SCARY MOVIE MONTH: NIGHT 6- PAN’S LABYRINTH

Oh, I am just soooo pumped about writing about this movie. It’s actually one of my favorite movies. Ever.

No, it is not a straight horror film. But it contains horror. A lot of it. On many different levels. This is a beautiful film. It’s a 2007 Spanish movie directed by the one and only Guillermo Del Torro. Also known for his work on the Hellboy films, and Pacific Rim.

Spoiler alert: I cry every damn time I watch this movie.

It’s about a little girl and her mother, “sick with child”, who move in with an abusive captain shortly after the Spanish Civil War. The girl, who’s world is dark and full of sadness, reads fantasy to escape. She soon finds her reality permeating into the fantastical, as her real life grows darker and more grim.

The real question about this film is this: Are the little girls fantasies real? Or does she use escapism to cope with the trauma she endures as a child?

As a viewer, you can interpret it however you want. That’s one of the magical things about this movie. Though, however you interpret the film, it’s not easy to watch.

This film is rated R, and for good reason. There is one scene within the duration of the movie that caused my buddy Jason and I to almost walk out of the theatre. It’s not even the most gory or shocking scene in Pan’s Labyrinth. But the tension is built so masterfully, that one can’t help but find themselves on the edge of their seat, biting one’s tongue to keep from shouting at the screen.

Creature design is on point, as always with Del Torro. One of the monsters (the one from the aformentioned scene) was designed by asking children to draw creatures they thought were scary. The result is a beast with no eyes on it’s face, but rather slits in it’s palms where eyeballs can fit.

It’s pretty fucked up.

If you’ve never seen Pan’s Labyrinth, and you are the type of person who enjoys fairly heavy material (with a good amount of violence and horror), you really need to check it out. It’s not just a spooky movie. It’s a masterpiece. Beautiful, and very human.

This is night 6 of Scary Movie Month. Go. Watch. This. Movie.

-Ian M. Politis

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SCARY MOVIE MONTH: NIGHTS 4 AND 5- CLOVERFIELD/10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of creature features, so don’t be surprised if I take this post a little more seriously than usual. The “Cloverfield” films are not straight up sequels to each other. Instead, producer J.J. Abrahms stated in an interview that the movies are “spiritually connected”. It’s a curious marketing ploy at best. However, I’m thankful to have both film in my life.

CLOVERFIELD

2008’s “Cloverfield directed by Matt Reeves, and written by veteran LOST writer, Drew Goddard is a Kaiju movie. For those of you who didn’t spend large amounts of your youth watching giant monsters battle other monsters, or giant robots, a Kaiju is a giant monster which usually terrorizes largely populated urban settings- such as Godzilla (Gojira), in his 1954 self titled romp.

I think a little history here is important. Godzilla, was written not very long after the end of World War II. Thusly, the movie was created in order to express the lingering feelings of loss, terror, and helplessness of the Japanese people due to the dropping of two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Godzilla is very much a cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of atomic tinkering.

Cloverfield takes a lot of its cues from the original Kaiju himself. Only seven years after the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11, the film depicts a group of 20-somethings who must survive when New York City is thrown into chaos during the attack of a mysterious giant creature. The imagery is unmistakable. I can point out several scenes from the film that are direct references to cell phone footage from that day- in particular, one shot in which our horrified protagonists take shelter inside of a building with a glass storefront, as they watch an avalanche of dust and debris roll by, obscuring any visibility.

Another aspect that makes Cloverfield potent in my opinion, is the use of found footage, as opposed to classic film techniques. For those of us who witnessed the events of 9/11 either in person or as it unfolded on the news networks, we remember countless videos taken by onlookers of the events that took place. Matt Reeves intentionally uses found footage in order to reflect those real life images.

My favorite aspect of Cloverfield, however, is the panic and confusion one experiences while watching it. In one scene, a woman who had recently been bit by a smaller mite like creature that had fallen from the monsters back begins showing signs of sickness. Suddenly, they encounter military personnel who immediately notice the woman’s condition. They drag her behind a white sheet, where we then see her shadow bloat up, and then explode. What happens in this scene is not explained. Not even a little bit. And so you sit looking at your screen feeling exactly the same as the terrified characters having just seen this. You are confused. You are shocked. And you’re afraid, because this is like real life. Sometimes messed up things happen, and there is no explanation. There is no rhyme or reason. The world is a horrifying place when it wants to be.

