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20-10s HORROR Pimping Thread

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If Rob Zombie did an A24 film it would be Lords of Salem. I personally love it because it's more messy and dream like.

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Posted (edited)

Lords of Salem is his least self-indulgent movie, so it is one of my favorites in his catalogue.

I hated Night of 1000 Corpses because it was so hokey, but then Rob strapped on a pair and went full grindhouse with everything since Devil's Rejects and the world is better for it.  I think I enjoyed 31 and 3 From Hell far more than I probably should have.

John Carpenter's Halloween expansion > Rob Zombie's Halloween reboots.

Edited by J.T.

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I haven’t seen Lords of the Salem since it was in theaters, and I think I was distracted by the adverse reaction everyone else in the theater had. And when I mean everyone else, I mean like four young guys cackling at everything and an older couple who kept looking at each other trying to decide if they should walk out. 

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COLOR OUT OF SPACE is eligible, according to IMDB, and so stands a good chance of making my list. Nic Cage honestly isn’t great in it, but it is a joy to see him go full Nic Cage once or twice. Lots of gross, THE THING-style monster and gore effects, which I am a fan of. Seemed very much a horror film of the late 80s/early 90s. 

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Over the past week, I watched both THE WITCH and THE LIGHTHOUSE, Robert Egger’s twin features about people encountering the supernatural in extreme isolation and slowly losing their fucking minds.  Both are very good, but both also left me kind of cold in the end, and I’m not certain where they’ll fall on my list.  Eggers is clearly a master of tone and atmosphere, and is also very good at writing “olde timey” sounding dialogue, which is a pretty unique skill for someone to have.  But he also seems to have a touch of the Stephen King in him, as far as not really being able to pay it all off in a compelling way.

Of special mention are the volcanic performances of Defoe and Pattinson in the latter film.  It’s a classic two-hander, with both guys swinging for the fences.  Defoe, in particular, is tasked with delivering several epic-length, tortuously-worded, insane, rambling monologues, and he just slays every single one of them.

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I wonder what classifies as "compelling", if those two don't.  And compelling is especially tough within the horror genre, since they're so frequently films reliant upon the prestige (the magic trick step) to work at all; as good as Jordan Peele's movies are, that's easily their weak point.  He has to fucking explain them to you.  I'd go so far as to argue both of these are films that *refuse* to do that and that it makes them considerably stronger than they would be otherwise.  The endings are already there, already unavoidable; they just ask the audience to focus and have an eye for detail. 

Needless to say they're both on my list, though I do have a sense, from having talked to people and from seeing them both, that which ever film is your first experience with Eggers is most likely the one you end up rating higher.

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When I say I didn’t find either ending compelling, I guess I mean that when the credits rolled my initial thought was, “Oh, so the atmosphere is pretty much all there was to that.”  Ultimately, I felt like both films kind of nodded in the general direction of some larger themes, but neither actually resolved those themes in a satisfying or interesting way.  And to be as not-scary as both of those films were, they really needed to stick the landing of actually being-about-something.

THE WITCH, in particular, gets really muddled in the ending.  I think it actually would’ve been significantly better if there wasn’t a witch in it at all, and it was just the story of this colonial family coming apart at the seams as a result of religious fundamentalism, misfortune, fear of the unknown, and a dash of old-fashioned sexism, who just *think* a witch is behind all of their problems.  That would’ve hammered home the themes about fundamentalists and sexism that Eggers gently grazes around like a Satanic goat.  The moment a real witch is on the scene, well...then mom an dad are kind of right, aren’t they?  They’re completely misguided about who’s doing the bewitching, but they nevertheless become sympathetic characters in that regard (whom the film has no sympathy for, whatsoever).  I don’t want to get too deeply into spoilers here, but there are all kinds of choices in the climax that really undermine the first 80 minutes of the movie.

THE LIGHTHOUSE has it’s own problems, but at least it creates some ambiguity about the supernatural goings-on, which brings the focus back to the two men and what’s really going on between them that drives the insanity.

Eggers’ background is in production design, and make no mistake: the craft on display in these films is exquisite.  But watching these films, its easy to see that that’s where his talent lies (creating an impeccable mise en scene), and he’s still figuring out how to write stories that equal his production design.

Also, just on a personal preference thing (getting into major spoilers here):

I’m generally not a fan of horror films (or any kind of film?), where the ending is “...and then everybody dies.*”  I think that’s a tough landing to stick and make it feel meaningful.  More often than not, it has the opposite effect of making the film seem meaningless.  

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, like THE THING (although, that film kind of cheats by not actually showing you everyone’s deaths, even though it can be assumed) or CABIN IN THE WOODS (where the whole world dying is treated like a gag).

