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11/22/63 by Stephen King book review

11/22/63 by Stephen King11/22/63 has movie written all over it. Take some Final Destination, stir in Mr. Holland’s Opus, mix with Pleasantville and just about every time travel movie ever made and there you go.

The problem with 11/22/63 is its title. To King’s generation that date may be as memorable as 9/11, but that generation and its self-obsession is fading away. Had 11/22/63 been the monomaniacal obsession with saving JFK that the title and cover suggests, it wouldn’t be worth reading. Despite the reams of research though, it isn’t.

What 11/22/63 actually is, is an unwieldy book. 11/22/63 isn’t a failure like The Dome, instead it’s unbalanced as if Stephen King doesn’t know what his own novel is about. An extended section in Derry which tries to piggyback on his vastly superior IT makes that obvious. But King finds his footing with a doomed love story set in a small town in Texas.

11/22/63 is at its weakest when following around Lee Harvey Oswald’s pathetic life. King attempts to fictionalize Oswald, but still can’t make him compelling or interesting. He attempts to turn Dallas into Derry and flirts with Oswald as demonically possessed, but seems to have enough common sense not to follow through with those ideas.

Instead 11/22/63 ends up telling the classic time travel story of a man from the future, a teacher named Jake Epping, who finds a better life in the past and a love that he has to give up. Unfortunately King doesn’t really seem to understand that this is his story until he has already told it. The entire novel reeks of being undeveloped, though not as badly as The Dome was. It moves jerkily around without knowing where it’s going until the end.

Too much of 11/22/63 seems to take it for granted that saving JFK will make the world a better place, without seriously defending it, that the “twist” which everyone who has ever read Science Fiction can predict, fits in awkwardly. The dreaded future that King belatedly takes us to is even more poorly written. And the entire conclusion of the novel is clumsy and clunky, only partially redeemed by an ending apparently suggested by his son.

The saving grace of 11/22/63 is that this time King has a main character with hopes and dreams, rather than a pasteboard target for scoring political points. King misses with Derry, he misses with Dallas, but when in doubt he goes back and breathes life into the cliche of small town Americana where the food tastes better, the cars run faster and where life is felt more deeply.

11/22/63 is not a great novel, or even a particularly good one, but it has its moments. Unfortunately it also has Stephen King, whose Uncle Stevie title now seems a little too fitting, delivering random political diatribes. The experience is a little like that family dinner where your crazy uncle begins ranting about his expected targets. It’s not that he’s necessarily wrong, it’s that his diatribes are boring and narrow-minded.

King’s politics are pat. His good people are Catholics, his bad people are Baptists. 11/22/63 has no shortage of racist stereotypes, but takes its bows for denouncing racism. His worship of JFK is weird and off-putting when we know a little too much about him to believe it. 11/22/63 tries to go for political commentary, but knows enough to back off, but not enough to scrub the whole thing.

Like The Dome, 11/22/63 is a mistake. Not quite a revived trunk novel, but a trunk idea, badly managed. Still it has its charm and that charm is in Jolie, Texas. When it leaves Jolie, its reason for existing goes with it.

The Devil Outside

Give bad horror movies their due, they are the true indies. You can make them cheaply and if you get lucky they can score a fortune. The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and now The Devil Inside. Sure marketing can be credited, but there wasn’t that much of it. It might be truer to say that there’s a public appetite for horror, bad horror movies at that, which pops up at times. And what they want isn’t another movie featuring CW starlets. That’s where movies like The Devil Inside come out of nowhere to deliver. Watch 5 minutes of SyFy, any 5 minutes and you can see how cheaply and how badly a “scares in the attic” movie can be made. And cheap and bad movies are the baseline indie.

Ray Bradbury’s Driving Blind book review

driving blind bradburyReading the stories in Driving Blind you can view it as the intersection, the late 1990’s stories by Ray Bradbury that mark his transition to the purely nostalgia based fiction he writes today. There is one Science Fiction story in Driving Blind, though it is a high concept but particularly weak entry in terms of execution, and one genuinely great horror short story Thunder in the Morning that should have been reprinted endlessly in horror anthologies, but hasn’t.

