Tag Archives: david lynch

10+ Horror Discoveries

Here are the ten best old-to-the-world, new-to-me horror movies I’ve watched so far this year:

10) Society (1989): Beneath the TV-quality production values, beneath the hairstyles and outfits that scream “late ’80s,” Society is a devastating gross-out satire. In fact, it feels even better-tailored to a post-Occupy America than to the socioeconomic climate into which it was released. I’ll never hear the word “shunt” again without a shudder.

9) Slither (2006): Here’s another movie that plays with gore like Jackson Pollock with dripping paint. It’s more or less a Night of the Creeps remake, but shifted from a college campus to a small, rural town, and with the added bonus of Michael Rooker at his most intimidating/squidlike.

8) Cube (1997): In the middle of this movie’s titular cube is a room with a lethal, sound-sensitive trap. And the scene in which five intrepid prisoners sneak through it made my knuckles the whitest they’ve been all year. This is existential horror done right on next to no budget: tense as hell, and very cruel.

7) Demon Seed (1977): Infamous as the “computer sexually assaults Julie Christie” movie, this is… that movie, and exactly as icky as its premise suggests. Plenty claustrophobic, too, as the amoral Proteus—speaking in the chilly voice of Robert Vaughn—closes in around his prey, wielding her locked house as a weapon.

6) Planet of the Vampires (1965): One of the many blueprints for Alien, this Bava space odyssey focuses less on plot and more on style, with impressive results. It’s a near-ballet of bold colors and production design, gradually descending into a morass of dread.

5) Lost Highway (1997): I actually found this a tad disappointing compared to other Lynch, but his movies tend to grow on repeat viewings, so I know I’ll return to it sooner or later. In the meantime, the performances of Roberts Blake and Loggia are enough to pull this noir-horror Möbius strip onto my list.

4) Suicide Club (2002): I still can’t make heads or tails of Sion Sono’s J-horror police procedural, but that’s much of its charm. Sometimes it’s a digital conspiracy thriller; occasionally it morphs into a rock musical or, at its best, a darker-than-dark absurdist comedy. Always mystifying and incredibly bloody.

3) Parents (1989): This was certainly my greatest surprise. I’d never heard a peep about Bob Balaban’s weird suburban fantasia before watching it, but I was instantly drawn in, disturbed, and enraptured by its child’s POV and nightmarish ambience. Career-best work by Randy Quaid as the father, too.

2) The Phantom Carriage (1921): I expected Victor Sjöström’s moral fable to be “good,” but it’s actually gonna-be-watching-this-for-years great. Shot like a series of grim Scandinavian woodcuts, it mines life mistakes for all their inherent horror, and ends with one hell of an emotional sucker punch. Plus it inspired the “Heeere’s Johnny!” shot in The Shining.

1) Tales from the Crypt (1972): This Amicus anthology is everything I want from a horror movie and more. It starts out creepy (with a killer Santa Claus!) and rises from there; it has an ace British cast, from Ralph Richardson to Joan Collins; and it has a few of the most morbidly ironic endings I’ve ever seen. A few of the stories here are still giving me chills.

And a few more… Signs (2002) is tremendously atmospheric, and preys on a childhood fear of mine; The Hitcher (1986) proves that Rutger Hauer can, if he so chooses, be the scariest man alive; Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) is painfully uneven, but worth it for the Dante, Miller, and wraparound segments; Frankenhooker (1990) is gleeful, trashy fun; and finally I have no excuse for The Final Destination (2009) and Final Destination 5 (2011). They’re just ridiculously watchable.

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Do the Loco-Motion

By Andreas

David Lynch has always enjoyed dragging pop music into his cesspools of sinister weirdness. There’s “In Heaven” in Eraserhead, “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet, “Love Me Tender” in Wild at Heart, “Llorando” in Mulholland Drive—you get the idea. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when, in the middle of Lynch’s most recent feature INLAND EMPIRE (2006), a gang of maybe-prostitutes started dancing to Little Eva’s recording of “The Loco-Motion.”

