Deadgirl

Deadgirl is a movie that I’ve only heard about (but never tried watching) before it was announced that we were to watch it in class. After seeing the movie, I’m partly happy that I didn’t even really try to watch it beforehand. While most of the things that happened during the movie could probably evoke fear and/or disgust from me, it wasn’t really the type to scare me and make it hard for me to fall asleep at night. Halfway through the movie, I could only think of it as a Jersey Shore knock-off with the guys loser-fied (more than the ones on the show) and the girls zombie-fied but still just objects for the guys.

While the movie mostly concentrates on trying to give its viewers the image of a world that is unlike ours, it only succeeds in showing a world that while slightly different is just made of the same world, with the same people and with a dead girl being used as a sex toy being the only difference. Like many other horror films like it, the female is objectified, used for sex and exploited, tied-up and unable to fend for herself.

If one were to rely simply on the obvious, it could be said that what brings horror to the audience when watching this film is the possibility of a body, fully dead and yet animated, already decaying and yet still being used. For me, the monster lies within the characters of the movie and not the characters themselves. JT thought he was being a good friend for Rickie when he offered him the deadgirl as a means to release his frustrations. JT thought he was being a good friend when he had the deadgirl infect first JoAnn’s boyfriend and later JoAnn herself. JoAnn thought she was fighting with JT to find out what he did to her boyfriend. Rickie thought he was saving JoAnn by comforting her through the whole ordeal and doing his best to protect her (which he didn’t manage) from the effects of JT’s actions. Yet in the end, nothing good came out of these actions. Deadgirl escaped. JT died. JoAnn became the next deadgirl and it is shown that Rickie has tied her up to the old deadgirl’s bed and she appears to be naked.

The evil in the movie comes from people’s good intentions.  As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

During the whole movie, I could only think of how pretentious Rickie was, how much he tried to be what he thought JoAnn would like in someone like him and yet it doesn’t work. He represses himself into a facet of himself that he thinks society would approve of and yet in the end, he lets go of the morals that he thought important and makes JoAnn the new deadgirl. He doesn’t fight it. He doesn’t try to find a cure and he doesn’t kill her fully to give her a better chance at dignity. He ties her up and uses her without remorse and he’s happy that that’s what he chooses to do.

I can say that aside from Rickie comes a close second to good intentions.

The Road

The Road was a pleasant surprise for a Filipino horror movie. In fact, it was not so much of a straight up horror movie unlike most cliché Pinoy horror movies. In fact, in looking for information about this movie, I stumbled upon this movie review from http://adventuresofalionheart.blogspot.com/. There was a part there where Director Yam Laranas shared his thoughts. I quote,

 

“Nakakatuwa nga kasi meron kaming listahan ng mga eksenang hindi na dapat isama sa pelikula kasi gasgas na: yung mga tipong hinihila sa ilalim ng kama, yung may tatapik sa likod mo tapos paglingon mo kaibigan mo lang pala, etc.  Sabi ko, ‘pag walang kinalaman sa istorya, wag na nating ilagay.’ Kasi yung audience –lalo na yung mga mahihilig sa horror – alam na nila lahat ‘yan e.  Hindi mo sila mabobola.  At feeling ko nakakahiya sa audience kung ang ipapakita mo sa kanila ay ang mga bagay na napanood na nila.”

Upon reading this part I thought, “Thank God.” What’s wrong with Philippine cinema is that it sticks to a lot of clichés/formulas because these have proven to work. It works both ways in the sense that there are audiences who fall for the same trap over and over again and still buy the story of the films but there are also those who are tired of the same things (especially in horror movies such as those mentioned by Sir Laranas). It is with this mindset that Director Yam Laranas was able to put out a successful horror movie.

If story of disclosure were the topic, Noël Carroll would be pleased with The Road. Being segmented into three different parts (each spanning a decade), the audience is left wanting to know more. In each part, the viewer will pick up something knew and understand the story more but he will certainly be kept curious. For example, by the time the movie reaches the second part, the audience might be a bit confused with the actions of the psycho killer (Alden Richards). However, by the time the movie goes to the third part, information is slowly revealed and puzzle pieces of the film fall into place.

