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.
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.
In spite of enjoying a successful career throughout the first decade of the new millennium, acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh announced in 2012 that he would be retiring from filmmaking. This declaration didn’t last very long, as he returned from his hiatus just five years later with the very fun and underappreciated NASCAR heist thriller, Logan Lucky. While this was a definite return to form for the Academy Award-winning director of Traffic, Soderbergh’s second comeback feature, Unsane, isn’t nearly as successful.
Unsane (which is actually quite an awful title for a film) was created in secret sometime last year, having been shot entirely using iPhone 7 Plus cameras. And it is probably in this way that Unsane is most intriguing; not because of the narrative the film itself offers, but because of the bizarre story behind its unorthodox production. While Unsane may be rightfully billed as a psychological horror-thriller, the end result produces very few thrills, and the horrors that it retains are likewise disappointing.
Found below are three reviews of the 2009 indie horror film, The House of the Devil, written by Lewis University students Alec Pace, Kayla Carson, and Gabrielle Vasilevskis.
The House of the Devil is amethodically structured film that highlights the monstrosities of the human psyche. Although the film’s slow-paced narrative may seem daunting to a viewer’s attention span, the director’s elaborate storytelling and strikingly visual ending makes the viewing worthwhile. From the beginning, we are put into Ti West’s homage to the 1980s as Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) walks back to her dorm room while listening to her Walkman. This is not the film’s only relationship to the 1980s as it was shot on 16mm film, which gave it a very similar grainy look as many vintage films did in that era.
These retro elements of the film present feelings of nostalgia and intertextuality to films such as Halloween 1978, especially in relation to voyeurism. From the beginning, it seems that Samantha is being violated when Mr. Ulman stands her up at the school and lies to her about the details of the babysitting job. By this point in the film, Samantha is already the victim, before even confronting the two demons of the house. As Samantha’s stay in the Ulman’s house continues, she is forced deeper into a dark pattern by uncovering insightful clues on who the owners of the house really are. By halfway through the film, Samantha is already helpless; every time she comes closer to the truth of why she’s there, there is already someone one step ahead of her. That person is Victor Ulman, who we share the perspective of as we see Samantha sitting on the couch through the window. Not only does this first-person shot share elements to the opening scene of Halloween 1978, but it also puts the audience in the shoes of the violator.
As the Lenten season hits the halfway mark, we are given the opportunity to reflect upon the decisions we’ve made and what we’ve given up. Per my normal sacrifice, I gave up meat, meaning no beef, pork, or poultry for 40 days. With a diet consisting of primarily grains and vegetables, it often becomes difficult to not think about giving into my body’s innate desire for proteins only animal-based products can fulfill. That being said, I thought about how wildly appropriate it would be to showcase a film about forbidden gluttony in this week’s edition of Fear Needs No Translation.
French director and writer, Julia Ducournau, dives head first into the horror industry with what may be considered one of the most warped and dark tales of the 21st century thus far. Prior to the release of Raw, her cinematic portfolio was almost nonexistent, being made up of a handful of writing jobs, as well as her short film, Junior. Her first feature length film isn’t the standard coming of age story. Drawing inspiration from both Dracula (1931) and Carrie (1976), Ducounrau has crafted a tale whose message is relatable while still catering to the horror aficionado.