But Driving Blind is for the most part more concerned with nostalgia, with old school classmates and ex-girlfriends, with looking into the other end of the telescope at adulthood and with growing old and seeing that all disappear, and while such ideas have always been present in Ray Bradbury’s work, in Driving Blind they seem to predominate and dominate the old Bradbury who looked at far horizons that were beyond himself, rather than only looking inward.

When you drive blind, you go to the destination you know best, like a horse with blinders on, because in the dark we can really only see ourselves. And Driving Blind is that one single destination arrived at over and over again, sometimes with talent, sometimes aimlessly, always with depth of emotion, but having read Driving Blind, I can admire Bradbury as a stylist, while finding little there to draw from beyond the shallow wading pool of memoir fiction. The Bradbury whose work I loved looked at the world and the world beyond with fresh eyes. The Ray Bradbury of Driving Blind is more comfortable with the romance of nostalgia and memory than with anything larger or vaster and while he still writes with love, it is a love so narrow as to be self-love.

R. Patrick Gates’ Vaders book review

There are books that deserved to be adapted into movies. R. Patrick Gates’ Vaders deserves to be adapted into a video game. Consisting of little more than 384 very long pages of the main characters encountering monsters, running away from monsters, encountering monsters again, killing some of them, running away again, resting and repeating the entire process over and over again, Vaders is a video game in novel form and every bit as boring as you would expect it to be.

The plot, such as it is, is basically that of every zombie movie ever, except the people turn into zombies that are 20 feet tall when they’re stuck by vaders r patrick gatesglowing alien balls from space. Other than that, R. Patrick Gates’ Vaders traffics in every zombie movie cliche.

Two days after the Zombie attack, the police are shooting everyone in sight, black gangs roam the streets and the Mayor and the authorities have turned to cannibalism and human lotteries. And while you would think that some entertainment could be squeezed out of all that, you would be dead wrong because R. Patrick Gates has the characters stumble around the city running into a mix of racial stereotypes, the Italian criminal, the Jewish family in a Deli, the black gang, the gay couple who are all doomed to be eaten alive 5 minutes after they encounter them.

A few pages in, it’s obvious that you’ve read everything the book has to offer and it really doesn’t get any better from there. If you’ve seen one 20 foot monster eat a man/woman/child alive while chasing after a car, you’ve seen them all. Gates’ tries to vary it a bit by bringing in giant cats, pigeons, dogs and rats and finally has a mess of spider aliens hatch out of the humans, but none of that does anything but vary the monsters a little. R. Patrick Gates’ is a lot better at creating monsters than he is at creating believable human characters or advancing the plot, which is why Vaders would make a hell of a video game, but makes for a terrible novel.

While the blurbs on the back and the Amazon keywords make a point of emphasizing a connection to Stephen King, Vaders is a long way from Stephen King, filled with stilted writing, paragraphs of third person narrative observations about characters without getting inside their heads and is light on horror and heavy on the gross out. Horror is the expectation of being eaten by a monster, gross out is actually featuring page after page of monsters eating people, defecating, sneezing and farting, with no terror anywhere in sight.

R. Patrick Gates’ Vaders is part of a trend of action oriented horror/SciFi novels that remix existing tropes, tossing bits of horror movies, video games and SciFi novels into the mix, stirring together and vomiting it all up on the page. Gates cites everything from Doom to Stephen King’s The Stand, oddly leaving out his most obvious inspirations in George Romero or The Mist, but the whole thing is oddly joyless and flat.

1408 Movie Review

1408 movie posterAn adaptation of a Stephen King short story originally intended for his On Writing book, 1408 the story worked as a brief derangement of reality utilizing King’s trademark ominous surrealism, repeated numbers and words, 1408 the movie tries to follow suit but it’s hobbled by a hefty 104 minute running time when it only needed to be 90 minutes or so. Swedish director Mikael Håfström and screenwriters Matt Greenberg, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski do their best to fill the time but the result quickly degenerates into a cliched mess. 1408 quickly finds itself short of material reserving the best fragments of Stephen King’s short story for the end. Hafstrom works his cinematographer to the bone finding new ways to bizarrely light the scene in 1408 and the script desperately raids other Stephen King novels and stories for material. A tear jerker of a backstory is tied on to John Cusack’s character involving a dead daughter and a marriage wrecked by it, but that just drags the story down further.