The first part of the film is more of the typical horror movie one might expect. It’s the usual monster-appears-on-the-screen-and-clueless-teenagers-die kind of thing. It makes use of formula scenes such as when the (stupid) teenager gets out of the car in the middle of a clearly haunted road to check on something and there were lots of screaming.

The second part of the film stretches the borders of Pinoy horror movie. For one, it shifted the movie from formulaic horror to a more eerie, subtle tone. It was also successful with how it established puzzling questions in the mind of viewers. The way the abductor abducted the characters of Rhian Ramos and her sister was something too abrupt and would also make the audience wonder. All the things that would form in the audience’s mind in this part of the movie are in preparation for the third part to keep him/her curious. It was unclear for me though what the supernatural force in the house was in this part of the film. The little twist with Rhian Ramos’ dead sister was also worth noting.

The third part of the film completely shifted it into a psychological movie. This truly stretches the borders of Pinoy horror movie. While watching, I was confused with the first 2 parts but upon reaching the third part, I began to understand the character of the abductor more. The movie certainly explores the idea of repression. The kid counterpart of Alden Richards’ character was verbally and physically abused by his mother (Carmina Villaroel). Robin Wood says that “What escapes repression has to be dealt with by oppression.”[1] Certainly, Villaroel oppressed and punished the kid when he does the littlest defiance of her. The character of Carmina reaches the extent of not allowing the child to even step out of the house.

On the other hand, it’s also good to notice how striking some elements of the movie were. For instance, it was ironic how the cabinet in the house was a place of punishment and at the same time, of safety. Or perhaps, this can be attributed to the fact that the character of Carmina Villaroel was an abusive one. It was also nice to point out how the “lock” for the cabinet was in the shape of a horseshoe or a hairband. There was a scene in the movie wherein the character of Alden Richards broke the hairband of his victim. This was probably because he already associated this shape with that of punishment. All these little details show how different psychological elements and theories interplay in the lives of the characters. The revelation at the end of the movie enables the viewer to come to a “full circle” as everything falls into place and the story can be understood. It also gives an additional twist.

The Road was indeed a journey of disclosure and discovery. The viewer is left to discover the richness of the characters and how ultimately each of them is connected with one another. With movies like The Road, we may well be on the road to a more successful film industry (in terms of content and form).


[1] Robin Wood, “The American Nightmare: Horror in the 70s” in Horror The Film Reader, ed. Mark Jancovich (New York: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2002), 26

[REC]2

[REC]2 is the second installment (duh) to the [REC] series. There is also an upcoming third movie for the sequel coming out next year, [REC]3: Génesis. Sequels have probably been around since forever and they can work in different ways. For one, they can be an “easy way out” for big movie franchises because adding another movie would just mean putting out another money maker in cinemas. They can also kill a movie series by showing that the latest installation in the sequel is but a futile attempt by writers and proof that the storyline of the movie is already going down the drain. However, [REC]2 proves to do justice to the sequel.

For one, [REC]2 explains a lot of puzzles from [REC]. It elaborates on how the virus started and how the experimentation failed which is why the Medeiros girl was stuck in the penthouse. Perhaps, it was deliberate that things were unexplained in [REC] (so that they can have a sequel) but putting cynicism aside, [REC]2 did well with the twist at the end. It was my second time to watch the film in class. Nonetheless, it still got me excited when it got to the scene at the end of the film where Angela (the reporter) revealed that she was the possessed already. The movie was worth the build up and with this disclosure, as Carroll puts it, at the end of the film, everything seems to fall into place and the audience gets to understand the story. The very last part of the movie was an even more straightforward disclosure as to how events turned out to be. By the end of the movie, the audience would feel how seamless the flow of the story of the two films was. Yet, even if [REC] were taken as a standalone story, it would still prove to be effective. However, with [REC]2, it became possible to make the plot even richer. So far, the addition of [REC]to the [REC] sequel has taken Noël Carroll’s concept of disclosure to a different level. In [REC]For instance, not only was the SWAT team confronted with humans-turned-zombies (for causes unknown to them) but the information was being withheld from them at the start. It’s one thing not to know when everybody else is clueless and it’s another thing not to know because things are being kept from you. These little plot elements make the story of the movie and how it unfolds more interesting. As Dr. Owen reveals his identity, the SWAT team understand the situation more clearly. With this framework in place, the audience is also made ready as to how to confront the horrific creature in the movie. As Carroll says, “The disclosure of the existence of the horrific being and of its properties is the central source of pleasure in the genre; once that process of revelation is consummated, we remain inquisitive about whether such a creature can be successfully confronted, and that narrative question sees us through to the end of the story.”[1] Until the end of the movie, it was a matter of finding ways to confront the Medeiros girl and get her blood sample. This basic idea was interjected with different twists such as how Dr. Owen didn’t know himself how to find the Medeiros girl. Another was the biggest twist with Angela’s revelation.

