Saturday, 1 November 2008

Movies--Hallowe'en and otherwise

Four movies currently haunt my awareness (well, we'll say five). I'll discuss the most distant three before leaping into my reviews of the more prominent two. [Update: will now also discuss the third.]

1) Quantum of Solace. I am SO excited. I love what they've done with the Bond franchise in Casino Royale, and by the looks of the ads, Quantum of Solace will fulfill what little was lacking in the one previous. Also, I have to add that, as little as I want to say it, the blond Bond works, but that's because the superb Daniel Craig rocks it.

2) V for Vendetta. I'm not actually sure that I'll spend this Wednesday watching this movie, though I'd like to and it would be appropriate, as it's going to be (Remember, Remember) the Fifth of November (the date of the Gunpowder Plot)--also known as Guy Fawkes Day. I want to spend at least one Nov. 5th burning a straw-guy, but this one won't likely be it, due to stringent leasing rules.

3) Arachnophobia. This is the third of three horror movies Jon (see next post or "the inevitable" on my sidebar) and I rented for Hallowe'en. We never did get around to this one. [Update 2 Nov 08] I saw this movie last night. It was better than I expected. For some reason I thought this was about giant spiders that terrorize a city, like in Eight-Legged Freaks, and not about many moderately large, highly venomous, and unusually organized spiders. Only a few parts of the movie freaked me out, but I recognize that most people will have a visceral reaction to the subject matter that will heighten the suspense. As far as plot goes, it's a perfectly serviceable story that fulfills all expectations almost formulaically without being so predictable that it's boring. Rather, all of the elements that you know must happen fall into place in interesting ways--an effect I've discussed before. The acting is decent, the spiders much more realistic than I'd have guessed (probably because they often used real spiders), and the climactic scene/boss fight unique enough to sustain interest.
Other than that, I have two comments to make. The first is that the beginning of the movie reminded me a lot of Jurassic Park, especially the original. I was forced to wonder if Speilberg had Arachnophobia in mind when he filmed JP. The second is that, as usual, John Goodman was wonderful. He plays the lower-middle class sloppy middle-aged man so well, yet brings something fresh to each role so that he manages not to be typecasted. In this case, his ridiculous exterminator added the comic relief that lets you know the movie isn't taking itself too seriously--an absolute requirement in this genre. While not an academy award nominee by any stretch, it's an enjoyable horror/comedy and worth renting from your local movie store.
4) Ginger Snaps. I'd heard about this one at work over the summer. It's a Canadian werewolf flick. Two of my housemates (Teddy, Paul) and a friend and fellow-blogger named Jon watched this one last night. They were all a bit skeptical, but the opening scene proved to be quite good, and the movie maintained a quirky charm throughout. I had a hard time with the characters originally. They were pessimistic, they had a suicide pact, they were morbid, and they weren't nearly attractive enough to overcome these shortcomings by good looks alone. However, by the end of the movie I found myself quite attached--sympathetically--to the younger sister, the protagonist, whose honesty, courage, and nobility held up in the face of her sister's deterioration and her own morbidity. The secondary characters were also interesting enough--often in a detestable way--to maintain interest, and this includes the spacey and incapable parents. [SPOILER ALERT AFTER THIS POINT] Finally, however, while it is not particularly scary, it functions well as a horror movie, cranking up the gore enough to shame Hollywood, pain-rituals (the piercing scene in particular was squeamish), a decent set of wolf-teeth, and a very well orchestrated climactic sequence. The 'good' sister and her blooming love interest negotiate the girls' house as they try to create the antidote, while Ginger leaves a trail of dishevelled-ness. Eventually the guy gets hauled off by Ginger, and Bridgette follows the trail of blood in a well-paced and well-set sequence designed specifically to freak you out and prepare you for the final showdown between the sisters in the unfinished basement they've shared as a bedroom throughout the movie. It is in the parts where Bridgette seeks to deal with her feelings for her transforming sister, and where the girls are set against each other and their own oaths of friendship that heighten the film, and I was forced by the end to accept the overshadowed protagonist as a real character in her own right. [SPOILERS END HERE] My readership not being exclusively Canadian, I doubt many of you will have seen this movie. I suggest that you do. However, if you must choose only one horror movie to watch for the rest of your life, you can skip this one and instead see...

5) The Haunting. I mean the one from the 60s, not the one marred by Catherine Zeto Jones. I read the book, as you may already know, and was worried that the movie would not translate. [Updated Nov 2/08] Fortunately, it did work for the most part. Jon still had the sense of utter creepiness that pervades the book, and the reveal just as much about the house and it's residents as in the book--and if you read the book, you'll know how relevant this is.
On the other hand, there were some unfortunate differences between the book and the film. [SPOILER ALERT AFTER THIS POINT] First, quite a few of the unnerving or outright supernatural occurences in the book were omitted in the film, such as anything concerning the walk to the river, quite a lot of the events that occured in the parlour near the end, and the automatic writing of the doctor's wife--who, incidentally, was an entirely different character in the film and had an entirely different plot function. Second, the romantic relationships are different. I figure I know why this is. In the novel, Eleanor's primary love interest is the not the doctor (as in the film), but Theodora. Sure, they both dallied with Luke a fair amount, but at first that seemed largely calculated to hurt one another more than any real interest in him. I had been told beforehand that their was latent lesbianism in the novel. What I did not expect was how almost-explicit it was. This triangle worked very well with the plot, as the friction with Theodora charged their scared-in-the-bedroom scenes differently, and Nel's jealousy of Luke and Theo drives her further toward the comparative comfort of the house. It's a very fascinating complex of relationships, and it helps break down the reader's trust of Nel's narration. Generally, it works very well. However, a movie in the 60s obviously could not have even vaguely lesbian characters, and so they changed it all up. My housemate Paul (see above) says he thought he picked up on that early in the film, but it went away for him. This interests me, in the line of The Celluloid Closet, but anyway... I haven't seen the newer The Haunting, so I don't know how the chose to portray it there. If another adaptation was filmed right now, they would probably take it in the other direction entirely, making the relationship much more obvious and probably more sexual (as opposed to emotional/romantic, which is closer to how it was depicted in the novel). I think it's more artistically pleasing if it's kept as subtle as it is in the novel, but obviously it would sell better if it were explicit. Anyway, the whole thing is theoretically fascinating, and also pretty hot.[SPOILERS END HERE] Overall, it was a fascinating movie and I highly recommend it. You might find it a bit slow, but we can all use a little pacing, I think.

1 comment:

Scumbag Sam said...

Ahhh, aracnaphobia (can't spell that!!) - that movie still terrifies me to this day, even though it IS ridiculas!! still, a cheesy horror is always worth a watch!

I saw V for Vendetta last year, and wasnt too sure if I would like it, but I actually thought it was great! And SO relevant as in a couple of days it WILL be the 5th!

Over here we usually have a giant bonfire (there are a few places near me that do it, so its just deciding which to go to) - where they burn a guy fawkes, and then as the bonfire burns there is usually food stalls, drink stalls, some carnival type rides and games and then a firework display. Its really cool actually, I love that we celebrate it, even if the reason we celebrate it has gotten lost in the process - and we do it more out of habit/ tradition than anything else!!

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