The best five minutes of 1408 takes place during the confrontation between Samuel L. Jackson as the Dolphin hotel manager and John Cusack’s Mike Enslin and yet all it involves is Jackson’s character reciting the hotel’s bloody history. Nothing that happens until the very last minute of his hotel stay and then the closing scene of the movie even comes close to raising the same chills it does and that is a sad testament to the movie’s lack of scares. Room 1408 the story treated the room as a malevolent and incomprehensible force. In 1408 the movie, the room talks to Enslin’s wife via Yahoo messenger webcam, winks at him and calls him using the voice of a friendly hotel operator.

Where the story focused on Enslin’s gradual derangement conveyed through imagery, the movie throws Enslin into one bizarre maze after another, he screams, he whines but then he bounces back and finally takes down the hotel room in proper action hero style. The room’s powers verge on the silly, it folds toilet paper, it sends the image of a Michael Meyers from Friday the 13th lookalike to run up and frighten him. It showers him with water and blood, raises and lowers the thermostat, cuts off the phone and transports him to seemingly another dimension but somehow can’t shut down his wireless connection. It can however hack his laptop with a duplicate webcam of him. The final lunacy is that the room can delude and manipulate him and make him think he destroyed it when he barely scratched it, but it can’t prevent him from lighting a crude molotov cocktail and setting the room on fire to our relief and his and apparently the room’s, which has been sending him messages asking him to burn it alive. And who can blame it?

Enslin too is a fantastically dim character in the tradition of horror movie figures. He tries to escape the room by climbing the ledge before he bothers to try his cell phone and all that happens only a half hour into his stay. He continues carrying on even well past the point where it’s clear that the room can’t physically hurt him, only play mind games with him. Toward the end the room calls him up to warn him that if he doesn’t agree to commit suicide, it’ll make him relive the last hour of what is basically a bad acid trip all over again. By that point it was a more serious threat to the moviegoers than it was to Enslin.

Throughout it all you can’t help but think of the Simpsons Halloween episode that has the family trapped in a house of evil as Bart demands, “Make the walls bleed man! We own you.” Gore would have been almost welcome in 1408 but the movie is practically PG aside from the cursing which seems more like a desperate attempt to bring up the rating to the point where you might suspect something scary actually happens in it. Despite all its flaws, 1408 might not have been so bad despite its watered down premise of “The Shining in a Single Hotel Room” if it had thrown out the flashbacks and an extended illusion of escaping the room and being in L.A. which every single movie viewer knows is only a Jacob’s Ladder style illusion and focused on the terror. But even when Enslin’s hair is dusted white and he looks like he’s auditioning for Johnny Depp’s part in Sweeney Todd, his fear quickly gives way to a quip or a smirk.

1408 is horrific indeed but only horrifically tedious. It lifts cliches from half the horror movies ever made and has no clue how to properly use them. Its only truly unnerving moment comes in the final seconds as Enslin plays back his tape recording of the time there and that reel playing back is far more ominous than anything that actually happened in the room.

The 10 Greatest Fantasy Movies Ever Made

Nailing down the top Fantasy movies is much trickier than nailing down the top 10 Science Fiction movies, in part because there are much fewer Fantasy movies that are made than Science Fiction movies and because the definitions are much trickier.

As far as I’m concerned, fantasy movies deal with legends and myths, they deal with the idea of crossing over from reality into a fantastic world where magic is real and where there are strange creatures, whether in the movie or as a viewer. I know it’s a pretty fast and loose definition but what I mean to do is exclude horror movies, where the purpose is mainly to scare not to awe and enchant… even though Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the movies on the list, can be considered a horror movie. Fantasy can be scary but its purpose is to do more than scare you. If all a movie does is throw ghouls and vampires at you, it isn’t a fantasy movie.