It was also clever to make use the element of a video camera’s night vision in the story not only because it makes the title of the movie work but because it plays with the idea of light. It’s ironic how the traditional idea of light which is to allow people to see was shown as something which prevented the characters from doing so. (I just found the scene of the tub/well in the penthouse a little weird and funny at the same time. It was too farfetched for me. The “hidden door” was more realistic.) These little plot elements show how far the movie can stretch its creativity.

At the end of the day, it can be said that [REC]2 was a successful second installation for the [REC] series. Though it’s still the typical horror movie that makes use of horror tropes (as opposed to subtle movies like Grace), [REC]2 shows how it is to add something new to what otherwise would have been a cliché horror movie.

P.S.

I still am not that much of a fan of [REC]’s story though but I do like it for its entertainment value.


[1] Noel Carroll, “Why Horror?” in Horror The Film Reader, ed. Mark Jancovich (New York: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2002), 36

One of a kind

[REC] 2

It’s always safe for me to lower my expectations whenever I’m about to watch a sequel to not disappoint myself so much and resort to watching the prequel once again. There is always the element of comparison from the one that is shown before and I understand that it is difficult for them to expand the storyline a bit more as it is heavily limited by its prequel. But [REC] 2 for me is a rare exemption. [REC] 2 took a full swing away from the medical horrors brought by a virus with a slight hint of supernatural elements near the end part from what we learned through the recorded voice of an agent from Vatican, to a full blown spiritual horror with a priest to lead the search. It didn’t let the “in your face” horror of [REC] limit its scope rather opened a whole new world for it alones. It wasn’t a mere continuation where everything that will happen can be determined easily. Much more than anything else, it was a revelation of, the breaking of all the misconceptions formulated on the prequel. The storyline of the two was intertwined pretty well that when one watch again [REC] one would appreciate how flawless the plot was. The way the penthouse was presented in [REC] leaves a brand new door left to be unlocked and explored. It made me think that one possible reason why better sequels are rare because of giving all out the necessary information on the prequel and leaves nothing for the sequel to explore.

What makes the film more frightening?

So what gave [REC] 2 a different level of horror from [REC]? [REC] gave us the fear of the unknown. Everything was kept secret even from the audience and made us all believe that it was indeed a virus that infected these bloodthirsty people. [REC] 2 gave us much more than that. More than anything else, it gave us the fear of being unable to do anything. The fear of helplessness. It showcased the battle between good and evil and what other possible thing would you consider scarier than seeing the evil prevail? The priest represented the great power of good, and it is undeniable, well, personally, that I really believed that he will successfully put an end to all the madness and evil that tries to prevail. But then, it didn’t happen. Much more horrifying was the fact that the demon didn’t even have the need for the priest’s help for her to get out. [REC] 2 was trying to say that evil is far more powerful in contrary to what we all know and what we hoped to be true. And this feeling of uneasiness contributes greatly on the how horrifying the film is.

The magical night vision.

