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It’s May!

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Link Dump: #43

This week’s kitty is being played with by some Thai kids in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s debut feature Mysterious Object at Noon. It’s totally unrelated to the substance of the film, but who cares? It’s a kitty! And as usual, it’s followed by a series of really great links:

We had a few epically odd search terms this past week, like the bizarrely misspelled and redundant “inside veiw of a pragnant womans pussy insides.” And “كرتون كايوتك سكس,” which is apparently Arabic for “Cartoon Sex Cayotk,” whatever that means. Unfortunately, I have to close with the most uncomfortable search term of the week, and possibly all time: “the joys of fucking your daughter.” Yeah.

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The Past Decade in Horror, Part 1

By Andreas

It’s list-making time again! The alliteration-loving Marvin the Macabre over at The Montana Mancave Massacre has challenged horror bloggers to name their top 10 horror movies of the past 10 years. So of course, we had to do it. (I came up with a similar list of 20 horror faves from all time periods back in October.) You can expect Ashley’s top 10 sometime soon; in the meantime, here’s mine: ten rewatchable, well-made movies, and the best that recent horror has to offer.

10. Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2010)

I found a lot to dislike in the bioethical child-rearing allegory Splice: it adopts a lot of horror cliches without taking them anywhere; its writing is only clever in spates; and it goes completely off the rails at the end. But it’s got terrific special effects (especially in the creation of its monster, Dren) and when it’s darkly funny, it really the mark. That, plus its icy blue/green color palette and Adrien Brody’s hotness, sneaks it onto my list at #10.

9. Seed of Chucky (Don Mancini, 2004)

So many slasher sequels of the past decade have been formulaic, low-quality retreads. Hence why Seed of Chucky is such a breath of fresh air: it revels in its franchise’s inherent absurdity, piling meta-jokes and gory self-parody on top of its “killer doll on a rampage” premise. Turning the Child’s Play set-up inside out, Hollywood-style, is oodles of fun—as is seeing Jennifer Tilly finally get her equivalent of Being John Malkovich.

8. Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)

You can call it “children’s fantasy” all you want; I’m telling you, Coraline is an animated horror movie. The title character’s dream-turned-nightmare constitutes one of the decade’s most imaginative horror landscapes, and there’s no villain quite like the Other Mother, voiced with menacing sweetness by Teri Hatcher. Selick’s fluid stop-motion artistry and Neil Gaiman’s very scary novel turned out to be a match made in horror heaven.

7. Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2009)

No zombie movie of the 2000s (and there were a lot of them) had a twist quite as original as Pontypool‘s: here, the vector of disease isn’t saliva or blood, but words. Set in a claustrophobic radio station off in rural Ontario, the film milks all the terror it can out of talk radio call-ins—bleak audio-only testimonies to the increasingly violent havoc outside. The terror is counterbalanced only by the rough, reliable growl of Stephen McHattie, giving a powerful performance as a hotshot DJ trying to keep cool. Semiotic horror: that’s something you don’t see everyday.

6. The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006)

This Korean monster movie casts off the genre straitjacket from the very beginning, and fearlessly mixes slapstick, tragedy, and anti-imperialist critique to tell the story of one family’s vendetta against a giant fish monster. Strange, stylish, and spectacular, The Host rewrites the rules of kaiju cinema while playing the audience’s heartstrings like a giant killer harp.

5. [REC] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)

Handheld Blair Witch rip-offs are a dime a dozen these days. Literally: they’re cheap to shoot, and often profitable. (See: Paranormal Activity.) But [REC] takes the caught-on-tape aesthetic into new territory, bringing the audience right into the heart of a quarantined zombie outbreak. It’s ceaselessly visceral and inventive, and introduces reporter Angela Vidal, one of my favorite recent final girls. Few movies beat [REC] when it comes to inducing raw, physical fear. (Not even [REC] 2, though it certainly tried.)

4. May (Lucky McKee, 2002)

I’m not shy about my love of May. I did write 1/4 of my senior thesis about it, after all. It’s a quirky, cute, romantic, gruesome, twisted, bloody, perverse indie horror confection, melding Frankenstein and Repulsion with something Zooey Deschanel might star in. It’s the bittersweet tale of an obsessive, attractive misfit and the lengths she goes to for love. It’s really, really good! Essential viewing if you’re interested in horror of the past decade, or any time.

3. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)

For many stupid reasons, art films like Caché that debut at Cannes are rarely seen as authentic horror. But it is! It so is, and it’s one of the eeriest, most disturbing horror movies of the 2000s. It only has a single scene of actual gore, but that’s nothing compared to the lingering unease and uncertainty instilled by the rest of the movie. Who sent those tapes and letters, utterly destroying the Laurent family’s bourgeois comfort? It’s a question that persists after countless gratuitous slasher deaths have faded.

2. 28 Days Later… (Danny Boyle, 2002)

Boyle’s vision of post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested England is an elegy to a vanishing way of life (i.e., humanity). A hardy quartet of survivors make an arduous cross-country trek, punctuated both by bursts of violence and rare moments of beauty. In such a ruined world, 28 Days Later asks, can any altruism or compassion bloom? For all its brutality, it’s an unusually tender horror movie, with stars Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris doing very subtle, striking work. This is the new millennium’s gold standard of what a zombie movie can look like.

1. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Really, what else could top this list? Not a single misstep mars Alfredson’s note-perfect adaptation of John Lindqvist’s young-love vampire novel. Sweet, delicate, and shockingly violent, Let the Right One In is as cool and crystalline as a snowflake. Oskar and Eli’s bizarre relationship is a refuge for two abused outsiders, two kids just trying to make a go of it in this hard world. It’s a theme we can all relate to and, in Alfredson’s gentle hands, it’s also the most beautiful, unforgettable horror movie of the 21st century.


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Once more unto the breach!

Since I turned in the first draft of my comps project on Monday, I now have a life again! And that life, of course, involves blogging. I feel like I’m about to go into casual film writing withdrawal or something; so much time spent maintaining a stern, academic tone can be suffocating. So let’s get wacky, why don’t we! Just like Bertie in The King’s Speech, let’s throw off the shackles of pomp and circumstance, and start acting… well, acting however the hell we want to. After all, as Sean Parker says in another Oscar nominee, “This is our time.”

Yeah, I’m just all intoxicated with the joy of freedom, movies, and awards season (even if all the awards are just the problematic, self-congratulatory products of industry politics), and I want to write, write, write! So first of all, I want to write about a subject near and dear to my heart: horror director Lucky McKee (of May fame). As you may have heard, he recently had a film debut at Sundance. It was largely overlooked in the midst of all the Red State hoopla, but it sounds fascinating and disturbing—always the best combination.

It’s called The Woman and it involves the feral, nonverbal woman of the title being taken in and “educated” by the abusive, sociopathic patriarch of an average American family. Sound deeply weird? Yeah, I think we’re in prime McKee territory, folks. Better yet, The Woman‘s premiere screening was the site of a hysterical outbreak by one particularly vocal McKee detractor, who declared that “this film ought to be confiscated, burned… there’s no value in showing this to anyone!” You can watch footage of the event at the link above. Oh, and a woman was injured trying to walk out of the screening. You can read McKee’s well-reasoned response here.

And yes, as indicated by the picture above, I did watch The King’s Speech immediately after the nominations were announced. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire. It’s occasionally cutesy, and shows some fine British dry wit in its best moments, but for the most part, it’s just well-mounted historical fluff. Compared to something like The Blind Side, certainly, it’s high art—I’m not exactly outraged that it’s posed to possibly sweep the Oscar race—but it’s hardly in the league of daring, even ingenious films like The Social Network, Black Swan, or Winter’s Bone.

I love HBC as much as the next weirdo, but it’s sad to see her nominated for a role where she mostly just smiles and nods, when she’s done such ferociously good work in the past. And seriously, Geoffrey Rush is anything but a Supporting Actor. That’s just silly. But I’ll get more into all of this as February 27 approaches (and with it, my 21st birthday!). For now, suffice it to say that The King’s Speech was, to quote the impression my friend Rebekah had gotten, “pretty OK.” With that, may an era of renewed blogging begin! (Oh, and fun fact: did you know that HBC is nobility, as well as the great-granddaughter of a British PM? Like Wallis Simpson, Tim Burton clearly quasi-married above his social station!)

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