Oh, also, the man behind the camera in Cloverfield, is no other than “Silicon Valley” actor, T.J. Miller. It’s highly recommended.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

This movie is much less in your face than it’s predecessor. At least until the last 20 minutes. Director, Dan Trachtenberg clearly channeled his inner Alfred Hitchcock while directing this feature. The only thing that 10 Cloverfield Lane actually shares with Cloverfield, is producer J.J. Abrahms, who is just a real wiz when it comes to marketing.

The film revolves around a young woman, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. When we first meet her character, she is making a presumably major life decision. As she hastily pack up her belongings, intending to leave her boyfriend and apartment behind, we see from the things she collects that she designs and makes clothes. Every action she takes during this sequence defines her character in some way or another.

Soon she is on the road, ignoring calls from her worried boyfriend, voiced by Bradley Cooper, no less. Things go south when she is in an accident. We next see our heroine chained to a wall in some windowless room. This is where Mr. John Goodman comes in.

Goodman’s performance is pretty unsettling. You can tell from the start that there is something wrong with this character, but as far as the characters can tell, he and his doomsday bunker are the only thing protecting her, and a young man played by John Gallagher Jr. from a mysterious disaster that Goodman’s character claims has tainted the air outside of the bunker.

Obviously there has been foul play, and we the audience begin to suspect along with the characters that there probably is nothing dangerous outside, and John Goodman is just a scary old man who wants to do bad things to the protagonists. Half of these suspicions are correct, and not the ones you’d want.

Once things finally escalate to the point that the main character turns on Goodman and makes it outside, we realize that there is indeed something very wrong with the outside world. Up until this point, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a beautifully paced psychological thriller. I still don’t know how i feel about the ending. The final 20 minutes of the movie are completely off balance with the rest of the film. It’s sort of an interesting twist, however. Not mind blowing in any way, but still an interesting direction for a film like this to take.

This one does NOT have Silicon Valley’s, T.J. Miller in it.

P.S. If you’ve never checked out HBO’s Silicon Valley, you’re seriously missing out.

 

This has been Scary Movie Month 4, and 5. Rock on, y’all.

-Ian M. Politis

SCARY MOVIE MONTH: NIGHT THREE- MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE

Okay, I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one. 1986’s, “Maximum Overdrive”, directed by the one and only “master of horror”, Stephen King is a confounding monstrosity. It’s a hilarious and fun confounding monstrosity- but make no mistake, this was not on purpose. If you enjoy ACDC, or reminiscing about the days when Stephen King was too fucked up on drugs and alcohol to even remember writing the novel, “Cujo”, this movie is right up your alley.

That’s right, “Maximum Overdrive” features a soundtrack by the rock band ACDC, and Stephen King was definitely on drugs when he not only wrote, but also directed what could be described as… actually I don’t know how to describe how ridiculous this movie is. It’s so easy to make fun of Maximum Overdrive, that it’s actually hard.

It’s important to note that Mr. King only directed one film in his career, and there’s a good reason for that. Perhaps had he continued to make films despite the desperate pleas  of audiences everywhere, he may have improved on his technique. Probably not though. Even a significant portion of his literary work is bat-shit crazy. I mean, did you know that an actual part of Stephen King’s novel “IT” involves a giant celestial turtle who had a stomach ache one day and literally vomited up our world? Like, seriously… What the fuck?

Anyway, “Maximum Overdrive” is about a group of desperate strangers in a standoff against cognizant technology. No, not like Skynet. It makes much less sense than that. We’re talking murderous electronic turkey carvers, malicious drawbridges, and some sprinklers that definitely wanted to kill but were incapable of doing so because… well they were sprinklers. It must have been very frustrating for them, having that urge to kill without the ability to fulfill their desires. Poor things.

There’s one notable scene- a romantic dialogue between Emilio Esteves and Laura Harrington- during which Esteves makes THE MOST ANNOYING CHEWING SOUNDS EVER. I can’t even fathom this directing choice. Apparently Stephen King just really had to have those obnoxious mouth sounds, because obviously that’s the sexiest thing ever. I seriously almost turned this movie off because of Emilio’s mouth flaps slapping against each other. However, this is not my first time around with this movie, and I knew what I was putting myself through.