Our sense of sight is our most trusted and most needed sense, and how frightening it would be once it fails us. When it was revealed that it is only through the night vision feature of their video camera can they see things such as invisible doors, spaces, well and the Portuguese girl herself, I ultimately told myself, “This is as creepy as Silent Hill is. I must watch closely.” It had a slight feel of a video game too, hey some scenes actually look like Left 4 Dead especially when the possessed scratch doors and run on the hallways. I’m not really sure if that’s good or bad but those scenes distract me and lessen the fear in me. Going back, the night vision thing introduced us to a whole new world with infinite possibilities. It looked like a different dimension exists and gave birth to whole brand new horror we thought we knew but realized, don’t know at all. The setting helped build up the feeling of familiarity and at the same time feeling so distant and knowing nothing about it. What could be creepier than thinking all the time that know everything and then all of a sudden, all the truths will break down right in front of you?

[●REC] 2

In the end of the original movie, the television anchor Angela was dragged into the darkness and presumed dead. In this sequel, the viewers are likewise dragged into the deeper darkness of a storyline that was made more convoluted and complex, stretching what boundaries could be stretched and adding layers upon layers of creative thought on the already remarkable and astute subject built by the original.

Ten minutes after the end of the first film, a group commissioned by the government to control the situation enters the dilapidated apartment building. Primary to this group is Owen, a supposed doctor who is actually a priest. His addition in the movie adds a religious and spiritual dimension to a film that was marginalized, in the original, to have resulted from a reflection of the careless and callous ways in which we conduct our scientific exploits.

The film follows the narrative mode of the previous albeit with crisper visualization. The difference in the plotline is that the sequel constantly refers to events previous to elaborate on the story of the previous movie. This constant cross-referencing assures the coherent continuation of the story that has already been laid down. Furthermore, this actually attests to the capacity of this sequel to build on what has already been placed.

In this film, the religious dimension in its rawest formulation is explicated. The priest, Owen, is shown to be desperate and cunning while very short sighted. All he wants to accomplish is his mission, with little regard to the consequence of his constant fits of bullheadedness. This contrasts quite fundamentally to the usual construction of the religious persona, who is often mild mannered and good hearted even in such situations. More so, it offers once again the discourse on how people of strong religious conviction are made blind by the very religion that they follow—ironically, religions that offer to shine light and illuminate but in the end, they end-up being the reason why many languish in darkness.

The possession storyline that developed in the film was eerily reminiscent of another icon of the horror film industry, The Exorcist which was known for its crass language and its no holds barred take on the matter of demonic possession. It was a classic for its portrayal of the usual conflict between good and evil, which is common rhetoric in almost all movies only that here, good is the absolute good of God and evil is the absolute evil of the demon. Interestingly, the writers were able to weave this aspect of the narrative into the virus storyline that was developed in the first movie quite seamlessly at that.

The final sequence of events that led to the shocking conclusion were brilliantly directed and showed in a short span how the entire franchise was able to ensnare the audience in the first place. Using a masterful combination of fright and the adrenaline rush of flight, the movie was able to scare while moving us to think about the various consequences of the narrative it had been able to develop.

The Perfect Sequel

The first film ended with a very captivating scene and kept the viewers wanting more. It ended with an opening of more questions to the viewers. Definitely, the sequel spawned a whole new chapter into the series as it explicates the ending of the first film. The second film was able to not only add on the things left to us by the first film, but it also opened up doors for one to continually be interested in the series. The film is able to weave the two elements – scientific aspect and religious aspect – perfectly together. With the added perspectives in the sequel, it adds into the richness of the film, thus allowing it not fall short, similar to most sequel films.

Perfecting the sequel equation

The first film may be one of the better horror films made in our generation, but [REC] 2 definitely is part of that same list. Even more, it may rank higher than the first film. Everything was just made better in [REC] 2. From the visual effects to the exposition of the main story, the film never failed to bring about a sense of constant engagement to its viewers. In addition, the film this time around gives us a wider range of perspective as it ended in the first film. Now, having all the new efforts to finally eradicate the “source” of terror and horror, Owen, initially covering as a doctor was later on revealed as a priest, brought along the story well in showing the viewers a more knowledgeable progress of the film. Yet despite this, a lot of things were still uncertain and unknown for Owen. These added to the suspense and tension all throughout the film.

