Tuesday, November 17, 2009

From a whisper to a scream to a whisper

I deny that Epidemic is a horror film.  It is instead a comedy about writing a horror film that fails to horrify anyone.  The hypnosis scene is the payoff to a long joke that seldom works.  Maybe I'm missing something.  I don't know.  I didn't particularly like or appreciate Epidemic.  I am going to watch the film again with the Von Trier commentary track on.  Pedro, what am I missing?

Scream, which I also watched recently,  holds up as a really smart love letter to the specific form of horror movie that flourished in the late 70s through the 80s.  It lovingly deconstructs the slasher film while upholding all of its basic tropes.  I've never been a fan of these sorts of horror movies and ultimately don't care about Scream, either, but I do respect Scream for its critical devotion to the tradition it stands in.

Since I've been engaged in educating myself about horror films and know that I like at least some goofy horror... I finally broke down and saw Zombieland at the Cinema Saver.  

I went in with low expectations, but I was still disappointed.  There's a lot to like and I smiled and chuckled often, but the film lost me during the cameo sequence and never won me back.  Up until that point, I bought all of the emotional stuff going on even if it was dumb and shallow.  There was still some core realism to the expressed emotions amid the goofiness.  Once Brandon Musa (or some other comedian with the initials BM, I forget) shows up, though, and gets casually killed, every last remnant of reality vanishes and the stakes don't matter anymore.  If the characters can't care about BM's death, I can't care about anything else that happens for the remainder of the movie.  I couldn't even care about attaching a spoilers tag to all of this.  Sorry.  The ending was a big let-down and about as conventional as possible, but, even so, it was fun to see Woody Harrelson play things so cool as a one man zombie annihilation machine.

What I took away from all three of these films is the knowledge that I still don't quite know how to define "horror."  Is it an "I know it when I see it" sort of thing?  Am I trying to be too rigid in my genre boundaries because of my quest to understand this thing?

Epidemic didn't feel like horror.  It felt like an examination of a creative process in a pre-Kaufman Kaufmanesque style.  Heck, Synechdoche, New York is more of a horror film than Epidemic is.  Scream works in the slasher sub-genre and is probably the clearest to define of the group.  Zombieland has a backdrop of zombie apocalypse, but it's more of a comedic road movie than anything else, sharing more in common with National Lampoon's Family Vacation than Romero's Night of the Living Dead.   

Brandon, I got your note too late. I ended up going to the Cinema Saver for
the double feature of Zombieland/The Hurt Locker. I'll be writing about The Hurt Locker soon after thinking about it for
a few more days. Also, we're in training together on Thursday. Want to work
out a movie loaning swap?

1 comment:

Nest of Evil said...

well... just noted you didn't like Epidemic lol
well... I find it a very tense movie... it's actually part two from the Europa trilogy. The three films are not related though, at least concerning the story, characters, script, music, whatever! It's just the second film of von Triers interpretation of what Europe is like.

What I think makes this film scary is the film within the film technique, which is nothing new by now but was fairly avantguard by then. It does create some tension, since the parallel story shows you what you can't actually see in the real world but is in fact happening at the same time! The part at the very beginnin were he writes the title on the typemaching is spot on! EPIDEMIC@ appearing in red on the screen corner instantly shows the viewer that something's going to happen! The epidemy is obviously also a metaphor for the social degradation, etc.

The way von Trier works immage is very nice too, especially that zooming in in the end just before the hypnosis sequence had a very strong impact on me. It worked as the final trigger for the desaster to show itself! it is when what the hypnotized character describes and the outburst of the actual epidemic colide!

I do agree that this is not am actual horror movie, but I just couldn't help myself, it does feel scary whenever I watch it... I'm a poopiepants! I admit it! lol

As for what is a Horror movie... I'd say it's those movies that work out the unconscious fears. A zombie movie exploits mainly the fear of being controlled by impulse (the zombies) or being attacked by an unreasened being over which you have no reasonable power(zombie victim), or the fear of being controled (mummy). Horror movies also often bse themselfs in popular lore, this lore is obviously a response to the "unknow", a phenomenon that has no explenation, and in order to coup with the lack of knowledge, tales were created, either to scare of anyone who felt too curious about this unknown thing or to keep kids away from harm.

I think the most important thing about Horror movie to get the thrill of it, is to fully understand this background. One should actually try to forget anything one knows and try to slip inside the character's skinn. Try to figure out how you'd feel if you wouldn't know what you do if confronted with "whatever".

It's actually tougher then it sounds, and the best way would be reading a horror novel. Reading "his skinn was slowly peeled off by the heat of the flames" isn't nearly as scary as trying to understand what it feel like to have one's skinn peeled off by flames! You actually have to put yourself into it! It's a difficult exercise but totally rewarding! And in this sense... maybe Epimdemic is just a tee wee scarier then you might think at first ;)