Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Horror Movie Review: The Shining

Shut up, Tony!
The Shining (1980) is a legendary horror film for a reason. It is genuinely terrifying. Every shot is gorgeous. The score builds to a level that makes you feel like you're ready to claw through your skin by the end. The film is two and a half hours long and takes its sweet molasses time to build to the level of complete madness you feel by the end. If you like your horror psychologically realistic and simmered to a slow and total terror meltdown, this is the movie for you...

UNLESS you're not into women and minorities being treated like garbage. This film repeatedly names women "bitch" in that really ugly way that women used to be called bitch on the regular by their abusive husbands. There's also a scene in which a black man is referred to as that lovely N-word not even I of the foulest mouth will utter. We are supposed to forgive the "women are bitches" and "black people are n______" arguments because they are uttered by the bad guys, but I'm betting that Kubrick is one of these bad guys. You'll not get forgiveness from me, Stanley.

This movie doesn't pass the Bechdel Test either. Despite the lengthy conversation between the doctor and Wendy in the beginning of the film, the doctor was not named and they only talked about Danny and Jack.

The storyline of this film is a little too close to home for me. I don't like my horror to mirror life. Men go "crazy" and ax-murder their wives and children all the time. I was pleasantly surprised, however,

**************SPOILER ALERT******************

that Wendy and Danny actually survive. The Shining is thought to be one of the greatest horror movies of all time and there's only one onscreen murder and then the eventual freezing-to-death of Jack the psychotic protagonist.

This movie is actually fairly impressive, but I won't be watching it again.

Aesthetic/Visual Effects: 4.0

Plot: 2.5

Characters: 2.0

Score: 2.0

Treatment of Women: 1.0

Rewatchability: 0


Friday, September 25, 2015

Horror Movie Review: Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice (1988) is a movie I'm sure you've seen at least ten times, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time describing it. It's a Tim Burton movie that includes all of the usual Tim-Burton-ness and Danny Elfman did the score, 'cause he always does the score for Burton's films.

Still a super fun film. The only thing that upset me was how gross Michael Keaton's Beetlejuice looks, but he's supposed to look that way, so whatevs. Oh, and the characters are SUPER white-washed...was there anyone of color in this movie? The dead voodoo dude might have been the only one.

I was really surprised by the treatment of women in this movie. It passed the Bechdel Test within the first five minutes and with the exception of Beetlejuice's general crudeness, there was no sexism present whatsoever and the women in this movie were just as complex and respected as the men.

Overall an enjoyable movie, great for the whole family! Except for an f-bomb and a couple of other language moments, you could totally watch this with your kid. I know I saw it at the age of 6 when it first came out and I turned out totally fiiiiiiiine.

Aesthetic/Visual Effects: 3.5

Plot: 4.0

Characters: 4.0

Sound/Score: 3.0

Treatment of Women/Minorities: 4.0 (very whitewashed, despite being kind to women)

Rewatchability: 4.0

Overall: 22.5

Horror Movie Review: Interview With The Vampire

Claudia's transformation.

Interview With The Vampire (1994) is based on the Anne Rice novel of the same name and is one of the most beautiful horror films of all time. It's so gorgeous to look upon that one could make a pretty compelling argument against it even being classified as a horror film. Most of this review can be summed up by two major points: 1) preeeeeeetty and 2) you don't like women much, do you? Like, you don't even think about them at all...this was written by a woman?!?

As a book series, I genuinely enjoy Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Her version of vampires as elegant, tortured and beautiful souls works for me and as I've written before, her vampire origin story chronicled in Queen of the Damned is the most believable and intriguing, in my opinion. I know it's uncool to like Anne Rice novels, but I do and I refuse to apologize.

Now, take a moment to look upon Brad Pitt's pillowy lips, mint-green eyes and supreme broody-vulnerability. Go ahead, take your time.

