It’s been far too long since I last watched a horror movie. It’s been even longer since I’ve watched a horror movie for the first time. The amount of times I fire up Netflix of Shudder before just watching a movie I’ve seen for the millionth time is almost immeasurable at this point (Editor’s Note: to give perspective on my glacial posting pace, I’ve watched three horror flicks and the entirety of Shudder’s The Core since I wrote those sentences). But alas, motivation (if you want to call it that) struck me and I felt the need to watch something extreme, gory, uncomfortable, and most importantly, new. So obviously, I chose a movie that came out almost two decades ago.
Audition is one of the movies that launched long-time weirdo and ultra prolific filmmaker Takashi Miike career in the Western world. It follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), who after his wife died, is looking for companionship again. Working for a video production company with his friend Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura), they decide to stage auditions to find a lead heroine for fake movie so that Aoyama can take his pick from the hundreds of ladies who come out to meet with them. He ends up falling for a very shy ex-ballerina, Asami (Eihi Shiina), but Japanese horror movie do as Japanese horror movie like, and things start getting pretty, uhh, wild, to say the least.
Editor’s Note: I started writing this while kind of blitzed (similar to my Bye Bye Man review, but with maybe half a dozen more bottles of Alpine in me), so bare with me here. I took a sober moment the next day to comb through this write up and clean it up to the usual amount of typos and grammatical errors.
I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has a local independent cinema, which screens a ton of newer indie releases as well as manages to show old prints of classic movies. Local arthouse and documentary films also get a home there, but the reason I’ve taken a new shine to the place is because they’ve been on a bit of an Andrei Tarkovsky kick recently. Last month they showed Stalker, arguably his most revered movie (honestly, among Tarkovsky fans, every single one of his films is up for being considered his best work) which I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch. I was kicking myself for that one, so when I found out that they’d be showing Tarkovsky’s philosophical sci-fi epic Solaris, I made sure I was able to make it out to catch it on the big screen.
For those of you who might not know (I was only introduced to Andrei Tarkovsky recently), Tarkovsky was the most famous Soviet era Russian filmmaker, and was able to produce art so expressive of his own feelings and thoughts his films were repeatedly banned, seized, and burned by the USSR until finally he was exiled from the union. Among the arthouse and independent film fans, Tarkovsky is usually held in the same echelon as Kubrick, Lynch, and Coppola. He’s apparently kind of a big deal. This film is the first I’ve ever seen of his, so we’ll see how he stacks up.
Tarkovsky’s 1972 offering Solaris is often considered as a Eastern European response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a slow, heady sci-fi flick that uses its setting and creative choices to explore interesting and thought provoking themes and questions. Solaris is smaller in scale and a little more introspective than 2001, following a psychologist named Kelvin who is sent to a space station orbiting the eponymous ocean planet. Kelvin’s mission: to investigate the strange messages received from the station. Word is that most of the crew are dead and the survivors have since descended into madness. When he reaches the station, Kelvin is informed that there are “guests” on board: physical manifestations of the occupants’ memories, apparently conjured up by the alien planet below them. Before long he runs into what appears to be an amnesiac version of his wife, Khari. Kelvin is particularly distraught over this, considering Khari committed suicide a decade prior. Things then get weirder, and much more Russian.
Martyrs has ascended to an almost legendary status in the horror community. It’s widely considered one of the most violent, brutal, and depraved movies of all time. If horror fans are known for anything, it’s for having full blown dick measuring contests over who can watch the most despicable shit and not be fazed. And every time someone mentions “extreme cinema” or “most disturbing movies” in any corner of the internet, these horror fans all rush in jerking themselves off over how little they feel when watching sickening stuff. This to me defeats the purpose of horror movies, which is to make you feel. Sure, the feelings are usually dread, hopelessness, or disgust, but they all have their place when you allow yourself to open yourself up in a controlled environment such as a when watching a film.
Speaking of opening yourself up, let’s talk about Martyrs.
Martyrs is the infamous 2008 horror film and top dog entry into the New French Extremity scene. Written and directed by Pascal Laugier (who is really not known for anything else of note), this film is burdened with the unending hype of a thousand thrillseekers, gorehounds, and horror fanatics across the globe. It’s been given somewhat of a new boost in popularity since the American remake was released a few years ago to complete critical panning, driving viewers to seek out the original, unbutchered version.
This movie starts with a hard, cold open of a very young girl, Lucie, escaping an abandoned factory. She’s bloodied and broken, limping through the streets. Once she is rescued and brought to a home for traumatized children, she begins seeing a mutilated humanoid creature that regularly stalks her and occasionally hurts her. After fifteen(!) years, Lucie deduces that she must get revenge on the people who scarred her when she was a child in order to appease the creature that has been haunting and hurting her for over a decade. Armed with a double barreled shotgun, she forcibly enters a family’s house and massacres them in one of the most vicious home invasion scenes ever put to film.
And that is all you get as a synopsis before I enter heavy spoiler territory.
Unbreakable is a thriller and drama that was written, produced, and directed my M. Night Shyamalan. Now, before you click away, I want you to look at the year this movie was released. This was hot on the heels of The Sixth Sense and naturally, Shyamalan wanted a more ambitious project to work on. He already killed it in the supernatural thriller genre once, and I guess he wanted to solidify himself as a thriller powerhouse while everybody’s eyes were still on him.
Unbreakable is the story of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a family man and security guard who’s marriage is tumultuous at best. He’s just chugging along his dreary life until on his way back from a job interview in New York, he gets in a massive train accident. Hundreds are killed, and not only is he the only survivor, but he emerges completely unharmed. This garners the attention of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book obsessed art gallery owner, who believes that Dunn is completely impervious to harm. Dunn obviously doesn’t believe him at first, but after slowly learning more and more about himself and revealing and honing his natural abilities, he then has to try and reconcile the idea of having the potential to be a superhero while navigating his broken family life. (more…)
The worst facet of any artist, is their fans. I don’t know who said it originally but I can say, tongue fully removed from cheek that I believe that statement to be true. Maybe more now than I ever thought possible.
Misery is one of many Stephen King novels to be turned into films, Made in the 1990 (although written in ’87), the novel was written at the height of King’s party hard phase. While I have not read the book, I firmly believe that the film imparts some of the source material’s author’s wild side with it. Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a prolific author, much like Stephen King himself. However, unlike King he’s painted himself into a corner writing sappy historical romance novels for longer than he cares to admit. The novels focus around a woman named Misery and follow her trials and tribulations, and have garnered him great success and wealth. Sheldon is tired of Misery, though. He yearns for something new, something that will solidify him as a serious tour de force in the world of fiction literature. When he finally finishes his first draft of the final novel in the Misery series, he gets into a terrible car accident on his way to his editor. Rescued and being cared for by his self-proclaimed number one fan, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), Paul Sheldon finds himself learning that fandom is a deep, deep rabbit hole and those who live in its furthest depths can be warped and perverted by it’s pressures. (more…)