Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ten Scary Simpsons Moments

By Andreas

[This list is being crossposted on the terrific Simpsons-centric blog Dead Homer Society. Go check them out!]

“Cool, she’ll be a freak!” – Bart

To have an annual Halloween episode is one thing. To freely cram shocking, ghoulish imagery into otherwise normal episodes of a family sitcom is another. But then, The Simpsons‘ writers and animators never had much interest in following formulas or obeying TV conventions, preferring to meld their own savagely satirical experiments with an emotionally naturalistic representation of family life. This, and the fluid nature of its animation, meant that the show could veer from mundane reality to nightmarish fantasy in the blink of an eye.

Here, then, are ten of the most WTF-inspiring, pants-wetting moments from Simpsons continuity. They’re all bizarre, deeply terrifying digressions, but each one still adds depth to its episode. I give you the crème de la crème of The Simpsons‘ out-of-nowhere scares…

[Warning: Disturbing images below!]

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Pretty Good with the Killing

Hey, broheim… you’re still pretty good with the killing. That’s exciting.

That’s the voice of William Hurt on the phone with his estranged brother Tom, formerly Joey, in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005). The film’s mainly interested in the brother (Viggo Mortensen), a reformed killer with a cute family and a thriving diner. But to our benefit, Hurt gets to loom over the film’s final act, delivering one of the most refreshing one-scene performances in recent memory as jocular mafioso Richie Cusack.

The distressingly casual phone call excerpted above (which ends with Richie’s ominous “You gonna come see me? Or do I have to come see you?”) is Hurt’s introduction to the film. His brother’s new life has just been upended twice in succession—first by a pair of itinerant criminals (including Pontypool’s wonderfully grizzled Stephen McHattie), then by the nosy, one-eyed Carl Fogarty (a scene-stealing Ed Harris) and his posse. Tom/Joey has been forced to kill them all.

Fogarty’s slaying prompts Richie’s late-night phone call. Cronenberg brilliantly shoots the scene as visually sparse, showing nothing but the half-asleep (and upside down) Mortensen cloaked in darkness. This lets Hurt’s smooth, expressive voice dominate even with only two short lines. It’s a chilling call, and it sets the stage for the brothers’ subsequent conference in Philadelphia, as they prepare to wrap up all of the film’s bloodshed.

There, Richie sits Tom/Joey down in his office, and Hurt’s voice really goes to work. He moves from nostalgia to indignation, pausing to mug in disbelief when he mentions how Joey cut out Fogarty’s eye with barb wire. He rationally explains why Tom has to die, haranguing him for past sins which are finally catching up to him. It’s a concentrated dose of great acting, as if to make up for the brevity of Hurt’s appearance.

Thanks to William Hurt, the ending of A History of Violence is unforgettable, and the word “broheim” will always sound menacing.

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The [totally awesome!] life of Lynda Van der Klok: a love letter to P.J. Soles

By Ashley

I, like many other people participating in this blogathon, am totally enamored with P.J. Soles. There’s just something about her that is so charming and irresistible, despite the fact that a lot of the characters she portrays are very catty, overly perky, backbiting and condescendingly, unabashedly bitchy. It doesn’t matter; once you see that thick golden hair and that mischievous, toothy smile, she’s reeled you in and you’re a fan for life.  I’ve never met anyone who (if they know who P.J. Soles is) dislikes her and I never hope to.

It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to concentrate on when I wrote this: should I just write about her and her awesomeness in general? Should I write about the first time I saw (and loved) her in Carrie? Should I finally do what’s long overdue and watch Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and talk about how she definitely should have been a lead actress more often? Should I take the less traveled path and write about some of her later work, maybe her part in Jawbreaker?  So many choices! Ultimately though, I decided to keep it simple—I’ve decided to do a visual analysis of her portrayal of Lynda from Halloween.

Lynda is Jamie Lee Curtis’s slightly bitchy, ultra-perky, self-indulgent friend who doesn’t understand why Curtis’s Laurie spends every weekend babysitting instead of getting drunk and hooking up. Soles is the wild child to Curtis’s straight lace, which means that she’s doomed from the start.

We first see Lynda as she and Laurie are leaving the school. Lynda is having a rapid one-sided conversation about cheerleading and makeup while Laurie looks uninterested. This is what strikes me as so amazing about P.J. Soles: even if the characters she plays are annoyingly vapid, backstabbing, or bitchy, she’s just so compelling as an actress that we like her—nay, love her—just as much as we do more pleasant characters.

As I grabbed screenshots for this post I realized that just watching isolated images of P.J. Soles from the movie makes it seem like an average high school flick, right up until the part where she gets the fuck strangled out of her. (I once saw an interview wherein P.J. Soles said that she milked her death for all it was worth so she would have more screen time, which is why we have the delightfully ridiculous continuing moans and gasps even after she’s been out of frame for like 30 seconds.) With that said, I now present:

Lynda Van der Klok: A Story in Pictures

And so there you have it! The life, loves, and death of Lynda Van der Klok. You were, like, totally awesome, Lynda. Totally RIP.

For more P.J Soles goodness check out the week long blogathon over at Day of the Woman!

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Queer and Haunted

By Andreas

[This post is part of the Queer Film Blogathon over at Garbo Laughs. Thanks to Caroline for hosting it!]

As I’ve said time and again, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963) is one of the greatest horror films of all time. Between its chiaroscuro cinematography, biting dialogue, and Julie Harris’s indelible performance as the neurotic Nell, it’s the haunted house movie. It’s the one to beat. It makes The Amityville Horror look like shit. It makes Poltergeist look like The Amityville Horror.