At the end of the day, Maximum Overdrive is tolerable if you get on the same page as 1980’s Steven King. So go hunt down some illicit substances, maybe buy some Olde English, and get ready to forget you ever watched it.

This has been night three of Scary Movie Month, ladies and gents. And remember- If you ever needed a reason not to do cocaine, just look at what it made Stephen King do.

 

SCARY MOVIE MONTH: NIGHT 2- THE RING

No, it’s not a Lord Of The Rings spin off, sadly. Instead, 2002’s The Ring, directed by Gore Verbinski, is a harrowing tale of obsolete technology. When I originally watched the film, VHS tapes were not entirely deceased. Now, petulant little monsters look on in confusion. Never have these younglings had to be kind, or rewind.

Odd, and flimsy as the movie is, it’s actually one of my favorite horror movies- and not just because it almost killed me the first time I watched it.

I shit you not- the first time I watched, The Ring, I was so horrified by the face of the films first victim, that I nearly choked to death on a malted milk ball.

Now, I know what you’re thinking- “Don’t be silly, Ian, malted milk balls melt in your mouth, and wouldn’t stay solid long enough for you to choke to death.”

But that’s where you’re wrong. Never have I felt so close to death, as the first time I watched, The Ring. I remember it like it was yesterday…

There I was, in my local blockbuster, with one of my best buds, Eli. Eli is a fellow of a much more classy nature than myself, and therefor strongly urged against renting the film at large. However, I’m one stubborn piece of shit, and am not to be trifled with. Eli, after some verbal struggle, consented to watch the film with me.

There, in that Blockbuster, is where I bought the fateful chocolate crunchy balls. Eerily unaware of the fate the film had in store.

And so we sat, Eli and I, in his bedroom at his parents house, gleefully awaiting the chills that were in store. Me, popping malted milk balls in my mouth like popcorn. Never once did I think, “take it slow, buddy! You still have 90 minutes left to go!”. No, instead my hubris got the best of me. Why eat one malted milk ball, when you can eat two, or better yet, three?

All of a sudden, the films premier scare struck. A quick shot of the first victim flashes on the screen. I gasp, with chocolate candy just inches away from my wind pipe. It’s then that I realize my nearly fatal mistake.

How did I survive? Honestly I don’t remember. I’d tell you that Eli gave me the heimlich maneuver- and maybe that happened- but as far as I remember, I miraculously survived for absolutely no reason. Must have just coughed it up or something? Who can remember?

The fact remains, however, that The Ring, was so scary, I nearly choked to death on a malted milk ball. Not many films out there can claim to have nearly taken the life of the one and only Ian Matthew Politis. This is why I consider it to be a worthy film. Worthy of my adoration, and also of your semi-divided attention.

In all seriousness, though- I do love, The Ring. It’s a visual nightmare. Yes, there are jump scares, but the overall tone of the movie is not so in your face. It plays more like a detective film- or rather a gothic noire. The way that The Ring is constructed is largely what has endeared it to me. It’s super stylistic, and unafraid to take it’s time building story and racking up tension.

Also, if you’re into SERIOUSLY HEAVY COLOR CORRECTION- this is the movie for you. Like the Eiffel 65 song, it’s blue (daba dee daba die). I’m super happy that my eyes don’t view the world with the hue consistent throughout, The Ring. That would be super depressing.

This has been day 2 of Scary Movie Month! Please enjoy malted milk balls responsibly.

-Ian M. Politis

SCARY MOVIE MONTH: NIGHT ONE- “SAW”

 

2004’s SAW, directed by then up and coming horror director, James Wan is the first of soon to be eight films in the subset of the horror genre commonly known as torture porn. Torture, indeed- because I can think of few things that would be as grueling as being trapped in a crusty looking bathroom with Carey Elwes.

Sure, the guy was great in Rob Reiner’s classic, The Princess Bride, but then he tried to ride the coattails of that films success by basically reprising the role, whilst portraying Robin Hood in Mel Brooks’ film, Robin Hood Men In Tights.

