Oct 22, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 22: Deadgirl

Two creepy douchecanoes go through an abandoned mental hospital and find a naked woman tied up in a bed. Deadgirl tells the story of what happens after. Instead of calling the police or any type of medical personnel, one of them decides to rape her and then accidentally snaps her neck. Turns out, she’s a zombie. Which to at least one of them means that she can and should be used for sex. And that’s the whole premise of the movie. That teenage boys will use a dead body for sex as long as it doesn’t kill them.

My partner chose most of the movies on this list and this was sold to him years ago as a different kind of zombie movie. Needless to say, we were both disappointed. At no point did I give a fuck about what happens to anyone in this movie. The zombie was already dead so theoretically we weren’t supposed to care what happened to her. Every single guy on the screen is a horrible douchecanoe, not just toward women but other men as well, so I never did care about what happened to any of them. Even the main character, the guy we’re supposedly supposed to be rooting for is a fucking stalker. Even the actors did not really impress. They deliver mumbling, lackluster performances. Many of the people who liked it, seem to consider the ending a clever switch which I can only take as an indication that they weren’t paying attention to the rest of the movie. I mean that was always going to be the ending.

Technically, this is a new kind of zombie movie but it didn’t really have anything new to add to the genre and it’s not even stomping old ground in an effective way. Commodification of humanity has been a long standing theme in zombie fiction and if this movie was trying to make a point about specifically the commodification of female bodies then it utterly fails in actually making that point. Perhaps the point is supposed to be about how teenage boys are terrible in which case I think the point has been made in much better ways. This is one movie that I would advise anyone to avoid. It’s got a nasty, juicy premise, but pretty much nothing else. It never actually does anything with it.

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Oct 21, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 21: 1922

1922 was the first movie on my list that I had absolutely no expectations for at all. I haven’t been watching trailers for these movies and though most movies you can guess something from the name, 1922 could be anything. What it turned out to be was a Stephen King movie set in 1922 when a farmer plots to murder his wife. She’s intent on leaving the farm to go live in the city which is not even a little bit what her husband wants. What follows is basically a Stephen King version of The Telltale Heart, with rats. Pretty much no jumpscares, ALLLLL the rats, such gore, dead walking. I really liked this one. The horror is well constructed and, at least for me, really scary. There are some Kingisms sprinkled all over and throughout this movie and for me, at least, they really worked.

The ending is very dark but also kind of hopeful, in a twisted sense. I really liked this one, in so many ways. The selfishness that leads to the ultimate decision, the guilt that starts gnawing at both of them as soon as the deed is done. The way the dead start walking. I am very much in the target audience for this movie.

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Oct 20, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 20: Babadook

The Babadook is easily the movie on this list I’ve been looking forward to the most. During the lead-up to me going to Clarion, there was a discussion about how and why Babadook is a gay icon. The babadiscourse intrigued me enough to spark a story idea even though I’d never seen the movie. To say I’ve been looking forward to watching the movie would be an understatement. And the Babadook certainly did not disappoint! This was by far the scariest movie on my list so far while also being right up there with Get Out in the running for being the best movie on this list.

The Babadook is essentially a single mother still grieving from the death of her husband almost seven years earlier, dealing with a weird, rambunctious kid who just will not sleep through the night. She’s on the verge of falling apart when her son brings a pop-out book with the title Mister Babadook. The book starts innocently enough, rhyming about the new friend you might meet, Mister Babadook. It turns creepy very fast, finding its way into the nightmares of both mother and son. The movie is notable in that there are no jumpscares. Like seriously. The horror is just constantly rising until it reaches a crescendo.

As far as spoiler warnings go, there is a supremely cute dog who does not have a very good end and some disturbing hallucinations of a dead child who’s not actually dead.

The rest contains spoilers, you have been warned.

The thing that I loved, loved, LOVED about The Babadook was the ending. Not only was it a happy ending, it was a happy ending for everyone, the monster included. And holy shit did it work for me. I was scared enough there as the action started to ramp up that I needed to pause the movie which hasn’t happened since forever. But the monster just needed to be seen and acknowledged. Like seriously. I’m basically crying just thinking about that as a solution to anything, let alone a horror movie. And these are good tears. I mean, obviously there are undertones of grief and there are probably n+10 explanations for what happened, but for me, this is still a very distinctly queer narrative. I’m glad I didn’t see it before I wrote the story that’s now out there somewhere, hopefully finding an audience, but there are definitely similarities in the two stories.

I just loved this movie to bits and will most likely be watching it over and over and over again. After all, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.

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Oct 19, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 19: The Babysitter

What happens when your babysitter turns out to be in league with the Devil and instead of bringing her boyfriend over for sexy fun times, she brings over a whole bunch of people for human sacrifice? That is pretty much everything about The Babysitter. Cole is a kid who’s basically afraid of everything. I could never figure out how old he is. His dd is trying to reach him to drive but he’s barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel. He’s got a babysitter but no one else in his peer group does. His mother looks barely older than his babysitter. Bee is presented as pretty much the greatest babysitter to ever babysit; hot, funny, cool but not too cool to seemingly enjoy hanging out with a tween boy, proficient in science fiction. So, basically Lisa, just with added demonic worship.

It’s a fun, cheesy movie that does everything you’d expect, as long as you can turn off your brain or be doing other things while watching. There’s a fair amount of gore and a lot of the humor is about punching down and felt mostly tone-deaf to me. There’s, for example, an extended joke about the cheerleader getting shot in one boob. Like extended through the entire movie. When the joke ventured into the territory of her feeling violated, it just really took even the last remnants of funny out of it for me in the post-revelations-about-Weinstein world. And while the general public has known about it for a few weeks, a lot of people in Hollywood have known, and hidden, it for years and years. There’s a Black Lives Matter joke that may or may not have been trying to comment on it, and I seriously couldn’t parse what the comment was supposed to be because it fell so flat for me. I’m going to be generous and say that it’s possible that the film was just so supremely directed at an American audience that I was missing some sort of context that would have made these jokes hilarious. Or maybe it’s just humor too sophisticated for me. Or the movie was just casually racist and misogynist. And it’s… I’m not offended or really even disappointed in it for that. Just tired. I mean I guess The Babysitter is not a font of originality, to begin with, so…

All of this adds up to a fairly okay and completely forgettable movie. Earlier today, I was talking about it with my partner (we watched it last night because tonight I’m recording a new episode of Mad Writer’s Union!) and I’d entirely forgotten one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Pretty much the best bits are in the trailer and I was working on other non-knitting things all through it (as was my partner, incidentally) and neither activity really encroached on the other which says a lot about just how engaging it was. Maybe it would offer more to an American but for me this was a one-time watch.

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Oct 18, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 18: Mist

The Second Stephen King movie in a row, The Mist tells what happens when a interdimensional mist follows a huge storm. David Drayton is a science fiction cover artist living in a remote town somewhere that’s probably Maine. He takes his son to the grocery store after a big storm to get some supplies when a mist rolls in with the people ahead of it running scared. Soon after it becomes clear that there are creatures in the mist, come from another dimension.

The Mist is a solid alien invasion horror movie. There’s a religious cult and some truly horrifying spider-like creatures and some vagina dentata tentacles and all of it set to a backdrop of human relations. The movie – even at 2 hours 6 minutes – does feel a little short and like it skims over a lot of the good stuff, meaning the creepy human interaction in favor of hitting the plot points. I hear the series has a rape subplot which means that I for one will be skipping it entirely. Too little time in the world for yet another one of those.

Marcia Gay Harden does the most amazing job as the creepy cult leader who people start turning to when her most horrible “predictions” start coming true and her character, while prominent, could have been even more utilized to creepy effect. She was magnificent. Otherwise the actors perform solidly, without being supremely memorable. Except the aliens. Because boy howdy are there some scenes that really stick with you.

Anyway, I actually like the movie, despite its many, many, many flaws (more on those below, with spoilers). I’ve never actually read the book so I don’t know how it compares.

Spoilery: the ending is a lot darker than I feel Stephen King usually gets. There’s no hope at the end of the story for our main character, even thought the world gets saved. And like I’ve said before, I like my happy endings. I want a happy ending in this one as well, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to deliver it without it feeling like a deus ex machina and unsatisfying.

Also, the main characters kid is the most annoying kid ever. It’s like the film makers remembered David had a kid only when they wanted to remind the audience that, hey, this guy’s got a family, and the kid needs his daddy to be there for him. Only they do it in the most obvious way possible that you can’t possibly miss the fact that this guy’s got a lot on his plate. And, honestly, there may be some of the author’s hand in those interactions as well. I’d have to read the book to find out. But mainly, the kid is used as a cudgel and never gets an actual character. Even the hostile neighbor gets more of a character and that mismatch is definitely the fault of the film makers.

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Oct 17, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 17: Gerald’s Game

A couple with a failing marriage goes to their country house for some sex games involving handcuffs. But the titular Gerald’s Game stops before it really even starts when Gerald has a heart attack leaving his wife, Jessie, to fend for herself out where no one can hear her. It’s made by the same director as Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil and it shows. It is a very effective Stephen King movie. The horror elements come mainly from the premise; thirst and hunger will make you weak fast, being forced into a single position for a length of time will make your limbs react badly. Add to the mix a hungry, large stray dog and blood and you have an environmental horror story for the ages.

I liked Gerald’s Game despite that fact that there’s a subplot of child sexual abuse, implied adult sexual abuse and the eating of a human. The gore is pretty minimal though. For some reason, it still manages to combine a lot of the things I love about Stephen King’s stories. And the explanation why is just plain spoilery.

So, our protagonist, Jessie, begins to hallucinate very early on in the film. She starts to see her dead husband, and soon enough, herself. I really appreciated all the things the banter and bickering of these two hallucinations worked to reveal character over and over and over again. When the Moonlight Man enters the scene, it seems like another fabrication. And in the end (haha, not even sorry), I love me a good hopeful ending. Jessie got rid of a controlling, abusive husband, came through empowered and powerful and now knows that she’s got a whole life to look forward to. And I am here for happy endings. Because I am just that sappy.

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Oct 16, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 16: Let the right one in

Let the Right one In was another quiet one. It is essentially a middle-grade love story between a boy, Oskar, and a vampire, Eli. Oskar is 12 and Eli has been 12 for a long time. The horror elements come exclusively from the fact of Eli’s vampiredom. There’s a fair bit of gore connected to it, but none of it exactly gratuitous. Oskar is bullied fairly heavily by his so-called peers, so nota bene.

I loved this one. The story is beautiful and the quiet love between the two kids is amazing. Eli is non-binary and that’s kind of beautiful too. Something that I really liked about this was the fact that it was so fundamentally Swedish. It’s a lot closer to home than pretty much anything in my challenge and that’s kind of beautiful in and of itself. Like I said, the movie is quiet but at the same time it’s also a wonderful commentary on the way childhood friendships last and grow. I recommend seeing it, just be aware that it’s in Swedish and won’t be brainless except for Swedes.

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Oct 15, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 15: The Witch

A family of puritans gets cast off by their colony. They found a seemingly perfect new homestead next to some truly creepy woods. The Witch is everything that happens after. The actual horror elements are much lighter than one might expect, which makes sense given that much of the movie is at least reportedly based on diary entries and court records from the time. It’s also a much more quiet movie than most of the movies on my list have been. I’m still not entirely sure if I liked it or not. I may have to watch it again just to figure out. I’m not a huge fan of the way accusations of witchcraft have been used to keep women down throughout the histories of various and sundry countries (except here, because all Finns are witches). Usually, I’m not a huge fan of anything that marks those accusations and everything that followed as justified. But as a piece representing the fears those people had, this movie really worked for me. Despite a lot of the things, the film seems to get right (I’m not an expert on history, and even less so of that time period in the area), there are still a few anachronisms here and there. One that particularly bothered me was the apples. The characters mention apples as something to crave eating several times in the story but apples used for eating were still a couple of centuries away.

All in all, this was a strange one, wholly unexpected. Although I have to say, the very ending was kind of glorious.

Slightly spoilery content warnings: the movie assumes that witches are real and have had communion with the devil and it follows that there’s a lot of religious imagery and a fair amount of (mostly) female nudity, mostly out of focus or ways away. There’s also a scene of implied sexual violence which happens off-camera.

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