It’s also highly invested in queer themes, as exemplified by Theo (Claire Bloom), Nell’s aggressive lesbian roommate. Although the cast is rounded out by two men, it’s clearly Nell and Theo’s relationship that dominates the film. It’s a fascinating, fluctuating relationship characterized by seduction, rejection, mind games, and innuendo. Sexual hang-ups clash with troubled pasts and paranormal phenomena as The Haunting rages on.

It’s a remarkably dense film, in both its visuals and its writing, so I’ll unpack just a few salient textual details about Nell’s sexuality. First off, I’m intrigued by Nell’s initial appearance in the film, via her name on a blackboard:

This is Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), preparing his list of potential test subjects. Each one, as he explains to Hill House’s elderly owner, has been “involved, one way or another, with the abnormal.” (“Abnormal,” like much of The Haunting’s language, is left tantalizingly ambiguous.) Most of them get a last name; Theo gets a question mark. In The Haunting, names are filled with power and meaning. So why is Theo’s incomplete?

I see it as an incredibly subtle hint that Theo will be somehow different. Which is to say: she has psychic powers, she’s bitterly sarcastic, and she’s queer. Like the sexually confused and mother-haunted Nell, she’s just as abnormal as any of Hill House’s ghosts.

As you can see, The Haunting hardly takes a progressive view of Theo’s sexuality. She’s implicitly equated with the supernatural evil that infests the house. As Nell screams at her, “You’re a monster, Theo! You’re the monster of Hill House!” (Nell later adds that Theo is one of “nature’s mistakes,” evoking some common homophobic myths.) The Haunting certainly incorporates the prejudices of the era in which it was made.

At the same time, though, the film never invites us to hate or dismiss Theo. She’s its most vital, compelling presence, and she gets many of the best lines. Unlike the whiny, self-pitying Nell, she’s confident, bitchy, and unafraid to speak her mind. When the film ends, she’s the only one who understands what Nell really wanted. (“Maybe not ‘poor Eleanor’…”)

The Haunting may not cast Theo’s sexuality in a positive light, but at least it weaves her queer desire into its checkered matrix of symbols, genre tropes, and mirror images. It’s not just a rare pre-Stonewall representation of an onscreen lesbian; in The Haunting, queer desire helps structure the film itself.

[For more queer cinema, read our takes on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pedro Almodóvar, Swoon, I Love You, Philip Morris, The Ghost Ship, and more…]

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“Used to be my place.”

For 1967, I feel like this is a pretty radical image. It’s two friends, one white and one black, sharing a gun. They used to own a farm together, but the bank kicked them off, so now they’re firing randomly at their former house. It’s an impotent expression of rage, sure, but it’s better than nothing—it does seem to give them a strange feeling of empowerment and satisfaction, at least. When the powers that be screw you over, sometimes impotent rage is the best you can do. Then you just have to bundle up your family and possessions, and move on.

This tale of two old men whose land has been snatched out from under them is one of the many note-perfect, poignant vignettes of Depression life squeezed into Bonnie and Clyde. The film’s episodic structure lets it meander around the Midwest, following the infamous Barrow Gang along their route of crime while occasionally stopping to glance at the assorted characters in their periphery: the other poor farmer who says, “They did right by me!”; the laconic, grudge-bearing Texas Ranger Frank Hamer; the young couple Eugene and Velma; and of course Bonnie’s sad, brittle mother, who was played by a schoolteacher discovered on location. (Her name was Mabel Cavitt. She would never act again.)

I love all these minor details of Bonnie and Clyde. Somehow, these people all ring so true, even when the film becomes a little affected. Arthur Penn and cinematographer Burnett Guffey so unforgettably distilled the Midwest down into a series of earth tones and worn-out faces. As a lifelong Midwesterner who’s spent enough time in rural areas, I have to admit: they nailed it. Visually, it’s the Dust Bowl, and politically? A black man and a white man, both impoverished and dispossessed, borrow a gun from some bank robbers and take aim at bank property. Judge for yourself.

Oh, and another part of Bonnie and Clyde I love? The reaction shots. Like how Clyde’s famous “We rob banks!” brag is greeted with nothing but a blank stare from the white farmer as he walks back to his waiting family. Clyde looks at him expectantly, as if he’s going to force a grin out of this world-weary, fed-up old man. Well, at least he gets Bonnie to smile. I’ll close with a very nice picture of Warren Beatty, because that’s always the right choice.

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Horror is everywhere (3)

By Andreas

Since The Mike, of the truly excellent genre film blog From Midnight With Love was on vacation, I volunteered to help keep FMWL (and its June theme of ’80s horror) going in the meantime. To that end, I wrote a continuation of my “Horror is everywhere” series from Pussy Goes Grrr, delving into the scary side of five ’80s movies that aren’t technically horror: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The King of Comedy, Blood Simple, Ran, and Blue Velvet (the last of which I also addressed over at The Film Experience). Head on over to FMWL to read “Horror is everywhere (3)”!

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Link Dump: #36

Over the past week or two, we’ve been caught in a flurry of graduation ceremonies, cross-country bus rides, and poor Internet connections. But here, at long last, is a collection of old links, plus Lance Henriksen’s happy family brandishing its kitty at the end of The Horror Show (1989). Just a warning: it’s going to be a tough summer here at Pussy Goes Grrr, and in order to survive, we might need your help. If you’re at all interested in writing a guest post or two, or even a summer-long guest series, please email p.g.grrr@gmail.com. We love new voices! And now: links.

Here’s a few quickly culled search terms from the past few days: “disney princess doing silly faces” (because, you know, why not?) which is inevitably accompanied by “eating pussy in restaurant”; the semantically ambiguous “i want women pussy”; and finally, that old favorite “erotic decapitation.” Yeahhh.

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