The vulnerability of Louis (Pitt's character) is one of the most intriguing aspects of his character. He was THE tortured vampire before Angel from Buffy. Tortured souls are my Achille's Heel and godDAMN that man is resplendent in this film! Though he's undoubtedly a beautiful man, Pitt doesn't usually do it for me, but you would have no idea this was the case watching me drool over him in this role. He's pouty, he's pretty, and he's pale: the Mixtress-Rae-swoon-trifecta. And that hair!! I have to move on, because all I have to say here, obvi, is PREEEEEEEEEEETTTTTY!

To add to the pretty, this film truly holds up in the categories of score, makeup and visual effects. The vampire transformations (see Claudia's above) still look good. The animatronics and makeup techniques of Lestat's death look truly horrific and realistic and this was before film's heavy reliance on digital effects. Elliot Goldenthal's score for the movie references the time in which these vampires lived (from late 1700's to late 1980's) while employing full orchestras and drama drama harpsichord drama. It's delicious. The vampire fangs are my favorite of any vampires in film ever (you can see these in Claudia's transformation at the top of the post). I really like that both the lateral incisors AND the cuspids that you'd normally associate with fang teeth are pointed. I also like that they are always pointed. Their fangs don't come out like switchblades like in True Blood or anything. One of the only things I don't like about Buffy is that the vampires can look normal when they're not in "vamp-face". I mean, what's the point in being an otherworldly creature if you don't get to look like one all the time? The eyes in this movie, man...Brad Pitt's Louis has these piercing mint-green eyes that glow. It looks magnificent and truly did the vampire eyes of the book justice. Every visual in this film is decadent and delightful.

This film takes its beauty so seriously that it gives women and men alike what we've mostly been starved for in our culture, especially by the film's release in 1994: homo-erotica! Everything we see is a tease because Anne Rice's vampires can't, you know, but I don't care because it's hot! We see Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt almost make out in a drawn-out scene of extreme closeness and hair everywhere. Behold!

I haven't mentioned Lestat yet. Tom Cruise does his Tom Cruise thing in this movie and that works for this character just fine, but his visage just doesn't catch my eye when there are long-haired and pale versions of Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas around. Sorry not sorry.

Ok, so you get it. Every visual and every sound in this movie is pretty. The performances from almost all the leading actors are pretty solid as well.

Let's move on to the movie's one HUGE, glaring, and terrible flaw. It treats women like total trash, literally. Women are mothers or children or whores and always, with no exceptions, victims. And where are the people of color? Oh, they're slaves and victims too. Grrrr. The only leading woman is a girl, Kirsten Dunst (then 12) as Claudia. She's made into a vampire at age 10 or so (grosssss!) and because of this, she never grows into a woman and is weaker than other vampires so she has to literally rely on the men in her life (Lestat and Louis). Most women in this movie are whores that die mid-orgasm (their pleasure caused by dying, not by sex) at the hands of mostly Lestat, so at least you get to see them having a good time, but they're nameless victims treated dismissively. Claudia does kill a couple of men, but most victims in this film are women and most beautiful vampires are men. The film barely passes the Bechdel Test, and only because of ONE line towards the last 1/4 of the movie. The treatment of women characters in this film is a really really big disappointment, but it's the only downside to a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

Aesthetics/Visual Effects: 4.5

Plot: 3.5

Characters: 4.0

Sound/Score: 4.5

Treatment of Women/Minorities: 1.0

Rewatchability: 4.0

Overall: 21.5

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Horror Movie Review: Bride of Frankenstein

"More fearful than the monster himself!"

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is one of, if not THE, first movie sequel and it's largely thought of to be better than 1931's Frankenstein. The director James Whale was an out gay man. OUT in 1935, children! Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" is the first science fiction piece of culture EVER.

The bride herself, as a character, is one of the most iconic images in horror, though she never came to life in the book and is BARELY onscreen in the film of her namesake. That's the biggest flaw with this film, in my opinion. You see the bride hissing and jerking magnificently for the last maybe 3 minutes of the film. You wait and you wait and you wait for her to come to life and take the monster and Frankenstein down with her superior strength and angry confusion, but sadly, it isn't to be.

The film's score was created especially for the movie, which was a new thing in 1935. The film also exhibited humor, which is something horror is still squeamish about employing.

