Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Real Horror behind Horror Movies

My thanks to my friend, Nicole (see link just to your right to read some good poetry of hers) for suggesting I post my e-mail rant, apropos of seeing Hostel and attending the Philly Wizard con, all in the same week. Let the frothing at the mouth commence:

Yes you’re right. Halloween was freakin’ scary—that was the horror movie for our generation. But it’s different now, not just because there are very few restrictions.

It’s probably tmtt but it’s two things. one’s been mentioned a lot and is not that original. But in Halloween, what made it so scary was that you put yourself in the place of the victims. Like when Jamie lee Curtis is so scared she can’t even stand up and is half crawling half running across the lawn you actually feel it in your legs like you want to pick her up and run. But now the “sympathetic” character is the killer. All the attention and character detail is devoted to the killer, especially on the techniques or motifs (like "7" where the guy based his murders on the 7 deadly sins).

This is why CSI is so repugnant. Because it pretends to be about these heroic characters solving crimes, but really that’s just a guise to show elaborately orchestrated murders. Everything is focused on process, not personality or society or anything like that. And the victims are just props.

Why I’m so burned out about this is that this trend started in comic books about 20 years ago, but at least there was always some character moving through all this brutality with some kind of moral code (“Constantine” was a good example—the comic book was WAY more violent than the movie). But gradually what happened was as the writing detoriated the focus was more on the killer(s) themselves and their methods. Things got more and more insular and claustrophobic, to the point where you had stories about serial killers killing other serial killers.

And finally you get to movies like Saw and Hostel, where they don’t even bother pretending to tell a story set in the actual world (like Halloween does)—all the Saw movies happen in some fantasy underground dungeon. And there’s not even the pretense of having believable characters that act like actual people—you have either killers, who are always calm and witty and in control; and victims, who are always frightened and witless.

And the real subtext of this is: there’s no attempt at a believable setting because the filmmakers/writers already know that they’re audience is so far gone into this stuff they don’t need a conventional story, just get to the gore as quickly as possible. And the characters are always the same template (charismatic killer, inferior victims) because the writers know their audience identifies with the killers, not the victims.

So that’s the second thing that’s disturbing about it and I saw that all over the con [2010 Philadelphia Wizard convention]: that people accept this as just another form of entertainment (like the writer I saw at a panel who said “I try to think of different ways of killing people—that’s what I like to do”) totally divorced from the real world (none of these fans probably feel any compassion when they hear about a murder on the news). Fiction isn’t supposed to make people more isolated, but this type of storytelling isn’t just doing that, it’s encouraging it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life (the cereal)

Two middle-aged women in the cereal aisle of the supermarket. Mother and daughter, I think. The daughter walks up and down, reading the names of the cereals aloud. The mother leans her elbows on her shopping cart, her chin in her hand.

The daughter says, "How about Honey Nut Cheerios?"
"It's got a lot of nuts?" the mother asks.
"No. No nuts."
“How about Wheaties?”
“No Wheaties?”
“Come on.”
"How about Life cereal?"
"Life. You like Life, don't you?"
"Nah. Not so much."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Red Fish Project

#8: With growing existential horror, Red Fish realizes he has been reading his own ingredients.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Carl's Lesson

My friend Carl slouches at the wheel of his pickup truck. He slouches waiting at the checkout counter. I can pick him out in any darkened bar because of that slouch.

He told me when he was a little kid his father said, “If you don’t stand up straight I’m gonna pay two niggers from Trenton to chain your shoulders back.”

So began Carl’s education as a racist.

And he still has that slouch.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Red Fish Project

#7: Red Fish regrets his momentary, and completely uncharacteristic, urge to do the Dew.

(Red Fish sighting by Gayle McCune)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Why Jim Jarmusch's Movies Work

It's not style. It's not attitude. It's not because it's about nothing (because it is about something).
It's because what should happen, doesn't.
Down by Law

Friday, May 14, 2010

Red Fish Project

#6: Red Fish's inescapable conundrum: if he had a brain, would he understand this?

(Red Fish sighting by Joyce Chmil.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dorje Shugden

Dorje Shugden said, "Why do you put all of your attention on wrong things?"

We were huddled against the wall, away from the cold wind. A noble and his entourage bustled past.

Dorje Shugden pointed at the noble and grinned. "You see that beautiful cloak he wears? It is not the tassles on his sleeves that keep him warm."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Red Fish Project

#5: Red Fish vowed that, if he could not swim, at the least he would learn how to drive.

(Red Fish sighting by the Victor sisters. All blessings and best wishes to their father.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Red Fish Project

#4: At the height of his success, Red Fish contemplates all that he has left behind.

The Red Fish Project

#3: "If on a winter's night a Red Fish . . . "

(for Italo Calvino)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Red Fish Project

#1: Red Fish's existential quandary: "If I am truly a fish, why can I not swim?"

(Red Fish sighting by Joyce Chmil)