If you look back on the history of horror cinema, you’ll find that many make use of timely social issues in order to convey powerful commentary on their respective subjects. The late, great visionary horror director George Romero continually did it in his legendary Dead series, with Night of the Living Dead tackling race relations during the height of the Civil Rights movement, while Dawn of the Dead took shots at consumerism and its power to literally turn society into zombies. Recently, The Purge series of films delves into classism, the classic Rosemary’s Baby is related to feminist ideas, and the cult-favorite They Live looked at the power of the media.
Last year’s “it” movie, Get Out, which comes courtesy of comedian-turned-horror director Jordan Peele, is the latest and greatest example. It’s never apparent as you watch it, but Get Out is Peele’s first time being in the director’s chair of a film, as well as his first foray into the horror genre. Get Out is so successful in so many aspects that it ends up not only being one of the most impressive debuts of the last decade (having even won Peele an Academy Award for best original screenplay), but also perhaps the most socially charged mainstream horror film in that timespan as well.
Yeah, you read that title right. If you’re not familiar with the pseudonym “K.Dot,” that’s just another stage name of today’s greatest rapping talent, Kendrick Lamar. And yes, yesterday he was announced as having won the Pulitzer Prize for music this past year for his album, DAMN. This makes him not only the first ever rap artist to be awarded the prize, but also the only musician to not belong to classical or jazz genres since Pulitzer began awarding prizes for music in 1943. Quite a feat, and a much deserved win.
Because of the monumental win for Kendrick, I have ended this week’s Jukebox with one of my favorite tracks on DAMN. Elsewhere on the playlist, Jake and I have highlighted stunning new singles by Nicki Minaj, Empress Of, and Kali Uchis. Outside of those three, there’s another 16 impressive songs we’ve added to round out this week’s playlist.
In the horror genre, sound is an essential feature that filmmakers frequently utilize in order to create tension and execute on jump scares, be it through a lack of sound or perhaps the violent sting of a violin as the scary sight shocks audiences. It’s often that we watch characters in these films shush each other and emphasize remaining completely silent, or else the boogeyman (or alien, or deranged killer, etc.) may hear them — and we all know what comes next. The latest high-profile horror release, A Quiet Place, from actor-director John Krasinski, takes this idea and pushes it to its limit in a taut thriller based around a family who must make as little noise as possible, resulting in one of the most innovative and emotionally reverent horror films of the past decade.
The film’s efficient opening introduces its minuscule cast of characters and the intricate relationships they share, as well as the barren, post-apocalyptic world which they inhabit. We’re afforded an explanation as to what went wrong as we quickly come to discover that fierce alien creatures have decimated much of the world’s population. These blind, armor-plated beasts resemble the Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise, possessing nimble bodies and intense strength, but what makes them truly terrifying is their ultra-sensitive hearing capabilities that allow them to hunt their prey with ease.
At the outset, the film places us in the company of the Abbott family, which consists of five members, as they scavenge for supplies three months into life post-invasion. There’s parents Lee and Evelyn (played by real-life husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt), as well as their three young children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward). If it isn’t enough that Lee and Evelyn must care for three children in such a hostile living situation, they also must account for Regan’s deafness (admirably, Simmonds, the young actress who portrays Regan and does a wonderful job here, is deaf herself). While this introduces some problems, her disability actually presents a unique advantage for the family as well: proficiency in sign language. Much of the film’s dialogue is presented through signing (aptly translated into subtitles), allowing the characters to communicate without making any sound. This is vital to their survival, as the creatures, while not necessarily large in numbers, pose a lethal threat at all times through their ability to hear even the slightest of loud noises from large distances.
In our dynamic culture, the thought of looking back from where we came from is often overlooked. It’s humbling to take a second and remember that if it weren’t for the innovators that came before us, then we wouldn’t be in the position where we are right now. The philosophers that spoke up against the norm, the scientists that questioned the accepted reasoning, and the political leaders that stood for change are all cornerstones to the world we live in today. Not only does it humble us, but it teaches us why what we experience today is the way it is. Likewise, in horror films, we can look back at the greats and learn from them — these masters of fear that still influence the industry, and probably will continue to influence it decades from now. Today, we pay our respects to the great Mario Bava, with an analysis of his 1971 film, A Bay of Blood, in this installment of “Fear Needs No Translation.”
Being credited with establishing the Italian giallo genre, it’s no wonder why Bava’s legacy has lived on through the works of those both native to and outside the Italian countryside. This specific subgenre of horror is a hybrid of many, drawing its defining characteristics from mysteries, psychological thrillers, as well as slashers, making it stand out from its other horror conglomerates. Bava started off as a painter by trade, but had a great influence by his father, Eugenio Bava, one of the first Italian film directors. Eventually following in his father’s footsteps, Mario brought along his own artistic prowess, creating films with brilliant coloring and lighting. With many underappreciated works, such as The Whip and the Body (1963) as well as Blood and Black Lace (1964), Bava has branded the giallo subgenre for eternity, perhaps most notably with A Bay of Blood.Continue reading →
Found below are three reviews of the 2014 Australian horror film, The Babadook, written by Lewis University students Michael Freeman, Darlyn Olivares, and Kayla Rada.
The Babadook is a terrifyingly stunning film that treats its audience to the minimalistic mundanity of a single parent household while descending into the depths of despair and grief-stricken fear that only an unseen force can create. It is a film with simplicity in its art direction, yet the complexity within its story and angular shots leads us, the audience, to further understand how destructive, beautiful, and horrifying our own denial and repression of memories can be. Using our childlike sense of wonder and imagination through the use of a storybook, we see the unraveling and torment of a tapped-out mother dealing with the uncontrolled problems of her past trauma and, now, with her own son. The music in this film provides a sense of eeriness as if we have heard the faint chime or the grumbling growl that crescendos as we get closer to the source.
The Babadook throws its audience into an emotional and mental meat grinder from start to finish. We are enthralled by the disturbance of this family ordeal and will stop at nothing, as the characters do, to look for closure. And yet, even though we may not receive an explicit resolution upon the film’s ending, we are left with a hopeful and subtle conclusion that leaves a bittersweet fulfillment. Jennifer Kent, the writer and director of this truly wonderful film, deserves the accolades for this stunning display of hope.
So Arctic Monkeys finally announced a new album for May! Five years in the making, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino releases exactly a month from the day this is posting, and I for one cannot wait to hear what Alex Turner has in store for fans with this record (especially with the song aptly titled “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”).
Because of this news, I’ve added “One For The Road,” which is one of my favorite tracks from their previous LP, AM, onto the Jukebox this week. This song is accompanied by new releases from Anderson .Paak, Dua Lipa, and Cardi B, as well as another 16 cuts that Jake and I have been listening to recently, including Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” which comes courtesy of a little boy in a Walmart.
Well, Jake may have seen Lorde last week (which I can only assume was wonderful), but just last night, I went and saw a live show of my own. In the smallest venue I’ve ever been to, Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago, I saw a small indie band from New York called Public Access T.V., and they were great. Take your Lorde and shove it, Jake! (If you cannot tell, I’m just a bit upset that I too wasn’t seeing Lorde last week.)
So, naturally, I’ve decided to add one of Public Access T.V.’s tracks to this week’s playlist, as well as one each from the two openers that played before them, Prism Tats and Honduras. Elsewhere on the playlist, you can hear brand new songs from mega superstars The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes, among others.