The last time I watched a Lifetime show, Dance Moms was still on the air, and I was rooting for the dancing queen underdog Chloe to get the recognition she deserved from her verbally abusive dance instructor. So it has been years since I’ve visited the channel and only the high acclaim of a Big Brother podcaster and a need to fulfill my mystery fix brought me to the new Lifetime show, You.
The psychological thriller and drama follows full-time bookstore manager and part-time stalker Joe (played by Penn Badgley, Gossip Girl). He finds the woman of his dreams in aspiring writer Beck (played by Elizabeth Lail, Dead of Summer) pushing him to avidly stalk her. The show was 48 minutes of tears, new fears, suspense, and the biggest OMG moment when I saw Shay Mitchell (who acted in my beloved guilty pleasure, Pretty Little Liars) pop up on my TV screen.
For the first installment of Not Your Binary: A QTPOC Reading Column, a reading column centralizing on the contemporary voices of queer and/or trans people of color in the literary world, I will be discussing Christopher Soto’s “Los Padrinos Juvenile Detention Center, Unit Y2.” Because this is the first installment of my reading column, I want to emphasize the importance on centralizing marginalized voices, stepping aside from the dominant, mainstream culture, to exercise the very existence of surviving and living as a QTPOC, in and out of the literary world. This column is an exploration of political identities and of systemic realities; specifically, in the ways literature can either work to deliver, express, or alleviate the stress that comes with embodying the very existence of being a QTPOC in the time and setting each writer transports us to.
Christopher Soto’s “Los Padrinos Juvenile Detention Center, Unit Y2” takes the reader to a juvenile center, where the speaker volunteers and helps young men sublimate their emotions from acting negligent to poetry: “to be here / where the concrete ends / & page begins.”
Moreover, Soto takes on poetic devices, as well as theoretical devices, alluding to dates and research, revealing both intended and unintended consequences of the prison industrial complex that the speaker suits the reader in. The intentions behind keeping prisons open and alive are many, but what is often ignored is the unintended consequences of the prison industrial complex, which are violent: “each body is disciplined for its difference,” “[physical assault],” and “[one] can’t even scream in pain / [without being pathologized].” The attraction to keeping the prison industrial complex alive is the idea that the system eradicates crime and alleviates society of its “social issues,” yet the false comfort that comes with this “solution” is knowing that keeping this system alive only feeds to another individual’s nightmare: “Dee Dee / A trans woman / sentenced sixty years of life / [in a men’s prison].”
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 basically 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.
Get Out, which comes courtesy of comedian-turned-horror director Jordan Peele, is the latest and greatest example of how horror films are often utilized to depict poignant social commentary. While we’re a year removed from the initial release of Peele’s debut horror subject, Get Out, it’s a film I still can’t seem to shake from my head. It’s never apparent as you watch it, but Get Out is Peele’s first time being in the director’s chair for 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 (so much so that Peele actually was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), but also perhaps the most socially charged mainstream horror film in that timespan as well.
Get Out’s central character is Chris (played by the excellent Daniel Kaluuya), a 20-something black man in an interracial relationship with his white girlfriend, Rose (played by Allison Williams), who plans to take him along for a visit at her family’s classical Northeastern estate for a family get-together. You’ll see that Chris is noticeably skeptical about the trip, and coyly asks Rose if her parents are aware that he’s black, implying that he believes he may not feel welcomed by Rose’s family because of the color of his skin. Rose’s on-the-nose rebuttal attempts to strike down his fear: “My dad would vote for Obama for a third term if he could,” she replies, with the punchline of the joke landing a handful of scenes later when Rose’s father recites this line verbatim to Chris.
And it’s moments like this one, I believe, that make up one of the best attributes of Get Out: it remains a biting satire plainly hidden beneath a rotten exterior. Peele has certainly looked at similar issues concerning race relations in the past through his various comedic avenues, such as in his former Comedy Central show Key & Peele, but here he takes a much more subdued approach to his comedy. While the film is foremost a psychological horror-thriller, and displays its fair share of horrifying scenes dealing with serious themes, Peele regularly intersects the built-up tension with well-timed jokes and often funny reactions from the characters. However, Get Out can and should scare you, especially in its final act when all of its cards have been laid out in front of you, and definitely after its credits have rolled and you’re allowed to reflect on its potent themes. But to Peele’s credit, you may find yourself crying from laughter just as much as you’ll be sweating in terror.
I cannot think of another name in American horror that has the stature of the late, great Wes Craven. Craven, who sadly passed in 2015, is a name that many of you are likely aware of, perhaps subconsciously, even if you don’t necessarily recognize it in passing. To refresh the memories of those who are scratching their heads at my previous statement, Craven was responsible for some of the greatest and most well-known horror films and franchises ever made, including 80s mega-hit A Nightmare on Elm Street (that’s Freddy, for the less informed), his 70s midnight movie darlings The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, as well as some more obscure hits you may recognize like the Rachel McAdams-led and highly underrated Red Eye and, well, whatever the hell The People Under the Stairs is (has anyone seen that movie, by the way? It’s weird).
But I digress.