I mean, really, couldn’t you have just quit while you were ahead? But no. Carey Elwes and his perfect face just had to have his cake, and eat it too.

The tension in SAW, is real- because you just know that Carey Elwes is the kind of guy who tries to have a full on conversation with you while you’re standing at a urinal, dick in your hands, wondering how someone even adopted such social behavior.

Now imagine you’re trapped in the gnarliest bathroom you can imagine with this guy, and you actually have to cooperate with him in order to escape.

I get a chill down my spine simply thinking about it.

Director, James Wan clearly knew how to get under the audiences skin with this set up. Luckily, he eases the tension with hilarious cameos from Danny Glover, and veteran LOST actors Ken Leung, and Michael Emerson.

Glover and Leung portray buddy cops, Detective Tapp, and Detective Sing… I mean, who named these characters? They sound like a music director and choreographer in a musical about being in a musical.

Names aside, Tapp and Sing encounter hijinx abound whilst pursuing the mysterious and deadly “Jigsaw Killer”, whom for the majority of the film, we are lead to believe is being played by Michael Emerson (the delightfully nefarious Ben Linus, of televisions LOST). The jokes on you, however, because the Jigsaw killer was actually the supposedly dead guy in the bathroom with Carey Elwes.

Ooops, retroactive “spoiler alert”.

You have to hand it to Jigsaw though, it would certainly take nerves of steel and unfaltering determination to remain silent and motionless in a confined space with Mr. Pretty face over there, and his voice of reason attitude, baby blue eyes, and perfect stupid hair.

God, I just can’t stand it. It’s not fair. Why can’t I have perfect blond locks? I mean, I bet the hair and makeup department on all of his movies fucking love the dude because he doesn’t require any work at all. What an absolute tool.

This has been day one of, “Scary Movie Month”, ladies and gents. Hope you found it informative and non satirical. 🙂

