kestrell: (Default)
2017-10-15 11:30 am

Movie review of "Gerald's Game"

Alexx and I have been big fans of the director Mike Flanagan ever since we saw his first full-length movie, "Oculus," so when we saw that his newest film, "Gerald's Game," based on Stephen King's book, had just become available on Netflix, we jumped on it.

Flanagan quite literally outdid himself on this film, to which I give a jaw-dropping "Wow."

Most people know the set up for the plot: Gerald and his wife Jessie arrive at an isolated cabin for a romantic weekend in hopes of reviving their marriage, but after Gerald's sex game of handcuffing Jessie to a bedpost ends abruptly with Gerald dropping dead of a heart attack, Jessie is left helpless to deal with various dangers, not least of which are her own disturbing memories.

I've mentioned before that I don't watch movies which include the emotional and/or sexual abuse of women and children, but I am qualifying that in regard to this movie:

Jessie's experiences of emotional and sexual abuse are seamlessly wowven into her story, they are part of who she is. Her sense of powerlessness at the beginning of the story is a kind of psychological and emotional impotence which mirrors Gerald's sexual impotence. Throughout the movie we see Jessie develop into a different kind of final girl, one whose hardest battle is to learn to confront and conquer her inner demons. This film made me aware of how little credit Stephen King gets for creating such complex female characters as Jessie, and how little attention is given to his novels featuring female protagonists, such as _Doris Claiborne_ (which has narrative links to _Gerald's Game_), _Rose Madder_, and _Lisey's Story_ (another Mike Flanagan favorite). Btw, if Carla Gugino, who plays Jessie, doesn't get nominated for an award for her performance in this film I'll be very disappointed.

Perhaps you've heard the William Faulkner quote: "The past isn't dead; the past isn't even past." I mentioned that Jessie's past and present are seamlessly woven together, and Flanagan's technique for accomplishing this is one of the most stunning aspects of the film. He did it before in his film "Oculus," but in "Gerald's Game" he does it on a much larger, more intricate, scale. In a GQ article, Flanagan mentions how Stephen King's book _Gerald's Game_ was his favorite book, and he tried to pitch it as a movie for years, despite people repeatedly telling him that it was unfilmable.
I'm bemused by the thought that it might well have been his mental exercise in attempting to solve the problem of filming his favorite book that led to his ability to present multiple timelines not just happening simultaneously, but interacting with and influencing each other.

One of the things I love about horror movies is that the sound design often speaks for itself, and "gerald's Game" is going to become one of my favorite examples of this.

I've mentioned before how horror directors often use sound to make scenes more scary, and Flanagan has fully embraced this. I have a pretty simple test for how good a film's sound design is, which is that I can tell what's going on solely by the sound of the movie, without Alexx describing it. There is this one infamously horrifying scene in the story, and when we got to it, Alexx was too grossed out to describe it in detail, but trust me, it was just as horrifying to listen to.

I'm tempted to go on and gush about how great the script is, but this review is already too long, so I'll just settle for saying that Stephen king novels tend toward having lots of words, but Flanagan chose all the best ones for this film.

Now I'll just be impatiently anticipating Flanagan's next work, a Netflix series adaptation of Shirley Jackson's _The Haunting of Hill House_, which will also star Carla Gugino.
kestrell: (Default)
2017-09-26 01:44 pm

A Horror Film Education: A Horror Fangirl's Version

Alexx and I have a friend who is a scholar of horror film and literature, and he recently posted this list
A Horror Film Education

At the time Alexx read this to me, i've had watched 83 of the 152 films, which, as a horror fangirl, left me sadly disappointed in myself.

How could this happen? Where did I go wrong?

Upon further study of the list, I realized that I had been somewhat thrown by the use of the word "education" in the title because I still think of the word "education" as denoting a certain degree of neutrality, but, in reality, any formation of a canon, any syllabus or other form of list, is based upon personal choices, and personal choices are never neutral. For instance, by looking at this list, I can tell that the list author really loves his monster movies. Being about the same age as the list author, I suspect he was as much of a fan of the Saturday TV show, "Creature Double Feature," as I was. (Explanation for anyone who was born after the Internet: Once upon a time, there was no cable TV, no Internet, not even a video store, and so about the only source little horror fangirls and fanboys had was the "Creature Double Feature," which showed old monster movies and Hammer horror and other dark delights, and we hugged every shiver and jump scare to our wildly-pounding little hearts.)

Again, the list author and I are about the same age, and I can see a lot of 1980s horror films that I would qualify more as nostalgic favorites of the 1980s (Gremlins, Fright Night) rather than classics.
I have my nostalgic favorites also, although mine tend more toward supernatural and occult horror of the 1960s and 1970s, so I'm including those, because it's my list and I can.