What I’ve written about here is what may be Craven’s ultimate masterpiece in my eyes, the 1996 phenomenon that is Scream. Scream is a film that single-handedly rewrote the canon of the slasher film. Scream satirized the many clichés that had made the subgenre as popular as it was in the 80s, while also bringing it forward into uncharted, postmodern territory, ultimately becoming the most successful slasher flick ever at the box office and paving the way for a resurgence in the genre in the following decade. This is where we would see eventually the releases of imitators such as Final Destination, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and yes, even Scary Movie.
Is it necessarily wrong to assume that most people’s favorite film is one that they saw at an early age? A film that, as a child, you watched over and over again with unparalleled adoration. Since I was about ten years old, when I watched Back to the Future with my cousin for the first time, that film became my go-to response to the question of what my favorite film is.
Not a bad choice, right? That revered, timeless, wholesome classic, however, isn’t my favorite film of all time. Instead, that film actually happens to be George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
In a time when the video rental store was still a profitable business, I was always excited to rent a movie on a whim. When the internet was still in its relative infancy — and helpful film sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB even more so — 99% of your rationale for renting a film was based on how cool the cover was. At least, that’s how we did it in my family. This system wasn’t foolproof, of course, and sometimes you’d end up going home with a rather deplorable film like Ghost Ship. But other times, you’d happen upon great, little gems, and maybe even discover what would later become your favorite film of all time.
Driven by powerful performances in both the protagonist and antagonist roles — and bolstered by the equally as memorable cinematography and a beautiful score — Korean director Jee-Woon Kim’s 2010 horror/thriller masterpiece, I Saw The Devil, is perhaps one of the scariest films of the 21st century.
I Saw The Devil isn’t necessarily a horror movie in the traditional sense. It’s not trying to get you with jump scares, there are no ghosts or monsters or undead creatures, nor is its sole purpose to be a gore-fest with no interesting, discernible characters or memorable meaning to it not unlike some recent horror series.
I Saw The Devil is more closely related to films like Gone Girl or Se7en than it is the horror staples like A Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween. I Saw The Devil is, in the most basic of terms, a murder mystery. All of that being said, I Saw The Devil is still one of the most effective horror movies to come out in recent years.
I Saw The Devil starts with a hell of an opening that effectively sets the stage for what’s to come in the following two hours. The first character we are introduced to, a 20-to-30-year-old woman named Joo-yun, is brutally murdered within the first ten minutes, with most of the murder shown on-screen. From here on out, the elongated sequences of murder and torture that occur become grislier and harder to watch. The special effects work that was put forth in this movie for the gore is flawlessly executed, and some of the most realistic effects work to date in the horror genre.
The year is 1988. It’s been four years since the original A Nightmare on Elm Street was released, simultaneously impressing and haunting the world with its originality and style, and distribution company New Line Cinema has just raked in a ton of cash for its highest grossing production yet, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Of course, this meant that Freddy Krueger wasn’t dead (kinda like how he wasn’t dead at the end of Nightmare parts 1, 2, and 3 either), and just one year later in 1989, Freddy returned to yet again terrorize some poor teenager’s nightmares. (Click here to read my thoughts on the previous three Nightmare sequels).
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
After releasing two very successful, fun, and inventive sequels with A Nightmare on Elm Street parts 3 and 4, New Line Cinema hoped to keep the Freddy train a-rollin’ with A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. It’s too bad, then, that this train was derailed by bad direction, lousy acting, and a lack of impressive death scenes (okay, I’m done with my train analogy now, you’re welcome). The Dream Child picks up about a year after the events of Nightmare 4:The Dream Master, with our main heroine Alice trying to keep it together and put Freddy in the past.
Of course, keeping in style of every previous movie in the series, the first scene is a nightmare which shows that Freddy is in fact alive again. This opening scene actually ends up being the best part of the entire film. Alice finds herself in an insane asylum wearing a nun’s habit and garnering a name-tag that reads “Amanda Krueger.” She becomes locked inside the ward with every patient loose, and is attacked. This scene is of course taken from the explanation as to what happened to Freddy Krueger’s mother we get in Nightmare 3, and it’s a genuinely effective and well produced scene, but the movie only goes downhill from here.
In 1984, a young director named Wes Craven unleashed the monster known as Freddy Krueger upon the world, and we loved it. After A Nightmare on Elm Street was released, the newest horror icon, Freddy Krueger (played magnificently by the horror cult icon, Robert Englund), became a household name throughout the 80s and 90s.
With A Nightmare on Elm Street came an abundance of toys, a television show, Halloween costumes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a “Freddy O’s” breakfast cereal was in talks at some point. Freddy Krueger was arguably the biggest movie icon of the 80s. Forget Johnny Depp (whose first role was in the original NoES); forget Patrick Swayze; forget Tom Cruise. We wanted more Freddy, and we got it in the form of six sequels.
Nearly everyone has seen the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (or it’s 2010 remake), but not nearly as many people have ever given the many sequels a chance. Because of this, for my first-ever post here on Jet Fuel Review Blog, I will be looking at the first three of six sequels (Nightmare parts 2, 3, and 4) and determining if the hype for Freddy Krueger was deserved or not.