*Obviously, not everybody dies in The Witch, but Thomasin walking off into the woods to join the coven plays in much the same way as a death. The end result is the same:  the whole family has left this world behind.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, I'm not the least bit surprised there was a real story behind that.  For me, the point of the dance *is* the tension, because really, how many other movies have ever done so much so well to make you doubt the reality of what you're seeing?  AuditionJacob's Ladder?  I think it's probably better than the former and certainly better than the latter (pun not intended) at leaving things fuzzy without rendering everything unsatisfying.  I mean, what else compares?  Rosemary's Baby? Maybe there's some horror or thriller movie I've never seen that stacks up; feel free to educate me.

It also reminds me a lot of The Lobster, too, in the sense that, when you reflect on it, your interpretation of what's just happened is based as much upon your state of mind as it's based upon the events you've seen.  Any of the choices are real; any of them are unreal.  All of them explain, and none of them do.

I also agree that The Witch could have done without the actual witch; it ends up feeling deterministic and a little too straight-ahead.  Probably why I like The Lighthouse better; that absence of something clearly defined opens more possibilities than it closes.  The moment you explain how something supernatural works, it's now...natural.  But, I feel like I'm giving away too much of what I plan on writing up with my list, so...

Edited by Contentious C

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I’m willing to get dragged for this: I watched the Child’s Play remake last night, and there is a nonzero chance it makes my list. It was the most I’ve enjoyed watching anything in months. 

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Posted (edited)
On ‎5‎/‎14‎/‎2020 at 1:44 PM, EVA said:

THE WITCH, in particular, gets really muddled in the ending.  I think it actually would’ve been significantly better if there wasn’t a witch in it at all, and it was just the story of this colonial family coming apart at the seams as a result of religious fundamentalism, misfortune, fear of the unknown, and a dash of old-fashioned sexism, who just *think* a witch is behind all of their problems. 

On ‎5‎/‎14‎/‎2020 at 4:07 PM, Contentious C said:

I also agree that The Witch could have done without the actual witch; it ends up feeling deterministic and a little too straight-ahead. 

The conundrum you face if you accept the existence of an actual witch is that you are also accepting the other supernatural elements as facts, including the existence of Satan as an actual being and witchcraft as a real thing.  Depending on your level of faith, that is a pretty tall ask of someone.

I think there is enough wiggle room to interpret the events in The Witch as actual or metaphorical and that everyone in the family is either batshit crazy or has drawn the personal attention of the Devil himself.

Spoiler

I do find it interesting that Black Phillip in a diabolically evasive manner does not directly answer Thomasin's questions when they have their bloodchilling conversation at the end of the movie. 

When Thomasin asks "Satan" what can he give her, he replies with questions and vagueries...  He asks Thomasin if she'd like to live deliciously; he doesn't say "If you serve me, you will live deliciously."

Thomasin just assumes that because she enters into the pact that "Satan" will fulfil his end of the bargain and grant her wishes, but at no point does "Satan" promise her anything in exchange for writing her name in his book.  Above all else, Satan is a liar and a deceiver.

 

Edited by J.T.

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Well, the problem with that interpretation is that people pretty clearly do that here and now, where no witches (or any of the rest of it) exist.  And it's a taller ask now than it was then.

Had the initial witch sequence been shown as Thomasin's dream/nightmare, or her mother's, rather than something that builds and then just cuts away to the next morning, I'd agree there's sufficient wiggle room.

What The Witch has going for it that The Lighthouse doesn't is the irony in the ending; its self-fulfilling prophecy feels freeing rather than tragic, and somehow you find yourself almost cheering it on.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Contentious C said:

What The Witch has going for it that The Lighthouse doesn't is the irony in the ending; its self-fulfilling prophecy feels freeing rather than tragic, and somehow you find yourself almost cheering it on.

How can you even almost cheer for that? 

Spoiler

If taken from a literal perspective, Thomasin has just sold her soul to the Devil.  How is that even remotely empowering or liberating?

Satan has caged Thomasin.  He hasn't set her free.  After her earthly service to evil incarnate comes to an end, she still has damnation in Hell to look forward to.

 

10 hours ago, Contentious C said:

Had the initial witch sequence been shown as Thomasin's dream/nightmare, or her mother's, rather than something that builds and then just cuts away to the next morning, I'd agree there's sufficient wiggle room.

For there not to be any wiggle room, you still have to believe in the premise that there are such things as witches and black magic and that this is not just a story about a family that collapses under the weight of its own religious dogma.

Spoiler

Accepting the ending is actual is even more problematic given that we have two unreliable narrators left to finish the story:  Thomasin (who may be absolutely mad by virtue of having conversations with goats) and (maybe) Satan who is the Prince of All Lies.

 

Edited by J.T.

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