-Ian M. Politis

The Beautiful Calamity

In the dead of night a young man received a dreadful message on his cellular device, and then time came to a stop. The little words appeared before him in a shroud of the surreal. They took form one by one, and then solidified inside of the young mans panting heart. The tiny characters on his hand held screen seemed to burn through his retinas. They were cruel and inconceivable. He could not fathom that such a reality could have come to be. He took it for a tasteless joke at first. When it became clear to him that the text was anything but farcical he attempted to convince himself otherwise. He was ill equipped for the fallout of the message. Delving into his vast mental vault of words in an attempt to formulate some sort of response he emerged empty handed, save for a new understanding of tragedy. There were no words adequate enough to properly react to this most unthinkable news.
The woman he loved was dead.
She had metamorphosed into a beautiful calamity. She had broken his heart and then petrified it so the deed could never be undone.
For so long he had held on to hope.
He needed to believe that what had happened between them wasn’t some illusory perception of love.
He knew- he was certain- it was not.
She needed to exterminate the seeds of sorrow that had rooted themselves within the secret places of her soul.
She knew- she was certain- she could not.
As the wretched writing pierced his heart and tainted his peace of mind, he did not feel his body sink to the ground. His limbs betrayed him, as if his bones had turned to pudding.
The feeling in his fingers waned and turned to pins and needles. The tiny technological harbinger of madness and its nefarious little words slipped from his grasp. His body and mind were flooded by sorrow so completely that he did not feel the deluge cascading down his cheeks. He sank into a thickened sea of despair. It enveloped him, and deprived him of any possibility hope. This pain was unlike anything he had felt before. It overpowered even his most basic human functions. Amidst the soupy amalgamation of feeling, during a brief moment of clarity, he began to suspect that he would be incomplete for the remainder of his existence.
In just a matter of seconds he had made a near complete transformation into a pulpy mess. Horrified bystanders stood staring in pity and fear. They did nothing, knowing not what to do. Of course, despite their inaction, there was nothing that could have been done.
He loved her more than he had ever loved any other. In fact, before she serendipitously wandered into his world, he had come to believe that he would never love again. He had worn his heart on his sleeve and had it beaten and tattered and abused for far too long.
Then, suddenly it seemed, she appeared to him as if some mysterious beacon, calling him to shore. A siren whose song was so calm, so gentle, so delicate, that even the most world weary traveler of life’s labyrinthine tide could find solace in the sound of her voice.
In her eyes was compassion defined. When she spoke, he felt humbled. When she moved, the heavens sighed in admiration. When he was in her arms, she vanquished his every fear and thwarted his deepest doubts and insecurities. When there was no book or bottle deep enough for him to escape into, he turned to her- not knowing that all the while there was a much darker storm that swelled, hidden within her.
A silent and ominous tempest.
Nothing like the brief horrors that had occasionally shaken him. Now he wondered, perhaps she had been too generous with her love. Or perhaps he had not loved her enough.
Indeed, she possessed unbridled generosity. No one could question that. She poured her heart out into the hands of beasts, and sought nothing in return. She was a saint, an angel, and a goddess. She was all of these things to him, but his feelings for her, no matter how strong, could not convince her that his perception of her was true. She could not see what he, and many others saw in her. She had metamorphosed into an ashen idol. A tattered visage of hope that had suffocated in the chaos of her own reality.
He knew nothing of the sorrow that had burrowed and gestated deep within the nooks of her consciousness. It broke him to think that she couldn’t confide in him, even after all that they had been through. The idea that something so horrendous had been tearing her apart from the inside, unbeknownst to him, ate away at his sanity.
A cold wind bit him as he entered the open air. The world was roaring but the only sound he heard was the steady tap of his feet on concrete. His head hung low while his eyes fixated on this newfound void in his mind. His legs moved swiftly and without his knowledge or permission. His body operated entirely by instinct, or perhaps, some more basic subconscious engine. Those tiny words that had shattered him remained rattling about in his skull. They tainted his every thought and attacked his peace of mind relentlessly. Every ounce of his being felt assaulted. He was in pain. Real tangible pain, whose source could no longer be located in this world. He began to feel sick. It felt as if his body intended to purge itself of these toxic feelings. Suddenly his insides ejected their contents onto the dimly lit road and he found himself reeling. His head was spinning faster and faster. He closed his eyes hoping to make it stop, but to no avail.
Confusion followed. Then fear. More confusion. Sorrow. Now, anger. Regret. Confusion. Sorrow. Anger. Sorrow, over and over- and in so many shades. Shades of misery, despair, woe, and grief. They were interrupted by self loathing. Unfathomable self loathing. Anger. Confusion. Fear. Hopelessness. Confusion unbound. But, oh, always there was the regret. Regret. Regret. Regret. Regret. He was drowning in it.
Finally, strangely, and unnervingly, he found a moment of peace.
After his weakened mind finally dragged itself up onto the shores of solace, he took a moment to rest, while watching this one final monstrous wave of wild emotion swell just offshore, silhouetted, blocking the horizon.
It wouldn’t be long now. Soon the wave would crash into his minds island and he would feel the weight of truth pressing down on him. The truth that she was gone. That this could never be undone. That she had left him with no choice but to let go. That it was never his choice to begin with.
The childish notion that love conquers all- that love could cure all ailments and absolve us of our sins- it was dead.
He was lost now. He didn’t know how much time had passed.
No matter, he thought, because in those seconds- maybe minutes, perhaps hours- he had aged a lifetime. Now he would have to endure another, slower, more lonesome one.
Even if some sacred soul, capable of infiltrating the inner sanctum of his heart and mind were to appear, there would always be a notion echoing deep within him, nagging him, reminding him, that the only person he could ever truly know, was himself.
He sat down where he was, in the middle of some empty suburban street in the dead of night, and wept until he could weep no longer.
Then he tried, and tried, and tried harder, to collect the shards of his broken heart and piece them back together. Even after many years had passed, he would never assemble the puzzle quite right, but he thought, perhaps no one will notice. Or perhaps someone will accept it for what it is. Perhaps the world was already filled with people such as himself. Barely held together, shambling about in search of proof that they’re not alone. Proof, which, is evident all around us if we have the courage to open our eyes.
Proof that heartache might be just another inevitable part of what it means to be human.
To be alive.
To feel.
Gradually he found what he was looking for. Reluctantly, he let go.
Even after time dulled the pain, there remained that quiet distant nagging deep within his self, hidden, but not forgotten.
It was a whimper that lasted until the end of his days. However, as fate would have it, that tiny remnant of a voice was the proof he sought all along. What was once a source of such uncertainty and fear and insecurity, became the validation he needed. To prove that he was not alone. To prove that he had felt whole heartedly. And to prove that he could do it again.