Science Fiction tells us that the impossible can be made real if we work hard enough for it. Fantasy tells us that the impossible can be made real if we truly believe and wish for it. And perhaps that is the string which connects these ten movies as well.

The Ten Greatest Fantasy Films of All Time

They Live movie review

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They Live might in theory be described as a horror movie but it is a horror movie where the horror does not come from the monsters, from jagged fangs or grotesque features or hideous creatures leaping out at you in the dark. Instead They Live’s horror is social, it’s the shock of the knowledge that the world you have been living in is a lie. Long before the Matrix made you choose between pills and the grim reality of an enslaved humanity and the illusion of creature comforts, They Live offered the same choice embodied in a pair of sunglasses or a simple pirated TV broadcast. Yet They Live is devoid of the pretentious philosophizing and self-absorbed complexity, instead it is a fable as simple as that of George Owell’s Animal Farm wrapped up in a B Movie disguise.

Ever since Dark Star, John Carpenter has made his career with movies that are more than they appear to be, morality tales and political protest wrapped around the trappings of horror and hack science fiction. They Live was certainly his most explicitly political movie, a protest against a corporate culture that valued consumption above all else, that was squeezing out the American middle class to make way for another CEO pay hike and that treated people as eminently disposable. It sounds like the perfect way to drag a movie down but They Live is never didactic, it shows instead of telling.

Beginning with the arrival of John Nada (an unsubtle pun) played by Roddy Piper to Los Angeles, They Live pans around the grim visage of a recession where people sleep on the street while television commercials ooze promises of a luxurious lifestyle, showing a hard world where the traditional obligations of American democracy have come to mean very little indeed. They Live will certainly never go down as one of the more dialogue heavy movies around and the first third of They Live has minimialistic dialogue which only further deepens the sense of loneliness and the unnervingly detached atmosphere. And when there is speech, John Nada overhears far more than he says, a television commercial here, a black minister’s impromptu sidewalk address there and a mysterious pirate broadcast cutting in on the cable and warning of a secret war being fought with signals.

While the first time John Nada (Roddy Piper) dons the sunglasses to see the true reality of the world is the high point of They Live, it’s the journey he takes to get there as a stranger encountering for the first time the reality of a war being fought between a human resistance and an alien occupation beneath the quiet surface of the everyday world that keeps the suspense going and the audience committed right up to that shocking moment.

John Carpenter as always makes the best of a bad budget, using completely minor elements to unnerving effect. From the helicopter passing overhead to static on a TV screen to a recording of a choir joyfully pounding through an empty church while conspiracies are discussed behind thin walls, each one adds to the sense that something much bigger is afoot.

Of course when John Nada (Roddy Piper) does don the sunglasses what he sees makes even the Matrix’ reality seem tame by comparison as the real nature of the lives we lead is revealed. Beneath every sign and image we have so grown used to encountering in our day to day lives lies another message. Every advertisement and sign, vacant magazine article and logo is a subliminal message, controlling everyone. A billboard of a model advertising a tropical vacation hides a message commanding the sheep to “Marry and Reproduce”, advertisements and magazine articles urge their viewers and readers to “Stay Asleep” and “Watch TV” and every dollar bill proclaims, “This is Your god.”

The unnerving expedition beneath the skin of the world becomes only more unnerving when John Nada sees a wealthy businessman buying a paper but through the glasses, sees him as a gruesome skeletal figure. An inhuman creature. Wandering into a store where upper class to upper middle class shoppers are discussing their social lives, John Nada sees more of them all around. And soon the LAPD, consisting of officers no more human than the businessman arrive and a one man war begins.

They Live increasingly begins to falter at this point and coming off the high note of John Nada’s shotgun scene in the bank has nowhere to really go but down. Probably one of the most ludricious scenes follows as John Nada tries to force Frank Armitage, a fellow construction worker, to put on the sunglasses, resulting in a roughly ten minute fight in which John Nada is repeatedly beaten up only to attack Armitage all over again. There’s no comprehensible reason why this scene goes on for so long except that Roddy Piper and some combination of the movie’s producers wanted to show off his wrestling skills.

