest