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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Oct 14, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 14: He Never Died

Henry Rollins as a fallen angel eating people? I am here for that! In He Never Died, Henry Rollins plays Jack, an immortal man with severe depression, keeping himself out of the way of the world. That all changes on one ordinary day, when two mobsters and a daughter he never knew he had both show up at his doorstep, separately. What follows is a gory, violent, glorious mess as the two complications to his life come crashing in around each other. The film is funny, the concept is well developed and self-contained with room to expand, the casting is BRILLIANT and there’s no sexual assault, despite the numerous occasions usually used for that sort of thing (and WOW that last one is a LOW bar). There are gorgeous little bits and pieces of the world throughout the story that come through as stuff that could be expanded upon if anyone wanted it, but the story itself is complete and self-contained. And that’s kind of beautiful in and of itself. I liked this movie a lot in case you couldn’t tell. See it now in a Netflix near you!

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Oct 13, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 13: Death Note

What happens when a teenager gets a notebook from a demon that allowed him to decide on anyone’s death no more than two days away? If that teenager happens to be Light Turner, what happens is Death Note. Although there are definite horror elements there, I would classify this as closer to Dark Fantasy. It’s a fairly fun movie that manages to completely skate past the issues surrounding someone killing more than 400 people. It ultimately boils down to a game of cat and mouse between Light Turner and the mysterious L tasked to find him. It’s an enjoyable watch, but ultimately forgettable. And I suspect a lot of that comes from the fact that they were trying to 888 minutes of anime (which I have not yet seen) into 100 minutes of movie. They skimmed past a lot of really interesting character development and SO. MANY. CONSEQUENCES. in order to get everything in that it’s just sad.

Ultimately, this is a movie you should see so you can have the impetus to watch the anime and/or write fan fiction that explores all the cool shit the movie left out.

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Oct 12, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 12: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is a very effective gothic horror movie on the first watch and a very effective gothic romance on a rewatch. It is beautiful and fanciful and I love it. It made me want to write gothic horror. Historical accuracy is thin on the ground if that bothers you, but I was just fine with it. I mean, it’s directed by Guillermo del Toro. There has never been, and I’m not sure if there ever will be, a movie of his that I will not go see.

First things first, though, Crimson Peak is the story of Edith Cushing, an American writer with a wealthy father and no other living relatives. She meets soulful and inventive Thomas Sharpe, baronet, and his sister. After her father’s unexpected death, Edith and Thomas marry and head to England to the Sharpe’s home, Allerdale Hall, also known as Crimson Peak for the red clay that is essentially destroying everything in sight but is also the only source of money the two siblings have. And, frankly, this is another one of those movies that I can’t be objective about. Yeah, it probably has some flaws and if you point them out, I may agree with you that they are indeed flaws, but I’m unlikely to feel like they lessen the movie in my eyes.

This also is a prime example of that core artist thing I was talking about with Ouija. All the elements of Gothic Horror are there; dilapidated house, sexual deviance, ghosts, all the blood. And, yet… And yet this is very distinctly a Guillermo del Toro movie. Even if you’ve ever only seen something like Pacific Rim, Hellboy or Mimic, this is still recognizable as made by the same guy. And I don’t understand how he does it. It’s just there. There’s a very distinct point of view in this film, despite the fact that unlike something like Get Out it’s not exactly stuff that hasn’t been done before. Del Toro is on every second of this film, despite the brilliant performances every one of these great actors, Jessica Chastain especially, gives. It is my heart. But more importantly, I think, it’s Guillermo del Toro’s heart. Cut up and offered for the viewer – this time – in the form of a Gothic Horror movie.

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Oct 11, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 11: Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe is one of those movies that would make my friend Elsa hit things. Or possibly shout or cry. And possibly all those things at the same time. It is the story of what happens when three poor friends decide to rob a house belonging to a veteran blinded by shrapnel. As can be expected in a situation like this, the man is more than meets the eye.

The horror elements are very effective and the gimmick of having to be quiet enough to regulate your breathing at all times worked really well for me. I also really liked the fact that it was a human nemesis. There wasn’t much gore and what there was, was entirely manageable. That’s about all the good things that can be said. And the rest will be spoilery. Suffice it to say if you have an aversion to sexual abuse and/or disability-as-monstrous tropes, avoid this movie like the plague. If you don’t have a problem with the use of these things, it’s worth watching once for the gimmick.

The blind man is depicted as animalistic, monstrous even, mostly as a result of his blindness. There’s forced impregnation as a form of torture, but the man has the temerity to insist he’s not a rapist because he never put his dick in her. And judging by the result, I think the writers and the director believed that. That scene is also depicted in a lot more detail, one might even say lovingly, than any other scene in the movie. Given these two things, I doubt I’ll be returning to this movie, hoping instead to find one that uses a similar gimmick without these lazy, hackneyed tropes.

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Oct 10, 2017

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Fright Night Challenge 10: Ouija: Origin of Evil

To start with, this movie looks amazing. It’s set in 1967 and everything looks like it but with modern film technology made to look like 1967. Ouija: Origin of Evil does exactly what you’d expect from the tin, given that it is the story of a widowed psychic (fraud at that, but IMO, that goes without saying) with two daughters, one a teenager and the second a middle schooler. The thing is, it does these things very efficiently. The director is the same as for Hush and it shows. The man clearly knows his horror.

There’s nothing new here. What it does, it does really well. And I guess someone needs to make the good core genre movies. But part of me longed for a distinctive point of view. I have been spoiled by Get Out and its ilk. This is something that Charlie Finlay tried to get into my head during Clarion; there’s a core to every writer and they need to be able to get it out on the page if they want to be recognizable for their work. And with this challenge, I’m starting to notice the same for directors. And not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m at about where Mike Flanagan is; I’m competent (the Finn in me wants to downplay that but I’m gagging her for the duration) and I really know the genres I like to write in, but that’s about it. I don’t know yet where to find the Core Nina that would make my fiction really stand out in a slush pile. But I’m getting there. And honestly, I’m curious to see if Mike Flanagan does, too.

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