I have more thoughts about the imagery than anything else about this movie. Frankenstein's monster and the bride are both images that have prevailed in our culture for 80 years now. The machinery in the film used to reanimate the bride is also breathtaking. The bride is sewn into my backpack I wear every day. I want to embody her glamorous horror. She is an inspiration to me. The character has lived on in many other films. There's an excellent article about the progression of the character in pop culture here.

The movie taken on its own without all the iconic history surrounding it is still quite enjoyable. The score was a little distracting and the wilting-fainting-ness of Frankenstein-the-scientist's soon-to-be wife is nauseating, but that scene with the blind guy and the monster is emotional and genuine, even by today's standards. You have sympathy for the monster, you laugh, and you wait for the bride to arrive...that's the film in a nutshell. The cinematography is, as I wrote above, simply breathtaking.

My Ratings

Aesthetics/visual effects: 3.8

Plot: 2.5

Characters: 3.5

Sound/Score: 2.5

Treatment of Women/Minorities: 1.0

Rewatchability: 3.0


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The search for my Top Ten Horror Movies, part 1.

Happy Autumnal Equinox, e’erybody!!

I’ve been thinking about horror films lately. It’s been awhile since I watched my favorite horror movies. Also, I haven’t seen several of the iconic movies from the horror genre. You see where I’m going with this, right? It’s time for a rewatch/watch-for-the-first-time and review blogfest!!

Disclaimers/Caveats/Rules of the Rate:

Disclaimer: I am definitely a fan of horror, but my love of it is mostly due to gothic imagery and the potential for girl villainy. I enjoy a good psychological thriller, but the “being hunted by hillbillies in the woods” and “being tortured by psychotic individuals” oeuvre are not for me. I like being worried and maybe a little freaked out, but I don’t enjoy things that are disgusting or overly violent. I like my gore to be beautiful, not squishy. Also, I can almost guarantee if there’s a rape scene, I am OUT. Immediately.

Caveats: I am limited to movies I own, movies I can check out at the library, and movies that are available on Netflix or Hulu. This will by no means be a complete list. Thems the breaks. Shaun of the Dead should probably be on this list. Perhaps I’ll add it later, but I’m really mad at Simon Pegg right now because his last few movies have been crap-fests with terrible treatment of women characters. I thought you were on our side, Simon...WTF?!

Rules of my rating system: I’ll be scoring these movies on 6 factors (Aesthetics/Visual Effects, Plot, Characters, Score/Music/Sound Effects, Rewatchability, and Treatment of Women/Marginalized Groups) on a scale of 1-5. These scores will be added for an overall possible score of up to 30 points. They will be ranked at the end of the project using these scores. I can then present you with Mixtress Rae’s top 5 (or maybe 10) horror movies of all time. I’m limiting myself to reviewing only 25 movies so that I can hopefully finish the project by October 31st or at least somewhere around Day of the Dead (November 2nd). This list could definitely be a LOT longer. If you think I’m missing something really important, give me a good defense of a title you think I should add and I’ll consider it (provided you let me borrow it if I can’t find it at the library, Netflix, or Hulu). For the most part, I’m sticking to first in series. The exceptions are sequels that have more badass girl villains than their debuts.

Here is the list of movies that I’m planning to rewatch/review that will likely have a better shot at hitting the top five (or ten):

*Bride of Frankenstein
*Interview with the Vampire
*Queen of the Damned
*The Ring
*Cabin in the Woods
*Blair Witch Project
*The Descent
*The Cell
*28 Days Later
*return of the Living Dead 3
*Resident Evil
*The Crow
*Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Here is the list of horror movies I’ll be watching for the first time/rating:

*The Haunting
*Friday the 13th
*A Nightmare on Elm Street
*The Shining
*Only Lovers Left Alive

Ok, that’s it. I’ve already watched two of these movies, so reviews will be up soon. I wanted to let y’all know what I’m doing because I’m super excited. Tell me YOUR favorite horror movies. Oh, and if we’re friends IRL and you like any of these movies, let me know and we can watch them together!!!