The pacing also done by the film allowed one to not be tired or find the film as predicting since the events moved as quickly, at the right time and place. In addition, the added characters allowed the film to be richer since they allowed the exhibition of the Devil more. Adding to the terror as it is, the demon possession scenes are definitely reminiscent of devil possession films I have watched in the past. These scenes never fail to scare the hell out of me since I know for a fact that these happen in reality. The narrative was also weaved out well in sorting out when and who should we show now. Also, some may find the sequences to be confusing at first, yet as it progressed, it did not matter anymore. Everything weaved out well.

Highlight

Finally, the ending of the film was once again the highlight for me. The final sequences of the film truly showed the brilliance of the series’ creators – specifically the flickering of the night vision and real lighting scenarios, bringing about a truly creeping and exciting / “what-could-be-next” sensation! The twist in the end allowed me to wonder. This wonder may be viewed in two lights – the widening scope of the Devil (as he is presumed to escape the building now) and the burden on the creators on how to sustain the hype and success of the first two films. Most of the time, as the movie moves along a more complicated path, the story becomes more and more unrealistic and not entertaining; I am truly looking forward though on how the creators will move on from here in [REC] 3.

Grace? Really?

I had to see this movie twice. Let that sink in for a moment. I had to see this film TWICE. Most horror films get easier to watch as the number of times you view it increases but I think Grace is an exception. Before anything, I would like to state that I am a horror movie connoisseur of sorts, I revel in the blood the suspense, the revelations of the plot twists, I love every minute of it. There is some sort of high while watching that I really enjoy. That is, except when I saw this god-forsaken movie. The movie was so disturbing the first time that the only thing that kept me going was because I wanted to see how the whole thing played out. To that extent I because I found out how it ended I enjoyed watching the movie, but the second time you see this movie is a different experience altogether. There is some sort of dread in knowing what exactly is going to happen and having to watch again like it was some sort of recurring nightmare. It was pure ocular and emotional torture. In that aspect Grace is worthy of being a true blue horror movie since there is horror every time you see the film. A horror which does not diminish with each screening and I applaud that.

I agree that the enjoyment of a horror film can be found in the curiosity factor mentioned in the discussion in class. There is a sensation of release with each passing event that is revealed in the film that satisfies the viewers anxieties which had been suspended while the plot was unveiling. I also think that the horror from grace comes from the taboo that is presented to the audience. The film presents a perverted version of a mothers love. A mother’s love that is known to most of us viewers as one of the most pure things that can be seen or felt in this world. It is horrific to see something so pristine as a mothers love and have it polluted by something as wrong and disgusting as murder and cannibalism.  Because of that, I found myself rooting and not rooting for the mother, since it was her weird “love” powers that made the baby come back to life and anyone who lets a monster suck blood from a place as sensitive as a nipple deserves all the support she can get. On the other hand I wanted her to lose the baby because she was literally killing herself to nurture it.

Another source of horror was seeing a baby, something so supremely innocent, transformed into an abomination that is completely alien to how we all know it them to be. It was brilliant that the baby wasn’t transfigured or mutated in any way except for the smell (which the audience can’t experience) making the audience see that it was almost normal in every way. This strategy, if you would, by the director was to me one of the most important aspects of why the film was effective. Seeing that the baby was so normal and contrasting it to how disturbing drinking of blood and eating flesh was the most effective way to bring horror using a baby. If the baby was some sort of corny rubber prosthetic mutated creature this movie would have been a total bomb.

The whole movie came together really well, the sound was well chosen and it set the atmosphere for the whole movie. Some really strong imagery courtesy of the starting sex scene and the animal cruelty videos helped greatly in planting and sowing the seeds of disturbance the movie brought and the final image that the audience was left with. I mean, come on. A half eaten nipple? Seriously. I literally felt it. These aspects made the movie a very interesting if not the most interesting take on the baby horror genre. It’s great, but I for one am never watching it again.

Also old people sex. Bleargh.