I also think the original list helps to highlight how horror, as a genre, still has a lot of gender bias built into it. (Note: I know the list author personally, and any further discussion I make about gender bias is not aimed at him personally--it's just built into the genre itself.)

How does gender bias sneak into the list?
Read more... )
kestrell: (Default)
2017-03-08 11:16 am

Because who among us doesn't consider Wednesday Addams to be a strong female role model?

Did everyone else know about this web series but me? Starts a little slow, but she definitely finds her voice around episode 3 or 4.
kestrell: (Default)
2017-03-08 10:24 am
Entry tags:

Chuck Norris commercial

So my Holtzman playlist morphed into a D.G.F. (Don't Give a F*ck) playlist and, while the other tracks all feature strong women, I had to include this commercial, because CN definitely radiates d.g.f.
kestrell: (Default)
2017-02-24 12:46 pm

Holtzman hair

I got it. I walked into a Supercuts in Central Square and asked, "Can you give me Holtzman hair?" Alexx pulled up a picture on his smart phone, and I think I can even reproduce it for Mardi Gras (it turns out my hair is pretty much Holtzman hair all the time).

I'm still trying to figure out how to do the braid thing, if anyone would like to describe it to me.

And how to do the dance.

I'm pretty certain I know where to find a torch.
kestrell: (Default)
2017-02-15 08:00 am

Signs for Science [lightning bolt exclamation mark goes here]

Sunday in Boston there is scheduled to be a rally in support of science. I'm really hoping there will be a significant subset of people carrying signs that say

"Why are you trying to keep this curiosity door locked?"
kestrell: (Default)
2016-09-21 07:38 pm
Entry tags:

I may not be Mark Ruffalo's most crazed fangirl...

But I'm probably his most crazed blind fangirl, because I will definitely be voting in hopes that Mark will be doing a nude scene in his next movie.

And don't think that I won't be able to tell if he's really naked: I'll know.

Everybody has a price; I'm content in the knowledge of what mine is.
kestrell: (Default)
2016-09-20 12:50 pm

Ideas for a "Stranger Things" Halloween?

Because every time I read about the "Stranger Things" party in Salem, which happens waaaay past my bedtime, I need to have a Stranger Things" Halloween.

So, idea?

The official foods: Eggos and chocolate pudding (I heart Dustin!)

Christmas light, maybe with a handmade poster of a large Ouija board?

D&D paraphernalia (I don't know--this might be hard to come by at Melville Keep)

Oh, and compasses! Everybody must have at least one compass!


Edited later: And yes, if I had the skillset I would try to make a DIY sensory deprivation tank...
kestrell: (Default)
2016-09-09 10:30 am

Movie review: Julia's Eyes

Julia's Eyes (Dir. Guillem Morales, 2010)

This movie took me completely by surprise; I came to see the blind final girl, and stayed for a smart and stylish filmthat kept me riveted until the very end.

Julia is a young woman who is slowly losing her sight due to a degenerative eye disease, but insists on investigating the death of her twin sister Sara, who suffered from the same eye condition. While Julia's husband and Sara's doctor conclude that her sister committed suicide because she couldn't live with being blind, Julia insists that Sara was stronger than that (ha! that's one in the eye for the condescending sighties!).
Read more... )
kestrell: (Default)
2013-11-13 04:09 pm

Dante noir

I saw this when it premiered in 2008, but I had forgotten how absolutely amazing it is, especially with Dermot Mulroney's cigarettes-and-cheap-whiskey voice
This is Hell, Dante, not your personal fantasy.
Oh, and here is an educational segment about our country's governmement, reminiscent of Schoolhouse older, wiser, darker, Tim Burton-esque Schoolhouse Rock, but still...
kestrell: (Default)
2013-07-02 01:24 pm
Entry tags:

What's the big deal about "The Devil Went Up to Boston?"

I just heard a DJ on WUMB mention that they would not be playing this song on the station, and if you watch the video you would know why. Not only can I not watch the video, I can't find the video online, as it seems to have been thoroughly removed from the usual channels.

