Monday, October 9, 2017

The Horror of It All, 2017 (part 1)

As per tradition (and my natural inclinations) I watch as many horror movies and Gothic thrillers as I can in October. I'm off to a strong start; thus far I've managed to watch a movie a day. Here's the lowdown on the first week of morbid curiosities I've been parading before my eyes:

Grace (2009)
After losing her unborn child, Madeline Matheson insists on carrying the baby to term. Following the delivery, the child miraculously returns to life with an appetite for human blood. Madeline is faced with a mother's ultimate decision.

As sub-genres of horror, "Pregnancy horror" and "child horror," don't do much for me; doubly so in a case like Grace where the film isn't particularly well acted or constructed. There was a real lack of interesting ideas and development here. 

Beetlejuice (1988)
When a recently-deceased ghost couple find their now-vacant home invaded by an obnoxious family, they hire a sleazy ghost who gets rid of humans to help them.

Films like this (idiosyncratic, but made for mass consumption) just aren't made anymore. I think Beetlejuice is essentially a perfect movie; there isn't an ounce of fat that could be trimmed. I'm glad I got to see this again recently on the big screen.

My Cousin Rachel (2017)
A young Englishman plots revenge against his late cousin's mysterious, beautiful wife, believing her responsible for his death. But his feelings become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms.

My Cousin Rachel is a quiet Gothic film that has been met with a lukewarm response from critics. I enjoyed it, but then I'm also not vexed by the film's thesis: young white men with authority ruin the lives of everyone around them who don't have the same set of privileges. 

Nightbreed (1990)
A troubled young man is drawn to a mythical place called Midian where a variety of monsters are hiding from humanity.

Nightbreed is truly phantasmagorical. I hadn't seen this in ages...and you know what? This is still a bizarre film. Although it probably isn't a great movie on any terms, it's so unaccountable and audacious. Go on, name a movie that feels like Nightbreed, I'll wait.

Raw (2016)
When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Raw isn't bad, but this is a textbook example of a film that got too much love from critics without just cause. It suffers from being a series of set pieces rather than a cohesive narrative. There's some decent abjection here, but it doesn't really hang together for a cohesive impact.

The Handmaiden (2016)
A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

The Handmaiden was my favorite film of last year, so it was nice to get a chance to watch this amped-up Gothic thriller again with a class full of undergrads...especially fun noting which scenes made some of them look away from the screen.

Under the Shadow (2016)
As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.

I love getting a chance to see the new horror films coming from non-Western countries. Under the Shadow was good, but ultimately a little too slow moving for my tastes.