From there John Nada meets up with the remains of the resistance and a terrible storyline involving a television reporter who works in the station broadcasting the alien signal is unveiled to its dreadful conclusion. In between though, John Carpenter pulls off another surprise, transporting us to the alien headquarters, an underground series of cement tunnels where banquets are held for the human collaborators of the alien invaders and a transporters shoots travelers back and forth between Andromeda and Earth. Occasionally goofy, the tour still manages to capture the chilling nature of human collaboration with an alien occupation force far better than V ever did.

And while the ending is somewhat awkward, the final montage of humans discovering the aliens among them, summed up by a final graphic visual metaphor, stays with you even long after the movie is done. While originally conceived as a commentary on the Reagan era and the Wall Street culture of Gordon Gecko, They Live endures as more than a one shot act of political commentary but as the daring suggestion that humans and human behavior can be every bit as destructive and oppressive as any alien invasion can be.

28 Weeks Later review

28 Weeks Later review

When 28 Days Later first came out it was striking because it tweaked the evil zombie genre enough to raise some 89682_f260moral and ethical questions while raising the horror bar by giving us zombies that did not slowly lurch toward their prey but ran howling like mad banshees. It managed to be a successful horror movie with an indie eye of the action that followed characters coping with a demolished world.

28 Weeks Later by contrast may begin in a Rage infected cottage in England with all the familiar zombie attacks but quickly shifts to the Green Zone, a NATO controlled territory in London that has been prepared for resettlement in the aftermath of the destruction of mainland England. With 15,000 people returning and US troops locking down the area, there is a clear attempt to create parallels to the US Occupation in Iraq but it is an attempt that flounders more than anything else.

28 Weeks Later might have taken a lesson from George Romero, godfather of the modern Zombie movie, in his attempt to try and tie modern elements of the War on Terror to zombies in the disastrous Dawn of the Dead. Sadly it did not and the plot leaves it unclear what the message is or if there even is one, aside from “All Rebuilding Projects Are Doomed to Fail.” 28 Weeks Later positions Scarlett, the army medical officer and Doyle, the sniper, as the moral voices in the military in opposition to the military command and its ruthless tactics but by the end of the movie the ruthless tactics of the military appear to have been proven right while Scarlett’s and Doyle’s sacrifices have not only been useless but outright destructive, causing the infection of France and possibly the right of the continent. A pro-military message if there ever was one.

But clumsiness is the hallmark of 28 Weeks Later. Written and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and without the return of either Danny Boyle or Alex Garland, Fresnadillo, a director with really only one serious film behind him, was given the charge of an ambitious project and falls short at each juncture.

Where 28 Days Later began by allowing us to focus on and identify with Cillian Murphy’s Jim waking from a coma and exploring a strange and disturbing new world, 28 Weeks Later offers us no such easy character identification. The closest to a main character we have is Robert Cayle’s Don, who might potentially have served as an interesting main character but the attention quickly shifts to his children, brooding sullen Andy and his sister Tammy. Robert Cayle has little left to do but look vaguely guilty around his children in the brief screen time he has left before he is turned into a zombie.

The children are the focus of the movie but their performances range from the mediocre to the terrible and their actions set the virus loose again resulting in the deaths of thousands. Indeed 28 Weeks Later focuses on a family that is responsible for destroying the rest of England and costing the lives of thousands. That makes it a little difficult to sympathize too much with them. More to the point their acting might suffice for an afterschool special but not for a major motion picture.