So, having missed this kerfuffle, can someone tell me what was so offensive about it? I haven't been this curious about the state of Boston censorship since The Globe censored the Doonesbury cartoon because B.D.'s response to finding out he had lost a leg was "Son of a bitch!".
kestrell: (Default)
2013-06-12 11:48 am

Designing a tactile comic

I admit that I found a lot of the description about the circles really confusing, although I expect it would make sense in the actual material form. Still, it was great reading about someone playing with the comics format.
kestrell: (Default)
2013-05-03 10:21 am
Entry tags:

Umberto Eco on cult movies

I'm currently scanning/rereading Eco collection of writings titled "Travels in Hyperreality," which includes many of his best nonfiction writings, including my favorite on semiotic guerilla warfare, but this examination of what makes "Casablanca" a cult movie is still kickass. There are a few variations of this essay on the Net which you can find by googling
Umberto Eco Casablanca text
but you want the one which includes the phrases "intertextuality" in the title, such as this page which asked for a password but seemed to load anyway
kestrell: (Default)
2013-03-22 02:31 pm

Thoughts on Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore_

_Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore_
by Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas (Utah State University Press, 2007)

This was a fascinating collection of articles exploring the intersection of folklore and media studies, specifically, folklore narratives about ghosts and mass media. There is a lack of academic writing concerned with this intersection, and the explanation for this was one of the parts which I found most intriguing in this book:
lengthy quote below cut )
kestrell: (Default)
2013-03-20 08:14 am

5 things I learned from _What the Nose Knows: The Science of Smell in Everyday Life_

_What the Nose Knows: The Science of Smell in Everyday Life_ (2008) by Avery Gilbert

The author's description of himself demonstrates that he is definitely someone who gets to play in the overlap between science and media studies:
"...I'm a sensory psychologist, trained in evolutionary theory, animal behavior, and neuroscience. I'm a rational, evidence-based guy working in the most frothy, fashion-driven, marketing-heavy business outside of Hollywood....
The new science of smell is making us rethink everything from wine tasting to Smell-O-Vision. So it's time for a fresh look at odor perception and how it plays out in popular culture."

1. How many smells are there?
lengthy post below the cut )
kestrell: (Default)
2013-03-16 03:18 pm

Equivalents to zombies in Western narrative

I've been reading a couple of academic books on the subject of zombies in film and other media, and there is this one statement which academics keep insisting upon which I sense is incorrect, namely, that there is little to no mention of zombies in Western narrative until the zombie films of the 1930s and 1940 brought this exotic concept to American audiences.

While I make no claim to being the Josie Campbell of horror, I seem to have absorbed from my reading the impression that revenants and the fear of the dead being reanimated is a universal fear. I can't recall where I read this specifically--perhaps that scholarly book about burial rituals and vampires which all bookish horror fans seem to have read at some point?--but I seem to recall that, at least through the Anglo-Saxon period, and possibly through the Elizabethan period, a ghost was not a disembodied spirit but the actual animated body of the dead person (as described in
this Wikipedia article on draugr
and I didn't even know that there is such a person as
The Viking Answer Lady, who can meet all your undead needs

Then there is the Wikipedia entry for revenant

A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living.[1] The word "revenant" is derived from the Latin word, revenans, "returning" (see also the related French verb "revenir", meaning "to come back").

And didn't Greek necromancy involve summoning and enslaving the embodied dead, not just their spirits?

These descriptions seem to indicate that there *was* the equivalent of the zombie in Western narratives, and that the distinction is one of semantics.

What do other fans of the gothic think?
kestrell: (Default)
2013-03-03 05:48 pm
Entry tags:

A double feature of meta-horror

LJ user tinybuffalo came over to watch "Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon" (which is tied with "Scream" as my favorite meta-horror movie) and then A. and I watched "Cabin in the Woods" for the first time.

I have to say: Marty, I love you!

Other than Marty, however, I didn't feel that there was a lot of fun in "Cabin." There is a really fine line between creating parody but still conveying a love of the genre (as, I think, "Scream" manages to do) and creating something which is just a montage of mean-spirited snark. Yes, the second category can still be witty, but it's like hanging out with the Algonquin Circle--intellectually stimulating but not really a positive social experience.

Something which I did find intriguing about "Cabin" was the character of Marty, who, like Randy in "Scream" is not only a fan knowledgeable about what genre he is in ("Okay, I am drawing a fucking line in the sand here and saying, do *not* read the Latin!"), but also a Cassandra figure. By Cassandra figure I mean that, like Randy, he that certain actions will doom other characters's fates. At the same time, however, he conveys a tiny sliver of (Pandora-like?) hope, not for his future, but for a future, something else's future, something else that might get a chance.

Overall, though, "Cabin" seemed just a little too much like the paint-by-numbers horror movies it was pointing the finger at, but I'm still intrigued by the dynamic of the story where, if the final girl actively picks up the phallic knife/gun/ax (though really, mythically I would think an ax/labris would be a female symbol), a male character becomes the passive prophet and wise fool/advisor.