And of course, this is David Lynch we’re talking about, so it’s not just an impromptu dance number. Anything but. The dancers’ brassy enthusiasm for the dance makes it kind of funny, but any comedy is drowned out by the aura of vague menace: it’s in the dazed look of horror on Laura Dern’s face as she watches; the abrasively flashing lights; and the nearly subliminal intrusion of hushed industrial noise onto the soundtrack.

INLAND EMPIRE is in many ways a surrealist horror movie, and a creeping horror infects this carefree dance. Like at the end, when all the dancers vanish into thin air, leaving behind an empty, blandly decorated room and a world-weary Laura Dern. (They’ll be back, of course, to persecute her and to share long, stilted conversations about sex.) It’s never overtly scary, but it is uncanny and off-putting. It’s mesmerizing in its frightful ambiguity, as if an unstated riddle was lurking inside the choreography.

This is one reason why David Lynch is a genius, and why his movies crawl under my skin: he doesn’t just set up polarities. This scene isn’t just a juxtaposition of a benevolent song with malevolent visuals. It’s a diabolical imbrication of song, dancer, dance—every aspect of the soundtrack and mise-en-scène, and all their associated value sets. Nothing’s solely trustworthy, and nothing’s solely evil. Everything is tentative. Everything’s kind of silly.

(For what it’s worth, INLAND EMPIRE also contains one of the scariest images I’ve ever seen.)

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Link Dump: #41

Aww, look! Michel Piccoli, playing an old artist in Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse, is petting a kitty! That’s so CUTE. Almost as cute as this week’s batch of adorable little links:

Search term of the week: “pragncy pussy.” That is some inventive misspelling. How girl get pragnt, anyway?

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Room service at the Great Northern

[The following post includes a few spoilers for Twin Peaks—both the end of season 1 and the start of season 2. You have been warned.]

Does this include a gratuity?

The first season of Twin Peaks ends with an audacious cliffhanger: amidst a flurry of violent events, good-natured FBI agent Dale Cooper is shot repeatedly and left to die on his hotel room floor. You’d expect the second season to continue in the same urgent, melodramatic register… but you’d be wrong, because David Lynch is all about defying TV expectations. Instead, he follows up the show’s most shocking, twisty episode with a scene of subdued deadpan comedy.

The season two premiere, “May the Giant Be With You,” opens with a slow-moving, elderly waiter (John Ford regular Hank Worden) entering Cooper’s room with a glass of warm milk. He doesn’t rush to call a doctor, as Cooper politely requests. Instead, he reassures Cooper that he’s hung up the phone, then bends over so he can sign the bill. Cooper doesn’t freak out, but goes along with the waiter, even making sure that he gets tipped. The previous episode was hysterical and chaotic; this scene, meanwhile, is relaxed to the point of catatonia.

This tonal departure is a characteristically Lynchian joke. It reminds me of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, which begins with wage slave Gregor Samsa in his new insect form, worrying that he’ll be late for work. Cooper’s in the middle of a life-or-death situation, and we’re yearning to find out what happened to all the other characters: did Nadine die? What about Catherine, Shelly, and Leo? But no. Everything’s put on hold so we can focus on warm milk, the bill, and the gratuity. And this is before the giant shows up!

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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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In Heaven, Everything Is Fine

In Lynchland, though, it’s a different story altogether. That’s because this week’s entry in The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series is David Lynch’s bombshell of a first feature, Eraserhead (1977). If you only know one thing about Eraserhead and its imagery, it should be this: they’re gross and disturbing. In Lynch’s distorted vision of human relationships, sexual anxieties get literalized with all the oozing pus and foam you could ask for. It’s the kind of movie that makes me go, “Ew! Ew! No! Put down those scissors!” for like a solid minute. Compared to all those grotesque mutations, my choice for best shot is relatively innocuous:

At this point in the film, protagonist Henry Spencer’s wife Mary is all fed up with their mutant baby’s constant yammering, so she’s moved back in with her parents. With her away, Henry takes a chance on the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall, and they start getting intimate… when the Beautiful Girl spots that icky, whining baby. On the most basic level, then, this shot is about how much of a turn-off babies (especially mutant babies) are. The second Henry’s paramour gets an eyeful of his weird-looking offspring, she goes back across the hall, and he remains sexually frustrated for the rest of the film.