The Americans in the movie are even worse. The actors playing Doyle, Flynn and Scarlett are adequate enough, sometimes even better than adequate but they are hopelessly cliched. They are not people, they are cardboard cutouts where people are supposed to go. They have nearly no screen time and even less chance to develop personalities. Scarlett is thrust into the usual role of playing the “scientist” warning the military about their actions and appearing to be right at every turn, except she proves to be tragically wrong. Doyle does things for no particular reason but he has the weight of personality that no one but Don does in the movie. A version of 28 Weeks Later that featured Don and Doyle on opposite sides with Don searching for the wife he left behind might have made 28 Weeks Later a great movie. Instead Doyle is reduced to wandering aimlessly until the time comes for him to die. As Flynn, Harold Perrineau has even less to do than usual and spends virtually all his time on screen agitated and shouting at the camera.

The Rage zombies appear only at the beginning and at the end and the steadicam shooting that marked 28 Days Later by 28 Weeks Later has simply devolved into wildly swinging the camera around until we can’t tell what we are seeing anymore. To make matters worse 28 Weeks Later tosses in night vision scenes producing scenes that are exquisitely pointless in their boredom. No one has yet manage to make horror scenes shot in night vision exciting yet and 28 Weeks Later doesn’t even come close with an absurd scene on an escalator that ends with a zombie bouncing off the night vision scopes for a moment that’s supposed to be horrific but is instead unintentionally hilarious.

Worst of all 28 Weeks Later looks cheap and feels rushed. Where 28 Days Later managed to make the most of its limited resources by telling a small story that felt big, 28 Weeks Later tries to tell a big story that ends up feeling hopelessly small. From the single building the military seems to be focused on to a small command center to a supposed NATO presence that consists of a few American military personnel and one British officer (NATO consists of Twenty Six countries), 28 Weeks Later is trying to tell a story about a military occupation that winds up barely registering. Like 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later’s best scenes take place in the abandoned debris and deserted shops and homes of London. It is only there that the movie at all comes alive and yet the movie spends so little time there. In trying to make some sort of point about occupation and reconstruction, 28 Weeks Later aims too high and crashes down to earth hard. If 28 Weeks Later has a message about the perils of hubris, it is a message that perhaps the filmmakers should have kept more closely in mind.

Wilderness Survival for Girls review

Early on Wilderness Survival for Girls seems to open with a conventional enough setting and scenario for slasher movies. Three teenage girls are headed into the mountains to a lonely and isolated cabin. The wilderness is framed in distant shots that capture a beautifully colorful but inhuman landscape. Before long the girls are sunbathing topless, at least some of them, talking about sex and then out of the darkness, comes the stranger.

But Wilderness Survival for Girls is not at all a conventional horror movie and husband and wife, writers and directors, Eli Despres and Kim Roberts, have something else in mind and Wilderness Survival for Girls is much closer to Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock than it is to Scream or the Michael Meyers movies. Like Picnic at Hanging Rock, Wilderness Survival for Girls is the story of girls on the tip of adulthood and their relationships with each other as much as it is the story of the peril that confronts them.

Many horror movies feature girls in primary roles but those girls are there as meat rather than people to be slashed and cut up. Hostel II may begin similarly with three teenage girls on a trip but those girls are there to be stripped and tortured for the entertainment and gratification of the on screen characters and the off screen audience. While Hostel II is an extreme example it essentially makes overt what so very many horror movies are really about. Attractive girls being cut to pieces.

The three main characters of Wilderness Survival for Girls look nothing like the usual actresses who play teenage girls in horror movies. They aren’t models or polished ideals. They are just plausibly a bunch of teenage girls hanging between high school and college, still more children than women and unsure of who they really are. Kate played by Ali Humiston is the Alpha Girl of the bunch, overtly sexual and troubled and exerting an unhealthy influence over Ruth and Deb as they alternately express hostility toward her and compete for her attention and affection. Ruth played by Jeanette Brox, reminds you of a young Bridget Fonda, shy and bookish, innocent both emotionally and sexually and easily manipulated by those around her. Deb played by Megan Henning is outwardly worldly and cynical but inwardly far more uncertain than she lets on.

Up in the cabin with its trappings of the 70’s and a dead animal who had been shot in the freezer, the girls begin to collide with one another, friendship, budding sexuality and rivalries and jealousies causing them to bounce against each other like pinballs. Into the mix comes Ed Collins, played by James Morrison, a seasoned television and film actor audiences may remember from shows such as 24 or Space Above and Beyond. A stranger and a loner, Ed bursts into the cabin and is tied up at gunpoint by the girls.

