I am a movie gourmet: and a movie gourmand. Once, in NYC, I frequented the repertoire theaters where if you missed the classic this week you’d have another chance next year. They typically showed double bills, so you’d see the Three Penny Opera for the first time and see Roshomon for the sixth time.
Then there was the assortment on TV, but never mind that for now: I no longer own a single functioning TV: give me help, give me money, but don’t, please don’t, give me a TV.
These days I watch 99% of my movies on DVD, at home. It’s not the same but there are offsetting benefits. Never mind those too for now because I want to get to my target of the day: the character of genres: and specifically, the sense of justice in the Horror genre.
Alien is a classic. But I first encountered it in comic book form: my son had it. I remember saying aloud to him as I glanced at the panels of the first couple of pages, “These characters are obnoxious. What reader could have any sympathy with any of them?” Well, actually, we got a series of close close-ups of Ripley’s public mound in her bikini briefs, but that’s not sympathy, that’s peeping-tom salacious interest.
I was reminded of my comment then, 1980 or so, by a Horror movie from last night. There are lots of genre I simply skip. I want to see all Kurosawa, all Fellini, all Bergman … all Kieslovsky, all Bunuel … I don’t normally want to see any John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, any horror, any vampires … (some John Ford, Stagecoach, excepted.) Alien straddled genres, as I’ll comment further on in a moment: sf and horror. I’ve been selecting DVDs to introduce to my girl. She’s older than I, has always been comfortable-to-rich, but isn’t a movie person: she’d never seen any Kurosawa, Fellini … Tarkovsky … So: I wouldn’t reorder Battleship Potemkin for myself, but I sought it for her. Now she’s in Canada checking on her properties north of the border and I’m slumming, watching stuff I wouldn’t normally watch: the mail order service shoved a remake of a Wes Craven effort under my nose, The Hills Have Eyes. I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I was riveted, loved it, would watch it again. But many wouldn’t guess why: you may, because the essay form here points right at it:
The characters were wholly devoid of sympathy. The characters had no character. Or their character was contemptible: show the blond, show that her loins, her bottom, her bosom, her thighs are succulent: then, first thing, for no good reason, have her say “fuck,” have her say “shit.” Her brother, her sister, her parents, her brother in law, God, run them over with the steamroller. (See? That’s what I get for being seventy-two, coming hard up on seventy-three: I say “steamroller.” Does anyone today even know what a steamroller is?)
Alien made everyone despicable about as fast as possible. Then Alien proceedes to kill everyone off: everyone except Ripley: we get our eye rubbed on her pussy, at the beginning, and she survives. (Survival, to an audience, is an automatic good thing!) But Alien killed everyone off slowly, one at a time. Ten little Indians, nine little Indians … The Hills Have Eyes (remake N) offers us bakers’ dozens of reasons to wish harm on the characters for ten or fifteen minutes, but then it starts abusing these spoiled rotten bored useless defenseless attitudinizing klepbots: and it doesn’t hold back. That was the interest, that was the film’s brilliance: it didn’t hold back. When the obnoxious pretty girl got raped I almost cheered aloud: like when the bad guy gets shot at the end of the stupid westerns that polluted my childhood, before I began selecting my own movies to watch, in college. (Ebert seemed to hold this film in contempt, but he’s saturated with this stuff; I’d been under-exposed.
Emilie De Ravin
(Pardon me, the host keeps doubling my text here: I delete, it puts it back in: anywhere it likes.)
Don’t misunderstand (a lot of good that request has ever done): I don’t approve of rape. I don’t want to see anybody raped, or harmed, or killed (… or jailed, or taxed, or put in school) … It’s a movie! We use movies to indulge in thoughts and emotions we do not have in ordinary circumstances. Saint Teresa was a nun: it was in her prayers that she dreamed of being loved by God; not drunk in the barroom.
Sense of Justice in the Horror Genre
The cashier doesn’t give IQ tests at the movies, she just sells the tickets. Much of art — from religious worship to Charles Dickens — is primitive: the creekiest causal relations are assumed: good triumphs, the bad is punished. Nearly any of us knows better, but we still want it to be true (or: Friday night (or, Sunday morning) we want to pretend that it’s true, for a least a few moments. Cheap movies are more likely to give us what we want: lots of fat, lots of sugar, no discipline, no dues due … For years, for decades I avoided much such crap; but last night I indulged, and it was wonderful.
2011 08 25 Now I’m ready for more. I’ve spent seven decades under-indulged in this area. By an extraordinary coincidence I found access to a different DVD associated with this Wes Craven: Dracula something-or-other. Ooo, and starring Jason Scott Lee, a favorite: an actor I’ve seen far too little of: Bruce Lee, Rapa Nui. A girl, dressed for a ball, is running, fleeing. All her feminine sartorial frills flutter behind her, like Euridyce fleeing death (in the Camus film). We see her leg: bare to her crotch. The stuff fluttering in her wake reminds us of undergarments, of unrolling toilet paper. Maybe whoever she’s fleeing caught her in the outhouse, before she’d torn off any paper pages. The woman’s eyes pop: like Illeana Douglas: a great image of abused female, a perfect victim-type. The figure following her proves to be Lee: war lord from hell. A great bell starts to swing … and the DVD self-destructed. But man, I gotta see that again! It was so well done, even more balletic than Black Orpheus.
Orpheus carries Euridyce home
I was recalling Death chasing Euridyce down the hill, her costume billowing; this up movement complements it.
2012 01 12 Now I’ve also watched the Wes Craven Hills Have Eyes original (1977). Not bad: I’m becoming more aware of, appreciative of, Dee Wallace, who lent her shapely self effectively to horror films, saw Cujo just the other week.