The Man Who Literally Blew The F**k Up

As Edgar Whrong sat in his bedroom, he could feel it growing inside of him. Like a battering ram tapping furiously at the walls of his mind, the feeling persisted. He had never felt this way before. It was curious. Almost pleasant. But then it began to hurt. It hurt him more than he had ever been hurt before. Until this moment, sitting in his bedroom, thinking this thought, he hadn’t even considered that such a pain were possible.
“Oh, the feels,” were his last words.
Now, he knew. Now he felt this incurable pain, and he was certain that he hadn’t felt the worst of it yet. It began to grow and pulsate and change. It overwhelmed him, body and mind. He stood, and his head grew hot, and then cold simultaneously. He looked both up and down, and then all around. He saw everything without moving an eye, and in fact without even opening a single lid.
He was not looking, but he did see. This thought. Edgar was powerless against it. Only a potent notion was all it was. It had become known and could not become unknown. It was a vast idea that, if it had slowly dawned on him, perhaps could have lead to great ingenuities and progress.
Instead it came all at once. One great wall of feeling that was, without question, so very very true.
For some reason, on this lonely morning in April, Edgar chose to think of something that was so sad, and so awful, that it literally made him blow the fuck up. As he sat there thinking, his emotions welled up in him, and then overflowed. A damn broke inside of his mind, and that damn was the only thing holding back a wave of psychic influence that had laid dormant inside of Edgar for his entire life.
The forensic scientists were baffled by the horrendous results of Edgar’s explosion. There was blood everywhere. Shards of bone stuck out of the dry wall. A single testicle hung from the ceiling fan, which continued to spin around and around again. It was unlike anything that had ever been recorded in human history. When first responders arrived on the scene they expected to find a body. There had been reports of some calamity from the neighbors. A phone call was made at around 9:02 A.M. by one Mrs. Fairsole complaining of a loud noise, which she could only describe as “explosiony”, despite the dispatcher’s repeated attempts to obtain more concrete information. The incident was nearly overlooked, were it not for several other subsequent calls complaining of a very similar, yet vague disturbance.
The paramedics simply could not have been prepared for what they would find, based on this description.
Edgars family was shocked but not entirely surprised. His mother commented to a local news reporter that, “he was always a bit strange”, and that “something was bound to happen”. This peculiar response to Edgar’s death spawned a criminal investigation into the possibility of murder. Investigators poked and prodded and pried at Edgar’s home and family life on and off for the better part of a decade. However, no evidence was ever amounted to prove that either of them had any involvement. And indeed, there wasn’t any evidence to be found. Edgar’s death was not caused by the hand of any one person. The tragedy was a mere consequence of ignorance.
Yes, ignorance.
Ignorance towards the dangers of complete, unadulterated truth. Edgar was only capable of understanding such a truth because of his latent psychic abilities. But, his mind was not ready for the shock of total, unaltered, and utterly truthful truthiness. As a result of Edgars ignorance, and reckless thinking, he literally blew the fuck up. The thought, which he had thought, had filled him to the brim with every single human emotion in its purest form. The chemicals which acted upon his mind to stimulate such effects were not filtered or restrained in any way. The feels and the truthiness crashed together in waves of madness, and then came to one ultimate and inescapable outcome.
By necessity the thought grew as thoughts often do. It took the form of every contradiction and polar opposite, as if they were forcefully put together regardless of sense. These contradictions and opposites combined, and began to form a singularity. Were it not for his lack of cosmic influence, Edgar very well may have caused the total obliteration of the universe that day. Alas, though he was made of star stuff, it had withered and wilted and turned to flesh, which, as a cosmic commodity is completely worthless. Thusly, nothing ever came of the whole ordeal. Never the less, the story is pretty extraordinary, wouldn’t you say? I mean, it’s not every day that people just blow up.
Allow me to amend that. In actuality, people do blow up every day. Just not like this guy. He did it unlike everyone else. And no one ever knew about it. Not until now. He was the man who blew the fuck up.