Is Ed merely an innocent stranger or a dangerous one? Was he involved in murders that had taken place in the area and what are his real intentions toward the girls? Wilderness Survival for Girls gives no definite answers. James Morrison’s portrayal of Ed gives us a lonely and bitter man but also a potentially dangerous loner capable of manipulating the girls all too well, particularly Ruth and tapping into her budding sexual feelings. When Ed takes Kate alone into the bedroom and begins what appears to be an attempt to sexually assault her, he loses what sympathy he has from the audience but Kate’s own complicity in sexually taunting him sets the theme for the bloody conclusion of the movie.

James Morrison and Jeanette Brox are easily the standouts in Wilderness Survival for Girls, both delivering memorable performances, together and apart. By contrast Ali Humiston’s performance is the weakest of the bunch but considering that her character Kate is essentially a collection of cliches and is tasked with all the thankless wild girl stuff from showing her breasts to smoking and handing out pot to the other girls and coming on to them sexually. Only in her scene with James Morrison where she is bound and on the verge of being assaulted, does Ali Humiston invest Kate with any real life and energy. Megan Henning’s Deb is a more complicated character but the Jewish girl with a sarcastic attitude and lesbian tendencies is more than a little bit of a cliche and she spends more time attempting to manipulate Ruth and trying to resist Kate’s manipulation than really showing us who she is.

In the end Wilderness Survival for Girls may be a story about girls growing up into women but it is a long way from Little Women. It is a story about three girls who go up to a mountain cabin where a stranger is lurking but it has little in common with slasher movies beyond turning the premise of the slasher movie on its head. None of the girls are punished for their sexuality or promiscuity as is commonplace in slasher and horror movies. Instead the locus of the evil they face remains uncertain. It might be in Ed Collins, the stranger who invades their cabin and their physical, personal and mental space or it might be in the girls themselves, who realize that what they are capable of. Or possibly both because in what happens in that cabin and around those woods, Ed, Kate, Deb and maybe even Ruth are all complicit in. That makes Wilderness Survival for Girls a story ultimately about the loss of innocence that comes with growing up and realizing what we are capable of and that the people we may be on the road to becoming as adults are not at all whom we might have imagined we would be.

What Wilderness Survival for Girls does have in common with many horror movies and slasher films is that it is the story of girls who went on a vacation trip that was meant to be casual but became a life changing experience. Unlike those horror movies though, the changes come from self-realization rather than a hatchet in the dark and a bloody hook in the night. Where movies like Hostel II only pretend to give us real female characters and their reactions, Wilderness Survival for Girls really does and in a way it is far more unnerving than a bloody gorefest like Hostel II could ever be. Real horror after all comes from exploring what is inside us and our fears, rather than slicing up bodies with special effects. The horror of Eli Roth’s Hostel II is not in the upside down scene or the bloody dismemberments or the castrations but that there are audiences lining up by the millions to watch it. It is not Hostel II that is scary but its audience that is. By contrast the real terror in Wilderness Survival for Girls is on screen and in the characters themselves. Not from gore or blood but from the darkness inside us all.

The Blob vs Body Snatchers

Horror is rooted in the fear of the unknown. With the transition of the United States along the road of a technological society through the 20th century, the locus of the unknown shifted increasingly moving from gothic themes, from demons, legendary monsters of superstition and curses to scientific experiments gone mad. technological monsters and creatures from beyond the solar system.

Horror had always resided in the fear of the unknown. As the world became known, its forests mapped, its cities lit by electric light, its deserts and jungles photographed and each corner of the globe surveyed by satellites from space, the unknown had to come from the mysteries of scientific laboratories, radiation and of course outer space. Science replaced myth as the wellspring of terror and is doing so its discoveries, methods and processes became terrifying.

Read the rest here The Blob vs Body Snatchers � Jelly or pods?

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