It’s also very visually striking. Like the rest of Eraserhead, it’s shot with extremely low lighting and low contrast, so it’s hard to tell where Henry’s face ends and the Beautiful Girl’s face begins. It’s like we’re gazing down at a fleshy nocturnal landscape. (It also reminds me of René Magritte’s painting The Kiss.) These two distinctly unhappy people look for some pleasure by frantically groping and kissing one another—but in Eraserhead‘s sick world, it’s never that easy. It’s all too appropriate, in a film that represents sex as a disgusting ordeal of writhing and fluids, for this little tryst to end with the Beautiful Girl’s eyes bulging out in terror.

In Eraserhead, everything’s ever so slightly off-kilter, psychologically and visually. No one talks like real people, and nothing looks quite like its real-world analogue. This makes the tiny resemblances to real life that much scarier. In Henry and Mary’s dysfunctional relationship, in their screaming baby, in the depressing emptiness of their apartment, and in the utter gloominess of their environment, we can see little echoes of very real horrors and everyday problems.

In the image above (my second-favorite shot), the perpetually put-upon Henry raises his eyebrow; his misery is tinged, for once, with curiosity. In the background, Mary clings to a door while her father, the impotent patriarch, perches at the head of the table. (His face is obscured by Henry’s strange, massive hair.) This is Lynch’s perverse take on the nuclear family and their domestic milieu. This shot’s just barely canted, with the composition and the many shades of gray geared to indicate that something’s, well, off. Get out, Henry. Get out while you still can.

I’ll end with an illustration of Eraserhead‘s overwhelming ickiness, as Henry is enveloped by a metaphor for his own sexual anxieties. I have one word for this: YUCK.

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Link Dump: #27

Oh, that poor kitty from Drag Me to Hell. Clearly Alison Lohman just cannot be entrusted with animals. At least it got to spend its last moments on earth bein’ all cute and lying around in a laundry basket. Sorry that the Link Dumps have been MIA for the past two weeks, but between a lack of Internet access, moving back and forth, and preparing frantically for MoCCA Fest, it’s been hard to sit down long enough to post them. So here you go, as compensation: a compilation of the best (non-Rebecca-Black-related) Internet stuff from the past two weeks.

  • Here’s a fucking brilliant piece by Michael Dwyer of PopThought all about Blue Valentine, the MPAA, and American attitudes toward sexuality. This is sophisticated cultural commentary.
  • We all knew the Phelps family (of Westboro Baptist Church fame) was more than a little fucked up. Now we have proof, from the mouth of Fred Phelps’s son Nathan, who explains some of the disturbing but unsurprising secrets behind his family’s behavior.
  • Did you know that the anti-choice movement is also the Thought Police? A woman in Iowa was  jailed for thinking about having an abortion.
  • In less ragey news, what’s a collaboration that we’ve all always fucking wanted? Tom Waits and David Lynch.
  • Empire Online has the “Ultimate Shirt And Tie Picture Quiz,” wherein you match the suit to the movie. I got 8; how well can you do?
  • Todd Brown of Twitch has a pretty sophisticated piece about the effect of the PG-13 rating on movies for kids ages 10-13.
  • Rue Morgue offers up “100 Alternative Horror Films,” with some fun, relatively obscure additions like The Changeling, Martin, and Wait Until Dark.
  • Courtesy of our friends at Dead Homer Society, we have Fredrik Larsson’s medley of Simpsons song covers. He has a great voice and does wonderful segues; definitely go watch that video.

We had the occasional bizarre search term over the last few weeks. Some highlights include “pretend rape goes wrong”—I don’t even want to think about how it went wrong—and “Эмбер Хёрд,” which Google Translate informs me is Russian for “Amber Heard.” Someone was obviously very confused about the concept of pussy; how else to explain “pussy-???.???.???.???” Someone else was just confused in general, asking “what to do with myself”? Finally, I’m kind of honored: someone actually searched directly for “black swan andreas stoehr.” Hopefully they found the words of wisdom they were (presumably) looking for.

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