*Warning: discussion of sexual assault and trauma ahead*
Roman Polanski is a filmmaker difficult to write about for obvious reasons. Some may refuse to engage with the work directed by him, and it was an easy decision for me to review this film. For me, this review is very personal. I did not intend to write on Repulsion until after I reflected on my own experiences. I sat contemplating the film and if it would be better not to speak on it because of the disgrace of the director. In my reflection, I concluded that I am compelled to speak on it. Some may not agree, but I was struck with how the material unfolds. I was struck by how the film portrays the horrors of the psyche in Carol (Catherine Deneuve) and the apartment she inhabits with her sister. Additionally, I saw the immigrant experience also come into play in Repulsion through Carol and her sister, which only compelled me to speak further. As with the execution, I appreciate the film’s ability to communicate and navigate difficult subject matter and taboo through the horror-thriller genre. The haunting depictions of our main character’s trauma shocked me to my core, which I only ever felt when viewing Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession (1981), another psychological horror film. When looking at both of these films, I saw deterioration and gradual decline, which I felt was an essential component to accurately portraying this subject matter. In Possession, Zulawski explores the deterioration of a marriage, while Repulsion shows the deterioration of a woman’s sanity from what we can interpret stems from trauma and abuse.
Found below are three different perspectives of David Gordon Green’s 2018 horror film, Halloween. Reviews are written by Lewis University students Chanon Penvari, Lucas Mickelson, and Braden Bentley.
Chanon Penvari: Halloween (2018)
This film is not a remake film of Halloween (1978); instead, this is the story that takes place 40 years after. Since Michael Myers was first introduced in Halloween (1978), Myers has become one of the most iconic serial killers of all time. And, because Halloween’s (2018) timeline is 40 years after the first Halloween (1978), this means Michael Myers has killed five people, and it has been established that Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are not siblings. Michael Myers in Halloween (2018) is hungry for blood after being locked up in the hospital for 40 years.
Halloween (2018) utilizes many close-up shots to help make the viewer uncomfortable, and it also contains a long-take scene that is both thrilling and beautiful. In Halloween (1978), Myers’s signature act was standing still in the background, waiting patiently for the right time to kill. For this particular scene, the director, David Gordon Green, uses rack focus to increase the excitement for the viewer when they see Michael Myers blur in the background, then disappear.
Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992) employs parodic conventions in a multitude of forms. From the substantial amounts of exaggerated blood and gore-ridden scenes to the sportive jokes made by the characters, Braindead successfully intertwines comedic conventions in what is portrayed as a zombie-based horror film. Throughout the film, the splatter is in overdrive as the audience is witness to numerous blood-squirting scenes. However, the sound effects that are used mirror a show analogous to The Three Stooges (1925). We see this employed during the appalling lunch scene as Vera’s wounds send projectile globs of blood and flesh into Mr. Matheson’s custard. Of course, as if to taunt the audience, Mr. Matheson unknowingly shoves his face with the gore-infused pudding. It feels as if Jackson intentionally implements this disturbing scene as a horrific presage for what is to come. Following in the footsteps of Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985), Braindead holds nothing back while seizing the audience’s attention with outrageous splatter effects and slapstick horror techniques while subtly introducing novel elements of romance, semi-sentient zombies and unique comedic constituents.
Dogs have sat alongside humankind for generations, acting both as guardians and best friends. It isn’t uncommon today to walk into a household and be greeted by a furry, four-legged creature. Dogs can be the center of attention at any house party, and you even see people walking down the street lose their minds upon a dog sighting. The idea that dogs are one of the most trustworthy creatures on Earth has been instilled into the minds of millions of people around the world. But what happens if this trust is broken? Imagine a world where dogs are alienated and have become public enemy number one. In this edition of “Fear Needs No Translation,” we dive into the dark fantasy of Hungarian director, Kornél Mundruczó, where he makes this nightmare a reality in his 2014 film, White God.
Kornél Mundruczó isn’t a stranger to the film industry, having a variety of acting and directing jobs, including films such as Delta (2008) and Johanna (2005). Mundruczó surpasses the artistry that is film; his craft has become an outlet for voicing his opinion on many social and political matters. With the help of acting rookie, Zsófia Psotta, White God has been recognized for its technical cinematography, artistic aesthetic, and issue-driven allegory.
In a not-so-distant future, the Hungarian government has created a tax on mongrel dogs that would nearly bankrupt any mutt owner. As a result, dog populations have skyrocketed in shelters, as well as strays in the street. Mundruczó’s White God follows the story of Lili and her dog, Hagen, as the two face the struggles of separation, abuse, and finding acceptance in the world. Having been forced to living on the streets by Dániel, Lili’s father, Hagen quickly learns his place in society. Gaining an obsession of saving her best friend, Lili soon realizes that the innocence of her world is a façade. Literally being thrown to the curb, Hagen and the other dogs of this ingenious film rise up as the newest form of terrorists. With all hope seemingly fading away, Lili must take a stand against the beast she once considered her friend to find the light in his soul. White God is a beautifully crafted movie, comprised of the spectacle of a melodrama, while incorporating elements of contemporary horror. A true spectacle, Mundruczó and his cast spin together a tale that will have your emotions toyed with from start to finish.
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.
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 make the viewing worthwhile. From the beginning, we are placed in 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 gives it a 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.